WEST BRATTLEBORO -- For the past six years, members of the West Brattleboro Association have been trying to strengthen their community by looking at the big picture.
While trying to carve out its own identity for West Brattleboro, the association has put together a master plan, suggested road improvements and has tried to encourage the development of a village green near the fire station on Western Avenue.
Now, the West Brattleboro Association wants to strengthen its neighborhood from the inside out: The West Brattleboro Association has received a $4,500 grant from the Thompson Trust to support The Neighborhoods Project.
West Brattleboro Association member Doug Cox said the money can be used for anything from a block party to a day at the ski mountain to a field trip to a museum.
"It is not enough to tolerate a place. We should love the place where we live," Cox said. "That comes about by building relationships. When people are more engaged, they are better citizens."
Cox said the idea to go after the grant funding to support the plan came in the weeks following Tropical Storm Irene.
Last summer’s historic storm cut West Brattleboro off from the rest of town, and while there were countless acts of heroism and community support, Cox said the tragedy did highlight some of the sections of West Brattleboro that were not as familiar with their neighbors as others were.
Some members of the West Brattleboro
"We found that many parts of West Brattleboro work well as a community, but there was also a feeling that some of the neighbor-to-neighbor connections could be stronger," Cox said. "One thing we thought might help is a pot of money to support things that bring people face to face with each other."
The West Brattleboro Association was created to support the businesses in the neighborhood and to preserve the village feel in the face of encroaching sprawl.
And while the group is going to continue working on its development and anti-development plans, Cox said the connections between its citizens are just as important.
Cox said anyone who lives in West Brattleboro can suggest an idea, which will go before a subcommittee of the association.
There will have to be some kind of matching funds, or in-kind work, to balance the grant, and Cox said the association will typically give out awards between $50 and $200.
Cox wants people to think creatively.
The money could go toward printing a neighborhood directory or birthday and anniversary calendar.
It could be used to pay for daycare so parents can go somewhere together or funds could go toward a clean-up day for a section of West Brattleboro.
Along with funding the projects, Cox hopes the process brings people together to just talk about funding ideas and share experiences on how the efforts worked out.
"We want to support grassroot efforts," he said. "When people are connecting with the people who live next door, they are more likely to get involved in the broader community and that leads to a more healthy civic life."
For more information go to www.westbrattleboro.org.
Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at hwtisman@reformer .com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 279.