K.E.E.P. Financial Coach Faye Longo shares her work

Faye works for the Vermont Foodbank as a 3SquaresVT Outreach Coordinator. In her role she assists Vermonters in completing the 3SVT (formerly SNAP/food stamps) application and advocates for them through the process, she also works to ensure Vermonters are receiving the full 3SVT benefit they’re entitled to. Recently the Vermont Foodbank noticed that there were far fewer Vermonters over 60 enrolled in the program than are eligible. Closing this gap is a focus of Faye’s work.

After Faye joined the K.E.E.P. Financial Coaching Program she wondered how to integrate her new coaching and financial skills into her job. While working with a couple who, at first, seemed like they were ineligible for 3SquaresVT, she realized exactly how Financial Coaching could help her clients. Because of her experience with the intricacies of the 3SVT application process, Faye knew that her clients’ out-of-pocket medical expenses made a difference in their eligibility. While her clients had used budgeting for their monthly bills, they did not keep track of their out-of-pocket medical expenses. When she asked, they did not know whether they were spending $35 or more each month on out-of-pocket medical expenses. Faye realized that she could use her Financial Coaching skills to help this couple budget and track these expenses to ensure that they had the information they needed when it was time to apply for 3SVT.

Faye helped them to create a budget and tracking process for their medical expenses. By working with Faye the couple realized that they were spending above the $35 threshold. By tracking their expenses saving the documentation needed to back up their tracking, they were able to apply and become enrolled in 3SquaresVT. Now they receive over $100 per month in food assistance that they would not have been able to receive if Faye had not been a financial coach and used her in-depth knowledge of the 3SVT application process to find a way to help this couple get the additional food they need.

K.E.E.P. Financial Coaching is a Green Mountain United Way program that trains and supports financial coaches who are client-facing staff in nonprofit and community service agencies throughout our region. These coaches work directly with clients on many issues and as coaches can address financial issues to help address the financial instability at the core of many challenges that clients and community members face.

Read More

Panel, Networking Event Brings Nonprofits Together to Learn

On a recent, crisp, cold January morning, over 20 nonprofits were represented in Norwich University’s Kreitzberg Library’s Multi-Purpose room for Green Mountain United Way and Norwich University’s Volunteer Coordinator Panel and Networking event. Carrie Stahler of Green Mountain United Way facilitated a discussion by panelists Greg McGrath from Norwich University, Erin Regan from The American Cancer Society and Patty Connor from Central Vermont Home Health and Hospice to discuss volunteer recruitment, placement, retention, and management from a variety of viewpoints.

Greg organizes campus events and activities throughout the school year working with various student groups to accomplish his work. Greg brought a studied volunteer management perspective and spoke about creating systems that benefit your organization and a volunteer’s interests. Erin’s focus is on working with groups of volunteers regionally to operate the Relay for Life events in Central Vermont and Caledonia County. Erin’s input helped us all learn more about successful outreach and relationship building, working with groups and committees, and she really lit up when talking about how to use social media to reach and communicate with volunteers. Patty brought us the perspective of a smaller nonprofit organization and covered how to engage volunteers in various tasks, how to work with departments who use volunteers to ensure volunteers and staff are working well together.

Nonprofits were engaged and had a lot of general and specific questions that informed the conversation. Nicole Didomenico from Norwich University’s Center for Civic Engagement hosted the event and shared her experience and ways that Norwich students could help organizations meet their volunteer needs and what limitations faced students that nonprofits should be aware of.

Green Mountain United Way holds volunteer coordinator meetings quarterly alternating between Central Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom. The next meeting will take place in the Northeast Kingdom in April. To get an invitation, join our mailing list by emailing volunteer@gmunitedway.org.

Read More

Green Mountain United Way Hires Heather Labounty as Northeast Kingdom Working Bridges Resource Coordinator

Green Mountain United Way is pleased to announce the recent hire of Heather Labounty to its Working Bridges Program Staff. Heather Labounty has been hired to serve Working Bridges worksite locations as the full-time Northeast Kingdom Resource Coordinator.

Before joining Green Mountain United Way, Heather Labounty worked as a community health coordinator at Northern Counties Health Care. “I’m excited for the opportunity to be part of a growing organization that helps those in my own communities. I think this will be a great way to use my experience to help others, that’s what really motivates me,” said Ms. Labounty.

“After an extensive interview process, we were so pleased to hire Heather to this role. She brings with her invaluable on-the-ground experience serving the community in the Northeast Kingdom, and we are so fortunate to be able to bring this experience to the Northeast Kingdom employers and employees we serve through the Working Bridges program.” said Tawnya Kristen, Executive Director of Green Mountain United Way.

Working Bridges is an employee-service and workforce development program offered to business partners in the Green Mountain United Way service area covering the Northeast Kingdom and Central Vermont. Since launching the program in their service region in 2016, Green Mountain United Way’s Working Bridges program has expanded to serve four large employers and one small employer with a combined workforce of over 2000 individuals.

