I found a sense of belonging at my neighbourhood association.

Laura G, Vice Chair of the Silverheights Neighbourhood Association (SNA) Board of Directors, is a Cambridge transplant. She moved to Cambridge in 2005 from Newfoundland and she and her husband now live in the Silverheights Neighbourhood with their son, Cameron.

To Laura, being a part of SNA feels like the first time she dropped Cameron off at the “Chill Zone” which is a registered Friday night drop in program where youth are known to dance in disco lights with the windows open and music playing. “Just that warm, awesome feeling where the kids are happy, they’re having fun. They’re with their classmates but they’re making new friends.” The popularity of the program reassured her that people wanted to be there, and the NA served a purpose.

Laura was looking for an opportunity to give back. With her son as a program participant, she loves being able to be involved with an organization that is so impactful to her family.

Within a year of joining the SNA community, Laura was approached by the mother of Cameron’s classmate, and current Board Chair, to apply to be on the board where she has sat ever since. Having volunteered her whole “pre-family” life, Laura was looking for an opportunity to give back. With her son as a program participant, she loves being able to be involved with an organization that is so impactful to her family. By volunteering with her local neighbourhood association, Laura gets to “go behind the scenes and see the effort, the thought and passion that [SNA] put[s] into everything that they do. And the consideration they have for the community.”

The Importance of Community

To the benefits of growing connections and community in your neighbourhood, Laura shared a story with us from last summer. Now that Cameron is getting a little bit older, Laura allowed him to go to the park with a friend for 20 minutes without his parents. The next thing she knows, the friend runs up and knocks on her front door; Cameron had gotten stuck on the monkey bars and could not get down. In the short time it took Laura to get to the park, another mom who recognized Cameron from SNA was able to give him a hand. “Just in that moment, that made me feel so safe and secure. It takes a village, and being there for each other really made me feel better. It’s good to know that there are other parents out there who have each other’s back.”

When asked what community means to her, Laura has this to say:

You know it’s funny. Because the first thing that I wrote down was “to unplug and connect” and I realized that’s a pre-pandemic answer. Nobody can do that now. But essentially it is, right? You’re not just seeing your neighbours as you’re going to and from work, it’s a chance to go to an event, or to register your kids for something or to be involved. And I think it’s so important in this day and age to find common ground with people while still celebrating differences.”

In her journey from newcomer to Cambridge to becoming an integral member of the volunteer team at SNA, Laura’s story of connecting with her neighbourhood is familiar to many Cambridge neighbours across the CNO. To her, her child is always the answer. Knowing Cameron was safe and happy engaging with the community at SNA gave and continues to give her and her family a sense of belonging. Neighbourhood Associations are one of the many community spaces that create a safe and inviting environment for residents in Cambridge. Making friends in camps and programs, just like the friendships built by guardians speaking in swimming lesson lobbies or community centre parking lots, allow for that incredible common ground where the community can grow.

Cameron during his first week ever of camp July 2017 (camp, sleep, repeat)

As we head into a promising new season, the CNO is starting to plan how we can best get our neighbours connecting, sharing and growing together again. We are looking ahead to summer with events, programs and activities in the neighbourhood for everyone’s comfort levels. Check out your Neighbourhood Association’s website for details on what is on the horizon and opportunities to volunteer!

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