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Monthly Archives: April 2020

A Win-win-win

Are you looking for scrap wood for a backyard project, a treadmill, or a kitchen appliance? Posting in the “Seeking Items” category on Front Porch Forum can often have multiple positive outcomes, beyond just getting the item or information you need!

“Hello; Looking for 1/2″ or 3/8” red and/or blue PEX tubing lying around from a finished project? Fittings? If so, what style fittings? Will happily borrow the connector tool too. Thinking I need 70′ of each or so.

Yup, looking for bits and pieces for renovation to:

A) Save $$$
B) help people get stuff out of their garages and basements and put to good use
C) Make more community connections” • Wayne in Hinesburg, Vt.

If you’re looking for an item, try asking your neighbors first on FPF! It may just turn out that everyone wins!


Virtual Poetry Reading

Front Porch Forum has been full of postings expressing creative ideas for projects and social connection that can be done from home. For example, VPR’s virtual poetry reading in honor of Poetry Month! Register to participate in this fun community event, details below!

How about a little joy? Hope you’ll join us this Friday evening at 6 for a virtual poetry reading featuring Vermont poets. In honor of National Poetry Month, Morning Edition’s Mitch Wertlieb will be joined by Didi Jackson, Major Jackson, Kerrin McCadden and Elizabeth Powell to read their work and discuss what inspires them. You can watch this event in an online stream wherever you’re sheltering in. Learn more and RSVP here.” • Vermont Public Radio 

Share your virtual events or learn about other events in the area on your neighborhood FPF.


Front Porch Forum on WCAX’s Across the Fence

As the world adjusts and adapts to social distancing and self isolation, communities in Vermont are looking to connect with and help their neighbors safely. They’re doing so on FPF.

Listen to Front Porch Forum’s co-founder, Michael Wood-Lewis, share how the service is being used across the state (and in parts of Upstate NY) during the COVID-19 crisis.  He joins Fran Stoddard for an interview, below, on Across the Fence, the country’s longest-running locally produced program.

 

Learn more about how Front Porch Forum is being used during this time here.


Softening the rough edges

FPF members share how employees and volunteers are going the extra step to provide shopping experiences that now take place by phone and online.

“Yesterday I needed a sympathy card to send to a friend whose husband had died over the weekend. A generic sympathy card wouldn’t do. I called the Adamant Coop and explained what I was looking for. The volunteer who answered the phone talked me through a selection (I had a local artist in mind), walking around the store with phone in hand, describing the images. When I asked her to choose for me, she ran her ideas past a staff member, who concurred. The cards went on my account, the bag on the porch, and half an hour later, they were on my desk.

I am so grateful for these acts of kindness — for the time, the careful listening, the enthusiasm. Gesture by gesture, people are softening the rough edges of our fear and our pain.”  • Karen in East Montpelier

“I am floored by how many of you took the time to make recommendations to me for a tree removal service. Thanks so much. I very much appreciate it.” • Bob in Barnet

Front Porch Forum is the place where you can find everything you need and then some. Recent postings and recommendations have lead me to take advantage of our local talent.”  • Barbara in Waterbury Center


FPF’s Response to the Coronavirus Crisis

Here’s an update on FPF’s situation as the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold for all of us.  The big picture:  

  1. FPF usage is up across the state
  2. Our team is solid and working hard
  3. We’ve stabilized our short-term finances
  4. We are innovating on many fronts to strengthen local communities

FPF usage is up across the state.  Vermonters are making more use of FPF during the pandemic than ever before.   Posting volume is up 42% and new-member sign-ups are up 83% compared to the same period last year.  We are seeing many different ways that neighbors are using FPF for crisis response, including:

  • Neighbor helping neighbor:  Many requests for help being made and fulfilled
  • Community organizing:  People using FPF to organize mutual aid and services of all kinds
  • Information sharing:  Public officials, healthcare facilities, and others disseminating essential information
  • Staying connected:  Combating isolation during this time of social distancing

We’ve stabilized our short-term finances.  While the future remains uncertain, we now are confident that FPF will weather the crisis intact.  Steps taken include:

  • Austerity measures:  We cut and delayed spending aggressively starting March 1.
  • Sales revenue:  We’ve worked intently with our small-business advertisers to help them with their goals while staying affordable.
  • Member donations:  We’re grateful for a tremendous response to our brief request for donations from our members in late March.
  • SBA loans:  We have applied for SBA loans and are awaiting news.

