I remember when we moved into our house almost eleven years ago. My husband and I were fortunate in that we had just moved about one mile away from where we previously lived, so we were familiar with the new city and what it had to offer. Friends and family helped us move.
A few hours into our hard work, one neighbor from three houses down stopped by and offered to have his daughter help us unpack boxes because she needed community service hours for a school class. He was a friendly man and offered some information about the city as well. That encounter was really our only welcome into the neighborhood.
When you moved into your residence, did anyone stop by to help you or offer resources about the city?
Toward the end of 2010, the Brooklyn Center Housing Commission initiated the New Neighbor Welcome Program to do just that: welcome new residents into the city. Cub Foods provides reusable bags, and the Housing Commission fills them with fliers, pamphlets, and sometimes even coupons. In 2011, volunteers from the program visited approximately 200 homes. In 2012, 172 homes were visited.
Volunteers from the Housing Commission meet once or twice a month during the spring, summer, and fall months to deliver the bags. Since the group is always seeking more volunteers, Michelle Barsness and her Global Citizenship class at Minnesota School of Business-Brooklyn Center, decided to help out by doing a service-learning project.
Kris Lawrence-Anderson, former Chair of the Commission and new member of the Brooklyn Center City Council, initially came into the classroom to explain to students what the program was all about. The students were shocked that people would actually take the time to welcome new residents, and a few who currently live in Brooklyn Center wished that someone would have stopped by their home when they moved in years earlier.
The students made a commitment to help Lawrence-Anderson and the Housing Commission on two different occasions in August. Everyone met at City Hall and delivery groups were formed. During the deliveries, students commented many times on how neighbors were initially reluctant to listen to the groups because they thought something was being sold. After the residents learned that it was simply a welcome and a thank you for choosing Brooklyn Center as their new home, smiles and short conversations would typically follow. It was definitely a “feel good” type of project.
On Dec. 11, 2012, the Housing Commission held its final meeting of the year and presented the Global Citizenship class with a certificate of appreciation for their hard work.
Lawrence-Anderson said, “I was extremely grateful for the support of Minnesota School of Business-Brooklyn Center and their students. With community support like this, the program will continue to evolve.”
The class helped the Commission to deliver 81 bags in the first session and 41 bags in the second session, which was a great accomplishment; normally, only about 20 bags could be delivered per session by the Commission. Leila Thielen, a sales and marketing degree student from the class, accepted the certificate.
To learn more about the New Neighbor Welcome Program and/or about volunteer opportunities, visit the City of Brooklyn Center’s website.