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Great Neighbours is an initiative supported by Red Deer County, the City of Red Deer and surrounding towns whose goal is to get neighbours to know each other. In our fast paced world with its ease of transportation and communications, it’s easy to forget that those around you may want and need personal interaction. There are tremendous benefits to living in a close knit inclusive neighbourhood including face to face social interaction, safety and crime prevention and effective responses to emergencies.The Great Neighbours initiative is here to help. Its Community Mobilizer, Nora Smith, has held presentations in several locations in Red Deer County encouraging volunteers to sign up as Block Coordinators for their neighbourhoods. The role of the Block Connector is to contact 10 to 20 families in their immediate area to have a friendly chat and describe the program, and organize one or two neighborhood events each year designed to allow neighbours to get to know each other. To date there have been 67 people volunteer to be Block Connectors mostly in urban areas but now there is an increased emphasis on implementing the initiative in rural areas.In rural areas getting to know your neighbours may be difficult as houses are some distance apart and the chance of just bumping into your neighbours is remote. The replacement of land phone lines with unlisted cell numbers, the use of guard dogs and building of driveway gates for protection further limits interaction between neighbours. People moving into the neighbourhood may have a difficult time getting to know those around them. Existing residents may find rural life lonely and isolating especially once their kids have left home or when one spouse is lost.The first volunteer Block Connectors in Red Deer County were Jim and Sandy Martin, representing a neighbourhood east of Spruce View. Last winter a “get to know your neighbour” gathering was held at the Spruce View Drop-In Center where the twenty families in attendance had a chance to introduce themselves to neighbours they didn’t know. They gave information on their family, their profession, their interests and their hope for the neighbourhood.As a follow up, a pot luck supper was held in the spring that provided an opportunity for people to interact and play some horse shoes. A wood turning course is being organized in the neighbourhood and planning has starting for another neighbourhood event for the fall. Notices of criminal activity in the area provided by the RCMP are being sent out to everyone in the neighbourhood to try to help keep everyone informed.Building a caring and inclusive neighbourhood takes time and effort but the rewards are great. If you’re interested in being a Block Connector for your neighbourhood, contact Nora Smith at 403.358.4892.Are you planning an event that would bring your neighbourhood together such as a block party, movie night or community garage sale, there is matching funding available through the Great Neighbours initiative in the form of a Spark Grant. To get information on eligibility and to get the forms, go the Great Neighbours website (www.reddeer.ca/greatneighbours) and follow the links to the Spark Grants.