Volunteer of the Month: Joni Verchereau for GMUW’s Tatum’s Totes

BERLIN — Joni Verchereau stands out in a crowd. Her presence is warm, open, and friendly.

As a member of the First Congregational Church of Berlin, she is responsible for coordinating the church’s monthly donations to Green Mountain United Way’s Tatum’s Totes partnership. Tatum’s Totes supplies foster kids with backpacks, clothing, water bottles and just about anything else you can fit into a backpack.

Some children are taken into the foster system with nothing more than a garbage bag with their clothes inside. The Tatum’s Totes backpacks provide items the kids desperately need and helps them transition into their new homes. Since July 2017, the congregation has collected supplies for more than 100 kids in Barre, Newport, and St. Johnsbury Department for Children and Families regions. In 2018 alone, Green Mountain United Way and Tatum’s Totes has provided more than 30 backpacks to children transitioning to emergency foster care.

As an X-ray technician at the local hospital, Verchereau says she sees the need all the time — children who have lost everything and may not know what is ahead of them. Verchereau sympathizes. She is a single mom whose son is now 21. She remembers when he was little, she wanted so badly to foster another child but wasn’t able to. “No child would choose this life,” she says.

Although she didn’t have the means to foster a child, Verchereau still wanted to give back. She started rescuing dogs. She gave back in other ways, too. She has been a member of the church for more than 20 years, assisting with outreach projects as they come through, and even teaching Sunday school. Her history with the church runs deep. She began attending as a teenager, moved away for 10 years, and then returned as an adult with a son and a flourishing career in health care.

It wasn’t an easy road for her, however.

Most people didn’t believe she was college material, but when Verchereau saw a new education program for X-raying, she thought she’d try it until she figured out what she really wanted to do with her life. The career track stuck. She loved the work and was good at it. She made straight As and graduated at the top of her class. After moving into X-ray technician work full-time, her “aha” moment came when she was first able to operate a CAT scan. She describes the experience as being like an actor finding their first big part in a television show; it was in that moment she knew this work was what she was meant to do. She’s been doing it ever since.

Verchereau still has lots of good work to do and attributes the generosity of the church to its very generous members. They always give more than is asked of them, she says. If United Way needs 100 gifts for kids, the congregation gathers 200. She’s proud of the dedication of her fellow church members, and proud of how their work shows children throughout the state they are cared for and loved.

“It gives them a little light at the end of the tunnel,” she says.

Tatum’s Totes is a partnership between Green Mountain United Way and Tatum’s Totes, an independent nonprofit in Rutland. Tatum’s Totes was created by Elizabeth and Alex Grimes to help children while honoring the memory of their son, Tatum, who died of SIDS. Tatum’s Totes works in partnership with local organizations and volunteers to serve foster children in all DCF regions in Vermont. Green Mountain United Way coordinates this work through the generosity of the community contributors like the members of the First Congregational Church of Berlin, through donations of items used to fill backpacks, and through the generosity of donors through the annual community campaign.

For more information or to support Green Mountain United Way’s Tatum’s Totes partnership, contact Pam Bailey at Green Mountain United Way by email at pbailey@gmunitedway.org or by phone at 802-613-3989.

The Volunteer of the Month is a feature compiled by the Green Mountain United Way, focusing on the contributions of local volunteers whose work benefits local nonprofit organizations in Green Mountain United Way’s service territory. This article was originally published in the Times Argus on June 22, 2018. To view all of our Volunteer of the Month articles, go to

To nominate a volunteer for Green Mountain United Way’s Volunteer of the Month, click here.

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United Way Day of Caring 2018

Green Mountain United Way teamed up with our partners at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont and Northfield Savings Bank to hold a clean-up and green-up day on Heaton Street in Montpelier. We worked at nonprofit senior residence Heaton Woods doing landscaping work on their courtyard so that their elderly residents have a beautiful, safe, outdoor space to enjoy in the warmer months. We also painted the fence surrounding the area.
Across the street we worked on Washington County Mental Health’s Heaton Woods facility painting windows and their front columns, cleaning up around the property, trimming trees and finally planting perennials along the front walk and under their sign!
We can’t thank our crew enough for their hard work and for the support of Hunger Mountain Co-op and Shaw’s for providing food for lunch, as well as our fantastic Grill-Master Tim Barre, our volunteer from Northfield Savings Bank. Thanks to Bagitos in Montpelier for breakfast bagels!
United Way holds a Day of Caring each year. If your organization has a project that could be accomplished with 20-30 volunteers, please email volunteer @ gmunitedway.org with information about what the project involves. Carrie or Beckie will be in touch to talk about the possibility of holding a Day of Caring.

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Eating Healthy In The Summer

​VT’s Annual Count of Homelessness Shows Mixed Results


MONTPELIER, VT – 1,291 Vermonters were found to be literally homeless on a single night in January, an increase of 66 people, or 5%, compared to the 2017 one‐day count. The 2018 Point‐in‐Time (PIT) Count Report, released today by the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness and the Chittenden County Homeless Alliance, shows an overall increase in homelessness.

