Story of The Week 2015 – 2016

Story of the Week 8/3/2016

Engaging in Environmental Education

By Remy Crettol, Environmental Educator and Resource Specialist

Remy Crettol - Summer Camp1

I have been working with students from three Burlington elementary schools doing an after school program called Project Wild. I would visit each of the three schools once a week with lessons prepared around various environmental topics ranging from water pollution to wildlife tacking to catching and identifying insects. Each week was an exciting new opportunity for myself and the students. It was especially interesting seeing how each of the three sites interpreted the activities differently.

Over the course of the 10 week program I got to watch as the students learned more Remy Crettol - Summer Camp4
about their environment and became increasingly interested in nature. Each of the three groups bonded strongly with each other and were brought together through their excitement to explore and learn. On the 11th week of the program we invited each of the schools to come together for a culminating field trip to the Ethan Allen Homestead. I was very touched when we gave the students an opportunity to share how they felt about their experience in our program. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and they were all so proud to share their most memorable moments. It was such an awesome thing for me to see the groups I had been working with individually finally get to interact and share with one another.

Photo Credit: VHCB AmeriCorps

Story of the Week 7/19/2016

Satisfaction in Service 

by Ashley Swasey, AmeriCorps Leader, Vermont Housing & Conservation Board



One of the primary responsibilities of the AmeriCorps Leader is to coordinate service days throughout the year. Every year, the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB)
holds a June Day of Service that brings together staff and AmeriCorps members to serve in a particular community. After two years of being a general participant in the event, I was excited to be able to be at the helm and plan the event. Many, many hours and days went to into contacting partnering organizations that could use our help and piecing together all of the elements of the day.

As the day arrived, we were greeted with torrential rains. I was concerned for the well-IMG_8621
being and morale of the entire group (especially those serving in outdoor projects). By the time the afternoon rolled around, the sun came out and so did the smiles, with the damp morning already becoming a faint memory. Because of the great attitudes and dedication of the people around me, all 59 of our participants were able to contribute to a record breaking 34,650 pounds of food sorted and packed at the Vermont Food Bank, walls painted in three rooms and basement organized at the Good Samaritan Haven, weeds pulled in a massive garden on the grounds of Heaton Woods Senior Home, continued work on the foundation of a house for Green Mountain Habitat for Humanity, and a half mile of invasive species pulled along the Cross Vermont Trail. I ended the day and event feeling a great sense of pride in the day and all of the individuals I serve next to on a day to day basis.

Photo credit: VHCB AmeriCorps

Story of the Week 6/28/2016

Earth Week Garlic Mustard Pull
By Liz Bourguet, Native Plants Land Manager at Green Mountain College

Green Mountain College has a celebration during the week of Earth Day every year Liz Bourgeut - Invasive Pulland a Garlic Mustard Pull was my big event this season.  I had been looking forward to getting outside with volunteers all winter and it was a chance to get students out of the classrooms and into their beautiful backyard: the Green Mountain College Natural Areas.  We have a serious problem with garlic mustard, an invasive herbaceous plant, in the Natural Areas, particularly in the floodplain forest. Garlic mustard will crowd out native plants and is very hard to manage with a crew of just two student workers and myself. So for two days, I invited the entire campus to pull garlic mustard with me.

With the help of my site supervisor, I gave each new group of volunteers a background to invasive species, why we manage them in the Natural Areas and (importantly!) how to identify garlic mustard. Garlic mustard is edible and one professor brought pesto that she had made from garlic mustard she pulled in her backyard. We had beautiful spring weather both days and I loved having people out in the sunshine, learning, bonding and getting their hands dirty. When we weren’t pulling, we were appreciating the many things other than invasives in the Natural Areas, like native wildflowers and trees.

Untitled   Over the two days, we had 87 volunteers pull over 7,500 garlic mustard plants. We really knocked back the garlic mustard and it saved the Natural Areas Crew a lot of time and effort that we were able to put towards controlling other invasives. This was the biggest volunteer event of my service and I was so happy to raise awareness of what the Natural Areas Crew does, raise awareness of invasive species and to get people out in the Natural Areas to appreciate this unique part of the college campus!

