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December 5, 2012

Fraser residents get ‘E.N.U.F.F.’

By Nico Rubello
C & G Staff Writer

FRASER — On Oct. 18, Greg Mueller, facing the prospect that he and his wife could close the doors of their Fraser deli store for good, posted a plea for support on Facebook.

“Times are getting tough and (it’s) getting harder to keep the doors open,” read the message, in part, as posted on Mam n Paps Deli’s Facebook page.

Within a few hours, word of Mam n Paps Deli’s post had been picked up by members of Every Neighbor United For Fraser (E.N.U.F.F.), a Facebook group that has become an unofficial forum for people to discuss and share news and information from the Fraser community. Three days later, E.N.U.F.F. members already had organized a “cash mob” for Nov. 10.  Throughout the day, people stopped by the deli to purchase items.

“A lot of people were introduced to us,” said Mam n Paps co-owner Tammy Mueller. The most lasting effect, she added, has been residual business from new customers, introduced through the event. “We have done so much advertising since we’ve been here, and nothing compared to their word-of-mouth support.”

Since it was founded in September 2011, E.N.U.F.F. has seen its membership grow to nearly 640 members, as of Dec. 2. Group members use the forum as a grounds for sharing Fraser-related news and information, including community events like the Christmas in Fraser celebration on Dec. 1.

Fraser resident Chris Meller and his neighbor, Kelly Cronin Meilbeck, brainstormed E.N.U.F.F. during their over-the-fence conversations. The original idea, Meller said, was for E.N.U.F.F. to be a sort of neighborhood watch for the people within their own neighborhood.

The group grew as Fraser residents, past and present, joined and began discussing a diverse range of topics. Some — like the Mam n Paps cash mob, or the sightings of a wandering cat with a bell around its neck, or the Fraser police officer who waited for a woman to get to her car — have taken a life of their own.

“I’m actually surprised it has taken off like it has,” Meller said. “It branched out to people who used to live in Fraser, or maybe their parents live in Fraser, but they still want to keep tabs (on the city).”

E.N.U.F.F. administrators are clear that, almost without exception, members have kept discussion topics both civil and constructive on their own. But the group’s growth also brought some ethical queries.

What types of things was the group for, and what wasn’t it for?

Some members argue that administrators should limit the range of conversations to only “positive” items that depict the city in a good light, administrators said.

However, Michael Lesich, E.N.U.F.F.’s third administrator, who was added earlier this year, said it is not the job of site administrators to censor the flow of information on the page.

The argument was accentuated this May, when news broke that a Fraser teacher was facing criminal accusations after police say they found lewd pictures of Fraser students on his cellphone.

While discussion about the story was not off-limits, Lesich said administrators decided to step in when E.N.U.F.F. members began speculating on his sexual orientation.

“I was concerned about the families and the kids who may be further victimized by this discussion. It had no place on a community website,” Lesich added. “Sometimes people just need to express themselves, and that’s fine. But I do try to keep it so it’s not delving too deeply into the private lives of people.”

Administrators posted a statement on the group’s page: “Our goal is a constructive community conversation. We ask that comments are respectful and that the privacy of others is respected. It’s important, as we grow as an online community, that we remember that comments are potentially seen by over 500 people, and that everyone is entitled to their opinion, and that yours may vary.”

For group administrators, managing the posts is a fine line between allowing people the freedom of speech and respecting the privacy of those who may be the subject of news.

“You can attack a decision, you can argue some point, but it better be based upon something better than a personal attack on someone,” Lesich said.

It’s an infrequent concern. All in all, Lesich said he can count on one hand the number of times administrators have felt compelled to remove a post.

“It’s only been a couple of times when we say, ‘That’s not appropriate for the group,’” Lesich said, adding administrators then steer the conversation back to a “constructive” discussion of the topic at hand.

Fraser Mayor Doug Hagerty, an active E.N.U.F.F. member, said the group’s upside has shown much more potential than any downside. In particular, he said, he sees the site as a benefit to new Fraser residents, who may use the forum to ask for referrals on, for example, which local mechanic or dentist they should use.

More generally, the mayor said he sees social media as a new way for the city to make city government more easily accessible to all age brackets, although it wouldn’t replace traditional methods.

Meller said he sees the group as “blossoming and becoming bigger and bigger.” For the near future, plans are in the works to arrange regular meet-ups for E.N.U.F.F. members to get together in person.

To visit E.N.U.F.F., visit www.facebook.com/groups/enuff.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Nico Rubello at nrubello@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1118.