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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VSECU and The Drawing Board Support Foster Children with Back-to-School Drives

VSECU, the credit union for all Vermonters recently held a back-to-school drive to support children Vermont’s foster care system and donated over $800 worth of back-to-school supplies. Items included backpacks, notebooks, binders and paper, folders, pencils, and water bottles and were distributed through Tatum’s Totes coordinated by Green Mountain United Way in partnership with the Department for Children and Families Barre and St. Johnsbury districts. This generous donation is part of VSECU’s commitment to give back to the local community.

“When I heard there was an opportunity to support children in foster care with something as simple as back-to-school supplies, I knew the team at VSECU could make a difference for these kids. Children in foster care can sometimes feel unseen and unheard by our community. Doing a drive like this gives us the chance to show these kids that their community does care deeply about them,” offered Ann Hodgdon, employee and back-to-school drive organizer at VSECU.

The Drawing Board, Montpelier’s local Art Supply and Framing Store, recently donated $1000 worth of art supplies to Green Mountain United Way. Items included markers, paints, sketch pads, origami kits, drawing pencils, and coloring books and will be distributed through Tatum’s Totes coordinated by Green Mountain United Way in the Barre, St. Johnsbury, and Newport Department for Children and Families districts. This generous donation is part of The Drawing Board’s commitment to give back to the local community.

“Growing up, art was something that helped me discover who I was. I imagine that these children, like many of us, need an outlet for creativity and a positive way to express themselves. If we can help give these children an opportunity to have a creative break, to enjoy making their own art, or coloring a picture to help relieve the stress they are experiencing, I’m so happy to be a small part of that positive experience for these kids,” said Drawing Board owner Liz Walsh.

Tatum’s Totes is a program that provides backpacks to children transitioning into foster care. Tatum’s Totes was founded by Liz and Alex Grimes when they began fostering children after their son Tatum died of SIDS at 5 months old. They found an independent organization to honor Tatum’s memory and to serve children in their home area of Rutland County after they realized that many foster children enter their new homes with little more than a plastic shopping bag with a few personal items. Green Mountain United Way brought Tatum’s Totes to the Barre and Newport DCF districts in 2016 and took over coordination of the St. Johnsbury DCF region 2017. Children entering foster care are given a backpack of their own filled with age-appropriate, caring items including blankets, books, toys, toothbrushes, and other hygiene items, games, a water bottle, school supplies, and art supplies.

“VSECU & the Drawing Board both embody the Vermont ethic of taking care of the community that takes care of you,” said Carrie Stahler, Director of Community Engagement at Green Mountain United Way. “These items will help children in foster care be able to go back to school with the items they need and help foster families, who generously open their homes to children in the community. It is always our goal to show children in foster care that their community loves, supports, and values them. The support of companies like VSECU and The Drawing Board demonstrates that so clearly.”

In the past 12 months, Green Mountain United Way has supported over 74 children entering foster care. For a complete list of items to support Tatum’s Totes, go to www.gmunitedway.org/tatumstotes.

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Clark Joins Green Mountain United Way’s Working Bridges Team

Green Mountain United Way is pleased to announce that Michelle Clark has joined the Working Bridges Program Staff. She will serve Working Bridges worksite locations as the full-time Northeast Kingdom Resource Coordinator.

Michelle Clark, NEK Resource Coordinator

A graduate of Lyndon State College (now NVU), Michelle began her career as a dental hygienist outside of Vermont but upon her return discovered a passion for social work and went back to LSC to get her degree. Michelle has held a variety of roles assisting Vermonters in the Northeast Kingdom and Central Vermont prior to this role. Before joining Green Mountain United Way, she worked for Umbrella helping survivors of domestic and sexual violence find safe and stable housing.

“Michelle brings a great depth of experience to our team and in her short time here has demonstrated a gift for connecting the employees Working Bridges serves with resources in the community. She has an unmatched depth of knowledge that is needed to help our clients address their needs so they can stay employed, focused at work, and continue to create stable lives for themselves and their family,” said United Way’s Executive Director Tawnya Kristen.

“I see myself as a travel agent for community resources. I’m excited to bring my skills and knowledge to connect working families in the Northeast Kingdom to the resources they need to address a life challenge, or to have the opportunity to make their life or their family’s life better. Asking for help is hard, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to care for my community’s caretakers through our work,” offered Clark, who lives on her family’s farm in Lyndonville with her son. She is a member of the Lyndon Outing Club board.