Photo credit: Eric Hudiburg, Green Mountain College

Inspiring Interviews

By Chelsea Boston, Resource Specialist at Good Samaritan Haven

524274_364372736931939_1444251892_nMy position at the Good Samaritan Haven is anything but a desk job. Don’t get me wrong; I have a desk, and I spend plenty of time in the office. However, my service often extends beyond the shelter, as I accompany residents to apartment showings, meet with staff from other organizations, and attend community events. I love these chances to get out and about, and have gained some unique experiences through such adventures.

Recently, I attended a community conversation about homelessness at the Christ Church
in Montpelier. I was asked to speak about my own experiences with homelessness, the Chelsea Boston - Interviewchallenges in solving this monumental problem, and strategies that might help. I was one of several people who spoke about this subject, and it was an inspiring experience.  Also in attendance at the Christ Church that night was Senator Bill Doyle. I had the privilege of
meeting him at the end of the event, and he asked me if I would be willing to meet him later that week for an interview with some other members of the Good Samaritan staff. I was honored by his invitation, and quickly accepted.

That Friday, I went with my site supervisor and one of our former residents to ORCAMedia in Montpelier. Senator Doyle was already there waiting for us, so we went into the studio and donned our microphones. We were buzzing with excitement as the cameraman gave us our cue.  Senator Doyle interviewed us about the Good Samaritan Haven’s services, what we thought was effective in reducing homelessness, and what challenge still lay ahead. We chatted about the youth in our community and all the cool volunteer projects they have done at the shelter in the last few months. Despite the Senator’s lofty status, he was incredibly kind and very easy to talk to. It is obvious that the topic is of great importance to him, and that he is committed to ending homelessness in Vermont.  Hopefully, I will get another chance to interact with him down the line as I continue my AmeriCorps service.

Photo credits: Good Samaritan Haven

Story of the Week 5/31/2016

Spreading the Word

By Ciara Kilburn, Community Support Specialist at Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS)

Ciara Kilburn - RARE

A couple of months ago I happened to bump into my old health teacher from high school
and we started chatting about what I was up to since high school. I told her that I graduated from college and then accepted an AmeriCorps position at Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS) after I had been volunteering there for a sociology class my senior year at the University of Vermont.  She invited me to come talk to a class of about eight students, who were all seniors and juniors, about their plans for next year and my experience.  I wanted to let them know that whether it’s after high school or college, and even if they don’t know what they want to do, there is always the option of AmeriCorps.   It is a chance to travel, learn about our country and the needs of it, and also learn a lot about your self.  I had such a good time that I plan on speaking to another class in the fall for the same teacher.

Photo Credits: Ciara Kilburn

Memories of Past Members

By Allison Dandurand, Shelter Service Coordinator/Case Manager at the John Graham Emergency Shelter

AC-logo JPEGI’d love to share the story of a client with whom I’ve been working with. She is a single mom, a person of color, and a non-native English speaker working full-time. Her son is a sharp & earnest tween who, never begrudgingly, translates for her. After years of living in uncertain circumstances, this small family has come to earn a permanent and affordable home of their own in the middle of a tiny & vibrant neighborhood while working hard and enjoying independence.

I originally met this family when I served at the John Graham Shelter 2 years ago. Back then, Mom did not have a job or a car and was fleeing domestic violence. A fellow AmeriCorps service member Leila Joseph, who has since passed away, worked with them by taking careful and deliberate time to facilitate their forward progression in small ways. She so looked forward to witnessing their continued success. Whenever I think about Leila, I like to imagine that she might be looking down on this family in some way. I know that she would be proud of their accomplishments, urging them forward as they move on to the next challenge in her own beaming & gleeful manner!

Photo Credits: VHCB AmeriCorps

For the Love of Ugly Food

By Ryann Collins, Nutrition and Agriculture Educator with Green Mountain Farm-to-School

10968329_10153587016173452_5000029526000807558_nI worked with a group of 5th- and 6th-graders at Lakeview Union School on a food systems unit, discussing complex notions like cage-free vs. free range chicken operations, fair trade, and food security. During the final session, we discussed the enormous amount of food waste in developed nations and watched a video about a French supermarket, Intermarche, that markets aesthetically challenged produce as “inglorious fruits and vegetables,” selling them at a 30% discount and diverting them from the waste stream. I showed the video as an afterthought, but the students were clearly affected by it.

