The Rapidian

The rewards of serving one's neighborhood

ECA board member Heather Colletto reflects on the responsibilities and benefits of neighborhood involvement, including realizing the impact of a community association when a gas station was proposed for a busy Eastown corner.
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Annual ECA meeting

Annual ECA meeting /Courtesy of Eastown Community Association

Annual ECA meeting

Annual ECA meeting /Courtesy of Eastown Community Association

Written by Heather Colletto, ECA Board member

Since joining the Eastown Community Association (ECA)’s board of directors, I have had the privilege of being a part of conversations that shape our community. As a nonprofit professional in my “day job,” I was familiar with how boards worked, but had only “sat in” on meetings as an organization’s staff member. It wasn’t until I was elected to the ECA’s board last year that I had the opportunity to speak into decisions being made. At monthly evening meetings (and some lively emails in-between!), board members get to hear hopes and concerns from neighbors who are just as invested in our community’s future as I am. We learn about “what’s next” in new business development and construction. We discuss solutions.

The impact of a community association became very real to me when a gas station was being proposed on a busy Eastown corner located right in the middle of my short walking route between home to the grocery store. Suddenly, the work of a neighborhood association (and all of its neighbors) mattered in an immediate way that would affect my family’s future. I wouldn’t be able to walk safely with my kids to the grocery store as I had imagined when we bought our house. The street we access to commute every day, which the developer stated was one of the busiest in town, would suddenly be even more traffic-heavy and treacherous to cross safely.

Watching the ECA hear from potential builders, gather feedback from the community, and educate people on how they could respond to make a difference? That’s when the work of neighborhood associations hit home for me in an entirely new way. I was privileged to be a part of it not only as an Eastown community member, but as a board member a part of those conversations from the very beginning. Being a part of the decisions being made for our community makes me feel immense pride and ownership for the streets my kids will one day ride their bikes on.

If you are passionate about where you live, consider joining the board of your local neighborhood association. Many of the things you love about your community take big steps forward at the neighborhood association board meetings. Be a part of making those things happen.

Want to see a great neighborhood association in action? Eastown is holding its annual meeting and pancake breakfast on Saturday, February 7, at 8:30 a.m. at Calvin Christian Reformed Church at 700 Ethel St SE. This delicious event is a great reminder of what any community association is all about, and how residents can partner with their neighborhood organization to create lasting change. Hear from Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS), enter to win raffles and buy some Eastown merch. You'll also have a chance to VOTE for new ECA board members. You can read up ahead of time about the 2015 applicants here.

The newly elected board members are the people who, in partnership with you, will help shape the community in which you live. Maybe you could be one of them in 2016!

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