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Building blocks of community

Dunham Street residents in Eastown come together to create safer, more enjoyable neighborhood.

/Eric Tank

Underwriting support from:


People interested in volunteering can contact the ECA here.

Established committees include:

ECA Green Space Committee

ECA Development Committee

ECA Neighborhood Events Committee

ECA Block Captains and Public Safety Committee

ECA Access Committee

Special Events Committee

For more information click here.



Intersection of Fuller and Dunham streets

Intersection of Fuller and Dunham streets /Lee Hardy

Thomas street block party

Thomas street block party /Tony Martin

Written by Lindsey Ruffin

All of the blocks within Eastown function in a unique way depending on the people on the block, their involvement level, and the wants and needs of the residents. Residents on some blocks have monthly celebrations, some throw a yearly block sale, and others get together when an issue or conflict arises. In each situation, neighbors who share a block work together to create their own smaller community within Eastown. Each block in Eastown is diverse and has its own set of personalities, celebrations and challenges.

Earlier this year the Eastown Community Association (ECA)’s staff and board of directors worked with one block of Dunham to open the lines of communication and help unite the block one resident at a time. The residents on this block faced challenges that all blocks within Eastown have faced at one time: crime, disconnect and a group of residents unsure of how to overcome the challenges.

After a rash of crimes on the block, residents decided enough was enough and worked together to build the kind of community they want to live in. A few residents contacted the ECA via email and by stopping in. It was clear that there were several residents on the block who wanted things to change. At the time, many residents were in the habit of keeping to themselves and had not met very many others on the block. Although crime had increased on the block, residents were not talking to each other about it. Many of them had been victims of burglaries and were looking to improve their block and create a safe and welcoming community.

Over the next few months, the ECA hosted meetings with residents on Dunham and nearby blocks of Benjamin and sat down to discuss some of the issues and complaints, and most importantly connect residents and introduce them to each other. The first meeting had over 40 residents in attendance and had the support of the Grand Rapids Police Department and other ECA block captains, who told their own stories about how their blocks have changed and ways they have helped make that change happen.

Following the initial meeting, the ECA provided neighborhood watch training sessions to go over the simple steps all residents can take to report crime and to keep each other safe. This block was not inherently unsafe; it just needed neighbors willing to look out for each other.

This block of Dunham has come a long way in just a short period of time, but like most of our blocks, it is still a work in progress. They now have a block captain, are a very active block club, organize monthly gatherings, have the support of each other and have formed friendships. As with any group working for change and building community, togetherness is hard work, but these residents are committed to making their block safe.

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