In September I attended my second Regional Neighborhood Network Conference. For those who are unfamiliar with it, the RNNC is a three day conference where community organizers, neighborhood group members, and many others attend workshops together and exchange ideas to bring back to our respective cities, neighborhoods, and communities.
This year, many individuals from Decatur attended the event, including myself and the director of Dove’s Community Services program, Francie Johnson. Seventeen neighborhood volunteers from seven local neighborhood groups joined us on our voyage to Richmond, Indiana. For those who’ve never been there, Richmond, Indiana, is a city of about 38,000 people. There are many successful individually owned businesses and individuals that rolled out the metaphorical red carpet for the 300 some attendees, offering discounted meals and welcoming us with signs and friendly smiles.
This year’s conference offered a wide variety of workshops for people to attend -- everything from the basics of organizing a neighborhood group to talking to your local politicians, to how some communities are using art as an agent of change, to literacy, health and wellness, and hunger issues facing our neighborhoods.
In addition to networking and sharing a wealth of information, each year there is a recipient of the Stella Stewart Award, which is an honor given to one who has gone well above and beyond in the neighborhood, proving themselves to be a true leader. There were only four nominees this year, and one was from Decatur. Though she didn’t win the overall regional title, she is still Decatur’s Stella Stewart Award winner. Her name is Consuelo Cruz, and she’s from the neighborhood group called Southside Improvement Association (SIA).
Because of her excellent work in her own neighborhood, as well as her collaboration with Decatur Public Schools and Richland Community College that resulted in a dual credit African American studies course, and also because of her creation of the successful “20 Women” program that pairs young women with successful professional women in a mentoring situation, she has more than earned the nomination from our city.
For those interested in attending the next Regional Neighborhood Networking Conference, you need to get involved in your neighborhood group! If one doesn’t exist where you live, we can help you get one started. Just give us a call at 428-6616 and ask for Francie or Angie.