Our team is solid and working hard.  In response to the health and economic crisis, we have made several changes to both our operations and our service:

  • Protecting FPF staff:  We closed our central office and switched to 100% remote work.  Additionally, we have been able to avoid layoffs and pay cuts.
  • Keeping Vermonters informed:  We created new features in our software to make it easier for our members to find coronavirus-related information.  We also removed posting limits for government officials, hospitals and social services regarding crisis-related messages.  And we are aggressively screening out misinformation related to coronavirus.
  • Facilitating neighbor-helping-neighbor:  We continually are taking steps to reach more Vermonters and to encourage mutual aid-type postings.  We also are in conversation with groups across the state that are working to increase volunteer efforts.
  • Helping small businesses and nonprofits:  We dropped our advertising prices by 38% across the board.  We removed monthly posting limits for any messages related to the crisis, including changes to business hours, delivery services, etc.  We are promoting “buy local” to our 180,000 members.
  • Building social capital and community resiliency:  We built a new feature to frequently promote examples of neighbor connection to all our members during this time of social isolation.

We are innovating on many fronts.  Looking forward past the crisis-response stage to the recovery phase, FPF will focus on making Vermont communities ever more resilient by:

  • Building social capital among neighbors:  Helping neighbors connect and build community will remain the heart of FPF’s work.
  • Strengthening local economies:  We will support the 10,000 small businesses that participate on FPF by enhancing their connection with customers.
  • Supporting local social safety nets:  We will continue to work with grassroots mutual-aid efforts, nonprofits, and government agencies to strengthen supports in every community across the state.
  • Enhancing civic engagement and local democracy:  We are developing additional ways for Vermonters to become more involved in the civic life of their local communities.  We are also exploring options for giving public officials new tools to engage with neighbors post-crisis.
  • Elevating local journalism:  We will expand our efforts with local news publishers to bring their work to a larger audience and enhance their viability.
  • Strengthening FPF:  We aim to make FPF stronger as we move forward through growth, product innovation, tech resiliency enhancements, creative partnerships, and more.

As a Vermont Public Benefit Corporation, FPF’s goal is to help Vermonters stay connected and build community throughout this crisis and beyond.  We welcome feedback and ideas about how FPF can be of service in this time of need.


Planting signs of hope

To share a little joy among neighbors, several FPF members report planting yard signs of hope for all to see. Signs have been spotted in front of houses, apartment buildings and nursing homes.

“A community-wide, grassroots project called “Planting Signs of Hope” has been born. Its intentions are to lift spirits, create a sense of connectedness and bring color and life back to our downtown (and beyond) by “planting” as many positive messages around Johnson as possible. Who knows? Perhaps others will be inspired to do the same in their neighborhoods and communities!  If you are interested in painting and planting a sign of your own, but don’t have the materials, email me. Otherwise, happy painting and planting- can’t wait to see your signs “popping up” around town!”  • Kyle in Johnson

“Smile More-Worry Less” “Vermont Strong” “Inhale Courage-Exhale Fear” “You are Loved”!  Thank you to the person who created the loving inspiration along the road side. I don’t typically walk that road but like so many of us, I too am walking a lot more and in new places. Your gifts helped brighten my spirits. My friends loved seeing the photos I took of the colorful kindness stones. I look forward to my return walk! We so need more and more kindness! Happily, I also met a new neighbor while walking. Grateful.”  • Sherry in Hinesburg

“Please consider posting a thank you/appreciation for the healthcare and first providers in your yard acknowledging these awesome individuals. A great family project!”  • Dan & Amy in Burlington

“As a local art teacher, I created a positivity poster of my own to inspire my students and I have hung it in my window. We are all cooped up inside, let’s get that creativity flowing. If you have kids out of school, make it a fun, creative family activity. Then put your artwork in your window and doorway. As more and more people are walking through our neighborhoods, let spread some happiness and positivity!”  • Kayla in Waterbury


Signs of Spring Arrival

The days are getting longer, crocuses and bluets are springing up from the ground, and birds are returning to the Northeast from their winter vacations: signs of spring! Neighbors are sharing their observations. Have you seen any signs of spring? These FPF members have:

I’m so grateful to be a part of this community in this time. Thanks to you all. Also! I really love spring, and I miss the spring arrivals board at Sterling College. So…I have a poster board at the Genny up for us all to document our observations of spring (bring your own pen). I also created a google doc that I think should be accessible to all to add observations.

