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Stormstown Neighbors Group Creates Community Connections, Even from a Distance

by on May 04, 2020 4:00 AM


In this time of crisis and shut down, people at both the local level and across the nation have shown the power of doing good.  We’ve seen everything from dollars raised to pay to feed our local front line heroes to individuals in the shelter of their own homes making masks. From the teachers in their own homes with their kids keeping up the efforts to teach our nation’s children to  firefighters and first responders honking their horns and turning on their sirens in a parade for graduating seniors, the creativity, thoughtfulness and goodness of the human race abounds.

Goodness could not be more evident in the little community near where I live.  

Located on Route 550 and within Halfmoon Township, Stormstown is a little hamlet of farm families, people who wanted to live outside the bustle of downtown State College and multiple generations who stayed close to home. Families who live in Stormstown have a Port Matilda address and send their kids to the State College Area School District.  

I don’t technically live in Stormstown but I get my car fixed at Halfmoon Valley Towing and order my pizza from Brothers Pizza at the old Barr Farm store. Over the years, I dropped off and picked up kids from sleepovers near or past Stormstown more often than I could count. I was a parent volunteer for the fall pumpkin patch field trips to Way Fruit farm. Friday nights at the Port Matilda Hotel (technically not in Stormstown) are a frequent staple. 

I consider myself a Stormstown wannabe.

A few months ago, I stumbled upon a group on Facebook called Stormstown Neighbors. I thought it seemed interesting so I clicked on “join.”  

My click linked me to one of the administrators, Stormstown resident Jennifer Reed, who asked me to verify that I lived in the Stormstown area. “My zip code is 16870, my kids went to Matternville and Grays Woods schools and I buy my pizza at the Brother’s in Stormstown.”  

I was in. 

“We’ve had people from two to three hours away ask to join,” said Jennifer Reed, Stormstown neighbor and one of the three page administrators. “It makes me laugh.”

Stormstown Neighbors truly reminds us what the word neighbor means.

Need a recommendation for a plumber? Need a pet sitter? Have some stuff in your garage that you want to unload? Worried about how fast people are driving on your street or have some fresh eggs to give away? What’s this weed growing in my garden? How do I fix my lawn mower? You can do it all on Stormstown Neighbors.   

There is even one guy, Bill, who posts the daily weather report. Why bother with the Weather Channel when a Stormstown neighbor is there to help you out?

“I was sitting on my patio one day, bored I guess, and I got the idea from a friend,” said Reed. “She had mentioned that she was part of a Facebook page for her neighborhood. A Facebook group for neighborhood? I thought why not?”  Reed and her friends Jodi Brown and Karen Miller (wife of veterinarian Jeff Miller who sees most of the pets in Stormstown and the adjacent areas) decided to work together. As a teacher at the high school, Reed isn’t able to monitor the site during the day so they take turns making sure it stays neighborly.

I found out myself how it works. Someone on the site asked if anyone had a tile saw they could borrow to help with renovating a bathroom. I looked at my husband and said, “Someone wants to borrow a tile saw.” I knew we had one in the garage. I responded “Happy to help,” and put it out on the front porch. It disappeared for a day or two and then was returned with a tin of chocolate chip cookies and a thank you note.

Neighbors helping neighbors. Even just the pictures that people post of birds or sunsets or rainbows in Stormstown make my day a little brighter.

The group is decidedly non-political, non-religious and non-controversial. The rules are pretty clear. Be neighborly or you are out.

 “We get a little fussy because there are kids on the site,” said Reed. “They advertise their babysitting or pet-sitting businesses. We generally don’t have to kick people out. Usually we’ll just reach out if a post doesn’t match the spirit of the group. People are usually very apologetic and immediately take it down.”  

The group of over 1,000 members is diverse in their political and other views. Despite that, the group has the feel of the “talk with your neighbors over the fence” time when things were simpler and people were more connected.

It makes me smile when the alert comes up that someone’s sheep or calves or pigs have somehow escaped their fences and are wandering close to the road. Inevitably, someone will say, “Those are ours!” and the problem is quickly resolved.

There are eggs from free-range chickens, Girl Scout cookies, meat directly from the farm and glowing reviews of the pick and delivery from Way Fruit Farm.

I’ve seen posts of older people asking if someone was heading to the grocery store. Within minutes, someone stepped up to volunteer to pick up groceries. One older person put out a request for home health support and again, numerous volunteers stepped forward with either names of contacts or the offer to help.  People post about things on their porch for free pick up. Others ask for items to help a college student or a family member who is setting up a household.

I posted about books and some spongeware that I no longer needed. Both were gone within hours.

And then there are Stormstown Neighbors Patty Dills and Nancy Sabol. These two neighbors have almost single-handedly outfitted most of Stormstown and beyond with the masks they have made during this virus shut down – all for no charge. The post said, “Let me know how many you need.” I picked up four from Nancy’s porch – in a plastic bag with my name on it – after she put out the offer.  

Hundreds of people helped by Stormstown neighbors.

Stormstown Neighbors has restored my faith in humanity. People connected by geography who are willing to help a neighbor even during this time of stress, shutdowns and uncertainty. As Stormstown Neighbors shows us, social distancing isn’t really social. We can still connect with each other – we just need to do it another way.



Patty Kleban is an instructor at Penn State, mother of three and a community volunteer. She is a Penn State Alumna. Readers of State College Magazine voted her Best Writer of 2010 and 2012. She and her family live in Patton Township. Her views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State.
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