‘It’s Up to Us’: More Ways We Can Help Our Community


Santa-Clara-County-Assessment-Carole-Leigh-Hutton-United-Way-Silicon-ValleyYesterday I shared the list from last fall’s Santa Clara County Assessment Project. It has excellent suggestions for how we can all improve our neighborhoods. Today’s list casts the net a little wider to the community.

I love the very first suggestion to “experience our rich cultural diversity”. That’s the reason I feature cultural festivals in my “Five Ways to be a Good Neighbor” column at the start of each month. The more we know about our neighbors and their backgrounds, the more appreciative of each other and closer-knit we become.

Another favorite of mine suggests attending a school board meeting or city council meeting. This I think everyone should do at least once, and maybe even once a year minimum. Not only is it a good education for you as a citizen, giving you a better understanding how your local government works, but it also serves to keep public officials in check.

As a news reporter I’ve covered a lot of public meetings, and while many elected officials and public servants are good ones, there is some appalling bad behavior and bad politics out there. And they can get away with it because sometimes no one is watching. If there are no residents out in the audience, and no quality news outlet covering what’s happening (why we need a free press!), officials can get at best lax, and at worst derelict in their duties of serving the public’s best interests.

Off my civics soap box and on to today’s list.  All the ideas on this list are great. Which ones are you already doing, and which ones can you incorporate into your life? Do you have additional suggestions? Please share with us in comments!

In Your Community

  • Experience our rich cultural diversity by frequenting locally owned ethnic businesses and performing arts organizations.
  • When you notice someone showing extra kindness or care in their job, like a grocery clerk, teacher or police officer, thank that person and ask for the name of his or her boss. Write a note to the boss commending their actions.
  • Vote in or run for elections. Volunteer for a candidate you believe in, and keep tabs on the past and present track record of those elected.
  • Attend a school board or council meeting on issues affecting your family or your neighborhood.
  •   Insist on fiscal transparency. Know what your tax dollars are funding and how it impacts your community.
  •   Volunteer your time at a school, senior center, youth agency, food pantry or other nonprofit agency on a regular basis.
  • Speak up on behalf of those who may not have a voice (children, frail elders, homeless people, people with disabilities, undocumented residents, etc.).
  • Support engaged school principals. Introduce yourself and help them better understand the neighborhood and the community’s strengths. Encourage principals to utilize those strengths to work with parents to improve children’s education.
  • Donate blood from time to time to stave off shortages at blood banks.
  • Greet your postal carrier and other delivery people.