Neighborhood Services News

Leaders in the West Zone reflect on LINC and the Believe 2 Become Initiative.

Leaders in the West Zone reflect on LINC and the Believe 2 Become Initiative.

Posted: 10-10-2012

Community leaders say that the Believe 2 Become initiative in the West Zone is changing the way people interact in their neighborhoods.

Community engagement efforts in the West Zone have reached more than 60 percent of households in the West Zone. People have participated in surveys, gone to B2B meetings, volunteered to help out at events and much more since the first community meeting there in July of last year.

The heads of various organizations, churches and other community hubs have noticed the change in the residents and the community as a whole in a lot of ways. Maria Martinez of the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association said that she said she is thankful that LINC and the Believe 2 Become initiative have come to the neighborhood. Their primary mission is violence and drug prevention, among many other things, and they have a library and a museum that catalogues the history of the neighborhood. They are constantly reaching out and working with residents, but still LINC and the B2B initiative have helped connect more people to the association.

“LINC had a meeting and we were stunned. People that we didn’t know existed in this neighborhood popped out,” Maria said. “The people we knew as quiet and keeping to themselves had a mike in their hand.”

Attendance for Believe 2 Become has been high for all of the West Zone community meetings. The relationships and trust that the Engagement Team has built have made people throughout the zone comfortable to attend the meetings, share their voices and even become leaders in their community.

Pastor Pablo reaches out to the community through the various programs at the Roosevelt Park Community Christian Reformed Church. The pastor himself has been very involved with B2B from the start. He has facilitated at events, and even brought the people at his church to meetings with him. People are more comfortable coming with someone they know the first time, he said, but from then on they are hooked.

“The process is empowering people in the community to see not only that their opinion is valued, but also that they are not completely alone,” Pastor Pablo said. “They see that there are many other neighbors with the same ideas or are ready to fight for the same cause.”

Several of the B2B West Zone action group leaders have also attended the LINC Academy for Social Transformation, which puts community leaders on the ground and in the schools to spread positive messages.

“The LAST program has really helped people come out of their shell and their comfort zone,” Maria said. “One lady was always complaining, and it took LINC to show her that if she participates she can do it. Now she is everywhere, she learns more, she wants more.”

Julie Niemchick at the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association has seen the same transformation, even in terms of resident awareness. The association works to raise awareness about crime and works with community members on many levels to help them on a daily basis. Julie said that she was happy to see that once LINC brought people out to the meetings, they were also more aware of the association.

“It’s a blessing that LINC has come into our neighborhood. A lot of people don’t know that this association works for the neighborhood – so when we go to a meeting that LINC may have and they get connected to us, too,” Julie said.

The West Zone community has many resources, from the neighborhood association and churches to the library and the schools. Community engagement and community revitalization is about the people in the community – connecting each person to the resources they need to improve their quality of life. Through the community liaison and natural helpers in the West Zone, more people are getting connected to opportunities.

Pastor Pablo said that it is great to see that people are getting connected to resources, because they realize that they don’t have to struggle alone, and that things can improve.

Julie agreed. She said that with their work in crime prevention, it is all about getting people to “buy in” and get involved, and this is what LINC has helped with in many ways. She said that she uses this advice with residents all the time.

“Get out there, do something, contribute to the community,” Julie said. “This helps the community grow.”