30 Smart Ways to Improve Your Community Right Now

There are lots of ways you can enrich your neighborhood. Ahead, experts weigh in on the best ways to do it.

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When renovation duos Ben and Erin Napier and Dave and Jenny Marrs incorporated two colorful wall murals in Wetumpka, Alabama, on Season 1 of Home Town Takeover, they did more than just boost the town’s charm, they brought together a community. The murals, which celebrated the town’s past and future, were painted by local craftspeople, including an art teacher and her students. During Season 2 of Home Town Takeover, the foursome gave a public park in Fort Morgan, Colorado, a sunny and much-needed facelift for residents to enjoy. “There are many things you can do to beautify your own community and connect neighbors,” shares Caty Kobe, head of community for Nextdoor, a social networking service. “It’s just a matter of finding the right project.”

Ahead, we’ve listed 30 ways you can enrich your neighborhood and make it a nicer place to live. Why not give one (or more!) of these initiatives a try? In the end, both you — and your community — will be better for it.

Dave and Jenny Marrs and Erin and Ben Napier are experts when it comes to revitalizing small towns.

Photo by: Erik Voake / Getty Images

Erik Voake / Getty Images

Dave and Jenny Marrs and Erin and Ben Napier are experts when it comes to revitalizing small towns.

1. Establish a Farmers Market

On Season 1 of Home Town Takeover, the Napiers created a lively local farmers market that included a fire pit and swings in Wetumpka, Alabama, providing a place for merchants to sell their produce, flowers and homemade goods and turning it into a must-visit destination. “Consider establishing one in your town or giving back to your community by creating a backyard bounty drive where excess fresh produce and flowers are collected from residential yards and donated to local pantries,” says Jeanne Johnson, a community activist based in Ridgewood, New Jersey. AmpleHarvest.org is a free nationwide registry that enables homeowners who’ve grown too much food to find food pantries in their area.

Photo by: Erik Voake / Getty Images

Erik Voake / Getty Images

2. Throw a Block Party

A block party is a great way to learn your neighborhood’s history, meet people and pave the way for stronger relationships. “You can add a cultural component where people from all cultures share dishes, history and music,” says Ketty Thelemaque, a lead organizer at Durham CAN in Durham, North Carolina.

You can also consider a “Porch Fest” where local musicians sign up to perform on residents’ porches. “Neighbors walk around the streets listening to music and are served small food bites at each stop,” shares Johnson, who has hosted neighborhood front-yard happy hours for years.

3. Mentor Members of Your Community

Whether you speak a second language or are digitally savvy, there’s likely someone in your neighborhood who’s interested in learning those skills. Reach out to your local community center to organize a free class. “I’ve taught kids how to parallel park before their driving tests and my neighbor trained me how to grow tomatoes,” shares Johnson. “It’s an easy way for people to help each other out.

4. Organize a Cleanup Walk

In Season 2 of Home Town Takeover, the Napiers and the Marrs worked together to make over a public park in Fort Morgan, Colorado. If you notice a common area in your town that could use some tidying, reach out to your local parks department to coordinate a walk or hike with friends, who can bring garbage bags to collect trash along the way. (You can also use sites like Meetup or Nextdoor to find existing efforts taking place.)

5. Construct a Free Library

Creating a spot where people can share books is a great way to foster community spirit. All you need is a shelf in a public place where neighbors can drop off books for others to enjoy. Nonprofit organizations like Little Free Library help communities design systems to make books more accessible for residents. There are also other ways for neighbors to communicate and bond; for example, on Season 1 of Home Town Takeover, a “wisdom box” made it possible for citizens to “take and leave” a piece of helpful advice.

6. Organize a Local Drive

A local food and coat drive will directly benefit those in your community. “Though food drives are popular around the winter holidays, food insecurity is something that impacts neighbors all year long,” says Kobe, who suggests challenging neighbors to host regular food drives throughout the year. “Donating food is fine, but providing grocery store gift cards is a better way to help people in need preserve their dignity,” says Johnson. “Gift cards are easy to purchase and distribute and sometimes grocery stores give discounts or match the donation.”

Organizing a coat drive or clothing swap helps to clean out closets while giving back to those in need. “A workplace coat drive is an easy way for employees to connect with their community, while a clothing swap brings together neighbors and helps foster sustainability,” adds Kobe.

