By Todd Travis
A City of Neighborhoods
“We often say that Indianapolis is a city of neighborhoods,” says Linda Adams, Community Wellness coordinator, Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service.
“In Indianapolis, the neighborhoods are really important in that they have the opportunity to advocate for themselves with elected officials and other city employees that serve residents. So as a grouping of people that live in the same area, they have the opportunity to voice their concerns or preferences for how the city might interact with that area, whether it’s bringing in new business or road changes – all of those play a factor,” Adams described.
The formation of a new neighborhood association
Southdale, a recently formed neighborhood association, began as a group of people who wanted to join together for the betterment of their immediate neighborhood and surrounding areas. An initiative important to the people in the area was gardening. Bethany Community Gardens was formed five years ago as a way to help people learn more about gardening and to have a space to learn and safely grow their own gardens.
The benefits of gardening to the community include food security, being outside and getting sunlight, and engaging more with your neighborhood. As people began to gather at Bethany Community Gardens, they started to look for ways to support each other in very similar ways to how a neighborhood association typically operates.
“We would hold a city resource night where the city councilors came out, the liaison from the prosecutor’s office, the representative from IMPD and it would be kind of like a forum night. We also hosted an INDOT 465 meeting where we learned about what they were going to be doing to I-465 on the Southside. We feel we played a part to getting the sound barrier added to a subdivision that backed right up to the highway,” Adams mentioned.
As Bethany Gardens grew and connected with others in surrounding neighborhoods, they decided to make things official and form a new neighborhood association. Sandra Giliberto, the leader of the HOA for Meridian Place neighborhood and Bruce Bye, co-coordinator of Bethany Community Gardens went through the training to learn about neighborhood organizing. This training was provided by a nonprofit organization called Indianapolis Neighborhood Resource Center (INRC). Afterward, they began taking the steps to become a recognized neighborhood association, and Southdale Neighborhood Association was formed.
Naming the benefits
What are the benefits of having a neighborhood association?
“One, we can work collectively with the city to have a voice in the development that comes into our area. The other, is that we can do crime watch. Instead of just one subdivision together, it’s nice to get multiple subdivisions and neighborhoods to get together and discuss crime watch. IMPD has resident liaisons who come out to different meetings to talk about things that are happening crime-wise. They also have a liaison from the prosecutor’s office who’s willing to come out and talk with neighborhood associations. The third benefit is social opportunities,” Adams pointed out.
Collaboration with University of Indianapolis
The University of Indianapolis has been partnering with Bethany Community Garden for years and will continue to be involved with the Southdale Neighborhood Association. Marianna Foulkrod, director of Service-Learning & Community Engagement at UIndy, has helped develop that relationship as the association has formulated over the years. As part of the neighborhood association kickoff, they will help to organize their first big event – Southdale Cultural Festival, on Saturday, Nov. 5, noon to 4 p.m.
“After exploration and discussion, the University of Indianapolis students identified the need for different cultural groups to be represented in the Southdale association and to be educated about the association,” Foulkrod said. “So they decided to host this intercultural festival while the Southdale association was being announced. So they’re combining the announcement with the multicultural activity.”
“This is a collaborative effort between the Southdale association, UIndy and the city of Indianapolis. It does take large entities like that to drive community social impact. It’s important for neighbors to participate to promote the assimilation of these groups and their co-existence,” Foulkrod emphasized.