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Ghost of Midnight

… about neighbors, community and Front Porch Forum

Wood for Good

Front Porch Forum gives members across Vermont and parts of upstate New York and Massachusetts, a space to connect with their neighbors and communities. We see all kinds of postings, but some of our favorites are postings were people come together to help meet a need in the community.

Eric Axlerod, and FPF member from Jericho, uses his neighborhood forum to help provide firewood to neighbors in need. It started with a simple surplus of wood and has evolved into an effort to source, cut, stack, and donate cords of firewood.

Check out this excerpt from Seven Days:

“Thus far, they’ve given away 12 cords of wood. The crew is hoping to collect 20 cords to have on hand ahead of this fall. While they started collecting at their own house, they’ve also cut wood on neighbors’ properties.

The trio has dubbed the undertaking “Wood for Good,” and its mission is similar to that of organizations such as the Monkton Wood Bank in Addison County. Axelrod said he eventually wants to form a nonprofit and hopes to sign up more volunteers to help the cause. He’d consider expanding beyond Chittenden County if it takes off.”

Burlington Free Press also covered the story, sharing that many community business have pitched in to provide trees, wood-splitting and stacking equipment, and volunteers to help get firewood ready for this winter:

“Last month North Star Leasing Company in Burlington announced it was donating a portable wood conveyor to Wood for Good…

…Employees of North Star Leasing are arriving earlier to help split wood. People from the Rotary Club of Burlington and Axelrod’s men’s group have also come to help. Barrett’s Tree Services in South Burlington dropped off seven loads of trees that gave Axelrod a huge boost for 2021. Teachers Tree Service in Shelburne also donated trees.”

When people come together and give back to their community, amazing things can happen. This is a wonderful testament to how challenging times have inspired many amazing neighbors and small businesses to help support those in need of food, warmth, and support.

Read and post on FPF to brainstorm ideas for community outreach, connect with resources that may help you and your family, or organize an effort in your town!


Looking Back to 14 Years Ago

The staff at FPF was touched to rediscover this 2006 Seven Days article titled “Front Porch Forum Encourages Neighborliness — Online and Off.” It’s heartening to see how far Front Porch Forum has come over 14 years.

The article explains how FPF got started. At the time it was written, co-founder Michael Wood-Lewis compiled e-newsletters alone.

“Though Wood-Lewis is currently working on FPF as a volunteer, he sees his time as an investment. He’s hoping that as the service expands, he’ll be able to find local businesses to sponsor it.”

Now the organization has a growing staff of 22. It’s been put to use in communities all over the state, and now serves parts of New York and Williamstown, Massachusetts. The look and feel of the Email Forum has been redesigned and members can now also read their Forum via mobile app and the website.

Check out the full piece for an awesome throwback (complete with a MySpace reference!)


“Local Logic: It’s Not Always a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood”

Technology and the way people use it has the power to unite people or pull them apart. Ethan Zuckerman and Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci of Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University took a closer look at platforms that bring communities together on a local level, only to find that some designs work better than others.

Platforms that operate more like social media, where individuals can post whatever they want instantaneously, can lead to heated, attacking commentary, false accusations, or misinformation. This kind of content may cause civil discourse to devolve and it may disrupt the establishment of ties within a community.

On the other hand, Front Porch Forum is an example of a local platform that has systems in place to help keep conversations civil and community-minded, fulfilling its mission of helping neighbors build community. From Rajendra-Nicolucci and Zuckerman’s piece:

“That organic growth was key to maintaining one of the key differences between FPF and Nextdoor: proactive moderation. FPF uses a team of moderators that review each post to make sure it adheres to the site’s code of conduct (which bars personal attacks and behavior “counter to its community-building mission”) before it’s posted. That helps to keep the discussion friendly and constructive… We believe a platform that takes governance seriously, is designed for a specific purpose, and has ties to the communities it serves can be successful anywhere.”

The authors also share the criteria by which they evaluate various platforms. These platforms operate on a local level broken into neighborhoods, towns, or city blocks.

“Getting local social media right is important. Local platforms present an opportunity to strengthen social capital and civic life. At their best, they can keep residents informed about local issues, encourage civic organizing and action, and facilitate new connections and greater understanding.”

Read the full article on Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University’s blog here.


