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South Park Coalition

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Key Learning & Lessons


When talk about the CBI pillar of “Engagement” we are talking about working toward inclusion and increased cohesion among neighbors. People often ask, “What does that look like?" Below are just a few vignettes that describe what increasing engagement, cohesion, and inclusion have looked like for the Southpark neighborhood.

“A Big Change”

A neighbor stopped one of our team members who was out putting up posters for an event. He said, “Hey, what you’re doing is working.” When asked what he meant, he shared that he had previously lived in the Southpark neighborhood for many years. He had moved away 10 years earlier and rented out his South Park home. He was back doing some maintenance on the rental property in preparation to sell. While spending time landscaping the front yard, he said he noticed a big change in the neighborhood. He said everyone who went by while he was working stopped to say hello or they smiled and waved from their car. He said that had never happened before. People weren’t so friendly when he lived here before, but now they were. It made such an impression on him that he has decided to move back into the neighborhood. He claims this would not have happened if it was not for the Coalition’s work in the neighborhood!


While we were repainting the mural that was tagged with graffiti in the park, there was one resident who was watching us from the sidelines. We asked if she wanted to help us paint and she said no. Later, noticing she was still there watching, we asked her again. Again, she shook her head "no". About 20 minutes later, she was still there. “Come on,” we said. “We know you want to join us.” Finally, she did. As she painted, she said quietly, “I don’t like most people.” We just smiled and kept painting. After a bit, she put her paint brush down and said she had to leave. A few weeks later, I was walking in the park, and she rushed up to me. She was quite animated. “Oh, I was hoping to see you!”, she said. “The other night, I was up in my apartment (she pointed to the second story unit that was above the fence with the mural we had painted) and I was awakened by the sound of a spray paint can being shook. I ran to the window and saw some young boys down by the mural. I yelled at them, “Oh, no you don’t! That mural is community. Family!” The boys looked up in surprise, shouted they were sorry and ran off. She looked at me, her face beaming with pride. “Community,” she said and walked off. It was a great feeling to see how the simple act of connecting through this small project created a sense of shared space, belonging, and ownership! 

“Pretty Cool”

While at the counter of our local donut shop, a teenage customer was sitting at a table with two younger boys, all three aged between 10–12 years. He asked me if I was the “South Park lady.” I paused, before replying, “Yes.” It is a little unusual for a group of teenage boys to walk up and start chatting with an adult they don’t know. He nodded his head up and down slowly and I was expecting some kind of snarky response. Instead, he said “What you’re doing is pretty cool. It’s nice to see things happening in our neighborhood.” Sometimes we wonder if our efforts are making any difference. It was a great feeling to get acknowledgement that our work was having an impact, especially from a teenager. But I also realized that for these boys to feel comfortable approaching me said something more about what was happening between neighbors in Southpark. There is a sense of belonging and trust growing. Not only among those directly involved in the day-to-day business of our CBI work but among those that participate and feel the impacts of the subtle but important changes we are seeing in our neighborhood.

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