7. Shop Locally

Shopping locally is crucial to maintaining the health of your community. Frequent your town’s coffee shops, gift stores and florists to keep store vacancies low and your town vibrant. “Spending money locally props up the area’s economy and keeps your money moving in a cycle of reinvestment, allowing your community to thrive,” says Johnson. “Convince your local government to shut down streets and create a pedestrian plaza which can also be beneficial to retailers and restaurants.

8. Enhance Your Town’s Main Street

In order to draw locals, businesses and tourists, the Napiers went all out to enhance the curb appeal of the main street in Wetumpka, Alabama, during Season 1 of Home Town Takeover. Help boost your own town’s main street with fresh coats of paint on storefronts, new signage and fresh lighting so local merchants thrive and continue to provide your community with job opportunities. “Paint stores, including big-box places, often donate paint and supplies for initiatives like this so it’s always worth the ask,” shares Johnson. Your local chamber of commerce is a good starting point for this type of project, as members can connect you with local business owners.

Photo by: Erik Voake / Getty Images

Erik Voake / Getty Images

9. Create or Support a Crowdfunding Initiative

Crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe make it easier to connect willing donors to projects that need their support. Raise funds for beautification projects and to assist neighbors in need who can use the resources to maintain their properties. It can be as easy as choosing your platform, setting a goal and sharing your story. Or consider a “checkout fundraiser” where cashiers at local shops ask for donations every time customers make a purchase.

10. Adopt a Piece of Your Community

Oftentimes local organizations offer the opportunity to personalize a park bench, brick or even a street sign to raise funds to support downtown beautification efforts. Look online for these opportunities or reach out to your parks department for more information.

11. Maintain Your Property

Your home adds to the beauty of the community, so make the area around it as welcoming as possible by filling pots with flowers and keeping the grass cut and bushes trimmed. “In addition, offer to help others with their yards who may not have the resources or the ability to do so,” says Thelemaque.

12. Live a Greener Life

There are things you can do to make your town eco-friendlier, including setting up local recycling stations, using reusable shopping bags and initiating a community composting program. “Not every neighbor has the space to compost their own food scraps and organic waste, but you may be able to add a composting station to an existing community garden or public area,” suggests Kobe.

Communities that rely heavily on car transportation often experience elevated levels of air pollution which can be detrimental to the health of its residents, animals and plants. Decrease your carbon footprint by using your car less — walk, bike or use public transportation, or carpool to work or school, which also allows you to get to know your neighbors better. “Create a walking school bus or bicycle train where a group of children walk or bike to school with adult supervision,” adds Johnson.

13. Initiate a Community Art Project

Public art can liven up buildings, foster creativity between neighbors and highlight the history of an area. “I always say the first step in revitalizing a town is painting a mural,” says Erin, who led the effort to add not one but two murals to the town of Wetumpka, Alabama, including one that gave new life to a building that served as a backdrop to the town’s new farmers market. “It’s a great way for local artists and people of all ages to get involved,” adds Johnson. “You can also throw a chalk art festival where artists gather to paint images on streets and sidewalks and work collaboratively with local students.

14. Make a Monetary Donation

If you don’t have the time to give, but you’re in a financial position to donate money, consider purchasing something that will better the life of your town’s residents, like a BBQ grill or bike rack for a local park. Or hire a local nursery to plant flowers at popular spots in town. “You can even purchase something like a clock tower that can be installed in your town’s center square. Include a plaque and you’ll be recognized for your contribution for years to come,” adds Johnson.

15. Create a Town Walking Tour

"It’s when locals take locals and visitors around town to share information about historic landmarks, parks, retailers and restaurants,” explains Johnson. “Walk To Play Day is another fun idea designed to get folks out and walking. Attendees are encouraged to enjoy a stroll to a park where they can participate in several family-friendly activities including creating a children’s nature garden or path where kids can label plants and trees and give community members tours.”

16. Help Vulnerable Neighbors

The elderly or sick may not be able to keep up with their yard maintenance. Assist with lawn mowing, trash and snow removal and create a “shop squad” with neighbors to pick up groceries and medicine for homebound individuals.

@nikandliv.diy Small acts of kindness go a long way! Tune in to the new season of @hgtv’s Home Town Takeover Sunday’s at 8/7c. #hometowntakeover #hgtvpartner #goodworkwednesday ♬ Ambient-style emotional piano - MoppySound

17. Protect Your Neighborhood

Sign up for an app like Citizen, which provides 911 alerts and notifications of issues in your area, making your neighborhood a safer place to live. Or set up a neighborhood watch program that allows residents to get to know each other while improving security and safety. (Follow tips from the National Neighborhood Watch to set up a program.)

