At Great Lakes Urban, we do what we do because we believe in the value of bringing people together and forming strong community relationships. We also recognize that these strong relationships do not happen overnight. One place to start is to first listen to the needs, wants, stories, and dreams of the people sharing our place in the world. By speaking with members of the community and listening to what they have to say, we have learned so much about how people from all different backgrounds can come together and find that they have more in common than they thought.
Meet Jesus Ruiz
One member of the community, Jesus Ruiz, has been a part of his Holland neighborhood for over forty years and has seen first-hand how it has changed for the better as residents have become more connected. When he first came to Michigan at just 19 years old, he didn’t think of his neighborhood as a very safe or friendly place. People were constantly moving to and from the area and there was very little chance to get to know one another and form friendships. But now, he notices that more people are staying in the neighborhood long-term and are interested in getting to know those around them which has resulted in a more comfortable and secure place to live.
For Jesus, becoming friends with his neighbors has been a really wonderful experience. They come together, talk, hangout, and watch sports, one of Jesus’ favorite things to do with his neighbors! Having these friendships also gives a sense of security to the residents. Jesus is grateful to know that if he ever needs anything, his neighbors will be there to help him, and he will do the very same for them.
Even for the neighbors that Jesus doesn’t know as well, he likes that he is able to say hello or chat when they run into each other outside. Having conversations about what is happening in the neighborhood, local area, and the world is something that Jesus values, especially as he thinks about what he hopes to see in the future. He says, “thinking about the future is important to me — not so much for myself, but for the kids and young people. It’s about supporting them and making the world better for them.”
Jesus loves how nice everyone is in Holland. He knows that wherever he is in the area, people will stop and say hi. He looks forward to engaging with other residents in new ways, too, and he hopes to see more local sporting events and other opportunities to get outside, share meals, listen to music, and hangout with others.
Living in an area where you feel supported and liked by your neighbors creates room for you and your community to thrive. What begins with a few friendly residents looking out for one another can lead to substantial improvements in neighborhoods, cities, and beyond. Great Lakes Urban will continue to share voices from the community to bring us together and make meaningful changes that will enrich the lives of everyone.