What Would the Lord Change About Our Neighbourhood?
A question that shapes our activity in the Downtown Windsor Collaborative is imagining what the Lord would change if he moved into our neighbourhood. Each street varies in its needs and the downtown has a diverse set of people, industry, and socio-economics. However, there are common denominators, and we sense that God gives us direction through the United Way’s Community Wellbeing Report of 2009. The document shapes the strategies of organizations receiving UW funding. It has focused agencies in their activities. The summary identifies five priorities for a healthy community, including basic needs such as housing and food, health, children, employment, and revitalized neighbourhoods.
Our efforts of renewing the city are shaped by addressing these priorities. One of our strategies that we are currently working through is using social enterprise to provide employment training, while establishing a presence in the business core.
We are working with the University of Windsor’s Business School in developing a business plan for opening an eatery at a recently closed location in the business district. In the eatery will be a training school for kitchen staff. After completing a six-month course, our network will help in finding long-term employment in the food industry. Participants will come from those currently on Ontario Works.
In addition to this school at the eatery, we have longer-term objectives of being a positive presence and citizen of the downtown business district, establishing a missional Christ Community tethered at the eatery, and being a launching pad for creative engagement of the population living in the core.
Our engagement takes place through informal relationship building, as well as intentionally planned programming. We anticipate the eatery, will be a “third place” (home is a first place, work is a second place) for the four nearby condo complexes and the numerous office workers in the core. Over an extended time, our staff will see relationships move from familiarity to acquaintanceship to friendship. We imagine our intentional programming will include gatherings bringing people together such as once-a-month cooking, games nights, Alpha, and The Marriage Course.
A critical principle in creative engagement is making it the neighbourhood’s turf. It will be incredibly gratifying to see the eatery become a gathering place for local residents, anticipating they will view the restaurant as “their neighbourhood place.”A second principle in this experiment is exploring creative ways of funding ministry. We are building this based on a business that we hope can provide ongoing operational cash flow. The initial capital investment to launch will be a donation.
This week we are negotiating the lease costs and time frame. This will be critical for ensuring operational sustainability. The project might not proceed if unprofitable. But the exercise of defining successful objectives and creative engagement has been invaluable and can serve us well in future endeavours.
Bob and his wife Margo, launched and serves through the Downtown Windsor Community Collaborative – building friendships that renew the city – one neighbourhood at a time.