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Kids and SCOPE Partner to Win Statewide Contest as BEST Neighborhood in Florida"Neighborhood scavenger hunting is something we do together as neighbors because it's fun, and we love it here, and we are explorers and inventors at heart. This is not a formal service program. It is not an "out-of-school time initiative." It is about being neighbors together, with intention and awareness." Quote from the Central-Cocoanut Neighborhood Scavenger Hunters' website
(Sarasota, FL) -- Amorie's neighbor talent is "helping." Dalisha knows she's good at taking care of babies. Maliq's wish for the neighborhood is that everybody can be friends.
Amorie, Dalisha and Maliq are three of the Central-Cocoanut Neighborhood Scavenger Hunters, a group of mostly 2-12 year olds (with a handful of adults) who have been creating community in their Newtown neighborhood for the past two years. Only they don't call it that. They call it scavenger hunting. That means going out on foot or by bike to explore their 50-block neighborhood, and then reporting back to fellow neighbors about all the everyday good stuff they've discovered along the way. Or they call it getting together for NeighborKid dinners. Whether its pork chops and mac & cheese or pancakes and fruit salad...the kids invite some neighbors, decide the menu, and prepare the meal.
They notice and respond to their neighborhood in other ways too, like when they made a sympathy card that dozens of neighbors signed, and when they led a beach caravan in September in honor of fellow neighbors' civil rights leadership 55 years ago. This past January, they began ExuberNews, a newsletter with interviews and pictures by the kids, hand-delivered by the kids to the 750 households in the neighborhood.
Last summer SCOPE, a non-profit community engagement organization, offered the Neighborkids office space to use as a base of operations during "scavenger hunting season." In October, SCOPE then hired one of the Central-Cocoanut residents who is involved with the Neighborhood Scavenger Hunters to lead SCOPE's county-wide neighborhoods- and community data initiatives. An unprecedented collaboration now exists between the Scavenger Hunters and SCOPE -- a group of neighbors and an institution.
Tim Dutton, Executive Director of SCOPE said, "SCOPE cares about how citizens become connected and inspired to create a better community, and recognizes that the Neighborkids are doing exactly that. It is an honor to be in partnership with the Scavenger Hunters of Central-Cocoanut, who are teaching us much about the nature of community engagement."
Because of the Scavenger Hunters' efforts and their partnership with SCOPE, the Central-Cocoanut Neighborhood recently became one of 19 neighborhoods in Florida to win a statewide contest called BEST Neighborhoods. The prize is worth a total of $25,000, with $22,000 of this award to be used directly by neighbors. It includes $12,000 for neighbors to devote to whatever they want to create together to make their neighborhood even better over the next six months. Since the neighborkids already have been bringing neighbors together through neighborhood dinners, newsletters, scavenger hunts, and celebrations, the prize also will enable them to expand these efforts, and to hire two high school students from the neighborhood for 20-hour a week jobs over the summer.
Now the challenge is for the 2,000 neighbors of Central-Cocoanut to figure out what they most want to do together to turn their great ideas into realities.
"This neighborhood is an amazing place, and the kids are real-deal community changemakers" said Allison Pinto, a Central-Cocoanut resident and SCOPE staff member. "Often people think it's the grown-ups who are responsible for efforts such as these. Here in our neighborhood we follow the kids' lead. We know of no other place in the country where the kids of a neighborhood are making such a difference. It's pretty spectacular, and we can't wait to see what's next."
The victory celebration will be held Saturday, April 9, from 1pm to 3pm at the Mary Dean Park at 15th & Central. Scavenger Hunters will present the statewide award to the neighborhood at 2PM. The festivities will include hotdogs, games, face painting, a bounce house and fun! The public is invited.
http://www.volunteerflorida.org/BEST/index.html Includes list of other award recipients and information about the program.