Success Stories

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Recently, one of my favorite guests transitioned to stable housing. Ruby arrived at the shelter about two months ago, but had been experiencing chronic homelessness for most of her adult life. Like most of our clientele, this was a product of childhood abuse and mental illness. Every day, when I would walk through the front door to begin my shift, Ruby would excitedly yell “Good morning, Amanda!” loudly from across the common room.

The Stowe area welcomed the conservation of the Valcour farm in Morristown and its sale to new farm owners. The 175-acre farm was conserved in mid-April by family members and sold to long-time farmers Jesse and Marlene Hursh. The Hurshes have rented a dairy farm and operated a popular farm stand on the other side of town for over 20 years.

My host site got a phone call in early March from the Department of Health (DOH) asking about whether local social service providers had interest and capacity in organizing people experiencing homelessness to get vaccinated. The DOH wanted to bring vaccine doses to people, rather than have people come to their clinic due to transportation barriers, job barriers, childcare barriers, and so on. My host site and another congregate shelter (Charter House) in the county responded.

Social isolation is a big issue for the older adult population. According to one study, social isolation can be just as deleterious to one’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Add in a raging pandemic and the often nostalgic feel surrounding the holiday season, and an acute problem becomes all the more so. Serving at the Montpelier Senior Activity Center (MSAC), attempting to counter these effects is central to our mission. One particular segment of the population we serve, our FEAST at Home (meals on wheels) recipients, are often on the forefront of our minds as we think about ways to maintain connections. While this is true year round, it was even more so this holiday season after the unprecedented year of isolation and separation that characterized much of 2020. As such, my host site and I were determined to provide some sort of bright spot to end the year on a more positive note.

We were serving in Richmond as a trail building crew, reconstructing a bridge and boardwalk for the bikers in the surrounding communities who used the trail. Nearly every day, at least one biker would stop and voice their appreciation for our project. One day, I went to buy bug spray with my fellow crew member, and the cashier asked us what we were doing, expressing how he wished the trail in Richmond was being fixed.

High Pond is set in a deep bowl, surrounded by peaks of the Taconic Mountains of southern Vermont. The trail up to the pond winds through hardwood forest and hemlock stands, up and down smaller hills, gradually climbing up to the rim of the pond basin. High Pond is my favorite preserve that I steward with The Nature Conservancy. The lake is cold and clear. Within a few kicks away from shore it becomes so deep you can no longer find the bottom. With the Taconic’s walling off the lake from the valley, it feels like wilderness.

Smack in the middle of a capitol city with a daunting shortage of housing, the French Block’s vacant upper stories were an unrealized resource. Today, with the lights on at night, there is a new vibrancy to this downtown block and 18 households have found stable, decent, and affordable housing within walking distance of all the amenities this small city provides.

How a small, organic Vermont dairy joined forces with local, state, and federal conservation partners to plan for the future.

Everett Thurston, from North Clarendon, is developing his business skills and writing his business plan with his team of Viability Program advisers.