The Herald Bulletin

April 27, 2013

Nancy Vaughan: What if ‘Curb Appeal’ came here?

By Nancy Vaughan
For The Herald Bulletin

— One of my guilty pleasures is watching the HGTV series “Curb Appeal.” The program gives a facelift to the front of a house that is usually in an older urban neighborhood. It selects places where there is a feeling of community and adds a couple of neighbor makeovers in addition to the main makeover. The project nearly always includes creating an inviting entrance to the house and a place to gather. At the end of the show, they reveal the finished front yard to the homeowners and invite the entire neighborhood in for a block party. Many people comment that the project will spur individual action throughout the neighborhood.

As we have talked to people across the county over the past couple of years and heard so many lament the unkept appearance of many of our neighborhoods, I have often thought we needed our own “curb appeal” effort. The issue came up again during our book club discussion of Rich Harwood’s “The Work of Hope.” We were so fortunate to have Rich himself visit Madison County this week to speak directly to us about the need for every individual to become part of community solutions and to understand how our individual actions, taken collectively, will build a more vibrant community. Our desire is that sharing Rich’s message and providing the context and opportunity for people to talk about it together will produce action.

My friend Bob Reeder, CEO of United Faith Housing, articulated that very idea during the book club discussion when he asked: “What if we became the weedless, trashless community? I bet we would get on Good Morning America.” What if, indeed? Well, things are happening.

This Saturday at 10 a.m. the first urban gardening project will launch on the property of the Anderson Impact Center (formerly Robinson Elementary on 11th Street). The project is a partnership with This Hood of Ours, represented locally by Ben Orcutt, who also owns a bicycle collective in the neighborhood, and is supported by Madison Health Partners. It’s a great example of lots of people who share common goals taking collective action to create an opportunity for individual action. The City of Anderson is also making property available for expansions of urban gardens.

The Pendleton Community Library has operated a successful community garden project for several years, expanding that outreach through a program called Read ‘N Feed, funded in part by United Way. These projects address dual issues of nutrition and building community.

Other projects such as Born Learning Trails, located throughout the county in public parks, provide an opportunity for families to enjoy public space together. Each trail represents a partnership with local government, nonprofit and community groups who provide the labor and upkeep for the sites. The staff of Born Learning Connection is working on creating activities that bring more people together at the trails this year.

It’s finally spring, so let’s take the opportunity to clean up, get out and be part of community.

Nancy Vaughan is president of United Way of Madison County Inc. Her column appears the fourth Sunday of each month.