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Typically, Facebook groups for Bangor neighborhoods are full of the sort of posts you might expect from people living in a tight-knit residential area. Questions about trash pickup or snow plowing. Lost dogs. Girl Scout cookie sales. Gardening queries.
These are not typical times, however, and neither are the posts found in those groups these days. For the past 10 days, many residents of three of Bangor’s major neighborhoods — Little City, Fairmount and the Tree Streets — have found help, comfort and even a little bit of fun through their neighborhood Facebook groups in the midst of widespread social distancing and quarantine efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus.
In addition to coordinating help for seniors and other at-risk community members with grocery shopping and prescription pickup, these groups have provided an invaluable sense of connectedness for people of all ages and backgrounds.
It helps that in the case of many of Bangor’s historic neighborhoods, the relatively dense physical layout encourages that sort of interconnectedness to begin with — even absent social media.
“The neighborhood has been very tight since its creation,” said Paula Matlins, one of the Little City group’s administrators. “Our houses are close, our children are taught in some of the best schools.”
Group members share books, toys and educational materials for students currently at home from school. One Little City resident helped find some furniture for a sibling who found herself kicked out of her dorm at the University of Southern Maine, and had to come stay with her for the time being. Group members give away things such as extra tomato seedlings, sourdough starter for bread baking, and extra pet food.
In a show of cheerful solidarity while staying apart to prevent the coronavirus’ spread, groups have organized people to put up holiday lights, including a large number in the Tree Streets neighborhood. For St. Patrick’s Day, people put shamrocks in their windows for neighborhood children to find on scavenger hunts; this week, they are putting teddy bears in their windows for the same reason. Over the weekend, kids were encouraged to draw with chalk on the sidewalks. On Tuesday morning, snowman building was the activity of choice — quickly, before temperatures begin to rise back into the 40s and 50s for the rest of the week and all the snow melts.
Puppeteer Jesse Speed offered to perform a sidewalk puppet show for families in the Fairmount neighborhood. And in Little City, members organized a socially distanced group singalong of “Happy Birthday” outside the homes of several young residents who were celebrating birthdays, including 10-year-old Olivia Clark.
“I was really upset that I couldn’t have my birthday party this year. But my neighbors sang me happy birthday and came and drew chalk messages on the sidewalk and sent me video messages and it made me feel better,” said Clark, a fourth grader at Mary Snow School. “I still can’t wait for this social distancing to be over so I can have a real party, though.”
Bangor city Councilor Gretchen Schaefer launched the Fairmount group in 2015 in response to the many questions surrounding a series of burglaries that occurred around the neighborhood. She gave up her admin duties after being elected to the council in November 2018, and that task is now shared by Dawn DeBois, Martha Gladstone and Erica Morse Caron.
Schaefer said that one of the things that sets the Bangor groups apart is the fact that they not only include current residents — they also include “legacy” residents who grew up in the neighborhood but have since moved away. Many of those legacy residents include the adult children of older residents who still live in the same home, who may or may not have access to social media and might need an extra hand during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Some of those people ask in the group for handyman services or plow recommendations for their parents,” said Schaefer. “It’s a pretty important tool to connect everybody. You get a stronger sense of community, and knowing your neighbors.”