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New grant program to devote money to neighborhood projects

It takes a village to get ready for an emergency in a small town.

To make sure Langley will be prepared, the city of Langley and the Langley Community Club have teamed up to get neighbors thinking about emergency preparedness and get some community projects accomplished in the process.

Kathleen Landel, special assistant to the mayor, said last week the new Neighbor-to-Neighbor action grants program is designed to help get projects completed in town and introduce neighbors to each other.

The community club will provide mini-grants that can be up to $200 for community projects. The projects could be anything neighbors get excited about; planting flowers or trees, painting mailboxes, building a park bench, installing rain barrels or even creating an emergency plan for specific neighborhoods.

The city will provide education in the areas of emergency preparedness, conservation and other community issues.

The Neighbor-to-Neighbor program wants to build strong connections and a web of community support and resiliency to help each other in times of need.

“The mayor and I agree that residents would greatly benefit from getting to know their neighbors, and work together as neighborhood teams, to plan and prepare for emergencies,” said Lynn Sterbenz, Langley’s emergency preparedness coordinator.

“In an effort to facilitate neighbors to begin talking with one another and collaborating on projects together, this project was born,” she added.

In the aftermath of the 2006 winter storms and the series of related power outages, Langley kicked planning for future emergencies into high gear.

The problem, however, was that the longer South Whidbey was outage-free, the community excitement for such programs faded, Landel said.

The city of Langley is combining the neighborhood outreach efforts of the emergency preparedness and the resource conservation programs in the hopes that neighbors who know and trust each other will be more likely to seek and receive help in an emergency. The effort will also press for collaboration on resource conservation projects and encourage and inspire residents in reaching common goals.

“After the action grants are complete, Lynn and I will provide information to help the Langley community prepare for future challenges and I hope we can tap into that community spirit, to bring neighbors together to make sure everyone is prepared,” said Linda Irvine, Langley’s resource conservation coordinator.

“We hope this energy carries through as the fall begins and then we start some more work on emergency preparedness,” Landel added. “As a result, we hope to be better prepared this winter and have some fun.”

Irvine said it’s easy to see how it makes sense to collaborate.

“Resource conservation and emergency preparedness are intertwined, in that conservation can help us ride out emergencies,” Irvine said.

“For example, by improving insulation in our homes, we prolong the time we can stay warm in a power outage, not to mention saving money on heating our homes every day,” Irvine said.

“I’d love to see our neighbors helping each other to get their home insulation upgraded or whatever else they may need to prepare for the winter and possible power outages,” she added.

Councilman Robert Gilman said it will also help the city to know who are the leaders within a neighborhood when an emergency arises.

“It’s to know who the sparkplugs are out there,” he said.

After the mini-grants program has been established, the city will approach individual neighborhood groups to learn what’s needed in case of an emergency and what the city could do to help.

“Then, if some catastrophic thing happens, the system is in place,” Mayor Paul Samuelson said.

The program is a stepping stone to bigger things, he added. Langley wants to, once again, show that the community can be an example for bigger cities.

“We can show that with 1,100, we can actually make a difference,” Samuelson said.

Grant applications will be available on April 17 at city hall and are due May 19.

People are also invited to join the annual street clean-up organized by the com munity club and help start the Neighbor-to-Neighbor program with a kick-off at

8 a.m. Saturday, April 26.

The application review panel will be made up by two community club members, the mayor and a city council member.

The grants will be awarded on June 4. At the community club’s ice cream social on Aug. 23, the community will be able to review the projects during a Neighbor-to-Neighbor walking tour.

Michaela Marx Wheatley can be reached at 221-5300 or mmarxwheatley@south

whidbeyrecord.com.

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