[Originally published on Front Porch Forum for members in Chittenden Co., Vermont, Oct. 31, 2006]
Happy Halloween! Hundreds of trick-or-treaters combing our neighborhood tonight… beautiful fall weather and a wonderful reminder of how good a vibrant and neighborly community can be. Our mission with Front Porch Forum is to help neighbors connect and foster healthy community… so here’s an update. (By the way, this likely will be the last of such reports as we’re developing a blog for this kind of thing. We aim to keep each neighborhood forum filled with neighborhood items instead of this stuff… so please skip the update below if it’s not for you.)
We’ve lost count of the hundreds of successful direct results coming out of the various neighborhood forums around Chittenden County… babysitter finds work, homeowner finds a good roofer, house sold, school meeting announced and attracts record attendance, etc.
Even better, though, are the stories of the second tier benefits where neighbors get to know each other a little better and a few more strands are woven into the web of community.
One forum member reported “the quick and honest responses to my request for an auto mechanic recommendation were astounding.” He went on to say that he looked forward to meeting and getting to know these previously anonymous neighbors.
In a different neighborhood, a group of residents were eager to reestablish a shortcut to their elementary school that recently had been cut off. They used their forum to inform parents and also to find a community partner willing to split the cost of fencing a new safe path around a small industrial site. Being well organized and with some funding already in hand, they were able to work constructively with their school to get the job done in record time. Now more kids are walking and biking to school, instead of being driven around the long way.
Another forum member reported trying to sell her car through both print and online classifieds with no luck. As an afterthought she tried her neighborhood’s forum and 3-4 neighbors called to express interest… people she hadn’t known before who live a block or two away.
See http://frontporchforum.com/testimonials/ for more examples. Each of these small connections adds up!
At the close of our second full month of operations we have more than 2,000 local households on board, spread across 130 neighborhood forums… wow! A few dozen forums are well on their way with lots of members and messages, while the remaining neighborhoods have just a few early pioneers. If this is your case, take heart… that’s how all of the forums start. Each one needs one or more local champions to spread the word.
Most folks report joining because they heard about it from a neighbor, friend, or work colleague. Forums start to take on a life of their own once 75-100 residents register, so please keep reaching out! (Check out the “Pitch In!” webpage after you log in with your password at http://frontporchforum.com/ for a flyer, etc.)
We’d also like to welcome the 135 households of the Brennan Woods neighborhood (Williston) that joined their forum in one fell swoop this month. Their neighborhood association asked to convert their old email list of neighbors over to Front Porch Forum… voila! Instant forum. Several other neighborhood and condo associations are considering a similar move… write (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call me (802-540-0069) to explore this route for your area… much more effective than other options.
By the way, forums are catching on in some rural areas too, including parts of Westford, Hinesburg, Jericho and other towns.
Everytime Front Porch Forum is mentioned in local newspapers, television, radio, newsletters, email lists, blogs, etc. more people sign up for their neighborhood’s forum. We’re finding that most folks need to hear/read about Front Porch Forum 6-7 times before they actually go online and register. Can you help FPF get in print or on the air? Increasingly, nonprofit, church and employer newsletters are printing a line or two telling their readers about this free community-building service. Some members are writing letters to the editor too. The buzz is building! See the latest (including video) at:
In fact, I’ll be on a Channel 15 panel discussion that is occuring Nov. 2 at 6:30 PM called “Blogging and the Democratization of Media: From the Printing Press to Wikipedia and Beyond.” Please come and enjoy the show at VCAM’s studio at 208 Flynn Ave. in the South End of Burlington. Details at:
Reminder… if you abandon your email address (change of job, new internet service provider, etc.), you need to update your Front Porch Forum account. Otherwise, we’ll lose contact with you and you will NO LONGER receive your neighborhood’s forum. To update your account with us, log on to http://frontporchforum.com/ with your password and click Account. If you ever do lose touch with us, please send me at note and we’ll work to get things sorted out.
MOST IMPORTANT (for baseball fans)
As a long-suffering Detroit Tigers fan (some old family history), please keep me and our young children in your thoughts. They really were the best team in baseball for the first 3/4s of the season, despite their performance in the World Series. Buckner just made one mistake for everyone to lament… I lost count of the Tigers’ errors. Oh well… next year! (Or will G. Steinbrenner gobble up our young stars?)