Building community – in two ways

NECCOct15posterThe North End Community Circle is a bit of a hard beast to explain, but essentially we work in two different ways.  We engage service providers – that is, people who work to make life better, in whatever way, for residents of Halifax’s North End – to help them connect and collaborate.  That includes creating the bulletin board on this website, where any organization can advertise their events or programs.  And it includes the monthly roundtable at 9 a.m. on the first Tuesday at Veith House. The District 8 councillor, staff at non-profits, members or leaders of congregations and active volunteers  efficiently highlight what we’re working on and what we need. See the notes from the October roundtable here:  RoundtableOct7.2014

A second way we work is by engaging directly with the people who live in our neighbourhood – by building a community garden, by hosting a massive barbecue each June and by hosting events like this one that’s coming up.  Come, why don’t you?  And if you’re free to help cook on the afternoon of Oct. 15, get in touch:  necchalifax at gmail.com

 

 

Five ways to build community in North End Halifax (in the next few weeks)


#1

Saturday, Oct. 4, 12- 4 p.m., NECC garden, just off Union St. at Needham Park parking lot. The NECC garden is expanding.  Come help us assemble new beds and fill them with soil.

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(We’ll also be unloading some manure on Thursday, Oct. 2, from about 3:30 – 4:30. No joke. This is #2.  Send a note to necchalifax@gmail.com if you want to wield a shovel.)

#3

Tuesday, Oct. 7, 9 a.m., Veith House: the regular North End Roundtable is a chance for organizations and individuals to share news of programs and identify ways to collaborate.  (Notes from the September roundtable are here: North End Roundtable Sept 9,2014 .)  All are welcome.

#4

Wednesday, Oct. 15, 5 – 7 p.m., Mulgrave Park United Baptist Church, 5666 Sebastian St. Please join your neighbours (and invite one!) for a community meal and a chance to celebrate the good things happening in the North End. All ages welcome. Thanks to a Community Development Fund grant from the Halifax Community Health Board, we have funds to cover both food costs and childcare.  All the same, we’ll celebrate all the gardening that’s happening in North End backyards and community gardens by creating a Stone Salad (a variation on Stone Soup).  Please bring spare greens: lettuce, kale, nasturtium flowers or leaves, chives, etc.  We’ll contribute the Hope Blooms salad dressing – as well as the main course, of course.

#5

Can you volunteer to help cook a healthy meal for a crowd on the afternoon of Oct. 15?  If so, please contact Lisa.

 

New digs for the NECC

This is NECC’s first day in residence at Veith House. After years of support and development under the Community Justice Society, and particularly the leadership of Yvonne Atwell, the North End Community Circle brought a proposal to the Veith House board – and earlier in September, it was accepted with enthusiasm.

The NECC is now the community development program of Veith House. Our mandate, though, has not changed: the NECC exists to promote a sense of community belonging and build relationships across diversity. We’ll continue to publicize the work of all organizations that serve the North End of Halifax and create spaces where those organizations and residents can come together.

Community facilitator Lisa Roberts has an office with a big window on the bottom floor. It’s right next door to the kitchen which – in our dreams and intentions – will soon be a functional community kitchen. (It needs some wiring…)

For now, the coffee is always on in the main Veith House office, so grab a cup and come find Lisa during her regular hours: for now, Monday-Wednesday, 9 – 12:45 a.m.   (She’ll continue to do social media and other work at odd hours by laptop.)

The Community Justice Society will continue to participate in the NECC as one of the many organizations that help to make life better for North End residents. United Way funding – for 2012-2015 – will also be managed by CJS until the end of that project .

June: the NECC leans in!

The NECC is giving June all we’ve got.  Please mark your calendars for June 18 (rain date June 19) when we’ll host the 3rd North End Community Barbecue at Isleville Park.  Please bring your water bottle, a lawn chair or picnic blanket, and your neighbours!3rd Annual NECC Community BBQ 2014

Friends at Mulgrave Park United Baptist Church are bringing multiple barbecues so hopefully the line-ups will be just long enough for you to have a chat with someone new.   Thanks to them and to Phoenix Youth for helping make the barbecue a success.   If you – or your favourite local business – would like to donate to the feast, contact us or just sign up here.

