November 25, 2014
We know that this Thursday is a day for giving thanks and being grateful for all wonderful people and situations we have in our lives. Advertising makes sure that we know that the following day is a day for getting deals on our holiday shopping and increasingly we are encouraged to consider the following Monday as a day for getting those same deals online. But there is also a growing movement to recognize the next day as Giving Tuesday, a day for celebrating generosity and giving back. Started in 2012 by the 92nd St Y and the United Nations Foundation as response to the consumerism and commercialism in the days immediately following Thanksgiving, the idea has gained traction nationwide and is now supported by millions of people around the world and many large commercial enterprises such as Ebay, Discover and Google.
In 2012, $10 million was donated online with an average donation of $101 on Giving Tuesday. In 2013, $19million was donated with an average donation of $142. Let’s review that again – $29 million over two days of giving! Giving Tuesday is powerful and shows that people want to give back and want to celebrate and participate in philanthropy in the U.S. What a fitting conclusion to Thanksgiving.
In 2013, over 7000 nonprofits actively participated in Giving Tuesday and encouraged their friends and donors to make gifts to their cause. This year it is expected that over 10,000 organizations will officially register with Giving Tuesday and conduct campaigns encouraging people to support them. Lund will be participating in Giving Tuesday this year and invite all of our supporters to participate in the work that we do to help families break cycles of poverty, addiction and abuse by making a donation to Lund on Tuesday, December 2. It easy and completely secure to make a donation on our website at www.give.lundvt.org.
If you would to, you can then share with your friends on Facebook and Twitter that you supported Lund and supported Giving Tuesday by using the #GivingTuesday tag.
During this season of thanksgiving, we are so grateful to our friends in the community who support women, children and families at Lund through financial contributions, volunteer hours, gifts of essential items for our families and by being advocates for our organization and the work we do. Thank you.
To learn more about Giving Tuesday, click on this video:
November 20, 2014
“He’s finally my brother!” Said one little girl as the adoption of her brother was finalized this morning at the Chittenden County Probate Court in Burlington. This finalization was one of 12 happening in Burlington which, when combined with 10 in St. Albans and seven in Woodstock, makes a record breaking 29 adoption finalizations in one day. 29 new families were created today through the work of Lund’s partnership with the Department of Children and Families – Project Family and Lund’s adoption program.
There were balloons, stuffed animals, flowers and cookies for every adopted child and the waiting area outside the court room was packed with an ever rotating crew of friends, relatives, Lund employees and DCF employees as adoption finalizations happened every 15 minutes. In the courtroom, the prodigious Judge Susan Fowler presided over the adoptions and made every one a party with music, balloons and letting the children bang the gavel. “I’ll let you off making the speech we were expecting from you,” she said to one 19 month old. “Let’s make this official.” She handed him the gavel and waited patiently while he put it in his mouth before encouraging him to bang it on the table. “Give me my baby brother,” an older sister cried the minute the gavel hit the table, scooping her new little brother off his mom’s lap and lifting him high into the air.
The children adopted this morning were aged between 6 months and twelve years. There was a little girl who was celebrating her birthday on the same day as her adoption, a little boy flanked by the proudest grandparents in a 100 mile radius, “He’s such a joy, such a blessing,” his grandmother said to me, another boy so excited he couldn’t stop jumping up and down and a family who were adopting their seventh child after fostering more than 100 children. Everywhere you looked were smiles, happy tears, and hugs. Even the security guard was getting into the swing of things clapping as the families came out of the courtroom and handing out chocolate. ‘It’s going to be boring here tomorrow,” he said regretfully.
The scene will be repeated this afternoon at the courthouse in St. Albans and at different times of the day in Woodstock. “Love builds a family,” said one Dad. “Adoption is that love.”
