Green Mountain United Way expands Working Bridges™ to serve employees at Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital

Green Mountain United Way is pleased to announce that Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital (NVRH) has joined Green Mountain United Way’s Working Bridges™ program and will be bringing supports to its employees.

Working Bridges, a program of Green Mountain United Way, is designed to foster the shared understanding that barriers such as childcare, food insecurity and acute need for emergency financial assistance get in the way of continuous employment and can derail good employees. Working Bridges brings Resource Coordinator Michelle Clark on-site weekly at NVRH to provide assistance to employees in order to navigate local resources. As a trained K.E.E.P. Financial Coach, Clark is also available to coach employees who are navigating complicated financial situations. In addition to Resource Coordination, Working Bridges™ provides Income Advance Loans to employees, Mobile Volunteer Tax Preparation Program, and on-site classes based on employee needs.

“It is another resource that we can give our employees to help them smoothly navigate the rough patches in their lives. It also helps to build their capacity to self-manage in the future and that’s one of the things I really value about the Working Bridges program,” offered Shawn Tester, CEO of Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital in St. Johnsbury. “Additionally, it is a resource that shows employees that you value them as a part of our organization, and it makes them want to stay and contribute meaningfully to our business. We have already seen this program work here in the Northeast Kingdom and we are excited to bring this to the employees of NVRH,” continued Tester.

Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital joins Central Vermont Medical Center, Weidmann Electrical Technology, Northern Counties Health Care, Northeast Kingdom Human Services, Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice, and ABC-LOL Childcare as the 7th Working Bridges program site served by Green Mountain United Way in their five-county region and the 5th site in the Northeast Kingdom.

“This program brings support for employees who are integral to caring for our community in the Northeast Kingdom. We are honored to partner with NVRH to serve the needs of employees so they are able to better serve and care for individuals and families health care needs. This hospital is so well known throughout our community for the support and care they provide – we are fortunate to be able to ensure that their employees continue to be able to offer the high quality of care they are known for and are supported by our Resource Coordinator in their own lives,” said Tawnya Kristen, Executive Director of Green Mountain United Way.

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K.E.E.P. Financial Coaching Program Graduates New Cohort of Financial Coaches

Green Mountain United Way would like to congratulate a new cohort of recently certified K.E.E.P. Financial Coaches. These individuals passed the Introduction to Financial Coaching Course with Green Mountain United Way at Capstone Community Action in December and are now working toward integrating financial coaching practices into the work they do at their nonprofit organizations.

Fall 2019 Cohort of Financial Coaches

K.E.E.P. Financial Coaching is a program of Green Mountain United Way where nonprofit, client-facing staff are training in the emerging practice of Financial Coaching. This work helps clients learn to set and achieve their financial goals. Through the program, both coaches and their nonprofit organizations receive ongoing support from United Way, peer-to-peer support from nearly 80 financial coaches throughout Vermont, and ongoing education opportunities provided by experienced community partners, in addition to the initial financial literacy and coaching training they took to become certified.

Congratulations to these new K.E.E.P. Financial Coaches and the agencies, organizations, and clients they serve:

  • Michelle Clark                     Green Mountain United Way
  • Nicole DiDomenico            Norwich University, Global Community Initiatives, Rotary
  • Pattie Dupuis                       Downstreet Housing & Community Development
  • Faith Foley                            Burlington Housing Authority
  • Laura Furber                        Hunger Mountain Coop
  • Morgan Gray                       Vermont State Housing Authority
  • Lindsey  Hedges                  Steps to End Domestic Violence
  • Sarah Kenney                       Umbrella
  • Tamera Pariseau                 State of Vermont – DCF/Economic Services
  • Telma Patterson                 Vermont State Housing Authority
  • Liz Walsh                              The Drawing Board, EM Walsh Bookkeeping
  • Mary Wilson                        Vermont State Housing Authority

 “We are really excited about the breadth of experience our financial coaches bring to this program and to one another. They work across the sectors serving Vermonters and bring an incredible amount of professional knowledge to one another through this program. The one thread that brings them together is that the Vermonters they serve struggle with financial insecurity. By empowering these professionals as financial coaches, those they serve will benefit from this shared knowledge and the resources they now have access to,” offered Tawnya Kristen, Executive Director of Green Mountain United Way

“Becoming a Financial Coach has given me the tools I need to help people see that big dreams start with a little savings,” offered Ramsey Papp, Family Development Specialist at Capstone Community Action and K.E.E.P. Financial Coach.

