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    • give | Community Renewal

      give today As a nonprofit, Community Renewal depends on the generosity of neighbors like you to ensure the work of restoring community continues. All gifts go straight to funding programs in Pottawatomie County.

    • Worth It. Conference | Community Renewal

      Mentor Sign-Up Mentor Info Student Sign-Up Student Info Breakout Session Title Information about the session, and what to expect. ​ Some of the questions that are good to ask along with this video. why it's important. etc. Speakers Travis Flood community coordinator (lives on-site) The bio info about the speaker pictured above should go here. Travis Flood community coordinator (lives on-site) The bio info about the speaker pictured above should go here. Have questions? Email ! rachel@communityrenewal.org

    • Neighbor Network | Community Renewal

      neighbor to neighbor network A grassroots, community-wide initiative to combat the loneliness epidemic through meaningful neighborhood connections. join the network how it works

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    Blog Posts (10)
    • Volunteer in Shawnee finds Purpose & Career in Neighboring Effort

      When my husband and I moved to Shawnee, I knew that -- Lord willin' and the creek don't rise -- we were committed to this community for the long run. As in, I'm-in-my-30s-and-we'll-probably-die-here long run. As our long term home, I wanted to be intentional about how I spent my time in Shawnee. I could do a lot of good in those 50 years, but I also knew that good would have to fit with raising kids, working full time, living, and loving. Two things happened as I thought about our move. First, I read a book called The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. In The Power of Habit, Duhigg describes a “keystone habit.” A keystone habit is one that -- once implemented -- impacts everything else. He talks about a manufacturing company who made its keystone habit to be the safest place to work. When the CEO announced this, investors starting pulling out. Was he crazy? Those investors didn’t anticipate that the safety habit would ensure their workers had the best training, the best equipment, the best management, and the best lines of communication. Their bottom dollar, employee retention, and -- yes -- safety ratings went through the roof. Second, I listened to a lecture from a superintendent in an Oklahoma City southside school district, an under-resourced area of the community. He said that he wanted to make his school district the best place for a student to get an education. My brain started connecting dots, running down the list of things you think about with “best place for a student.” Of course, that’s academics, truancy, drop-out rates, and literacy. But it’s also gun violence, gang violence, racism, ableism, sexism, incarceration rates, hiring practices, teacher morale. Making sure the school is the best place for a student also means making sure home is the best place for a student. If a kid’s been verbally abused that morning, it’ll take their hormones levels several hours to get back to normal, making attempts to teach them math or social studies moot. It ensures not only parent involvement in the student’s work but care for the parent. The superintendent finished his lecture and asked for questions or comments. “It’s a keystone habit,” I said. “It impacts everything.” That day, I wrote in my journal, “How do we make Shawnee the best place to raise a kid in the United States?” Not that I'm particularly fond of kids. I'm a one or two at a time kind of kid person. But as I chewed more and more on the superintendent’s intention, I found it to be a keystone habit for a community, too. It means our best schools, yes. It also means safe neighborhoods, stable jobs, and community involvement. Pick an issue and this question addresses it: homelessness, addiction, trafficking, hunger, foster care, domestic violence. I’d found my problem to solve and set a deadline: “Help make Shawnee the best place to raise a kid in the United States by 2068.” That was fifty years down the road and the year I turned 80. It felt reasonable enough. Getting to Shawnee, I kept an eye out for organizations whose work would have the most impact on my mission, an organization already doing the thing, and I could hop on board. Meanwhile, I threw an ice-cream party to meet the neighbors and bring together the folks we’d already met around town. My husband heard about an organization in town that would give you money if you were having neighbor parties. Our school debt ever-present and me kicking off my “writing career,” I gave them a call and asked about money for the party. Apparently, that wasn’t exactly what the organization did, but they did have a free lunch for me if I wanted to hear their pitch. Sitting in a conference room with 25 other community members, I heard about Community Renewal -- a neighboring movement that helps neighbors restore community through intentional relationships. They talked about how societies are built on a foundation of relationships. They talked about the 32 civilizations we can study and how they’ve all collapsed after relationships started to crumble. They told us that if we can build relationships across our community, neighbor-by-neighbor, block-by-block, we