Watch news coverage of the days events from Fox 44 here
November 18, 2014
Every November, a Presidential Proclamation launches activities and celebrations to help build awareness of adoption throughout the nation. Thousands of community organizations arrange and host programs, events, and activities to share positive adoption stories, challenge the myths, and draw attention to the thousands of children in foster care who are waiting for permanent families. At this time, there are 68 children in Vermont who need forever families and permanent homes. Lund’s partnership with the Department of Children and Families, Project Family, is working hard to find homes for these children. Last year Project Family found homes for 169 children who had been living in foster care or in residential treatment environments.
To celebrate National Adoption Month, Lund in partnership with the Department of Children and Families will finalize 29 adoptions this coming Thursday, November 20th, at three court houses across the state. This is a record for Lund and the Department of Children and Families and a record for Vermont. 29 children will go to bed on Thursday night knowing that they never again have to wonder where they belong or who will look out for them when they need help.
Also in celebration of National Adoption Month, we are sharing some micro interviews with our adoption staff. Get to know these fabulous people and their work to make sure that every child has a home, below: (Click on the picture to view it larger)
November 6, 2014
Let’s Grow Kids, a statewide advocacy organization promoting the importance of quality early childhood education, held 16 events around the state last month to promote an upcoming PBS documentary series, “The Raising of America.” Each of the events featured a presentation from a local pediatrician about brain development during the early years and a 30 minute sneak peek of the documentary followed by a panel of local speakers taking questions from the audience on all aspects of early childhood education.
The series, which will be shown in Spring 2015, focuses on why children in the United States have worse outcomes on most measures of health, education and well-being than other rich nations and what can be done to stop the most vulnerable children falling further and further behind. Following the stories of various families as they struggle to find and afford quality child care for their children and delving into the brain science that proves the need for such, the series promises a well rounded and in depth exploration of what is widely being called a “crisis” by experts in the field. The situation is presented as a logical one. In order to ensure a vibrant and successful future for our nation, we must invest in the children who will be the citizens of that nation. The project description on raisingofamerica.org states, “It doesn’t have to be this way. When we invest in strengthening communities, families and young children today, the next generation will pay it back through productive and responsible citizenship tomorrow.” (raisingofamerica.org, retrieved 11/6/14)
Currently in Vermont, 40-50% of children arrive at Kindergarten unprepared. Examples of kindergarten preparedness:
knowing the alphabet and the sounds of the letters,
writing their names
counting objects and counting forward and backward,
identifying numbers, and identifying numbers before and after a given number
- Separating easily from parents
- Engaging and playing well with other children
- Paying attention and following instructions
- Practical self care skills such as putting on their own boots, zipping their jackets, blowing their nose
Quality early childhood programs provide the skills and resources that will help them to become proficient in the above and more and stimulate the early brain development that will set them up to be successful in Kindergarten. But in Vermont, as across the country, there are very few openings at high quality early childhood programs. For 5 STAR programs, such as Lund’s Early Childhood Education Program, the vacancy rate in Chittenden County is less than 1%. 72% of parents looking for childcare for their under 3 year olds report that their search was difficult. (http://www.childcareresource.org/community-statistics, retrieved 11/6/14) One family featured in the Raising of America preview were pinning their hopes on one high quality center for their 4 month old and when asked what their back up plan was, all they could do was shrug their shoulders and look hopeless. They are number 40 on the wait list.
Children are being failed. Families are being failed. Ultimately the future of the nation is being failed by this lack of high quality early childhood education programs. It is not over dramatization to state that this is a crisis. That’s why the work of Let’s Grow Kids is so important in educating people and empowering them to take action to improve the situation for Vermont’s children. You can find more information about Let’s Grow Kids at their website letsgrowkids.org and you can also sign a pledge to support their work.
October 24, 2014
Lund is very happy to announce that the Kids A Part program has been awarded a grant from the Children’s Literacy Foundation (CLiF) to support programming and provides materials to help connect inmates at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility (CRCF), their children and families through books and storytelling. This support from CLiF will greatly increase inmates’ access to books that they can share with their children and provide opportunities to learn about the importance of reading with children and the art of storytelling. 80% of the women at CRCF are mothers and so this program will have a huge impact on children all across the state.
