Neighboring movement makes ‘SoCe’ a smaller world


Four people are making the south central, or “SoCe,” part of Wichita a friendlier place to live.

Two couples, Matt and Catherine Johnson and Adam and Ashley Barlow-Thompson launched the “Neighboring Movement by SoCe” two years ago in their two-square mile section of the city, going from Kellogg, to Washington, to Pawnee to the Arkansas River. The goal? Fostering positive connections among neighbors and building social capital.

“It makes your neighborhood safer, there’s less violence. There’s less isolation…elderly folks can stay in their home longer without having to get outside care when they know someone’s watching out for them. There’s mental health benefits. There’s studies of less incidents of Alzheimers when people are even just slightly connected in their neighborhood,” Catherine Johnson said.

The group runs a blog and provides a neighboring tip each week. It can be something as simple as baking a batch of cookies and taking it to a neighbor’s home.

“Who can say no to cookies?” Johnson laughed.

Johnson explained even the economic benefits of living in a well-connected neighborhood. One of her neighbors was  unemployed for a long time but was so connected within his neighborhood, people hired him out for jobs and he was able to get by until he got a job again.

Another one of her neighbors struggled with addiction and was down on herself. Johnson asked the woman what she was good at, to which the woman revealed she was talented at macrame and floral design. Johnson got a group together the next day for the woman to teach her craft to.

“It was the first time she had ever headed something up, the first time she had ever been the leader and had skills to share,” Johnson said.

They’ve gone door-knocking, asking what neighbors visions are for the area.

Larry Mong answered the door on Friday.

“It’s a cool neighborhood if you know it.  They gotta get that bad taste of south out. Because you know it’s only five blocks from downtown,” Mong said.

Mong is a craftsman, collecting dozens of antique clocks and old electric fans. He plans to put a SoCe sign up in his yard to show his pride for the area.

“People of all ages and abilities are real treasures if you find out what they love to do and what they want to share,” Johnson said.

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