For more information about K.E.E.P. Financial Coaches, go to gmunitedway.org/our-work/income/keep or call Green Mountain United Way at 802-613-3989.

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Green Mountain United Way Receives Grant Support from the Vermont Community Foundation’s NEK Fund and Vermont Mutual Charitable Foundation

Green Mountain United Way was recently the recipient of two competitive grants to support their work in Central Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom. The Vermont Mutual Charitable Foundation, the charitable arm of Vermont Mutual Insurance, granted $2500 to support the innovative K.E.E.P. Financial Coaching Program, a program while the Vermont Community Foundation’s Northeast Kingdom Fund has granted $5000 to fund a pilot program expanding the supports available to workers through the Working Bridges to families at the ABC & LOL Childcare Center in St. Johnsbury.

Executive Director Tawnya Kristen, Director of Community Engagement Carrie Stahler, and NEK Resource Coordinator Michelle Clark at the NEK Fund Grant Award Ceremony

“The NEK Fund Grant allows us to expand access to our Working Bridges program to the families served by ABC & LOL Childcare Center. One of the goals of Working Bridges is to create financial security. We have worked with the staff at this site and saw an opportunity to expand the circle of support to the children and their families. As many of us know, affording childcare in Vermont is a challenge for many families. It is our hope that we can relieve some of the pressure for these families by connecting them with resources they can use. This pilot also gives us the opportunity to continue to develop the Working Bridges program in our rural communities, where access to resources continues to be a challenge for many. We are grateful to our partners at the Vermont Community Foundation for working with us to close address this gap,” offered Carrie Stahler, Director of Community Engagement at Green Mountain United Way.

For additional information on the Working Bridges Program from Green Mountain United Way go to www.gmunitedway.org/working-bridges.

A $2500 grant from the Vermont Mutual Community Foundation will support the continued impact of the K.E.E.P. Financial Coaching Program. This unique and innovative program gives nonprofit, client-facing staff training in the emerging practice of Financial Coaching. In turn, these professionals work with their existing clients to set and achieve their financial goals that impact their lives. Through the program, both coaches and their nonprofit organizations receive ongoing support from United Way, peer-to-peer support from the 80 current financial coaches in Vermont, and ongoing education opportunities provided by experienced community partners, in addition to the initial financial literacy and coaching training they took to become certified. Financial coaching has broad-reaching impacts for clients served by a wide variety of nonprofits, including Capstone Community Action, county restorative justice centers, and a broad variety of organizations addressing food insecurity, housing, addiction services, mental health, adult education, and many more. Funding will support the implementation and support of the 80 current financial coaches throughout the state, and any new coaches to be trained in the next Introduction to Financial Coaching training to be held in 2020.

“The response to this program has been extremely positive from our nonprofit partners. The beauty of a program like this is that once coaches are trained and serving clients, they become the best resources for one another. These professionals are assisting clients each day and so many of our nonprofits serve people whose financial lives are unstable. This program addresses that underlying cause and offers the opportunity for professionals across nonprofits to become resources for one another. With the support of community-minded funders like the Vermont Mutual Community Foundation we are able to continue to increase access to this important knowledge and skillset,” said Tawnya Kristen, Executive Director at Green Mountain United Way.

For more information about K.E.E.P. Financial Coaches, go to gmunitedway.org/ keep or call Green Mountain United Way at 802-613-3989.

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The Phoenix-Vermont Celebrates One Year Anniversary

Just one year ago in December, Green Mountain United Way, The Phoenix, Green Mountain CrossFit, and Shannon Brennan partnered to bring the mission of The Phoenix to Vermonters in Central Vermont. Just one year later this partnership has opened access to this free sober active community at five locations throughout Northern Vermont and we are working to support the opening of the first Northeast Kingdom site in winter 2020!