Giving Thanks This Year

Even though this year has been full of challenges the likes of which we’ve never seen before, many folks on Front Porch Forum are finding a plethora of things to be grateful for. Indeed, an attitude of gratitude can make the darker times seem much brighter. Check out what some of our neighbors have had to say during this time of thanks:

“Hey you. Yeah YOU!!! 2020 gave you every reason to not be thankful. It threw everything at you yet here you are reading this. Thank you to all the essential workers from doctors and nurses, to farmers, to the kid bagging your groceries, you putting yourself at risk so we can have some semblance of normalcy is greatly appreciated and does not go unnoticed. Thank you to this community who stick together and help each other despite adversity. All storms end eventually and we will come out of all this stronger. Happy Thanksgiving” – R. in Stowe

FPF has been a faithful and trusted organization for us all and especially important during this challenging time.”  – L. in So. Burlington

“I am beyond grateful for this beautiful Valley in which I can enjoy the clean air outdoors, walk on hillsides that take my breath away with my dog and husband and enjoy delicious, local foods.” -L. in Mad River Valley

“It would be an even more disconnected world than it already is without FPF to tie our neighborhoods together.”  – J. in Charlotte

“Been living in this home since 1960. Have enjoyed the neighborhood, but recently have come to appreciate the neighbors as never before. With the Pandemic, neighbors have offered, and delivered food and help. One neighbor has taken over my hobby of picking up the trash along the roadside, beer cans, etc., that I decided not to do anymore. I think I saw her/him on the road Sat. afternoon, and checked it out Sunday, trash is gone! Yes, We like it here. Happy Thanksgiving everyone.” – A. in East Hardwick

Share what you are grateful for this year with your neighbors on FPF.


We all have a part in local businesses success

Neighbors show their support of Vermont small businesses on FPF.

“I was on a call this week in which the somber fact of our local businesses on the brink of failure was very apparent. Many of our local sandwich shops, bars and restaurants are in dire need of support and are looking at the possibility of having to close down for good bc of the financial situation they are in. I was going to suggest we all try and support a “Take out Tuesday” (because A. Takeout sounded best with Tuesday and B. this would include all our eateries whether they were serving in their location or just doing take out), but realize many of our local spots aren’t open on Tuesdays. Therefore, I suggest we all try and go out to eat or get food to go from our local eateries that aren’t serving in house at least once a weekday when they need our support the most. Without our help, many of the local establishments that you love are not going to make it through this winter. Help out your neighbor, friend, or local business owner now, so that we may have the chance to enjoy them after this mess is over with. We all have a part in our local businesses success.

This also applies to our local independent shops as well. Please think of them with the upcoming holiday season and shop local this year!”  • Bob in Stowe

Share local dining/take-out options and gift ideas on Front Porch Forum.


Sharing Hope and Gratitude

It’s easier to remember we’re all in this together when we experience acts of kindness that inspire hope. Check out these Front Porch Forum postings for a reminder that we have some pretty great neighbors out there! We’re all in this together.

“Thank you to the kind stranger who returned my wallet to my home address today, everything fully intact. I lost it during a particularly discouraging week, and it was incredibly uplifting to find it in my mailbox today. Beyond the relief of not having to replace all of my IDs and cards, it is wonderful to be reminded that there are good people in this community doing the right thing. There wasn’t a note, so if you who returned it happens upon this post, please reach out and let me know– I would love the opportunity to thank you directly and return your kindness.” • Olivia in Burlington

“We are now 8 months into this pandemic, and it has been a very strange and stressful time. Are you OK? Are your neighbors OK? Many folks are struggling with things like loneliness and depression. Many have disabilities making routine tasks difficult. Some of us are facing food insecurity or struggling with addiction. Please remember to check in with your neighbors who may need help, and if you need help yourself, please reach out and feel the love this community has for you. Let me know if I can help or put you in touch with someone who can.” • Mark in Castleton

“About 2 weeks ago there was a posting for a man’s wedding ring that was found at Waterbury Reservoir. I’m happy to report that ring is now back on my nephew’s finger. To truly appreciate this story I have to share that the ring was lost at Waterbury Reservoir 2 YEARS AGO! We will never know what adventures that ring went on swimming around in that huge body of water. Thank you to the people who found it and posted it. Thank you to FPF for providing the most amazing service to our community. Never give up hope.” • Lorraine in Cambridge

“Thank you to everyone who emailed me in support of my post about the signs the other day. You are all so kind to take the time to extend your warm words.

It got me thinking though about how 2020 has been a dumpster fire of epic proportions A year that has left us with so many emotional jagged edges it’s no wonder we react without thinking, tear into friends and strangers and generally not being our best selves. We all know we can do better, we just seem to not have much bandwidth left for that.

So I would like to propose a community FPF challenge. It’s an easy one too. I would like everyone who reads this post to reply with a story of something great that happened to them today or this week. It doesn’t have to be big, or life changing or deep, in fact something simple and sweet is best. The idea is to fill up our hearts with all the ways we are a fantastic community, surrounded with great neighbors and friends and that we are truly lucky even when we forget that. Our “wealth” is all around us, we just need to remember that more often than not.

I hope you will take 60 seconds to join me and hit reply all with your own story of gratitude. Thanks, Beth

I will start.

