Neighborhood Storytelling Increases Connections

this is a press release we put out recently about our Connections Gatherings…

What do an MMA fight club, evening sewing group, welder, and early dawn rail yard watcher have in common?  Stories like theirs are being shared at Cincinnati’s new Connections Gatherings throughout the city.  An initiative led by the non-profit Starfire, the Connections Gatherings are open to everyone.

“We’re doing some rebuilding of the old sense of what community is. And what being a neighbor is,” said Lynn Volz, a teacher in Finneytown. “I don’t know why we seem to be so busy.  By taking the time to talk to people face to face I think we’ll find we have so many more similarities than differences we perceived.”

Starfire began the Connections gatherings as a way to help lessen the isolation many people feel today.  People like Volz have been collecting stories from their neighbors and sharing them every month to others who live in the city.

“Traditionally, building community has meant seeking out services.  But this is about seeking out people, and building relationships,” said Sarah Buffie, a Starfire community connector from Northside.

“The more conversations, the more people who go out on their porch and get to know each other, it will open more doors for everyone,” said Volz, a College Hill resident.

Starfire has five regions mapped out across Hamilton County.  Each region holds a monthly Connections Gathering.  On the East side of town, Denny Burger is among the storytellers who is invested in sharing the gifts of his neighborhood.

“It can’t be bad to know more people in your community and to know what their interests are, to be able to reach out to them and have them reach out to you,” said Burger, a recent retiree. “It’s great to have community, we all need it.  It’s like oxygen.”

Burger said after he retired he wanted to get involved with a progressive effort, and thought working as a storyteller at Starfire’s Connections Gatherings was a good fit.

“In reality everyone has gifts and everybody brings something that is meaningful and valuable. So to help people explore and find out what those things are is a very joyful undertaking,” said Burger, Kenwood resident.

The Connections Gatherings are a way to hear stories, and learn new things about people who might be longtime neighbors or friends. Chris Smyth, who lives in Price Hill’s Enright EcoVillage, has invested the past four years to volunteering and working with nonprofits.

“I’ve never heard of an organization investing time and money into people like this. This is not the traditional approach. The harder work is in relationships, it’s harder to stop and chat than to just send an email,” Smyth said, who has a background in music ministry. “You have to really set an intention.”

Smyth said he has set his intention on being more visible in his neighborhood by sitting on his front porch and taking longer walks.

“I put myself out there.  If someone happens to be there to meet – great – if not I am still making room for enough time to have a long chat,” said Smyth, age 26.  “People who come to the Connections Gatherings notice a change, realize it’s worthwhile, and continue coming back.”

You can hear Smyth’s stories, among many others, each month at the Connections Gatherings near you.

Upcoming dates:
1/31/13   Oakley Library (4033 Gilmore Ave.) 6-8PM

2/5/13     Cherry Grove UMC (1428 Eight Mile Rd.) 7:00-8:30PM

2/11/13   Higher Ground Coffee House (3721 Harrison Ave.) 6-8PM

2/20/13   North Central Library (11109 Hamilton Ave.) 6:30-8:00PM

2/21/13   Madeira Municipal Building Community Room (7141 Miami Avenue) 6-8PM
2/28/13    Oakley Library (4033 Gilmore Ave.) 6-8PM

Contact info:  for questions or a full calendar of other regions dates, locations, and times, please contact Candice Jones Peelman at 513.281.2100 ext. 124. Or go to our google calendar: 

katie bachmeyer