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Stronger Together [UPDATED]: A Photo Essay of Communities United

This post is brought to you by GOOD with support from Focus Features' upcoming film Promised Land, in theaters nationwide on January 4, 2013.

Two weeks ago, GOOD and Focus Features shared an inspiring photo essay of communities coming together for change, but we didn’t think it was complete until we asked the GOOD Community to submit their own examples. See the submissions we selected and tell us your favorites. Here’s proof that whether people come together locally or through larger organizations, their strength in numbers can drive a lasting impact.

Impromptu Nashville Marathon Raises $30k in 5 days for Newtown, Connecticut

What started as a simple idea to run 26 miles for the 26 people lost at Sandy Hook Elementary turned into an impromptu fundraiser that brought together 1,000 runners in Nashville. Raising $30,000 for the victims’ families within 5 days, the Nashville running community turned an idea into a movement, and together created the 26.4.26 Foundation.

Photo courtesy of 26.4.26 Foundation.

Tree People Helps Restore Nature to South Los Angeles School Yards

In 2012, environmental nonprofit Tree People worked with parents, teachers and administrators to bring back nature to ten Los Angeles Unified School District campuses. TreePeople trains and supports school and community volunteers to replace asphalt with outdoor garden-classrooms teeming with colorful and fragrant native plants and trees. As healthy places for kids to learn and play, they also enrich the urban environment with a habitat for birds, bugs and butterflies and conservation for stormwater runoff. Last May one of the biggest projects took place at Main Street Elementary School in South L.A. This urban campus has more than 1,100 kindergarten through fifth grade students, nearly 92% of them Hispanic, and is the site of a year-long community collaboration that transformed 4,000 square feet of asphalt courtyard into a thriving, sustainable school forest. The school is now working to transform their surrounding neighborhood.

Photos by David Cassell, including top photo.

The Progressive Leadership Alliance Unites LGBTQ Communities in Nevada

The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, with the invaluable mentorship of the Western States Center, has organized a cohort of LGBTQ Nevadans to develop and support leaders that can strengthen their communities and organizations. The program is called Uniting Communities. The cohort meeting pictured took place in October 2012 in Reno, Nevada.

Photo courtesy of PLAN

Tenants Standing Up for Their Rights in California's Central Valley

A majority of Merced residents are renters, but until now they’ve never had a thriving renters' rights movement. In December 2011 Tenants Together's chapter in Merced passed an unprecedented law to limit evictions of tenants after foreclosure. Last summer Tenants Together canvassed tirelessly to defend the law from a newly-elected anti-tenant city council. While unable to defend the law from repeal, they gathered more signatures for the referendum than votes that elected the Mayor in the last election. On the wave of this support, the group has bounced back and is continuing to organize their community around the right to safe, stable, affordable housing for themselves and their neighbors.

Photo courtesy of Dean Preston, ED of Tenants Together

Ferguson Sunday Parkways Encourages Community Physical Fitness

On Sunday afternoons, residents of Ferguson, Missouri go out to their local streets and parks to run, walk, bike, dance, and play. These Live Well Ferguson events known as Sunday Parkways encourage neighbors to come together by closing off streets and opening them to pedestrian and bike traffic only. Ferguson Sunday Parkways use existing infrastructures to promote physical activity and fitness, build support systems among neighbors who might not otherwise meet, and build a sense of community through shared activities such as dance classes, fitness competitions, lifesized chess games and bicycle-powered smoothie makers.

Photo courtesy of Trailnet

Versa-Style Dance Company Mentors Students in LAUSD Schools

In an effort to steer children and teens in Los Angeles away from gang activity and drugs, Jackie Lopez and Leigh Foaad founded Versa-Style Dance Company in 2003 to provide safe, after-school hip-hop dance classes to the community. Middle and high school students work their way up to becoming professional dance company members and eventually perform for other schools, where they mentor students who were once in their shoes.