Ecologically_grown_vegetablesA week later, I received an email from the principal, inviting me to a student council meeting. Apparently, some of the students who watched the video suggested that, as a student council fundraiser, they could take the “ugly” vegetables from local farms and sell them to parents and community members at a discounted rate. They asked their principal to invite me to their next meeting, along with a parent who works on a large organic farm. We’ve had a couple of meetings since, and as a result, starting this month, the students will be handing out order forms for ugly potatoes, carrots, and beets. They’ll travel to the farm and learn how to sort truly rotten food from food that is merely ugly. Then, they’ll bag up the orders and bring the vegetables back to school for pick-up by parents and community members. The school has shown a lot of support for the idea, even expressing interest in making the “Ugly Food Sale” and annual occurrence! Thanks to the efforts of these amazing students, the community will have access to organic vegetables at a great price, and this year’s proceeds will go to a group of anti-poaching activists in Africa called the Black Mambas.

Photo Credits: Green Mountain Farm to School

Savings and Snickers

By Nathaniel Jamison-Root, Home Education Coordinator with Champlain Housing Trust

logo-aAbout a month ago, I had the pleasure of working with a refugee family of seven. Both parents spoke very limited English, and brought their young son to help translate for them. When they first came in, they were living in a prohibitively expensive, small, and rural apartment. They really wanted to find an affordable apartment in Burlington so that the children could attend Burlington High School, where there is a far more diverse population, and they would feel more at home. The father is disabled, and the mother cleans houses, and living in Burlington would offer him greater access to the care he needs, and put her much closer to her work. When I spoke with them about credit, and different ways to build a positive history without incurring interest (they are Muslim and would not participate in any interest bearing line of credit), I could see them becoming more hopeful at their prospects of establishing a secure financial future.

We established a savings plan to prepare for the costs of moving, and discussed a credit
building loan that would help them establish credit. At the end of the initial appointment the little boy said “you have satisfied our hopes for this meeting so well that I would like to satisfy you!” and pulled out a Snickers bar, handing it to me. It was a very sweet experience (no pun intended), and I looked forward to our last appointment. When we met again, the family had tracked their spending, and made good progress on their savings plan, as well as opening a credit builder loan. I was very impressed with their progress, and we discussed their longer term goals. They hope to one day purchase a home, and I told them about the various programs we offer at Champlain Housing Trust, and they were excited at the opportunities ahead of them. After the appointment, I helped them connect with the property managers of several apartments they were interested in. Now they are preparing to move into a lovely apartment in the Old North End of Burlington, and I am very excited to meet with them again at our three-month check in.

Photo Credits: Champlain Housing Trust

Story of the Week 4/42016

National Collaboration

by Shannon Kennelly, Revitalization & Homeownership Community Engagement Specialist with NeighborWorks of Western Vermont

Shannon Kennelly - NeighborWorksAt the end of February, a fellow AmeriCorps and I traveled to Atlanta, GA for NeighborWorks of America´s Training Institute. We grabbed the 5:50 AM flight from Burlington (*yawn*), and arrived in Atlanta with enough time to explore.

The training itself took place in a complex maze of hotel and conference centers, connected by enclosed skywalks that made one yearn for the crisp winter air of Vermont.  The classes were lively and interesting, and we connected with people from across the country on many of the same issues that plague Vermont. Our classmates came from all walks of life – there were community members, Community Development Organization employees, government officials, and bank representatives, to name a few- and it was thrilling to learn from and share with them. It was refreshing to be in such a diverse environment with extremely dedicated people- as a white, Irish-American woman, I was often in the minority in the classrooms, and the diversity granted us all multiple perspectives on the issues we discussed.