Read the full press release here

Vermont 2-1-1 Monthly Contact Statistics

A message from the Director, MaryEllen Mendl


May’s contact volume of 1,737 reflects the more financially manageable period that the warmer months provide for many here in Vermont. The annual increase in contact volume that the fall and winter months always bring, with requests for home heating assistance and emergency shelter, always taper off in May. For many Vermonters the summer season means time for catching up on overdo utility bills, making much needed vehicle repairs, and setting aside whatever they can in anticipation of another long cold winter. Although all Vermonters can well appreciate the relief and relative comfort that our summer weather brings, historically, contact volume will begin to climb again after just a brief lull.  The summer months can present their own, albeit less threatening, set of issues for many Vermont families with children. The day-to-day rhythm of the school year has been broken, and with “summer vacation” can come the need for additional child care and a well-stocked pantry.

Each year, the onset of summer brings with it the types of requests for information and referral that reflect a heightened anxiety about the typical day-to-day struggles that some Vermont families continue to face. This year’s May data already reveals that for the first five months of 2018 an average of 254 referrals a month were made to Public Assistance Programs like 3SquaresVT, Medicaid, and most frequently,  the State of Vermont’s General Assistance program, which primarily provides emergency assistance in the form of temporary housing for people who are experiencing homelessness. Throughout July and August Vermont’s community food pantries, free summer lunch programs for children, locally sponsored community meals, fresh food distribution programs, and community gardens will do their best to respond to the rise in demand for supplemental food support. Thankfully, many Vermonters understand the food insecurity that summer may bring to many of their neighbors’ households, and they are volunteering to positively impact as many lives as possible through their volunteer efforts of planting, picking, rescuing, and delivering free fresh produce to food pantries, meal sites, and local distribution points.

The numbers are in! Vermont’s participation in the National Prescription Drug Take Back Day was a huge success. Vermont 2-1-1’s contribution to the effort is noted by the sudden increase in Community Planning and Public Works. A total of 88 contacts were made to 2-1-1 (via phone, email, text) looking for programs that accept and safely dispose of unwanted or outdated medication. This was a thirty percent increase over 2017. Additionally, 541 searches were made in May on the Vermont 2-1-1 website for medication disposal. This represents forty-eight percent of the searches for the month of May.

Read Vermont 2-1-1’s monthly contact volume report here.

​Eating Healthy in the Summer


Who doesn’t like to get outside, explore, and enjoy the fresh air! In the month of June, the sun is shining and the temps are rising. In Vermont, a popular and well enjoyed outside activity is to explore the farmer’s markets all over the state. Farmer’s market offer an array of locally grown produce, farm goods, savory treats, fresh flowers and handmade crafts. Some farmer’s markets even offer activities for children and musical entertainment. Look here to find a farmer’s market near you.

Refreshing Summer Snack Recipe

STRAWBERRY CHIA WATERMELON SMOOTHIE (2 servings) 

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups (240 g) fresh watermelon, cubed (black seeds removed)
1 cup (120 g) frozen strawberries
1/2 ripe banana (50 g), previously peeled, chopped and frozen
1/2 – 3/4 cup (120-180 ml) unsweetened plain almond milk (DIY recipe)
1 lime, juiced (~30 ml)
1 Tbsp chia or hemp seeds (optional)

Instructions

1. Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until creamy and smooth, adding more almond milk to thin, or more frozen strawberries or ice to thicken.

2. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed, adding more lime for acidity, banana for sweetness, or watermelon for a more intense watermelon flavor.​ Serves 2 – top with additional chia seeds to mock watermelon seeds!

Best when fresh, though leftovers keep covered in the refrigerator for 1-2 days.[Serving size: 1 smoothie (1/2 of recipe) Calories: 182 Fat: 6.2g Saturated fat: 0.8g Carbohydrates: 30g Sugar: 14g Sodium: 48mg Fiber: 9g Protein: 5g]

(From the Minimalist Baker)

​Emergency Housing in Vermont


Through a partnership with the State of Vermont’s Economic Services Division, Vermont 2-1-1 administers the After Hours Emergency Housing Program beginning at 4:30pm weekdays, throughout weekends and on state/federal holidays. Housing in Vermont has reached a critical need.

Vermont 2-1-1 Information and Referral (I&R) Specialists responded to 156 calls regarding housing needs. I&R specialists provide needs assessment, problem-solving support, and information and referrals to a wide range of services to each caller. Review Vermont 2-1-1’s Emergency Housing Report for May here.​


​Vermont 2-1-1 Web Statistics


In addition to the contact statistics, the following data is from the 2-1-1 website and shows how the public used the database search engine during the month of May:

Top Services: Medication Disposal (424 searches); Homeless Intake (formerly homeless motel vouchers) (167 searches); Pet Care Services (143 searches); Assistive Technology Equipment Loan (112 searches); Mental Health Evaluation (86 searches)

Top Agencies: Salvation Army (Rutland); Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO); Center for Restorative Justice; Vermont Department for Children and Families – Economic Services Division; Good Samaritan Network

Top Search by City: Lincoln; New Haven; Burlington; Bridport; Hancock

Total Site Visits: 6086

Unique (First-Time) Visitors: 1716

 

Welcome Nanci!


