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10 Things You Can Do to Build Community this Holiday Season

1.  Get outside! One of the best and easiest ways to build community is to get out and be visible, and that doesn’t have to stop once cold weather sets in. Take the kids out to play in the snow, walk the dog around the block, or string up holiday lights.

2. Gather a group together to carol in your area. (If you live on the Near East Side of Columbus you can join us for caroling on Thursday, December 15th at 4:30 at First English Lutheran Church).

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3. Hang wreaths, holiday banners, or bows on lamp posts throughout the neighborhood.

4. Write and deliver heartfelt Christmas cards to neighbors on your street.

5. Give to someone in need. Adopt a family, deliver a Christmas meal to a home-bound senior, volunteer at a local social service organization, or organize a canned food or winter coat drive.

6. Have a holiday potluck. Ask guests to bring the recipe along with their favorite dish. Afterward, you can use the recipe cards to make a community cookbook!

7. Offer to shovel your neighbor’s driveway.  A little kindness goes a long way towards building a better community.

8. Organize a cookie swap with your civic association, block watch, or neighbors across the street. Have everyone write their name and address on a piece of paper and draw it from a hat. Each person then bakes a dozen cookies and delivers it to the person they drew.

9. Shop local businesses for gifts, holiday catering, decorations, and more. Make it a point to say hello to the owner while you’re there!

10. Greet new neighbors. See someone moving in across the street? Take time to introduce yourself, welcome them to the neighborhood, and even bring over some baked goods. A homemade meal and a friendly face can do wonders to ease the stress of moving in.

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Vacant House Beautification

A hard working crew of neighborhood residents and friends have been working hard this summer to maintain and beautify 16 vacant properties in the 43205 zip code. Armed with lawn mowers, weed whackers, trimmers, and trash bags, our teams have gone to war against jungle-high grass and unwieldy bushes. Now that all 16 properties are manicured, the crews are turning their focus to installing battery operated motion sensor lights and painting the boarded windows and doors to blend in with the rest of the structure.

Here are a few of the before and afters. We’re still in process, but you can already see an improvement.

The goal of this project, funded through United Way’s Neighborhood Partnership Grant, is threefold.

First, all of these properties are not only being brought up to code, but are also being transformed into lovely spaces within the neighborhood. By painting the boarded windows, painting porch railings, and adding potted flowers, our goal is that these properties become eye-catching, not eye sores.

Second, the newly transformed properties will increase safety and decrease crime in and around the property. When grass and weeds are overgrown, rodents and criminals alike find hiding places within vacant lots. By installing motion sensor lights, we hope to deter break ins and chase any critters away.

Finally, our hope is that these properties will eventually be sold or rented to responsible neighborhood residents. This is, of course, the ultimate solution to the vacant housing issue. We need people to come and occupy these homes with care and respect. We believe cleaning up the properties is an important step in that direction. It’s much easier to see the potential in a beautiful, well maintained home than it is in an overgrown, run down space.

I think the before and after pictures here really say it all! Our crews have managed the heat with grace and have truly done a fantastic job. We’ll be working hard over the next few weeks to paint windows and porch railings, and add some bright spots of color with flowers. Stay tuned for updates as continual improvements are made! If you have questions or are interested in this project, please contact Courtney Rowland 614-252-3157 x124.

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Main St. Block Parties

Join us every Friday night from 6-7:30 for a neighborhood block party at the corner of Main St. and S. Champion Ave.! We have hot dogs and drinks, along with fun activities for the whole family. This is a great way to meet your neighbors, learn about resources in the community, and have a fun, safe Friday night!


So come on out as we fire up the grill and get the weekend started off right! Hope to see you there!

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Sweets on the Streets

If you happened to drive by the corner of E. Main St. and S. Champion Ave. on a Thursday afternoon this winter, you may have seen an interesting spectacle. Since February, a group of volunteers from the neighborhood has passed out cookies and hot cocoa on the corner of Main and Champion every Thursday from 2:30-4. The goal? Simply to do something positive on a corner notorious for negative activity.

So far the initiative has received a variety of responses, from the wary “you’re really giving these out for free…no strings attached?” looks to the big eyed, eager toddlers waiting to board the bus with their parents. By far the most encouraging interaction we’ve had came from a local resident. After only a few weeks of the effort, he stopped by the table and asked with an incredulous face, “How did you do it?”. We told him we really had no idea we’d done anything, other than add some calories to a few people’s diets. He replied, “This corner used to always have drug deals, but now there’s not. How did you do it?” It turns out cookies and a few hours of our time may be more powerful than we ever imagined.

Now that spring is here, the group has switched to lemonade and will be moving the time to Fridays from 4-5:30, but the purpose remains the same: to get to know our neighbors, to be a force for positive change, and to increase the safety of our neighborhood. If you would like to be a part of their efforts by either passing out cookies  on Friday afternoons or making cookies please contact Courtney Rowland at 614-252-3157 x124 or

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Knowing your neighbors, a rare gift

Before I moved into the Near East Side a few months ago, I knew exactly one of my neighbors, and even that might be a stretch. I really didn’t know much of anything about the couple next door except for their names.

I hadn’t thought much about this until I managed to get out of the house for a bit on an unusually warm day a few weeks ago. As I walked the dog through the neighborhood I found myself waving at people on their porches and stopping to chat with other residents in the area. Suddenly, I realized I knew not only my closest neighbors, but neighbors from several streets over. And I knew more than just their names too.

I lived in my last apartment for a year and a half and I never had a neighbor over for dinner or went to a neighbor’s house for a party. We didn’t have Wednesdays on the Porch or Cocktails at the Conservatory or gardening nights or Mardi Gras parties in my old neighborhood. But we have that here.

I think it’s something we take for granted, that you know the people you live closest too. But I can share from experience that what we have here is a rare gift. It means something to be able to wave to your neighbors and call them by name when you walk by. It means something when a resident calls you up to make sure you’re okay when they hear gunshots down the street. This community is special and it is these relationships which will continue to help it grow, change, and flourish.

So take some time to walk around on a warm afternoon. Join a block watch or a civic association. Invite a neighbor over for lunch. Come out for Sweets on the Streets or an Open Mic at Urban Spirit. And don’t forget to show some love to our business neighbors too! Stop into one of our new restaurants–like Portico, Smothered Gravy, or Angry Baker–and get to know the owners. It’s an investment that’s well worth your time and energy.

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