Recently I attended a Community Association Institute (CAI) legislative conference. The overwhelming message that I came away with was that everyone involved in Common Interest communities needs to get involved and become part of the solution. Nationally and locally, we have great legislative committees, lobbyists and staff members dedicated to fighting for your property rights and the community management profession in general. The legislative professionals can get the doors opened but it is our job to walk on through that door and let our elected officials know how a particular piece of legislation will help or hurt our community, lifestyle, property value or standard of living.
Below are some things that you can do to get involved not only in the legislative process but the community in general. After all, it is called a “common interest” community – right?
Getting involved with your neighbors and neighborhood can be a great beginning to a happy life. Our communities can be pillars of support when we need them or friendly faces we’re happy to see each day. Through volunteering, joining clubs and groups, taking part in community sports activities and hosting events, you can bond with those who live around you and create a wonderful home for yourself – and others.
Here are some great ways to get more involved in your community:
- Know your Representatives
Make it a point to know who your State and Federal representatives are. Although there are lobbyists looking out for your interests, nothing is quite as powerful as a conversation or letter from a representative’s constituent describing why a particular piece of legislation is good or bad for your community.
Learn more about the people who live near you by starting conversations within your community. This is easily done through book clubs or groups that come together to make jewelry, create art, cook and learn new languages. Ask your immediate neighbors if they know about any clubs or meetups you can join. If there aren’t any, start one yourself.
If you have a community center or other public space available, use it to form friendships while you learn something new. Sometimes taking turns meeting in members’ homes, either weekly or monthly, is a good way to break the ice with small talk or enjoy truly enriching conversation. Think about planning a series of special gatherings or ongoing drop-in events.
- Become a community volunteer
Volunteer for a committee, board seat or some other group in your town. Volunteerism is a superb way to meet people and contribute skills and talents to those who might need them. Not only will you probably experience a sense of accomplishment after sharing the gifts you have to offer, your neighbors will likely notice your contributions and consider you a valuable member of the community.
- Get active in social programs
Families can get to know neighbors by becoming active in special programs for children. Even if you don’t have kids, meet new people in your neighborhood by volunteering your time to these activities.
Children often enjoy becoming members in Girl or Boy Scout-type groups, YMCA memberships, parks and recreation classes or mommy and me groups. Often, parents of kids in these programs go on to become friends for life. If you don’t have little ones, it’s still possible to coach, teach a craft, be a dance instructor and get involved in your community in other ways.
- Attend or host charity events on behalf of the Association
Many cities and small towns and community associations have carnivals, holiday gift boutiques, formal dinners and similar charitable events to bring the community closer together. Attend these events and enjoy being a part of shared experiences. You’ll likely meet people who have many of the same interests as you do, which is a good way to form friendships.
The good thing about getting involved in your new community is that if there aren’t gardens, clubs, organized activities, volunteer opportunities or legislative action committees in place for you to meet people, you can always be to facilitator of these types of gatherings. Your new neighbors will probably be glad you took the initiative to provide ways to connect.