This is what community development is all about...

Last night over 40 families showed up for our neighborhood meetings for Oak St. & Eucalyptus Ave.  Each neighborhood group met to connect with one another, share ideas for improving the community and register for the Christmas Store.  (More on the Christmas Store here and below.) 

Empowering Neighbors
At the end of the evening, we joined the groups together to hear a presentation by Southern California Associates of Governments about proposed plans to bring a public transit project (think train, light rail, etc.) through Bellflower, connecting LA to Santa Ana.  Because there is talk of bringing a train stop to the north end of Bellflower's downtown, which borders both Eucalyptus and Oak neighborhoods, we felt this information is extremely relevant to neighbors.  One neighbor shared her excitement and concern for the new project.  She knew the train would be good for the community, but since Bellflower doesn't have any form of rent control, she was worried that a train stop close by could raise property value and rent, resulting in many families being displaced from our neighborhoods.  The presenter validated her comment and said that is precisely why the neighbors need to be involved at this early stage.  She encouraged them to start talking with the city about their fears.  We decided to host a second meeting with neighbors to strategize how to connect best with the city about their concerns.  

Neighbors Giving Back
We registered 35+ families for the Christmas Store last night.  Individuals, local churches, businesses and organizations donate brand new gifts to stalk the shelves of the Christmas Store.  Registered neighbors come and shop, buying presents at 90-95% off the original price.  Then, 100% of the money that comes in goes to a good cause, which is determined by the neighbors.  After some discussion about a few causes to support, they voted to send the money to help build a well in Africa to provide clean water in a village.  
The neighbors voted to send the proceeds to help build a well in Africa to provide clean water.  We're going to send this picture with the check in December.  Look how proud and excited everybody is in this picture!
True development takes time, but it's worth the wait.  I'm so grateful that I was able to be a part of last night.