By Pat KRAMER
In the year and a half John and Natasha Candler have served as co-pastors of Sunland Foursquare Church things have been improving in their neighborhood by Sunland Park. After being hired to head the ministry of the church and its Tiny Tigers pre-school, the Candlers have been holding monthly Love the Neighborhood Initiatives to clean up the streets and make the community more livable.
“I love this neighborhood and I love being able to unite and connect neighbors to do something significant that we can’t do alone,” said John. “My life and ministry philosophy is that you can do things to people and for people but when you do things with people it changes the game.”
Starting in June 2015, the Candlers began organizing monthly work parties the first Saturday of every month to clean up Foothill Boulevard, Sunland Park and the Big Tujunga Wash. The church provides all of the supplies such as brooms, trash bags, gloves, a truck and an industrial dumpster. Work parties average 20 to 30 people including parents and children from their preschool, church members and neighbors.
John, who was elected to the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council in
March as the faith-based representative, uses Instagram and Facebook to reach the many social media-savvy community members to share community news. In doing so, he has been able to promote and grow the Initiative to where neighbors, who were previously strangers, are now friends and are taking ownership of their community.
As more people have joined the effort, it has started to organically shift to include ways to help the elderly and housebound or disabled community members.
“Starting in September, we will begin tackling special needs projects in the neighborhood that require more skilled workers and expertise,” said John, “such as fixing a door for an elderly couple, a leaky faucet for a single mom or cutting the lawn for a disabled person who can’t get out.”
In doing so, he’s hoping to recruit more community members who have the skills and desires to help out a neighbor. He’s also looking for tips on how to reach those who could use a helping hand with simple projects.
“I’ve always wanted the Love the Neighborhood Initiative to be something that not only involves our church but also acts as a catalyst for other organizations or businesses to host events like these,” said John. “People in our neighborhood are taking ownership right now and that’s really neat to see.”
The next Love the Neighborhood Initiative takes place on Saturday, Sept. 3 from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Sunland Foursquare Church, 10602 Sherman Grove Ave., Sunland. Coffee and donuts are provided for volunteers on the lower level of the church before the event. Kids, teens, parents and adults are all are welcome. For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.