In the City of West St. Paul, Minnesota, there are 11 Volunteer Neighborhood Associations who work in a close partnership with the city to combine the organizational initiatives & priorities of the neighborhoods with city resources in order to develop projects which build community, revitalize each neighborhood and make West St. Paul a better place to live.
The city is completely divided into Neighborhood Associations and since citizen volunteers are the key to the operation of each neighborhood, any resident, property owner & business located within the boundaries of a neighborhood are members.
In 1994, West St. Paul’s City Council was searching for an innovative initiative to involve citizens in the future of the city. Out of this grew an idea to create volunteer Neighborhood Associations to give the citizens of West St. Paul the opportunity to participate at the grassroots level in formulating neighborhoods initiatives and making recommendations to the city. Funding for the neighborhoods was and still is currently provided through a yearly endowment from the city for projects which build community and revitalize the neighborhoods.
Through 1998 and 1999, West St. Paul’s neighborhood volunteers set out to make an impact on the city. More than 100 volunteers were active on the elected Neighborhood Resident Councils. The Neighborhoods’ Make A Difference Committee raised awareness of domestic violence in West St. Paul with a walk down Robert Street in which 70 residents participated, a Make A Difference Fair in which over 100 residents attended and a fund raising campaign in which $2,500 was raised for two local domestic violence shelters. More than 800 city residents attended Neighborhood National Night Out Events (crime prevention efforts).
The Neighborhood Association Program lists among its many achievements receiving the only League of Minnesota Cities (over 800 cities are members) 1998 City Achievement Award in the category of Citizen, Community, and Youth Involvement presented to cities in Minnesota with a population of 10,000 or higher. In addition, 243 residents attended the Spring All-Neighborhood Meetings and 419 residents attended the Fall All-Neighborhood Meetings. These numbers represent a 76% increase in attendance from previous years.
Today’s small cities are challenged by tight budgets, endless work, and often times people in need. In West St. Paul, the volunteers who run each Neighborhood Association work in a close partnership with the city to overcome these and other challenges by combining the organizational initiatives and priorities of the neighborhoods with city resources. It is this partnership which allows West St. Paul’s citizens to be more involved in the future of their city. Ultimately, West St. Paul’s Neighborhood Association Program is an example of how success can be obtained when a city and its citizens voluntarily join together and are committed to constructively resolving conflicts and seeking solutions to make their community better.