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St. Louis Association of Community Organizations

> > 250 Ways to Improve Your Neighborhood

In honor of the 250th birthday of St. Louis, SLACO launched a "250 Ways to Improve Your Neighborhood" Contest.  Below we are showing the 13 finalists chosen by our judges, not changing the original wording of the person who submitted the entry.  The one exception is that we are now editing out any negative comments made about a specific place or neighborhood.  In the aftermath of the contest, our hope is that one or more ideas from your fellow St. Louisans will inspire you and your neighborhood to take action.  Obviously these entries do not reflect the thoughts or manner of expression of SLACO employees, interns, or board members.

Grand Prize Winner:

250 Exchanges of Peace." In order to decrease the racial divide between St. Louis neighborhoods and promote collaboration and conciliation, I would like to offer a project called “250 exchanges of peace.” The project works something like the TV show “Swapping Housewives”. On a scheduled day of the week, a bus stops to pick up 25 people (young and old) from two different neighborhoods for a 4 hour bus tour and social gathering. The bus transports the two groups (now one group on a bus) to each neighborhood in turn, as a trained guide from the host neighborhood points out sites of interest and historical facts. The bus makes one stop at each neighborhood at the end of each tour for a one hour social gathering. At the social gathering there is food and non-alcoholic beverages. A non-political community leader or trained volunteer from the host neighborhood welcomes the group and leads them through several fun ice breaker group activities to encourage intermingling, connections and friendships. The goal is for each of the 250 persons (from 10 different neighborhoods) to have a chance to get to know a group of residents from another neighborhood, focusing on things they have in common, but also recognizing differences. For location of the neighborhood stop off social gathering, best to rely on church halls, community centers, or business banquet halls. Outside if the weather is good, inside as a backup. Options: (not essential to success) Business sponsors could provide some “bags of swag” from local neighborhood businesses or corporate sponsors to be handed out on the return home. Variation 1: As a variation, residents would not be combined on the bus. Rather the bus would pick up from only one neighborhood (A) and tour a different neighborhood (B). After the tour a similar social gather would occur, but at the gathering residents A would be meeting host residents (B) for the first time. Then on another day, the bus would pick up residents from neighborhood B and transport them to neighborhood A for a similar tour and social gathering.

Other Finalists:

1. Neighborhood cook-offs (think ... fish fries): Neighborhoods rotate months to encourage discovery and community.

2. Develop a historic preservation workshop to teach neighbors about working with basic construction materials, home repair, identification of woods, and researching the history of their home. This program would take place ... at local warehouses that are available to reserve for neighborhood activities and donated materials and tools would be provided. A learning outcome of this proposal is that people will understand how to build sustainable, quality homes and projects, giving them a sense of pride, resourcefulness, and investment in their community.

3. Every neighborhood needs an open art studio (like Kismet Creative Center near Cherokee) so people can express themselves openly.

4. Many 'entrances' to the city have viaducts within a block (like on Southwest just west of McCausland). We should have art students paint welcome murals on their concrete support walls. Welcome to Ellendale, Welcome to St. Louis. Makes it more inviting. Improves the looks of the old walls.

5. Also, I feel the community center or some other type of resource center should be in place to provide help to the residents in the neighborhood who engage in social ills such as drugs, alcohol, and gangs to help the individuals learn acceptable social activities and learn to cope and how they can help be positive in the neighborhood. This is important to change the lives of these types of people because even if the neighborhood is cleaned up and has new buildings if the members of the ... Neighborhood are not mentally changed and offered the help they need to be better in life, the neighborhood would still have its existing problems.

6. Install a Library in Mark Twain on Lillian Ave. Why would a neighborhood named after a famous writer not have a library or a park. Someone should fix this!

7. My suggestion is to select a color scheme each year (red geraniums for example) and encourage nurseries and other small business to offer a substantial discount for plants to line the businesses and encourage homeowners to enhance their own properties. A big enough impact will bring people to the area to spend money at a businesses and keep the area viable. Businesses can develop their own specials to go along with the yearly theme. Also one color or theme will have higher impact. While this sounds really simplistic pride of ownership is important and encourages friendly competition. Perhaps a yearly contest for best use if theme both for a homeowner and a business....

8. Online job/time bank. Create a neighborhood database of community "experts" with profiles and references (similar to where people can offer their expertise, such as certified electrician or master quilter. People could exchange money, but would instead be encouraged to bank hours to earn time to learn from or utilize another person's expertise. This idea would (1.) connect people in a neighborhood who otherwise may not know each other, (2.) bring a greater understanding of specific individual assets within a neighborhood, (3.) cultivate a sharing culture among neighbors, and (4.) incubate small businesses when particular skills or expertise are in great demand.

9. I believe because so much of the land in our growing community is being purchased by ...[major landowner] yet majority of the homeowners are elderly or disabled and we have families with children, pets and of all ethnicities a stage with a roof and perhaps a gazebo would be great instead of your basic playground or basketball court..I feel with a stage students from the schools can involve the youth and all in the community to find their talents and share them amongst all. So many gather to go to the muny and to the Shakespeare plays at seasonal times; but many of our elders are unable to travel to many of these places. We have a boys and girls club; but most times they only have your traditional activities for the youth. We have a few non profit organizations that are looking to help the youth; but not many parents available to know what their youth are participating in due to employment. Yet there's many who have talents that they can share on a stage. So many schools in the neighborhood that can assist to bring the youth to acknowledge their talents; but no place for them to go outside of school. Yet theres college students who are only able to share their accomplishments amongst family and friends when a neighborhood stage can involve all. Many of the elderly look to come outside without much to see; but their yards. I participate in a program ... [in which] and so many women in this program have seen this community change in so many ways over the years and I believe a stage for all to come together and gather to share all that they have on their minds and in their hearts would be great. This stage though I think would be great, because so many participate in things at school and after school with no place to share their talents. So many would and can benefit from an open stage. This community has really grown over the years and is continuing to grow daily. So many would benefit from just one stage.

10. Continue to engage meaningful, encouraging, stimulating conversation with the youth in my neighborhood and provoke them be involved in neighborhood block programs and meetings.

11. Youth Technology Center. There are a number of younger kids and teenagers in our neighborhood and I thought it would great to have a place where they could do homework, solve math problems, learn how to program computers, learn how to build computers, or complete thought provoking exercises. In the event the work itself wasn't interesting enough to the community, entice them with the ability to earn time playing the latest video games. Every kid loves video games, but not everyone can afford expensive gaming consoles. I am a software engineer that grew up playing video games and taking apart stuff and taking the time to really learn math. As a result I've developed a successful career in software development. I think there should be a way to inspire the younger generation (even if it means tricking them into it) to be excited about math and science. I would imagine even without the video game part of it, it would be cool to have a place where kids could go to learn about technology. Kind of like a library but focused on technology only.

12. Making a point of regularly spending time on your front porch fosters those tiny, impromptu interactions with neighbors, especially with children, that build a strong foundation in the community. All the organized events in the world can't substitute for informal, impromptu interactions.

SLACO would like to invite you to continue to contribute your ideas about how to improve neighborhoods. Just enter your name, email address, neighborhood, and idea in the space below.  By submitting, you are giving SLACO permission to use your idea, without identifying information, on this website, at the conference, in social media, and in other publications.   We also reserve the right to group your neighborhood improvement ideas with submittals that seem similar, and to edit out any wording that is too specific.

Now it's time to contribute!

250 Ways to Improve Your Neighborhood

To Inspire a Better St. Louis