can create the safe, caring world we all want. And then, the pièce de résistance. Community Renewal started in Shreveport, Louisiana, 25 years ago in a neighborhood called Allendale. Allendale was so rough that police had to escort ambulances and fire trucks into the neighborhoods, because people would shoot at them and steal stuff off their trucks. Gradually, though, the police noticed they weren’t being called out as often, and they began tracking Allendale’s major crimes. Sitting in that conference room, they told me that after 25 years of neighbors building relationships, major crime went down in Allendale 62% and so far that year there had been zero drug arrests. Zero drug arrests. Zero. It wasn’t gentrification. It’s not now brimming with hipsters and artisan pizza. It’s not even an anomaly: they’ve seen a 50% average decrease in major crimes in their five under-resourced neighborhoods. It was the neighbors, born and raised there, restoring community through intentional relationships. Being true to my tale, I’ll say that I’m a Jesus follower, and my first thought at hearing that was, “Jesus was right.” My second thought was, “This is it.” It wasn’t that the decrease in crime was so impressive, though it clearly was. It's because the decrease in crime was an unintended consequence of the simple act of neighbors getting to know each other. I’ve worked with Community Renewal for four years now, my first year as a block leader and the last three on staff. All the research I read, over and over again, continues to point to building social capital (aka healthy relationships), particularly in neighborhoods, being the solution. Take a peek at some of these quotes: Relationship capital had surpassed financial capital as the scarce, crucial resource that now dictates whether societies either advance or regress. Robert Hall, This Land of Strangers Also, since our minds are shaped by our social communication, the mind can be seen as a relational process as much as it is one dependent on our body’s nervous system, including the brain. Dr. Dan J Seigel, Parenting from the Inside Out In a meta-analysis of studies on loneliness, researchers Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Timothy B Smith, and J Bradley Layton found the following: Living with air pollution increases your odds of dying early by 5 percent. Living with obesity, 20 percent. Excessive drinking, 30 percent. And living with loneliness? It increases our odds of dying early by 45 percent. Dr. Brene Brown, Braving the Wilderness Here’s a slew from Robert D Putnam’s foundational work on social capital Bowling Alone: "States with more social capital have proportionately fewer murders. This inverse relationship is astonishingly strong -- as close to perfect as one might find between any two social phenomena. Across the various Kids Count indicators, social capital is second only to poverty in the breadth and depth of its effects on children's lives. … our analysis suggests that for some outcomes - particularly SAT scores - the impact of race, poverty, and adult education levels is only indirect. These factors seem to influence the level of social capital in a state, and social capital - not poverty or demographic characteristics per se - drives test scores. Community psychologists have long noted that child abuse rates are higher where neighborhood cohesion is lower. For example, in a widely cited study of two neighborhoods, one with a high child maltreatment rate and the other with a low rate, social capital turned out to be the main factor that distinguished the two communities. These neighborhoods had similar income levels and similar rates of working women and single-parent households. However, in the high-risk neighborhoods, residents were far more reluctant to ask for help from a neighbor. Parents in the high-abuse area were also far less likely to report exchanging childcare with a neighbor or allowing their kids to play with others in the neighborhoods… Informal social networks help shield children from their parents worst moments." Strong Neighborhood Relationships Vital for Societal Health The evidence is overwhelming. Stronger neighborhood relationships may not be the only answer for the systemic issues in our community, but it’s my answer. Connected to dozens of other non-profits serving individuals and families in Shawnee, Community Renewal block leaders connect neighbors to the relationships and resources that they need to thrive. I had a vision while walking through Walmart just after being hired as block leader coordinator. We ask block leaders to pick 5-15 homes to build relationships with by being visible, interacting, and gathering (BIG). It will take 900 block leaders in Shawnee for every 15 homes to have someone looking out for it, and 1000 block leaders in greater Pottawatomie County. As I watched people going about their grocery shopping, I started to tear up, thinking that one day every person I could see would have at least one person looking out for them in their neighborhood. No one would be alone. But we need you. The block leaders need you, those 15 neighbors need you, our community needs you. Together, neighbor to neighbor, block to block, we can make Shawnee the best place to raise a kid in the United States by 2068, just by stepping outside our front doors. Join us.

