Support for the website and Email List

We had our first ever (in 20 years!) fundraiser in November 2022, and we’d like to give everyone an opportunity to continue that support as well as purchase stickers and signs as desired. 

Right now we have St Elmo stickers for $5 each and vinyl St Elmo signs for $25 each. Go here to fill out the form and purchase: St Elmo Stickers, Signs, and Donations

What’s all this about? Read on for more information:

In short: I (Jeffrey Cross) have been running the St Elmo Neighbors email list and website for 20 years, and it costs some money to run them.

Long version: Some of you have been members of this list for the entire twenty years it’s been running; some of you joined just last week. For those of you who are relatively new, here’s a little background. I had started a software development company in 1999, operating out of my house in St Elmo. As our business model moved more into websites and internet applications, I thought it would be fun to create a neighborhood website. We also found ourselves in the business of email services, so an email list seemed like a good add-on. I went to neighborhood meetings (back then it was the St Elmo Improvement League), collected email addresses to put on the list, and wrote the list address on a whiteboard. Eventually, somebody tried it out and found that it worked, as in: they sent an email, and people read it and did something. Wow! The rest is history, I guess. It was a free-for-all at first - messages just went through without moderation. That was fine for a while, but… some people were just getting up to speed on internet communication, and we had a couple of brouhahas (the one about how the property that is now the playground was going to be used comes to mind), and I decided this was not going to be the kind of place where people were going to be publicly lashed for their opinions. So yes, I appointed myself moderator (benevolent dictator?) of the email list, and I or my small but dedicated (and generally unnamed for their safety) band of helpers have approved every email you’ve seen since. How many emails is that? Well, for the past several years it’s been running at about 6000-8000 per year. I have most of them archived, and I’m seeing about 70,000 since 2010. We are an active neighborhood!

I am proud of St Elmo, and proud to have played some part in helping the community communicate effectively. When my wife and I bought our house in 1994, we already knew that it was a special place where an eclectic mix of friendly people (who were decidedly not pretentious) were always willing to help each other. I’ve just tried to make it easier to find or offer help, whether it’s a sofa that can find a new home, a dog that can find its way back home, help with a leaky sink or an air quality stink, what day is recycling or Halloween… You name it; we’ve covered it!

In a lot of ways, the satisfaction of feeling that I’ve made a contribution to the neighborhood has been enough recompense for the investment I’ve made in time and money. But really, maybe I should take a different perspective here and not keep the good feelings to myself. Running the email list and website (i.e. paying for server hosting) has cost an average of about $15/month in recent years. That’s not a lot at a time, but, well, in 20 years it starts looking like real money, I guess. I’ll let you do the math! If you have at some point benefitted from the email list in some way, and wondered “How could I possibly repay the people who made this possible?!?” Well, I’m finally giving you a chance! 

Getting down to a little business here… The email list software needs some upgrades. Also, I was pretty slack on updating the website for quite a while. Part of me was starting to wonder if it made sense to continue running these things. Have Facebook or Nextdoor superseded them? Maybe in some ways, but then I see messages come through the list that someone needs help with x, y or z, and 15 minutes later they send a message that they got what they needed. That makes me think that the email list is still relevant! Meanwhile, as I’ve talked this over with my wife, Heather, she has had enough confidence that the website really could be useful that she went ahead and updated almost all of the outdated content on it. Check it out! There is more work to be done, certainly, but we would like to see if these facilities can continue to be viable resources for the neighborhood in 2023 and beyond. Heather is willing to continue creating content, and also to make some efforts in the social media realm; for example, cross-posting useful information across Facebook and the email list. To some extent, the level of financial support we can generate may help define the demand for the resources and the effort we can make to continue providing them.

There are many good causes out there. Part of not having asked for support in the past has to do with not wanting to take away from so many things that may be worthwhile. But if you have the means to help keep up and running and providing information to the neighborhood, we will be grateful for your support. Thanks!