I want to acknowledge and thank the man who I see walking around town with his garbage grabbing stick and orange bag picking up other people’s trash nearly everyday. You sir are AWESOME. Thank you so much for making our roads cleaner and more beautiful for everyone to enjoy. Hometown Hero in my book. Thank you so much.” • Elizabeth in Stowe

Spread your message or story of hope to your neighbors on FPF.


Honoring those who have passed in a special way

We couldn’t resist sharing this story shared on Front Porch Forum. A unique way to “pay it forward.”

“Something amazing happened to us tonight. We went out to dinner to celebrate our 51st wedding anniversary. We had a very nice meal which we very much enjoyed. When we asked for the check the waitress said that she had heard us say that it was our 51st anniversary. A frequent customer of their’s had called in and asked that, in memory of his son who would have been 24 today, the restaurant choose a customer celebrating something of consequence, and he would pick up the bill! So we had a very nice dinner capped off by this man’s thoughtfulness! We, of course, paid the waitress a tip for 20% of what the bill would have been and asked the hostess if she could give us our benefactors name and telephone. She did so and we called him as soon as we got home and thanked him. We also decided that this was such a nice thing to do that we will “pay it forward” and do the same thing in future every year on our anniversary to honor our long deceased parents and their anniversaries.”  • John in East Hardwick

Have your own examples of “Paying it Forward?”  Post them on FPF!


Our Leaf Bag is Full!

With help from thousands of Front Porch Forum members… we made it!  Thanks to everyone who chipped in to reach FPF’s October Supporting Member Campaign goal.  These dollars will fund FPF operations in the months ahead.

Also, following through on our promise, FPF will donate $10,000 to the Vermont Covid-19 Response Fund (of the Vermont Community Foundation), which will benefit many nonprofits that provide services to Vermonters in need.

If you meant to donate to FPF and haven’t yet had a chance, there’s still time. Please give today!

FPF is a Public Benefit Corporation and not a charity. Contributions are not tax deductible.


Happily home thanks to FPF!

Beloved pets find their way home on FPF!

Lost dog Maisy has come home! Thanks to everyone who reported sightings and inquired about her. I sure do appreciate our community and Front Porch Forum!” • Cindy in Barre

I am absolutely amazed by the kindness and compassion of our neighborhoods. Twice now FPF has gotten the word out and you all took the time to post sightings, take care of and help our cat Honi get back home.” • Kim in Colchester

“Thank you to all who played a part in getting Teeko home safe and sound, but especially to Front Porch Forum for providing this format. I am forever grateful.” • Winnie in Middletown Springs

“7 year old and her beloved kitty have been reunited! Always amazing resource FPF!! It takes a village, so proud and appreciative of ours.” • Nancy in Shelburne

“Because two residents cared enough about a stray cat and posted their sightings on FPF, we have our beloved cat, Star, back home following a three week adventure.” • Eric in Morristown

“Many thanks to all the folks who helped amazingly resilient Naddy the Doberman to get home. What a helpful resource FPF is and how great it is to have such responsive and caring neighbors!” • Lee in Underhill

“Thank you so much to the fine people whom sighted, reported on, and protected my very lost, cold, and scared dog last night. I am so grateful to Front Porch Forum and to dog lovers everywhere who look out for our beloved pets and help get them home.”  • Susan in Charlotte


FPF Must Raise $100,000 by Thursday

Vermonters have put Front Porch Forum to work during the pandemic like we’ve never seen before.  New member growth is through the roof.  Posting quantity is way up.  Public officials and nonprofit leaders are sharing critical information.  Local businesses are finding new customers.  And neighbor-helping-neighbor stories are piling up faster than ever.

To continue working on our community-building mission and providing our essential civic service to every town we serve, we need to raise $100,000 statewide from our members by this Thursday, October 29.  Please donate today.

In this same spirit of coming together during crisis, FPF pledges — if we reach our goal — to contribute $10,000 to the Vermont Covid-19 Response Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation.  This fund is designed to support nonprofits that are particularly equipped to address community impacts of the spread of Covid-19.

If you are in the position to donate to FPF now, please do.  We’re eager to keep FPF going strong and to support other critical pandemic-response work.  We need your help to get there.

Please give today:  https://frontporchforum.com/supporting-members

Thank you,

Front Porch Forum’s growing staff
Aaron, Emily, Emily, Gisele, Hilary, Jason, Jodi, Jonna, Linda, Lynn, Maddy, Matt, Michael, Natanya, Nina, Noah, Renee, Sarah, Suzie, Valerie, Wendy, Zach

FPF is a Public Benefit Corporation and not a charity. Contributions are not tax deductible. Ad sales to local businesses cover most of our expenses, and your Supporting Member contribution helps close the gap.

While we prefer online donations by credit card or PayPal, we also accept payment by check, with gratitude, at:

Front Porch Forum
PO Box 73
Westford, VT 05494-0073