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An easy first step: community newsletters

Are you planning to "build community" next year to help your community face the problems of economic downturn and energy decline? Here's a simple, time-efficient, way to start: take advantage of your existing neighborhood newsletter to promote your ideas. The newsletter published by my neighborhood association is distributed to over 600 households - people who are living near me, people I definitely want to be prepared and "skilled-up" for the future.

Contributing to an existing neighborhood newsletter is fairly simple to do, if you can get permission to write the articles. In my case, I happened to know the person responsible for the newsletter, who was really not interested in the job and had accepted it only under duress. He was happy to let me write the newsletter, and your local newsletter editor might very likely feel the same way. I now have the opportunity to share valuable knowledge and resources four to six times per year with all the people living around me.

Here are some ideas for useful, non-controversial topics:

  • Emergency preparedness,
  • Tornado / ice storm / hurricane safety,
  • Traffic / driving safety reminders,
  • Useful phone numbers,
  • Crime reports and statistics,
  • Saving money through energy conservation,
  • Community spirit / cooperation,
  • Gardening,
  • Free local resources (compost, mulch, trees, etc.)
  • Planting trees,
  • Neighborhood security / patrol,
  • Car-pooling,
  • Upcoming events, block parties, speakers, workshops, etc.
  • Offers for free homeowner assistance from government / non-profit agencies,
  • Supporting local food/economy.

So if you've got something to say, contact whomever is responsible and offer to write a quick few articles for your paper. I try to keep my contributions short, non-partisan, useful, and away from any controversy (peak oil, cough, climate change, cough). Here is a sample of three articles I wrote for our recent newsletter:

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

The economic downturn has affected many of our neighborhood residents, but economics are not the only reason to help a neighbor. Getting to know your neighbors, and helping them when possible, creates a much friendlier and safer neighborhood atmosphere. You will benefit as well!

What are some ways to help our neighbors? Here are a few ideas to start:

- Loan your neighbor a tool (table-saw, tile-cutter, etc.).

- Let them know they can borrow a cup of sugar or some milk rather than running to the store.

- Share extra produce, fruits or herbs from your garden.

- Carpool with them or offer to share rides.

- Are you handy? You could help insulate or weatherize their home to cut down on heating bills and uncomfortable drafts.

- Offer to shovel the snow from a neighbor's walk, or help them plant a garden.

- Keep an eye out for suspicious activity around your block.

Have you been helped by a neighbor? Share your story at X@gmail.com!

Are you prepared for the next ice storm?

The Ice Storm of '07 knocked out power for several days and caused property damage all over the city, and the Christmas Eve Blizzard of '09 snarled traffic for day. Are you ready for the next big one?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has these suggestions to prepare for a storm:

- Winterize your home: Insulate, caulk, and weatherstrip to protect for the cold.

- Winterize your car: Keep your car properly tuned and keep all fluids filled up; consider carrying sand for traction on ice as well as emergency items such as cold weather clothing and some food and water.

- Stock up: Make sure you have at least two weeks of food and water on hand, adequate fuel (i.e. wood or propane) for cooking and heating without power, plenty of warm clothes and blankets, and batteries for lights and radio.

FEMA has these suggestions to weather a winter storm:

- Listen to weather reports about severe storm activity.

- Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow; and be careful when walking on winter ice. Overexertion can lead to heart attacks (a leading cause of winter storm-related deaths), and falling on ice can break bones and cause concussions.

- Use extreme caution and maintain ventilation when using kerosene heaters.

- Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.

Don't be caught unprepared! For more information and tips on emergency preparedness, visit http://www.fema.gov/.

Local Food Year-Round

Summer season for local produce is over - but don't worry, you can still get food fresh from your local growers! There are several options for finding local food in the fall and winter:

1. The OSU-OKC Farmer's Market is open year-round on Saturdays from 10 am to 1 pm at 400 N. Portland Ave.

2. Oklahoma Food Co-op members can order from the Co-op online at oklahomafood.coop every month.

3. The Local Food @ Market C offers a selection of locally raised meat, eggs, freshly picked produce, and baked goods at 401 NW 23rd every Sunday from 11 am to 3 pm.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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