Working Bridges Employee Contacts for Remote Resource Coordination

Out of an abundance of caution and in consideration of keeping employees and our Working Bridges clients in the healthcare sector safe, we are moving to a remote tele-coordination system effective immediately, Monday, March 16, 2020.

We understand the challenge of working remotely in a rural area and have identified a variety of methods that should work for the vast majority of those of you who need to contact your Resource Coordinator.

Employees and HR professionals at our Working Bridges sites in Central Vermont and the Northeast Kingdom can access Resource Coordinators through the following contact methods:

Email: Both Laurie and Michelle can be confidentially emailed using one email address: wbrc@gmunitedway.org. Please indicate which employer you work for and the nature of your issue.

Phone: Laurie can be reached at 802-793-7919, Michelle can be reached at 802-793-9517.

Text: The phone number above are cell phones and can receive texts

Video conferencing: If face-to-face contact is preferred by you, our client, Laurie is an Apple iPhone user and can Facetime with clients, or can use Google Hangouts, Michelle has access to Google Hangouts.

Volunteer Income Tax Preparation (VITA) has moved to a drop-off system. Please ask your HR department for a VITA packet for your upcoming appointment. You will need to include all paperwork, including a photocopy of your ID and Social Security card(s) in order for us to complete your taxes. Paperwork will be mailed to you for signatures prior to submission to the IRS.

HR Partners, print our new Working Bridges Flyer here. Email Carrie at cstahler (at) gmunitedway.org if you need this as a PDF. This poster looks like this:

Our Working Bridges Employee Resource Guide is updated regularly and contains consolidated contact information for agencies providing resources.

Read More

Graphic with red box in the center and yellow and red geometric shapes surrounding the box on a white ground

COVID-19 Resource Page

The following information is intended to help everyone in our communities get to the resources they need quickly and efficiently.

The local response to COVID-19 throughout our five-county region is rapidly changing and we will keep this page updated as we receive additional information.

Please note, we are dedicated to continuing to serve our Working Bridges sites. For employees at our Working Bridges worksites, we are still serving all of our worksites but are now using remote service systems. Please reach your resource coordinators at wbrc@gmunitedway.org or by phone. Resource coordinators will continue to be available remotely to serve all employees at our Working Bridges sites. Please see this link for contact details for Laurie or Michelle.

HEALTH

Vermont Department of Health – please use this link to connect to the most recent information distributed by the Vermont Department of Health. If you are having symptoms and you are concerned they may be COVID-19, please do not go to the ER, call your healthcare provider or primary care physician’s office to be triaged by them first.

When to call your doctor – If you believe you are having symptoms of coronavirus/COVID-19, please call your doctor’s office before seeking out treatment or going to the emergency room. Your doctor will give you the best course of action to take to protect your health and the health of others.

Vermont 211 – Dial 2-1-1 if you have questions about COVID-19 but are not seeking medical care or to find resources to deal with challenges you or community members may be experiencing due to impacts of the virus such as food insecurity, housing, etc. You can also access the 211 Database at https://vermont211.org/ (if you are a nonprofit organization whose services have changed due to COVID-19, please email 211 with changes at info@vermont211.org)

Please note that People’s Health and Wellness Clinic in Barre, who serve uninsured Vermonters, has suspended in-person patient visits at PHWC. We remain committed to providing care for our patients and will offer phone triage, phone/video appointments with providers, and comprehensive case management. If you have any questions or need assistance, please call the clinic at 802-479-1229. For questions related to COVID-19, please call the helpline at 802-371-5310.

MENTAL HEALTH

Northeast Kingdom Human Services – (802) 784-3181

Washington County Mental Health Services – (802) 229-0591

The Vermont Telephone Recovery Support Service Peer Support Helpline – (802) 808-8877, operating 9:00am to 9:00pm.

FOOD INSECURITY

Please use this link to the Vermont Foodbank’s page listing updated information to help people who need food to access it at this time. Find your local food shelf here or call the Vermont Foodbank at  1-800-585-2265.

Hunger Free Vermont is also regularly updating their resources regarding food. Click here to view their page, which includes information about WIC, School Meals, 3SquaresVT, Meal Programs for Older Vermonters, and more. Use this link to view the COVID-19 Food Resources Flyer with updated information you can use and share about access to food.

School Districts are developing their own food plans in response to school closures. Contact your local school for the most up to date information. We will be listing all of the information we receive from schools here.

