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December 08, 2016
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Growing community; One email at a time

Beverly Sterner of Milanville, PA is the founder of the Upper Delaware Community Network.
TRR photo by Jane Bollinger

“I’ve lived in many places, but the UD Community Network is unique to our/your region. Its real value to me right now that I am living in Virginia, is to keep in live contact with all of you superb individuals living and working in the Upper Delaware region. I believe you are all just around the corner, not half way up country. I don’t know enough people down here yet to start a similar network, but hope to someday meet enough to start one down here in the southland.”

—Barbara Yeaman

The Upper Delaware Community Network was founded 12 years ago by Beverly Sterner of Milanville, PA. It wasn’t called that at first, and it wasn’t online at first—just a group of friends and neighbors who needed to gather and talk and to be there for each other in the wake of 9/11. “Some of the people who live here saw the buildings come down,” Sterner recounted in an interview recently, referring to the twin towers in Lower Manhattan. Thus, the seed was planted, and Sterner began to reach out to connect neighbors and friends over pot-luck suppers and discussion about issues of community concern. She kept in touch by email and started to develop and maintain an email list.

“I didn’t have a goal, exactly,” she said, “just the idea of creating a way for people to communicate, so in case of a crisis we’d have a vehicle already in place to deal with it.”

The email postings became a community bulletin board. Its purpose was both to serve individual needs and at the same time to introduce people into the community. Over the years, most people have joined by word of mouth. “I didn’t really do anything specific to promote it,” Sterner reflected. “Rather, it just grew organically.”

She remembered the day her service provider called to suggest she establish a LISTSERV™ to handle the growing volume of email. “I asked, ‘What’s a list serve,’” she laughed, referring to her introduction to the software technology that allows a sender to post an email to a group list. Soon after, the Yahoo group was created with the help of a tech-savvy friend.

As the moderator of the Network, Sterner established some guidelines as spelled out in the original introduction to the Network sent to those who join: “As individuals we recognize that we will have different views and approaches to issues and events, but as friends and neighbors, we wish to share them, inform and educate ourselves and hold our differences in common and with respect.”