Building a Voluntary City

During last week-end’s doorknocking I was asked to say more about what I mean by encouraging volunteer groups that help our city work better.

My biggest and most personal example is the Northeast Citizen Patrol (NECP). We’re extra eyes and ears for the police. When an NECP patrol is on the sidewalk, the bad guys have a hard time doing business. We‘ve proven our effectiveness over five years. The Mayor even proclaimed May 11th, 2009, to be Northeast Citizen Patrol Day.

I understand patroling is not for everyone. Less-formal walking groups and block clubs help our city work better by helping prevent crime. I want to encouage participation in any form that is effective.

The Eastside Food Co-op began a plastics recycling program with support from the City. Now EFC is continuing the program on its own, supporting all of us to leave a smaller footprint on the planet. And that’s just one example from this hive of volunteer energy.

The Northeast Minneapolis Arts Association puts on the spectacular Art-a-Whirl every year. They promote arts and culture in Northeast and the whole city without taxpayer subsidies. Times are tough, and although City Hall can’t afford artful water fountains, our arts community can step forward to help make Northeast more awesome.

Another example—also personal—is the Northeast Lions Club. Our Lions provide manpower and funding for an amazing array of events. The Lions are part of Weed-it-and-Reap, helping with litter and livabiity. They donate tools that help cops and firefighters protect us better.

The Lions also help in areas outside the duties of a Council Member. Across the world, Lions Clubs help fund and maintain parks. If the Park Board was willing, I imagine the Lions would love to help make our local parks better.

Also outside the City Council’s jurisdiction, but simply amazing, are things the Lions do to support kids in school. Children with disabilites deserve to be included, but they often need special and expensive equipment to take part in activities. There’s never enough to meet the need.

For a few hundred dollars in materials and a few hours in the woodshop, our Lions make equipment that would cost the School Board tens of thousands of dollars to buy. Thanks to volunteers, kids get to stand up and enjoy being kids. That I can be some tiny part of this work makes me cry.

I know there are more ways that volunteers help than I could ever count. This is the kind of thing I mean when I talk about making more space for us to do good for each other. There’s nothing more empowering than taking action and realizing the power you had all along.

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