The fact of the matter is that people want to be in a community. The human spirit is called to gather and connect and engage with others. Having to pull together as a community and be in solidarity with others to protect their health and your own has helped many people see that they want to participate more in their communities. But many of these people are not aware of how to do so. Social anxiety can often keep people from reaching out even when they want to connect with their neighbors. Thus, it is in the hands of the community organizers to recognize this and create different events that will allow all types of people to come together and develop connections.
These days, organizers have an easier job at putting together community projects, events, and celebrations than ever before. Event rental companies have made it easy by simply letting organizers rent the necessary items and send them back once the event concludes. This can be a huge relief on many community center budgets as they may lack the funds to purchase or even the space to store. Organizers can fully concentrate on assessing their neighborhood demographics to plan and schedule events that will appeal to as many community members as possible.
1. Make a Run for It
People love running for charity. Organize a half-marathon that takes a roving path through the nicest areas of your neighborhood. You can team up with a local charity to raise funds for them or even make it a fundraising opportunity for the community center. Help the locals feel special by giving them a different colored vest or number than people from other areas to participate.
2. Community Garden
Make the community garden an inviting and attractive place for the young people in your neighborhood. Turn them into the primary labor force, which keeps the garden weeded, clean, and watered. Then, once they are invested in their soil plots, use them to start helping out the older people in the community work on their own soil plots.
Gardening is a great physical and mental exercise for older people, and it can help young people settle themselves and feel useful. Helping out the old folks will also help the young people to learn a lot as well. It’s a wonderful way to bring together two generations that may not know how much they actually have in common.
3. Potluck Weekend
Make one weekend a month into a potluck weekend at the community center. Lay out tables for people to put their food and provide sustainably sourced plates and cutlery for everyone to eat from. Make sure to have large tables where many people can sit together so that people do not clump together in small groups and sit with other people.
A great way to facilitate conversation at such an event is to have a jar of wooden sticks in the middle of the table. These sticks will have conversation starter topics on them that people can use to start talking to their neighbors.
4. Movie Night
Everyone loves movies and popcorn. The community center can host a movie night every week where the locals can walk in free for the price of one popcorn bag. Anyone outside the community who wants to come will have to pay a ticket price and buy their own popcorn bag.
The center can easily find old movies that the elders in the neighborhood will love to watch and cartoons that are free to be screened for children. It could even be matinee style so that the program starts with some videos about the community projects, show some cartoons, and then show a movie-length film.
5. Swap Meet
Organize a swap meet in the parking lot outside the community center or a suitably large enough hall. People love free stuff, and they love looking at what other people own. The neighborhood will turn out in big numbers to get rid of their old stuff for a better item and have fun gawking at their neighbors’ stuff.
Swap meets are better than flea markets or donation drives because people will not have to spend money, and they do not have to give away something for anything in return. You can always have a large donation table ready with a prominently displayed list of the community center’s needs. People will see the list and donate what they can. You can then gift them a big button that says they donated so that they can proudly wear it around the swap meet, inciting more people to donate just to get the button.
Community events are about helping people to see that they have more in common than they may realize. These short bonds and moments of enjoyment can have lasting effects that bring together a neighborhood. When someone is in need, these bonds will lift them out of their troubles, and the entire community will also be uplifted.