Event Underlines the Importance of Community
By Pat Forrest
It took a tragic event almost 20 years ago to lead to a movement that has spread joy and promoted fellowship around the world ever since.
The inaugural Neighbour Day was launched in Australia in 2003 and was promoted as an opportunity for people to check in on their neighbours. The impetus was the discovery in a suburban Melbourne neighbourhood of the remains of Elsie Brown, who had been deceased for two years, forgotten by neighbours, friends, and family. Neighbour Day began in recognition of the impact that loneliness and lack of social connection has on individuals and communities.
Here in Thunder Bay, Neighbour Day is in its third year, city council having voted to establish the third Saturday in June as the date of the event. This year, the many celebrations are taking place on June 18, and there are lots of ways to get involved. This is the first time that the event will allow for what organizing committee member Ally Drombolis calls gathering “semi-in-person.” “We will still be reminding people to be diligent and take the necessary steps in light of the ongoing pandemic, but we will nevertheless be headed in the right direction of being able to get together again,” she says.
Activities include printing a downloadable Neighbour Day card and leaving it on neighbours’ doorsteps, or emailing out a Neighbour Day postcard, both provided by the City of Thunder Bay. Residents can vote on their favourite neighbourhood restaurant, store, and hidden gem and can even single out a favourite neighbour or neighbours. They can also share stories of kind and generous neighbours.
Children can join in on the fun through a variety of Kid Zone activities including drawing and colouring pictures of what it means to be a good neighbour—both close up or socially distanced. They’ll also be able to colour ready-made images of superheroes and of ways to be a good neighbour.
Many neighbourhoods go all out artistically, decorating their sideways with chalk images, adorning their windows with neighbourly messages, and hanging lights and other decorations. Neighbourhood block parties and musical performances have been popular as well, as are neighbourhood cleanup projects. Some become Block Connectors: residents dedicated to building connections with and among neighbours. These folks inspire their neighbours to share their gifts, skills, passions, and talents with each other while respecting safety guidelines.
For more information on Neighbour Day and for inspiration on how to get involved, visit thunderbay.ca/neighbourday.