Neighborhood Opportunity Network

Supporting one another in a time of crisis

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Tapping Maple

Posted by sebastianbrown on March 16, 2010

Sorry I’ve been a little slow to get these posts up this past week. Fortunately, some great progress has been made in really starting to solidify the re-emerging Long Branch community network.

Saturday March 6 a group of ten previously untrained door knockers took to Sara and Tebabu’s very own Essex House to meet neighbors and invite them to a Neighbors Exchange the following Tuesday evening. Interestingly, residents in this specific apartment building seem to be dealing with slightly different issues compared to most people we had previously door knocked in Long Branch. To start, they almost all speak English in addition to their native Amharic or French. And while there are still plenty of tenants who are struggling to pay rent, and have lost their jobs or suffered from reduced hours, I personally talked with over a dozen folks who have either graduated  or are currently in the process of getting a college degree. For them, having a job isn’t so much the problem as having one that really brings them fulfillment, which they see as only being possible with a degree. But, as I heard time after time, to pay $1000 a month for childcare while you’re working during the day and studying at night, on top of food and rental expenses, is really putting folks in seemingly hopeless situations.

For 20 minutes Marrella told us how she’s trying to finish a 9 month nurse’ assistant program at Montgomery College which she really hopes will get her a more stable job at Washington Adventist, where she currently works part time. She explained how because of childcare fees for her newborn, she doesn’t see anyway she’ll be able to make rent this month. She told us that she has reason to believe that next month she might even start getting to work more hours and will have less of a problem paying, it’s just this month that really seems hopeless. Relatively well connected with her neighbors and previously active in last year’s Parent Training Institute, she just needs some immediate emergency assistance. But after talking for a little while it became clear that she also seeks some additional personal support. She was then thrilled to hear we were holding a Neighbors Exchange in her building’s community room, which according to the Property Manager Jeff, hasn’t been used in over two years!

So on Tuesday night we were so excited to have Marella’s cousin (Marella had class) and 52 other residents join us for a couple hours of hectic relationship building and resource connecting. Jam packed into a room made to comfortably fit 30, neighbors were had no choice but to talk with each other. Montgomery College students Dennis and Abraham studying bio-medics/chemistry happened to bump into Faith who works in the healthcare industry. When I left the conversation she was just beginning to tell them about an available internship that they offer at her company every summer.

6 other residents circled up with Tebabu, and after having a conversation about shared apartment concerns such as trash pick up and security, planned on meeting again in order to maybe lay the foundation for a residents association.

In addition to the healthcare and emergency service resource partners, Ken Allen, Piney Branch Elementary School teacher and active participant of Lanita’s Piney Branch Action Team, talked to dozens of parents interested in learning more about prepping for the upcoming MSA testing.

At the end of the meeting, attendees eagerly agreed to meet again in the same place, same time, two weeks later. This time we plan to break up into smaller groups focused around specific concerns: jobs, childcare, general apartment concerns…etc. Before concluding the Property Manager expressed his sincere excitement to see residents so engaged and offered the space however often they wish to use it. What a great night and what an even greater beginning!


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