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Ghost of Midnight

… about neighbors, community and Front Porch Forum

“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.


FPF Got a Makeover! Access your Forum three different ways

Since Front Porch Forum released the email forum redesign in June, we’ve heard lots of great feedback from members! See what some of your neighbors have to say about the new formatting:

“Way to go FPF! You are a star in our communities. As a generator of two posts a week, I find FPF an ideal forum to keep our communities informed. You Rock!!!!” • John H. from Charlotte/Shelburne, Vt.

“The great thing about FPF is anyone is welcome to post on subjects that are important to them; for some people it’s Doggy Play Dates or Free Plants, and for others it’s Community Health Issues. The new format and bold subject field enable you to peruse the page, read the posts that interest you, and skip the ones that don’t (or maybe be exposed to a different point of view.) Thanks, FPF, for the opportunity to connect and share.” • Joseph C. from Waterbury Center, Vt.

In addition to the email forum redesign, FPF has taken more steps to make the forum cleaner and easier to use. Last year, we released a mobile app, which can be download from the Apple® and Google Play® app stores. It’s changing the way many FPF members read their forums!

“Get the App…best thing since sliced bread. I will now be able to keep up with it daily. Thank you FPF”
• Tammy W. from Morrisville, Vt.

Lastly, FPF members can access their forum by logging in from our website https://frontporchforum.com. Submit a posting, search the archives, access the business directory, and more!


Finding quick responses from neighbors

“Thanks for the set of Dominos, Pam! This Front Porch Forum really works!!!”  • Nancy in Jericho

There were so many people (50!) who responded to my request for shopping help, that it’s taking me awhile to reply to each person. Please know that I am quite grateful, and you will hear back from me. It’s very nice to have such good folks around.”  • Mary in Williston

Kind thanks to all who responded to my request for data entry work from home. 10 replies in 20 mins.. Project in progress. Stay healthy.”  • Jonathan in Charlotte

Hi! I started a routine of telling jokes every night to my 86-year-old mother who is quarantined alone in Florida. I’m running out of jokes and would really appreciate any help with new jokes…not too racy… Thanks so much!!!”  • Kim in Moretown

I recently added a posting to FPF for dog sitting and received quite a few responses. We successfully found someone that will take care of our shelties. Front Porch Forum has proven once again to be a wonderful resource. Thank you to all.”  • Sue in Danville

Post your need, large or small, quirky or off-beat on FPF!


Apply now for economic recovery grants!

As a result of the federal CARES act, the State of Vermont has recently made available new Economic Recovery Grants for minority and women-owned businesses with 0-5 employees.  There’s also special funding for nonprofit arts and cultural organizations as part of a special allocation of funding through the Vermont Arts Council.

Learn more and apply for the economic recovery grants for Vermont small businesses owned by minorities and women.  $2.5 million has been set aside for women-owned businesses and $2.5 million for minority-owned businesses with 0-5 employees.

Vermont nonprofit arts and cultural organizations should use the same portal to apply for these grants. To learn more about what it means for Vermont’s creative sector check here.


The Choice for Vermont Candidates: Facebook or Buy Local?

Does your favorite candidate for the legislature or statewide office support Vermont businesses?  How about racial justice?  If both answers are yes, then consider asking them if they are spending their ad budgets with Vermont media — or with Facebook.

Why does this matter?  Because sending Vermont dollars to Facebook is not “buying local” and runs counter to racial justice.  Facebook gives a voice to the highest bidder, even if that voice is sharing inflammatory hate speech.

Here in Vermont and around the nation, people are rallying to lift their communities by supporting the local economy and standing up against racism.

One example is Buy LocalThis is a collection of efforts to encourage people to use the dollars they spend on everyday necessities with local businesses, building community wealth along the way.  In fact, Vermont’s own state government is funding dozens of Buy Local initiatives this summer across the state.