Northeast Kingdom Food (and other) Resources:

Central Vermont Food Resources:

Central Vermont has organized into Washington and Northern Orange County Regional Response Command Center (WNOC-RRCC). They are currently focused on feeding the population of 200+ individuals currently housed in hotels. As that group offers more resources and information we will link to those.

TRANSPORTATION

Bus Service

GMT service is changing to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Effective immediately until at least April 1, 2020, GMT will operate bus service fare free. We will continue to monitor COVID-19 updates and adjust this timeframe accordingly. Limiting the interaction on-board our buses will help us prevent the spread of COVID-19 to other passengers and to our Transit Operators. Whenever possible, Transit Operators will allow passengers to board and alight through the rear door of the bus. They ask that if passengers are able to stay home, please do so. They are working to ensure nurses, doctors, child care workers, first responders, transit workers, and anyone else who needs us where they need to go, is able to d so safely. See the latest route updates and service alerts at www.RideGMT.com

RCT Serves the NEK. Find current updates on the RCT website. Those with questions about Rural Community Transit rides should call 802-748-8170 or toll-free 1-855-811-6360.

HOUSING

Northeast Kingdom

  • Northeast Kingdom Community Action – 802-748-6040
  • RuralEdge – 800-234-0560

Central Vermont

  • Capstone Community Action – Toll-Free Barre Office 1-800-639-1053, Toll-Free Morrisville Office 1-800-639-8710, Toll-Free Orange County West/Randolph Office 1-800-846-9506, Orange County East/Bradford Office (802) 222-5419
  • Downstreet Housing and Community Development – Toll-Free 877-320-0063

CHILDCARE

Yesterday Governor Phil Scott ordered the implementation of the child care system to support personnel essential to the COVID-19 Response. This means many centers are closing but some will be making slots available to children of Vermonters responding to the crisis. Please read Governor Scott’s press release here and the full guidance document here.

FINANCIAL INSECURITY

If your employment has been impacted by the COVID-19 community response, please see the Vermont Department of Labor’s website. At this time we understand that their phone lines may be very busy.

Taxes – the IRS has extended the deadline for taxes due but not the deadline for filing. This information is complex. Here is the link to the IRS language and a separate Wall Street Journal article that we found helpful.

HOW YOU CAN HELP

As this crisis continues to develop we can see an increasing need for volunteers – we are reaching out to our nonprofit partners to understand how they are using volunteers and what their ongoing needs will be. Many of the consistent volunteers in our community are older, retired Vermonters. These individuals are most at risk for COVID-19, so we are seeing a rapid shift in those who are able to fill volunteer roles in the community, and those who are not. Additionally, we and our nonprofit partners are preparing to serve our communities in many new ways to keep our communities and our most vulnerable Vermonters safe.

VOLUNTEERING

We are working with our nonprofit partners in the community to update volunteer opportunities on our Volunteer Connection. If you work for a nonprofit in need of support or volunteers, please reach out to Carrie at cstahler at gmunitedway.org.

If you are able to volunteer, check updated opportunities here, find local nonprofits and their volunteer coordinator contacts here to reach out to individual organizations.

WNOC-RRCC – This collaboration in the Central Vermont region is working to address food delivery and other volunteer supports. Check their website and register if you can help here https://www.communityharvestvt.org/volunteer

Northeast Kingdom Council on Aging – the NEKCOA is working with volunteers to create continuity of service for Meals on Wheels. If you are able to help, contact Karen Budde at NEKCOA. https://www.nekcouncil.org/volunteer or call (802) 751-0431.

Central Vermont Council on Aging – CVCOA is working to create continuity of support for food delivery for seniors, finding backup drivers, and other support services by volunteers. If you are able to help, contact Luke Rackers or go to https://www.cvcoa.org/volunteering.html.

Local-Level Opportunities to Give Help or Get Help (Mutual Aid)

Many local communities are rallying community members to be available as opportunities come up or become more clear. Please check out the communities that have shared their sign-up forms. (please note, we are not helping to manage these volunteers, just sharing this information with you in case you are interested in connecting with these grassroots groups).

Individual Community Groups can be found at the bottom of this resource crowd-sourced Vermont Resource List.

Read More

VDH Daily Update on Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

We at United Way will be sharing updates here from the Vermont Department of Health as we receive them. If you have additional questions or need information regarding the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), please call 2-1-1 or check vermont211.org.

Daily Update on Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19)

March 11, 2020

Current Status in Vermont

The Health Department is closely monitoring the developments in the outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus (“COVID-19”). Vermont is prepared to respond to protect and support Vermonters.

