May 24, 2019

Why living near parks, libraries, and grocery stores matters

Three stories on creating community, including one highlighting a new study that shows how local amenities help create a sense of place.

A new study shows that residents who live closer to amenities like parks and grocery stores have an increased sense of belonging and connectedness.

Each week, The Renewal Project shares three stories from around the country that highlight how people can create solutions in their communities. This edition shows how communities can promote a sense of belonging and comfort one another. What are the innovative ideas in your hometown? Tell us at

What makes a community: Turns out libraries can help make us less lonely. In a new study from the American Enterprise Institute, researchers found that people who live in communities with easy access to numerous amenities—such as libraries, parks, and grocery stores—are much more likely to develop a sense of trust and social connection than those who live in low-amenity neighborhoods.

These findings are based on a national survey, which also measured how close Americans live to six types of spaces: grocery stores; restaurants, bars, or coffee shops; gyms or fitness centers; movie theaters, bowling alleys, or other entertainment venues; parks or recreation centers; and community centers or libraries.

According to the report, residents in high-amenity communities live on average within walking distance of four of the six types of amenities. Moderate-amenity communities are on average no more than a short car trip. Low-amenity means a 15-to-30-minute drive to all six types of amenities.

In an essay on, the study’s authors Daniel Cox and Ryan Streeter explained how living in neighborhoods with easy access to these types of spaces can help create a better sense of community and belonging. “Many of the things that we lament are missing from our political and social life, such as mutual concern, a sense of belonging, and helpfulness, are found in greater degrees in communities that have a sense of place, or at least enough ingredients to make a well-rounded community,” they wrote.

Read the full report here.

From bottle to bench: A student environmental project in Rocklin, California, is turning into a way to promote kindness. The kids at Twin Oaks Elementary School collected nearly 50,000 bottle caps. Now they’re sending them—250 pounds worth according to one student—to Green Tree Plastics, an Indiana company that will turn them into a “buddy bench.” When it’s complete, the bench will sit in the school’s playground. Students can sit on it when they’re feeling sad or alone and others are encouraged to keep them company.

Helping hands at dinnertime: Restaurants in Monrovia, California, will be better able to serve their bling customers thanks to a local high schooler. Temple City High School senior Mason Fessenden is helping local restaurants create Braille menus for visually impaired guests like himself. What started as a school project has turned into a larger mission with help from a grant. Mason, who has been blind since birth, said that these menus will allow visually impaired customers to feel more independent when ordering their meals rather than having to rely on hearing food options through surrounded voices.

Mason told KABC, “Before the menus, I felt sort of like I wasn’t included. I was excluded from what was on the menu. I heard my parents’ voices.”

Since proposing the idea to a couple of local restaurants, Mason launched Clarity Menus and More. His goal is to get Braille menus at more restaurants.

Danielle Moskowitz

Danielle Moskowitz

Danielle Moskowitz is a contributor to The Renewal Project.
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