Neighbourhood Resiliency in Times of Covid-19

As the Covid-19 restrictions in the province begin to relax, we wonder how the pandemic has affected our community.

While we are being asked to stay close to home, and reduce our exposure, our own neighbourhood is more than ever our centre of gravity. We are not going far for goods, services and recreation; without school or summer camps, our kids are spending more time at home; more are working from home, and have eliminated their daily commutes. Others, have simply lost their jobs. Our cars are spending more time parked in our driveways, and traffic in our streets is quieter. In the present climate of uncertainty, knowing our neighbours, connecting with them and being supportive is more important than ever.

See the May/June E-neighbour in your browser!

Collage May June e-neighbour

To date, many city and neighbourhood gatherings and activities that attract large crowds have been cancelled. We might find that we have been left to our own devices when it comes to making our own fun.

Are we going to discover that this is the year of “My Neighbourhood”?

This summer we might not have the taste to hold face-to-face neighbourhood gatherings, even if we were allowed, but as the weather warms up, we can rev up our creative powers to think up ways to connect with our neighbours while keeping at least 2 metres apart.

These efforts will help build stronger neighbourhoods, from the ground up. Some of our neighbours might feel very vulnerable to Covid-19, or might have to self-isolate, regardless of new relaxed restrictions. Others might be struggling from the impact of isolation, or changes in their lives that have left them feeling lost. Be thoughtful and open to help out if you can.

In Kitchener we have seen people running errands and doing yard work for others, playing music, displaying art work, chalking messages of encouragement on sidewalks, making noise for frontline workers,  using little libraries as pantries. Many have more time in their hands. We are seeing more people going out for walks, beautifully groomed front yards, and neighbours spontaneously spending some time to chat in their walks. Others are pulling out their lawn chairs, as invitations for neighbours to stop by for a few minutes.

All the signs are pointing at the growing importance of your neighbourhood in your life. Make the best of it; make it caring, safe and fun, for yourself, your family and your neighbours.

Great ways to stay in touch with neighbours

Good Afternoon on this beautiful and sunny day.  Perfect day to enjoy fresh air and a walk or maybe a bike ride while physically distancing (2m or 6ft).  There are lots of great ways to stay in touch with neighbours in a way that responds to Covid-19 and Festival of Neighbourhoods wants to hear and see them.  FON continues to post ideas and pictures to Facebook, Twitter and the website working to keep spirits up. Festival of Neighbourhoods wants to hear and see them. 

We can get through this changing time Together while Separated!!!!  Here are a few more ideas

  • Run errands for groceries and meds, or walk dogs for neighbours who can’t leave their homes
  • Play a musical instrument from your porch, balcony or window for neighbours to enjoy
  • Display your creative projects where others can enjoy it, whether physically on your front yard or windows or on social media.
  • Write messages of encouragement with chalk on the sidewalks.
  • Participate community activities that don’t bring people face-to-face, such as sing-alongs, light shows and community thank-yous to health workers on the front lines of this pandemic from the front door or balcony.

Please register your inclusive but physically distanced activities for our early bird draws and win a $50 gift certificate for a local vendor of your choice.  Next draw is April 30th and registration deadline is April 27th.  Register at https://festivalofneighbourhoods.ca/

Let’s Physically Distance but Stay Social

There are lots of great ways to physically distance but stay social and connected with your neighbours during this challenging time. Here are some of the ideas we have seen so far that are lifting spirits, entertaining and building relationship.

So what are neighbourhoods doing staying together in social/physical distancing times

  • Neighbourhood window art walks
  • Sidewalk chalk drawings and messages
  • Online dance, exercise and common interest parties
  • Setting a daily time to meet and greet from Doorsteps or Balconies
  • Daily check-ins with neighbours via phone, video conferencing, email 
  • Running errands or helping with outside chores 
  • Bears and Messages in windows
  • Online greeting cards without or with music
  • Information and resource sharing facebook groups such as Caremongering KW


Gathering of Gatherings 2019



26th Annual Celebration

November 17, 2019, 1-3 pm
Kitchener City Hall Rotunda

2019 Celebration Poster

Neighbours connected and shared skills and ideas at 26th Kitchener’s annual Festival of Neighbourhoods Celebration. The Festival Season has encouraged and recognized once again this year a wonderful range of neighbourhood gatherings large and small, totaling 69 in all. Neighbours have taken the initiative to organize and attend gatherings at which they meet one another, exchange ideas and strengthen the fabric of our community. 

Citizens from neighbourhoods across Kitchener, city councillors & staff, and representatives of various supporting businesses and agencies came together in a spirit of celebration to share ideas on how to make their neighbourhoods stronger, and to be inspired by the stories of others. Participants struck conversations while enjoying ice cream and snacks, and visiting informational stations that highlighted the key aims of the Festival and recognized the energy and efforts of participants. The Celebration was organized as a “gathering of the gatherings”, staying true to the overall aims of the Festival for bringing people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities to meet and engage with one another.

The Victoria Commons Neighbourhood and Chicopee Neighbourhood were the recipients of the Festival’s two $20,000 capital grants, provided by the City of Kitchener. They will work side by side with the City in the coming months to make improvements in their neighbourhoods.

