Neighbors Connect was community driven, offers hope for future events

April 22 was a beautiful day in Winchester.

After a long winter, the sun came out, the breeze blew gently and more than 200 people came out to enjoy Sunday afternoon in the park.

Winchester Inspired by Nature (WIN) set out to connect people through nature on Earth Day.

Last year, we talked with community members who voiced desires to connect with their neighbors and organizations, and concerns about safety in public spaces. Many were waiting for change to happen in Winchester.

Based on these conversations, WIN organized the Neighbors Connect: College Park Neighborhood Picnic. We saw it as an opportunity for neighbors to meet their neighbors, talk with representatives from organizations and simply relax outside.

Moreover, we wanted to show how individual community members like ourselves have the agency to be part of and a source for change in Winchester.

During the organization of this casual picnic, the five WIN members spoke with community leaders like Jeff Lewis of Winchester-Clark County Parks and Recreation, Gary Epperson of Emergency Management, Julie Maruskin of the Clark County Public Library, Chief Cathy Rigney of Winchester Fire-EMS, Chief Kevin Palmer of the Winchester Police Department and Kara Davies, Principal of Clark County Preschool.

We partnered with businesses like Ale-8-One, Hammerhead Signs, PrintLex, D&S Hardware, Landscaper’s Corner and Kathy’s Snack Shack.

We called upon organizations like The Greater Clark Foundation, the Leeds Center for the Arts, Burns Avenue Neighborhood Watch, The Winchester Sun, Southwest Clark Neighborhood Association, Kentucky State Tree Nursery and Plowshares Community.

Last, but most importantly, we knocked on doors and handed out invitations personally inviting people to a neighborhood picnic.

As we spoke with everyone, there was nothing but enthusiasm. We all came together as neighbors to influence change in our community.

From organizing this one event, we saw people show support for the new nuisance ordinance, people picking up litter in the neighborhood and people learning about the good work of Clark County’s organizations.

During the picnic itself, we heard people talk about their differences, voice their aspirations and concerns, and see how a neighborhood can come together to celebrate being a community.

One of the sentiments I heard a lot was people wished events like this could happen more often. They can.

Clark County is full of passionate folks who are willing to put the time, money and effort into bettering the community. Working together we can change the habits that make our community feel stagnant, ineffective or plain old dead.

All the individuals WIN members talked to while organizing the picnic contributed to its success. Whether you are a part of an organization or a neighbor who came out to enjoy the day, your role was essential to bettering Winchester. For that, you all have our deepest gratitude.

You have the power to make ours into a thriving, more vibrant community. Let’s get together and make more events where Neighbors Connect!

If you are interested in planning a Neighbors Connect event in your neighborhood, please contact WIN via email at WInspiredByNature@gmail.com.

Rebecca Campomanes is a member of Winchester Inspired by Nature (WIN).