Photo courtesy of Calvin Leung, director of Furious Beauty, a documentary that follows Versa-Style Dance Company members as they tell their personal stories through dance

The GEM Project Helps Children Tackle Bullying

Children between the ages of 7 through 11 learned about different negative social behaviors and how to react to them in The GEM Project’s Anti-Bullying Program. They completed informative surveys and developed an anti-bullying comic book. In a group discussion, the youth also completed a diagram to define the types of bullying, as well as causes and solutions. This program was held in Newark, NJ at the Weequahic Branch Library through The GEM Project Interactive Literacy program, which hosts programs weekly at different sites throughout Newark, NJ.

Photo courtesy of The GEM Project

The Noun Project Improves Civic Design in San Francisco

In partnership with Code for America and the City of San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation, Iconothon’s The Noun Project hosted a Neighborhood Revitalization. The aim of the event was to provide the public domain with a set of more universally understandable graphic symbols frequently needed in civic design. Edward Boatman, co-founder and Creative Director of The Noun Project, stressed to participating designers to create ideas for symbols not only currently seen in the world, but also that need to be seen more of in the world.

Photo courtesy of The Noun Project

Thanks everyone for submitting your photos! Below is our original photo essay.

Occupy Sandy Brings Relief to Hurricane Victims

After Hurricane Sandy hit, the InterOccupy movement, a community of activists focused on efforts to expose the financial crimes of Wall Street, surpassed the Red Cross' relief efforts by creating an Amazon wedding registry asking people to donate clothes, cleaning supplies, and food to communities in need. Now, Occupy Sandy is one of the most effective disaster relief efforts in New York and New Jersey that’s not only cleaning up places hardest hit by the hurricane, but also offering vital and helpful resources to those seeking aid. Above see activist and volunteer Alexis Goldstein dispatching drivers to homes in need of supplies at The Church of St. Luke & St. Matthew. Below volunteers train at the church. Join the Occupy Sandy movement's donation efforts here.

Photos courtesy of Occupy Sandy

350 Raises Awareness About the Keystone XL Pipeline

Within 10 days of sending an email out to members, thousands marched in Washington D.C., united in their concerns about the environment. Hoping to raise awareness about America's energy and environmental issues, they called on President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline. Rachel Maddow, Reuters, The Guardian, CTV, Politico and others covered their efforts, so there’s no doubt the administration got the message. You too can join's efforts by signing their pledge against KXL here.

Photo Credit: Mark Perkins.

Wikimapa Gets Low-Income Communities On The Global Map

Global Giving is an online fundraising platform that connects interested donors directly to global grassroots projects. One of their projects, Wikimapa, has empowered teens in Brazil to use a Wikimap app and mobile phone GPS systems to map out the local businesses, hospitals, schools, and cultural activity spots in their low-income—and often ignored—neighborhoods. Wikireporters, as the teens call themselves, include information about offered services, historic data, and audiovisual representation of each place mapped. So far, 85 streets and 1285 points of interest are on Wikimapa, benefitting 150,000 residents in 5 slums of Rio.

Copywright GlobalGiving and Solidaritas

The Pablove Foundation Bike Rides for Childhood Cancer

Pablo Thrailkill Castelaz was only six years old when he lost his battle to Wilms Tumor, a rare form of childhood cancer. Now, The Pablove Foundation, named after Pablo, seeks to fund cancer research and advances in treatment, educate and empower cancer families, and provide hospital play, music, and arts programs to children living with cancer. Every year, members come together to raise funds for research by organizing a bike ride across America. On October 12, 2012, bike enthusiasts rode across 10 states from Boston, Massachusetts to Durham, North Carolina and raised $300,000 for their cause. On October 6, 2013, you can join their bike ride from the Bay Area to Los Angeles by registering here.

