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Category Archives: social capital

“What Vermont and Its History Might Teach the Nation About Handling the Coronavirus”

Vermont has the lowest number of cases of COVID-19 in the United States and it begs the question “why?” In Bill McKibben’s July 28 article in The New Yorker, he explains the state of Vermont’s unique history and social structures that likely pay a big part in preventing the virus’s spread throughout the Green Mountains.

In addition to Phil Scott acting quickly when the first few cases appeared, McKibben credits much of the spread slow-down to neighborliness and social trust:

“Vermonters entered the pandemic with remarkably high levels of social trust. Only thirty-eight per cent of Americans say they mostly or completely trust their neighbors, but a 2018 Vermont survey found that seventy-eight per cent of residents think that “people in my neighborhood trust each other to be good neighbors”; sixty-nine per cent of Vermonters said that they knew most of their neighbors, compared with twenty-six per cent of Americans in general…

…All that is a reminder of how social trust has been squandered across so much of our nation as we’ve divided into red and blue teams, concentrated on individual advancement, and had our worst instincts yanked at by social media. In this case, Vermont is extremely lucky to be living a little in the past. The governor didn’t immediately mandate mask-wearing because almost everyone mandated it for themselves…”

Read Bill McKibben’s full article in the New Yorker here.


Pay It Forward

When you need hope the most, look to your neighbors. Sometimes the most shining and inspiring demonstrations of hope are right outside our front doors. Do you want to spread some hope and uplift others? Check out this awesome game created by a Montpelier FPF member and feel free to try it in your own neighborhood!:

“In these strange times, with so many of us experiencing increased anxiety and overwhelm, I’m inspired by all the generosity and goodwill I see here on our FPF. It really helps. It gave me a fun idea, and I wonder if anyone would like to play along. I was thinking, wouldn’t it be fun to have a pay-it-forward-style chain of giving around town–and FPF seems like a great tool by which to spread it.

Here’s how it could play out:
I love to bake sourdough bread. Do you know of someone who might really enjoy a surprise gluten-full delivery? (Yes, it can be you/your family, haha). Reply to me directly and I’ll drop some off on their/your stoop in a couple days, at no cost. Then, to continue the chain, you post about some thing or some (socially distant) task you can offer, and it goes and goes. If you’d like to play, please read the guidelines below.

So, consider my bread offer the start! Anyone know of a bread fiend who would really enjoy a homemade, crusty, whole-wheaty-y loaf? Let me know and I’ll get to bakin’. 🙂

Lauren

P.S. I follow recommended precautions to limit the spread of the corona virus, and will thoroughly wash hands before handling the baked loaf and will wear a mask for delivery. 🙂

Pay it forward
How to play:
–We’re playing a game to highlight and spread our community’s generosity and goodwill! Have a skill or item you’d like to brighten someone’s day with? Say, you could bake someone a dozen cookies, gift a bag of veggies from your garden, some pesto you made, a sketch or print, or offer a free lawn mow, an hour of weeding, or log splitting…we all have so many ways to contribute, and random acts of kindness make people happy. So let’s play!
–Post “Pay it forward” in your subject line here on FPF, and copy and paste this “How to play” blurb at the end of your post, so that new folks can catch on. Offer an item or task up to the Montpelier FPF community at no charge.
–Note that you will take all recommended precautions in handling your pay it forward item or task to limit the spread of the corona virus, so folks feel comfortable accepting the goodness.
–When folks respond, deliver your item or task to them in a socially distant manner.
–Rejoice!” • Lauren in Montpelier, Vt.

Start playing in your neighborhood; post on FPF!

Need some more inspiration? See how others have started to play the Pay it Forward game:

“Great idea…And fun game! We received an extremely tasty loaf of bread and some flourless cookies from Lauren. Thank you so much!

I have a plethora of Ramps in my woods and I have some Fiddleheads to pick. I’d be happy to pick a bag and deliver to you to grill or prepare as you’d like. So delicious! Just send me an email and then ‘Pay it Forward!'” • Chris and Suzie in Montpelier, Vt.

 

“We love Lauren’s idea and we’d like to play, too. My sweetheart and I would be happy to come to your house and stack your wood for two hours. We’ll wear masks and gloves while stacking. Reply to this email and then ‘Pay It Forward!'” • Nancy in Montpelier, Vt.

 

“Today I’m going to get some fiddleheads and ramps from someone and am offering up a few thing in gratitude to this awesome new FPF trend in our community.

I’ve got a box of strawberry starts that I got for free but then realized I had no time or tools to prep a bed in my yard. They seem, miraculously, to have survived.

If you have a home for them, I can put them on my front porch! I’m just off Berlin, about 1/2 mile from the food coop.”• Lisa in Montpelier, Vt.

Post your ‘pay it forward’ on FPF!


The Proverbial Wishing Well

Front Porch Forum is a place where neighbors can come together to discuss anything from local happenings to lost and found items. As this FPF member shares, don’t be afraid to check with your neighbors if you need help with something!

“…even as organizations, we still often find ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place when communicating what we have or what we need with others; sometimes we don’t want to bug other organizations, and sometimes we worry by offering something, we’ll get ourselves in trouble.

One of the most powerful things about FPF is that it offers a comfortable place for folks to cast out requests to the community — I’ve never heard of anyone get ridiculed for casting hope by dropping their two cents — and when they do, it becomes a lot easier for folks like me to try and help. Some of us are good at making masks, some are good at fixing laptops, some are good at organizing shopping trips for our immunocompromised neighbors — but knowing is half the battle.

Please don’t hesitate to cast a coin into our proverbial wishing well! The community is here to hear you out. Whether you need something or whether you know that your organization needs something, it’s never selfish to ask and see what’s available, especially since more aid could be provided through our community if more people hear more specialized requests. (E.g.: I can’t justify gearing up to go unpack trucks at a food bank, but I know if I spend that time working instead on laptops, the community can get more utility out of it — if only I know who needs them.)” • Martin in South Burlington, Vt.

Cast your coin into the proverbial wishing well today on FPF!


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


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.    


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!


Going on a Bear Hunt

“This just makes me so happy. My @frontporchforum has never seen this much action.” • Whitney in Burlington

Front Porch Forum members are creating local scavenger hunts. The popular “Bear Hunt” is fun for kids. Neighbors put teddy bears (and other stuffed animals) in their own windows for children to spot when they walk or ride around their neighborhoods. 

“Would folks like to create a bear hunt? We will definitely have some bears in our windows and are curious if other neighbors would like to join in the “hunt”.  Members of a number of communities across the globe are placing teddy bears and other stuffed animals in their homes’ windows to create a scavenger hunt-esque activity for kids who are stuck at home. While taking walks or drives around the neighborhood with their parents, kids in participating communities can have some fun by keeping an eye out for any number of stuffed animals that have been put on display at other houses.”  • Judy in Burlington

Start one in your neighborhood with a post on FPF!


FPF celebrates two decades of service

Sunday, March 29, 2020, marked the 20th year of Front Porch Forum providing a means for helping neighbors connect.  It’s been our mission ever since and it’s never felt more meaningful than now.  Here’s how one of those first FPF members from Burlington’s Five Sisters neighborhood reacted:

“Look what I got in the mail today.

You opened this Front Porch Forum account 20 years ago TODAY. Happy anniversary! Thank you for being an important part of connecting neighbors and building community.

Impossible to have lived life without FPF!  I have found help with my biz… I have an annual Caroling with Carolyn on Caroline St. and people from all over the neighborhood join us each December. New wonderful friendships have developed because of FPF. We are all so lucky to have this incredible resource.”
• Carolyn in Burlington