Front Porch Forum gives members across Vermont and parts of upstate New York and Massachusetts, a space to connect with their neighbors and communities. We see all kinds of postings, but some of our favorites are postings were people come together to help meet a need in the community.
Eric Axlerod, and FPF member from Jericho, uses his neighborhood forum to help provide firewood to neighbors in need. It started with a simple surplus of wood and has evolved into an effort to source, cut, stack, and donate cords of firewood.
Check out this excerpt from Seven Days:
“Thus far, they’ve given away 12 cords of wood. The crew is hoping to collect 20 cords to have on hand ahead of this fall. While they started collecting at their own house, they’ve also cut wood on neighbors’ properties.
The trio has dubbed the undertaking “Wood for Good,” and its mission is similar to that of organizations such as the Monkton Wood Bank in Addison County. Axelrod said he eventually wants to form a nonprofit and hopes to sign up more volunteers to help the cause. He’d consider expanding beyond Chittenden County if it takes off.”
Burlington Free Press also covered the story, sharing that many community business have pitched in to provide trees, wood-splitting and stacking equipment, and volunteers to help get firewood ready for this winter:
“Last month North Star Leasing Company in Burlington announced it was donating a portable wood conveyor to Wood for Good…
…Employees of North Star Leasing are arriving earlier to help split wood. People from the Rotary Club of Burlington and Axelrod’s men’s group have also come to help. Barrett’s Tree Services in South Burlington dropped off seven loads of trees that gave Axelrod a huge boost for 2021. Teachers Tree Service in Shelburne also donated trees.”
When people come together and give back to their community, amazing things can happen. This is a wonderful testament to how challenging times have inspired many amazing neighbors and small businesses to help support those in need of food, warmth, and support.
Read and post on FPF to brainstorm ideas for community outreach, connect with resources that may help you and your family, or organize an effort in your town!
Technology and the way people use it has the power to unite people or pull them apart. Ethan Zuckerman and Chand Rajendra-Nicolucci of Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University took a closer look at platforms that bring communities together on a local level, only to find that some designs work better than others.
Platforms that operate more like social media, where individuals can post whatever they want instantaneously, can lead to heated, attacking commentary, false accusations, or misinformation. This kind of content may cause civil discourse to devolve and it may disrupt the establishment of ties within a community.
On the other hand, Front Porch Forum is an example of a local platform that has systems in place to help keep conversations civil and community-minded, fulfilling its mission of helping neighbors build community. From Rajendra-Nicolucci and Zuckerman’s piece:
“That organic growth was key to maintaining one of the key differences between FPF and Nextdoor: proactive moderation. FPF uses a team of moderators that review each post to make sure it adheres to the site’s code of conduct (which bars personal attacks and behavior “counter to its community-building mission”) before it’s posted. That helps to keep the discussion friendly and constructive… We believe a platform that takes governance seriously, is designed for a specific purpose, and has ties to the communities it serves can be successful anywhere.”
“Getting local social media right is important. Local platforms present an opportunity to strengthen social capital and civic life. At their best, they can keep residents informed about local issues, encourage civic organizing and action, and facilitate new connections and greater understanding.”
Read the full article on Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University’s blog here.
It’s easier to remember we’re all in this together when we experience acts of kindness that inspire hope. Check out these Front Porch Forum postings for a reminder that we have some pretty great neighbors out there! We’re all in this together.
“Thank you to the kind stranger who returned my wallet to my home address today, everything fully intact. I lost it during a particularly discouraging week, and it was incredibly uplifting to find it in my mailbox today. Beyond the relief of not having to replace all of my IDs and cards, it is wonderful to be reminded that there are good people in this community doing the right thing. There wasn’t a note, so if you who returned it happens upon this post, please reach out and let me know– I would love the opportunity to thank you directly and return your kindness.” • Olivia in Burlington
“We are now 8 months into this pandemic, and it has been a very strange and stressful time. Are you OK? Are your neighbors OK? Many folks are struggling with things like loneliness and depression. Many have disabilities making routine tasks difficult. Some of us are facing food insecurity or struggling with addiction. Please remember to check in with your neighbors who may need help, and if you need help yourself, please reach out and feel the love this community has for you. Let me know if I can help or put you in touch with someone who can.” • Mark in Castleton
“About 2 weeks ago there was a posting for a man’s wedding ring that was found at Waterbury Reservoir. I’m happy to report that ring is now back on my nephew’s finger. To truly appreciate this story I have to share that the ring was lost at Waterbury Reservoir 2 YEARS AGO! We will never know what adventures that ring went on swimming around in that huge body of water. Thank you to the people who found it and posted it. Thank you to FPF for providing the most amazing service to our community. Never give up hope.” • Lorraine in Cambridge
“Thank you to everyone who emailed me in support of my post about the signs the other day. You are all so kind to take the time to extend your warm words.
It got me thinking though about how 2020 has been a dumpster fire of epic proportions A year that has left us with so many emotional jagged edges it’s no wonder we react without thinking, tear into friends and strangers and generally not being our best selves. We all know we can do better, we just seem to not have much bandwidth left for that.
So I would like to propose a community FPF challenge. It’s an easy one too. I would like everyone who reads this post to reply with a story of something great that happened to them today or this week. It doesn’t have to be big, or life changing or deep, in fact something simple and sweet is best. The idea is to fill up our hearts with all the ways we are a fantastic community, surrounded with great neighbors and friends and that we are truly lucky even when we forget that. Our “wealth” is all around us, we just need to remember that more often than not.
I hope you will take 60 seconds to join me and hit reply all with your own story of gratitude. Thanks, Beth
I will start.
I want to acknowledge and thank the man who I see walking around town with his garbage grabbing stick and orange bag picking up other people’s trash nearly everyday. You sir are AWESOME. Thank you so much for making our roads cleaner and more beautiful for everyone to enjoy. Hometown Hero in my book. Thank you so much.” • Elizabeth in Stowe
Spread your message or story of hope to your neighbors on FPF.
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.
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’. 🙂
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:
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.
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.
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!
Here’s an update on FPF’s situation as the coronavirus crisis continues to unfold for all of us. The big picture:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.
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
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
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.
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:
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!