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In Crisis, We Organize!

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The incredible thing about an emergency is that it inspires us. We reach out. We listen. We help. It is human nature to lean in at times like this, because these are the times when we are reminded that emergencies impact us all.

At the Foundation, as we’ve had the chance to listen, we’ve been hearing about the incredibly creative and kind actions that friends, neighbors, and strangers are taking. On my Front Porch Forum feed—a service that we all know is vitally important now more than ever—folks are sharing songs and poems. Someone sent a link to a story in Columbus, OH of two young people giving a “porch” concert to a neighbor who was self-isolating.

We also know that across our state there are individuals who are stepping up to assist with coordination efforts at a local level. Working as key “Community Organizers,” and using a Slack channel, ZOOM calls, and Google docs, this loosely formed group shares resources laterally across the state. The intent for each of these organizers is to help figure out who is doing what in their town—Does the Red Cross need blood? Does Meals on Wheels need drivers? And so on. From mutual aid questionnaires to town response websites, these folks are helping by using their own social and professional networks to drive people to respond and elevate needs as they arise.

Sutton, Grand Isle, Morrisville, Bradford, Charleston, Craftsbury, Berlin, Worcester, Bethel, South Royalton, Hartland—the list goes on. Right now, there are 26 individuals, representing over 20 towns. The origins of the group were spontaneous—multiple individuals from multiple towns developed this grassroots mechanism to share resources. Some of these people, like Monique Priestly, Katherine Sims, Patricia Sears, Rebecca Sanborn, Cindy Metcalf, are names you might recognize as conveners and facilitators, creating action through collaboration. But now, instead of doing it in one region, they are doing it across Vermont to ensure that no one town must re-create a response. And they want other Community Organizers to join them, and to add to their open-source Statewide Covid19 Resources list.

In times like this, emergencies impact us all. But we know that they don’t impact us equally. Those experiencing poverty, working a few hourly jobs to get by, or who are single-head of household families are already harder hit by this crisis. What gives us hope is that there is a response beyond what Congress, our state agencies, or just philanthropy can muster. When neighbors start to work together—and people in towns far apart work together too—is when we will have the best chance as a society to recover.

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