A group of local business owners in North East Valley, Dunedin have banded together to invest their time, expertise and resources to build a stronger local community. The Valley’s business district is a group of shops along the main street. There are a wide range of shops, from supermarkets and banks to butcheries and cafes. The North East Valley community is also very diverse, with families, students and elderly people.
Five years ago group of business owners noticed there was a lot of tagging graffiti and untidiness around the Valley’s shopping district. This had a negative effect on people wanting to walk the streets and visit the shops, it was fast becoming an area to drive through instead of visit. The local business owners banded together to tackle the problem, not just for their shops but also for local community buildings and fences. The local Pharmacist donated the paint and as a group they quickly identified the graffiti and removed it, and also nominated two external shop walls at the Ettrick Butchery and Filidelfios Cafe to develop as community mural spaces. They spent spare time in community spaces picking up litter and tidying up and soon found they were joined by other community groups pitching in and being out on the street also attracted the attention of the local community.
Since that time the North East Valley has welcomed a local Community Development Project that the business owners have worked in partnership with. They work together to give advice, lend their expertise or provide sponsorship to projects as diverse as community dinners, community gardens, family festivals and local newsletters. The project even helped to link people up to getting their houses insulated. The Community Development Project started with the seed of a local school and community workers trying to understand why so many children were coming to school tired, sick and cold. He involved many others, including support from the Ministry of Social Development and created a project that at its heart has the question "what would improve the life of children and their families in the Valley?" From this, the Project has been working to create a community vision for children and families in the Valley.
Cindy King has has owned and operared Inside Out , a recycled clothing store in the Valley for the past 13 years and has seen her involvement in community projects make a big return on her investment “Its not just about cash sponsorship, the projects I’ve been involved in have really strengthened the community and made it a place people want to live and shop at. Local business now gets great support from the local community as well, they know me and are comfortable coming into the shop and not having to travel into town. I’ve seen big changes in the last five years, people feel safer and more supported even small things like local kids knowing who I am and feeling safe to approach me if they need help. Elderly people don’t feel as isolated and are pitching in as well. We started off making it visually a better place to be, and now we have really made it a better place to live and its starting to attract new businesses”.
Cindy is regularly approached by local and national organisations and charities seeking donations. “Things are tough out there at the moment, I can’t give to everyone. I find instead that I give my time, advice or help out in kind to projects that strengthen the local community and my relationship with the local community. My advice to other small businesses in a village community is to make yourself available to help, get involved and get known”.