The grant will provide the following:
1. Four literacy seminars for inmates – These sessions, presented by a CLiF presenter, will discuss the importance of reading to children and will include tips on how to share books and stories with children even if the inmate is not a strong reader. Every inmate will be able to take two new books from this seminar to give to children in their lives.
2. A library of new books for the visiting room – CLiF will donate $2000 of new books to create a library in the visiting room at the facility where there are currently no books to speak of. The Kids A Part space is fully stocked with books but having the books in the regular visiting room will allow for further opportunities for moms to read with their children during every visit.
3. Two storytelling presentations for inmates and their children – CLiF will send a professional story teller to give a fun, interactive story telling sessions to inmates and their children and families. Children will be able to take home two new books after this session.
4. New books for children of inmates – CLiF will provides hundreds of new books to be distributed to children visiting their moms.
5. Support for the Storybook Program – CLiF will provide books and volunteers to help inmates make recordings of themselves reading books that they can then send along with the book to their children. Kids A Part Parenting Program Coordinator Jess Kell reports that this will allow for the Storybook program to take place two or three times a month instead of once as it currently does. It will also triple the amount of books available to moms participating in this program.
There is a dominant theme in all these details – get books into the hands of children and help their parents, family members and caregivers to enjoy the books with them. Participating in this program will dramatically increase the number of books inside the correctional facility and ensure that moms know the many different ways they can use them to connect with their children. ““Reading together during visits, attending workshops and then choosing books to send home, or recording a book for your child to listen to at home are all such wonderful ways for incarcerated parents to stay connected with their children! Kids-A-Part is very thankful to have received this grant from CLiF, which will provide the moms at CRCF with many opportunities to foster their children’s love of reading throughout this coming year,” says Jess Kell.
Reading is a simple, normal activity that provides a direct connection between mother and child. “Parenting can be difficult enough under normal circumstances. Parenting from behind bars is particularly challenging. Sharing books and stories can really make a difference to families with an incarcerated parent.” Duncan McDougall from CLiF One in every 28 children nationwide has an incarcerated parent (that’s the equivalent of one in every classroom) and these kids are often the almost invisible but blameless victims of their parents’ crimes. Reinforcing the important connection between parents and children gives these children the strength to know that they still have a mom or dad who matters in their lives and cares about them even when they cannot be together.
Thank you to the Children’s Literacy Foundation and all its supporters for helping us to bring the joy of reading together to moms and kids.
October 17, 2014
The kids were ready to go long before the car seats were strapped into the van and the snacks packed up. Going on field trips is always exciting and this one particularly so – Shelburne Farms! Six preschoolers, LECP teacher Collin Cope, Cristin Manner, a Behavioral Interventionist from the HowardCenter who works in the Lund preschool classroom twice a week, one parent and one enthusiastic field tripper from Development loaded into the van and set off to have fun on the farm. We rode the tractor down from the Welcome Center to the Children’s Farmyard where we were met by Rachel Cadwallader-Staub, educator at Shelburne Farms, who helped the preschoolers to understand gentle ways to touch the animals. Then we visited the cows, sheep and goats before settling down on a log to watch the parade of chickens come out of their coop for the day. The kids then went into the chicken coop to collect eggs and see the chickens who weren’t quite ready for the day yet. They were enthusiastic in their egg hunting, feather petting and chicken feeding. Then we hit the playroom which was filled with farm toys, a tractor to climb on, hobby horses to ride and all manner of other exciting things that made it a hard place to leave. The kids had a great time exploring the different toys and I began to wonder how we would ever convince them to leave the room. It was going to take something pretty special. How about milking a cow?
Collin, who spearheaded the trip, gathered the kids together. He made them all sit on the floor and sat right down with them. Once all were quiet and seated (it was not instant as I’m sure you can imagine) he handed them each a plastic vegetable to hold and told them about the really exciting and special thing they were going to be allowed to do. The kids listened and focused on Collin because he was down on their level making each of his words exciting, speaking low and slow and had given them something to hold to take away the temptation of grabbing at the toys. He carefully laid out the next steps the kids would have to take – stand up, hold a specific adult’s hand, walk out of the room to the stone wall by the cow. If the kids deviated from the plan, they were gently reminded and redirected. No one cried, no one made a break for the tractor, everyone was in control and ready for the next thing. All the kids made it to the cow and stood quietly waiting as the farmer explained how the milking would work. They they each had a chance to milk the cow. It was impressive to watch how Collin handled the kids and set them up for a successful transition.
