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Category Archives: Crisis Response

Spring refresh: FPF’s Email Forum redesign

Change is afoot. Front Porch Forum is glad to present a new and improved Email Forum design today.

The daily FPF Email Forum has a new look.  At the same time, we’re keeping all the content and functionality that members have come to appreciate in place and easy to use.

This redesign is one step in a series of upgrades that FPF is making to deliver the highest quality service to our members. The new, simplified layout of the Email Forum is designed to make postings shine. We’ve also made it easier to compose postings, search the posting archive and more!

Other recent steps we’ve taken to improve our service:

  • Launched a mobile app, making FPF easier to read from a smartphone
  • Expanded our service to parts of upstate New York
  • Became a Vermont Public Benefit Corporation
  • Celebrated our 180,000th member (and counting!)
  • Continuing to grow our in-house team of software engineers
  • Serving as essential civic infrastructure during the COVID-19 crisis

Already we’ve seen how these milestones and changes have helped us to fulfill our mission across the state in Vermont and in growing upstate New York forums. As the weeks go on, we look forward to sharing news on the additional updates and new features we’ll be rolling out to better serve you and our communities.  Next up… redesign of our website, including the posting archive and Web Forum.

Stay tuned for details about these and other exciting new features and updates. We eager to share our progress!

For more information on FPF’s growth and community impact over recent years, check out the following pieces:


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!


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


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!


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!



Sharing is Caring!

Supply shortages and photos of bare shelves have been all over the news and social media platforms over the last couple of weeks. Many Front Porch Forum members have taken to their neighborhood forums to share what they can with neighbors in need of this and that. See some inspiring and generous posts below!

 

“I appreciate so much all the offers to help in our community. Please try to use the Waterbury Good Neighbor Fund and our Food Shelf as central well-connected mechanisms to help the most people. Another way to help is by buying gift certificates for businesses that are likely to have to close or slow down (though recognize that just spreads out the loss of business). I’d suggest if you are in a position to tip heavily to your local and beloved businesses as appropriate, please do. They have been there for our community, and they are entering a time of massive uncertainty. Another way to help is to donate blood. Most organized blood drives will be closed for concerns of congregating too many folks. If you are healthy (and bored), and can make your way to a donation center, that will be super helpful to our medical system as this pandemic progresses. Covid patients don’t usually need blood products but we will still see the baseline cases of trauma, etc that will need blood and with drives closed we will run out quickly. Science/math-based models suggest this virus will be hitting peak numbers in VT during May/June. We have a little time to get ready. Please settle in for the marathon ahead. I’d welcome any 1000 piece plus puzzles folks have to share! :)” • Amy O. in Waterbury, Vt.

 

Been having fun making tiny bottles of hand sanitizer. For those days when you’re out and about and can’t get easily to a sink and soap. Have placed some in a basket on my front stoop. When the weather is fair-ish. Please feel free to take one.

I’m using 90% alcohol that dilutes down a bit when mixed with aloe vera gel, but still should be super strong. Hand sanitizer kills the virus but doesn’t wash it away. Soap and water are still best for that.

If you have any small bottles, ie the travel sizes, that’s the choke point in the Sue’s Sanitizer pipeline, so it would be most kindly appreciated if you drop them into the same basket.” • Sue S. in Burlington, Vt.

 

“I too would love to offer support as its needed….I am a naturopathic physician, and one thing i can offer is herbal medicine, specifically antiviral tincture which is a boost to the immune system and proactive and protective against viral infection in these trying times. Please get in touch if you would like some to be dropped to your home, if you are in need…(Until it runs out;) Also if you are elderly or at risk and you need extra support in the form of grocery runs or anything like that i can be of service.

Much love in this time of physical distancing! I too cannot wait until the time i can hug my loved ones;)” Casey E. in Middlesex, Vt.

Do you have items, talents, or ideas you are able to share? Or are you in need of something specific? Reach out to your neighbors on FPF today! We’re all in this together.