On Saturday, February 18th, residents and partners of the Vine community in Kalamazoo gathered for the “Rising Vine” party, hosted by the Vine Neighborhood Association (VNA). Francisco Lopez ’17 and Maya Gurfinkel ’20 were invited to join as members of the Visualizing and Integrating Neighborhood Engagement (VINE) Program at K.
The Vine neighborhood is one of the oldest in the city of Kalamazoo. Located between Western Michigan University and downtown Kalamazoo, this diverse community provides housing to many Kalamazoo College upperclassmen.
The party took place on the second floor of Martinis, just a block south of Vine. Community members shared a delightful evening of meaningful conversation about their businesses, as well as other social and political topics. Lopez and Gurfinkel talked to local business owners, committed activists in the Vine neighborhood and graduate students from Western Michigan University.
Martha–a gardener and active member in the Vine community–shared her joy of bonding with neighbors at the party. “This kind of yearly event is very important,” said Martha, “because the more people know who their neighbors are, the more they are willing to cooperate and sponsor when the community needs them.” Martha has been involved in community work since the Building Blocks project, founded by previous K Professor Kim Cummings to help improve certain streets in Kalamazoo’s low-income neighborhoods. Thankful for the help from other residents to fix her house, she has since then used her gardening to beautify various areas of the neighborhood: planting trees on the sidewalks and making use of underground materials including pipes and metal.
Martha is currently collaborating with the VINE members of K College in their new project called the “Bellevue Construction and Beautification” project happening soon this spring. They plan to plant flowers and make walled entrances onto Lovell and Oakland Street. The completion of this project hopes to decrease crime in the area and increase people’s access to healthy food. VINE is currently recruiting students on campus and renters in the area to help out during their workdays and spread the news. Project Supervisor Kim Cummings encouraged K students to get involved, as this kind of voluntary contribution will help them improve social awareness and create meaningful relationships with residents in the city.
Reflecting on her experience working with K College students on community projects, Martha commented, “I showed them how to organize what I know and what I learn. They are good students.”