An interview with Jake Norris, Regional Connector
What drew you to neighborhood work in the first place?
It all started for me as a student at DePaul University. I was trained in Asset-Based Community Development as a part of my job as a service learning coordinator. I remember walking around the Humboldt Park neighborhood with my colleagues, speaking with faith leaders and community non-profits about the value they saw in their community, and it all clicked for me: if you want to see a neighborhood thriving, you have to have strong resident leaders who share a pride in their place.
What's a favorite story from the work?
I have many favorites, but I will share one from our Neighborhood Advocacy Team member Lori Appledoorn. Lori and her husband Dave moved into the Eastcore neighborhood 30 years ago. In that time, they have built community around them by reclaiming a neglected alley behind their home for a community garden. Lori and Dave have connected their neighbors by organizing events in the alley and using the gifts of the whole block. What was formerly a littered eyesore has been transformed into a gathering place where neighbors can connect and care for their shared space, beautifying the neighborhood. What’s more is that 3sixty was able to secure a grant for building raised garden beds, enhancing the space even more. At our best, 3sixty is the support system to help bring neighbors’ dreams to life.
What inspired you to step into a larger Regional Coach role to strengthen neighborhoods?
Simply put, I love the work and want to see more of it happening in the Holland-Zeeland area. I see how challenging it is for resident leaders to sustain the work over the long haul, and how hard it is for individual neighborhood organizations to tell their story to a broader audience; I'd like to build the support structure to free up neighbors to focus on their neighborhood! My dream is to incubate and support neighborhood connector entities in every neighborhood. Every neighborhood has intrinsic value and unique gifts; I want to see those resources leveraged for collective flourishing across our region.
Thanks so much, Jake! You can learn more about 3sixty and Jake by visiting www.3-sixty.org. Below is Eastcore Neighborhood's innovative tool lending library for neighbors.