By Susan Hennessy
As community groups diminish due to time constraints and increased work duties, many of us long for a sense of connection. Your local Registered Neighborhood Organization (RNO) may be the conduit for getting into the mix.
An RNO is typically comprised of volunteers with its own bylaws and a focus on being a conduit of communication for a localized community. RNOs are encouraged to interact with city council offices, which in turn often include more than just one RNO.
Easily accessed and always available, your local RNO can be where you go to get answers to both atypical and typical questions. For example, what do we do about trees that are dying in a park near my house, graffiti at the outdoor city basketball courts, or the weird road construction at my corner?
A well-functioning RNO is a great way to become informed and involved in your neighborhood on your terms. As a volunteer, you can apply your unique skill set to the greater whole of the RNO’s goals. It should be fun! It should not be a chore. Perhaps you can assist remotely, creating a newsletter or updating the website; be a link to your local school; or help plan events. The best volunteer can simply say yes to a neighborhood cleanup, flyer distribution or help with a tree planting.
RNOs have members – residents and merchants – who may or may not pay a fee to participate. Highland United Neighbors, Inc. (HUNI) operates with the understanding that everyone in the HUNI “footprint” is a member, and based on the work that we do, that member can choose to support us with a small donation. The overhead for an RNO is minimal, so the majority of the funding goes towards events or efforts that the RNO supports based on the community’s input.
RNOs are not all alike. And they are not government agencies with sway in resolving issues related to governmental departments. RNOs are advisory in nature and are a wonderful landing place for initial conversations about getting issues resolved. Over time, an RNO can gain the respect of city departments and council offices, such that their “advice” is valued and solicited.
For HUNI in the Potter Highlands / LoHi neighborhoods, this has held true with our long-standing Planning and Community Development Committee. This thoughtful group of neighbors brings extensive expertise in architecture, urban planning and real estate as it reviews new development proposals, planning and transportation initiatives brought by the city, residents and developers.
The true essence of why one would participate in their local RNO is how it makes you feel, like a contributing member of this local experience. Through HUNI’s annual Highland HUNIween Parade, Fourth of July Parade, monthly HUNI Hours and our recent 160th Anniversary of Potter Highlands, we saw participants from ages 1 to 91. We are familiar faces, engaged and sharing in this pocket of our larger landscape. It feels like family.
Building through volunteerism requires an organization to recognize that everyone will do what they can based on the time and bandwidth available. RNOs are groups of folks who care and commit to what is needed. There is always too much work to be done. So, when you reach out to your local RNO, sign up for what you can do and deliver on that. Remember, the better you perform, the more work people want to sign you up for! It’s up to you to remind yourself and others that expecting too much is a recipe for burnout. The key to a “humming” RNO is the collective of volunteers and the team they are able to build together.
Susan Hennessy is a NW Denver enthusiast of story journeys through theatre, opera, improv, people, parenting, wifi-ing or just being around at the choice moment, mostly through laughter. She has been involved in HUNI for the past four years.