Building and rehabilitating homes can only take a community so far. Community engagement is key to healthy, happy neighborhoods. NeighborWorks Great Falls is dedicated to both.Why is this important? Because people are not as connected to each other or to their communities as they used to be. This isn’t just a Great Falls or Montana issue; it’s a long-standing nationwide problem. In 2000, author Robert Putnam interviewed hundreds of thousands of people, and based on that vast data, determined that we in the U.S. have become increasingly disconnected from family, friends, neighbors, and our democratic structures. We now sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often (see Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community). These findings came before widespread use of email and before social media, all which make us even more isolated. Because of these changes in our social fabric, it is imperative that everyone get involved in their neighborhood and their community. It’s hard work and there aren’t easy solutions, but as cliché as it sounds, one person can truly make a positive difference. NeighborWorks’ community engagement programs work to bring residents, neighbors, organizations and resources together to make a positive impact.
Here are some of NeighborWorks Great Falls programs that you can get involved in to build on the assets of your neighborhood:
Addressing Crime and Safety:Worried about crime in your neighborhood? NeighborWorks coordinates Neighborhood Watch throughout Cascade County and works with partners to do downtown Business Watch, Coins for a Cause (panhandling), and Operation Medicine Cabinet: Central Montana (prescription drug drop box), MApril Clean-up and others. We work with the Neighborhood Councils, the Black Eagle Civic Club and the residents of Cascade County with Neighborhood Watch. NeighborWorks Great Falls is also a leader of the Downtown Safety Alliance, with Neighborhood Council #7, the Business Improvement District, the Great Falls Police Department, the Downtown Development Partnership, local faith communities, and others.
Revitalization:Downtown Great Falls has many people, organizations, partners and stakeholders working to make the downtown more vibrant and NeighborWorks is a part of that team. Do you think we need more outdoor dining downtown? More art and murals? More historic buildings renovated? Want to open a new, unique restaurant downtown? Looking for a grant to fix the façade on your downtown building? Need a loan to fix up your rental property? NeighborWorks Great Falls can help direct you to the organizations that operate these programs in our community.
What solutions have you found that might make Great Falls more safe, vibrant and livable? Let NeighborWorks know and get involved!
Carol Bronson, Community Engagement Coordinator