Thursday, December 12, 2013

Brain Mob to Tackle Issue of Snow Shoveling Volunteers for Seniors & Persons with Disabilities

The Challenge
We need your creative mind tonight, Thursday, Dec. 12, at 6:30 p.m., for a brainstorming session on how best to recruit and connect volunteers with seniors and persons with disabilities who cannot afford to hire someone to shovel for them. It seems like a challenge with a simple solution, but it's not (we'll get to that below). That's why we need you to help us figure out a program or methods that will work to make sure that seniors and persons with disabilities are not faced with unsafe conditions when they leave their homes after a storm, and everyone passing by will have clear sidewalks they can travel safely.

Join in tonight: Any way you can
We meeting tonight at 6:30 at City Hall, BUT you can also Skype in or call in. And if you can't do any of those options, post your thoughts below in the comments. We want to make it easy for you to brainstorm with us last minute. So join us physically or remotely. It's up to you. Details below. 

The Brain Mob Idea 
We plan to occasionally call last-minute brainstorming sessions for issues where the community can make a real difference. We know that Somerville is packed with bright minds full of creative ideas, and we hope to tap into that. We also want to draw ideas from some of you who can't commit to more involved processes. With a brain mob, you can take part for just the initial brainstorm. If you want to get more involved after that, great. If you just like problem solving and only want to brainstorm, that's great too.

Challenges around Snow Volunteers
Last winter we had numerous seniors and persons with disabilities sign up for your youth shoveling program, where teenagers shovel at reduced rates for those in need of assistance. The program encountered several problems. Far more persons needing help signed up than teens and efforts to recruit more teens were unsuccessful. Meanwhile, some persons in need of help don't have funds to pay even the program's low fees. 

At the same time, we had a number of adult community members ask last minute (just after storms) how they could volunteer to help persons unable to pay for shoveling. The city can't send out volunteers without doing a CORI background check first. So we need volunteers to sign up well in advance and then show up when needed. Right now, we have 56 seniors and others signed up for shoveling and only 4 teens.

We need your thoughts on both improving the effectiveness of this program as well as coming up with other great ideas. Some cities use online services to match volunteers with seniors & others. Some communities have citizen-run initiatives to support this. Others reach out informally to help neighbors. Creative options include streets buying a shared snow blower or setting up their own sidewalk teams. But for legal reasons, the City can't get as creative as residents. We can't, for example, suggest neighbors get together to find out who on their street needs help and then set up a support schedule. But residents can.

So we're looking for your ideas on what we can do and what the community can do. 

Three Ways to Take Part Tonight
  • Come to City Hall, 93 Highland Ave., at 6:30 p.m. Check at the front desk for the meeting location.
  • Skype into the meeting. Our Skype name is SomervilleCity
  • Call into the meeting and participate via speaker phone: To do this, please contact for details.
  • Post comments here or on the Facebook post about this at We'll include your thoughts in the discussion.
If you have any questions, please contact:

Meghann Ackerman at or 
Denise Taylor at


  1. One thing I've never understood is why we plow the streets but not the sidewalks. Years ago I lived in upstate NY (think lake effect), and they had sweet little sidewalk plows.

    Why do we accommodate (and $$ resource) cars and not pedestrians? If we want to support a walking lifestyle it should be year round. Some infrastructure around this seems to make sense to me. I'm tired of pedestrians being an afterthought.

    That said, until we get a sidewalk plow, what about snow-flash-mobs? If tweeted a location, I might walk over to a nearby senior's house and team up with some others to make quick work of the job.

    1. Some good ideas to include in our discussion. A shoveling flash mob would be awesome. Should we choreograph to a certain song?

      One reason there is emphasis on getting the roads clear after a storm is emergency vehicles.

  2. Here's what I mean:

    "You may never have seen one of these before: it's a sidewalk plow. People are expected to clear the snow from in front of their houses, but the municipality helps out for the sake of public safety."

    Not only for seniors who can't shovel, but if someone is away, temporarily injured, or just a landlord jerk--this should be happening. Sure you can write a ticket to someone that doesn't shovel. But that still leaves people with the groceries, baby carriages, laundry carts--and of course the mobility-challenged folks--still walking down the middle of the streets that have been plowed.

    (Why yes, I do have strong feelings about this....)

  3. Also, how about switching off the side the City plows toward each year? Perhaps moving snow to the odd side one winter and the even side the next....

  4. Sounds like a job for a non-profit organization.
    People can donate to a fund to hire youngsters to do the snow shoveling or something like that.

  5. We offer Argo snow plow which is 81 Inch Wide steel blade at just $1335.00 Multi-angle positions which attaches to front bearing extensions. such snow plow can do much faster work than to hire youngsters.


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