It’s long been a staple of political campaigns in the city of Boston: Volunteers going door-to-door with literature promoting candidates and seeking votes.
On Saturday, the Walsh administration will re-boot the old-school “lit-drop” to get out vital COVID-19 information across the city. The Mayor’s Office is assembling an army of volunteers to bring an informational pamphlet, accessible in seven languages, to every property in Boston in a single day.
“I’ve been working in City Hall for a long time, but I’ve never coordinated a huge citywide lit drop that’s going to take place in one day,” said Jerome Smith, the city’s chief of civic engagement and neighborhood services director.
On Thursay, Smith said that a total of 680 volunteers have already signed up for the lit-drop.
“Our goal is to have around 1,000 volunteers,” said Smith. “That way we can comfortably be able to blanket the whole city. We can definitely get it done with the numbers we have now. It will just take a little longer.”
The “lit” will come in the form of a folded piece of paper that will outline details about COVID-19, a list of preventative measures to mitigate the spread, and a compilation of city resources, in seven different languages.
Those languages will include: English, Spanish, Haitian Kreyol, Simplified Chinese, Cape-Verdean Creole, and Russian. The pamphlet will also include a list of food access sites located around the city. The pamphlet will be made accessible on the city’s coronavirus website on Friday in many other languages.
Smith and all of the city’s neighborhood liaisons are taking charge to organize the effort.
“We’re pushing out a sign-up sheet and every volunteer has to sign up. We aren’t allowing any individual to participate if they haven’t signed up,” he said. “This is so we can keep control of the crowds and make sure that they are limited to 25 people.”
Smith explained that each volunteer who signs up ahead of time will receive a designated “appointment” consisting of a time and place to meet on Saturday. Each group of 25 volunteers will meet in a public park and be led by a representative from the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Services. “Everybody will get a tote bag full of lit pamphlets, some masks, and a map of the area that they will be walking,” said Smith.
He added: “It’s also important that we use words and pictures. Some groups are just not getting this information, so having one pamphlet with several languages on it hopefully will help that.”
Smith also noted that the city is in coordination with both the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) and the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), so that those respective agencies can reach out to individual property managers in large housing development who will be responsible for disseminating the informational pamphlets.
“This lit-drop effort is particularly important in places like Dorchester, where, for many, English is not the first language,” Smith said. “And messages put out on social media and other venues are not penetrating. Sometimes the best way to get the word out is the old-school, grass-roots method of going door-to-door. Not everybody has access to technology.”