Recently, The Hopeful Neighborhood Project partnered with the Chestnut Avenue Resource Center, a KC-based nonprofit that connects people to area resources. Held in the neighborhood of Oak Park, 19 people attended the interactive “lab.” It was facilitated by Sara Johnson, neighborhood project coach, and Jennifer Prophete, director for Community Programming. Together they worked with the Center’s Program Director, Joan McDowd, and Resource Connector, Janay Reliford-Davis.

Workshop applications are open to neighborhood groups in the United States and Canada. For a limited time, $500 Neighborhood Project Grants, provided by Lutheran Church Extension Fund (LCEF), are available to groups completing the six-hour lab. Workshop philosophy is based on an asset-based community development approach that looks at what’s “strong not wrong” in a neighborhood. In other words, by using the three steps of the HNP process (Discover, Imagine, Pursue), attendees can identify gifts and use them in meaningful ways.

Before the workshop, attendees will take the EveryGiftTM Inventory at This assessment gives facilitators a sense of strengths and skill sets present in the group. During the workshop, participants work together to plot neighborhood assets on a Neighborhood Gift Map, using recall, reconnaissance, and research. Possibility statements help attendees brainstorm how these gifts can be used to enhance neighborhood wellbeing. Following this exercise, the folks in Oak Park created a plan to provide Mental Health First Aid training for their neighbors in order to increase the emotional health of their neighborhood.

As in so many communities, needs are great, yet opportunities abound. Oak Park is no exception, but bringing people together is a challenge, even when neighbors know their neighborhood needs work. This is where the $500 grant comes in handy. “The stipend provided to neighbors was essential to get them to the table,” said Reliford-Davis. “And the Neighborhood Action Plan was a great exercise to get us to a common issue to tackle. Since the group decided as a whole to take on the issue of mental health, they are all passionate about the work and want to be engaged,” she added.

Exploring untapped neighborhood potential is a primary focus behind these in-person workshops. “Attendees realized that they are surrounded by individual and neighborhood gifts and felt empowered to use them in creative ways. There was also an element of ‘we’re in this together’ for the sake of our neighborhood,” Johnson said. HNP workshops can be split into two gatherings. A facilitator and all materials are provided. To submit an application for your neighborhood, go to