“Community needs to be built everywhere – in poor and wealthy neighborhoods. It’s what we collectively struggle with in terms of improving our schools, ending violence, and building tolerance and understanding of one another.” ----Jacqueline Reed
In 1995, “Every Block A Village” (EBV), the Community Organizing arm of Westside Health Authority and the cornerstone around which WHA develops its work was organized. EBV harnesses the collective assets of the neighborhood. Through the program, WHA has developed substantial relationships with citizen leaders on 100 blocks in Austin and has reached out to 200 citizen leaders. EBV equips local residents with Internet access, orchestrates meetings and holds potluck dinners to build a sense of trust among neighbors. Each month an average of 40 EBV citizen leaders meet to discuss economic, social and health-related issues that affect their community and neighborhood blocks.
As a result of WHA’s Community Organizing efforts, many Austin residents have decided to not leave the neighborhood, deciding to invest back into their properties instead, and EBV citizen leaders have paved the way for a number of WHA developments and programs.
- Citizen leaders developed the groundwork for the construction of the Austin Wellness Center, a $7.9 million healthcare facility developed by WHA which opened in July 2004. EBV citizen leaders also spearheaded fundraising efforts, raising over $60,000 towards the development.
- WHA’s youth program resulted from EBV citizen leaders' desire to promote positive norms and values to community youth.
- EBV citizen leaders implemented Austin’s first youth baseball league in May 2002 and it is still going strong.
- EBV citizen leaders taught, and learned from physicians in training at Stroger Cook County Hospital about building effective patient relationships. Once a month, the physicians came to WHA where they learned about the neighborhood culture, traditions, and values. EBV citizen leaders also taught and learned from over 70 Northwestern University physical therapists about the culture of the Austin community.
- EBV citizen leaders from several blocks formed Women for Change. Women for Change grew out of efforts to form support groups for family caregivers and grandparents raising grandchildren.
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