Another case is #stophateforprofit.  This fast-growing global campaign asks “all businesses to stand in solidarity with our most deeply held American values of freedom, equality and justice and not advertise on Facebook’s services in July.”  Click on the link above to see how Facebook is on the wrong side of history, putting corporate profit ahead of American’s core values.

Corporations of all sizes are taking the pledge.  Among many others, Verizon, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Unilever, Honda, Patagonia, Levi’s, and Ben & Jerry’s, have pledged to stop advertising with Facebook for the month of July.

In this context, Front Porch Forum joins Seven Days and other Vermont media in calling on candidates for statewide office or the legislature to take a stand too. It’s time to stop sending Vermont money to Silicon Valley billionaires who have repeatedly failed to use their power to curb hate. It’s time to ask Vermont candidates to put their money where their values are – with local media that put Vermont values first.

Many of the dozens of small locally owned media businesses in Vermont are struggling financially.  Now is the time to step up, for those who can, and Buy Local with their advertising dollars.  Where do your candidates stand on this choice?


Pay It Forward: The Game of Goodwill Continues

A Montpelier neighbor on Front Porch Forum started a new game to inspire neighbors. Now, it’s spreading to towns all around Vermont! See some of the newest Pay It Forward postings from this game of goodwill, plus how to play, below!

“Free Invasives removal crew! Me and my team of muscley school age kiddos are trying to do daily invasive species removal (and get snacks for the cute and hungry goats!). 

If you see any invasive species on your property or the roadside, let us help get it out before it goes to seed! 

If you’ve already removed some and don’t know where to put it, come say hi and drop it off with the friendly goats! They will vocalize their delight at additional snacks, and it might sound like this: BAAAAAAAH! MAAAAAHHH!!   Just PAY IT FORWARD!” • Debbie in Richmond, Vt.

“My family made a couple of banana cream pies yesterday. I would love to share ONE with a member of our community. I’d happily and safely drop off the pie at your curb (in Stowe) if you’d enjoy having a sweet treat. With the idea that you accept my offering and pay it forward with your own offering 🙂

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!
” • Kim in Stowe, Vt.

“Last week I received a lovely kombucha SCOBY through this fun game, and now it’s fermenting away in my kombucha pot, so it’s my turn to pay it forward!

During the CoVid shutdown I have been rather compulsively knitting baby hats, mostly newborn size. I know it’s not exactly the season for these, but summer won’t last forever. (Sadly…summer is so lovely in Vermont!) I’ve got four or five to offer, so let me know if you can use one. I’ve made 13 total but some will be going to knitting4peace when they are once again accepting donations.” • Sarah in Montpelier, Vt.

“I have MIXED SUNFLOWER SEEDS, or MIXED MARIGOLD SEEDS that I have gleaned last year. A generous quantity…In small white business envelopes. Pickup/Dropoff in Richmond.
FREE, just PAY IT FORWARD!” • Laurie in Richmond, Vt.

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!


Local businesses find success on FPF

Front Porch Forum is the best advertising dollars I have spent in a long time. And the money goes to a great organization! Just imagine how many cats are home safe and sound because of FPF.”  • Greg at Teacher’s Tree Service

Our advertising on FPF worked so well that we had to stop accepting new members! Thank you for the help and for helping to give us a platform to advertise our business. We appreciate all that you and the FPF team have done to help us and other businesses during this time!  Matt at Reap and Sow Farm

“Geez, I have 18 estimates and 6 confirmed jobs. Great results, thank you!”  • Duffy at Duffy Gardner Masonry

Have a small business?  Put FPF to work for you!


World Localization Day

June 21 is World Localization Day! This day is all about thinking globally but acting locally. Getting most of our food from local farmers, recirculating our money into the local economy as we spend on our day-to-day needs, and helping to grow meaningful employment opportunities.

It’s clear that there’s no “back to normal” So what comes next?

A new human story founded on the principles of connection and diversity is emerging. It’s called Localization.

