The diverse neighborhoods of the City of Lancaster are unifying and organizing to improve the quality of life for their communities. They are forming committees, hosting block parties, cleaning up streets, planning public art initiatives, and communicating with neighbors to work together towards common goals. Each of these neighborhood groups have individuals who serve as connectors in their communities. Lancaster City Alliance is proud to shine a spotlight on them here.
Name: Jake Thorsen
Neighborhood Group: SoWe
Your work as one of the leaders in your Neighborhood Group is important because:
My work as the SoWe Neighborhood Director is important because I work with the residents of SoWe to implement the Southwest Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy. I provide support to the SoWe initiative to carry out the vision set forth by the residents of the Southwest. I try my hardest to facilitate leadership among residents to lead the change in SoWe. I also work with partner organizations to bring resources into the neighborhood that historically have not been here. The list of residents and partners who have stepped up and committed to stemming the tide of disinvestment in the neighborhood is nothing short of inspiring.
Challenges that you are facing in your neighborhood right now:
A current challenge I am facing in my role is making sure all voices in the neighborhood are heard. I am constantly looking for new ways to engage residents so SoWe goals are aligned with the wishes of the community. When new programs are rolled out in SoWe we want to be confident they are benefiting our residents – we do this through our resident let board and committee structure who create, debate, and approve new programs. I hope for a SoWe where we feel safe to share our concerns about the neighborhood and confident in the solutions we generate together.
What are some of the rewards from being a neighborhood connector in your Group:
Everyone in our community has attributes and assets that can be used to better the community. The most rewarding part being a part of the SoWe initiative is watching neighbors grow to become neighborhood leaders and reaching their full potential. It is also rewarding to listen our neighbors’ stories and their vision of the neighborhood.
Can you give a specific example of how your neighborhood has worked together?
In SoWe, we have seen the neighbors grow into a cohesive and organized unit. This neighborhood has done it all, from organizing a resident board of directors to throwing block parties. Our committees are made up of residents and stakeholders; they work on issues and goals relating to housing, economic opportunity, parks and the public realm, neighborhood connections, education, and community safety. Our board and committees meet monthly to propel the goals outlined in the SouthWest Revitalization Strategy and address concerns in the neighborhood.
What is your secret to meeting new neighbors and welcoming them into the community?
I greet everyone I pass on the street so neighbors new and old feel welcome. I try to be approachable and available to all neighbors. Another secret is not so secret, free food always works to bring new neighbors in.
The neighborhood by nature is transient so our Neighborhood Connections committee is working hard on strategies to identify when new neighbors move into the area so they can be properly welcomed into SoWe.
Favorite way to spend a day with family, or friends in Lancaster City:
As a new home owner, my favorite activity in the city right now is working on the house with my fiancée Susannah.