Building where you live

On Saturday, Feb. 7, Seattle celebrated a wonderful tradition, Neighbor Appreciation Day. For the 10th year, residents and communities across Seattle gathered to thank people showing care and concern for their neighbors.

Caring neighbors build strong communities.

Neighborhood Appreciation Day was the brainchild of Judith Wood of the Phinney neighborhood. On this day, neighbors all over town took time to honor those building strong communities where people feel welcome; including the young, the elderly, the disabled, neighbors whom they may not know well, those who need friends and those who are already friends. Folks celebrated with block-watch parties, pancake breakfasts, work parties and open houses.

I urge everyone to participate in giving kudos year-round to the folks in your community who make living there a little nicer, a little easier and sometimes a lot more fun.

It's often the small gestures that make our world a better place: The bus driver who waits for you to trot up the block, even though she has a green light. The supermarket checker who knows putting the box of treats in your 3-year-old's hand instead of the bottom of a grocery sack will avoid a major meltdown on the way to the car. The person you saw on the bus who gave up a seat to someone else; or the driver who noticed the elderly woman faltering on her walk home and offered her a lift; or maybe the neighbor you see picking up trash while walking in her neighborhood.

In my neighborhood of Fremont, I thank young Moussa and Dashiel, who take care of my dog and pick up my mail when I'm on vacation. I thank Gina, Meredith, Elliott, Travis and Mason, who always say hello and spend time chatting with me even though I'm "old." I thank my neighbors, who annually organize our winter and summer gatherings.

Building strong communities is key to the Department of Neighborhoods' mission. Advancing race relations and social justice in ways that are inclusive and multicultural builds strong communities. Promoting the good work of Involving All Neighbors, to include neighbors who are disabled in the community fabric, builds strong communities.

Through the Neighborhood Matching Fund, we are helping neighbors build ties as they work together on projects such as park improvements, open spaces and neighborhood artwork. We are also supporting neighbors working together as Communities That Care to do what is best for their youth. Linking schools, communities and families to support academic success for all our children means our communities can remain vital and healthy.

As Mayor Nickels announced recently in his State of the City speech, we are focusing this year on making success a goal for all of the 47,000 children in Seattle's public schools. We will invest in programs that truly make a difference in their lives, and we will shift from counting dollars spent to counting results in our children's lives. The Mayor's Office for Education, which is part of the Department of Neighborhoods, is playing a key role.

On Feb. 7, I joined the mayor in honoring 10 young people, finalists in our annual Neighbor Appreciation Day art contest. There were so many wonderful entries that choosing the top 10 was difficult. Identifying the winner was even more difficult. The winning design, by fifth-grader Grace Levy of Queen Anne, shows collaboration among neighbors raising letters that spell "Seattle" - a perfect message to illustrate the meaning of Neighbor Appreciation Day and to see our city as children do: a wonderful place made better when we all work together. We have printed the design on 17,000 greeting cards, available to you and your neighbors so you can say thank you all year.

To see Images of the Neighbor Appreciation Day art contest finalist drawings, visit Neighbor Appreciation Day cards are available by calling the Department of Neighborhoods at 684-0464.

Yvonne Sanchez is director of City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods.

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