Creating Community During the Coronavirus Lockdown

PART 1 – Writing a Letter to the Neighbours in Your Street

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a post on a Facebook page called “Contagiously Good – Gold Coasters Spreading Generosity and Hope”. It was a template letter to write to the neighbours in your own street, originally created by a community Christian radio station on the Gold Coast, QLD, called Juice 107.3 FM.

As a writer and researcher (résumés, cover letters, miscellaneous documents etc.), I read the template letter and thought it was such a great idea of connecting with my own neighbours, especially during the COVID-19 restrictions, i.e. self-isolation, lockdown. So, I looked at other letters/cards produced by some churches and Christian radio stations, in order to gather the “best bits” and then enhanced the original template letter by Juice 107.3FM. I wanted my neighbours’ letter to be “neutral sounding” (not “church” or “Christian”), but to also include the idea by Juice 107.3 FM of having a Facebook private group just for my street neighbours, which I set up, called “Neighbours @ Backhouse Road” (refer to “PART 2 – How to Set Up a Facebook Private Group for the Neighbours in Your Street”).

I decided to research a background-free downloadable image from the internet, for my street’s Facebook profile photo. I could have taken a photo of my street sign “Backhouse Rd”, as an alternative, but I found an image of coloured houses which I really liked (see below).

Here is the template letter, which I edited in Microsoft Word with my own private details and then personalised to read “Letter to Neighbours @ Backhouse Road”, before hand-delivering.
[click here to download template]

LETTER TO NEIGHBOURS @ STREET NAME

[Date]

Hi [Neighbour],

Given that many of us are facing challenges as a result of the coronavirus, I thought it’d be great to connect with neighbours on our street, so we can possibly support each other during these times. So, I have set up a private group on Facebook called:

Neighbours @ Street Name

specifically, for residents of this street, which you should be able to find; if you’d like to join me. If you can’t find the group on Facebook, then please add me as a friend and I’ll invite you to the group. My name is Name Surname. My link: https://www.facebook.com/namenumbers

My profile picture looks like (insert image)

If you are at home and perhaps “self-isolating” due to COVID-19 please let me know if you need any free help with groceries or have any practical needs e.g. posting mail or urgent supplies. I would like to help you, even it’s just a friendly call or text.

My phone number is 0… … …

If there’s any way that I or perhaps other neighbours, can help you, please don’t hesitate to contact. I hope we can stay in touch.

Kind regards,

Name Surname

House/ Unit No., No. Street Name, Suburb

___

PART 2 – How to Set Up a Private Facebook Group for the Neighbours in Your Street

  1. Go to your own Facebook page (your name).

  2. Click the “More” tab (via laptop) and scroll down and click “Groups”.

  3. Once page opens to “Groups”, click “+ Create Group”.

  4. Once page opens, type in box for “Name of Group” as Neighbours @ Name Street e.g. Neighbours @ Backhouse Road. I left off the suburb name, and put the suburb in the “About” section instead. It is quicker for people to use the search engine of Facebook by finding the exact Facebook group name (with your street name); rather than having to type the entire street group name and the suburb name. Just keep it quick and easy to find.

  5. After naming group, select privacy “Private” but make it “Visible” anyone to find this group.

  6. Click blue box “Create”. After your Facebook private group page “appears” you need to personalise your group.

  7. If you like the image of the coloured houses shown in the “PART 1 – How to Write a Letter to the Neighbours in Your Street”; then copy and paste the image of coloured houses and put it into a file/ picture folder within your laptop.

  8. Now go back to the Facebook private group to edit and click “upload photo

i) Green box to “Upload Photo” from your files or

ii) “Choose Photo” – click down tab & choose photo

  1. To use the coloured houses image as your profile photo for the Facebook private group, click the green box to upload this particular image from your files or use another photo.

  2. Wait until the image appears on the Facebook private group and see if you need to “drag to reposition” if needed. Once photo/ image is set, click blue box “save”.

  3. Go to left hand side navigation pages and click “About” then “Add a Description”. Type statement “This is a private group for any neighbour who lives in Name Street, Suburb.” Type in the actual name of your street and the suburb and then click blue box “Confirm”.

  4. Scroll down Navigation to “Moderate Group” in navigation on left side.

  5. Click “Member Requests”. Under tab “Joined Facebook date” – scroll down and click “All”. Under tab “Request length of membership” = “All”. Under tab “Gender” = “All”. Check other tabs and click what is appropriate e.g. under tab “Profile picture” = “All” and under tab “Invited” = “All”.

