May 2023 THRIVE | Neighborliness & Connections
Hello Community Builders!
How is it almost Memorial Day already? Time flies when you’re breaking ground on our county’s first community benefit project! More on that in a later issue. For now it’s neighbor time: backyard BBQs, front porch visiting, summer concerts, farmers markets and all the other ways we get outside and get to know the people who share this beautiful place.
If I had to choose one program that embodies the Community Foundation’s essence, it’s Project Neighborly: great ideas, human connection and community building. We launched it in 2016 and are delighted to reprise it this month after a pandemic hiatus that only fueled feelings of disconnection and division.
President & CEO
Loneliness, Isolation and Polarization
Everyone loves a good neighbor.
And yet, it’s no secret that record high levels of political and economic polarization continue to drive people apart in ways that undermine relationships and tear at the fabric of civic life.
An equally disturbing, and related, trend is the rising sense of isolation that many people feel. During his first term as U.S. surgeon general (2014-17), Dr. Vivek Murthy identified loneliness as a public health issue. At the time – well before the pandemic and its isolating effects — various studies pegged the nationwide rates of loneliness from 22% to 50+% percent of adults, with particularly high rates among young adults.
Today, more young people report being lonely than elderly people. The number of people who say they have five close friends has dropped by almost 20% since 1990. Twelve percent of people today say they have no close friends, compared to 3% in 1990.
Earlier this month once again U.S. Surgeon General Murthy issued an advisory that notes the dramatic physical consequences of poor social connection, including a 29% increased risk of heart disease; a 32% increased risk of stroke; and a 50% increased risk of developing dementia for older adults. “The Healing Effects of Social Connection” outlines six principles for a new national strategy to advance social connection, which also has profound effects on community health and resilience.
What the Whatcom Community Foundation is Doing
Project Neighborly! Up to $5,000 for inspiring, actionable projects and activities that develop a sense of community and promote neighborliness throughout Whatcom County.
The chief criteria? Connect people who may not otherwise meet.
We want to support opportunities that allow people to get to know one another as human beings, to increase kindness and curiosity and build trust among the people who share this place. Since 2016 the Community Foundation has funded 154 projects with grants totaling nearly $560,000 in every Whatcom County community. This year we’re funding 30 projects in Point Roberts, Blaine, Lynden, Deming, Kendall, Ferndale, Lummi Island, South Fork Valley and many neighborhoods in Bellingham.
Better yet? We’ve expanded the scope of the project to embrace the wide-ranging positive effects of social connection, from individual health to community resilience. Our goal is to reach every single person in Whatcom County in the next five years through a project funded by Project Neighborly. Toward that end, we’re exploring how we might make expand the program with ongoing opportunities to participate.
How You Can Help
- Be a great neighbor. (See ideas below.)
- Help fund Project Neighborly.
- Look here for a Project Neighborly event or activity and show up!
- Develop your own idea for Project Neighborly and email Pamela at pjons@Whatcomcf.org
On polarization and loneliness
U.S. Surgeon General: Social Connection
Pew Research: How Partisans View Each Other
Three in Ten Americans Named Political Polarization as Top Issue Facing the Country
Pew Research: America is Exceptional in the Nature of its Political Divide
Cigna Study: Loneliness Epidemic Persists; Post-Pandemic Look
American Survey Center: The State of American Friendship
Greater Good Institute: What is the Cost of Polarization in America
Surgeon General: Connection Resources
Readers Digest: Good Neighbor Lessons from Mr. Rogers
AARP Foundation: Tools to Overcome Social Isolation
Carnegie Endowment: Ideas to Reduce Political Polarization and Save America from Itself
Learn about your implicit biases
50 Ways to be the Best Neighbor Ever
60 Ways to Build Community
You Tube Video: Look Up
View the THRIVE Newsletter as e-mailed on 5/23/2023 HERE>