Recent road construction in Huntington in July, 2013 – photo taken by John LoCicero

All of this rain has reminded me how important it is that our Vermont Digital Economy Project will bring Front Porch Forum to every town in Vermont that wants one. This free community-building service allows neighbors to connect with one another in a moderated setting in which members are clearly identified as they share postings.

These forums help neighbors find lost pets, welcome newcomers, inform each other of local events, and engage in healthy debates about the important issues in their community. In times of need, such as during and following natural disasters, a Front Porch Forum becomes even more powerful.

Last week, a post in Richmond enabled a family to find a nearby rental property, after rain ruined their home’s septic system. A farm owner in Waterbury was able to raise enough donations that she got her farm back on track and created a loan fund to help other farmers in need.

A post in the Town of Huntington shared explicit and helpful details about road repair progress throughout the town, as well as the National Guard’s call for a “water buffalo” to aid in the process. The latter turned out to be special equipment that provides a portable water source on a temporary basis. It was relied on heavily while repairs in Huntington were underway.

The power of this community-based social media platform to make a community more resilient was eloquently expressed by this post on July 7th: “I thank all of you that helped with this amazing flooding. I have never seen anything like this…I feel blessed to be a part of this community that responds to all that has happened as a family caring for each other.”

Recently, Front Porch Forum announced that it has expanded into more towns in Addison County, including Leicester, Salisbury, Cornwall, and Weybridge.  I am pleased that this important community based forum is now in more than 90 Vermont towns and has the potential to be in all 251 Vermont communities by mid-2014.