Capital Area Neighborhoods (CAN) - SMC's COVID Response

"Social connectedness is a key element of resilient communities. Through frequent interaction with family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues, community members build strong connections with others in their community. These relationships create a sense of belonging, purpose and trust, which in turn supports physical and psychological health."

Sustainable Montpelier & the City of Montpelier have identified four goals for CAN that emphasize resiliency: improved communication networks for all community members, civic engagement, neighborhood governance, and facilitating relationships with city partners and within neighborhoods.

Originating in 2008/2009, CAN acted as a response to the financial crisis and rapidly rising fuel costs. The network lost importance as the crisis faded. SMC began intensively organizing the project at the end of March 2020 in response to the growing COVID pandemic. Mayor Anne Watson envisioned a re-engaged CAN network and was delighted that SMC stepped up to manage the effort by recruiting and organizing neighborhood coordinators.

CAN is building a sustainable resource for Montpelier to meet future emergencies, and creating opportunities for growth of local culture and governance.

How do I participate in CAN?

To view current CAN Neighborhoods and CAN Coordinators, look at this map:

Capital Area Neighborhoods Map

Interested in being a part of Capital Area Neighborhoods or want to learn more?

Please contact MontpelierCAN@gmail.com or call (802) 828-7375

What can a CAN Coordinator do?

  • Connect neighbors with one another
  • Develop a neighborhood "listserv" (these can exist in a variety of formats)
  • Act as a point-person: sharing resources & important announcements
  • Build connections with neighbors & the city
  • Have fun - bring the neighborhood together to enjoy a yard sale, bonfire, potluck, etc.
  • There are other ideas, too!

The Importance of Neighborhood Groups

Social

Getting to know your neighbors as people is an important concept in creating a resilient community. Ideas might be to: start a neighborhood book club, create a garden with your neighbors, free-pile neighborhood exchange, or go to Montpelier Alive for other great ideas!

Spending time outside is a great way to meet people, especially as COVID restrictions begin to ease. Some neighborhoods organize block parties and close off a street for a period of time. This requires working with the City of Montpelier and filling out a Street Closure Permit ahead of time. Please review more information here. We are happy to help with this process! SMC has created an event planning checklist that we would be happy to share with you.

Neighbor-to-Neighbor Communications

There are a number of ways neighborhoods can set up neighbor-to-neighbor communications:

Neighborhood Information Kiosks! SMC is working with six Capital Area Neighborhoods to introduce a low-tech initiative: Neighborhood Information Kiosks (NIKs). These kiosks are a focal point where community information can be shared. Folks can find updates from the Department of Public Works, neighborhood event postings, and other important, local community initiatives. The new kiosks will be sandwich boards, unique for each neighborhood. As they prove valuable to the neighbors, CAN and SMC will explore adding NIKs to more neighborhoods. The concept for Neighborhood Information Kiosks sprouted from Lee, one of the CAN Coordinators pictured here with Tom, SMC's AmeriCorps VISTA! SMC has been excited to construct and install these new neighborhood resources. Thank you to Timberhomes Vermont and the CAN volunteers for their work in creating these new information kiosks! You can find these new boards on St Paul Street, Loomis Street (by the Loomis St Exchange), Berlin St across from Cedar Hill, Robinhood Circle, and Park West & College Street neighborhood. Here's a map of the NIK's locations.

Neighborhood directory - akin to our beloved White Pages (r.i.p.), this can be as simple as a shared spreadsheet where neighbors voluntarily add-in their contact information and connect directly with each other or the group

A closed Facebook group where neighbors can reach out one-on-one and/or discuss things with one another

A neighborhood listserv - where one or a few people are responsible for maintaining it and sending out emails as desired

Distributing flyers – sending out printed updates to neighbors door-to-door

Since some neighbors are internet-free and some may have recently moved in, it's ideal to have more than 1 communication network set up, with 1 of them being internet-free.

Emergency Response

At the onset of COVID-19 and the "stay-at-home" order, in partnership with the City, CAN Coordinators spearheaded a near City-wide flyering effort in order to socially distance check-in with neighbors and to share resources with anyone who may be in need. Flyering is a way to ensure that everyone gets a notice, in case anyone is not connected to the internet and/or may be overwhelmed by the amount of information circulating on the internet.

Neighbors Creating Solutions

Neighborhood Governance

Neighborhood groups are a way for neighbors to come together to talk about neighborhood needs and to discuss possible solutions. In the past, this has led to neighbors showing up at City Council to present ideas to the City on an important neighborhood topic and/or reaching out to City representatives to ask questions.

Through community surveys done by CAN coordinators and anecdotal evidence found through outreach initiatives, there is an interest in partnerships as a direct communication line between the community, local organizations and government, notably Public Works. The partnerships with Montpelier’s Police Department, Washington County Mental Health Services, and Montpelier Alive are still in their infancy. These initiatives are growing, and will take on a greater importance in the future of CAN.

Examples of Neighborhood Groups Creating Resilient Communities

One of the main reasons SMC sought to reinvigorate the CAN network was to create and cultivate resilient communities. Resilience refers to the ability of an individual or community to respond positively to adversity. Resilience evolves from people working cooperatively to make positive changes in their lives and their communities. Neighborhood groups are the conduit for people to connect to one another, share positive actions of mutual aid and make the changes that they want to see.

Resources/Examples:

1) "How We Come Together When We Can't Go Very Far"

2) "Creating Resilient Communities"

A Special Thanks to CAN's Sponsors and Supporters

National Life Group Foundation