“Field trips are important because they expose the kids to experiences they might not be getting at home,” says Collin. “It gives them a break from the routine of school and gets them out into the community where they can meet new people and interact with them. It allows them to make connections to real life. We read books and sing songs about chickens but on the farm they can see chickens, touch them, feel them and connect to the reality of what they have been learning about. But the most important thing is that it is really really fun!”
By the time we all loaded back up on the wagon to head to the parking lot, the scene was a little different. Every child was crying at some point, there was distinct deviation from the instruction to sit properly on the seats. Hunger and fatigue were settling in. The other riders on the wagon pretty quickly lost their warm grins. But without batting an eyelid, Collin and Cristin patiently and lovingly helped the kids to remember what they needed to be doing. Hunting for bees’ nests in the trees, telling silly stories about people losing their hats and the promise of cheese at the farm shop helped the wagon ride go as smoothly as a wagon being pulled by a tractor on a dirt road can go. The kids probably didn’t notice the magnificent view of Camel’s Hump over a cobblestone of autumnal trees or hear the honking of a seam of geese sewn across the sky but all of them knew that they had done something special that day. They might only remember one thing – milking the cow, petting a chicken, bumping along behind the tractor, the sharp taste of cheddar on a stick – but buried down in their brains there will also be the knowledge that they had teachers who were willing and excited to take them out to see the big, bright world.
October 14, 2014
Yesterday six New Horizons Educational Program students went on a field trip to Boston to visit the Aquarium and the Simmons IMAX theater. They raised the money to go on this trip by planning, preparing and delivering lunch to staff members. The first lunch, at the end of July, was Somali cuisine featuring sambusas, salad and friend plaintains. The second one, held just last week, featured burritos and apple crisp. Many staff members were delighted to take part in this fundraiser and enjoy a delicious hot lunch delivered to their desk. Beats a soggy sandwich any day. Below Mary Farnsworth, NHEP teacher who oversaw this project, answers some questions below about this project:
How did this project come about?
The NHEP Fundraiser lunches came about as a result of our students participating in and afternoon Business and Economics Class. Tammy [Santamore, Learning Together Coordinator] and I had discussed how it would be beneficial to have a business class offered to students, especially since some schools require students to take a business class as a graduation requirement. In designing the class we wanted to provide students an opportunity to think about the process of creating and running a business: coming up with an idea, creating business proposal, creating a business action plan, thinking about cost and profit margins, planning for different jobs/roles, and creating their own marketing scheme. The students started with lots of ideas for what type of fundraiser they wanted create, and even initially began planning for a run or walk event before coming up with the idea selling a homemade lunch.
How did the students prepare for the lunch?
This business class occurred every Tuesday afternoon from the end of March 2014 through August 2014. Leading up to the first lunch on July 30th our students did a lot of work creating detailed business plans. Additionally, they created and analyzed surveys to receive feedback on their idea, met with Amy Cronin [Associate Director of Development] to discuss the logistics of carrying out a fundraiser, did a recipe taste test, talked with Dinah Larsen [Food Services Specialist] about cooking for a large volume of people and estimating food/ingredient quantities, and held a practice run at NHEP. Going into the first lunch the girls had created a plan specifying each of their jobs and the times that tasks needed to be completed by. The day before the girls worked in small groups each making wrappers or preparing the filling for the Sambusa. The day of the girls worked in teams: a vegetarian sambusa team and a beef sambusa team who were responsible for assembling and cooking their type of Sambusa, a salad team who prepared the salads and made the dressing, and a student who over saw that each plate matched the order and plates were assembled correctly. Over all the work went really well thanks to our students planning and practice. We did face a slight hitch the day of when some of our premade wrappers broke and we did not have enough, but this was quickly fixed with an emergency trip to the store.
