It started a couple of years ago as we contemplated the obstacle between us and the Congregational Church. No, it wasn’t about either one of us. It was about that ugly, unkempt apartment house between us. How would we get them to keep that area clean? Should we buy the house and do something constructive with it?
We talked with the UCC church people and they were not enthused about owning it as we weren’t either. We did explore and research possibilities and who owned it etc. It turns out as expected, the owner is out of town, the building has been converted into 5 apartments (formerly a 2-family). The owner bought it in 2003 at a greatly elevated price. The current city valuation is just over half that amount now.
But discernment is a funny thing. If you keep thinking about something long enough and deep enough, you’ll begin looking at it from a different standpoint, a different thought process. And you’ll also be influenced by others as you discuss the ideas. After a year and a half of ‘thinking’ about it, we realized that the house next door was not what we should be thinking about. It was more about the people next door and the people down street. What would they want, what would they need? After all, isn’t that what Christ is calling us to do? Help others! I don’t think Jesus is too concerned about real estate.
So the focal point of the group changed entirely and the mission blossomed. After applying and receiving a grant from the Episcopal Church and a matching donation from a parishioner, we were on our way to empowering the residents of our church neighborhood to help themselves to live better and safer lives.
In two years, we have evolved. We are now hosting “Pleasant St. Neighborhood Potluck Suppers”. Every 3rd Monday of the month, the group supplies a main dish and neighbors fill in with side dishes, desserts, paper goods, juices and waters, etc. The best part is after a few of these we start to get to know each other better, new faces show up each time as the word gets around and last time we had an after dinner activity of human bingo.
It is an awesome experience to watch as we get to gain trust and friendship with each other. When someone doesn’t show up, people begin to ask where, why and express concern.
We are led by Shanna Cox of Project Tipping Point who is guiding us to a connected, resilient and empowered neighborhood that can provide self-care. Other stakeholders are the Auburn Police Dept., Franklin School, Hannaford, local banks, Community Little Theatre , the Auburn Public Library and the City’s elected officials.
The ultimate goal is to leave the neighborhood empowered with self-reliance, recognition within the city as a safe and happy place to live and continued desire to know each other enough to offer assistance when needed.