12802840_10153268530710981_3314398784807173675_nI attended classes on Community Engagement and Organizing.  In those classes, we did hands on activities and full room discussions on how to foster community engagement, create functioning collaborations, and nurture healthy neighborhoods. On Wednesday, my class did a “Block Walk” in Atlanta´s Martin Luther King Jr. Historic District. It was beautiful to experience the preservation and evolution of a neighborhood drenched in history, where historic design, affordable housing, and mixed uses merge.

We left Atlanta on Friday evening with new contacts from San Francisco’s Chinatown CDC to NeighborWorks of New Orleans. It was a great experience, and we are both reinvigorated to serve in our area as well as thankful to NeighborWorks for investing in us.

Photo Credits: NeighborWorks of Western VT and NeighborWorks

Story of the Week 3/17/16


The part of my job that I love most is getting outside with our volunteers. Since serving at Karla Noboa - Elm RestorationThe Nature Conservancy, I have met a plethora of interesting and amazing people. We get volunteers from all over the state to help us do trail work, invasives removal, boundary marking and more. My favorite experience with a volunteer however, is with a fellow AmeriCorps member. The ECO AmeriCorps program allows their members to visit other AmeriCorps host sites, so Michelle decided to start volunteering with us. Soon enough she was a regular volunteer, coming out every week and helping us mark over 28 miles of boundaries in just 3 days.

Karla Naboa - East Creek Boundary Marking3

Working with Michelle has not only been a huge help, but it has also helped me cultivate a new friendship and improve some of my field skills. There was one specific day where Michelle and another AmeriCorps member, Ashley, joined me at East Creek Natural Area. We spent over 5 hours literally crawling through the dense forest and we got to a point where we decided to go somewhere else just so we could stand up. The somewhere else that we chose was a straight shot SE when we looked at our map, but when we looked up, we just saw trees and shrubs. We took out our compass and did a quick lesson on orienteering and looked at the GPS to get an idea of where we were going. After a bit of a complicated journey, we finally made it to our destination and we were all so excited that the map and compass lead the way. Though the day was definitely difficult, we had so much fun being outside in the field and not only doing work, but also having great conversations and getting to know each other better. I felt as if that day in the field exemplified what it means to serve in AmeriCorps — we were getting amazing work done but also building lasting, meaningful relationships.

Photo Credits: VHCB AmeriCorps and Nature Conservancy VT Chapter

Story of the Week 2/16/2016

Good Samaritan Gifts

By Chelsea Boston, Resource Specialist with the Good Samaritan Haven524274_364372736931939_1444251892_n

Here at the Good Samaritan Haven, we have a wonderful woman named Karen
Murray who comes once a month and leads the Guests in an art project. On December 8th, she came to the shelter with the supplies to make homemade Christmas cards. I put up posters a couple of days before to advertise it, but we didn’t draw a very big crowd; only three Guests came and made cards with Karen and me. However, while the turnout was small, the experience was awesome. The Guests who were making cards with us were all parents, and they spent hours making cards for their kids. In the end, there were five beautiful, thoughtful, and intricate cards ready to give to the children for Christmas. I was extremely impressed with the Guests’ creativity, and they were all very proud of their work. It gave them a chance to express themselves, and make a connection with the kids they’re missing. Even more importantly, it gave them a chance to give their children a gift they’re proud of, when they might not have had anything else to give. I am so grateful to have been apart of such an inspiring experience, and hope homemade holiday cards will become a tradition.

Photo Credits: Good Samaritan Haven

Story of the Week 2/2/2016

‘Warm Me to My Soul’ Soup for All!

By Hannah Baxter, Food Engagement Leader and Gleaning Coordinator at the Fairfield Community Center Association

recipe-312952_960_720On December 11th I conducted a taste test during the Food Bank Truck drop-off from 10-12 in the morning. The purpose of conducting a taste test during this time period is to provide the food shelf clients with resources, in this case a recipe card with nutrition education on the back, as well as inspiration to cook at home. In order to be effective, the recipe cards I develop must meet specific qualifications. Our clients face multiple barriers to eating nutritious local food. For instance, it was brought to my attention that not all of our clients have ovens let alone basic cooking appliances and instruments. The dishes must be able to be made in one or two pans. The food must be able to be prepared in a very simple matter, mostly with a knife, seasoning, and a stove top. The recipe cards must have limited ingredients, the ingredients must be seasonal, available at the food shelf, or affordable and accessible at the store. Finally, the food must be nutritionally filling, the recipes must be flexible, and ideally there will be leftovers for a second or third meal.