What were the benefits for the students?
The most important thing that our students personally got out of this experience was a huge boost in self-confidence. There were times in the planning were our ladies had significant doubts that they could pull this off, but when they did they were incredibly proud of their accomplishment. They also loved having Lund staff come in after to tell them how much they enjoyed their meal. Ladies also were really proud that they raised about $260 dollars ($310 before considering costs).
Are there plans to repeat this?
We and our students would like to do a fundraiser lunch every rotation (5 times a year), and for each offer a different theme to the meal. The students hope that the money raised will go towards more special field trips (including food during those trips if needed), higher quality or special arts and crafts activities, and possibly equipment for their children in the classroom when needed.
Thank you to the students and teachers at NHEP for providing this practical and interesting class that had such a great benefit for the rest of the staff. Roll on next rotation for another delicious. It will be getting cold and desolate outside so perhaps hearty soup, hot rolls and pumpkin pie are called for. Sign me up!
September 25, 2014
What is medication assisted treatment ?
Medication assisted treatment (MAT)is the use of medications, in combination with counseling and behavioral therapies, to provide a whole-patient approach to the treatment of substance use disorders. Research shows that when treating substance use disorders, a combination of medication and behavioral therapies is most successful. Medication assisted treatment is clinically driven with a focus on individualized patient care.” SAMSHA, www.dpt.samsha.gov. MAT is most effective in those who have suffered from continual relapses.
What medications are commonly used in MAT?
The medications most commonly used by clients at Lund’s residential treatment facility are methadone and buprenorphine. According to the Vermont Department of Health, the majority of MAT patients receive buprenorphine prescribed by a physician in a medical office setting. methadone, unlike buprenorphine, is a highly regulated addiction treatment drug and is only provided in specialty clinics.
Methadone is a drug for people dependent on opiates, who have often battled addiction for a long time and are taking high doses every day to avoid withdrawal. Methadone can be very dangerous drug if used outside of medical monitoring and federal regulations are very strict to ensure safety when using methadone. More people die each year from illegal use of methadone than any other drug. Methadone is dispensed daily at a clinic and those pursuing this course of treatment must visit the Chittenden Clinic daily to receive their dose.
Buprenorphine is an alternative course of treatment for opiate addiction, appropriate for those who have enough maturity, discipline and stability to participate in an office based program. Buprenorphine is a partial agonist which makes it a safer medication with less chance of overdose.
What is the Hub and Spoke method of substance abuse treatment?
Prescription drug abuse is the nation’s fastest-growing drug problem. Vermont is ranked the 34th worst of all the states in the non-medical use of pain relievers and for the first time ever, treatment admissions for opiate addiction surpassed that of alcohol addiction. In addition, drug diversion continues to be a problem for many reasons. In response to this problem, The Agency of Human Services (AHS) in collaboration with community providers proposed a coordinated, systemic response to the complex issues of opiate and other addictions in Vermont, now referred to the Hub and Spoke model, or “Care Alliance for Opioid Addiction.”
Although this initiative initially focused on creating capacity in the system for adequate medication assisted treatment for the increasing numbers of individuals with opiate addictions, it also created a framework for integrating treatment services for other substance abuse issues and co-occurring mental health disorders into a medical home model. In addition, this treatment approach is proposed to help reduce recidivism in people who have been incarcerated and enhance outcomes for families where addiction is an identified problem for child welfare.
Very large waiting lists for methadone indicated insufficient treatment capacity and fewer providers have been willing to prescribe buprenorphine for new patients. With more Vermonters seeking treatment for opiate addiction every year, this difficulty of access to MAT is a problem. The Hub and Spoke system reaches more people and provides more MAT options for patients. It also offers increased supports directly to physicians in medical office settings, assisting them in effectively managing and treating patients.
What is a Hub?