    • 8 Reasons to Become a Block Leader (and what it means)

      We block leaders are individuals trained by Community Renewal of Pottawatomie County to volunteer in our own neighborhoods to be neighbors who are restoring community through intentional relationships. To fulfill this mission, we pick 5 to 15 neighboring households with whom we build intentional relationships through being visible to them, interacting with them, and gathering them together – also known as BIG. Being visible means being in front of the 5-15 households often enough and in ways that they can recognize our faces. We might be visible by going for walks, working in our yards, or moving our backyard activities to the front yard. Interacting with the 5-15 households means verbally interacting with them. We can do this by inviting a neighbor to walk with us, asking a neighbor about their yard, or visiting while we’re in our front yards. Gathering is inviting or bringing together three or more of the households not including our own. Some examples of gathering could be walking together, hosting a seed swap, or hosting a cookout. If we invite at least three households not including our own to gather, we still celebrate it as a gathering even if less than three come. Showing up for our neighborhood is a vulnerable experience, and we celebrate our bravery to do so. While we’ve given some common examples of how block leaders are BIG in their neighborhoods, each Block Leader practices BIG in a way that fits their life and lifestyle. Being BIG in our neighborhoods starts off like any other habit: it feels risky, hard, and sometimes downright silly. We can forget to do it or put it off. But we can testify that – when we persist – intentional, restorative, neighborhood relationships become a part of our daily lives. Some may resist being organized as block leaders. “I can do that on my own,” they say, “Why do I need to be a part of an organization?” We organize ourselves as block leaders through Community Renewal of Pottawatomie County for eight reasons: Reason 1: To Build Relationships. Relationships come first as block leaders. As block leaders, we are people from many walks of life connected across the community, allowing us to develop our own empathy and connection, combating loneliness that is dividing our country, our communities, and our lives. Reason 2: To Share Ideas. To start anything new, there must be a path to get there. As block leaders, we share ideas to help each other get going and keep going. Reason 3: To Share Resources. We have more together. Being block leaders allows us to share resources, so none of us go without being who we need to be for our neighbors and for ourselves. Reason 4: To Share Responsibility. Neighboring, especially hosting larger gatherings like block parties, can be a lot. As block leaders, we can share one another’s loads, so we can get the job done and have fun doing it. Reason 5: Support Each Other. We will not love our neighbors perfectly. As block leaders, we support each other through empathy, encouragement, brainstorming, celebration, and reminders to have fun! Reason 6: Accountability. It’s easy for life to get away from us. As block leaders, we are accountable to each other and to our block leader commitment. Reason 7: Paint the Bigger Picture. It’s hard to see the bigger picture when we’re neighboring on our own. As block leaders, we play a part in painting the bigger picture of who our community’s becoming. We help see this picture form by submitting the monthly Block Leader Survey, submitting the Annual Neighborhood Survey, and by sharing the Annual Neighborhood Survey with our neighbors and friends. Reason 8: It's fun! In her book The Gifts of Imperfection, researcher Brene Brown identifies 10 guideposts to being a wholehearted person. “Cultivating Play and Rest” is number seven. Both play and rest are physical needs, just like relationships, that combat depression and other mental illnesses. We agree that this world could use a little more play, and we are pleased to help facilitate that in our neighborhoods. We believe that, because of these reasons, anyone seeking intentional relationships in their neighborhoods are capable of joining us in this work. None of us are perfect people: much the opposite. We celebrate our humanity with its weaknesses and flaws. It guides us towards engaging with other people so that we may be stronger together.

    • Mapping Social Circles: A Self-Assessment

      This exercise was originally developed as an activity for Part 2 of the Illuminating Social Isolation workshop series; it is effective with or without watching the accompanying video, but you can find the series here if you'd like the extra guidance! Social circles are a tool used to look at who a person interacts with. While often used in businesses and marketing models, it is also useful for understanding social isolation and seeing how you compare to the healthy average. Here are some quick steps mapping out your own social circles. The method I describe below ends up looking a bit like the spider web of connecting names. Step 1: Social Outlets Draw something in the middle of a paper to represent you, then make a quick scattering of names and groups around you. These are all the people you interact with and have relationships with. Not just your friends but also family, work interactions, religious groups, hobby groups, volunteering, neighbors, or people from places you visit a lot as well (for example that barista who gives you your coffee almost every time you have gone in the past couple months). You can group them together under one title or name or name them all individually. Put them in shapes if you want, it is up to you. Just get your social connections down. Step 2: Rate Your Connection Strength Connect the names back to yourself with meaningful lines. Dotted, dashed, solid, loopy, it does not really matter if you can record which people you are most connected to and who you have the strongest and closest relationships with. Here the lines with the arrows are the most meaningful, with the solid lines after, and then the zigzag lines, and finally the dotted line. If you want to break up groups at this point because you have a different relationship with some people in the group you can. Step 3: Assess Inter-Relation Next, connect anyone people or groups that are connected to each other. While this step is not required, it can be insightful later. Connect them by circling them, drawing lines between, or some other method. It just needs to make senses to you. Congrats! You have a rough map of your social interactions. By itself though, it can’t do much. Now you need to ask yourself some questions. Who are the people you are closest to, maybe your top 3? Do you have a trusting, strong relationship with these people? If something were to happen, and you could not talk to one of those people consistently, who would you talk to instead when you needed something? Is there anything else that surprised you about your social circle? When you start to think about how to make changes in your life to ensure your social health, you can come back to this to start to get an idea of where to start. Ready to take the next step in increasing your social circle in healthy ways? Join the Neighbor Network and select "I want to gather my neighbors" at registration and Zoe will follow up with you personally!

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