By Alicia Dziak
Since the Be Neighborly Facebook group started a couple years ago, it has become the go-to place for recommendations, road conditions, public events and more.
“The group was created in July 2015. An initial group, Buy Nothing Springville/Arcade/Gowanda, is part of an international project where the volunteer administrators follow strict rules about who can join and what can be posted,” explained Kara Kane, one of the group’s four administrators, along with Chelsea Mayer, Melissa Frank and Jessica Shuster. “I saw that our members craved more discussion and information sharing, and I saw how other Buy Nothing groups had started ‘sister’ groups for exactly that kind of neighborly chat.”
Kane noted that, “We’re a group that values kindness, fairness, and doing good. The intent of people in our community to be kind to their neighbors has always been there. This group is another way to channel that intent into positive actions. People ask for recommendations, businesses promote their sales and services, nonprofits publicize events and causes – and make connections with each other. We’re here for anyone who wants to help build up this area as a great place to live, work and play.”
Currently sitting at about 2500 members, “The target audience is anyone who lives or works in the Springville area,” Mayer said.
Schuster added that the group also benefits “people who may have grown up in the area but have moved away. It’s a great way for all interested to stay connected with what’s happening here.”
“I think that people in this community are really interested in connecting with their neighbors, attending local events, and shopping locally, “ Mayer said. People want to be engaged with the community and this group is a great jumping off point. Those who join the group experience how beneficial it is, and they invite their friends to join.”
As group admins, the four women take on the responsibility of making sure members adhere to the group guidlines, all on a volunteer basis. The role can be time-consuming and, at time, a challenge, especially when people don’t agree with the idea of being kind. But, as Frank puts it, “We volunteer our time to run this page and we do that because we love Springville!”
“A few weeks ago I made the comparison of our group to a playground that we’ve built for our neighbors,” Kane said. “No one is forced to use it, but if they do, we want their help to keep it fun, keep it clean, and bring their ideas to make it better!”
“Really, our only rule is to be kind,” Mayer said. “We feel that it is important for this space to remain a positive and helpful space, not a page where people go to complain. Specifically, we ask that members do not post negative comments about local businesses, since there are many other spaces on the internet to do this.”
There are also rules in place regarding business members. “We have specific advertising rules for businesses and events to promote just once per week,” explained Schuster. “We expect and demand civility from everyone posting as we are all neighbors, businesses included.”
“Hateful comments and disrespect are also not tolerated,” Frank pointed out, with Kane adding, “We delete those comments immediately. Our volunteer admin team has faced some criticism from members, with comments that our group is all about ‘rainbows and unicorns.’ That description is fine with us. Our group is for building others up, not tearing others down. We can work together to address issues in our community with grace and compassion. The world needs a lot more kindness and civility – negative comments, insults and sarcasm only slow us down.”
There are many benefits from being a member of the Be Neighborly group.
“I think that the best part about the group is the way it brings people together,” Mayer said. “I love seeing threads where people come on to ask for recommendations. Often you will see that members learn about new businesses and services this way. I love that we can be a part of keeping business local!”
“My favorite part about the group is the way the information gets around,” added Frank. “Now that the group is established, people automatically go to the Be Neighborly page to see what’s new around town, weather alerts or what new ‘wares’ our community is offering. The support for small business, whether a storefront on Main Street or a personal venture, is huge on our page.”
Shuster said that another highlight is “the strong sense of community pride we see everyday — I love when people give a positive, glowing review of a business and people pile on. I love seeing everyone post photos of local events. These are the things that make Springville great.”
The Be Neighborly group is still growing and welcomes new members. To join, search “Be Neighborly Springville Area” on Facebook.