Monthly Archives: May 2008

Strangers Loaning Money to College Students?

After witnessing boatloads of goodwill among neighbors through Front Porch Forum, I thought I had seen it all.  Well… can you guess the response to this posting?

 Hello – I am a UVM student about to spend my first summer in Burlington. All year long I’ve been dreaming of joining a CSA for the first time. I’ve done my research, found a farm, and am totally pumped for fresh local veggies. But, of course, there’s one problem: money. Like any typical college student, I have some financial woes, namely that I have very little cash at the moment. I have a job lined up for the summer with the Vermont Landscape Change Program (check it out at http://www.uvm.edu/landscape) which is funded by the National Science Foundation, and is therefore well-paid. I can afford a CSA, just not until I start getting paid in early June, which, unfortunately, goes against the very idea behind CSA (ie cash up front).

Since everyone on this forum seems to care about community programs, local business, and general camaraderie, I thought it wouldn’t kill me to at least ask if there is anyone out there willing to give me a loan for 200 dollars. I realize this sounds a little sketchy… I am more than happy to talk for hours, meet up, provide references, and even draw up a contract. I’d also be thrilled to bake you pies all summer long! I realize you can’t get a good sense of me via e-mail, but if there’s any chance that you might be able to help me out, I would be so, so thankful. I promise that my intentions are totally honest and that you will get your money back. thanks!

Now, less than 12 hours later, I just stumbled across her blog posting

Yesterday I asked my neighbors for a loan to get a CSA share at a local farm. By 10 am today, I had six (SIX!) offers from strangers, happy to loan a college student a couple hundred bucks. I couldn’t be a less safe bet (I mean, come on, I’m a college student who spent two weeks scrounging for food!), and yet so many people were willing to give me a shot. Wow.

So here’s my conclusion: there are, actually, more good people than bad people out there, but the problem is that they don’t ever really show their ‘goodness.’ If everyone were just a little less shy, then we could all do a better job helping each other out. That said, everybody should join the Front Porch Forum (frontporchforum.com)

Front Porch Forum Survey Results

A Champlain College student recently conducted a survey of Front Porch Forum subscribers who live in Burlington, VT (about 30% of the households subscribe). About 390 responded (9%). Here are some of the results…

  • 80% have recommended FPF to neighbors
  • 91% would be disappointed if FPF’s service stopped
  • 90% think FPF improves their neighborhood
  • 60% feel that FPF makes local government more responsive to neighborhood needs
  • 52% feel that FPF makes the neighborhood safer
  • 78% feel that FPF makes their neighborhood more neighborly
  • 77% think FPF is a good place to voice their opinion
  • 64% have gotten involved in meetings and events due to FPF
  • 45% have spoken up on public policy debates due to FPF
  • 93% feel more civically engaged since joining FPF

As amazing as those results appear to be, the real fun is in the hundreds of comments left by the respondents. Samples…

“In the 24 years I’ve lived in this neighborhood, this is the only time I’ve ever been in such good touch with everyone.”

“I’ve come to use it as my primary source for knowing what cool stuff is going on in town, hearing news about school and city council, and check it as soon as I see it in my e-mail.”

“I’ve been able to connect with neighbors about babysitting jobs, school fundraisers, and sharing resources- I am moving in a few months and am disappointed that this service is not available in other states!”

“The information on the forum has been very helpful in understanding some of the local issues that were hard to figure out from the newspaper.”

“I think it creates more of a feeling of community and allows for opportunities to meet neighbors that we might not otherwise have had.”

“It gives a means of communication to those who don’t normally communicate. I’ve learned of neighbors I have simply by seeing the names of those who have signed up.”

“FPF lets me know what might be out there for help, neighbor to neighbor.”

“I think it allows us to communicate with the whole neighborhood – not just those we frequently encounter.”

“i think that the forum contributes to a better sense of community by linking us to each other. in the olden days, people would actually be SITTING on their front porches, but today’s pace of life makes that nearly impossible. this gives us a way to replicate the feeling, even if it is through cyberspace. in some cases, though, postings have led to actual face-to-face meetings, actions, gatherings, and personal contacts with people i have met through the forum.”

“The Forum is a great way to get to know your neighbors and community thereby making a safer, happier, friendlier and more responsible community.”

