Northfield’s New Playground Supports Kids 0-5 years and their Families!

Northfield Promise Community Celebrates the Opening of New Playground

Northfield, Vermont – October 10, 2018

Friday the Northfield Promise Community celebrated the culmination of years of hard work and hundreds (if not thousands) of hours of planning, meeting, and physical labor at the new playground off of Burnham Road in Northfield Falls. This project began two years ago as part of the State of Vermont’s Promise Community initiative where the community came together to apply for a grant to improve kindergarten readiness for children in the Northfield Community. Through the Promise Community initiative each group is free to work together to come up with the solution that best fits their community. Through a series of community gatherings and community-led conversations, the Northfield Promise Community determined that there was a lack in safe, accessible play spaces for young children and they set about finding a location and planning a playground. With the partnership and support of Green Mountain United Way, the town of Northfield, the school district, and many, many community members, this plan and playground began to take shape.

The Northfield Promise Community hired local landscape designer and Northfield parent Bonnie Kirn Donahue to act as project manager and with Landscape Structures to purchase and lead the community in the installation of the major elements for the playground as part of the “community build” process. The work took place over the course of 5 days. Volunteers and community members showed up, brought tools, tractors, food and energy to see the project through to completion. Norwich University cadets volunteered each day alongside parents, community members, and organizers.

The playground is geared toward ages 0-6, and is filled with multi-sensory experiences such as a playhouse and mud kitchen for imaginary play, musical instruments, blueberry bushes, rock garden, walking track, pretend car, friendship swing, and more. The play space is enclosed by a fence and is ready for the children and families in our community to enjoy it!

Friday, September 28th at 4pm the community kicked off the grand opening with a popsicle party and ribbon cutting attended by many families, children, and community members eager to celebrate the completion of this exciting community project.

The playground is located near the baseball fields off of Burnham Road in Northfield Falls and everyone with young children is encouraged to go and enjoy the result of this incredible community effort.

 

About the Northfield Promise Community:

The Northfield Promise Community was formed in 2016 as a result of the State of Vermont’s Promise Community Initiative which grants communities funds to be used to help the children within that community ages 0-5 kindergarten ready. The Northfield Promise Community was made up entirely of volunteer community members, parents, and town leaders who worked to gather the community’s vision and turn it into actionable projects. The Northfield Promise Community will also be working on a second installation at the Brown Public Library in Northfield as part of this project.

About Green Mountain United Way:  Green Mountain United Way is a Vermont not-for-profit organization in operation since 1976.  They work to improve the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community in Caledonia, Essex, Orange, Orleans and Washington Counties by mobilizing the caring power of communities around our region to advance the common good. No other single organization has the scope and influence to bring together human service agencies, government, businesses, private foundations and dedicated volunteers around a common vision of creating maximum impact and achieving long-lasting results.

 

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New Tax Laws on Charitable Giving – will it impact you?

Friends, the short answer is, we don’t know how you’ll be impacted by the changes to tax laws at the federal level. If you used to itemize your deductions, you may still be able to do that, but our suggestion is to talk to your tax preparer or financial planner. Those who used to itemize but will no longer do that will see the most impact.

However, this is a bit of sunlight for community philanthropy thanks to our Vermont legislators. The State of Vermont passed a new tax law last year allowing 5% of up to $20,000 in eligible charitable contributions to be deductible – there’s a new spot on the Vermont State Tax forms for them and the Tax Department is very eager to get the word out and to help support the nonprofit sector with this tax credit. Take a look at the informative video they’ve created to help Vermonters understand this new tax credit. Please let them know if you have questions, they’ve been very helpful and we’d like all of the Vermonters who are eligible to take advantage of this! Help us spread the word – share this video!

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Green Mountain United Way Celebrates Organizations and Individuals Making a Difference with Community Awards

Northfield, Vermont – September 25, 2018

Green Mountain United Way celebrated the individuals and organizations in their five-county service region with an award ceremony at their Annual Breakfast at Norwich University’s Milano Ballroom on Tuesday, September 25th.

