Over the past twelve months, Takoma Foundation grantee Conexo has been making a positive impact in a host of ways in the Long Branch neighborhood.
Conexo is a small informal group whose members assist with CHEER’s weekly food distributions, bagging food and setting up at these events. They sign people up for the distributions and send reminders. When someone is sick or pregnant a Conexo member might deliver food to that individual’s house.
Conexo members also grow food in community gardens, meeting twice a week to work on three plots in Takoma Park near New Hampshire Estates. This gives them access to fresh fruits and vegetables that they would ordinarily have a hard time affording.
CHEER, a previous Takoma Foundation grantee, acts as Conexo’s fiscal agent. In fact, CHEER’s organizing work inspired the creation of Conexo; giving people the ability and support to create their own organizations and groups is an essential element of CHEER’s mission.
Additionally, Conexo members engage in civic affairs. CHEER’s Empowerment and Leadership Coordinator Vanesa Pinto points out that “Conexo is the first community leaders’ group” in Long Branch and that members are actively building a sense of community and collaboration. “This is even more important when someone loses a loved one due to COVID-19 or related complications,” Pinto says.
There’s an environmental angle too. Conexo has been involved in Audubon Naturalist Society events. They’ve helped organize neighborhood cleanups and have worked to protect the Long Branch watershed.
The group has been involved with Long Branch Collective Action for Youth (LCBAY). LCBAY is an effort “operating within the Long Branch neighborhood working to add value to youth-serving organizations. The initiative facilitates an increase [in] organization-to-organization coordination, encourages efficiency of social service delivery, and addresses the needs of school-age youth (grades 1–12) with focus on those who are at-risk to underachieve academically and professionally.”
In August, the group volunteered during Takoma Park’s National Night Out. In addition to having a table at the event, members distributed fliers and promoted it beforehand.
More recently, there’s been talk about starting a women’s support group to provide emotional and social assistance to those who need it.
“Long Branch in general and the New Hampshire Estates neighborhood in particular has been historically underrepresented and underserved. Conexo is important because they show that people in a mostly forgotten community can organize themselves to serve each other, build community, and bring a representative voice to decision-making for their community,” says CHEER’s Executive Director Bruce Baker.
“Conexo provides the leadership that is needed to improve the neighborhood. And in a society filled with historic inequities around race, ethnicity and immigration status, they provide inspiration, guidance, and a structure for correcting social inequities,” notes Baker.
Conexo is a holistic group that’s changing with the times and responding to community needs. We look forward to seeing how they continue to grow and evolve.