Photo courtesy of The Pablove Foundation

The Trevor Project Raises Awareness About Crisis Intervention for LGBT Youth

James Lecesne, Peggy Rajski, and Randy Stone were struggling to find an appropriate lifeline for LGBT youth when their Academy Award-winning short fiction film about gay 13-year-old "Trevor" was set to air on HBO. So, they founded The Trevor Project, which is now the leading national crisis lifeline for LGBT youth and young adults. On September 3, 2011, supporters of The Trevor Project and the LGBT community did a flash mob dance to the iconic tune of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," raising national awareness about "Talk to Me", their Campaign for Conversation about National Suicide Prevention Week. You can take the "Talk to Me" pledge here.

Photo Credit: Kat Tuohy Photography

Save The Waves Removes 9,000 Pounds of Trash from Chilean Beaches

As part of Save the Waves' Fuerza Chile! United for Clean Water Campaign, more than 600 volunteers gathered at 16 sites in 9 regions on March 24, 2012 to clean up and restore beaches and coastal areas throughout Chile. In only one day of cleanups, volunteers removed nearly 9,000 pounds of trash and debris (more than 500 bags), cleaning and restoring beaches, river mouths, and estuaries along more than 15 miles of Chilean coastline. You can become a part of events like these through

Cleanup at Punta Lobos, Photo Credit: Philip Muller

Green-Light NOLA Installs Free Energy-Efficient Lightbulbs In New Orleans Homes

Green-Light New Orleans assists residents in installing energy-efficient lightbulbs to demonstrate how individual actions create significant impacts on the environment and community. During an AARP conference in September 2012, several hundred volunteers got together to install lightbulbs by going from home to home across New Orleans. So far, with 7,507 volunteers, they've installed 343,829 CFLs in 14,867 homes, saving 135.5 million kwh and $15.8 million reducing 145.7 million pounds of carbon dioxide omissions.

Photo courtesy of Jennifer Rousseve

Points of Light Helps HandsOn Biloxi Rebuild a Playground in Mississippi

Points of Light, a nonprofit dedicated to matching volunteers with projects they're impassioned about, helped organize and equip teams of volunteers to clean up after the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina. In Biloxi, Mississipi, community members gathered for HandsOn Biloxi, rebuilding a neighborhood beachside playground hit hard after Hurricane Katrina. Points of Light is dedicated to providing opportunities for civic engagement, and in 2011, they had 4.3 million volunteer communities working together in 20 countries around the globe.

Photo Credit: David Kennerly

Cool Girls, Inc. Mentors Over 450 Girls in Low-Income Neighborhoods

In 1989, Dawn Smith founded Cool Girls, Inc. to address the plight of young girls in Atlanta's East Lake Meadows public housing community. With Epiphany Episcopal Church and the Urban Training Organization, Smith gathered with a handful of dedicated neighborhood volunteers and built a secure, supportive environment for the girls of the East Lake housing community, providing academic support through tutoring, and broadening the girls' world-view through field trips. Now, over 450 girls in low-income communities are instilled with a sense of confidence, self-respect, and leadership through Cool Girls, Inc. They learn that they can pursue what they want to achieve by setting goals, working diligently, and making good choices.

Photo Credit: Ana Laura Araya

Grant County Addresses Its Food Desert Problem By Building a Community Garden

Grant County, New Mexico is not only an arid desert with sporadic rain, but also a food desert where copper mining and ranching defines the lives of the residents in the community. In an effort to address the lack of fresh produce and healthy food in the area, Alicia Edwards, director of The Volunteer Center of Grant County, held town hall meetings in 2008 to combat the issue. By 2011, community members grew eight gardens, each serving their own purposes. A children's garden sells its produce at the local farmer's market, and another garden shares its produce with a local food pantry. With strategic watering and dedicated community members to maintain the gardens, Grant County has successfully created a sustainable food production source that also educates its community members about farming in their own homes. Through the soil, the community members connect and feed one another.

Photo courtesy of The Volunteer Center of Grant County

Do you have any more inspiring examples of communities making a positive change together? Tell us in the comments below.

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