A Hub is defined by AHS as “a specialty treatment center responsible for coordinating the care of individuals with complex addictions and co-occurring substance abuse and mental health conditions across the health and substance abuse treatment systems of care.” www.healthvermont.gov/adap/treatment
A Hub is designed to do the following:
♦ Provide comprehensive assessments and treatment protocols.
♦ Provide methadone treatment and supports.
♦ For clinically complex clients, initiate buprenorphine treatment and provide care for initial stabilization period.
♦ Coordinate referral to ongoing care.
♦ Provide specialty addictions consultation and support to ongoing care.
♦ Provide ongoing coordination of care for clinically complex clients.
What is a Spoke?
A Spoke is defined by AHS as “the ongoing care system comprised of a prescribing physician and collaborating health and addictions professionals who monitor adherence to treatment, coordinate access to recovery supports, and provide counseling,
contingency management, and case management services” www.healthvermont.gov/adap/treatment
Spokes can be:
♦ Blueprint advanced practice medical homes
♦ Outpatient substance abuse treatment providers
♦ Primary care providers
♦ Federally qualified health centers
♦ Independent psychiatrists
What does this look like here in Chittenden County?
The HowardCenter’s Chittenden Center Clinic is the Hub for Northwestern Vermont including Chittenden, Franklin, Addison and Grand Isle Counties. The Chittenden Clinic has two locations – one at the University Medical Center and the other on San Remo Drive in South Burlington. The Spokes consist of 200 prescribing physicians in a variety of medical and behavioral health outpatient settings. Lund recently became a Spoke.
How did Lund become a Spoke?
In order to become a Spoke, Lund needed to add a Medical Director to our existing substance abuse treatment program. Dr. William Grass is the current Medical Director. His responsibilities include tending to the general and mental health needs of clients, acting as a consultant to the nursing team and to the clinicians and monitoring and evaluating urine drug test results. A crucial part of his work is evaluating and managing medication assisted treatment for our residential and community clients Dr. Grass is at Lund one day a week and also runs his own private psychiatry practice where he has practiced as a spoke physician for several years. Dr. Grass sees the benefits of MAT in Lund’s treatment program but as one part of a wider approach , “Life skills and parenting education are also an important part of treatment. MAT expands access to this sort of treatment in a population of people where opioid use disorder may be more prevalent than in the general population. Through the Hub and Spoke system, we’re able to expand access in a specific population of people. Healthy families mean a healthy future and that is important.
Lund’s residential and community treatment leadership team began conversations with Vermont’s Blueprint staff, who oversee Spoke implementation for Chittenden County, early in 2014. As a formal Spoke provider, Lund now receives funding from Vermont Health Access to deliver the comprehensive health services to clients receiving Spoke services, which optimizes treatment and health outcomes.
Having Dr. Grass on staff expands the medical team. Lund’s nurse, Jessilyn Dolan, is glad to have him on board, “Our clients’ medical needs have increased and become more complex over the last few years and it is very useful to have him to consult with. It is also really helpful to have a prescribing physician on staff so that if there is a time crunch with a new resident coming in who needs medication or a medical emergency, we have him to call on.”
Is MAT for everyone?
Not all people who have substance abuse disorders use medication assisted treatment. Having Dr. Grass on staff allows for him to consult with treatment teams and assess each client’s treatment plan and help decide whether MAT might be beneficial. As of the writing of this article 42% of clients at our residential treatment center are participating in MAT.
Medication is just one part of Lund’s treatment approach and is not appropriate for everyone. Lund offers a comprehensive approach that includes clinical and psychiatric services, health care, education and case management to pregnant and parenting young women, their children, and other key family members. Our therapists, teachers and caseworkers not only assist women in their recovery from substance abuse or mental health issues, they help them identify their strengths and maximize their potential by offering parenting education, as well as life skills and job training.
September 19, 2014
What better way to celebrate the start of fall than with a delicious community dinner outside complete with musical entertainment and lots of friends to play with? This was scene on Wednesday night at Lund’s Early Childhood Education Program at the Hoehl Family Building. Kirtani Mathauer, teacher in the young toddler room, led the event inspired by community cooking classes and dinners she had helped with at other early childhood programs. She was looking for a way for families to connect and spend some time together getting to know each other. Parents drop off their children at different times and so their paths may never cross despite their children spending all day together. This event was a chance to meet and eat together.