“The recipients of these awards embody the heart and soul of the work we are doing at Green Mountain United Way,” said Tawnya Kristen, Executive Director of Green Mountain United Way.  “Through hands-on efforts at the community level, these organizations and individuals are bringing together individuals, ideas, efforts and resources to build lasting change across our communities.”

Green Mountain United Way was proud to honor six outstanding organizations and individuals at this year’s award ceremony with business, government, nonprofit and community partners in attendance. These awards are given to organizations who have shown exceptional leadership, effort, and impact in communities throughout Caledonia, Essex, Orange, Orleans and Washington Counties during the past year.

These awards focus on Green Mountain United Way’s partners who are making a significant difference within the community they live, work or serve and the many ways that our work integrates with the broader goals of those who we work with to serve the community and also recognize success in fundraising through United Way Workplace Campaigns and highlight partners who went the extra mile to facilitate a successful giving campaign for their community. This year’s awardees are:

Community Impact Award – University of Vermont Health Network – Central Vermont Medical Center (CVMC)

This award is given to an organization who has made an exceptional contribution to the community through their dedication and commitment to community impact.

This year Green Mountain United Way is proud to recognize Central Vermont Medical Center for their leadership in several aspects of the work they are doing for our communities right now. As the Integrator Organization for THRIVE, Central Vermont’s Accountable Community for Health, CVMC is leading the mission to optimize the health and well-being of our community through informed collaborative and innovative solutions. We would also like to recognize their leadership in the Working Bridges Program. As the first Central Vermont Working Bridges site, they are leading the way to care for those within their organization in unique and innovative ways that result in better care for all within our Central Vermont community.
Accepting the award was Anna T. Noonan, CVMC president and chief operating officer; Robert Patterson, vice president of Human Resources and Clinical Operations; and Monica Urquhart, manager of Employee Relations and Wellness.

“We deeply value our longtime partnership with Green Mountain United Way, which continues growing through the addition of the Working Bridges program,” Noonan said. “In Working Bridges’ first three months at CVMC, resource coordinators have offered members of our team guidance on transportation, housing, childcare, finances and income advance loans for emergency needs. Having an expert on site, every week, is an invaluable and convenient service for our team. Our thanks to the United Way and Vermont Community Foundation for making this important partnership possible.”

“Working Bridges dovetails with THRIVE, which is working to improve access to health care, nutritious food, affordable housing, education and financial wellness,” Noonan continued. “We’re proud to team with Green Mountain United Way and all of THRIVE’s leadership partners in connecting communities across central Vermont.”

Accepting the award from GMUW ED Tawnya Kristen (right), left to right, Anna T. Noonan, Monica Urquhart, Robert Patterson

Employer Leadership Award – Northern Counties Health Care

This award is given to an organization who shows exemplary leadership in supporting their employees to make a difference in their own lives and in their broader community.

This award is given to our partners at Northern Counties Health Care for taking the initiative to the spirit of “Caring for the Caregivers” as a starting point to make their organization stretch beyond the traditional boundaries of a “health care providers” to consider the health and well-being of all within their walls, and to see the connections between their employee’s wellness and the results they see for their patients. They are doing this through internal policies, their Working Bridges Program, employee participation in the K.E.E.P. Financial Coaching Program and their support of their employees to expand the boundaries in the many ways they are able to serve their communities, while supporting employee growth and success. Accepting the award was CEO Shawn Tester, Kari White and Laurie Somers.

“At Northern Counties Health Care we are incredibly grateful, both for our partners at the Green Mountain United Way, but also for the Working Bridges program which has helped so many of our staff through financial coaching, advance loans for emergencies, and income tax preparation.  Working Bridges helps us care for our employees, so they can care for our patients and community. The program also directly aligns with the work we are doing in NEK Proper!, our regional Accountable Health Community.” Tester offered.

Accepting the award GMUW ED Tawnya Kristen (left), left to right, Laurie Somers, Shawn Tester, Kari White

Community Spirit Award – VSECU

This award is given to a business that has put the “FUN” in fundraising and has gone the extra mile to make their workplace campaign a success for both employees and the community.