As of 1:00 p.m. on March 11, 2020:

Vermont cases of COVID-191
Vermont cases of COVID-19 requiring hospitalization1
Vermonters tested negative for COVID-1962
Vermonters being monitored215
Vermonters who have completed monitoring59

On March 7, 2020, health officials announced the first case of COVID-19 in Vermont.This Bennington County case is considered presumptive pending Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmation.

The State of Vermont Wednesday announced the activation of the State Emergency Operations Center to support the ongoing work of the Vermont Department of Health and expand the capacity of state government to coordinate the COVID-19 response.

The State Emergency Operations Center is working closely with health officials to develop guidance on, and answer questions about, whether large gatherings and events should be canceled. At this time, officials are not recommending these events be canceled, but that guidance is subject to change as the situation evolves.

It is reasonable for older adults and persons with underlying health conditions to consider not attending a mass gathering eventHealth Department and Agency of Education officials continue to work with colleges, universities and other educational institutions on guidance about potential closures of their facilities.

The Health Department is focused on ensuring its most vulnerable populations are protected, and is working to continuously update guidance and address emerging needs of long-term care facilities as new information becomes available.

Guidance documents are being added and updated daily as needed. These are available at healthvermont.gov/covid19.

Case Information

The adult patient is a Bennington County resident, currently hospitalized and in an airborne infection isolation room at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.

On March 8, Governor Phil Scott, along with Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD, Agency of Human Services Secretary Mike Smith and Deputy Public Safety Commissioner Christopher Herrick held a press conference at the State Emergency Operations Center to update Vermonters about this first case and of state preparedness and response efforts. 

Public health epidemiologists are working to investigate possible travel or exposure history and to identify anyone who had close contact with the person. Those individuals will be assessed for their exposure risk and provided with guidance for their health. Where appropriate, they will receive recommendations for self-isolation or other restrictions.

We are also talking with the staff at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center to ensure they are properly cared for and protected, so that other patients are also protected.

We expect, and are prepared for, more cases in Vermont, and are taking every action to limit the spread of illness.

In addition to protecting a patient’s personal health information, state health and public safety officials are committed to ensuring that Vermonters are aware of any risk to themselves and their community. This is the essential work of public health. We will contact anyone identified as at-risk as part of any case investigation, and recommend they stay home for 14 days or follow other restrictions as needed.

Actionable information for individuals, schools, organizations, businesses and others will be shared quickly to protect the health of Vermonters and prevent the spread of disease.

Anyone who feels ill or has concerns about their health should call their health care provider.

For the most up-to-date information and guidance about COVID-19, including from the CDC, visit healthvermont.gov/covid19.

Update on Cost Sharing for Testing

Containment and Prevention Measures

  • We expect there will be more cases of COVID-19 in the state. Vermont Health Officials urge Vermonters to stay informed and take all necessary precautions.
  • Following new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, returning travelers whose last day in China, Italy, South Korea or Iran was March 4 or afterwards should stay home and monitor their health for 14 days after returning to the United States. Travelers returning from Japan should monitor their health for 14 days after returning to the United States.
  • All travelers who have returned from those countries in the last 14 days should call the Health Department at 802-863-7240. The Health Department will be in regular contact with you for 14 days since the day you left the affected area to monitor you for symptoms of shortness of breath, cough or fever. If you develop these symptoms, contact your health care provider right away.
  • Vermont is currently working with New Hampshire in response to a New Hampshire case with close proximity to Vermont. Read more here: https://www.healthvermont.gov/media/newsroom/vt-and-nh-health-officials-working-together-trace-contacts-nh-covid-19-case and here: https://www.healthvermont.gov/sites/default/files/documents/pdf/HS-COVID19-March-4-update.pdf.
  • Since the virus first emerged, the Vermont Health Department has been in constant contact with CDC and other states to closely monitor developments, and work to minimize the spread of illness. State government has been advising health care providers, schools, emergency responders on the latest information and preventive measures, and providing guidance and updates on the website and through the news media. This is a quickly evolving situation with new information guiding actions on an ongoing basis. Staff across the Department of Health are working in the Health Operations Center to adjust our response as appropriate to the situation in Vermont.
  • Epidemiologists and public health nurses have been following CDC protocols for monitoring people who have recently returned from travel to affected areas (which currently includes China, South Korea, Iran, Italy, and Japan). Monitoring means checking their temperature daily, watching for symptoms, and for some people, staying home.
  • The Vermont Department of Health has compiled helpful guidance on how to help keep respiratory illnesses like COVID-19 from spreading, travel information and situation updates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This can all be found at healthvermont.gov/COVID-19.
  • Last week (week of February 24), the CDC made testing kits available to the states, and this week (week of March 1), the Health Department Laboratory began testing for COVID-19.
  • At the direction of Governor Phil Scott, Vermont Emergency Management assembled an interagency task force to support the overall public health response and further prepare for the likelihood of COVID-19 cases in Vermont. This task force is focused on forward-looking, situation-specific mitigation planning, while the Vermont Department of Health continues its containment strategy in response to the current situation.
  • The Health Department is working to strengthen protections for older Vermonters, including developing screening questions for visitors to long-term care facilities to identify anyone at risk. These have been made available for hospitals or other health care facilities.
  • Health Commissioner Mark Levine is holding weekly calls with health care leadership around the state to provide updates and answer questions about the current situation.

