A typical Minnesota winter has more snow than what we’ve seen this year (which is almost none). Personally, the snow is what I love most about the cold winter months – the trees sparkle and the streets become quiet under the snow’s softness. While beautiful, the snow does have its obstacles: it buries cars, makes any kind of transportation difficult, and it covers our sidewalks in sheets of ice and snow.
Keeping our sidewalks accessible during the winter months isn’t easy. This is especially true for those in our neighborhood who are incapable of shoveling due to injury, age, or disability. Snow removal is required by the City. After a significant snowfall, residents are mandated to clear their sidewalks within 24 hours or risk being fined, placing the burden of hiring or finding someone to remove the snow on the property owners. It can be really stressful, especially for low income homeowners or those on a fixed income.
The LCC Volunteer Snow Shoveling Program provides a free option for residents who need services by connecting them with nearby neighbors who want to help. Longfellow resident Linny Siems has been a part of the program since 2022. Siems, 73, has been a bodyworker and massage therapist for the last 40 years, which has left her with arthritis and back issues that make shoveling difficult. She enrolled in the LCC Snow Shoveling Network last year after seeing an advertisement for it in the Messenger.
“It’s such a humbling and incredible feeling,” Siems said. “It’s a small lot, it doesn’t matter the size, but that they are willing to come out and do it…There’s a part of me that appreciates the smile and the wave and the personal aspect of it.”
Last year Siems was matched with a pair of volunteers who lived nearby – two younger people who would coordinate among themselves and with her, mostly via text or phone. For Siems, it was more than just the logistics.
“They really wanted to help me and make sure that I was ok,” she said. “It has been comforting and it’s been a relief. You’re dealing with humans with lives and other things and we all need to be flexible. I felt like we were all dealing together.”
Her two volunteers would send her messages to make sure she was staying warm and that her sidewalk and walkways were shoveled, especially when she had clients coming to the house.
“The pace of the relationship is interesting, getting to check in with each other whenever snow happens to fall. Last year, that meant I got to check in a lot with folks compared to this year!” said Dylan Cheever, a snow shoveling volunteer.
Siems has a new volunteer this year, who has been timely and found a neighbor to shovel for Siems while he was out of town. But she still sees one of her old volunteers around the neighborhood walking their dog and they exchange a smile and wave. It really made her feel connected to the community.
“My husband passed away a year ago in September and a lot of the house stuff was his job, so to get the help right after he passed, it made me feel held by the community in a way that I didn’t think would have been available,” Siems said.
Siems was grateful that in such a time of need, she didn’t have to worry about this. Siems re-enrolled in the program this year. It is important to note that recipients and volunteers have to reapply every year.
Many of our volunteers have been a part of this program for years. They have told us that being able to help out neighbors has been a meaningful part of building community and feeling connected to the neighborhood. Volunteers have received thank you gifts from their recipients, have come over to enjoy a cup of tea after the program has ended, or have another friendly face they recognize in the neighborhood.
“Even though I’m not paired with [Linny] this year, we still have that built connection and get to catch up when our walks intersect,” Cheever said. “Also, moving around to parts of the neighborhood means I see other friends around Greater Longfellow that I don’t necessarily have those run-ins with.”
Our program is always in need of volunteers, especially volunteers in Seward as we have expanded our program to include the Seward neighborhood with help from the Seward Neighborhood Group.
“There are so many benefits for not a big time commitment. Even if you have a full schedule like I do, it’s almost always possible to find the time to get out and shovel for 15-30 minutes. It makes your neighbor’s day and makes you feel closer with your community,” Cheever said.
We work really hard to make sure that every applicant gets matched with a volunteer. Sometimes it can take a couple of weeks, but we would love to make it as instantaneous as possible, which means we are striving to have a big volunteer pool to choose from. It makes a huge difference to our community – not only for those, like Siems, receiving the services, but for those who depend on clear sidewalks to be able to get around.
If you’re interested in joining our Volunteer Shoveling Network, fill out this form or call us at 612-722-4529. We would love to have you! And for those of you who are volunteering with us this year or have volunteered with us in the past. Thank you! You are part of what makes this community great.