Neighbor to Neighbor video aims to show what brings city together

A grassroots movement of encouraging, empowering and equipping Westerville residents to be more aware of each other is underway.

As part of Westerville City School District administrator Rodney Johnson’s culminating project for Leadership Westerville, he and Amy Nash-Moneypenny have been working on a video montage for Neighbor to Neighbor, a community initiative launched by the city of Westerville.

“This is an initiative being done in conjunction with the city of Westerville and a team comprised of people who work in various sectors in Westerville,” Johnson said. “Our hope is to create a video montage from a diverse group of people, hearing from different neighborhoods that make up Westerville.”

Volunteers who have already been videotaped were asked five questions, including why they chose Westerville as their home and why do they stay.

Johnson said he learned from city leaders that many area neighbors don’t converse outside of their next-door neighbor.

“We wanted to provide something tangible they could put out there,” he said. “The real purpose is to make sure folks connect with their neighbors. Our thought was to show all the things Westerville has to offer. That was the premise.”

Heather Linch, a 25-year resident, said some of her neighbors mistakenly receive her mail, and she doesn’t even know their names.

She said new neighbors recently moved in three doors down, and they distributed cookies to introduce themselves.

“I hope this plants a seed,” she said.

At the end of her taped interview, Linch pledged to make a positive difference.

Resident Larry Jenkins said he chose Westerville for a lifestyle that is affordable, and he stays because it has the best group of involved citizens.

“People get involved to make programs better,” he said. “It’s the relationships that make you stay.”

He pledged to make Westerville a more welcoming and inviting place.

Resident Peg Duffy said she left the city in 1961 and came back in 1977, because it was affordable.

She said she hopes the mindset of the community expands beyond their subdivision and residents understand the entities that comprise the Westerville schools.

Johnson said the video would eventually be used to promote the city and schools and be available through multiple sources, including a link from the Westerville school district website, westerville.k12.oh.us.

Joseph Kovitch, who serves on a Neighbor to Neighbor steering committee, said the video would be an important piece, along with a future citywide survey.

“This movement is in its infancy stages, and it’s picking up steam,” he said. “The mayor (Kathy Cocuzzi) was inspired to incubate this idea, and it ultimately will become a grassroots movement of growing kindness and cooperation citywide.”

Kovitch said it’s responding to a desire to foster neighborliness or an awareness of neighbors.

Ultimately, he said, Neighbor to Neighbor is “caring the best we can for each other.”

Even though it has been incubated with city connections, the goal is that it won’t be owned by the city, an agency or run by faith-based organizations, but it will be grass-roots with representation.

First, he said a mission needed to be identified, then the next step is being more intentional in building relationships.

“We’ll continue the movement of what is already the best of our community and seeing what can be better,” he said. “I think the video will be part of it. Ultimately it’s building relationships and building connections.”

Kovitch said part of the organics is really listening to the community, along with a survey that will go out about Westerville being a welcoming place.

“We’re getting an opinion of those working for the betterment of the community, hearing from those living and working in the city,” he said.

Kovitch the goal is to invite as many partners as possible.

“It will never be finished,” he said. “It will always be a work in progress. Ultimately, it’s to be continued, inviting others to join the movement.”

mkuhlman@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekMarla