By: Heather Williams – Associate Director, Office of Community Engagement & Program Manager Building Better Neighborhoods, Ball State University; Muncie Action Plan Task Force 2 Leader—
Muncie, IN—Muncie’s neighborhoods will soon be blooming with flowers and street life as the spring days warm our flower beds, soon-to-be planted vegetable gardens, and our welcoming front porches. After a long, cold winter, residents are ready to reconnect and move forward with projects and events to improve their neighborhoods and increase neighborliness. Kicking off these efforts, the 2019 I.D.E.A. Conference held on March 2nd brought together over one hundred and forty neighborhood leaders to network, learn best practices in association development, and connect with community resources.
Neighborhoods were also celebrated for their 2018 successes with the Neighborhood Leader and Neighborhood Project of the Year awards, given to Lezlie McCrory (South Central Neighborhood Association President) and the Minnetrista Urban Garden Project, respectively.
Trash trophies were awarded to neighborhoods collecting the most trash during the spring and fall 2018 cleanups. Old West End Neighborhood Association collected an impressive 18,120 pounds in spring and South Central collected a hefty 12,060 pounds in the fall.
The I.D.E.A. Conference final keynote was the city’s first Mayoral Candidate forum in this year’s race with seven out of the eight candidates in attendance to answer questions submitted earlier in the day by conference attendees. Coordinated through a partnership between Ball State University’s Building Better Neighborhoods Program and the Office of Community Engagement, Muncie Action Plan, and Shafer Leadership Academy and financially supported by BSU, City of Muncie, and Mutual Bank, this event has become a yearly rallying cry for neighborhoods to go back to their corner of the city and make it great. Reinvigorated and reinvested, residents are poised to implement a number of exciting projects throughout the rest of 2019.
If you missed your opportunity at the I.D.E.A. Conference, Anthony-Northside Neighborhood Association (ANNA) is hosting a Muncie Mayoral Candidate Meet and Greet on March 28th at 6:30 PM at the Community Fellowship Foursquare Church, 2408 N. Oakwood Avenue. All neighborhood associations are invited to attend this opportunity to hear from the 2019 candidates for mayor. ANNA is also preparing to host an all-ages block party on June 8th from 1-4 PM. Residents will be invited out to play games and enjoy conversation over food and drinks.
Residents in the Riverside-Normal City neighborhood will be invited to a number of new events this year including a Laundromat Day which is based off of the national movement Laundry Love (laundrylove.com) to help support and build community with neighborhood residents in need. The neighborhood association also continues its work to declare two local historic districts in an effort to maintain the historic integrity of its housing stock. Members will be out in force again this spring and summer knocking on doors to gather signatures and support for this effort.
East Central Neighborhood Association (ECNA) is gearing up for their 43rdAnnual Old Washington Street Festival on the heels of a wildly successful 2018 event that saw new additions like a car show, beard contest, and an “Olde Wrestling Show.” If you see an ECNA board member out and about you may inquire about purchasing a chocolate-peanut butter egg in support of this year’s Festival.
A Community Forum on safety and policing will be held on April 6th from 10:00 to 2:00 PM at Cornerstone Center for the Arts, 520 W. Main St. Hosted in partnership by the Whitely Community Council, Muncie Police Department, and Ball State’s Kiesha Warren-Gordon’s Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology’s immersive learning class. The forum will unveil the final results of the 2018 Facing Project that worked to develop an understanding of the impact that police encounters have on the Muncie community. The forum will allow a place and time for respectful dialogue between MPD and residents and an opportunity for further learning. This event is free and open to the public.
The Small Sparks program, operated by the 8Twelve Coalition, will be accepting applications again this spring for resident-driven projects within the South Central and Thomas Park/Avondale neighborhoods. The success of last year’s program garnered national attention by Neighborhoods USA, which has recognized Small Sparks as Best Neighborhood Program of the Year finalist for 2019. Awards for that contest will be announced at the national conference in Palm Springs, CA on May 18th.
Cleanups, sponsored by the Muncie Sanitary District, will be held May 11th and 18th in participating neighborhoods. For more information about the dates, times, and locations please keep an eye on the Muncie Action Plan’s Facebook page. If your own neighborhood is not participating, please consider volunteering elsewhere to help clean other areas of the city.
Along with spring flowers, murals will be popping up throughout the city’s neighborhoods. Showcasing prominent residents from the past and present, these murals are thanks to a partnership with the Muncie Arts and Culture Council’s Plyspace Residency Program. Look for these to beautify the walls of the city’s neighborhoods this April.
Also keep an eye out this summer for the installation of new neighborhood signage through a project spearheaded by the Muncie Action Plan and financially supported by the City of Muncie’s Community Development Department’s Federal Housing and Urban Development dollars. These signs will follow the city’s wayfinding plan and will help identify the city’s neighborhoods by name and logo, creating a sense of place and identity for residents and visitors alike.
Your mailbox may also see a fun addition this week as the first round of postcards are going out to residents throughout the city with messages written by area youth about why they love their school, neighborhood, or city. Children participated in the Postcard. Pride. Project at the fall 2018 WIPB Be My Neighbor Day held at Canan Commons and again at the October downtown ArtsWalk Event.
There is so much happening within our neighborhoods that it’s impossible to report it all. All across Muncie, neighborhood associations are working to improve our city through advocacy, improved resident connectivity, and oftentimes incremental changes in appearance.
If you are not already involved, please consider investing your time and talent to help make your neighborhood the very best place to call home.