On June 7, we built a garden!   The site was covered in scrub and scattered with litter when we first saw it on May 9.  Now there are 14 garden beds ready to be planted, including one for Needham Pre-School and a community bed where anyone is welcome to pluck a tomato or a pea come harvest time.

We’ll be planting on Thursday evening, June 12, at 5:30, if you have extra seeds or transplants to share. We’ve already received – and planted – a saskatoon berry bush and await some raspberry canes and rhubarb. There are abundant wild blueberry bushes now.   This should be a delightful and edible public space for years to come.

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Before changing into our garden clothes, we hosted the last North End Multi-Service Roundtable before a summer break.  Here are the notes: RoundtableJune3.   It was wonderful to get news from many organizations working to make North End Halifax a yet better place to live.

Gardens galore

It’s a time for planting and growth in the North End.  On June 7, this lovely group of gardeners – plus half a dozen more – will build and install raised beds on a piece of land we’ve been allocated by HRM.  It’s just south-east of the parking lot for Needham Park, off Union St.   Currently it’s a mix of scrub, weeds, saplings and blueberry bushes – which we’ll keep!  But there’s lots of room for 12 raised beds plus a community rhubarb patch.IMG_6916

We’re looking for help – and moral support, and transplants of herbs, and company – from the wider community. And so we’re doing the garden build as an #100in1day intervention    Hope to see you Saturday afternoon!

Huge kudos to Progress in the Park who built their beds in Mulgrave Park on May 24.  Paige Farah and Chelsea Tims talked about the community garden project on CBC radio. Their beds – by Home Harvest – are things of beauty and the community has lots of room to grow.

p.s. June 3, 9 a.m. at Veith House, will be the last North End Multi-Stakeholder Roundtable before September.  It’s a great opportunity for organizations that serve North End Halifax to connect.  The notes  from the May roundtable are here
if you want to see what you missed last month.

So much happening in the North End. (Now just imagine a community hub at St. Patrick’s – Alexandra…

Twenty organizations serving the North End – from Cogswell to Devonshire – met at Veith House last week for the monthly North End Multi-Service roundtable.  (Read about the concept here.)  It was a rich exchange of concerns and opportunities.

One recurrent theme: as a community, we need to increase meaningful volunteer opportunities for youth.   Multiple organizations – including Phoenix Youth, Family SOS and the Community Justice Society  – are looking for placements.  Please dive into the notes (May 6- NECCnotesRoundtable) if you want to get in touch with them.  There are other great nuggets in the notes too, including opportunities to get help quitting smoking, learn mental health first aid and enjoy free recreation programs.

Our last roundtable before summer will be June 3 at 9 a.m. at Veith House.   If you think you could learn something or contribute something, please feel welcome.  The idea is simply to bring people into the same room so that more good things can happen through the relationships that are built… sort of the like the good stuff that could happen by having the three organizations that make up the North Central Community Council come together under the roof of St. Patrick’s-Alexandra.

Here’s a letter of support for the NCCC sent to Halifax Regional Council by NECC coordinator Lisa Roberts.

“12 May 2014

 Dear members of council,

I am a north end resident and work as community facilitator with the North End Community Circle, a project of the Community Justice Society that connects with dozens of North End-serving organizations (includes churches, non-profits, schools, etc.) and more than a hundred North End residents.  I am writing to tell you that there is widespread support for community-determined redevelopment of the St. Patrick’s-Alexandra site and a sense that this is an opportunity not-to-be-missed.  

As the staff report itself reflects, the North Central Community Council (NCCC) brings together three established, stable non-profit groups in Central Halifax, each of which has a track record of serving the community. Further, each of the three partners in the NCCC already maintains older properties and manages to do that – despite challenges – while developing programs that respond to the needs of historically marginalized citizens of Halifax.  They are up to the challenge that the staff report also outlines.

You have an opportunity, with this decision, to inject some balance into the development of downtown Halifax. The peninsula – and specifically, Gottingen St. and Agricola St. – are buzzing with new local restaurants and businesses.  Real estate prices have easily doubled in the past eight years. This is good news, but not if long-time residents are left feeling excluded.  Families and individuals should be able to move from public housing or rental housing to home ownership without leaving the peninsula, as this proposal would allow.

The non-profits that make up the NCCC have been extremely resourceful and even entrepreneurial in their approach to managing scarce resources. They likewise deserve a home.  At the June 26, 2013 public meeting, residents described the M’ikmaw Native Friendship Centre (MNFC) on Gottingen St. as “bursting at the seams.”  An institution like this belongs in or near downtown and we’re fortunate to have this chance before us.

Frankly, condos aren’t where community is built, but many people who live in those condos will also value the recreation programs, film screenings, community gatherings and services that can flourish in a community hub like the NCCC envisions.

This decision is important in its substance: this is a large piece of land, in an important location, and what happens on it matters to people with a long connection to the school and to the partners of the NCCC.  The message that you will send with your decision also matters enormously.  You can make a decision on St. Patrick’s Alexandra that will redress some of the historic wrongs committed by the city Halifax – and indeed, Canada as a whole – and move us towards a better future as a city.  Does Halifax Regional Municipality care about all of its residents?  When it can, will it use its power to help shape a more equitable future?  

Please take this opportunity on our behalf.”

How big should a neighbourhood be?

Tuesday, May 6, at 9 a.m., at Veith House, will be the next meeting of the North End Multi-Service Roundtable.  The April roundtable was cancelled due to a blizzard (!), so this is a chance to catch up on what North End organizations are working on.  Notes from the March roundtable  and a general description of the roundtable concept  are on our website.

One question has come up a couple times recently: how big should a neighbourhood be?  The North End Community Circle’s purpose is to increase the sense of belonging, optimism and well-being amongst residents of North End Halifax.  The boundaries of the North End are ever contentious, and we don’t care to draw them in ink. But most of our work with residents happens further north. We’ve met at Ward 5 and Shambhala School, and most often at Needham Centre.

We actually put this question to Jim Diers (who visited Halifax in January and inspired a number of people to join the NECC) and he generously replied at some length:

“I think that neighborhoods work best when the residents themselves feel a common sense of identity. Oftentimes a local business district or school will provide the focal point. A distinct housing type or ethnic population might also give people that common identity. A local library, community center or park might provide the bumping places that are critical to developing the relationships that give people a common identity. Natural boundaries like a river or built boundaries like a freeway or major arterial might define the borders.

Of course, people identify with geographic communities at many different levels – their street, block or apartment complex; their larger neighborhood; and their even larger district (a high school, large community center or major shopping precinct might anchor this). I think that neighborhoods work best when they consist of 5000 or fewer residents. When it’s much larger, it’s hard to get to know everyone and it’s hard to get people involved because they’re always expecting someone else to do it at a larger scale.”

Then Jim added this important note: “if the purpose is to facilitate interagency coordination, you will need to have some boundaries and you may need to organize at a level larger than a neighbourhood.”

And that is exactly what we’re trying to do with the roundtable, and so all agencies working to serve residents from Cogswell to the far north end of the Peninsula are very welcome.

Next steps: Community Garden and Barbecue

NECC-NeedhamGardenPP1 3The North End Community Circle will meet at 5 p.m., Wednesday, April 16, in the community room of Needham on.  We’ll have enough finger food to fill our bellies (as Needham doesn’t have a full kitchen; email if you wish to contribute) and then meet from 5:30 – 6:30 to discuss the NECC community garden at Needham and update planning for the June 18 BBQ at Isleville Park. 

