Photo by willandbeyond on Flickr.

Last month, DDOT and DPW asked residents whether they had organized their neighborhood snow shoveling teams. In the snow announcement, then-DDOT Director Gabe Klein specifically mentioned elderly and disabled residents who may need assistance with accumulated ice or snow.

It’s worthwhile to examine the activities that one specific neighborhood, Glover Park, undertook to organize and provide these services. Glover Park has had frequent discussions on the neighborhood listserv regarding some sidewalks that never seem to get shoveled.

These issues are by no means unique to Glover Park. The root causes can vary from elderly residents unable to shovel to government agencies for whom it does not seem to be a concern. Snow removal is highly dependent on whether a property owner is willing and able to clear sidewalks on a timely basis.

No single solution, regulatory or otherwise, could hope to solve all of these issues. With support from Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3B and the Glover Park Citizens Association (GPCA), the appropriately named “Glover Park Team” sought to address the needs of residents who are physically unable to shovel.

The sense of urgency to organize and pursue this initiative came from two sources. A primary driver was listserv traffic describing properties whose sidewalks have persistent snow and ice long after precipitation ends. Another factor was the occasional senior citizen or physically limited person who approached GPCA for shoveling assistance.

With feedback from residents, the ANC developed a snow shoveling flyer. The flyer explains the obligation to shovel sidewalk. It also promotes the availability of volunteers help with those who are physically unable to shovel. Any resident can print the flyer and leave a copy at a property with untreated sidewalks.

At no point was there significant discussion about how to formally validate that someone needed assistance. Organizers generally assumed that someone who approached the neighborhood for assistance legitimately needed it.

The outreach for the Glover Park Team has been through nearly every means possible in order to maximize its reach and effectiveness. The neighborhood association (GPCA) and ANC have announced these volunteer services at their meetings. GPCA also published an article in its print newsletter. Reminders have been sent out through the neighborhood listserv and Twitter account.

Residents can request volunteer services either by phone or email. Volunteers man the phone and email accounts, sharing the time commitment required to organize the efforts. Organizers try to match the resident with an existing volunteer. Or, if there is not yet a volunteer in that area of the neighborhood, an announcement is sent out by email and Twitter to find one nearby.

The volunteer program has been successful with matching several residents with shoveling volunteers.

As implemented in Glover Park and other neighborhoods, volunteer shoveling does not resolve every snow removal concern. It has, however, proven highly successful in clearing sidewalks for those unable to do so on their own.

As a result, Glover Park residents are enjoying an easier walking environment.

Mitch Wander first arrived in Washington, DC over 30 years ago as a US House of Representatives page while in high school. An avid promoter of DC living, Mitch has lived in wards 1, 2, 3, and 6. He and his wife are proud DC Public School parents. He serves as an officer in the US Army Reserve.