By Julie Filapek, Neighborhood Partners program of Goodwill NCW
What is the purpose of an organized, connected neighborhood? The Jefferson Park Neighborhood (JPN) in Menasha has written their own answer through the pandemic.
In 2019, JPN Connector Vicki Bokelman knocked on hundreds of doors to learn about neighbors’ knowledge, skills and interests. Because the JPN had already taken stock of these assets and built relationships, they were able to quickly mobilize.
- Neighbors formed a mutual aid group, which rallied around a single mother with twins on the way, providing food, child care, and transportation — one even attended the twins’ delivery.
- Neighbors, including several classic car owners, created a weekly “Jump Around” parade featuring bread giveaways and blue ribbons for front line workers.
- A neighbor-carpenter built two not-so-little free pantries, and a local Boy Scout organized a 100 household food drive. Local businesses now sell candy bars to replenish supplies, and neighbor “food fairies” keep the pantries stocked.
More than 50 people organized pandemic activities that benefited hundreds. When asked whether neighbors are getting burned out, neighbor Christopher Evenson said, “If anything, I think there is pent up energy that will flow forth once it is safe. There are social events we want to host that we just can’t do. We’re chomping at the bit, but we only want to do it safely.”
Neighborhood Partners programs has received support in grants from funds within the Community Foundation, including the Bright Idea Fund, Mielke Family Foundation, Waupaca Area Community Foundation, and Basic Needs Giving Partnership supported by the U.S. Venture Fund for Basic Needs, the J.J. Keller Foundation, Inc., and other community partners.