I asked the food shelf volunteers what the shipment of food contained. They mentioned that they were receiving canned vegetables as well as storage vegetables such as potatoes and onions. The Fairfield Community Center also is receiving a shipment of 10 pound packages of chicken thighs from the Vermont Food Bank every month until October 2016. The food shelf volunteers have been encouraging the food shelf clients to utilize a large roasting pan to defrost and cook the chicken in. Ten pounds of chicken legs is an intimidating amount of meat to work with. I wanted the recipe I taste tested to be able to incorporate the chicken in some way in order to provide a nutritious affordable source of protein. I decided on a soup because it is a one pan dish that produces many servings and which ingredients are highly adaptive.

I created a ‘Warm me to my Soul Soup’ where all the ingredients on the recipe card wereVHCB Acorps Logo
available at the food shelf. The soup incorporated onions, potatoes, cabbage, canned beans, canned tomatoes, and spices. On the back of the recipe card described how to roast the ten pounds of chicken, save the bones and fat to make a stalk. I made the soup with just water so I described to the clients how much better their soup would be with homemade stalk and shredded roasted chicken. I also emphasized how the recipe is very flexible and how different vegetables would work wonderfully in the soup. A soup taste test was also rewarding because it provided our clients with more a meal than a snack. I made enough that everyone could have seconds and at the end of the day there were no leftovers. The men and women I talked with seemed to genuinely enjoy the soup and were excited to give the recipe a try at home. It was empowering to be able to provide a resource that would nourish their families nutritional needs for a handful of meals. The majority of clients were very appreciative and thanked me multiple times and the volunteer staff reflected that the soup was a hit. The experience shaped my understanding of my communities needs and will guide me in future recipe development.

Photo Credits: VHCB AmeriCorps

Story of the Week 1/22/2016

Neighbors Helping Neighbors

By Briana Baker, Home Repair and Weatherization Assistant at COVER Home Repair

12118912_10154238026943852_6072008688975959591_nLike so many nonprofits, COVER Home Repair could not do its important work
without volunteers that contribute thousands of hours of service every year.  But, of course, challenges arise when such vital components of your organization lead complex lives and are freely giving their time and energy.  It is easy to get frustrated when volunteers cancel last minute or don’t show up, but it should also be celebrated when they, as they frequently do, exceed our expectations.

I had heard about our plans to repair Raymond’s roof from the very first week of my AmeriCorps service with COVER.  Raymond’s neighbor and friend, Fred, was one of the first COVER volunteers that I met, and conversations with him made it clear that it was going to be a significant project.  Raymond had lived alone in the family house since the passing of his mother and sister, and was unable to address the repair and maintenance challenges of an old home.  Leaks from the roof had created a variety of serious structural issues, and multiple sections of the ceiling had collapsed.  We were certainly going to need a good crew of volunteers for this project.

When possible, friends, family, and neighbors of COVER homeowners assist12143165_10154245775983852_2417469597987889782_n with repair projects in their communities.  This can be challenging, but sometimes, like in Raymond’s case, it brings people together in ways that don’t happen elsewhere in their lives.  Of the 16 neighbors who came to help on Friday and the 22 people who came on Saturday, many already knew Raymond, but some did not.  Most of them lived within a few blocks of each other, but some had never met.  In addition to the structural repairs, new roof, and extra repairs and improvements to Raymond’s home that we were able to accomplish with the large and enthusiastic crew, new relationships with immeasurable benefits were formed.  The spirit of fellowship and equity that was created that weekend offers some hope that it is possible and realistic to take care of each other and make our communities happier and safer for everyone.

Photo Credits: COVER Home Repair

Story of the Week 1/16/2016

Building Bridges 

By Caitlin Miller, Group Outreach and Education Coordinator at Green Mountain Club
One day in December, I had a work day in Prosper Valley. Our project was building bog
IMG_1489bridges on the Appalachian Trail near Pomfret, VT. To be honest, I wasn’t looking forward to the project very much. Not only would we have to dig around in the mud in December, but the other trip leader wasn’t able to make it because of a scheduling conflict, so it would just be me and the classroom teacher. Getting a gaggle of 10 year olds to be productive in freezing temperatures, while getting filthy, was not a challenge I was excited about.

