Sometimes the simplest ideas are the ones that have the greatest impact. That's the belief behind the latest initiative out of the South Sherman hub: a group of residents and business owners who aim to improve their neighbourhood.
Their latest project, the South Sherman Spokes, aims to reclaim that sense of neighbourly closeness that was once so common in cities across the country. From the 1950s right up through the 1980s, neighbours knew one another, spent time together and most importantly, were willing to help one another.
The Spokes program is fairly simple. A "Spoke" is a community member who takes responsibility for their neighbourhood — this could be just a few houses on their street or several city blocks — and gets to know every neighbour in that area. They then make plans to bring neighbours together and help them all connect in different ways.
"It's about getting to know your neighbours on a very personal level and supporting your neighbours," Patty Clydesdale, the lead member on the project, explained.
"It's not about knowing that the Smiths are at 56 Wentworth, or whatever the case may be. But it's knowing that the Smiths are Judy, John, Nick and Joe."
Clydesdale explained Spokes can take initiative in simple ways — street garage sales, front porch parties — but also more meaningful ways with a deeper impact — from connecting a new immigrant on the block to services in their first language to holding a fundraiser for a family who has fallen on hard times.
"People are living in silos sometimes," she said.
"You get up, you go to work, you take care of your kids, but to me, it's about taking care of your neighbours, too. It's a more holistic way of living your life. It's inviting others into your life and it enriches your life."
The program just launched at the start of the year. So far, they have only have a handful of Spokes participating, but their goal is to reach 500.
South Sherman is a neighbourhood with a unique feel. There's a diverse population, including young families, singles, seniors, immigrants and a Native population. That's typical of a lot of neighbourhoods in Hamilton, but what makes South Sherman stand out is the constantly evolving feeling of community.
The South Sherman Hub is a big part of that change. Every month they attract about 50 people to their planning committee meetings who work together on different projects in the area from picking up litter to community gardens.
Of course, not everyone is interested in getting involved, but Clydesdale said those people often come around once they realize all the benefits of getting to know your neighbours on a more personal level.
"You're going to always have people who aren't interested. They're a hard nut to crack sometimes," she said.
"I've had some neighbours say, 'I don't want people in my business so I don't get involved.' But I think with gentle perseverance I can engage them."
Along with growing the initiative within South Sherman, Clydesdale is hopeful the idea will catch on in other neighbourhoods around the city. She said she's already had people from other areas inquire about the program because they think it can benefit their community as well.
"I really think the best place to become involved is your own community. It's a great starting point."