“I feel more connected and friendlier to my neighbors. There’s an environmental and financial benefit to sharing things.”

“I think it helps everyone to see everyone else as human beings.”

“It makes us feel like a friendly small town within a bigger town (Burlington).”

“It’s a great way to begin a connection with neighbors a few block away – neighbors with who you might not normally have a reason to interact.”

“I think the Forum improves the quality of life here in Burlington, because it’s connecting us more than we ever were before.”

“I have been impressed by the local politicians who have followed up on issues raised in the forum – typically issues like dog poop that nobody would bother actually calling a politician about – but once it’s brought up on the forum, stuff gets done.”

“It helps for neighbors to get to know each other. It’s how I met some of my neighbors and got their business for my petsitting.”

“Our neighborhood hasn’t come together per se, but I think it adds to the overall connectedness of the town, and it’s nice to meet someone you recognize from the forum walking down the street.”

“Gives opportunities for collaboration; gives a venue to ask for assistance.”

“It’s relevant to our own neighborhood so people read it or at least skim it daily. It’s very effective.”

“There were tips on the Forum for the past two winters about ice and snow accumulation that were dangerous safety hazards; public safety info from Fire Chief was helpful and a concern that was able to be fixed in our house (and we didn’t know there was a problem that needed attention).”

“I come from a small town, lived in an even smaller country village for 25 years and now live in Burlington. Helping a larger place like a city seem smaller and more accessible in neighborly ways is a big part of what the Forum does.”

“The most overwhelming thing was when my upstairs neighbors took in a refugee family for a few weeks. These people had arrived with only the clothes on their backs. I asked people if they could donate warm clothes and some toys for the family (4 children, 2 parents). The generosity of the neighborhood was overwhelming and people donated many very good quality things.”

“I asked about whether there were neighbors out there that wanted to get together informally to play music and found a couple of folks in a way that I wouldn’t have otherwise.”

“i organized a clean-up of a neighborhood park last spring and got a great response. Will do it again this year.”

“Seemingly everyone casually talking in the locker room one day at the YMCA had read the dialog about the Moran plant development and everyone from lawyers, advocates, and run of the mill guys were able to have a qualified discussion and ask good questions.”

“It provides me with a sense of community in my neighborhood. I feel like I actually live in a neighborhood!”

“I had been reading it for a long time, then one day, I decided that I wanted to remove the popcorn type of ceiling we have in our homes and asked for any help. I was AMAZED at how many people took the time to help out a neighbor they have never even met! It made me feel closer than I have in the 20 years we have lived here! It is Wonderful..and hope that others will also ask for help and even post their services, it would be nice to hire someone in the neighborhood to do work that is needed to be done around the home!”

“Even for those of us who don’t become activists, having access to neighborhood news helps us feel that we at least are aware of what is going on at a local level and gives us the option to be participants when we can.”

“Yes, it’s moved into it’s second phase, beyond the ‘bake sale’ announcement stuff to actual discussions on city policies, etc. Far better than the idiot forum comments in the Free Press, the FPF is definitely better.”

“I love the Forum! It definitely helps to make neighborhood connections. We found a one month rental for our in-laws in May (to celebrate a new baby), and it would have been very difficult to find something just up the street without the FPF. I love hearing about events or political matters through the forum, and it also helps to hear reports of crime or debates about appropriate behavior.”

“More than an expansion it’s often my only engagement. Or, if I become engaged outside of the Forum it’s because of an event I read on the Forum. I don’t read the paper or Seven Days. My only exposure to neighborhood and city events is my FPF. I read every issue.”

“I learn of politics and volunteer activities via the forum, and it helped me host a successful yard sale to send my parents on a much-delayed honeymoon for their 25th anniversary.”

“It’s a significant way I keep track of the things that interest me. There’s so much going on, sometimes I feel like even if I want to be at an event or to be engaged, there isn’t enough time or enough of me to go around. With front porch forum, I can thoughtfully select what I want to involve myself in… it’s a great tool.”

“I like the neighborhood news. I actually ended up meeting 2 or 3 people that I would never have met. I think that this is a great thing.”

ParkSlopeParents.com and Brownstoner.com… not quite as nice?

