About a year and a half ago, a group of us in the Kearsarge region started imagining what our community would look like if everyone had access to the resources necessary to reach economic stability. We asked ourselves how we might have an impact on lessening the sense of loneliness and isolation that some people feel by making connections through friendship, service, and guidance in accessing appropriate resources.
We realized that much of the help available to people through local and state programs deals with meeting a crisis. But what are the root causes that lead people to have and to seek emergency help again and again?
Money to help people in crisis is absolutely necessary; it’s often the first step, and we’re thrilled to partner with organizations who help in that way. But we began to envision a non-profit where we could try to begin to address the bedrock issues at the base of people’s emergencies.
We created Kearsarge Neighborhood Partners (KNP), an organization where neighbors can help each other flourish and where people in need have some hope of moving away from crisis and toward wholeness and stability in their lives.
Since receiving our non-profit status last February, we have been able to help almost 100 neighbors with the help of 139 volunteers, a top-notch website, a database, and nine committed board members. Our Facebook page, “Kearsarge Neighborhood Partners,” currently has 368 members, and our volunteers have put in over 1,000 hours. The response has been amazing and encouraging!
As a liaison between the Andover Hub and KNP, I participated in a recent Zoom presentation with Paul Currier and board chair Steve Allenby sponsored by the Hub to talk with Andover residents about our work and invite more collaboration. Out of that meeting came the idea of a pilot program to provide transportation or food delivery to and/or from the Franklin and New London food pantries for Andover residents in need. This is exactly the kind of collaboration we love to see!
Where does KNP operate? Loosely, KNP works with people in the towns that serve the Kearsarge, Andover, and Sunapee school districts. We’re beginning to reach into the Newport area and Franklin now, as well.
What makes KNP special? Our principles: We’re based on developing supportive interpersonal relationships among neighbors. We try to empower people to move toward a more stable place in life. We try not to do for them what they can do for themselves. We’re willing to walk alongside people for as long as they want or need. We also recognize the value of reciprocity, and we look for ways that neighbors who come to us seeking help can eventually be in a position to serve others.
How does KNP help people? We are “connectors.” We have three levels of connections: neighbors to neighbors, neighbors to organizations that can help them, and organizations to organizations, so that they can collaborate to serve the community better.
The simplest form of help is connecting neighbors to neighbors. We have something called Flash Missions, as in “mission accomplished” and “done in a flash.” Flash Missions usually have a maximum limit of two to three hours, with a finite goal.
Volunteers get an email if they’ve signed up in the category of work that needs to be done on a particular day. Examples of Flash Missions would be a small home repair or a yard clean-up, or delivering a load of heating wood or a hot meal. If a volunteer can help, they respond to the email request. If not, they delete the email. No need to reply, no guilt.
The second level of connection is through what we call “coaching.” A small team of volunteers works with an individual or a family on a longer-term basis, supporting them as they try to pinpoint the most basic issues that underlie their needs.
Together with our neighbors, we make a plan to access social services and food resources, plan a budget, and find transportation, jobs, or housing so that they can move toward a more stable, sustainable place over time.
The third level of connection is collaboration. We communicate with other organizations to do an analysis of needs in the region, then work together to address them.
A great example of a very successful collaboration was our Victory Garden Revival program this May. KNP worked with Spring Ledge Farm, Colby Sawyer College, the New London Hospital and the Kearsarge Food Hub at Sweet Beet Market to help address food security in the midst of the pandemic.
Spring Ledge grew and donated 250 vegetable seed trays. Shovels and gardening gloves were donated. Volunteers bagged compost to go with the trays and delivered the seed trays to essential workers at the hospital and to families with food needs in the area so that they could plant gardens and grow their own food this summer. Colby-Sawyer and Sweet Beet have continued to grow food to donate to local food pantries all summer as well, and KNP volunteers have helped distribute that food.
How can a neighbor with a need or a willing volunteer get in touch with KNP? Please visit KNPnh.org. On the homepage there is a yellow button for Neighbors Needing Help and another yellow button for Neighbors Ready to Help. Those buttons will take you directly to what you need to get connected. The phone number and email are also on the site.
How can I donate? Visit KNPnh.org and look for the yellow “Donate” button or the red “Holiday Fundraiser” button. We are a completely volunteer-run organization. Over 1,479 volunteer hours have been donated so far, since we began last spring. That’s about 185 hours per month of neighbors helping neighbors.
There are no employees or other overhead expenses, and all donations go straight to helping neighbors. We will have alternative gifting cards available during the holiday season should someone like to give a gift of a donation in someone’s honor.