Encouraging Community Through an HNP Project Lab

Encouraging Community Through an HNP Project Lab

Recently, we sat down with staff at The Restoration House to capture their experience after completing a Neighborhood Project Lab with The Hopeful Neighborhood Project (HNP). The Restoration House is a community program for single moms and their kids that has been serving the Knoxville, Tennessee, area for 16 years. “Our goal is to help restore single mothers and their children back to God’s good intent for their lives,” says Pickell. “At its core, The Restoration House believes that God intended for us to live in community.”

The Restoration House walks alongside single mothers and their children as they seek to accomplish the goals they have set for themselves and their children. Families move into the Village, a 24-unit apartment community, where they live for two to three years. In addition to supporting women, The Restoration House has an after-school program for elementary- to high school-aged kids, and they recently started an early childhood program for children up to five years old.

At The Restoration House, women receive support in reaching their goals, connections to resources, and assistance overcoming barriers. The staff are there to wholistically walk with the families as they pursue the unique plans they have for their families. The ladies get places on their own. “The individuals are our end product,” says Pickell.

Part of the program at The Restoration House includes a women’s leadership team called the Village Lead Team. The women on this team are elected by their peers to promote a healthy community and relationships through facilitating activities such as events and monthly community meetings.

When a staff member of The Restoration House found out about The Hopeful Neighborhood Project, she knew it would be beneficial for their community.

They started with a two-hour interactive lab where they went over their gift assessments. The women looked at their community to see what they already had and how they could better use their collective gifts before breaking out into groups and creating possibility statements. “The workshop and lab were helpful in calling out people’s unique gifts and strengths,” says Pickell. “Our perspective shifted. We realized that we have a lot more to offer to our community than we realized.”

HNP has a three-step process to increase neighborhood well-being: discover the gifts, imagine the possibilities, and pursue the common good. This three-step process was created so anyone can walk through the steps with their neighbors and bring a plan to life that will increase your neighborhood’s well-being. In addition to providing this process for free online, neighborhoods or organizations can apply to have a staff member lead them through the process in person in a Neighborhood Project Lab.

The Restoration House went through the facilitated lab. Using the three-step process, they came up with the idea to throw a ‘Unity in the Community’ event. They thought it would be a fun way to bring people together and promote a sense of community among the women and children in the community.

Most of the families living in the community showed up to the event over the summer. They had activities for the children and adults that focused on teamwork. They all came up with a physical representation of what they wanted their community to be, which represented words like intertwined, togetherness, and safety.

After the success of the Unity in the Community event, the Village Lead Team decided they wanted to bring some of the lessons they learned from HNP to their annual fall festival. They were more intentional about the layout and wanted to make it more engaging. The women went away from these events feeling empowered and energized. “Being able to see the women on the Lead Team growing and understanding their skills was a very real benefit,” says Pickell.

“The HNP staff members were helpful and professional,” says Pickell. “They helped us make a flyer for our community event and assisted with extra training. Having an outside perspective really helped us see how we can strengthen our community.”