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As Local Outreach pastor leading community outreach at a large church in Fort Worth with two multi-sites, a lot of people ask me how they can help others. At a time when social distancing and self-quarantine are necessary to protect our neighbors from COVID19 (corona virus), we must be creative and careful in how we help.

One of the best ways EVERYONE can help is the old-fashioned, time-tested ‘Call Tree.’ I recommend everyone create call trees in their own neighborhoods.

This is a simple, safe and highly effective way for out people to engage with their neighbors. It’s also ‘low-tech’ relational.

Call Tree

Definition: A call tree is a simple communication model used to notify friends and neighbors of an emergency or need. The idea comes from crisis management protocols.  A call tree is also known as a phone tree, call list, phone chain or text chain.

One person gathers contact information for a group. In the event of an emergency or urgent need, someone from the group can text/call the Point of Contact (POC) who will send out a group text to ask for help – meeting the need or dealing with the emergency.

Simple Steps to creating a call tree:

Step 1: You invite 8-10 neighbors to join a neighborhood call tree for emergencies or urgent needs.

Step 2: You offer your cell number to neighbors. Ask for the participating neighbor to text their name back to you to be included in the call tree. (This ensures the contact information is accurate).

Step 3: After gathering all willing neighbors’ contact info, you can loop in everyone in the group with a group ‘welcome’ text.

Step 4: Move quickly when an emergency need arises.

Click here CALL TREE DIAGRAM (PDF)

Call Tree Etiquette:

1. Give First by offering your cell number to neighbors. Always “invite” your neighbor to join the group. If they decline, just offer them your cell phone number and let them know to contact you if they need anything.

2. Be clear on the outset that this is a neighborhood call tree for emergencies and urgent needs only (medical emergency such as illness, food/water, grocery run, prescription pick-up, job loss, elderly neighbor welfare check-in).

3, Inform your neighbors that you will NOT share their contact info with anyone outside the neighborhood call tree.

4. Place a time limit of 30 days on the call tree. On the outset, inform your neighbors that the call tree will be active for 30 days. If we’re still dealing with COVID-19 in 30 days, ask each neighbor if they want to remain on the call tree. Then run it for another 30 days (repeat if necessary)

5. SOCIAL DISTANCING: Due to the current environment, we recommend writing a note and putting on their doorstep in the event you don’t see them often – inviting them to the neighborhood call tree – make sure write your cell number, full name and address in the note.

Pro Tips:

If you already know your neighbors and have their contact, encourage them to reach out to others you may not know. Be available by sharing your contact info and willingness to help.

Make note of any first responders or medical personnel in your neighborhood. Write them a thank you note – invite them to join the neighborhood call tree.

Contact your neighborhood patrol officer and let him/her know you have a neighborhood call tree and invite them to join – or ask if you can contact them if a need arises.

If anyone in your area becomes ill with COVID-19 (or any other illness), find ways to serve them and their family using the call tree.

There you have it! A call tree is simple, low-tech way to build relationships and meet needs in your community at a time when we are forced to limit our human contact due to social distancing.


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