Keeping that “small town feel” alive—via Facebook

PHOTO COURTESY OF DEVON VOLKEL How would you like to find a box of money on your doorstep, just when you need it most? “They rang my doorbell, and this was on my porch,” said Devon Vokel of Wellington. “To whoever this angel is, thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Sally Roth
sroth@northfortynews.com

How does a once small town that’s going through the growing pains of explosive growth nurture person-to-person connections and helpfulness?

One word: Facebook.

Thanks to the highly active Facebook page Let’s Talk Wellington, residents of the rapidly growing town help each other out, connect over shared concerns, and enjoy being neighbors, even if they’ve never met in person.

The popular FB page is like a town-wide coffee klatch—it sure puts the “social” in social media. Let’s Talk Wellington (https://facebook.com/groups/LetsTalkWellington/) has nearly 6,800 FB members—in a town of about 8,500 population (http://wellingtoncoloradochamber.net/economic-development/demographics).

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The Wellington area is a hybrid of town and country, old-timers and newcomers. Working farms shoulder up against booming subdivisions; downtown shops compete with the mass appeal of Fort Collins, just a quick zip down the interstate. (Well, unless the roads are slick or the timed traffic lights at Wellington’s only I-25 exit/entrance are out of sync. No worries, though—folks post about traffic tie-ups as soon as they occur.)

Same story for many growing communities along the Front Range. Yet Wellington’s use of FB seems to be unique. With new posts popping up every few hours, people read the FB pages just for fun, and everyone feels free to chime in.

A second active FB town-wide page, Let’s Talk Openly Wellington at https://facebook.com/groups/1877545892507992/, has close to 2,000 members. And—hang on to your hat—if you search FB for “Wellington Colorado”, you’ll find more than 80 other pages for shared interests, businesses, civic organizations, churches, lost and found pets, you name it. Even some subdivisions have their own pages. But everyone comes together on the biggie, Let’s Talk Wellington.

“Anybody know what’s up with splash park? Only half the water is working.” “What time does the library open today?” ”What’s the farmers’ market schedule?” Who would you recommend for fence repair, bathroom tile, concrete work, house painting? Can someone in town make a custom birthday cake? Is pho on the menu yet at the new restaurant in town?

The Wellington FB community supplies real-life answers faster than Google, and information—and opinions!—spread even faster than gossip over the fence did in the old days.

Reading between the lines

For sale: strappy high heels with rhinestones. For sale: no-nonsense muck boots. You’ll find both, because Wellington retains its ag community roots. “Angus calves wanted.” “In need of a few bales of alfalfa”—and by “a few,” that poster means 10-15. “Anyone with a bunch of horsepoop, feel free to drop it off at my place.”

Small-town helpfulness is quickly apparent. Moving-day helpers fall through, and you’re stuck with a U-Haul you can’t unload yourself? “It really shouldn’t take that long provided we have a nice crew,” commented a member of Trailhead Church, rounding up help. Welcome to Wellington!

“If anyone needs to be pulled out of the snow, let me know, I can try to get you out,” offered a post on a snowy, slippery night.

Wandering pets are found and returned home. So are lost wallets, keys, phones…and straying cattle.

The biggest hint of how the times, they are a-changing, for rapidly growing Wellington? “Free moving boxes,” a post that seems to pop up every few days.

Most posts are about everyday life: a veterinarian who helped with an after-hours emergency, good service from a mechanic, outgrown baby or kids’ clothes, slow service for fast food, or the frequently out-of-commission McDonald’s ice cream machine.

But big issues are kicked around, too: Schools. Crime. Crossing the Interstate that divides the town. Unreliable Internet. And, what seems like the number one complaint, “The water sucks!” (people don’t mince words on FB). That concern is being addressed by the town’s plans for a new $12 million treatment facility.

Just as in real small-town life, the Wellington FB community is quick to reinforce neighborly behavior. A constantly barking dog? A response of “talk to the owner” gets FB Likes of agreement. “Maybe they aren’t aware of it” bestows benefit of the doubt, and a second chance for the owner of the barker.

Thank yous range from individual efforts (“Thanks, whoever shoveled my sidewalk!”) to a town-wide campaign to bring Christmas cheer to seniors. Organized by Michelle Opdyke and accomplished via FB in only a few weeks, “Christmas elves for seniors” went a long way towards helping “brighten a senior’s day,” posted Opdyke afterward, thanking the volunteers for “helping wrap donation boxes, buying presents, donating money, adopting an individual, and delivering.”

Warnings are spread fast, too. A new piece of playground equipment causing injury last summer. Thefts from vehicles or porches. Teenagers out playing “ding-dong ditch.” Sightings of mountain lions, a badger, great horned owls (“Watch your small dogs and cats!”). It’s a town-wide neighborhood watch, conducted in real time on Facebook.

As in any community, griping is inevitable on Facebook. This is the Internet, after all, and blunt questions, judgmental responses, and no-holds-barred opinions do pop up. Or as one follower noted, “Entertainment!”

Cue the popcorn-eating memes, and settle in to enjoy the feeling of small town life in a big and growing town.

PHOTO COURTESY OF JESSICA LYNN ANDERSON
“Love our new community, and I wanted to show my kids that, even though it may not be our trash, we are helping out our community,” posted Jessica Lynn Anderson on FB, after a windstorm sent trash cans flying.

 

 

“A FRIEND IN NEED…”

Free food, warm coats, toilet paper, baby supplies, books to enjoy on long winter nights are all available in Wellington; even 24/7 in some cases, thanks to help-yourself boxes. When supplies run low, they are quickly refilled—via a plea on FB.

Blessing Box
3906 Cleveland Avenue, outside of the Wellington Filling Station, just east of the skate park
“Borrow a cup of sugar?” Sugar, flour, salt and nonperishable food, plus baby supplies, toiletries and feminine hygiene products, toilet paper and more are free for the taking from the Blessing Box.

Front Range Coat and Clothes Closet
8251 Wellington Boulevard
Free coats, clothes and shoes for the whole family are given away every other Sunday at the Coat and Clothes Closet, founded and run by Shirrell Tietz, at Trailhead Church. https://facebook.com/frontrangecoatcloset/ 

Little Free Library
Third Street and Kennedy Avenue, plus 2 new book box locations in town parks
“Should I put the whole series out at once, or one at a time?” posted Lacey Shupe, originator and steward of the Little Free Library at 3rd and Kennedy, which stocks plentiful children’s books as well as adult reading, Two new book boxes recently built by Anakin Hessler, located at Park Meadows Park and Winick Park, add to readers’ options when a quick stop is preferred to visiting the town library.

Food Bank
8445 3rd Street
Choose your own or pick up a pre-packed supply of groceries at the Wellington Food Bank, normally open on the first and third Thursdays of each month. For qualification guidelines, dates and hours, see https://facebook.com/Wellington-Colorado-Food-Bank-111148762249068/

 

 

 

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