However, the day of the project welcomed beautifully clear skies and unseasonably warm weather for December in Vermont. As I gathered the students to begin a safety talk, I was pleased to see how attentive they were to what I had to say. They seemed downright excited to learn about how to use the tools and how to be safe when using them (sledge hammers and the phrase “blood bubble” are big motivators for kids). When we began working, everyone was pretty uneasy about getting down and dirty in the mud. As I showed them how to measure and dig in the sills for the bog bridges, several of the young girls frowned as I kneeled in a puddle and dug my hands beneath the wood. My demonstration was punctuated by giggles and “ewwws.” However, after just a couple minutes of working, the kids began to really enjoy themselves. They started picking up globs of mud and tossing them back and forth as we took turns digging with pick mattocks. When it came time to pound in the spikes that would hold the bog bridges together, there was hardly enough work for all their excitement. Each student was ecstatic to get to sledge the spikes home.

IMG_1519                       IMG_1520

The children turned out to be top notch trail workers and I was pleasantly surprised at how much fun I had during the project. We joked, splashed in the mud, and formed tight-knit sledging teams. All morning I had been worried about leading 13 kids on a trail project by myself. Despite my initial trepidation, the whole day was a great reminder that humor, flexibility, and positivity in the face of obstacles create an excellent foundation for leadership. I feel that not only did the students have a wonderful influence on me during the project, but that I also genuinely shared my love of trail work and conservation with them.

Photo Credits: Caitling Miller, Green Mountain Club

Story of the Week 12/30/2015

It’s Not What You Think It Is!

By Ryann Collins, Nutrition and Agriculture Educator at Green Mountain Farm-to-School

Conventional (Lakeview, 12.16.2015)

Conventional: 133 Birds

5th– and 6th-graders at a school in the Northeast Kingdom are learning the Lexicon of Sustainability as they consider different aspects of their local food system. In a lesson just before Christmas, they learned to differentiate between therapeutic and subtherapeutic antibiotics and compared different methods for raising chickens, engaging in discussions on human health, ecological sustainability, animal welfare, and transparency in food marketing. Before the lesson, I asked them what they knew about livestock, antibiotics, and cage-free vs. free-range production systems for chickens. They responded with statements like, “Cage free is when you don’t ever have your animals locked up in a cage or in a fence,” or “Free range is when something is not in a cage and can go anywhere.” One student, whose family raises cows, shared that when they treat a sick cow with antibiotics, they do not use the milk from that cow until the antibiotics are out of her system.

After watching a Lexicon of Sustainability video entitled Antibiotic Free, the students had a better understanding of the role of antibiotics in the food system: “I learned that people feed their animals antibiotics not always just when they’re sick, but to increase the animals’ fat.” They learned that therapeutic antibiotics are used by humans and animals to fight disease, but that sub-therapeutic antibiotics speed growth and allow animals to live in close quarters with less risk of disease spreading among them. This is dangerous for people and for the environment: it leads to the evolution of antibiotic-resistant strains of bacteria that can harm humans, and antibiotics from the animals’ manure can disrupt ecological systems.

Cage-Free (Lakeview, 12.16.2015)

Cage-Free: 83 Birds

If the students were indignant after learning about antibiotics, they were far more so upon learning the truth about terms used to market eggs. At the outset, most had a positive view of “cage-free” and “free-range” production systems. Another Lexicon of Sustainability video, The Story of an Egg, burst their bubble. They discovered that cage-free chickens are still crammed together in tight spaces, though it is true that they are not in cages, and that “free range” could describe a warehouse packed with 5,000 chickens attached to a tiny, concrete yard. We worked together to create visual representations of conventional, cage-free, and pastured chicken operations, calculating the number of birds that each would place in a 10’x10’ space.