  6. Click “Approval notifications” and leave as “Receive notifications when people ask to join the group.”

  7. Click “Create rules” then “Create rule

  8. To create rules – see examples provided by Facebook, e.g.

  1. Be Kind and Courteous – click confirm then click right arrow to create rule. Do next rule.

  2. No hate speech or bullying – click confirm then click create rule

  3. No promotion or spam – click confirm then create rule

  4. Respect everyone’s privacy – click confirm

  5. Create your own additional rule by typing in the box (if needed) with title/description.

  1. Click “Membership questions” then “Add Question”. These are 3 sample questions (or edit yourself):

1) What house/unit number are you in Name Street? Click down tab to “Written answer” then click “Save”.

2) Is there anything you would like help with or have a need? Click down tab to “Written answer” then click “Save”.

3) Would you be willing to provide help or offer support to neighbours in our street? Click down tab to “Written answer” then click “Save”.

  1. Under “Group rules” – “Include your group rules and ask pending members to select that they agree to them”. Toggle grey button to right = blue button.

  2. Under tab “Automatic member approvals” – strongly recommend that you do NOT proceed with “Get Started” which allows Facebook to automatically add members based on criteria. As Admin., you want to be able to see the notifications of who has requested to join your private street group and if they have answered the 3 or more questions and agree to rules.

NB. After I set up my “Neighbours @ Backhouse Road” Facebook private group, I received a number of requests from my own Facebook friends wanting to join; but they were not residents (neighbours) in my street and didn’t answer the 3 questions. My friends thought this was for any “neighbour” in the region to join. So, I had to click “decline” to these friends’ requests to join the group. I then sent a follow up message on Messenger, explaining to my friends it was just for neighbours in my street. I then asked my friends to consider setting up a Facebook private group for their neighbours in their own street.

  1. Under “About” there is a section called “Recommend by the admin”. Consider adding a group e.g. a Facebook local community group that would appeal to neighbours or is relevant to the suburb/ region. Click “Manage” and then click “Recommend existing group”. Type in the name of the group you want to add or view the list of groups shown which are in your own “groups”. Remember this is a street neighbours Facebook private group you are setting up. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit which relevant groups (if any) to add. You may have a local foodbank group you could add or a community organisation that might appeal to your neighbours. I chose a community group (connected to my local Christian radio station Pulse 94.1FM) called “Pulse Community Space”.

  2. Click “Discussion” on navigation section. This will show you posts and comments.

  3. Click “Members” and you should see yourself as the Admin. Eventually other Members (neighbours) will be added and listed here, who have joined and been approved.

  4. Under “Members” go to right-hand side and see “Invite Members”. You can click your own Facebook friends and family members, but only if they actually live in your home and street.

  5. Once neighbours request to “join” the Facebook private group, they will be asked the questions and to agree to rules. You will then receive a notification to approve or decline the pending members. Approved members can then “invite members”; but only those residents in the street. For e.g. a husband may join and once ‘approved’ by Admin, the husband can “invite” his wife or family members, who live in the same household/street.

  6. This completes the necessary sections to create a Facebook private group for the neighbours in your street. You can now view the various navigation areas and edit where needed, as you are the Admin.

  7. After you deliver your “Letter to Neighbours @ Name Street”, you may start to receive “notifications” of neighbours wanting to join the Facebook private group. From my experience in my cul-de-sac of 15 neighbours, 1/3 joined the Facebook private group. Most of the neighbours did not answer the 3 questions, which made it difficult to know who was a genuine neighbour. However, as people’s profiles are visible to the public, I was able to view where pending members were from, and most I recognised from their profile photo. If the pending member has not answered any of the questions and you are in doubt, just send the pending member a polite message saying something like “Thank you for wanting to join this private group of neighbours in name street. If you live in our street, please will you confirm what house/ unit number you are, so I can add you as an approved member?”

  8. Once you “approve” a pending member (or decline a pending member with a follow up message), then type up a post welcoming the name of the new neighbour (tag their name). Only Members and the Admin. can see the posts and comments in “Discussion”, as it’s a private group. You can always invite other Members to be co-Admins or Moderators, especially if you have a large street of 100 or more neighbours or you later leave the street.

  9. May I suggest writing regular posts to keep in contact with your neighbours and mention to them about “Nextdoor” (app and website) which is for the local region, set up into suburbs. People can join through a login and password and it’s a bigger connection for neighbourhoods, but not as personal as the Facebook private group that you have created for the “Neighbours @ Name Street”. You could also write posts on your Facebook private group about news or events happening in the area/region, which you think might be interesting for your neighbours e.g. school fairs, charity/musical events, Christmas and Easter church services for a variety of denominations, including your own church services.

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[Photo by Mathyas Kurmann on Unsplash]

By |2020-04-16T15:30:17+10:00April 16th, 2020|Australia, Authors|1 Comment

About the Author:

Sharon Cousins is a Christian living in Wollongong.

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