This spring feels particularly hard earned. Fortunately, there are several activities coming up that will get us outside. Here are just a few suggestions:
Spring Worksite Wellness Activities
~ Ashwinee Kulkarni, MPH
The warm weather has finally arrived! Spring is a great time to get started with a worksite wellness program or re-energize an existing one. Check out the Health Department’s Worksite Wellness Page for tips and resources on how to get started or to get new ideas. We also have new section with resources specific to several different occupations. Here are five worksite wellness activities that you can try this summer to promote healthy eating and an active lifestyle:
Unraveling the Mystery of the
~Rebecca O’Reilly, MS, RD
As the weather begins to warm and the landscape begins to green, our thoughts inevitably turn toward spring and summer and taking in all that these seasons have to offer. For me (and I don’t think I’m alone here), food is among the greatest assets that warm weather brings. Fresh produce is available, the grill is fired up, and I am more than happy to set aside my arsenal of warm winter favorites to embrace the cool flavors of summer. Along with great flavor, comes opportunity for great nutrition. Fruits and vegetables that are picked fresh not only taste better, but they pack more key nutrients than those that have been trucked from thousands of miles away. Community farmer’s markets are a great place to support local growers while taking advantage of fresh, flavorful, nutritious fruits and vegetables.
For many of the consumers we see in our daily work, farmer’s markets are a new concept and shopping at one may not be entirely comfortable prospect. Do you remember the last time you tried out a new market? Every time I’m in an unfamiliar shopping environment, I am so overwhelmed by finding what I need and learning the norms of the new space, I forget to buy half of the items on my list (once again, I don’t think I’m alone here). The good news is, we can help make the new experience more enjoyable for individuals and families. Here are some helpful tips and resources for successfully navigating the farmer’s market and getting the most out of a tight food budget.
Letter carriers’ 26th annual food drive set for Sat., May 12 throughout nation
WASHINGTON – The National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) will conduct its 26th annual national food drive on Saturday, May 12. The Stamp Out Hunger® Food Drive, the country’s largest single-day food drive, provides residents with an easy way to donate food to those in need in the community.
Customers simply leave their donation of non-perishable goods next to their mailbox before the delivery of the mail on Saturday, May 12. Letter carriers will collect these food donations on that day as they deliver mail along their postal routes and distribute them to local food agencies. Visit www.nalc.org/food to learn more.
The Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive is the nation’s largest single-day food drive and is held annually on the second Saturday in May in 10,000 cities and towns in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam.
With the economic struggles many Americans face, the Letter Carriers’ Food Drive is as critical as ever. Not only do millions of Americans go hungry, organizations that help them are in need of replenishments.
Hunger affects about 50 million people around the country, including millions of children, senior citizens and veterans. Pantry shelves filled up through winter-holiday generosity often are bare by late spring. And, with most school meal programs suspended during summer months, millions of children must find alternate sources of nutrition.
Letter carriers see these struggles in the communities they serve, and they believe it’s important to do what they can to help.
On Saturday, May 12, as they deliver mail, the nation’s 175,000 letter carriers will collect donations left by residents near their mailboxes. People are encouraged to leave a sturdy bag—paper or plastic—containing non-perishable foods, such as canned soup, canned vegetables, canned meats and fish, pasta, peanut butter, rice or cereal, next to their mailbox before the regular mail delivery on that Saturday.
Letter carriers will take that food to local food banks, pantries or shelters. Several national partners are assisting the NALC in the food drive: the U.S. Postal Service, the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association (NRLCA), the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), Valpak, United Way Worldwide, the AFL-CIO, the AARP Foundation and Valassis.
This year’s effort includes a public service announcement with award-winning actor and director Edward James Olmos. Television networks and stations can use this link to find and download high-quality versions of the PSA, in English and Spanish.
Since the first national Food Drive in 1993, the Letter Carriers’ Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive has collected more than 1.5 billion pounds of food; last year’s drive brought in a record 80 million pounds of food.
People who have questions about the drive in their area should ask their letter carrier, contact their local post office, or go to nalc.org/food, facebook.com/StampOutHunger or twitter.com/StampOutHunger.
The 280,000-member National Association of Letter Carriers represents letter carriers across the country employed by the U.S. Postal Service, along with retired letter carriers. Founded by Civil War veterans in 1889, the NALC is among the country’s oldest labor unions.
