A multicultural Canada Day gathering was just one of the many block parties hosted in Maple Ridge last year.

Build connections, grow community with the Neighbourhood Small Grants Program.

City of Maple Ridge and funding partner, Vancouver Foundation, support local projects, block parties

Is it time to get to know your neighbours better? Maybe your street is primed for a multicultural potluck BBQ or a neighbourhood clean-up and yard sale event? Perhaps you are interested in creating a community garden or neighbourhood compost centre?

The Neighbourhood Small Grants program can help you do it.

Now in its third year, the program provides small grants from the City of Maple Ridge for block parties and neighbourhood projects. The Vancouver Foundation supports the program with funding through the Neighbourhood Small Grants program.

Why?

Last year, the Vancouver Foundation revisited its five-year-old Connect and Engage survey to see what had changed.

While participation in almost every community-related activity had dropped since 2012, three-quarters of residents still take part in some way to make their community a better place to live.

Other key findings:

● Approximately two-thirds report a sense of trust among neighbours, feel welcome, and experience a sense of belonging, but about half continue to find it difficult to make friends, and approximately one in four still find themselves alone more often than they would like.

● Residents of every demographic prefer to connect in-person. Less than one-in-five feel they spend too much time with technology, and more than half use technology to connect with people and friends in the community.

● Most people want to get to know their neighbours better – even more so among those who have lived here for the shortest period. Events such as social gatherings, festivals, and participating in a local project are the most popular ways for neighbours to meet and form connections.

Neighbourhood Small Grants range from $100 to $500, with support up to $1,000 in special circumstances. With applications evaluated by a committee of residents with diverse backgrounds and experiences, popular initiatives include multicultural potlucks, newcomer welcome parties, street hockey parties and garden projects.

One neighbourhood built a library box for sharing books. “Kids talk about the library box at school and in summer they will bike to the library box to check out books or simply meet,” wrote one resident.

The program funded 30 block parties and eight projects last year – opportunities for residents to get to know each other, share skills and knowledge, build a sense of ownership and pride and celebrate diversity in their neighbourhood.

“Our … neighbourhood has grown together to help each other, have social events, develop friendships and be there to help one another where there are issues concerning our neighbourhood,” wrote one grant recipient. “In times of trouble, many members of the group will step up and help one another. The unintended outcomes have been most rewarding.”

The deadline for Neighbourhood Small Grant applications is April 9. Block party funding is also available, with applications accepted until Dec. 1 on a case-by-case basis.

Learn more about the Maple Ridge Neighbourhood Small Grants criteria and application information online, call Kathryn Baird at 604-467-7459 or email neighbours@mapleridge.ca.

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