In our busy lives, we often do not have the chance to meet those who live next door to us day in and day out. But when neighbors get to know one another, communities work better and become stronger.
On May 6th, 2017, South Bay Community Services (SBCS), in partnership with the County of San Diego Resident Leadership Academy (RLA), various organizations and community residents, held the first Neighbor Day celebration in the Castle Park neighborhood. Neighbor Day is an opportunity to reach out to neighbors, make new friends, and express thanks to those who make our neighborhoods a great place to live. On this first Neighbor Day, residents along with community partners provided a morning pancake breakfast, children’s activities and were encouraged to make a commitment to do an act of kindness for another neighbor.
“Bringing neighbors together builds connectedness and connectedness builds more satisfying, self- sufficient and effective communities that strengthen our nation as a whole,” said Sylvia Mendez, an RLA graduate and Castle Park resident.
Neighbors are coming together, and the community is seeing revitalization from increased volunteerism at local schools, more community-based events, thriving community gardens and even an increase in civic engagement.
This event served as an opportunity to recognize a special community member who exemplifies the purpose of Neighbor Day, Jose S. or "Don Jose." Don Jose is a Castle Park neighborhood resident who lost his wife a few years ago and has no other family members to lean on. Since losing his wife, he felt he had no reason to take care of himself any longer and his living conditions deteriorated. One day, Don Jose came by a food distribution site hosted by SBCS’ Chula Vista Promise Neighborhood (CVPromise), where a staff member invited him to come back and volunteer.
Don Jose immediately fell in love with the community garden project and joined the Eyes on the Street group, which helps us keep Castle Park streets safe by directing traffic. He is out on the crosswalk of Oxford Street and Tobias Drive every morning, rain or shine, and tends to the garden on a weekly basis. He attends the SBCS Eyes on the Street and Garden Committee meetings regularly and comes in for coffee every day. Before he discovered SBCS, Jose would lock himself up in his house but now he has neighbors over and they sit out on the porch and talk. Don Jose has expressed to us with tears in his eyes that SBCS gave him purpose to live again and now he has a reason to wake up every morning.