Councillor Kelly Galloway-Sealock drawing the capital grant neighbourhood recipients

The Williamsburg, Sprucedale Crescent, Stanley Park South, Victoria Commons and Chicopee neighbourhoods were highlighted by the Festival and the Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region for holding neighbourhood gatherings that strived to be as inclusive as possible. These neighbourhoods have worked to identify barriers to participation and have found practical and innovative solutions to participation in the spirit of the Festival’s motto: Reach!

The Trudy Beaulne Award, from the Social Development Centre Waterloo Region, was presented to the North 6 Neighbourhood in order to provide support for engagement and community development activities that strengthen social connections and capacity throughout this neighbourhood and community. The newly formed North 6 neighbourhood, centred in the Westmount and Ottawa area, looks forward to the possibilities.

The Ward Challenge went to Ward 10 (Councillor Sarah Marsh), with 22 registered neighbourhood gatherings. The “Neighbourhood to City” station highlighted how a neighbourhood becomes stronger when neighbours come together, and how city councillors & staff can offer support to citizens to make their neighbourhoods even greater. The Ward challenge is a fun way to highlight areas of the community where registered participation in the Festival is especially strong.

After a Neighbours Day Picnic, the organizers felt the positive changes in Chicopee neighbourhood. In the words of one participant: “I noticed after our get together, people are smiling more and saying hi to each other. The children feel safe playing outside.I see some residents talking to each other on a daily basis. It has become a warm and pleasant environment.” 

Victoria Commons held their first Block Party in June.“Many people made new connections, and people seemed more inclined to be walking in the neighbourhood saying hi after the Party”

This year’s Sponsors of the Festival and its aims include:  Boehmers Brampton Brick, Steed and Evans, the Victoria Park Neighbourhood Association, Alejandra Ivic Re/Max Twin City Realty Inc., the Grand Valley Society of Architects, Swansons Home Hardware Building Centre, the Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region, and the Waterloo Regional Police Service.

The supporters at this year’s Celebration were Tina’s Zentangle, Articulate Photography and Four All Icecream!

Festival of Neighbourhoods is a joint initiative between John MacDonald Architect and the Social Development Centre Waterloo Region, with support from the City of Kitchener.




26th Annual Celebration

If you are a neighbourly spirit, come and join the 26th Annual Celebration of the Festival of Neighbourhoods on Sunday November 17th, 1-3pm at Kitchener City Hall Rotunda. Regardless of having registered gatherings with the Festival this year or not, come and explore with neighbours from all over the city to fill up your Neighbourhood Loot Bag with ideas that are fun, surprisingly simple, empowering and within your REACH! If you haven’t yet, RSVP by November 7th the number of adults and children to come: entries@festivalofneighbourhoods.ca or 519-579-3800

Stronger Neighbourhoods the Fun Way

September 2019 E-Neighbour

As you build stronger neighbourhoods the fun way, we support your REACH by gathering insights into the evolving nature of neighbourhoods across the city. FoN intends to expand its support and resources such as Neighbourhood Activity TrunkActivity Guide and Reach! Inclusion Challenge. Also, this year’s Celebration will introduce a new era, in which Festival of Neighbourhoods will encourage everyone to meet their neighbours, explore the richness of experiences and interests we share across diversity and feel the joy of being in the centre of our own neighbourhoods. If you want to know how, do not forget to register your neighbourhood’s gatherings and to join the Annual Celebration on Sunday November 17th at the Kitchener City Hall Rotunda from 1pm to 3pm. Read more in our September e-Neighbour!

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Festival of Neighbourhoods, Invaluable Resource

We can’t help but notice places near our homes that could be improved with a small change, or how our growing city could potentially impact our neighbourhoods. How to harness all the great ideas is best done by sharing and recording them through neighbourhood gatherings. On that journey, the Festival of Neighbourhoods has proven itself to be an invaluable set of tools and resources. Read more in the July E-Neighbour about the Schneider Creek story: “Making our Neighbourhood Great!” and take the Event-in-a-Trailer survey by July 8th to let us know how we can create even better tools and resources for you.

Neighbourhood Resiliency in Emergencies

Natural disasters, such as floods and fires, hitting communities far and near have been featuring prominently in the media as we talk more about the climate crisis. What, as neighbourhoods, can we do to be more resilient in the case we are hit by such an event? Trust among the neighbours is the not-so-secret ingredient.

“It is extremely important that you get to know your neighbours beforehand, so that you know who is elderly, who has young children, pets, may have a disability.”

Steve LaRochelle, Emergency Management, City of Kitchener (May E-Neighbour)

Neighbourhood Connections

The Neighbourhood Connections Award has had a deep impact in neighbourhoods across Kitchener. Festival of Neighbourhoods, in itself, seemingly a simple approach, has contributed enormously in building close and loose ties among people in our community. They are our lifeline of access to information and opportunities. However, the Neighbourhood Connections Award, introduced in 2000 by Social Development Centre, helps us work through equity issues to build community capacity. Read about this unique process, welcomed by the Victoria Park neighbourhood in 2019, and more in our March E-Neighbour.