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My wife and I created a community-building service called Front Porch Forum ( and already one-third of Vermont's largest city subscribes.

During this economic downturn, Front Porch Forum is seeing signs of hope as people turn toward investing more in community and personal relationships with those around them. This is a good move individually, as well as for our region. A recent study ( found a "significant correlation between community-citizen engagement and the economic growth."

An example... One can take a second job working at WalMart, invest the income in a mutual fund, and hope that the principal is still there in a few months. Or, one can spend those hours instead volunteering on community projects with neighbors (rebuilding a playground, forming a neighborhood watch, etc.)... investing that time and energy into your home place.

Some recent vignettes from FPF...

"Hi folks - With all this talk about bike theft, thought it would be a good time to share with you that my bike, which I reported stolen about a month ago, was spotted by a friend and successfully returned to me! I'd also like to share how super supportive this community was in response -- I received over 10 offers to borrow or keep spare bikes. I feel very, very, fortunate to live here, and appreciate the ways we work together. Thanks to everyone!"

"Hi Neighbors - Did you forget to make plans for Thanksgiving? Plans fall through? Looking at a boring/lonely turkey sandwich? Have a friend in such a situation? Please consider joining us. We have a few (1-3) extra seats at our cozy table, a big turkey, lots of other yummy dishes, and a lot of friendship to share. Kids welcome.

Please join us in celebrating this season of blessings and renewal…give me a call or email..."

"I did get a lot of responses offering help [from my Front Porch Forum posting]. Many people offered to take the dog in until the owner was found, others offered to help put up notices in the neighborhood and others gave support by offering food and such to help me while I looked for the owner. Using the front porch forum really brought the community together for a small little dog, that I truly fell in love with in just over 24 hours. Thanks."