Welcoming Week—an annual celebration in communities across the nation that brings neighbors together to build connections across lines of difference—begins Saturday, September 12.

Despite the challenges of coming together during a pandemic, a string of events will take place in virtual spaces. Events include dance parties, watch parties, and even civic dinners via Zoom. There will also be distanced, in-person community beautification projects and citizenship drives in honor of Citizenship Day on September 17.

This year’s theme “Creating Home Together” reminds us that home is not just a house. It’s any place where you feel a sense of safety, acceptance, and belonging.

The events build stronger communities by bringing together new and long-time residents. They also encourage connections between people who are seemingly different. Anyone can host an event and bring together community members in a spirit of unity and celebration.

But welcoming efforts are not just feel-good projects designed to build enduring personal connections and a sense of belonging.

They also work toward structural change. These efforts “[put] in place inclusive policies and equitable decision-making so that language, status, race or creed aren’t barriers to health or survival” writes Rachel Peric, executive director of Welcoming America.

She continues “conversations about belonging remind us that the immigration debate, the pursuit of racial equality and the work of democracy can begin in communities, and speak not only to policies, but to our shared humanity. The good news is that anyone can be part of creating more welcoming communities, and a conversation on belonging is a place where we can begin.”

Now more than ever we need to work together each day to support all of our neighbors. Participating in Welcoming Week is a great way to get started.