Neighboring Week promotes inclusive communities

Would you like to connect more with your neighbors but don’t know where to start? Midland’s upcoming Neighboring Week could serve as the perfect opportunity to work towards becoming a better neighbor while building a stronger community.

Taking place from Sept. 27 through Oct. 3, Neighboring Week will feature organized community programs as well as resources helping neighborhoods and individual residents to put together their own events. A block party held in Center City on Sept. 30 from 10 a.m.-noon will kick off the week’s festivities.

Trisha Fenby, Community Living and Wellness Program Manager at the Arnold Center, is chairing the organizing committee for Midland’s Neighboring Week.“In Midland, we want people to understand and realize and know that everybody here belongs,” says Trisha Fenby, community living and wellness program manager at the Arnold Center, who is chairing the organizing committee for Midland’s Neighboring Week. “And by doing that, we want people to just be able to express themselves in a neighborly fashion. We would love for people to be able to participate at whatever capacity they're able to.”

According to the Midland Area Community Foundation’s (MACF) Neighboring Week resources website, simple acts and gestures can make us better at neighboring. Offering to share a meal, walking dogs together, planting a front yard garden, or cleaning the neighborhood together are all ways to reach out to neighbors and build a connection. A simple friendly greeting can lead the way to ongoing conversations.

Everything you need is in the Neighboring Week Toolkit

The Midland Area Community Foundation’s Cultural Awareness Coalition has assembled a compilation of online resources for residents and organizations wishing to participate in Neighboring Week. The Neighboring Week Toolkit features listings of the week’s events, articles, activities, and ideas for ways that people can engage in their communities. Also available is an online form where residents can submit information about events and activities they are hosting as part of the initiative. All submitted events will be posted on the Neighboring Week website.

Neighboring Week runs from Sept. 27 through Oct. 4.
Fostering inclusion and celebrating diversity

For the second consecutive year, MACF’s Cultural Awareness Coalition is spearheading Neighboring Week in Midland after realizing the program aligned closely with its goals of community inclusion. The weeklong celebration is an offshoot of National Good Neighbor Day, held on Sept. 28 each year to foster positive neighborhood interactions.

Alysia Christy is the Director of Community Impact at MACF.“The Cultural Awareness Coalition’s vision is for inclusive communities in Midland,” says Alysia Christy, director of community impact at MACF. “We are casting our community to engage in this work in whatever way they can. The coalition believes in this work because this is the baseline entry point for truly building inclusion within our community. If we can be intentional and inclusive neighbors to one another, it helps us to be an inclusive community for all people.”

Inclusion begins by recognizing the diversity already in place in the Midland community. The 2020 census data from Michigan shows that Midland’s racial and ethnic makeup is changing. By adapting to these shifts through vibrant community initiatives, neighborhoods can be strengthened with an increased sense of belonging for residents.

“Although there is still a long way to go, there is beautiful diversity within our community,” says Christy. “And diversity isn't just from a racial standpoint, but socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, gender — the list goes on and on. The point of neighboring week is to bring this diversity to the forefront to show that we are all unique, we are all individuals, but we can all come together with a sense of neighboring within our community.”

Tight neighborhoods are more resilient

Small, daily interactions that contribute to good neighboring can help to establish a community poised to provide support in difficult times. 

“The 2020 flood was an unbelievably perfect example of what neighbors do for each other,” says Fenby. “That was a good example of how we can just come together and we help each other and we work through things together. We all realized we needed that sense of belonging and that need for connection.”

Small, daily interactions that contribute to good neighboring can help to establish a community poised to provide support in difficult times.According to FEMA, almost half of residents expect to reach out to neighbors in the days following a natural disaster or other major emergency. Having relationships in place from regular interactions can facilitate working together to restore neighborhoods while providing a necessary sense of security.

Mobile murals work as conversation pieces in Midland neighborhoods

In line with the goal of encouraging neighborhood interactions, MACF has commissioned a series of four mobile murals from Public Arts Midland depicting miniature houses with artistic representations of diversity and community. The murals will rotate between 34 partnering businesses and organizations between now and Sept. 27, bringing color to various neighborhoods.

“These murals were built with a sense to bring about curiosity, awareness and engagement in Neighboring Week,” says Christy. “All of the murals are to represent a sense of belonging and inclusion.”

“If you were to just look around or walk around in our community, you would see neighboring happening just naturally and holistically, we do it and we don't even realize we do it,” says Fenby. “We want to celebrate that and see people just embracing it in their everyday life.”
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Read more articles by Marta Manning.

A native of Poland, Marta Manning shifted her career path to freelance journalism after working as a research chemist. Her articles have appeared in, the Chemical City Paper, Our Catholic Faith Midland, the national blog, and the Midland Daily News. Marta enjoys drawing and painting, hiking, and supporting local arts and indie music.