Guidance for Vermonters

When to call?

  • If you have questions about COVID-19: Dial 2-1-1
  • If you are returning from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea or Japan: Call Health Department Epidemiology at 802-863-7240
  • If you are ill, have symptoms, or concerned about your health: Call your health care provider

Guidance for Specific Groups

These can be found on healthvermont.gov/covid19 under “Resources for schools, child care programs and colleges.”

  • Long-term care facilities: A visitor screening tool was provided to long-term care facilities, and similar one for hospitals to help protect patients and/or residents and staff these facilities. These documents have also been posted on healthvermont.gov/covid19, under “Long-Term Care Facilities” and “Health Care Professionals.”

Guidance for Travelers Returning to Vermont from an Affected Area

Following new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, returning travelers whose last day in China, Italy, South Korea or Iran was March 4, 2020 or afterwards should stay home and monitor their health for 14 days after returning to the United States. Travelers returning from Japan should monitor their health for 14 days after returning to the United States.

All travelers who have returned from those countries in the last 14 days should call Health Department infectious disease and epidemiology staff at 802-863-7240 to discuss monitoring for symptoms of shortness of breath, cough or fever. If you develop these symptoms, contact your health care provider right away.

Household members who did not travel do not need to be monitored and do not need to stay home, unless that person develops symptoms.

Guidance for People in Close Contact with a Person who Tested Positive for COVID-19

People who have been identified by the Health Department as a close contact to someone who tested positive for COVID-19 should stay home, practice social distancing and monitor their health for 14 days.

Social distancing means remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings and maintaining distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from others when possible.

The Health Department will be in contact with you regularly during the monitoring period. If you develop symptoms: Call your health care provider right away. Before you go to an appointment, let your health care provider know that you are being monitored for novel coronavirus. Call Health Department epidemiology and infectious disease staff at 802-863-7240. Avoid contact with others.

What does close contact mean?

“Close contact” means being within six feet of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 for a long time.

This can happen when caring for, being intimate partners with, or living with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Or if you shared a health care waiting area.

If you have been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19: stay home, limit contact with others, and call Health Department Epidemiology at 802-863-7240 Staff will discuss whether you need to see a provider, and how you will monitor yourself for symptoms. When someone tests positive for COVID-19, the Health Department conducts outreach to close contacts of the individual.

Close contact does not mean being more than six feet away in the same indoor environment for a long period of time with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19; It also does not mean walking by, or briefly being in the same room with someone who tested positive. In these situations, you should observe yourself for symptoms. You do not need to call the Health Department.

Anyone who develops symptoms should stay home and call their health care provider.

People At Risk for Serious Illness from COVID-19

Some people are at higher risk of getting very sick from this illness, including older adults and people with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes or lung disease. According to the CDC, these people should take extra precautions including:

  • Stocking up on supplies
  • Avoiding crowds
  • Avoiding cruise travel and non-essential air travel
  • Staying away from others who are sick

Read the CDC’s full guidance on People At Risk for Serious Illness from COVID-19.

Everyday Preventive Measures

Person-to-person spread of the virus is thought to occur mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Much is still unknown about how the virus spreads. Take these everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Additional Resources

The Vermont Department of Health website contains guidance and answers to frequently asked questions, including:

  • What does “monitoring” mean?
  • Information for people under monitoring
  • What does close contact mean?
  • How can I protect myself?
  • Should I wear a face mask when I go out in public?
  • Guidance for travelers returning to Vermont from an affected area
  • Where is it safe to travel internationally?
  • I am returning from an affected area. What should I do?
  • Who can get tested for COVID-19?
  • What should people planning large gatherings in Vermont do?
  • What is the turnaround time for testing?
  • Where can I find translated materials?
  • Can the Health Department provide documentation that I can go to work?
  • Guidance for specific groups:
    • Businesses
    • Communities
    • First Responders
    • Health care professionals
    • Long-term care facilities
    • Schools, child care programs and colleges

View these resources at healthvermont.gov/covid19

Vermonters can also dial 2-1-1 for information.

