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How well do you know your neighbor? A new campaign addresses mental health through community connection

1,000 neighborhood gatherings
Posted at 6:13 PM, Mar 28, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-28 20:47:40-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — The City of Colorado Springs is launching a new campaign to address mental health through community connection. The 1,000 Neighborhood Gatherings Initiative aims to help people become less isolated and improve their well-being.

How well do you know your neighbors? The City of Colorado Springs is encouraging people to go knock on their door. It is all part of the campaign to reconnect people with their community.

In a press conference on Thursday, the 1,000 Neighborhood Gatherings Initiative had Colorado Springs Mayor Yemi Mobolade singing.

“So here's the thing, we're going old school. This is old fashioned America, neighbors getting to know each other, neighbors helping each other as a way to boost mental health in this community,” Mobolade said.

Mobolade said, according to the U.S. Surgeon General, loneliness and isolation is a public crisis nationwide.

“NextDoor sponsored a global study that revealed that knowing as few as six of your neighbors, helps reduce anxiety, improves a sense of connectedness, and decreases social isolation,” Mobolade said.

Here in Colorado Springs, City Councilman David Leinweber said they need the community's help in addressing mental health concerns.

“As a representative of our city, I've listened to countless personal stories of individuals coming to isolation and loneliness,” Leinweber said.

He said these stories inspired him to create the 1,000 Neighborhood Gatherings Initiative.

“You've got permission to go knock on your neighbor's door and say, 'Hey, let's get together. I got a date here, we're just gonna get a few friends together, and we're gonna do this event,'” Leinweber said.

The goal is to have 1,000 gatherings between May and September. Residents will need to register with the city in order for their event/activity to count. The initiative officially launches May 18-19 during Mental Health Awareness Month. It will run until National Good Neighbor Day on September 28.

“This initiative isn't just about numbers,” Leinweber said. “It's about a thousand stories intertwining, a thousand hands reaching out, and a thousand hearts uniting against isolation while fostering stronger connections within our community,” Leinweber said.

He said the events can be small as lunch on the porch or a large block party.

“It could be anything. It doesn't have to be a block party, it can be a cookie exchange, it could be just getting together in the evening and just sharing stories. Just some way to increase connection,” Leinweber said.

Dr. Chip Benight is a Professor of Psychology at UCCS. He said there were not enough mental health resources during the pandemic.

“People are struggling, we know that and they do feel isolated,” Benight said.

He said oftentimes people are shy and they don't know how to ask their neighbors how they are doing.

“Maybe these events, these 1,000 gatherings, can create new friendships, new connections,” Benight said.

One resident in Southeast Colorado Springs likes the neighborhood gatherings idea.

“I think it is a great idea. I think it's time for it. Things are changing. The world is changing, and we need another healing and it's going to take all of us so, I'm excited about it,” Terry Thomas said.

Thomas wants to see less crime in his neighborhood.

“I know it is not going to happen immediately but slow down the crime rate like carjacking to killing, it's like I think it really is gonna bring more peace and people are gonna gain more trust,” Thomas said.

Thomas wants to help organize a block party for his community.

“Music and food will bring anybody together. That's all you need,” Thomas said.

He said neighbors getting to know each other and building trust will make the place he calls home stronger.

“It's all about love. It's all about community. It's all about making this environment as safe as possible,” Thomas said.

The city has a three step plan on how to host a neighborhood gathering on their website. It includes resources and information on how to get permits and rentals.


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