The Holyoke Safe Neighborhood Initiative is a partnership between local, state & federal law enforcement; city & state government; civic & human service organizations; faith based organizations; the business community; education providers; property managers; and residents coming together with a goal to create safe, healthy & economically viable neighborhoods through information sharing, identifying at-risk youth, referrals and community efforts in specific Holyoke neighborhoods.
The Holyoke Safe Neighborhood Initiative is a very comprehensive collaboration in terms of developing grassroots relationships, getting folks in the community connected to services and building healthy, long lasting relationships. We have a focus on both youth and families in Holyoke and outreach to many community folks that are struggling to keep their lives on track.
In 2011 we began a pilot in South Holyoke where we focused on a three block radius that included 400 family units. After completing a multi-agency survey in 2012, we found that 65% of the youth that lived in South Holyoke had never attended an after-school program. After the survey results, we worked close with Morgan School and the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Holyoke to close those gaps in services. Our follow-up comparison survey in 2013 demonstrated that our efforts showed 63% of youth had now attended an after-school program.
In 2012, we began after-school programs including, table tennis clubs, introductory boxing programs, flag football leagues, volleyball leagues and basketball leagues. Our first basketball league had 56 youth, while other activities only generated interest of 15 to 25 youth.
We have a focus of engaging youth and being intentional around mentorship, role modeling and structured character development. We use sports programs such as;12-week summer basketball leagues and 12-week winter leagues. Each season has a different character development curriculum. The past winter of 2019-20, we had 220 youth and approximately 120 3rd – 6th grade youth. All of our winter leagues in 2019-20 focused on career exploration. Our 3rd – 6th grade career exploration was called “You can be anything you want to be”. We had speakers from many professions including several youth from Westover Job Corps share their career pathways. Several of our volunteers from various agencies were awarded a Community Service Award, as part of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Project Safe Neighborhood Program.
Developing the youth is really only one part of our overall work. We have seen some of the relationships built lead to some single mothers getting connected to much needed services. We have also assisted some of the community residents in completing certificate programs in CNA, getting into GED and Hi-Set Classes, college and some getting connected to employment.
Our goal is to build community… One Person at a Time!