FROM one person’s off the cuff idea to becoming Wiltshire’s second largest online community page. From re-uniting owners with their missing pets, to dealing with alarming threats and even facing life-threatening situations. It is fair to say, however, that with nearly 17,000 followers, online forum Spotted in Trowbridge (SIT) has 'made it' in no uncertain fashion.

So what exactly is it? SIT is an online Facebook page where the Trowbridge community, and beyond, can share information, post events  and start topics of discussion. They either post anonymously, by messaging the admin team who then hide their name, or they can post on the Facebook page, so everyone can see who is posting it. Those posts range from the humourous, to the insightful to the obscene, but shows how positive social media can be to helping a community.

An anonymous administrator, who goes by the name of Thumbs Up, got the ball rolling by setting up the page in June 2014 and its first post was on the scrapyard fire in Shails Lane.

More locals began to use the Facebook page, either by messaging the administrator, who then posts their text onto the page, so that they too are anonymous. Or they can just post as themselves.

As the page began to grow in popularity, the stakes went up too. Thumbs Up then recruited another volunteer ‘admin’, Penguin, in 2016, and then Paws in 2017.

The three of them monitor the page, which last week got 46,000 views, for around five-six hours a day, whilst holding down full-time jobs.

“Among the normal advertising we get people sending in some crazy messages, almost daily - you name it, we’ve had it,” said Penguin.

“We have to read every post and make sure it’s not breaking Facebook’s rules. When we moderate we deal with threats, complaints and even contacting the police, such as when people say to come to their homes to buy cannabis. Posters have threatened us by saying ‘Don’t go out at night,’ so it is serious stuff.”

Penguin lives in Westbury, is 43 and works in manufacturing, Paws, 48, and Thumbs Up, 51, both live in Trowbridge and work in hospitality and logistics respectively - and all of them are grandparents.

One unforgettable and poignant moment came 12 months ago when one poster came to the admin team, desperately in need of help.

“It is clear that she was indeed contemplating suicide,” said Penguin.

“I was unsure if I should post it as I didn’t know them at all but I decided to post it.”

Thumbs Up said: “People reached out, offering someone to talk to. People ensured the contact details were sent to Samaritans. We had counsellors offering their services and a lot of people asking where she was and offering to help her. She said we and the posters saved her life.”

As a result of the post, police ties were strengthened, they updated the page’s rules to show the admin were not trained in areas of assisting mental health and they updated their automatic reply to the Samaritan’s contact number.

Despite starting more than a year after Spotted in Westbury, the Trowbridge edition overtook it in late 2016 and now the admin team have their sights on overtaking Salisbury, which has a much larger population, as the number one Spotted page.

“We love what the three of us have and what we do,” said Thumbs Up. “The three of us work really well as a team and we have different strengths to bring in more followers.”

Penguin added: “We’re always thinking of ideas to get us more followers like the regular competitions we run. We get 40-60 posts a day. We want to be number one in Wiltshire and help as many people as possible because we care deeply about the town.”