Citywide ‘lit-drop’ drive drew more than 1,000 volunteers

Patrick Fandel, Office of Neighborhood Services liaison, distributed lit-bags to volunteers on Clancy Road, across from Walsh playground in Lower Mills. Katie Trojano photo

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 led a re-boot of the old-school “lit-drop” to get out vital COVID-19 information across the city. An army of nearly 1,100 volunteers picked up bags of lit from locations across the city, dropping the informational pamphlet, accessible in seven languages, to every property in Boston.

Jerome Smith, the city’s chief of civic engagement and neighborhood services director, told the Reporter that the effort continued from Saturday through Monday morning.

“We did it all weekend long-- on Saturday and Sunday we continued our effort with BHA housing and senior buildings,” said Smith, “We already knew that would take some special weekend and was going to stretch through the whole weekend.”

Last Thursday, Smith said that the city had logged a total of 680 lit drop volunteers, with an overall goal of 1,000.

“We did reach our volunteer goal. We got over 1,000, just short of 1,100 people participated and it was great,” said Smith. “We blanketed the city at right around 3 p.m.”

The “lit” was delivered in the form of a folded piece of paper that outlined 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 included: English, Spanish, Vietnamese, Haitian Kreyol, Simplified Chinese, Cape-Verdean Creole, and Russian. The pamphlet also included a list of food access sites located around the city, and has been made accessible on the city’s coronavirus website on Friday in many other languages.

Smith and all of the city’s neighborhood liaisons took charge of organizing the effort. Each volunteer was provided with a reusable bag full of lit, a map of the area they would be walking, hand sanitizer, and gloves.

Volunteers were required to sign-up in advance so that the city could keep control of the crowds and make sure they were limited to 25 people and followed social distancing rules.

“Ultimately, I believe it was a success,” said Smith. “Especially given the fact that the Sunday before, we had no idea whether or not we would be able to pull it off.”

Smith said that many residents thanked the volunteers, and also offered the city organizers advice for future efforts.

“We did also get some feedback from resident groups on how to organize better,” Smith told the Reporter. “ We appreciate if any readers have comments or advice, that they reach out to our office and share any of their thoughts on the process or how we could make it better.”

Last week, Smith said that the lit-drop was a necessary means of disseminating COVID-19 info to those who had not been reached by other methods of communication.

“This lit-drop effort is particularly important in places like Dorchester, where, for many, English is not the first language,” he 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.”

“For Dorchester, it was really important that we got into areas like Bowdoin/Geneva, and that we got to Fields Corner-- where for many, English is not the first language,” he said. “We were able to inform people of where to go to seek more info and directed them to trusted news sites and city websites.”

Smith also noted that the city had been in coordination with both the Boston Planning and Development Agency (BPDA) and the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA), so that those respective agencies could reach out to individual property managers in large housing developments who were responsible for disseminating the informational pamphlets.