Let’s not let the craziness of this spring allow us to miss this gorgeous and amazing time of year!”  • Hannah in Craftsbury, Vt.

Sunrise.

Late-spring snowfall, inspired ways to keep the kids busy, crocuses, and random acts of beauty and neighborly kindness.

Home schooling, long walks.

A creative home desk made from–wait, is that an ironing board?

That’s what Middlesex looks like this spring as we all hunker down to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Check out these creative shots of our community taken by your Middlesex neighbors, at:

https://www.whatsnextmiddlesex.org/calendar–pictures.html

Enjoy!”   • Susan in Middlesex, Vt.

Share your spring sightings and observations on your Front Porch Forum today!


Neighbors celebrate Poetry Month

April is Poetry Month! And FPF members have been writing or sharing favorite poems with their neighbors. One neighborhood in Middlebury even went so far as to write Haikus in chalk along sidewalks! 

Also Highly Contagious Is:
Kindness, Patience, Love, Enthusiasm
and a Positive Attitude…
Don’t wait to catch it from others,
Be the carrier.  • Lynn in Barre

A limerick from Betty in Randolph:
The pandemic is certainly grave
We are told to stay home and behave
We’re all being good.
You KNOW that we would!
Thus the Forum’s become quite the rave!

The chefs, be they local or not,
Should certainly not be forgot!
Food at the curb
Is really
superb.   • Sally in Randolph

A haiku from Kelly & Brooke in Stowe:
In this crazy time
FPF keeps us abreast
Of all local news

Dreaming
by Janet in Randolph Center

The snow’s almost melted away!
Yet at home it seems we must stay.
But flowers WILL bloom
And birdies WILL croon
And keep this scourge away.
The snow’s almost melted away!
Yet at home it seems we must stay.
But flowers WILL bloom
And birdies WILL croon
And bring a bright new day.    


Gifts for neighbors in need

A number of generous “free” items and services are being offered on Front Porch Forum.


“I have about 5 yards of quilt weight fabric and lots of odds and ends of thread that I’d be happy to give anyone wanting to make face masks. I’d be happy to drop it off anywhere in the kingdom or you could pick it up.”  • Jenise in Barton, Vt.

Hey Friends, with the recent job climate and layoffs around town I wanted to offer my expertise to help with free resume reviews. Send any questions to me and I’ll respond and find time after hours to review and get back to you. Cheers and be safe!” • CJ in Stowe

My husband and I are avid from-scratch bread makers and would love to make homemade bread for those not able to get to grocery stores easily. Our capacity is 2-3 loaves a day so we will get to everyone we can over time. Please email me your name, phone number, and address and we will call the night before your name is up! If you have need for an emergency loaf, please let us know and we will do our best to get it to you ASAP.” • Mary Jane and Steve in Williston

“I have 2 new Chromebook laptop computers that I would like to donate to 2 local students who may not have the resources to ensure computer connectivity in order to engage in online learning and enrichment.”  • Nancy in Randolph

“It is a difficult time right now with so many children and adults working from home. I have a desktop computer with all the accoutrements available for a family who needs it for work or schooling. I can bring it to you if transportation is an issue.” • Nichole in Middlebury

“Do you need homeschool supplies to help keep your kids active and learning at home? If the cost of homeschool supplies is a hardship, please contact me. I several supplies available at no cost. I’m happy to deliver or have you pick up.” • Nathan in Burlington

Have something you can contribute to help others in your community? Post them on FPF!


A Little Humor During Hard Times

As our communities are adjusting to follow health guidelines and practice social distancing and self isolation measures, FPF members are sharing the positives. Here’s a great idea for finding the fun and the humor in our new and emerging routines:

I suggest a fun “contest” similar to the 5-words thing as an amusement during our self isolation: Unanticipated consequences of self-isolation. 

To get the ball rolling, I offer three:

  1. Skinny dogs (lots of extra walks)
  2. More people with long hair or bad haircuts (no salons/barber shops)
  3. Exponential increase in family counseling (via Zoom of course) due to long-term sharing of close-quarters.

I imagine there are many, many more.”  • Don M. in Burlington, Vt.

Have you experienced any funny or positive unanticipated consequences of social distancing? Join in the fun and share them on your Front Porch Forum today!