Pastured Chickens (Lakeview, 12.16.2015)

Pastured (recommended): 8 Birds

At the end of the activity, the students had a different understanding of the seemingly simple vocabulary we started with.  Students wrote, “What I learned is that cage free is not that free if you have 10×10 feet of room and 83 chickens in it,” and “Free range is not what you think it is!!!” We brought the discussion back to the Northeast Kingdom community as students considered the importance of transparency in the food system. They reflected that while labels in a grocery store can be misleading, when you purchase eggs from your neighbor, it is easier to find out what sort of operation you are supporting.

Photo Credits: Ryann Collins

Story of the Week 12/10/2015

Cheesy Challenges

By Alanna Ojibway, Children’s Services Assistant at Upper Valley Haven

Last week our kiddos in the after-school program at the shelter had an early release day
from school so we had them for an extended afternoon. Because of this extra time, I was able to take a small group (just two of them) rock climbing at a climbing facility in town.  Both of the kids who came that day had been having a particularly difficult week, getting in lots of arguments with the other kids and acting exceptionally defiant towards the adults and staff around them.  Initially I felt a little torn taking these two on a special field trip because it felt like I was rewarding bad behavior, or at least ignoring it.  However, the trip ended up being one of the most rewarding, fun-filled experiences I could have imagined–for all three of us.

11017165_10153210222531015_6332569547865890404_nThe two kids, one girl and one boy, who normally can barely sit still for more than two minutes, never left each others side for almost an entire hour.  They patiently took turns climbing different walls around the gym and encouraged one another while they were waiting their turn. I was amazed to see how quickly these two transitioned from being angry, isolated, and defiant to excited, supportive, and giggly within just a few hours. I was so happy to see these two children happy that I decided to surprise them with a “special treat” on the way home. The kids had no idea where we were going, but on the way home we were passing the Cabot cheese factory and I knew that both of them loved cheese (who doesn’t, right?).  So all I told them as a preface was that we are going to a store that has lots of cheese, we have five minutes to go in, using only quiet voices and slow feet, and sample as many different kinds of cheese as we can. I looked back at them in the car and said “Do you think we can handle this?” and their response without hesitation was “Oh my gosh, yes”.

Needless to say, this may not have been the healthiest of surprises for two kids at the end of the day – but well worth a hilarious memory. In five minutes we had sampled over 15 different types of cheese, 4 types of cheese dip, 5 kinds of cheese crackers, and I got to see endless cheesy smiles on the way home which was, in every way possible, the best thing I could have asked for.

Photo Credits: Upper Valley Haven

Story of the Week 12/1/2015

Fostering New Friendships

By Ciara Kilburn, Community Support Specialist at Committee on Temporary ShelterIMG_1023 (2)

During my time serving at COTS as the Community Support Specialist, I have had so
many experiences already.  There has especially been one client that I have been going
above and beyond for.  She has been staying with us since this summer and is being taken to chemotherapy every week while she is battling cancer.  On one night, she broke
rules at our overnight shelter and was asked to leave the next day.  She was hysterical.  I had observed she hadn’t eaten or slept in three days. I decided to personally take her to the emergency room, with my supervisor thanking me for doing so.  However, I didn’t just drop her off.  I stayed in the room with her and then proceeded to take her to another medical location when the ER couldn’t help.  I, unfortunately, had to leave her at this point because I was being called back to work and wasn’t able to spend any more time by her side.
A couple days later, she came back to the shelter asking for me.  I was afraid she would be upset with me but instead she thanked me for sticking 12075037_10153232761951687_1862034674551631080_nby her and apologized for her behavior.  She has since gotten treatment and has come to me to ask for some help picking up her belongings and moving into her new permanent home. I heard her speaking to someone and she referred to me as her friend. I thought I was just taking an extra step at my job helping someone. I hadn’t even taken the time to realize the relationships and friendships that I was making as well.

Photo credits: Committee on Temporary Shelter

AmeriCorps Members may be found all over Vermont, doing great work in many forms. We wish to showcase the great work our AmeriCorps members do for the community by publishing one inspiring story each week. So read on, be inspired, and let us know if you have a great story with a Vermont Housing & Conservation Board AmeriCorps member!

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