The Phoenix-Vermont seeks to bring a free sober active community to individuals who have suffered from a substance use disorder and to those who choose to live sober. Using a peer support model, they help members heal and rebuild their lives while also striving to eliminate the stigma around recovery.

Highlights for the first year include the success of many members who make it to class each week and bring friends and family to support and join them. In addition, Phoenix-Vermont member Megan C, an original Phoenix VT member who has been showing up since the very first day, is now a certified CrossFit Level 1 CrossFit coach1 Megan currently coaches Phoenix Central classes on alternating Saturdays at Green Mountain CrossFit. Amazing!

Congratulations to our partners and the incredible people in recovery who inspire us each and every week with your hard work, determination, and grit. Keep up the great work!

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Green Mountain United Way’s 2019 Tatum’s Totes Holiday Drive Supports Over 225 Children and Families

Central Vermont and Northeast Kingdom Businesses Help Foster Kids through Green Mountain United Way Tatum’s Totes Holiday Drive

Montpelier, Vermont – January 10, 2020

This past December, employees at businesses and individual community members throughout Green Mountain United Way’s service region in Central Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom came together to support the foster children and foster families served Department for Children and Families in the by the Barre, Newport, and St. Johnsbury districts by donating gifts.

In November and December, gifts for over 225 children and families were collected from participating businesses, individuals, and community groups including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, the First Congregational Church of Berlin, Denis, Ricker, & Brown Insurance, Edward Jones offices, Williamstown Blue Devils girls basketball team, Noyle Johnson Insurance, Rise Vermont, Union Mutual Insurance of Vermont, the Vermont Land Trust and VSECU.

Each participant “sponsored” a foster child or foster family and purchased a gift or two, like a book or toy for the child. These gifts were collected and organized by the Green Mountain United Way staff and volunteers.

“Each year during the holiday drive we have a front-row seat to watch the generosity of our community unfold. We are so fortunate to be able to help ensure that our community supports the children in foster care who most need to know that the entire community loves them and wants the best for them. This is just one small way that Green Mountain United Way and Tatum’s Totes can do that,” said Tawnya Kristen, Green Mountain United Way’s Executive Director.

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Julia K. Davis Joins Green Mountain United Way as Community Impact Program Manager

Green Mountain United Way is pleased to announce that Julia K. Davis as joined the organization as Community Impact Program Manager. She will manage Green Mountain United Way’s programmatic work including Working Bridges, K.E.E.P. Financial Coaching, as well as Tatum’s Totes.

A graduate of Kent State, Julia has been living in Vermont for 5 years working first in farming before moving to the Human Services Sector in various roles at Onion River Crossroads in Montpelier. Her work there focused on case management and direct service for girls in residential treatment. Through that experience, Julia’s passion for serving her community has developed and she sees her new role at Green Mountain United Ways as a way to deepen that commitment to service.  

“We are thrilled that Julia has joined us. Her experience working with young women in the foster care system has already helped to inform the work we do at United Way with Tatum’s Totes, and in implementing the various elements of the Working Bridges Program,” said United Way’s Executive Director Tawnya Kristen. “Her perspective and enthusiasm for service work are what we need to help move our programs forward to serve more Vermonters in our region.”

“Working with the children of Vermont families who are struggling moved me to take a step further in my work and look at the broader stories behind the families being separated, including better understanding the supports that might be missing in our communities. Vermont is a beautiful but difficult state to live in. I’m excited to be part of United Way and particularly the Working Bridges Program. What this program offers is incredible – access to available resources, individualized support for low-income families, financial coaching tools; accessibility is a big piece of the puzzle. I’m excited to grow and continue serving the community with this organization,” offered Davis, who lives in Plainfield.

In addition to her work at Green Mountain United Way, Julia is the lead singer and guitarist for the band Yestrogen and is passionate about climate justice.

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Green Mountain United Way selected as beneficiary of Shaw’s “Give Back Where It Counts” for January

Montpelier, Vermont – January 15, 2020

Green Mountain United Way has been selected as a beneficiary of the Shaw’s “Give Back Where It Counts” reusable bag program for the month of January. For each of the reusable shopping bags purchased at the Montpelier, Vt store, Green Mountain United Way will receive one dollar.

