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To learn more about building neighbourly bonds, we spoke with Krista Fry, community development worker at Scadding Court Community Centre in Toronto. She shares her tips for putting yourself out there and meeting your neighbours.
1. Discover unexpected community hubs
In addition to community centres that offer specific programming for socializing, you can also find different opportunities to connect with your neighbours at everyday hubs.
"Some places to find community participatory opportunities include local churches, the corner store, notice boards at laundromats and public schools, and grocery store notice boards, since the cashiers often live locally," says Fry.
People often advertise garage sales or other for sale items on message boards located where people run errands, and if you've just moved into the area, you may just need some new items to help set up your home.
2. Introduce yourself to your neighbours with a small token
"Remember how, back in the day, a neighbour would bring over a dish for the newcomers to enjoy? I think now it's more interesting for the newcomer to create a little introductory letter, postcard or small gift – just to say hi," says Fry.
Your neighbour will appreciate you taking the time to introduce yourself in a unique way and offering a little something so they can get to know you, she explains. They'll also have the added bonus of a small personalized gift, even if it's just a small batch of homemade cookies. What's not to like about having baked goods delivered to your front door?3. Stop by and let your neighbours know you care
Getting to know your neighbours is a practical move that offers a feeling of comfort and assurance that, should anything go wrong, there will always be someone nearby. Stop by and let your neighbour know you'd like to create a community safety net so you can all feel comfortable, says Fry. Explain that if there is ever a neighbourhood emergency, such as a power outage, they can call you.
"You just want to say, 'Let's be on friendly terms to help each other if something happens,'" Fry explains. "Apart from the social aspect, it's also a safety and health issue that you know your neighbours."
4. Organize a serviceable event that everyone will benefit from
See if you can team up with a few other families to host an event everyone in the neighbourhood will benefit from. Fall is a time when we have our minds on clearing out the clutter and organizing our homes – and doing this as a community is a lot easier and more fun.
"A friend who lives in Winnipeg told me her neighbourhood does a 'free day' twice a year, where people bring things or put things out for people to trade, take for free or to recycle," says Fry. "This is a great way to get people moving in and around in their neighbourhood and interacting."
Other serviceable ideas include community dog washes and grooming events, bike repair events or car washes.
5. Get active in maintaining public spaces
No matter the season, there is always work to be done in a community's public spaces. Whether it's at a park, city square or the school playground, keeping public spaces clean and healthy is an important aspect in keeping the community alive. Fix up your current public spaces or create new ones, suggests Fry.
"Establish a community garden for the spring by bulb planting, doing some tree planting or composting for the gardens' use in the spring," she says.
A community garden is a great way to keep community involvement in bloom year round, and doing so can be a fun way to spend a Saturday morning. Make a weekly club out of it and encourage all community members to join.
Your relationships with your neighbours may be some of the most important ones you have in day-to-day life. They're the most practical people to call on if you need help around the house, need to borrow something on the fly or need someone to watch your cat or water the plants while you're away. It's a give-and-take relationship that benefits both parties. Starting with a friendly wave may just pave a path to a great new friendship.