"Community front porch": creating community support in the brentwood-darlington neighborhood
Building a community front porch is about creating a space for neighbors to come together, share resources, events, ideas, time, and needs, leading to neighborhood relationships. In my neighborhood, there are lots of folks who are looking for resources and willing to use what others are getting rid of. I wanted to build on that idea of sharing, yet within a dignified setting that allowed folks in the neighborhood to participate in a more reciprocal way. Caring for one another in simple ways, we invest into others' well-being, opening up our hearts to expand our capacity for meaningful relationships.
I have lived in this neighborhood with my family for nearly 13 years. In that time I have seen the changes that happen naturally as individuals and families grow, new people move in, others move on. I value the efforts that are happening around me: little free libraries, folks inviting neighbors (via nextdoor.com) to barbeque on a Friday night, involvement in the neighborhood association. Yet, I sense it is time to explore the deeper layers, to create spaces of open invitation, places for gathering, places for creativity to spring up amongst us. I see a real need for deeper community cohesiveness, so that we aren't just crossing paths here and there, but engaging with one another in an organic, meaningful way that affects change in the way we walk through life together, as a community.
During my husband's illness that began 7 years ago, my family and I experienced a long, difficult season of need. Our lives felt so dominated by continuously searching for the things we needed to take care of our family. We went through various stages of frustration, despair, coping, acceptance, adjustment, and finally thriving through creative ways of accessing resources. Through needing to find solutions, but having very little to work with most of the time, I began to see things in a new light. This new way of seeing opened so many possibilities, and no longer did I feel limited by a lack of resources; we were creating resources, not only for ourselves, but for others around us. When I see folks pick up my hand-me-downs that I put out in the corner of my property, I wonder about what other needs they might have. I wonder what struggles they might be experiencing, and whether or not they have support. I think about so many other neighbors who I know are giving people, and I ponder how to facilitate folks coming together, some sharing needs, others contributing to meet those needs. Meeting needs through sharing resources is a start. But then I think about moving beyond immediate needs to a place of real community, seeing what happens as relationships form in a place that started with many individuals and developed into an intentional community.
The community front porch project involves building a deck on the street side of my front yard. There is a roofed community cupboard for sharing clothing and household items, a lending library, chalk board, and food pantry. And on the back side, a bulletin board. There are garden beds for gathering, a table and chairs for visiting, and a place to park bikes and strollers for staying for awhile. Eventually, we will add a covered, outdoor classroom for skill trade and teaching seminars. What I hope for this project is that others will build on it, add to it, and make the community front porch their place. I look forward to seeing more community spaces popping up in other folks' yards, people gathering together, sharing resources and sharing life, and creating a purposeful history together.