The CDC is regularly updating its guidance at cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/summary.html.

Read More

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.

Read More

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!

Read More

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.”

Read More

Athletes stand in 3 rows after a workout

Local Hero: Troy Lawson for The Phoenix-Vermont

by Green Mountain United Way Volunteer Writer Robert Barossi

Coach Troy, second from the right, chats with athletes before a Pheonix workout in Barre.

An estimated 20.7 million adults in the United States needed treatment for drug or substance abuse in 2017, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. One national nonprofit working to provide a unique approach to recovery support is The Phoenix. Founded in 2006, the organization works to provide a sober active community for people in recovery and now offers free activity programs in many states, where it has served over 26,000 people since it’s inception.

Arriving here in 2018, The Phoenix has a number of programs in central Vermont, including one led by CrossFit coach, and volunteer of the month, Troy Lawson.

“I’ve been a personal trainer for a lot of years,” he says. “It was back in 2012 when I started doing CrossFit and I fell l in love with the idea of class participation and having an instructor and having somebody oversee your movement and oversee how you are moving. I was just drawn to it and I went and got certified and started coaching at Green Mountain CrossFit.”

Troy heard about The Phoenix program through Tawnya Kristen, of Green Mountain United Way, who was one of the driving forces behind bringing it to Vermont. “Tawnya started hosting the first class in Vermont at Green Mountain CrossFit and she was encouraging people to help out and volunteer,” he says. “She wasn’t really sure what the impact was going to be on the community but it’s been huge.”

He notes that one of the requirements to take part in the program while in recovery is that participants have to have 48 hours of continuous sobriety. “The goal was to try to set up something in the central Vermont area that would keep their interest peaked at least every 48 hours. When Tawnya started reaching out to try to find another location to host The Phoenix, she reached out to me cause I have a relationship with Washington County Mental Health. She knew I had some space down there to host another one of the programs. She drew me in that way and it’s been amazing.”

While he wasn’t necessarily looking for volunteer opportunities, Troy comments that everything fell into place really well. “It wasn’t a hard decision,” he adds. “I had to think about it for a little while, of course, but I was willing to do it. To participate in The Phoenix and see what Tawnya and Shannon Brennan [a mental health counselor at Central Vermont Substance Abuse] have brought to the central Vermont area, it’s pretty amazing, it’s really hard to say no to them.”

“It isn’t a replacement for the meetings and it’s not a replacement for the 12-step program,’ Troy says. “There’s a lot of stigma around recovery, so The Phoenix gives them a positive way to interact with each other that maybe was lacking. So that’s one piece. There’s the fitness piece, giving them the opportunity to experience something that’s going to benefit them in the long run. Another piece is that these people are in a pretty vulnerable spot in their lives and Tawnya is really gentle and kind and she’s very welcoming. That definitely made it more appealing for me to be a part of something that was bigger than myself.”

On Saturdays, you may find Troy helping Tawnya at Green Mountain CrossFit, but his Wednesday night programs happen at Washington County Mental Health’s WellSpace in Barre. He calls the diversity of people who participate in the program fascinating, noting the wide variety. “One thing I’ve learned is addiction is across the board. Men and women. Older and younger. It doesn’t matter how much income you have or any of that stuff. It’s really amazing to see the folks that come there and allow themselves to be vulnerable and put themselves out there and they’re trying something new.”

And while CrossFit can seem a little intimidating at first to some, the program is also open to anyone, regardless of their fitness level. Nobody is turned away. At the same time, Troy notes, CrossFit provides an amazing sense of community because everyone works together as a group.

“It’s definitely bigger than yourself. Your giving back to something that’s really a big deal,” Troy says, adding that there are moments of true vulnerability and sharing of personal stories which he says can be powerful, difficult and inspiring. “To just be a part of something like that and to give that to my community is pretty cool. It’s hard to put into words exactly how it feels. I just feel grateful that they allow me to be a part of their recovery.”

Local Heroes is a feature compiled by the Green Mountain United Way focusing on the contributions of local volunteers whose gift of time benefits local nonprofit organizations in Green Mountain United Way’s five-county service territory. For more information, or to nominate a volunteer to be featured here, go to www.gmunitedway.org/volunteer-of-the-month.

Read More