Wednesday, Aug 12, 2015 06:00 am
By: Michelle Ferguson
Heather Kerbes says she feels safe raising her family in St. Albert but it’s not just the city’s low crime rating that fills her with that sense of confidence.
“The crime rates are one thing, but the neighbourhood or community feeling that you get when you walk around is what makes me feel safe,” she said. “And with all of the events St. Albert does – it’s a very community-minded place. A lot of people will go out of their way to say hi to other people, help other people or open a door for other people. That neighbourly feeling is what helps to create the feeling of safety.”
Statistics Canada gave Kerbes another reason to add to that confidence after it released its latest crime index numbers for the province.
Mayor Nolan Crouse is inviting everyone to work towards the goal of seeing a block party on every block. The Mayor is speaking at the one of more than 100 block parties that happened over this past summer.
Some good news! We’ve learned that sometimes things work out in marvelous ways. One of our goals is to have a block party, but we feel that we have to work up to that event. And after soup night we felt that we may have hit a bit of a road block. However, here’s what happened the other night.
Rebecca was in the front yard setting up a slack-line that we had received from her dad. She and our boys were going to try it out. Our next door neighbour came out and starting chatting with Rebecca. Over the course of the conversation, the neighbour randomly stated that she would like to have a block party on our street. Just like that, we have a partner to begin planning a block party!
We have not begun any planning as yet, but this was so encouraging. At the beginning it feels like we are on our own, that we are kind of weird, and that perhaps no one else really wants to be connected with their neighbours like we do. But I think that is just fear talking. Between soup night and the conversation on the lawn we now know that there are four households interested in being more connected. And that’s a great start.
Now comes the next stage: following through. We’ll keep you posted on the library, perhaps another soup night and how block party planning is coming along.
So our second step is still in the works. We have decided to put a Little Free Library on our front lawn. If you do not know what this is, it’s a refurbished newspaper box which we are filling up with books. The idea is that neighbours can come by and borrow, read and return books. The hope is that it becomes a connection place in the neighbourhood where people meet and chat.
The box is painted and the books are ready to go. It just needs some touch-ups, some signage and a stable place on our slanted front lawn. We will also probably put a couple of chairs near the box so that people can flip through some books at their leisure.
We have heard some good stories about how well received these Little Free Libraries are and we thought this might be a good idea. We will let you know how things go!
We’ve been thinking about having a Block Party in our neighbourhood for a while now, but even that seems like a big step. This is partly because we are not huge fans of knocking on people’s doors – okay, David is not a huge fan. He has this mysterious sacred “Do not cross” privacy boundary.
Anyway, we have decided to work our way up to a block party. And we thought we should start with a Soup Night, which is something we heard about through the Neighbourhood Network. Rebecca printed up some flyers and delivered them around the neighbourhood, inviting people to bring a bowl, a spoon and a beverage and we would supply the soup one Sunday evening. We had absolutely no idea whether anyone would show up. Three families did! Two of them we knew already but one family we had never met before. We had a great time eating soup, chatting, and getting to know each other a little bit better.
To be honest, we were hoping for a few more people. And to be even more honest, we were hoping that a family from a particular part of our neighbourhood would show up because we were eyeing the green space next to their homes as a great place for a block party. But we are choosing to celebrate the success. We did something. It was small but it was good. Not bad for a first step.
We are David and Rebecca Wulkan and we have lived in St Albert for the last seven years. Over that time we have felt a growing desire to become better connected with our neighbours. Rebecca grew up in a home where they left their front door unlocked so friends could just come on in and say hello. She grew being connected to neighbours and really enjoyed it. David grew up in a home with few people popping over at all. He’s hoping to make up for some lost time. This began when we were first married. We lived on a street that had barbeques, water fights, and a yearly Christmas party complete with caroling. Since we left that street we’ve not had the same experience.
Where we live now we do not feel very connected with our neighbours even though we have lived in this house for six years. We know a few names and have had a few conversations, but that’s about it. We want to live in a neighbourhood where we know everyone’s names, where we have lots of conversations and where we can help each other out when needed. But how to start?
That’s where this blog comes in. We want to share our journey, our successes and our failures, so that others may be encouraged to connect with their neighbours. There is something good about feeling like you belong to an entire neighbourhood. We believe that this is something that can happen over time with perseverance.
We are not entirely sure what the future holds, but we are looking forward to finding out!