Thanks, in advance, to members of Mulgrave Park Baptist Church who, I understand, have committed to rolling three barbecues to the park!  They will also help in a myriad of other ways.  Phoenix Youth from Mulgrave Park also plan to help out, with both youth and staff.  Many hands will make the 2014 North End Community Barbecue a great success.  Put June 18, 4 – 7 p.m., in your calendar, as well as the raindate of June 19.

(Note: if anyone would like to join a conversation about how to “grow” the NECC – in terms of funding and governance – please be in touch. An advisory committee will meet at 4 p.m. on April 16 to discuss these “under the hood” topics.)

Other upcoming NECC events:

Tuesday, May 6, 9 a.m., at Veith House: The North End Multi-Service Roundtable will meet.  This is a chance to not-for-profits and other organizations serving the North End to swap information and seek out partnerships.  (Note: we’ll put up posters . Feel free to send them in .pdf or .jpg format.)

Saturday, time/date in May TBD: Once the Africville Museum has gotten news of their summer staff, they and the NECC will co-host a walking tour to the museum from the end of Novalea.

May/June: building/planting days.   NECC’s application to use land adjacent to Needham Centre for a community garden will be considered soon by HRM staff.  Several organizations and a number of residents have expressed interest in plots and others – even if they don’t want their own raised bed – are keen to help with building and maintaining the garden.  Stay tuned!  Thanks to the Ecology Action Centre’s food program for supporting us and other community garden initiatives in the North End.

CANCELLED: April 1 roundtable at Veith House

My daughter’s school is cancelled and it is treacherous to get around.   Let’s all connect at Veith House on May 6 at 9 a.m.   Please email if you are interested in the community garden project (details below). Thanks and apologies.  Lisa 

 

A quick reminder that Tuesday, April 1, at 9 a.m. will be the next Multi-Service Roundtable at Veith House.  No joking!  I’ve gotten a number of emails from service providers who are looking to connect with other community organizations and I am hopeful that it will be well attended and productive.  Notes from the March roundtable give you an idea of the kind of information that gets shared around the table:  March 4 – Roundtable.

We had a good meeting on March 19 at Needham Centre.  One result: we will go ahead and apply to use land adjacent to Needham Centre as a community garden!  That application has to go in within the next week and must include a plot plan.  So far, I have interest in a raised bed plot from Needham’s Youth Leadership team, Needham Pre-School and two community residents.  There will also be a NECC bed of food to share.

If you, your organization, your neighbour, or someone you know would like a plot, please let me know by replying to this message by April 3.  Please note: we must apply to HRM for access to the land and I don’t know if there will be a limit on the number of beds we can establish in year one. There are also community gardens in the works at both Veith House and Mulgrave Park through Progress in the Park.

 

Planning for Spring: March 19 at 1p.m.

It’s time to plan for spring… and beyond!  The NECC has hosted a huge, lovely Community Barbecue at Isleville Park the last two Junes.  The date for this year’s is June 18 – rain date of June 19 – and we need a bunch of hands of help.  March 19, from 1-2:30 at Needham Centre on Devonshire Ave, will be an opportunity to plan.

Regardless whether we meet early, mid or late-afternoon, it’ll be at Needham Centre on Devonshire Ave.

The meeting will also be good chance to talk about a possible North End Garden Summit – an idea we’re mulling over for April/ May; and for folks interested in helping to establish a new community garden adjacent to Needham Centre to speak up.

As you can read if you delve into the notes from the March 4 North End Multi-Stakeholder Roundtable, March 4 – Roundtable,  NECC needs to do some housework.  Right now, it’s a project but not a stand-alone not-for-profit, with a one-day-a-week community organizer. That’s just not enough  time to build relationships and bring people together to make good stuff happen.   So… time to write some grants, fill out some forms, etc., and that means it’ll be a while before another awesome workshop or community potluck.

There are lots of other interesting nuggets in the notes – like that In Full Bloom will happen at the Bloomfield Centre on June 22nd.  Don’t forget to check the bulletin board for community events too.