In the middle of Eastwood is Rutherford Place, a low-rise apartment building, located at 120 Avenue and 82 Street. Within this building is a vibrant community of people who care deeply about their friends, family and neighbours which was made abundantly clear this past Thanksgiving.
The 118th Neighbourhood Empowerment Team (NET) has been working with residents of this building to use their expertise to develop tenant-led safety initiatives. Over the last nine months, NET has recruited a tenant organizer and they have worked together to develop, administer and analyze a survey on safety and community. They’ve developed projects to address tenant concerns. They’ve organized a meeting between tenants, landlords, Alberta Health Services and the Landlord Tenant Advisory Board. All of these events have been victories for community capacity building but the celebration that unfolded over Thanksgiving really demonstrates how this particular community has taken empowerment to heart.
Irene, the tenant organizer felt a strong need to connect with neighbours and celebrate Thanksgiving. She talked to fellow tenants and asked if they would like to organize a dinner. There was an overwhelmingly positive response to this idea. The landlord supported this idea and provided 40lbs of turkey and other fixings for the feast. Neighbours decorated the hallway and spread the festive energy. Over 30 tenants came for a meal and conversation! The community members connected with each other and celebrated what they were thankful for. This is a beautiful example of a community using their capacity – which has always been there – to share and celebrate with one another.
As services providers, we often get bogged down in jargon or defining what the needs are or where the problems lie. This is a wonderful reminder that every community and individual has certain strengths and expertise. This project has been about uncovering strengths and providing the opportunity for them to be used for the greater good. Empowerment is recognizing the tools that you have and actively choosing to use them to make change. Thank you Rutherford Place– I’m grateful for the reminder.