How to Help Your Neighbors in the Snow

With a late winter storm, find ways to help your community stay ahead of the snow

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Just when you thought you could put all of that snow gear away for the season... snow falls in the D.C. area. You may have finally gotten your driveway salted and shoveled -- but what about your neighbor? When we're slammed with snow, a little heartwarming neighborly kindness might be just the fix.

Here are some ways you can help your neighbors in the snow:

Help Your Neighbor: This crowdsourcing website connects you with people in your area who can help you with tasks and lets you volunteer to help others with their projects. Help Your Neighbor hosts a wide variety of projects to help out with, from giving rides to doctor's appointments to raising funds for a neighborhood playground.

D.C.'s Helping Hands Program: Looking forward to spring? D.C.'s Department of Public Works (DPW) helps neighborhood clean-up projects through their Helping Hands Program. The program lends toolkits that include five rakes and brooms, two shovels and 20 trash bags. Free compost will be delivered for use in neighborhood beautification projects. DPW will also send trucks to collect the bagged trash and a representative to collect the toolkit when you're done.

District Snow Team: Although property owners are responsible for clearing the sidewalks around their homes and businesses, senior citizens and residents with disabilities may get help shoveling snow by calling 311 and asking for the resident snow team. This volunteer snow team helps clear sidewalks and walkways for those who are not able to shovel during the winter weather. To volunteer for the Snow Team, register at SnowTeam.DC.gov.

Organize a Local Shovel Team: DPW also gives advice for organizing a neighborhood shoveling team. Check in with your neighbors (before snow starts to fall, when possible) and find out who can help, who needs help, who has a shovel and who needs one. Keep a list of those who can help and identify a team leader, and set a meeting spot for when snow begins to fall. Gather snow shoveling resources such as sand, salt and shovels, and identify a safe and legal location to pile snow. Let your neighbors know if you'll be out of town so they can clear your sidewalk for you.

Fairfax County's Adopt-A-Hydrant: You can help your neighbors stay safe by helping your local firefighters. Fairfax County suggests "adopting" a fire hydrant by keeping it clear of snow and ice in case firefighters need access to it in the event of a fire.

Firefighters ask that you clear a three-foot area around the hydrant and make sure there is a path to the roadway so the hydrant is visible and can be easily accessed. To participate, fill out an online application. After registering, a crew from a nearby fire station will deliver your "adoption certificate" identifying the hydrant.

Nextdoor: Nextdoor is like a social network for you and your neighbors; it requires a verifiable address to access your neighborhood's discussion. Residents can post tasks they need help with, such as dog-walking or offering services such as babysitting and music lessons.

If you don't have enough time for any of these, here are some general tips for being a good neighbor:

  • Don't know your neighbors? Now's a good time to go introduce yourself and make sure they're doing all right with the snow.
  • If you have a snowblower, spend just a bit of extra time clearing your neighbor's walkway, too.
  • Have some extra salt? Offer to sprinkle your neighbor's particularly icy areas.
  • If a neighbor leaves town, offer to care for their front yard or sidewalks. You never know when you'll need them to return the favor.
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