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 five large employers and one small employer with a combined workforce of over 3000 individuals throughout United Way’s service region. Participating employers in the Northeast Kingdom include Northern Counties Health Care, Northeast Kingdom Human Services, ABC-LOL Daycare, and Weidmann Electrical Technology.

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. 

Contact Green Mountain United Way, 73 Main Street, Montpelier, Vermont, 802-613-3989 or info@gmunitedway.org

About Working Bridges™: Working Bridges™ is a United Way led Employer Collaborative founded 10 years ago in Chittenden County by The United Way of Northwest Vermont. Since 2016, Green Mountain United Way’s Working Bridges program, led by Pam Bailey, has expanded to businesses in the Green Mountain United Way service area of Caledonia Essex, Orange, Orleans, and Washington Counties. More information at www.gmunitedway.org/workingbridges

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Barre Cub Scouts step up to support local children in foster care

The Barre Cub Scouts recently held an item drive for Tatum’s Totes to support backpacks for kids transitioning into emergency foster care. That drive turned into an incredible opportunity for the scouts to help put together backpacks for kids their ages, imagining what a child might help to comfort a child who is going to a new home.

In the end, they put together 75 backpacks filled with items for children, and built with a lot of love. They presented a backpack to United Way Board President Linda Winter at halftime on the football field at Spaulding on Friday, September 20th.

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Campaigns Kick-off!

This week our partners at The State of Vermont and Northfield Savings Bank kicked off campaign season with events for their employees.

The State of Vermont held their event at the State House and started with breakfast then speeches in the House Chambers from Campaign Chair Melissa Mazza-Paquette, Secretary of Administration Suzanne Young, Green Mountain United Way’s Carrie Stahler, and Governor Phil Scott. An award ceremony for State Employees followed.

Northfield Savings Bank encouraged their team with a Superhero Theme led by their own HR Superheroes. The weeklong campaign culminated with a Superhero Celebratory Lunch for all who participated!

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Nonprofit Volunteer Coordinator Volunteer Connection Info

Below are resources for Nonprofit Volunteer Coordinators to use in order to learn how the United Way Volunteer Connection works, to sign up for the Volunteer Connection, or to trouble-shoot challenges on the Volunteer Connection. If you need more help than these resources offer, reach out to Carrie or Beckie at 802-613-3989 or email volunteer@gmunitedway.org.

Quick Start Guide (START HERE! Use this guide to sign up, set up, and update all of your nonprofit’s info and volunteer opportunities)

Login to the GMUW Volunteer Connection

Video Resources from our partners at Galaxy Digital, the folks who support our Volunteer Connection database:

We hold periodic trainings to help our nonprofit partners train new staff, stay up to date, learn new tips and tricks, and make the most efficient use of the Volunteer Connection. Stay tuned for the next training date – we try to combine these with peer meetings you can learn from your fellow Volunteer Coordinators!

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Golf Classic a Success!

Thank you sponsors, players, and volunteers! Thanks to you our 2019 Golf Classic was a huge success, raising over $15,000 for our community!

A special thank you for our Silver Sponsors:


Photos

Click here to access our photo 2019 Golf Classic Photo Gallery!

Results

Congratulations to all of our winners and to our incredible local businesses who provided prizes for our players!

CategoryTeam NamePlayers
Men’s Closest to Pin 4DRMSteve Bigras
Men’s Closest to Pin 7 Black River/NorthCountryJess Dahline
Men’s Closest to Pin 13 Nat. Business Tech.Scott Crossett
Men’s Closest to Pin 16 DRM Connor Garand
Men’s Straight Drive 9
Men’sLongest Drive 18
Women’s Closest to Pin 4 Vermont Mutual Annett Lamell
Women’s Closest to Pin 7 No winner
Women’s Closest to Pin 13 No winner
Women’s Closest to Pin 16 VSECUEileen Mead-Belanger
Women’s Straight Drive 9 No Winner
Women’s Longest Drive 18 VSECUYvonne Garand
1st GrossGranite City Group FitnessTullar, Evans, Evans, Garand
1st NetComm. Nat. BankRubel, Mitiguy, Hughart, Stone
2nd GrossConvenience PlusMcCarthy, Milne, Quinn Maclean
2nd NetBlack River/North CountryRobinson, Dahline, Stumpo, Adorisio
3rd Gross Vermont Mutual Taylor, Stark, Chalous, Thurston
Spirit of the GameVSECU Gosselin, Bristow, Mead-Belanger, Huysman
Smash the Glass WinnerComm. Nat. BankJay Mitiguy

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