Published first on the Progress News, December 7, 2020

In this time of all-things-virtual, it can feel…challenging, to say the least…to find ways to get involved in the community.  Many of our local projects have been put on hold, and a lot of us are reaching online-meeting overload.  Redevelopment, though, is all about looking challenges square in the eye, and walking around, over, or through them.  It’s about switching up perspectives and getting things done, however we can, with whatever we have, and building resilience along the way. 

A side note:  not all of us have tons of free time or spare emotional bandwidth this year, I know.  Essential workers, especially frontline healthcare workers, as well as parents, caregivers, and many others have been run absolutely ragged.  If you fall into that category, take care of YOU and ask for the support you need from others.  If you know someone who falls into that category, support them.  Be someone’s personal hero.  Deliver a meal; offer to pick up their groceries or walk their dog; ask if they just need to talk, and then truly listen to them.  These simple acts of kindness are the bedrock of a strong community.

If you have a bit more energy to share, now is a perfect time to really focus on the idea side of the redevelopment equation.  Our best ideas are those that are personally meaningful and broadly impactful – I like to call it “selfish altruism.”  So, take some time to dig deep and decide what is most important to you, and then think about how those values can benefit your neighbors, your community, and society.  Ask yourself what you most want to see around you in five, ten, or twenty years, and share that vision with your community.  If you have specific ideas of how to get there, especially considering the challenges that have been uncovered or highlighted this year, share those, too!

If action is what you crave, here are a few specific ways you can help, right now:

Community Clean-up:  We couldn’t get together in a group this year to clean up the Valley, but you can always head out into your neighborhood and sweep a sidewalk or pick up rubbish.  Organize a small group of neighbors to do the whole street! 

Fundraise:  Whether it’s for redevelopment projects or another cause, you can both support and act on behalf of your community by organizing a curbside bake sale, a virtual fun-run, an online gala, or an old-fashioned fundraising letter campaign.  If you can imagine it, technology can probably help!

Elf it up:  If you’re the handy sort, chances are there are things you can do or make that others would appreciate.  Create handmade art or toys and donate them to an organization to sell or give away.  See if there is anything in your neighborhood that is broken, like a fence or bench, and offer to fix it.  Even if it’s just tightening a few screws, it might mean the world to someone else. 

Challenging times call for creativity and consideration, and with a little of both you can always be a force for good in the community!