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Strengthening Menasha neighborhoods from the inside out

Olsen and Evanson entertain their neighbors in Menasha’s “PorchaPalooza.” It’s part of Goodwill NCW’s Neighborhood Partners program, supported by a $20,000 grant from the Bright Idea Fund , as well as grants from the Jeweler’s Mutual Charitable Giving Fund and Heid Music Family Charitable Fund, all within the Community Foundation.

By Julie Filapek, Neighborhood Partners program leader, Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin

Vicki Bokelman is on a mission to discover and connect all the assets – knowledge, skills and interests – that her neighbors have to share with one another. Vicki is a leader of the Jefferson Park Neighbors group, which has spent the past few years addressing the neighbor priorities it developed through a community planning process undertaken with the support of Goodwill NCW’s Neighborhood Partners program.  Neighbors have:

Vicki Bokelman leads the Jefferson Park neighborhood group

  • Worked on safety by forming neighborhood watch groups and keeping the neighborhood active and connected.
  • Worked to keep their park beautiful and family friendly by installing and maintaining a native plants garden and hosting an annual kite-flying event for families.
  • Worked to keep neighbors socially connected by hosting big neighborhood potlucks, smaller pop-up socials, and what they are perhaps known best for, their front porch music festival PorchaPalooza.

The current effort to identify neighborhood assets is deepening that work in this neighborhood.

Rusty Nails performs during Porchapalooza

In one week, Bokelman discovered nearly 100 skills across two blocks, from writing to home maintenance to recovering from alcoholism, among just 22 households.

“I was truly amazed at how many people invited me on their porch and shared  what they have knowledge about, what they are good at doing, and what they really care about.”

The next step is to make connections, based on what neighbors have to share with one another. Already, the neighborhood group has started a gardening club, organized neighborhood walks and bike rides, and encouraged neighbors to share their knowledge and skills with children after school.

“Our neighbors have so much to share with our young people. They possess knowledge and life lessons that frankly schools don’t have time to teach.  These were handed down from their family, friends, and yes neighbors. Let’s keep that close-knit, neighborly feeling  visible. Our older adults can benefit just as much as our young people will.”

Goodwill’s Neighborhood Partners program strengthens neighbors’ social ties, connections to resources, and transferable teamwork and project management skills, all of which lead to successful employment, stable neighborhoods, and opportunities to make meaningful contributions to community life.

Neighborhood Partners helps neighbors build social capital – connection, trust, shared values and purpose – because that’s how neighbors can most effectively dig in together on issues they want to address, and how they can best strengthen their neighborhoods for the long term.

With support from the Bright Idea Fund, the Jeweler’s Mutual Charitable Giving Fund and Heid Music Family Charitable Fund within the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, Neighborhood Partners will continue to deepen this work in the Jefferson Park Neighborhood, and to expand to additional core Menasha neighborhoods in the coming years.

You can make the Bright Ideas burn even brighter by adding your support.

Check out our current Bright Idea Fund results from 2018 – 2019!
See how our Bright Idea Fund impacted our community last year.

One Response to Strengthening Menasha neighborhoods from the inside out

  • Julie Zalewski says:

    Read this article about this life impacting effort. I was inspired. This is a great idea. Wouldn’t it be great to have this event in more neighborhoods & surrounding communities.

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