This poster can be downloaded from HERE
United Way Volunteer of the Month Joyce Werntgen: Service Is A Life-Long Commitment
Service is a life-long commitment, and our central Vermont community is lucky to have many stewards of that service. One of those stewards is Joyce Werntgen. She has been volunteering at the Vermont Center for Independent Living (VCIL) since her retirement in 2015. Joyce’s volunteer service started with a fondness for the organization, a natural curiosity about volunteering, and the desire to continue to serve her community even after retirement.
Joyce’s job before she retired was as a full-time employee for VCIL which made it easy for her to jump in and immediately begin helping. VCIL works to ensure that individuals with disabilities live with dignity and the support they need to remain in their homes. When she worked for the organization, Joyce was trained in multiple areas of the agency, including in their Home Access Program, which provides home entry and bathroom accessibility modifications for low-income Vermonters with physical disabilities. Because of her breadth of knowledge about variety of functions and areas, Joyce is now able to help the organization with whatever they need—database maintenance, phone calls, office work, and more. She also continues to work in the Home Access Program ensuring more Vermonters get access to the accessibility modifications they need!
Aside from her previous knowledge of the organization, Joyce was drawn to volunteer for VCIL for several reasons. She says she loves her work there because she loves the people. It’s a community, and showing up for a volunteer shift means she gets to see her friends. The organization is close to her home in Montpelier, and she says she supports the organization on a deeper level: the disability rights movement really struck a chord with her. Not only did her partner, Peg, help start VCIL as one of the original founders, but Peg’s daughter has a disability and Joyce has seen firsthand how the organization is able to make a difference in the lives of Vermonters.
Joyce says volunteers are of the utmost importance for the organization, as VCIL frequently deals with funding restrictions, volunteers provide the extra help needed to take some of the pressure off staff. Many of the volunteers working at VCIL also have disabilities, which helps foster a deeper understanding of what peers need throughout multiple levels in the organization.
For those who are interested in volunteering, Joyce says, “It is a wonderful way to get to know an organization. They make it easy.” Her experience with VCIL has been rewarding in the freedom and flexibility she has with her schedule, as well as the incredible sense of community its given her.
Vermont Center for Independent Living(VCIL) believes that individuals with disabilities have the right to live with dignity and with appropriate support in their own homes, fully participate in their communities and to control and make decisions about their lives. To learn more about VCIL and the work they do for Vermonters, go to www.vcil.org.
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. For more information, or to nominate a volunteer to be featured here, go to www.gmunitedway.org/volunteer-of-the-month.
By Chelsea Catherine, Green Mountain United Way volunteer
Sheila McLean, United Way’s Volunteer of the Month, is a woman who radiates warmth and kindness. It’s clear from the moment I meet her, seated at a table in a restaurant in downtown Montpelier, that the welcoming presence she emits is part of what makes her an excellent volunteer. Sheila volunteers for Good Beginnings of Central VT, which provides free resources and support for expectant parents and families with new babies.
Since 2012, Sheila has volunteered with the program for two to three hours once a week, visiting the homes of new parents and assisting them with a variety of tasks. Most often, Sheila helps take care of the newborn while the new mom catches up on household tasks, takes a nap, or allows herself a brief break to relax. Sometimes she reads or plays with an older sibling, so the new mom can focus on her infant. Her volunteer work constantly changes to fit the needs of her clients. Her support even helped one new mom complete her school work at the local community college, enabling her to graduate! For some moms, the hours Sheila provides are the only respite they get throughout the week.
Working with infants comes naturally to Sheila. Originally from Ottawa, Canada, Sheila became an RN at a diploma school in Montreal, where she worked side by side with doctors and nurses every day. After moving to Vermont with her husband, she began a twenty-five-year stint on staff at the Women and Children’s Unit at CVMC. For the past five years, she’s worked per diem. This is when she began volunteering, spending time at the Benefit Shop in Barre, and with a knitting group at the hospital where she makes prayer shawls to help comfort terminal patients and their families.
Sheila loves the work she does with Good Beginnings, and it’s clear from the excitement in her voice that the work is deeply rewarding to her. She says the biggest thing she’s learned from volunteering there with Good Beginnings is how hard some new moms have to work to make ends meet. “It was a wake-up call,” she says. She realized how much she has to be thankful for, and how many people really struggle in Central Vermont.
