By Mykala Thomas
Today, people need to get together by staying apart. Community involvement helps support everyone’s health during the current pandemic and beyond. Working with your neighbors and Brilliant Detroit keeps depression at bay and helps you stay upbeat and productive.
You can’t run away from the reality of the coronavirus pandemic, but you can harness the power of the community by leveling the lopsided playing field. Leveraging the power of community serves the neighborhood while giving you the chance to feel good about doing something positive.
1. Dig In With Gardening
Growing flowers, fruits, and vegetables is a great way to get your hands dirty, whether in your backyard or a community garden. Community gardens yield nutritious food while bringing people together (even when you’re 6 feet apart). Community gardening also gets everyone outside for sunshine and fresh air, which improves our health..
What to do with your harvest? How can it help your community? Donate the produce to food banks, child care facilities, homeless shelters, and soup kitchens.
Choose hardy vegetables to grow during the spring and summer, such as corn, beans, cucumbers, peppers, herbs, and tomatoes. You also can sprout greenery in winter by using a hydroponic system.
2. Rally a Cleanup Crew
Trash and litter draw rodents, insects, and bacteria to neighborhoods, parks, and natural water resources, so organize a community trash pickup.
How will this make a difference in your community? You’ll instill a sense of neighborhood pride with cleaner sidewalks, median grass strips, and fields.
Pro Tip: Wear disposable gloves when picking up trash, which now includes discarded face masks (and dispose of your gloves properly afterward). And bring tools. Trash grabbers save wear and tear on your back.
3. Serve Your Neighbors
Neighborhood health starts with defining the needs of the people, especially those who have limited access to nutritious food, health care, and a clean environment.
Here’s how to get started: Gather volunteers. Together, determine a mission, (recognizing boundaries), and agree on a game plan of what you hope to accomplish.
Then reach out to make a difference: Nurture your community by offering health and wellness services to older adults and people with disabilities. Sometimes it’s as simple as offering someone a ride to the doctor.
4. Encourage Children, Who Are Our Future
Talking to children is another step toward supporting a healthy neighborhood.
Here’s how you can do this: It may be hard to see the smile behind the mask now, but a friendly hello to nearby parents and their children tells the kids that other people recognize their existence.
Youngsters tend to be shy when talking to people, but you’ll be surprised at how well they open up when you compliment their clothes or behavior.
Pro Tip: Make sure a child’s parent or caregiver is close by so as not to create any misunderstandings.
Volunteer to read at a local daycare or preschool. Even when you can’t join the kids in person, you can advertise a Zoom storytime. Local programs like 313Speaks help toddlers build a strong vocabulary.
Check out the volunteer opportunities with Brilliant Detroit. Spend an hour a day tutoring online or reading to the children in your neighborhood.
5. Gather Together Online
There’s nothing like neighbors getting together — virtually now — to foster community spirit. Online gatherings are a popular way to stay connected. You can also use your computer to organize a donation drive.
While the old-fashioned block party may be off-limits for a while, you can still socialize with your neighbors by hosting a Zoom session.
Even better? Have everyone drag their grills to the driveway and host a neighborhood driveway dinner. On party day, grab some snacks and shout across the street.
Make a Difference in These Challenging Times
Simple acts of kindness, such as mowing the grass or bringing a hot meal to your neighbor, go a long way.
Coping with stress during COVID-19 is different for everyone, but deep fears and frustrations rarely come to the surface on their own. Even at a social distance, face-to-face interaction reminds those who live by themselves that they are not alone.
Mykala Thomas learned from her grandmother to respect and nurture the land. Now, she works on community garden projects in neighborhoods with few grocery stores. She loves to write about all things that grow.
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