A Closer Look at Project Neighborly

Please meet Alan Friedlob, a photographer who has lived in Birch Bay for the last 14 years. We’ve asked Alan to document the inspiration and experiences of the Foundation’s Project Neighborly investments, which are designed to build new relationships among people with differing views and experiences, develop a sense of community and promote neighborliness throughout Whatcom County. Through Alan’s striking photo essays, you’ll see all the creative ways our community is coming together, and as you can see from this first blog, they’re already inspiring. We look forward to hearing your feedback about any of the Project Neighborly activities that unfold this year. Whether you see it here on the blog, or have first-hand experience, everything you share with us helps shape future grants. You can email us at ProjectN@whatcomcf.org.

Project Neighborly Story 1: No one bowled alone.

On the last Monday in January, about 100 people from Bellingham’s Birchwood neighborhood gathered at Park Bowl.

Young, old and in between, they bowled, they laughed, they talked — in Spanish and English. It was the first Family Language Exchange (FLEX) event in a series supported by a Foundation Project Neighborly grant. FLEX was by Birchwood resident and Bellingham City Council member April Barker in collaboration with the Birchwood Elementary School, and Western Washington University’s Center for Service Learning. The goal is to build neighbors’ conversational language skills, while strengthening the social fabric of the Birchwood community.

According to Barker, the event was inspired by the now well-known 1995 essay Bowling Alone: America’s Declining Social Capital, in which sociologist Robert D. Putnam observed that while bowling as a recreational activity was on the rise, bowling leagues were in decline.
“He cited this phenomena as an example of how American citizens were increasingly disengaging from civic engagement in their communities,” explains Barker.

If people bowl alone, they do not participate in social interaction and civic discussions that might occur in a league environment.

Birchwood did not bowl alone this week. ¡Los bolos is better with new amigos!

FLEX will continue through the spring months with seven more events. Stay tuned for more neighborly stories. ¡Ole!