MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — In a story Oct. 13 about an online community forum, The Associated Press misidentified a participant. He is Spencer Putnam, not Spencer Palmer.
A corrected version of the story is below:
Online forum connects Vt. residents in rural towns
Lost a pet? Need a baby sitter? Online community Front Porch Forum goes statewide in Vt.
By LISA RATHKE
MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — When Tropical Storm Irene flooded mountain valley towns in Vermont two years ago, some savvy residents turned to social media to rally for help and spread news.
Their posts on Facebook pages and other community forums were answered in droves with volunteers, fundraising and supplies.
Now advocates are making sure every community has access to an online community platform where they can share information with their neighbors and pull together in times of need as Vermont spreads broadband service to all corners of the rural state.
An online community called Front Porch Forum is now available to all 251 Vermont towns and cities. Residents can register for free, and once 100 people have signed up in the community, it goes live.
Michael Wood-Lewis and his wife started a precursor to the forum in 2000 after they moved into a south-end Burlington neighborhood where they didn't know their neighbors. They got such positive feedback that they wanted to expand it elsewhere, Wood-Lewis said.
"It's just remarkable to watch how folks put it to use," he said.
In 2006, they formed a business and added community forums for towns across Chittenden County. By August of this year, the forum had expanded to every community in Vermont with help from about $300,000 in a federal disaster relief grant that is being used for software development, marketing and ramping up service.
Towns and cities with a strong presence on Front Porch Forum had an easier time pulling together after Irene because they had a platform to communicate, said Sharon Combes-Farr, project director for the Vermont Digital Economy Project, who directs the grant.
Meg Allison, of Moretown, used the forum during Irene when the village was evacuated and roads were washed away.
"We had one thing going for us that some other towns did not - a digital infrastructure and a citizenry who knew how to use digital tools to communicate, to organize, and ultimately, to continue our long-term recovery," she said in a blog in 2013.
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