Friday night, across Santa Rosa, about 100 strangers broke bread with one another in a city-sponsored experiment in community building. In the first of what the city hopes will be many such events, 10 groups of about 10 people each shared a potluck meal in an effort to get to know their neighbors, discuss what makes communities special, and brainstorm ideas for how to build stronger ones.
Santa Rosa is trying to improve the way it supports community groups with a newly filled job in the city manager’s office. Georgia Pedgrift, formerly coordinator of the police department’s graffiti abatement, now is the city’s community engagement coordinator. “The new program we are launching is aimed at helping residents organize, supporting neighborhood projects, encouraging volunteerism and providing a conduit for civic participation,” Pedgrift says.