18. Help Kids in Your Local Hospital

Recruit friends and/or elementary or middle school students to distribute cards on Valentine’s Day, candy on Halloween or toys on Christmas to children in your local hospital. “It’s a great way to teach kids about empathy while bringing joy to residents of your community,” shares Kobe.

19. Write Positive Reviews of Local Businesses

Local businesses need your support to thrive and you can help do that without spending a cent. Did a seamstress go out of her way to assist with a dress alteration last minute? Did an employee in your local hardware store help you resolve a home maintenance problem? If so, post your gratitude on their business’s website, Yelp, Google Local or your town’s Facebook page. As for posting less-than-stellar reviews, “It’s better to give any critical feedback directly to the business owner so he/she has the opportunity to improve, as opposed to posting a nasty review online that could impact their business and ultimately your community,” says Kobe.

20. Organize a Town Get-Together

Ask local musicians to participate in a songfest in the center of town or at a nearby athletic field, then use the funds to build a local beautification project or charity. Or set up a community talent show. “It’s a great way to get people out of their homes and engage with each other on a warm summer or cool fall day,” says Kobe.

21. Create Care Packages

“Care packages are easy to assemble and can be distributed in various ways,” shares Johnson. “Collect supplies for your local homeless shelter by filling bags with beauty and grooming products like toothbrushes, shampoo and razors (be sure to call the shelter in advance to see what their current needs are) or make grab-and-go brown lunch bags for homeless shelter residents who are required to leave the premises during the day. “These meals come in handy when they’re out looking for work,” says Johnson. “Organize a group and create an assembly line to make sandwiches and write uplifting notes to be placed inside each bag.”

22. Plant a Community Garden

Creating a special green space in your neighborhood increases the availability of nutritious foods and strengthens community ties. “Plus, working the garden allows neighbors to bond and enjoy outdoor time together,” says Kobe.

23. Get Involved With Special Needs Projects

Volunteer at a Special Olympics event, set up a buddy system with the special needs program at your school, or raise money to purchase materials for a special needs art program at a community center.

24. Volunteer at Your Local Animal Shelter

There are plenty of ways to support your local animal shelter including collecting newspapers and blankets, locating homes for abandoned pets, starting a food or toy drive, organizing a dog wash or walk, or taking pictures or videos of the animals available for adoption and posting them on social media. “Fostering animals is also a wonderful way to contribute as studies show that caring for animals can significantly improve your mood, help reduce stress and anxiety, and give you a new purpose.”

25. Get Involved With Local Government

Join a board or commission, attend city council meetings, volunteer for a local candidate’s campaign, or run for a town council or school board seat. “Knowing your neighborhood's issues and challenges will prompt you to take action and find ways to resolve problems,” says Johnson. “Plus, participating in local government helps you develop a sense of ownership and belonging, and your involvement will offer untold good to your community.”

26. Upgrade Your Town’s Common Spaces

“Outdoor playspaces bring so much joy to a neighborhood,” says Kobe, who suggests raising money for projects such as refreshing a dilapidated swimming pool or purchasing new playground equipment. “City council meetings are a great place to start these discussions and gauge interest from other community members,” she says. Or check out Kaboom!, a national nonprofit that works with local communities to raise funds and build playgrounds.

Photo by: Erik Voake / Getty Images

Erik Voake / Getty Images

27. Create a Neighborhood Forum

A forum allows people to share concerns about their community and offer up suggestions for improvements. “This can include a discussion on ways to better understand each other — speakers can share ways to respect each other’s culture, faith and gender identities,” says Kobe.

28. Meet Your Neighbors

According to Pew Research, only 26% of those surveyed say they know most of their neighbors. “Being aware of who lives around you and creating a network of friends you can lean on will make you feel more connected to your neighborhood,” says Kobe.

29. Spread Cheer

Ever notice how a town feels friendlier when someone smiles or waves to you while walking down the street or waiting at a stop sign? “Challenge yourself to say hello or good morning when running your daily errands,” suggests Kobe.

Photo by: Erik Voake / Getty Images

Erik Voake / Getty Images

30. Be the Welcome Wagon for New Neighbors

When you see someone new moving in, drop off a basket filled with local takeout menus, a calendar of community events, and a small gift card to a local coffee shop or establishment.

Season 2 of Home Town Takeover premieres on HGTV April 23 at 8|7c and is available to stream the same day on discovery+.

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