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Category Archives: Community Building

Reflections on Wandering Chickens and Gardens

With many of us finding more time on our hands, what better opportunity to reflect on ourselves and how we fit into the fabric of our communities? Keep reading to take in a beautiful reflection on the past, giving items a second life, and giving and receiving as part of a close-knit community. We are so grateful to witness these kinds of exchanges on Front Porch Forum!

“I don’t know why it does, since I have known it since moving to Vermont, but I am nevertheless continually surprised by the kindness, thoughtfulness and genuine humanity of our small community of people here. I grew up in South Africa as a privileged white person in the days of the Apartheid regime. But I worked for many years before leaving, as a teacher in the indigenous community that surrounded my home. And from them I learned (amongst other things) how to make something out of very little and always reuse anything that could have another life somehow.

And so, over the years I have developed a passion of my own for finding a use for things that someone else no longer has a use for.

Each time I have posted here, looking for something that might replace going out and buying another new “whatever”, I have received such wonderful responses and I want people to know how heartwarming and reassuring this has been. Particularly now in these times of such uncertainty and personal insecurity.

So thank you to those of you who have been so forthcoming, not just with physical objects, but with ideas, suggestions and perspectives that have all been so helpful. I will probably continue to post here when I think I might need something for our new garden or chicken project.

And of course I am constantly reading the posts of other people’s searches, to see if I could be on the other end, and find a home for something I no longer need.

My wife says that this is a part of me deeply engrained and unlikely to change, something regarding leopards and spots. I think I agree with her. Allen in Ferrisburgh, Vt.

 

Do you have an observation or reflection to share with your neighbors? Do you have something to give away or that you’re seeking for a project? Post about it on FPF!


Covered Bridge Courtesy

The little things count, especially when the going gets tough. Being kind, friendly, or considerate toward our neighbors can make all the difference. Read this excellent metaphor shared by an FPF member about being courteous during difficult times, or when in tight spaces!

Anyone who has gone through a covered bridge appreciates Covered Bridge Courtesy. 

People, who can be total strangers, back up, stop, blink their head lights, wave. Signal, “you first.” Basically, acknowledge each other in that tight space. Then we get on with our lives.

And now, we find ourselves in a tight space again. Big Time.

The quarantines, stay in place orders, the uncertainty, have created a collective anxiety. It does matter how we feel about it. Life, like that bridge, will likely be a tight space for some time.

And guess what – we are waving at each other more. We see it driving around. The finger flick off the wheel, or eye contact, or the double whammy of both at the same time. Whoa – that was good.” • Stuart and Patti in Charlotte, Vt.

Have you seen examples like “covered bridge courtesy” in your neighborhood? Tell your neighbors about it on Front Porch Forum!


Creative Community Coping

When in doubt, ask your neighbors on FPF! You can help strengthen your community by being there for your neighbors with ideas, creativity, and kindness, but also by asking for ideas and suggestions in return. Read below to see how one Jericho neighbor reached out to be a part of a community effort.

“At the beginning of this “stay at home” order, I was very creative, painting and crafting and baking all sorts of things. Since the days, weeks and months have passed, I’ve found it very difficult to maintain this.. I thought if I reached out to the community for ideas, maybe we could all collaborate on a community project to encourage each other and lift spirits. I’ve only gotten as far as “Painting rocks” to leave where they might be found, but if anyone has a more expansive idea, feel free to share. Perhaps we can pool our ideas and talents and create something inspiring and beautiful together.” • Sarah in Jericho, Vt.

Looking for some input on your next project? Post your idea on Front Porch Forum!


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!


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.


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.