Residents work to build connections in their community
Okotoks: Unique program launched
By: Don Patterson
| Posted: Saturday, Apr 26, 2014 06:00 am
Okotoks residents are teaming up to strengthen the ties that bind their communities together.
Members of the Okotoks Network and Suntree-area residents launched the first neighbourhood connector team to help people get to know their neighbours, and other communities are beginning to follow.
Suntree resident Mark Rowed said the connectors program is all about making a neighbourhood a village and creating a more interactive community.
“There’s been a renewed recognition of the importance of neighborhoods and having neighbours know each other in society,” he said.
Rowed said the program creates a number of positive including supporting a community’s health and its young people, while improving safety and security. Neighbourhood connectors can organize community events or find out if people need help, such as those who can’t shovel sidewalks and need a snow angel to help.
The Suntree community is serving as a pilot project for the program in Okotoks and residents held their first meeting on March 23. They have created a team of ‘block connectors,’ people who are tasked with going door-to-door on their street to get to know their neighbours.
The goal is to get a picture of the people living in a particular community, to know their strengths, what they want in the community, what they can offer and if they’re interested in doing more to help out.
Rowed said the Okotoks Network, a group of residents and community organizations will serve as a forum for teams from different neighbourhoods in town to work together.
“As other teams are forming and other neighbourhoods are coming on-line with the initiative, then by being a network we can work together and share our knowledge and share our experiences,” he said. “What we’re doing is creating a connected community.”
Rowed said they are now looking for people who are interested in becoming connectors in their own community.
“We’re looking for people that would like to be connectors, connectors are people who are good at getting to know people and like meeting new people and like bringing people together,” he said.
Okotoks Mayor Bill Robertson said the program will help to strengthen the Okotoks community.
He has become a block connector on his street in the Suntree area.
While Okotoks is a prosperous, growing community, Robertson said social connections are missing in some parts of town and the neighbourhood connector program can help to build these relationships.
“Being connected socially within a neighbourhood just greatly enhances somebody’s happiness and is a great determinant in long-term health,” he said,
Suntree block connector Leah Sager-Sampson said participating allows her to be more involved with her community. She said she is on long-term disability and isn’t able to work, but the program allows her to be able to give back to the community.
“I can't work eight hour days anymore as an executive assistant, however, I have a skill set that many can benefit from so I choose to pay it forward,” she said.
Sager-Sampson said it’s a grassroots movement that helps people give back to their communities and is in keeping with her First Nations background.
“An abundant community is traditionally how an indian tribe operates so this is not a new philosophy to my culture,” she said. “It takes a village to raise a child and without community supports in place our families, elders and children suffer.”
The concept is starting to take off in the community as similar teams are forming in other areas in Okotoks.
Downey-area resident Sandi Kennedy is working with neighbors to set up a connector team in her neighbourhood.
The former Okotoks mayor said she saw the work Rowed was doing in the Suntree area and wanted to follow suit in her own neighbourhood.
“I just think that it makes for a safer community, it’s good to know your neighbours, whether you really know them well or you just know them enough to be able to help them if they needed help,” said Kennedy.
For more information and to become a community connector, visit www.okotoksnetwork.ca