Nanci Gordon, the newest Outreach Specialist for Vermont 2-1-1 in Rutland and Bennington Counties, was most recently the Director of Development and Alumni Relations for College of St. Joseph in Rutland from which she graduated summa cum laude and still serves both as an adjunct instructor in Communications and the Vice President of the Alumni Association.

She is also a graduate of the New School Center for Media in Albany, NY — which launched her nearly thirty years in broadcasting, serving stations in Middlebury, VT and Glens Falls, NY, as well as in Rutland. Because of her passion and experience, she operates a small business — Nanci Gordon Media Services — which boasts its own new studio in Middlebury.

Nanci also has fifteen years’ experience in the non-profit sector — with Housing Trust of Rutland County, Rutland County Women’s Network and Shelter, Community Care Network, Vermont Association of Business, Industry and Rehabilitation, and United Way of Rutland County.

Alzheimer’s and Brain Awareness Month


Did you know…?

• Alzheimer’s Disease is the 6th leading cause of death in Vermont.

 More than 13,000 Vermonters are living with Alzheimer’s or related dementia.

• 6.1 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or other forms of  dementia.

• Alzheimer’s Disease and other forms of dementia will have cost the nation $277 billion in 2018.

Memory loss that disrupts daily life may be a symptom of Alzheimer’s or another dementia. Alzheimer’s is a brain disease that causes a slow decline in memory, thinking, and reasoning skills. There are 10 warning signs and symptoms.

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning and solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgement
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality

To find resources, search these Taxonomy Terms in the Vermont 2-1-1 database

Throughout June you will find Alzheimer’s Association — Vermont Chapter events happening across the state. Visit www.alz.org/vermont for information.

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Volunteer of the Month: Hanneke Holderbach from CVCOA

Hanneke is one of the volunteers who make the support given to seniors by the Central Vermont Council on Aging possible. Like the support she provides, Hanneke is humble and unassuming. But once she started talking about her visits with the seniors she volunteers with, she started to glow.

Hanneke is a recent transplant to Central Vermont from the Northwest. At first, she found the transition to her rural Vermont home isolating and she missed the bustle of a more urban area and the community she had left behind. To help overcome that sense of isolation, she began to look for ways that she could connect to the community here and use her skills and interests to help her build a new community in Central Vermont. That’s when she found the Central Vermont Council on Aging’s direct service volunteer program to help match community volunteers with seniors. Volunteers help seniors throughout Central Vermont by offering companionship to an older person, offering respite to caregivers, assisting with household chores, grocery shopping, organizing, and regular activities that help to elders stay in their homes and remain independent.

In her professional life Hanneke works as an Occupational Therapy Assistant and she already knew she loved working with older folks and seniors. Through her work she helps seniors become more independent in their daily routines like getting dressed and making meals, and increasing their strength and endurance to decrease fall risks all to help them live as independently as possible. She loves the part of her job that involves working directly with people to help them improve their lives, stay in their homes, and stay independent. It came as no surprise that she chose to help the seniors in her community achieve the same goals – stay in their homes, remain independent, and stay healthy – as her volunteer “job”.

Hanneke views her role as an extension of being a member of the community. Listening to her talk, I came to understand fully how she feels not only about her volunteer work but about her philosophy in general.

“I have the time to give, so why wouldn’t I volunteer to help others?” is the way that I can best paraphrase her response when I asked her “what motivates you to volunteer?”.

To Hanneke, it was a matter of course that she would give her time to help others and she seemed surprised that it was being celebrated as something unique – this is simply part of who Hanneke is and how she lives her life, both personally and professionally.

As a volunteer, she loves to help people outside, especially those who love to garden but may not be as able to do the heavy lifting required to keep a garden as they have in the past. Last summer she embarked on a project with one of the seniors she volunteers with. In the beginning, Hanneke was unsure how far they would get or how much they could accomplish. As they worked together preparing beds, plants and soil, she could see the woman she was working with light up and the more they did over the course of weeks, the more it seemed she could do! In the end, they planted tomatoes, built trellises from large sticks and stakes they harvested from the woods, watched those tomatoes grow, and harvested them together. Completing the cycle was both emotionally rewarding and delicious.

As she told me that story, I began to wonder who had received more joy from the process, Hanneke or the senior she was assisting? Hanneke truly demonstrates that fact that volunteers often get as much joy as they give!

CVCOA volunteers can help their older neighbors remain in their homes and connected to their communities by providing rides to appointments, assisting with grocery shopping, or other small tasks. Sometimes it’s as simple as a friendly visit. For more information, visit https://www.cvcoa.org/volunteering.html or call our Volunteer Coordinator at 476-0151.

The Volunteer of the Month is a feature compiled by the Green Mountain United Way, focusing on the contributions of local volunteers whose work benefits local nonprofit organizations in Green Mountain United Way’s service territory. This article was originally published in the Times Argus on May 30, 2018.

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