This post is part of the Advent Calendar series

Snowbound? How To Help Out Others From The Comfort Of Your Home

By Chris Ogden

There's a lot of meaningful work to be done in our community and it benefits everyone to volunteer (oneself included). Much of this work involves getting outside and that's great (and I challenge you all to do so). But sometimes we might be unable to leave our house, or perhaps we can't commit due to a busy schedule. Below I highlight some ways we can give back to our community from the comfort of our homes or on a flexible schedule:

  1. Improve online information about local businesses. Look on social media and other sites (e.g. Facebook, Google, Yelp) for your favorite local businesses (along with hospitals, police stations, etc.) and confirm that the listed information (business hours, contact information, street address, etc.) is correct. If it's incorrect, most of these sites allow you to suggest edits. Providing accurate information helps businesses meet the needs of their customers better and makes life easier for your fellow citizens. Oh, and while you're at it, why not leave a positive review? A Harvard Business School study indicated that the difference between a 1 and 5 star average review on Yelp could, in some cases, mean nearly a 50% increase in revenue, and that review sites could tip the favor from large chains to local small businesses.

  2. Contribute to the LocalWiki for your area. (The LocalWiki for Walton can be found at You can add and edit articles on anything related to your municipality. Here are some ideas: the history of the village theatre, local places of worship, resources for those in need, parking regulations, how to get involved in local government, information about local traditions, hiking trails, or something about the reservoir.

  3. Edit OpenStreetMap. OpenStreetMap is a map of the world that is open source and that almost anyone can edit. The data from OpenStreetMap is beginning to power lots of software so improving that data can lead to things like better GPS directions and better policy decisions for things like flood mitigation, broadband expansion, etc. For example, you can annotate street curbs and business locations with accessibility information. You can get started with the Beginner's Guide on their wiki. Also, farther afield, the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team tasking manager gives out mapping tasks that, once completed, help first responders to a variety of natural disasters (including hurricanes, floods, forest fires, epidemics).

So there's a few suggestions, though there are certainly many more possibilities. I'd love to hear from you about your own ideas, questions, and progress you've made. Cheers!

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