Be part of this progressive, inspirational and life-affirming movement for change! Register to join this world-changing program of inspirational talks, interviews, films, humor and music.


Grow and Give

Front Porch Forum members are organizing gardeners to share their extra produce this summer with neighbors who are in need.

If you have a veggie garden, and as you find yourself with more produce than you can use in the coming months, I’m hoping you might donate it. Local food pantries welcome produce from home gardeners.  My plan is to harvest extra produce as I have it and take it to one of them. It doesn’t need to be a lot — every fresh little bit helps. Just grow and give.”  • Karen in East Montpelier

“We just put out a Little Free Greenhouse & Seed Library in front of our house.  If you have extra veggie starts or seeds to exchange, please consider contributing them to the greenhouse and library for others to take. There will also be free wildflower bouquets for the taking from time to time. There are some lettuce starts in the greenhouse at the moment as well. Please take whatever you need and contribute what you can.”  • Allegra in Burlington

Ready to start something similar in your town? Post on FPF!


“The Internet’s Missing Link in the Age of COVID-19”

COVID-19 is forcing everyone to adapt. An essential part of that adaptation is the use of technology to keep people connected without the face-to-face risk factors the coronavirus presents. Micah Sifry of Civic Hall observes the many challenges we all face as we navigate a global pandemic and the tech solutions that may help us move forward.

Sifry identifies Front Porch Forum as digital public infrastructure that can help communities thrive. See the excerpt below.

In all my years of reporting on how we use tech in civic life, one platform has stood out for how it has successfully fostered healthy community engagement while reaching significant scale: Vermont’s Front Porch Forum. Seventy percent of the state’s 260,000 households have an account on one of FPF’s local town or neighborhood forums, which are in every part of the rural state. Two years ago, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation released an in-depth study of FPF’s users, finding that their daily use of the site led to increased trust in their neighbors, increased interest in civic life, greater participation in local government, and increased optimism about the future. ‘Witnessing everyday acts of neighborliness is a powerful driver of both online and offline community engagement,’ the study concluded.

Last week, I checked in with its founder Michael Wood-Lewis and his chief innovation officer, Jason Van Driesche, to find out how they are weathering the current storm. After a brief dip in the site’s fortunes when the state went into lockdown in March, they were happy to report that even though no one was posting yard sales or local events, the type of information that has always been FPF’s bread-and-butter, user engagement was up. The number of net new signups per day doubled during the first weeks of the crisis, and posting is up considerably over the seasonable average, along with open rates.

Wood-Lewis and Van Driesche are also gratified to report that people are using the forum’s daily email bulletins to organize help for neighbors, share vital public health information, and fight isolation. They’ve decided to have their paid community moderators screen out misinformation about COVID, which Wood-Lewis said is ‘usually people getting stuff off of Facebook and sharing it with good intentions.’ They’re working on an array of service improvements, and also thinking hard about how to support the 10,000 local businesses, thousands of local officials and hundreds of nonprofits that use the site. ‘On a daily basis, most of the people in our state are giving us five to ten minutes of their attention,’ Wood-Lewis noted. But he and his team are frustrated that so much of FPF’s core mission, which is to bring neighbors together face-to-face, is stymied by the pandemic. ‘We know we’re successful when those real in-person things happen,’ he adds, so his team is trying to highlight local initiatives like safe scavenger hunts for kids and community claps for frontline workers.

Front Porch Forum’s model works because it keeps its forums to human size and speed, and it has paid moderators perusing every post before they reach subscribers. A typical instance has 500 to 1,000 people on it, all from the same town or neighborhood, and all verified, using their real names. Everyone sees the same content at the same time, Van Driesche pointed out; there’s no microtargeting of content. So while people still are people, and they may post things that get on their neighbors’ nerves, the general tenor of the site is ‘let’s pull together instead of knocking each other down.‘”

Read the full article here.