The Seattle Department of Neighborhoods’ Hey Neighbor! series introduces you to the people behind the scenes working to build, strengthen, and engage the communities of Seattle.
It was at a Fremont Neighborhood Council meeting in 2016 that Dennis Bateman first met one of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods’ Community Engagement Coordinators. Having recently moved into permanent housing at Catholic Housing Services’ Patrick Place Apartments, Dennis attended the meeting to try to set up an adopt-a-street program involving fellow Patrick Place residents and their neighbors. While at the meeting, he heard Community Engagement Coordinator Karen Ko tell attendees about the upcoming annual Spring Clean in the University District. Intrigued by the idea of a neighborhood clean-up, he approached Karen for more information. “I had never organized anything like this before,” Dennis said. “Karen walked me through how to organize a clean-up and invited me to come to the one in the U-District to see what an existing one looked like.”
As part of their work, Karen and her fellow Community Engagement Coordinators (CECs) participate in a wide variety of community events and meetings including youth roundtables, Business Improvement Area meetings, community planning meetings, police precinct meetings, transportation forums, and neighborhood council meetings like the one in Fremont. On average, the CECs attend over 64 public events each month where they develop connections with community members and share information about City programs, services, and initiatives. “When Dennis approached me about a clean-up project in Fremont, I told him it’d be great if he were to organize this,” Karen recalled, “and I urged him to consider applying for a Neighborhood Matching Fund (NMF) Small Sparks award.”
“Karen helped me to get a team together and taught me how to approach people and businesses for donations for the project. All of this was great to learn, and I was nervous throughout, but she gave me confidence.”
After seeing how the U-District Spring Clean brought students, business owners, and homeless youth together as a community to tackle a neighborhood project, Dennis shared the idea with Patrick Place staff and residents to see if they would like to get involved. They agreed that it was a great idea, so he forged ahead with planning a community clean-up and called upon Karen’s expertise as a CEC for assistance. Building on support from members of the Fremont Neighborhood Council, Dennis worked with Karen to arrange for donations for contest prizes and refreshments and arranged for clean-up supplies from Seattle Public Utilities. “Karen helped me to get a team together and taught me how to approach people and businesses for donations for the project,” Dennis said. “All of this was great to learn, and I was nervous throughout, but she gave me confidence.”
Dennis’ new-found confidence and his hard work paid off in a big way. The following year, with the support of the Fremont Neighborhood Council, he set out to expand the clean-up. To do this, Dennis attended an NMF workshop and began working with NMF Project Manager Ed Pottharst. With over 160 hours of volunteer time pledged by Patrick Place residents and staff, neighbors, and community groups, Dennis’ proposed community clean-up and celebration event received an award from NMF. On the day of the event over 30 volunteers — including State Representative Nicole Macri — met at Patrick Place Apartments before heading out to clean-up the streets in the neighborhood.
“This project helped bring businesses and residents together as a community and learn who their neighbors are. The work that Karen and other CECs do is important in helping communities feel comfortable, so they can get to know one another and create connections.”
Since opening in 2014, Catholic Housing Services’ Patrick Place Apartments has offered low-barrier, permanent, supportive housing to adults who have experienced homelessness. “Although people were a little unsure about a big event, we were excited to support our community,” Dennis said. “This project helped bring businesses and residents together as a community and learn who their neighbors are. The work that Karen and other CECs do is important in helping communities feel comfortable, so they can get to know one another and create connections.”
Dennis’ involvement with the community in Fremont hasn’t ended there. He has been asked to serve on the Fremont Neighborhood Council board, and he continues to be an active member of the community by working on projects in his neighborhood. Stories like Dennis’ demonstrate that, whether helping residents get to know one another better or connecting people with important services and information, Seattle Department of Neighborhoods’ Community Engagement Coordinators have an impact. Just ask Dennis: “People got to know each other, and the community got to see that the residents of Patrick Place could be an asset to the neighborhood.”