Combat loneliness in our community by giving a gift that cultivates belonging.
Last week, nearly 350 neighbors and friends celebrated three years of Treetops Collective’s work of spreading welcome and cultivating belonging in West Michigan at our annual celebration.
Throughout the evening, we heard stories from members of the collective who have found opportunities to invest in deep relationships through their involvement with Treetops. Their stories expressed struggles with loneliness and isolation, but also the profound impact of finding connection and belonging.
These stories are the pulse of our collective. At Treetops, we work to break down barriers and combat isolation. We strive to create a community in which none of our neighbors feel like they have to face their challenges alone.
Member of the collective and donor, Melissa Mashni, understands what’s it’s like to be all alone in a new place that isn’t home and to feel like an outsider. She shares her story of why she’s passionate about the community-building work of Treetops Collective and the importance of community.
"I moved to Grand Rapids 4 years ago, not knowing a single person. I was 2 hours away from my family and friends, single, living alone. I struggled to build community. I didn’t have the same background as most of the people I met. As a brown-skinned, curly-haired Palestinian woman, I stood out. I felt like an outsider. My first few months were difficult. I was–and still get– lonely.
I’m not alone in this. Loneliness is now described as an “epidemic,” and is not at all about being alone, but rather aching for relationships or community that we do not think we have.
As a physician, I’ve learned that loneliness doesn’t just affect our mental state but also our physical health. In fact, research has shown it to be an independent risk factor for all causes of death. This is something I routinely talk to my patients about, because not only will their diabetes and high blood pressure increase their mortality, but so will being chronically lonely with little to no social support.For this reason, building community and having close, deep relationships have always been important to me, and one of the reasons the mission of Treetops Collective resonates with me. People need each other – we simply cannot survive alone – and working to build community is one way we build resilience against loneliness. Loving your neighbor, especially the one that may not look or talk like you, is one of the simplest, most beautiful acts of community and one of the core values I try to live by.
But building community is not easy. It can feel really vulnerable.
Reflecting back on my first year in Grand Rapids, I realize that the people that took a risk and invited me into their lives are the ones that have changed my life for the better. They made this city a home for me. One of those people was my neighbor Meghan, who early on came over and invited me for dinner. We soon became running buddies and I still think back to the Saturday mornings we spent running together as the moments I first started to feel at home in this city.
I once heard someone say, “Where do you belong? Look down between your two feet. That’s where you belong.” I love that imagery of choosing to be exactly where we are, which can feel so counter-cultural in our world right now.
In the same way, when we think about building community, I would ask you this question: Who are your neighbors? Look to your right and left. Those are your neighbors. Now, go love them and invite them over for dinner. It can literally change both of your lives for the better."
At Treetops, we work to build community and resilience against loneliness. We create opportunities for New Americans and long-term Americans to come together and find mutuality in their connections with one another. We help you get to know your neighbors so you can both change each others’ lives for the better.
Specifically, we do this by creating a space where New American women and teen girls can:
- Build relationships with cohort peers and the Treetops Collective team
- Invest in cross-cultural relationships
- Identify personal goals and overcome barriers to achieving those goals
- Move from a place of surviving to a place of thriving
- Cultivate belonging for themselves and those who will come after them
We do this through you.
When you share your time, talent, and resources with Treetops Collective, you break down isolation and cultivate community.
That is why we are kicking off our No Neighbor Alone year-end giving campaign and committing the next 3 months to raising funds for our work of welcoming.
As of Thursday night, Treetops supporters have already given over $40,000 to the No Neighbor Alone campaign, and 9 new monthly donors have joined the Cultivator’s Club, Treetops Collective’s new monthly giving program.
Will you consider increasing the impact of the Annual Celebration by making a one-time gift or setting up a monthly gift today? Monthly giving models the long-term relationships Treetops programs are cultivating throughout the community. We’d love to have you join us.
And again, thank you for being a part of this collective. We cannot do this work without you. We're so excited to watch how our community can be transformed when we all work together to cultivate belonging.