Uncle Rahm Wants You … to Join the Snow Corps

By Patty Wetli | Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Snow Corp volunteers to clear sidewalks for those who can't. Credit: Flickr/roscoevillagepets

If Mayor Emanuel were to have addressed the city before the first underwhelming snowfall of his tenure, one imagines his pep talk to have gone something like this: Ask not what your city can do for you, ask what you can do for your city. Shovel thy neighbor’s sidewalk.

To help Chicagoans navigate winter, the city unveiled the new Chicago Shovels web portal, which received its first trial last week and, if the meteorologists are to be believed, is about to get another workout.

Residents were instantly fascinated by the Plow Tracker feature, clearly intended to appeal to the gaming generation but so low-tech in execution as to have an almost retro quaintness; one expected 3-D graphics but instead was served up  the equivalent of Pac-Man or, to dig deep into the archives, Pong. Yet it’s the less highly touted Snow Corps program that has the potential to make a greater and longer lasting impact.

The Snow Corps connects people who like to shovel, and yes, Virginia, such people do exist, with people who have more difficulty clearing their sidewalks, including seniors and the disabled. Volunteers sign up online and, based upon their indicated preferences, are matched with a resident who has requested assistance through 3-1-1. Recipients of assistance must be age 60 or older and/or have a physical disability. They must also live within Chicago city limits and lack access to other available resources (e.g., local family/friends or the ability to pay the kid down the block) to assist with snow removal. The benefits of the program multiply when you factor in the number of pedestrians able to safely negotiate walkways that might otherwise go uncleared.

Note: Just because you shovel someone’s sidewalk, doesn’t mean you can call dibs.

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