• Center For Neighborhoods

Two Neighbors Share a Day's Inspiration

“You have to start somewhere!"

At our 4th annual Neighborhood Summit, these were simple but powerful words of inspiration, especially for two new board members of the Buechel Terrace/Frederick Acres Neighborhood Association (BTFANA), Chuck Biddle and Ali Miller. We caught up with Biddle and Miller after the Summit to learn more about their motivation for attending and what plans they have for applying what they've learned in their community.

What inspired you come out to the Summit today?

Ali: I am a Fall 2018 graduate of the Neighborhood Institute. Through the Institute, [I was really] inspired to become involved in my own neighborhood association. I have since been much more active in my community. So, it was a no-brainer to me to come to the [Summit]...Plus, I got to reconnect with old friends from the Institute as well as making new connections! [And I] learn[ed] new approaches to interacting with my own neighborhood association.

Chuck: Alison Miller! She's a sly crafty one and before you know it I was nominated for a board seat and signed up for the Summit. She's a testament to someone who has been involved with the Center for Neighborhoods, applied what she's learned, and shared along the way, and happily convinced others [to join].

Is there a takeaway from today that you think will prove valuable in your work with the BTFANA?

Ali: In my 1st morning breakout session, “Neighborhood-Based CDCs & Their Work to Transform Neighborhoods,” I was reminded to keep an asset-based approach in my neighborhood. Overall though I found the panel discussion, “Working to Create Change in Our Neighborhoods,” the most inspiring. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the squabbles that come with any neighborhood association. But the speakers shared such a passion for their communities! It really helped remind me why I became involved in my NA in the first place. I believe it was Da’Marrion Fleming who borrowed from a traditional proverb, “a tree never eats its own fruits.” All who attended the Summit or who are active in their neighborhood associations [have] a natural inclination to help others. When we keep that in mind and remember to give praise where it is due, our momentum will become effortless and our communities can have opportunities to flourish.

Chuck: Leaving the Neighborhood Summit, I felt prepared to set a few goals and consider a long-game approach. Building a better neighborhood...takes time, many hands, and an openness to listen to the widest demographic imaginable. Listening to others’ experiences about how resources are available, [hearing about] examples all around and the often-repeated [advice to,] “celebrate the small victories” gave me a confidence I didn’t enter the Summit with. In deciding to run for a board seat, I knew I wanted to put Beuchel Park...at the forefront in my efforts to bring people together. Originally I was thinking on a grand scale: hosting the biggest cookout the BTFA had ever seen...I’m someone who tends to go all in and judge by absolute results. The Neighborhood Summit gave me a new perspective: small victories matter...You have to be willing to accept that a Neighborhood is its own living, breathing entity; while you’re focused on one part, others may change...Creating a community means tens or even hundreds of people can all be on the lookout for ways to improve. The Neighborhood Summit changed my all-or-nothing mentality of, “I must do!” to a much more sustainable and effective “We all can!"

What successes do you hope to share by next year’s Neighborhood Summit?

Ali: Like many neighborhood associations, ours has recently experienced growing discord which has unfortunately created a lack of trust from some members of our community. I was most struck when a current board member recently asked me which “side” I was on! I found myself so befuddled by this question I could barely respond. To me, the only side any of us should consider ourselves a part of is the side of our neighborhood. There was a quote shared at the Summit that really struck me: “I’m glad I was able to teach you to believe in me.” Chuck and I have spent a great deal of time brainstorming ideas for different projects for neighborhood improvement and community gatherings, as well as taking the time to listen to the members of our community on reforming our association's levels of transparency and inclusiveness. I hope next year I can share how we were able to rebuild trust by teaming up with our full board. I hope to share that through our combined efforts, we [reached] out to the members of our community through our actions and not only helped them believe in us, but [made] them proud to be involved with our association.

Chuck: When I attend next year’s Summit, I’m going to share that we have started a rotating monthly cookout featuring one street at a time. A trip through the neighborhood via an evening of grilling out with a large swath of immediate neighbors, think 30 to 40 homes per street, introduc[ing] street number 209 to street number 226. We’re going to work to build friends and neighbors who go out of their way to say hello, not look the other way. I’ll also be sharing stories from our two neighborhood-wide cookouts held at the park. Featuring local musicians from our neighborhood (hint, you have talented neighbors), an inflatable or two for the little ones, and a mix of food we cooked and items from local eateries also interested in meeting their neighbors. Lastly, were going to get people young and old to come out for walks, kickball games, and maybe a little tennis and baseball. All the above is going to show how a community [can come] together and through shared experiences, [find] we all have so much more in common than we ever imagined.

Click here to check out photos, access resources from workshops, and read more about the Neighborhood Summit!