Shaw’s program was launched in April 2019 to facilitate community support, with the goal to make a difference in the communities where shoppers live and work. The program features the reusable “Give Back Where It Counts” bag with a special tag attached that allows customers to direct a donation to the nonprofit of their choice upon purchase.

Green Mountain United Way was selected as a beneficiary of the program by store employees at Shaw’s in Montpelier. Green Mountain United Way will receive the donation every time the reusable bag is purchased at this location during the month of January unless otherwise directed by the customer through the Giving Tag attached to the bag.

“We are grateful to Shaw’s for selecting us for this program and their ongoing support of so many organizations in our community,” said Tawnya Kristen, Green Mountain United Way executive director. “Not only does this support directly toward helping those in our community, but by purchasing reusable bags shoppers are also taking a step toward creating more sustainability! That’s a win-win!”

Further information about Shaw’s “Give Back Where It Counts” reusable bag program can be found at www.shaws.bags4mycause.com. For more information about Green Mountain United Way contact Carrie Stahler, Green Mountain United Way, 73 Main Street, Montpelier, Vermont, 802-613-3989 or info@gmunitedway.org.

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Meet Jean…

In Vermont, transportation is a lifeline. A car is often the only option people have to get to the grocery store, to the doctor’s office, and to work. Buying a car can be a stressful and complex process filled with research, negotiations, and decisions. Adding to the complex process of buying a used car, English is Jean’s second language. Jean was thrilled to have found a late-model used car – his credit was good, he was able to get a loan, and the payments seemed affordable. So, Jean signed the papers, climbed in his car, and was on his way!

Jean in his purple uniform and safety glasses at his workplace

Until the engine blew up a few short months later.

Jean thought the dealership would fix his car. So he paid to have the car towed back to where he had bought it just a few months earlier. What Jean didn’t realize was that his car was sold “As-Is” and there was no warranty. The $2000+ repair would be Jean’s responsibility, and now his car was stuck at the dealership. Jean was devastated. Because of his shifts, public transportation was not an option. 

Without a car, Jean struggled to get to work on time, and sometimes it was hard to get to work at all.

Jean’s supervisor talked to him. As a good, reliable employee, his supervisor wanted Jean to be at work doing his job, but Jean needed to get there on time. If Jean continued to be late, he would get points against him which could result in him losing his job. But Jean was running out of option. 

Until Jean’s supervisor referred him to the Working Bridges Resource Coordinator, who is on-site at Jean’s workplace, to see if she could help him get to work on time and navigate his complicated car situation…

Jean met with the Working Bridges Resource Coordinator after his shift was over and they talked about his options. Jean had access to the Income Advance Loan program through Working Bridges. The loan could help him pay for part of the repair. But that loan alone was not enough. Jean figured that he could, “stop paying the car loan now that the car was not working – then he could put that amount into his savings each month to pay for the repair.”

Fortunately, the Resource Coordinator was there to help Jean understand his choices – and their potential outcomes. She explained that by signing that loan paperwork he had agreed to pay the full amount of the loan – whether the car was working, or not. If he didn’t continue his car loan payments, he risked losing the car! 

Jean and the Resource Coordinator worked together to coordinate temporary rides with co-workers so he could get to work on time and keep his job. 

Then they tackled his budget to figure out how he could save the money he needed to pay for his car repair. The Resource Coordinator is also a trained Financial Coach and helped Jean outline a savings plan and spending plan. She also discovered that Jean had a tax return coming back – that money could be put into his savings to put toward his car repair! 

Today, they are still working together to make sure Jean stays on track. With his hard work building savings, continued employment, and a few rides from his co-workers, Jean hopes to have his car repaired and ready to drive in the New Year! But until then, Jean continues to need your help. As a supporter of Green Mountain United Way, you’re making sure that Jean keeps his stable employment and does not fall into poverty because of something as simple as a loss in reliable transportation. 

Because sometimes a solution is as simple as having a reliable way to get to work on time.

