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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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‘Take care of the whole person’: West Central forges community connections at Neighbor Day celebration

June 3, 2022 Updated Fri., June 3, 2022 at 8:35 p.m.

Friday’s spotty rain showers may have muddied some afternoon plans, but it didn’t keep West Central from its Neighbor Day community celebration.

Amanda Maule served as the masters of ceremonies of the Cannon Park event, which aimed to create an environment that welcomes attendees to the first West Central gathering of the summer.

“It’s about getting people out and about,” Maule said. “We’re bringing the energy and the excitement of all the different support groups of this community. We are a low-income community and we have so many resources that folks may not know are available.”

The two-hour event featured a kickball game for children, free food under the park’s gazebo and a plethora of community organizations .

Children could print off shirts with sayings such as “Be my neighbor” as smooth jazz from a guitarist matched the cool, breezy atmosphere around the park. Student drummers from the Community School also performed . It was a relaxed setting to create and deepen bonds with neighbors while centering problem-solving and wellness .

Outside of the West Central area, representatives from the Carl Maxey Center, located on the East side of the city, attended the event to show community solidarity around the Spokane. Other community organizations included Growing Neighbors and the Spokane’s Farmer’s Market.

The West Central Development Project looks to empower people in poverty to improve their lives through community . Katie Haney, a member of the development project, finds Neighbor Day one of the easiest ways to engage with the community.

Neighbor Day, she said, served as a one-stop shop to tackle issues in the West Central area.

“It’s all about finding out what they want to do in our community and make their communities better,” Haney said. “Events like this is where we find that out and identify people who are willing to work on things like that.”

At the event, Haney set up an interactive table where participants could write down solutions to what they’d like to see change in West Central, giving Haney and her colleagues a clear look at community needs.

“We’re always trying to engage the residents and giving them a say in what’s in their neighborhoods, so we have this board here with things I like about West Central and things they’d like to see and work at,” Haney said.

Some suggestions included building a “Welcome to West Central” sign and adding businesses such as a hair salon, restaurants and a veterinarian center. Long-term goals included improving West Central’s walkability and bikeability, along with adding an annual block party.

Another idea was building a relationship between children and law enforcement. That is one of nonprofit Spokane C.O.P.S.’ main priorities, and they attended the West Central celebration with horses Spirit and Superman. Children were also given trading cards of the two horses who are part of the mounted patrol unit.

C.O.P.S. builds its community presence by patrolling and cleaning public areas and providing programs to discuss community safety concerns without the involvement of law enforcement. Traci Ponto works at the West Central station, and finds that Neighbor Day celebration is a great way to connect with the community.

“If somebody was doing something they weren’t supposed to doing, these eyes and ears made them uncomfortable, and they would leave,” Ponto said. “ This is an opportunity to pet our horses, ask those questions about them and make that connection.”

Around 5:30, a relentless downpour forced the eventgoers to retreat under the gazebo, West Central Park’s large trees or go home. However, with two hours of community building under their belts, Maule hopes it will have a long-standing impact in the community for years to come.

“We’ve got art for your feels with music and artwork here, safety through C.O.P.S., and resources from our community center,” Maule said. “We’re trying to take care of the whole person here in this neighborhood.”

Amber D. Dodd's work as the Carl Maxey Racial and Social Inequity reporter for Eastern Washington and North Idaho primarily appears in both The Spokesman-Review and The Black Lens newspapers, and is funded in part by the Michael Conley Charitable Fund, the Smith-Barbieri Progressive Fund, the Innovia Foundation and other local donors from across our community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper's managing editor.

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