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‘Snow Crew’: Shoveling past barriers

A woman navigated Congress Street after the storm Friday.Getty Images

After a big snowstorm like the one that battered Boston this week, people are often advised to check on their elderly neighbors. Many Bostonians would like to, but run up against one of the grim realities of modern life: They don’t know whether they have any elderly neighbors. In a city with a large college population, and shifting demographics in once close-knit neighborhoods, a lot of residents don’t know who lives next door, much less down the street.

That’s where an online project called Snow Crew comes in. Founded by Joseph Porcelli in 2009, the website seeks to connect volunteers to elderly or disabled neighbors who need help shoveling. It aims to turn one of the causes of social isolation — technology that eliminates the need for face-to-face contact — into a tool to fight it.


The program also raises some obvious privacy concerns, but it’s voluntary. And by forging new ties within neighborhoods, it could be a lifesaver. Seemingly every winter, a few awful stories of seniors who die of hypothermia in their homes emerge. Programs like Snow Crew will help prevent those tragedies, not just by shoveling out snowbound neighbors today, but by creating relationships for the future.