Join us – together, we are the UNITED WAY. You are the neighbors caring for neighbors. You are the reason working Vermonters have somewhere to turn when they struggle – because UNITED, you are making a difference. We thank you and recognize that without you, this important support would not be available to people when they need it most! 
Help Jean with a #GivingTuesday gift to Green Mountain United Way!

Already given through your workplace campaign or directly to United Way? Thank you!

Ready to learn more? Read about our Working Bridges program, the United Way Volunteer Connection, or other great work happening in Central and Northeastern Vermont!

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Canceled: Campaign Kickoff and Awards Happy Hour

We’ve made the tough choice to cancel this event tomorrow, November 31, 2019, due to the weather and other logistical concerns. But we will be taking this great idea and working with our committee and volunteers to bring this into the future and create a fun opportunity to celebrate the great work happening in our communities. 
Stay tuned to our website & Facebook, or email us to be added to the list for future event information.

In the meantime, stay warm and be careful on the roads!

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Local Heroes: Susie and Jim Turner Help to Feed their Community through Gleaning

written by Green Mountain United Way Volunteer Writer Robert Barossi

Volunteer Susie Turner has known about gleaning since childhood, when her grandparents had a print of a painting called “The Gleaners.” For her and other Community Harvest of Central Vermont (CHCV) volunteers, gleaning means spending time on farms, gathering surplus food from the fields after the farmers have completed their harvesting. This is often slow, steady work, on their hands and knees in the dirt, both a learning experience and a satisfying bit of physical labor with impactful end result. 

In the past five years, CHCV has donated 175,800 pounds of food that would have otherwise gone to waste. This program, run by Executive Director Allison Levin, provides gleaned foods to community members who might not otherwise have access to healthy, fresh, local food. Last year, the organization delivered food to 9,000 residents of Central Vermont, and accomplished that through an impressive web of collaborations, working alongside farmers, recipient organizations, and the dedicated, passionate volunteers who do a lot of the on-the-ground and in-the-dirt work of gleaning. Susie and her husband, Jim, have been involved with the organization and its work for about two years. 

“Susie’s brother is a dairyman, and when they first moved to Vermont and got started farming, we got very involved in helping them get going, so we had a preview of that sort of thing,” Jim notes. “With CHCV, we grew to appreciate even more the kind of non-stop effort it takes to put produce on our tables.”

“One of the things I love about gleaning and being involved with this organization is the fact that, even by its name, Community Harvest, it creates and nurtures a sense of community that is much broader than in many other interests. It connects us back to the rural environment, it connects us to the farmers, and it connects us to the recipients. It’s good for the farmers, and it’s good for the recipients. That is community,” says Susie. 

Their work has also provided them a chance to directly observe the impact they’ve having. “The time that I think Jim and I feel it is when we’re delivering,” she says. “Going to the Senior Center in Waitsfield, when we went in with our first big bags of corn, people were sitting at the tables and were like, ‘We love everything you bring. This is wonderful!’ That is the other thing that I like about the sense of community, I think a lot of people who are food insecure, sometimes they feel separate from the rest of us. I think it’s good for them to know that not only do we care, but we consider them a part of our community. I think it closes a gap there that is often left a little open. Not that no one cares, but this is a way to make it happen.”

Susie adds that this work has actually changed her perception of issues of food and food insecurity in our region, noting, “I think I always felt the food insecure were really destitute, but they are not. They are people like you and I who have run into a hard time somewhere along the way and need that lift. They need to not have to worry about their food security, so to speak. If they are not worried about that, maybe they are able to get back into a situation they are more comfortable with.  I love that feeling of being able to help them.”

CHCV’s work is a win for everyone involved, the farmers, the recipients, and the clients of those recipients, who receive the food gleaned by these volunteers and many others like them. Jim recalls one special moment that he considers among his favorites. “Susie and I were delivering to Capstone, and we had put all the stuff on the dock and were driving away. I looked in the rearview mirror, and some young guy working there walked up and saw all the stuff, and he raised his arms and shouted ‘Yes!’ It was not to us; it was an unguarded moment. I get goosebumps thinking about it; it was so cool.”

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