This past year the Campaign Team at VSECU used their already community-minded workplace as a platform to challenge employees to show their support for the community – they had t-shirts, challenges, and chocolate, and this enthusiasm spilled over into immense support for the foster children in our communities through their participation in the 2017 Tatum’s Totes Holiday Drive. Accepting the award was Vice President of Human Resources Eileen Belanger, Tammy Manning and Ann Hodgdon.

Accepting the award from GMUW ED Tawnya Kristen are (left to right) Vice President of Human Resources Eileen Belanger, Tammy Manning and Ann Hodgdon

Campaign Champion Award – BlueCross and BlueShield of Vermont

This award is given to a worksite that has the greatest percentage increase, over their past year’s campaign.

As one of Green Mountain United Way’s most long-term supporters, the generosity of BCBSVT’s employees can already be seen throughout Green Mountain United Way and the community, but with a little creativity, ingenuity and incredible support they were able to grow their support by 52% last year. Accepting the award was Vice President of Customer Service and Planning, Catherine Hamilton.

Community Commitment Award – Timothy Barre, Northfield Savings Bank

This is a new award added this year as part of our new Volunteer Program to recognize the commitment of volunteers throughout our community and the impact that the gift of time can make.

This year’s recipient, Timothy Barre, has been a volunteer with Green Mountain United Way for over a decade, and as a volunteer on the Development and Marketing Committee and participating in each of our Annual Days of Caring, Tim is one of the biggest champions of the new Volunteer Program and online Volunteer Connection. His passion and enthusiasm for volunteerism is contagious.

Tawnya Kristen, Executive Director, and Timothy Barre

Rising Star Award – Nicholas Petterssen, Green Mountain CrossFit

This award is given to an individual who demonstrates new or renewed leadership and passion for supporting the work of Green Mountain United Way.

This award recognizes Nick for his leadership using the common framework of physical fitness and building a transformational space at Green Mountain CrossFit where all, regardless of income, ability, or struggles, are empowered to become a healthier version of themselves. His understanding that what his gym provides is a true human service, disguised as a business, is the keystone upon which we’ve built our partnership to bring The Phoenix to individuals in recovery in Central Vermont. With this award we recognize Nick’s unwavering current and future support of both our organization’s work and the mission we share, to help all within our community achieve physical health and well-being.

Nicholas Petterssen speaks after receiving his award

 

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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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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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Congratulations to our NEW K.E.E.P. Financial Coaches!

K.E.E.P. Financial Coaching graduates second class of coaches

On May 2 our second class of Financial Coaches completed Intro to Financial Coaching and they are now working with clients in the community. We congratulate each of them for their hard work and thank them for joining us to improve the financial stability of our communities!

We would like to congratulate the following K.E.E.P. Financial Coaches:

Jody Frey of Orleans County Restorative Justice
Chris Wellhoff of Justice Board of Newport
Rebecca Baruzzi of Capstone Community Action
Laurie Kelty of Green Mountain United Way
Melissa Miller of Northeastern VT Regional Hospital
Sarah Sanville of Northeast Kingdom Youth Services
Devereaux Simon of Capstone Community Action
Faye Longo of Vermont Foodbank
Ramsey Papp of Capstone Community Action
Jessica Seigfried of State of VT Economic Services
Eric Luebbert State of VT AHS/DCF/ESD Reach Up
Lydia Menendez of Verde Coaching
Dominic Perkins of Northeast Kingdom Community Action
Chris Kaiser self-employed

We look forward to having each of these K.E.E.P. coaches actively engaged in our program and working directly with clients, peers, and their constituents to help make our region more financially secure for the individuals and families that live here.

Coaches are trained in both in-depth Financial Literacy skills and personalized coaching skills and help clients either as independent coaches or through the work of the nonprofit agency or organization where they work. K.E.E.P. Financial Coaches meet monthly as a group to share best practices, challenges, and lessons learned, and they meet with Pam Bailey, Green Mountain United Way’s Director of Programs and Operations, and the K.E.E.P. Master Coach on a one-on-one basis to build skills, get individual support, and troubleshoot tough situations. Learn more about the K.E.E.P. Financial Coaching Program here.

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