by Kerstin Auer —

United Way’s ‘Hi Neighbour’ initiative is meant to be a catalyst for community connection, and the program, led locally by Sarah Molnar, has been just that over the past year. The initiative is available in several communities across B.C., with Merritt falling under the classification of “emergent need” due to the recent flood and fires. This means the rules are a bit different from the regular ‘Hi Neighbour’ program, but Molnar has the same grants to give out – up to $1,000 for any kind of community-building activity. 

Any local resident is eligible to apply, in fact, it is one of the requirements of the grant. Events are not meant to be spearheaded by non-profit organizations, but since many Merrittonians are involved in local non-profits there is often a collaboration on events. 

“It’s an individual resident who is applying but they are doing the event in conjunction with an organization,” explains Molnar. “It’s a super low barrier online application; you have to say that you live in the neighbourhood, you have to have a bit of a budget for the event that you’re planning, like $200 for food, $200 for equipment rental, whatever the case may be, and that’s basically it.” 

Other requirements of the grant include that the event has to be free to attend, and that it has to be inclusive of everyone in the community who wishes to attend. 

Since the program launched in Merritt in June of 2022, close to 20 grants have been given out to support community connection. Events like the upcoming Conversation on Wildflowers and Invasive Plants on June 20 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. at the Merritt Library – the Herald reported about this previously – as well as the grand reopening of the Merritt Hospice Society in their new location were supported by the grant. Molnar says the Car Seat Clinic on June 3rd from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Merritt Fire Hall is also sponsored by the initiative. 

“Parents can go and make sure that they are using their safety gear correctly in their cars, because often people aren’t. And she got funding to buy a car seat to do a draw, a giveaway, and there will be food and drink for free.”

An event that stands out for Molnar is Literacy Week earlier this year, where United Way supported the concession with a grant. 

“The [Merritt] Literacy event was really fun, I helped throughout the whole week in January and it culminated in a big party at the Civic Centre. They had this dance party and all these little kids rocking out, it was just a really fun vibe,” she shared.

Molnar encourages all Merritt residents to get in touch with her to chat about their ideas for community events. She will detail the requirements, help guide applicants through the process, and even connect them with others who want to organize an event but are not sure they can do it alone. Anyone interested in hosting a community event can reach her at