How Our New PORCH Chapter Was Up and Running in Just Weeks

By Jodi Tolbert and Kim Joyce of PORCH Pender
Fight Hunger

Our origin story resembles that of most PORCH chapters. It has been – and continues to be – easy, rewarding, and exciting to launch and operate PORCH Pender.  

We both live in Hampstead, a coastal community in North Carolina. Hampstead is located in Pender County, home to six towns and 65,000 people. 

PORCH is Easy and Consistent

We heard about PORCH from Jodi’s sister.  We knew that the model was effective – dozens of PORCH chapters across the country prove that. We also knew that the PORCH Communities network would provide a lot of support to help us get started and keep going.

The PORCH for Pantries program uses a monthly food collection model that creates consistency in the community. As Chapter Leaders, we knew that local neighbors would rise to the occasion to donate food to help local people who need it. And we knew we could organize a few volunteers to pick up the donations to deliver them to local food distribution programs. We just needed to introduce PORCH to people and help them see how it works.

Built-In Expertise and Support 

Jodi submitted a request for more information through the PORCH Communities website. Within a couple of days, we had signed the agreement to launch PORCH Pender, established a start-up timeline, and been given access to PORCH’s Google drive, chock full of valuable resources. We discovered that Pender was actually able to move a bit faster than most start-up timelines suggest, and the PORCH model offers this flexibility. The PORCH Communities team made it possible to create our website just by answering a few questions, and has quickly responded to any requests for help. We are now connected with all the other Chapter Leaders, and it is a supportive group, always willing to share ideas and help. 

Supplying our local pantry 

We quickly found out that after the holidays, many pantries experience a decrease in donations. The needs are greater then, so timing was of the essence. We used a local listing of food pantries on Pender County’s website to reach out and set up meetings. As conversations with pantry directors progressed, we could sense their skepticism. Could it really be this easy to collect food from front porches on a monthly basis? We knew they would be pleasantly surprised by our success.

Three Tips for Establishing a PORCH Chapter

When talking about PORCH Pender, we focused on the fact that PORCH for Pantries gives neighbors the opportunity to give back. In our conversations, we also focus on the ease of the model. Here are three ways we established PORCH fast:

  1. Kim is from this area. Her vast connections have proven invaluable. From her first conversation about PORCH, she was energized and excited to tell friends and family. She thought about everyone she knew – she made mental notes of who would potentially gravitate toward this model and want to get involved. Close friends, gym acquaintances, church connections, fellow parents at soccer games. She became proactive in telling everyone she came across, understanding that word would spread and others would grow interested in becoming Neighborhood Coordinators. (Each month, Neighborhood Coordinators within a PORCH chapter collect non-perishable items from local porches and then sort the items before delivering them to their community’s pantries.) 
  2. We post to social media with consistency. Not just our Facebook pages, but our gym’s Facebook page, the neighborhood parents’ group, and on Next Door. With each post, two or three people reach out and express interest in becoming a Neighborhood Coordinator or a regular food donor. It is so gratifying to see this shift – people are now coming to us to get involved. 
  3. We encourage Neighborhood Coordinators to ask youth volunteers to help with their collections. So many teenagers in our area need community service hours but are busy. This is a simple way – over a weekend – to get them involved and to instill the importance of helping fellow Pender County residents. This also gives them a platform to demonstrate leadership skills and responsibility in a safe and structured format. We are currently actively recruiting high schoolers to become Neighborhood Coordinators. Two high schoolers in nearby New Hanover County are working to establish PORCH events in their schools and neighborhoods. 

Exceeding Goals and Creating Joy

As we moved forward, it became apparent that we could set the pace for our chapter by establishing goals. If we could get dates on the calendar, we could meet our goal. We wanted to onboard two neighborhoods each month in the first year; that way, we’d have at least 20 up and running on the occasion of our chapter’s first anniversary. 

In March 2023, as we celebrated our first two months, we surpassed our one-year goal of having 20 neighborhoods up and running. Seeing this fast progression is such a joy. It is undeniable evidence of how easy and inclusive PORCH makes it to have an impact right where you live! 

We hope you find the passion to start a PORCH in your community. It will truly be a decision that gives you a positive place to put your energy and give you hope for the future. 

This content was originally presented by the authors on the PORCH Communities State of the Community webinar in March 2023. Their comments have been edited for clarity and length for this publication.