“This program has expanded so much in just two short years and we are so happy to have Heather join us to support this growth. Her experience and her open, friendly personality are an asset to the program and the community. We believe that the employees served by Working Bridges will be in excellent hands and that this will be a smooth and easy transition for Heather and for the workforce we support,” offered Pam Bailey

, Director of Programs and Operations at Green Mountain United Way and program manager for Working Bridges.

Ms. Labounty lives with her husband and two sons in St. Johnsbury and ran her own daycare center before changing her career to join the human services sector. She serves on the board of Sid’s Pantry, a food shelf in Concord, Vermont and is actively involved in her sons’ baseball league.  

Read More

QPR Gatekeeper suicide prevention training

The Certified Trainers at Northeast Kingdom Human Services are holding a QPR gatekeeper training for community members:

Thursday, January 31, 2019 10am to noon at NKHS in Derby, Vermont

or

Wednesday, February 6, 2019 from 1:30 pm – 3:30pm at NKHS offices on Portland Street, St. Johnsbury, Vermont

To register contact Ruth Marquette at rmarquette@nkhs.net or call 802-334-6744 x 2140

For all details see the flyer:

NKHS.QPR.CommunityTrainingFlyer.Jan-Feb2019

Read More

The Phoenix-Vermont and Partners Launch New Fitness Program

Saturday, December 8th a line of new athletes reached out the door and into the stairwell at Green Mountain CrossFit. These new athletes were there to take part in a CrossFit class for the inaugural launch of The Phoenix – Vermont. What looked like any Saturday at the gym for some looked new and very different than their typical Saturday to others. Each of the athletes in line was there because they are in recovery from substance misuse disorder. This event was a new step in their recovery journey.

The Phoenix is a national nonprofit organization founded by Scott Strode, an athlete and leader who found recovery through fitness and discipline in a boxing gym in Boston. Based on his personal experience, Strode founded The Phoenix Multisport in Denver in 2006. Since then Strode and his team have been steadily expanding the reach of their program to include many different sports and locations in 20 states. “We have built a community of people in recovery across the country that are committed to helping individuals overcome substance use disorders by providing a nurturing atmosphere and support through the intrinsic power of physical activities,” said Scott Strode, Founder and Executive Director of The Phoenix. “By bringing The Phoenix to Vermont, we are providing a proven program to help build a safe, welcoming, nurturing and healing environment that is full of hope for people who have suffered from a substance use disorder and to those who choose to live sober.”

Their philosophy is simple: offer free fitness classes to those in recovery who have been sober for the last 48 hours. But the focus is not solely on fitness. As participants work out, they begin to build new connections with others who are living in recovery and sobriety. These connections are a powerful way for participants to build a new support network to continue their success in recovery.

For several years, Shannon Brennan, a licensed clinical mental health counselor at Central Vermont Substance Abuse, had contacted The Phoenix Multisport asking that they expand to Central Vermont. She “was tired of seeing her clients die” because they did not have the support systems to sustain their recovery and often fell back on old, unhealthy relationships. Brennan saw the potential that the Phoenix could bring to her clients. It wasn’t until she found partners at Green Mountain United Way and Green Mountain CrossFit that it became possible to bring The Phoenix to Central Vermont.

Tawnya Kristen of Green Mountain United Way met with Brennan and not only saw how this could be life-changing for Brennan’s clients, she saw how The Phoenix had the potential to change the recovery landscape in Vermont. As a key member of several Accountable Communities for Health in the Green Mountain United Way service region, Kristen was very familiar with data demonstrating the value of building healthy community and the impact on population health. She called a meeting with Nick Petterssen, the co-owner of Green Mountain CrossFit, who she knew would be supportive.

Together, these three community partners worked with The Phoenix to plan, train, and prepare for the launch of this first event on December 8th.

More than 25 athletes and half a dozen volunteers showed up to launch The Phoenix-Vermont. According to The Phoenix’s national office, attendance at this inaugural event was one of the two largest they have seen since expanding this programing nationwide.

Athletes who attended Saturday’s event were from many walks of life; some were experienced with CrossFit, many were not, but all showed up ready and willing to tackle a new challenge. In the opening circle just as many people responded to Kristen’s introductory question of “What are you looking forward to this week?” with “celebrating 2 months sober” or “10 years sober” as did those who were looking forward to family time or holiday shopping. The pride with which they spoke reinforced one of the main goals of The Phoenix – to eliminate the stigma of being in recovery. In the Phoenix, recovery is not something to hidden; by stepping into a Phoenix Event, athletes are not only joining a new, supportive community, but they are part of sharing and creating that community themselves.

Phoenix events will continue to happen every Saturday from noon – 1:30 pm at Green Mountain CrossFit. Those interested should go to www.thephoenix.org/participate/ to enroll prior to attending. Sign in opens at 11:30 am each Saturday. Those interested in volunteering to support events can go to Green Mountain United Way’s Volunteer Connection to sign up for dates and times at www.gmunitedway.org/volunteer.

This article was originally published in The World on Wednesday, December 19, 2018

 

Read More

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.

 

Read More

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!

Read More

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

 

Read More