A block party organized by Coldstream real estate investor Stephanie Taylor prior to COVID-19. Taylor has used the Neighbourhood Small Grant to fund activities that help neighbours connect with one another, and the grant program is now offering funds for projects that adhere to social distancing during the pandemic. (Contributed)

Small grant leads to stronger Vernon neighbourhoods

Coldstream resident wants to spread the word about the benefits of the Neighbourhood Small Grant

Amid times of isolation, A Coldstream Real Estate Investor is making use of a grant program that helps bring neighbours together.

Since moving to Coldstream from the Lower Mainland several years ago, Stephanie Taylor has applied for the Neighbourhood Small Grant (NSG), a funding program that helps B.C. residents create community-building projects in their local areas.

Her application for the grant was approved this year, and now she’s hoping to spread the word on the big community rewards that can be achieved with a small amount of money.

The grant program awards a maximum of $500. In Taylor’s experience, the tight budget encourages creativity and collaboration rather than outsourcing projects.

“We can connect and share each other’s strengths and be able to be a resource for each other,” she said. “We are able to call someone up for help with something, and be able to celebrate together.”

To that end, Taylor has organized block parties that have grown into gatherings of 30 or more neighbours. Other activities centre on sharing knowledge at a hyperlocal level.

“We now have a little library on the street, we have a Facebook group where we share things such as if there’s bears and snakes on our driveways … and this has now grown to the next street down.”

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Projects can take a number of different forms. With this year’s grant, Taylor’s neighbourhood plans to hold a socially distanced movie night for all ages.

“It’s the first time the grant has been brought into the Okanagan and hopefully more people use it,” said Taylor, who has utilized the NSG program in the past, prior to moving to the valley.

Taylor helps others invest in rental properties in B.C., including Vernon, and in the spirit of spreading the grant’s benefits as widely as possible, she shares the resources with her tenants which in turn has spread community activities throughout the city.

Since starting the block parties, Taylor has noticed a marked difference in the day-to-day activity on her street.

“People know each other’s names; they know that this lady is a seamstress, this lady is a bookkeeper and this guy is a plumber, people are sharing fruit, having driveway get-togethers and are just more connected.”

Fostering connections with neighbours is perhaps more challenging than ever during a pandemic. That’s why the grant program has introduced the Responsive NSG, which provides up to $500 for projects that stay within physical distancing guidelines.

Applications for a Neighbourhood Small Grant can be completed online.

Brendan Shykora
Reporter, Vernon Morning Star
Email me at Brendan.Shykora@vernonmorningstar.com
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