Yesterday I sent a  thank you note to an FPF subscriber for his unsolicited cash donation and I just got this lovely response…

The donation was the best way I knew to express how impressed I am by Front Porch Forum.  We’ve been in a gradual move to Brooklyn for about eight years, and have grown to depend on ParkSlopeParents.com and Brownstoner.com — two very active and helpful community forums. But neither one is quite as nice as FPF, I think. Part of it is the scale: Front Porch Forum is so much more accessible divided up into local neighborhoods, as you have.  You have set a great standard for Burlington. I’m only sorry I discovered so late.  Thanks for all you do.

Be the change you want to see…

Vandalism and petty crime in an urban neighborhood can breed cynicism, negativity and isolation.  Not so with a gardener in Burlington’s Old North End.  Michelle’s posting on Front Porch Forum today shows a different path…

I have had some flowers missing from my garden this spring. About a week or 2 ago I had 2 brand new dahlias taken from my planter in front of my house. Whoever took them didn’t just take the flower, but roots and all. This morning I woke up to find several of my tulips, a hyacinthe and 2 daffodils missing, it appears they were cut.

I decided rather than wonder if my flowers will be there every day when I come home, I made myself a nice bouquet and will give some to my mom for mother’s day. Luckily I had taken photos of the flowers, so I’m sharing them with everyone.  http://glographics.net/garden/2008

I will try to update this page over the summer and add my gardens from the past to my site.

So here’s to making lemonade from lemons!

Sharing Lessons of Front Porch Forum

We’ve been invited to speak at many events lately.  Here are some that we were honored to accept (2008)…

Physical vs. Virtual Tools for Building Community

The Town Paper has a list of hundreds of mixed-use neighborhoods from across the United States and elsewhere.  They write…

The acronym TND stands for Traditional Neighborhood Development, a comprehensive planning system that includes a variety of housing types and land uses in a defined area. The variety of uses permits educational facilities, civic buildings and commercial establishments to be located within walking distance of private homes. A TND is served by a network of paths, streets and lanes suitable for pedestrians as well as vehicles. This provides residents the option of walking, biking or driving to places within their neighborhood. Present and future modes of transit are also considered during the planning stages.

Public and private spaces have equal importance, creating a balanced community that serves a wide range of home and business owners. The inclusion of civic buildings and civic space — in the form of plazas, greens, parks and squares — enhances community identity and value.

In a way, Front Porch Forum is all about nurturing via the internet what these places try to do with bricks and mortar… a great sense of community.

Front Porch Forum Earns Grant

The Case Foundation announced the final tallies for its Make It Your Own Awards today. We’re delighted that Front Porch Forum finished sixth out of almost 5,000 entrants, earning a grant of $10,000. A remarkable 25% of the 15,000 voters cast a ballot for Front Porch Forum. We’re especially proud of our showing given our small population base (projects in major metro-areas claimed the top five spots).

In describing their program, the Case Foundation writes today

Contrary to research that showed a decline in civic health and increasing social isolation, we saw that people want to connect with their neighbors, identify shared concerns, make their own decisions, and shape their own course of action.

Thanks to the 3,870 people who voted for us and to the Case Foundation for its support of Front Porch Forum!

Helping neighbors help sick little girl

Just got a lovely note from Burlington School Commissioner Vince Brennan…

Thank you so much for your help with [our community fundraiser for a neighborhood child battling cancer]!  Front Porch Forum has **already** exponentially multiplied the community’s response to this event and for that we are incredibly grateful (as is Emily and family!)

It’s a genuine honor and privilege to assist people within our community doing such important work.

A pox upon paintballer

This stinks.  From Kathleen in Burlington’s Old North End today…

Biking back from a dinner at the Sheraton this evening, I was shot with a paint ball gun from a moving car. It was a red 4 door. Anyone had similar experiences? Suffice to say, it was frightening and ruined both my jacket and my good mood. It was too dark to get a license plate number, though I really would have liked to get it.

So, cyclists beware! Being unexpectedly shot with a paint ball gun is painful and dangerous. I hope whoever did this gets caught or a case of leprosy.

This is the first time that Front Porch Forum has been used to alert neighbors to a threat posed by marauding paintballers.

Steven Clilft… neighborhoods online

Steven Clift offers an interesting post about neighborhood-level online efforts, including Front Porch Forum.  We’re looking forward to participating in a  May 7  session he’s convening in Washington, DC, at the Case Foundation.