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Shovel-ready: JP neighbors dig out those in need

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  January 21, 2011 01:05 PM

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Crews of volunteer snow shovelers organized through the web and cell phones were out and about in Jamaica Plain clearing the remnants of Friday morning’s storm.

It was the second storm in as many weeks tackled by the newly formed JP group that offers free snow removal to neighborhood residents in need.

SnowCrew allows local residents to sign-up to help shovel, while others can request help digging out.

The group accepts shoveling assistance requests, which can be made by those requesting the help or by someone who knows them, for those who live in Jamaica Plain and have a medical condition, are elderly, disabled, must look after young children, or are caretakers for someone else and either cannot get to those they care for or need help themselves.

Once a request for help comes in, those who signed up to volunteer are notified by dispatchers and the volunteers can then accept or decline their mission – via text or on a smartphone app – based on their location and availability.

"It's all about doing something for someone else, doing it together and having fun doing it," said Joseph Porcelli, the group’s founder.

He said SnowCrew is still in its pilot stages – its first run was during last week’s blizzard – but it has been successful and growing thus far.

According to a post on the Neighbors for Neighbors site, which Porcelli leads and is used as another tool for SnowCrew, 53 people signed up to help shovel for the Jan. 12 storm, 34 confirmed their availability to help, 11 were dispatched and an unknown number ventured out somewhat on their own using a map posted the site to find neighbors in need of shoveling.

In all, the site says crews shoveled 19 different locations including four crosswalks, the walkways, porches and driveways of three elderly neighbors and one injured neighbor, two bus stops and two community-maintained parks. Volunteers even helped clean up a fallen tree after last week's blizzard.
To read coverage from WGBH about SnowCrew’s inaugural run, click here.

The effort is only ongoing in Jamaica Plain, for now, but Porcelli said plans to expand are being considered.

There have been some challenges, he said - shovelers have showed up to sites that are already shoveled and volunteers accidentally shoveled the front of an apartment building once because the request form hadn't specified that it was for help to shovel out a car owned by one of the building's tenants. But, other than some minor bugs which are being managed and learned from on-the-fly, the SnowCrew launch has been a success.

"I believe people always want to help each other, they just don't always know how," he said.

So far, this winter has been a good one to launch such a group. Others in the neighborhood have united to clear their local streets and sidewalks. And, it looks like there could be more to dig out quite soon.

To learn more, volunteer, or request assistance, visit

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