Let me start by thanking you for coming today, and for all the work you're doing to improve the
lives of struggling families [all across America]. No one knows better than you how many people
have been left behind in the wave of prosperity that reached so many in our country in the 1990s.
I appreciate your commitment to creating the opportunities that led residents to succeed in our
Today, I'd like to introduce you to something called quot;neighboring.quot; Neighboring is a new way of
looking at volunteering that's been brought to us by the Points of Light Foundation and The
Annie E. Casey Foundation. It's a concept that I believe will make our work easier, more
effective, and better able to create lasting changes, especially in struggling neighborhoods.
In your work, you may have experienced the disconnection that exists in tough communities.
Without critical connections, low-income families can't access the resources and support they
need to grow strong and healthy. What can we as an organization [community]do to change that?
We can help bridge gaps and provide the connections families need to thrive – and neighboring is
one way of doing this. People who live in low-income communities need to be engaged in
meaningful ways that help them succeed on their own.
Local people must be equal partners and drivers for change. And that's the heart of neighboring. It
involves building on the real assets of a community to create more tightly knit communities with
residents who have the commitment and capacity to better their lives. That's a tall order. How do
we begin to do that? We can start by identifying and developing leaders within our communities
who can provide an insider's perspective.
What will you find when you look closer and discover these leaders? You'll probably find that
neighboring is already going on all around the community. Though not called quot;volunteering,quot;
people are giving to each other and helping each other and applaud these informal ways people
help each other out. We can learn a lot about the community from this.
How can we create the conditions to make getting involved in a more structured way easy and
attractive for residents? A big part of neighboring is finding ways to give community members
some kind of benefit in exchange for volunteer work like child care, a chance to learn job skills,
or access to tutoring for their children. I wanted to mention these steps to give you an overall
view of how we might think about structuring neighboring initiatives.
I'm anxious to apply the neighboring concept to the programs our organization already has in
place. Ask yourselves a few questions about our current programs. How are they working to bring
people together for the good of the community? Is there investment and participation across the
board in the community, not only from businesses, nonprofits and agencies? How are you
creating the conditions for community members to take leadership roles? Do our projects lend
themselves to building skills that residents need to help others as well as themselves?
The Points of Light Foundation has a Web site that makes it easy for us to get started in building
and strengthening neighboring programs. Visit www.PointsofLight.org [or add a link to your
organization's Web site] today to find ideas for one-day projects, ongoing programs, building
partnerships with community members, and much more.
You might be surprised to learn that there's actual proof that one of the best things we can do to
improve people's lives is to provide relevant opportunities to volunteer and find their own
solutions to local issues. One recent study found that 69% of people who volunteer as adults
reported one or both of their parents had set an example by volunteering when they were young.
Volunteering – Neighboring – is a spirit that can be inherited. I urge you to build the wealth of
our community through volunteering and neighboring. That's a legacy of which we can be proud.