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  • Great Lakes Urban

Holland, MI adding fifth neighborhood!

Updated: Mar 25, 2022

An interview with Maddie Roberts, GLU's first West of Washington Community Connector.

Maddie Roberts was born and raised in Illinois and attended Taylor University in Indiana where she majored in Public Health. In the summer of 2017, she interned at 3sixty, an organization that supports the community connecting work of the Eastcore Neighborhood of Holland, MI. After graduating from college and marrying her husband, Christian, Maddie moved to Holland to take on the Community Connector role, this time as a 3sixty's staff person.

Beginning July 1, 2020, Maddie expanded her connecting work joining Great Lakes Urban part-time to launch the West of Washington initiative, our newest neighborhood project conducted in partnership with the City of Holland. In this role, Maddie is in the first phase of our CommunityWorks revitalization framework. This phase anchors the change agenda by discovering what talents, dreams, issues, people, organizations, and relationships are already part of a community – in this case, the West of Washington neighborhood of Holland, MI – through a process called asset mapping.

An essential part of asset mapping is identifying the resident leaders that will form a Neighborhood Team. A Neighborhood Team sustains the revitalization work over the long haul. We recently caught up with Maddie to ask her about her experience of discovering and connecting local gifts in the Eastcore and West of Washington neighborhoods.

What is it that drew you to connecting work in the first place?

Connecting work recognizes that, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or religious beliefs, very neighbor is an integral piece of a neighborhood. I believe that neighborhoods are agents of change and sources of belonging, and it’s these values that drew me towards connecting work and organizations like 3sixty and Great Lakes Urban!

You’ve been a Community Connector now for a couple of years. What’s a favorite story from that time?

While it is hard to pick just one, a recent favorite story took place when a neighborhood family approached 3sixty with a creative vision to repurpose the blank space of their garage door into a mural that would respond to racial violence and injustice. Over five weeks, in partnership with CultureWorks' Student Advisory Council and with artistic direction from professional artist Jamari Taylor, we envisioned, designed, and painted a neighborhood mural. This project is a perfect example of collaborative, neighborhood-based creativity. Our hope is that this mural will inspire neighbors to reimagine their own day-to-day spaces and to consider creative ways that they may also seek racial justice, equality, and peace.

What are you learning from starting a completely new project in the West of Washington neighborhood?

Over the last six months, I have been reminded that even though West of Washington is a “new” project, there is always an abundance of partnerships, initiatives, ideas, and dreams already taking place within every neighborhood. While I get to discover, celebrate, mobilize, and support what’s taking place in West of Washington, my biggest priority is to learn the intricacies and history of the neighborhood.

What advice would you have for others who want to be a connector in their own neighborhoods and communities?

Start small! Being a good neighbor is applicable anywhere, any time. Get to know those living around you; pay attention to the resources within your neighborhood; listen to, and learn from block-level needs and city-level conversations; ask questions; find like-minded neighbors. These daily practices and commitments can often translate to community-wide change. For inspiration, follow along with news sources like Next City or CityLab. They’re always sharing creative ways to be active and engaged community members!

Thanks so much, Maddie!

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