Part of her longevity as a volunteer comes from the amazing support she gets from the staff at Good Beginnings. Along with praise and consistent encouragement from the program coordinator, Good Beginnings also holds monthly “purple coffee hours” where volunteers can sit down and talk about the challenges and successes they’ve faced, while seeking advice from each other and staff. Sheila also receives lots of reinforcement from the moms. “I know after two hours, I’ve made a real difference in that mom’s life.” Truly, having support from a trained professional after having a new baby can mean a world of difference.
Good Beginnings commits to helping families at many levels. With a mission to, “bring community to families and their babies,” the organization provides any families expecting an infant with much needed respite service. Their primary Postpartum Angel service matches families with community volunteers who provide respite, companionship, and community connections during the postpartum period. Other Good Beginnings services include free early parenting workshops, a parent drop-in space with peer support groups, reduced-price baby carriers, and baby wearing support for new parents, a financial assistance fund for families in crisis, and the In Loving Arms cuddling program for vulnerable newborns at the UVM Health Network-CVMC Campus.
The medical profession runs in Sheila’s family. One of her daughters is a nurse and the other is a physical therapist. She says her years working as a nurse have greatly informed her volunteer work. She was even introduced to the Good Beginnings program by the founder and President of the program while at the hospital!
With over twenty percent of children being born to single mothers, the work of Good Beginnings volunteers is crucial to providing mothers with the support they need through the first twelve weeks of their children’s lives. Green Mountain United Way is proud to support the work of Good Beginnings and is incredibly proud to name Sheila as their Volunteer of the Month this January.
For more information on the work of Good Beginnings of Central Vermont visit http://www.goodbeginningscentralvt.org/ and to find out more about the work Green Mountain Untied way supports in the community, visit http://www.gmunitedway.org/.
Gladys understands the importance of making wise financial decisions. For years, she has helped countless people create a strong financial foundation as a financial coach. In 2016, she decided to help herself. She filed her taxes through MyFreeTaxes™.
It all started with a dental issue. Gladys, the 30-year-old manager of the Guadalupe Centers Financial Opportunity Center in Kansas City, Missouri, needed to visit a dentist, but she couldn’t afford it.
“I was going to do what most individuals do: File my taxes and put off going to the dentist,” said Gladys. “But then I heard from my employer about MyFreeTaxes, and that night I logged on.”
MyFreeTaxes is filing software powered by H&R Block, a United Way partner. It is a free, safe and easy way for individuals earning less than $66,000 to file their state and federal taxes. Gladys admits she was skeptical about the service at first, but she warmed up to the idea.
“It’s that old thing of it’s just too good to be true, but then I read about the benefits,” said Gladys, who was able to file her taxes within 30 minutes. “I was shocked at how easy and user-friendly the process was. With the money I saved, I was able to visit the dentist.”
As the only free, online, national tax-filing product offered by a nonprofit, MyFreeTaxes has helped nearly one million individuals like Gladys receive their maximum refunds by claiming all eligible tax credits—like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC)—saving users $180 million in filing fees. Since 2009, MyFreeTaxes has brought more than $1 billion in refunds back to communities.
How does it work? Simply upload a photo of your W-2 and MyFreeTaxes will automatically fill in your information. Most filers complete their taxes in under an hour. The filing software guarantees that all tax returns are 100 percent accurate, and that the filer receives their biggest refund. Users can:
- File their federal taxes—and up to three state returns—for free.
- Utilize error checkers, online chats to navigate the process, and Refund Reveal™ to understand how and why the refund amount is changing.
- Access the software from their computer, tablet or smart phone.
- Get free customer support from IRS-certified specialists from MyFreeTaxes.com.
Are you ready to file your 2017 taxes? Visit MyFreeTaxes today to complete your tax return. The IRS begins accepting electronic returns on January 29, and H&R Block will automatically submit your return when e-filing opens. Please note that as part of the PATH Act, tax refunds claiming the EITC and CTC will be held until February 15. Filers claiming those credits should expect to receive their refund no earlier than February 27.
Have questions about how tax reform might affect you? Read this helpful article. While you’re filing your taxes, call our free helpline at 1-855-My-TX-Help to be connected to an IRS-certified specialist who can answer your tax filing questions. If you prefer to file your taxes in person this year, visit a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) site in your community. You can also contact 2-1-1 for additional tax support services.
Originally posted by Laura Scherler, January 25, 2018