“Many studies show that there are two major determinants of our local safety. One is how many neighbours we know by name, and the second is how often we are present and associated in public – outside our houses.” (John McKnight and Cormac Russell)
Thanks to McCauley Revitalization Coordinator Greg Brandenbarg for sharing this quote. It reinforces what most of us know about community well-being in general. It’s all about connectedness and collaboration – getting to know your neighbours, working together, and using our strengths to create vibrancy.
I’ve lived in McCauley for 16 years. It’s the most connected community I’ve ever lived in. It just seems to be part of the fabric. When our children were born, neighbours dropped off gifts and baskets of food. When we were having a yard sale, another came by with several items and happily told us to keep the money. These neighbours (virtual strangers at the time) have since become friends.
In 2017, I was hired to coordinate the Safer McCauley program. It’s not always easy. It’s not always enjoyable talking about the “issues.” There’s a lot of work to be done. And progress is sometimes slow. But I am grateful to play a small part in building connectedness and collaboration – between residents, community groups, police, elected representatives, businesses, service agencies, City resources, and others.
At our first Safer McCauley Meeting, I saw it was not as inclusive of community members as it should be. I resolved to meet more neighbours and adopted the principle that “a connected community is a safer community.” Since then, regular meetings have attracted 20 to 50 stakeholders, countless connections have been made, and actions are determined collaboratively.
A meeting this March represented a landmark for collaboration. Stakeholders discussed possibilities for addressing litter and increasing neighbourhood vibrancy, leading directly to further collaborative action. Now, the McCauley Litter Squad helps address the accumulation of smaller litter. Two one-hour litter “blitzes” have attracted an average of 22 participants, removing 45 bags of litter and approximately 125 needles from our streets. This activity exemplifies a collaborative approach to community well-being, with residents, Revitalization, MCL, Safer McCauley, E4C, Capital City Clean Up, MINT Health + Drugs, MLA Janis Irwin, and others contributing.
A neighbourhood is a system of interconnected people, many working together for improved well-being. Reach out to your neighbours. Consider getting involved.
At the March meeting, MCL President Greg Lane championed the idea of activating alleys as a way to add vibrancy to McCauley. This led to Revitalization, MCL, and Safer McCauley advocating together for the idea as part of the City’s Recover Urban Wellness Plan. The idea was further refined at a June community meeting co-hosted by the three community groups; and Recover has since agreed to provide some financial support for the action.
Evidence of connectedness, collaboration, and vibrancy is easy to find in McCauley: kids playing soccer and hockey with police; Viva Italia and MCL’s family-friendly Christmas activities; our MLA and City Councillor attending community events and advocating on our behalf; the Spring Fling; the Fall Fiesta; stakeholders banding together to oppose a gaming licence; EPS and Bylaw Officers meeting community members for coffee at Zocalo; Heart of the City; movies in the park; the Community Garden; McCauley Families’ gardening and art classes; the Mustard Seed-Revitalization needle clean up partnership . . .
A neighbourhood is a system of interconnected people, many working together for improved well-being. Reach out to your neighbours. Consider getting involved. Visit safermccauley.ca and Safer McCauley on Facebook. And, don’t hesitate to share your ideas with me directly.
_Mark is REACH Edmonton’s McCauley Community Convener. He can be contacted at email@example.com