The sun even made an appearance after a day of clouds and it was still warm enough to eat, play and dance outside. The menu consisted of pasta, meatballs, eggplant parm, salad, garlic bread, and dessert provided by LECP and also dishes brought by families. There were even enough leftovers to enjoy for lunch the next day. After dinner LECP teacher, Collin and his friend Kyle played music. There’s nothing like toddlers dancing with their friends to a John Prine cover in the waning light of an early fall evening to make you feel pretty good about the state of the world. The play structure built last Spring by volunteers from dealer.com served as great front row seating for the show and also provided the usual jumping and climbing entertainment for the children.
“I’m proud of the turnout,” said Kirtani, “one parent told me it was the best community dinner he’d been to at an education program because it was so relaxed and gave everyone the time to eat, have fun and talk.”
Healthy eating is a key priority at LECP as many of the children come from families struggling with food insecurity or limited access to nutritious food. The children eat meals and snacks family style and learn how to behave considerately at the table while they enjoy a wide variety of dishes cooked on site in the school kitchen. Lund is planning expand the food program to run parent-child cooking workshops. This will be helped by a recent generous grant from Seventh Generation that will provide the needed equipment to set the kitchen up efficiently and safely for the children.
Kirtani plans to organize another family dinner next year and attract even more families to share a meal together. Thank you to all the teachers who worked hard to make this event come together and to all the families who attended and brought food to share.
September 12, 2014
“I believe that philanthropy is a good thing. It’s hard to go wrong when you’re acting out of a place of generosity. We shouldn’t fret so much about philanthropy. We shouldn’t let the joy of giving be muddied by the intellectual pursuit of the best, most effective and perfect giving,” said Stuart Comstock-Gay, President and CEO of the Vermont Community Foundation at their Annual Meeting on Wednesday September 10, at the Basin Harbor Club. His speech began, as so many things do these days, with the ice bucket challenge and he quotes from a Maclean’s article on it, “The marketing gimmick is very clever, it’s short, immediately understandable and like the most clever forms of slacktivism, it’s easy to do, entertaining to watch and narcisstically self promoting. It’s a great way to raise money but a horrible reason to donate.” But then spent the rest of this speech advising the assembled crowd of grantees, supporters, donors, board members and friends not to be caught up in criticism and cynicism around popular philanthropy. Stuart warned us all not to let our David Letterman-ness (thinking constant critique and close mindnessness is the height of intelligent cool) get in the way of our ice-bucketness. He’s right. $100 million raised for ALS reseach is a good thing, however is happened.
It was obvious at this meeting that Vermont is a unique and special place, not just because it took place at the spot where Benedict Arnold launched the USS Philadelphia in 1776 and then went on to trounce the British at the Battle of Valcour Island, but also because of the people present. Underneath the tent on a warm early fall afternoon were some of the state’s most influential philanthropists, business people and representatives of non-profits doing important work. These people are the true power of community. “I see collaboration, passion, creative problem solving by many philanthropists. All of them working on complicated issues, all of them working on new ideas and visions, all of them with belief even though it’s hard and sometimes the issues are so complex you could cry,” described Stuart as he looked out over the crowd.
As well as this inspiring speech from the CEO, the meeting also included financial overviews, a humorous report from the audit committee (yes, that’s correct, humorous, I did say these people were special) and the presentation of the Community Impact Award to the Addison County Parent Child Center and their long time supporters Michael and Cindy Seligmann. This award honors the relationship between a donor and the organization that they support. The Addison County Parent Child Center provides support, education and resources to young families. Lund is a Parent Child Center for Chittenden County. It was a privilege to watch a video about the great work that this organization does for parents and children in Addison County and to witness the incredible support given to them by the Seligmanns.
Stuart’s last assertion from the podium was that we all need to believe, “Believe. Believe in people, in ideas, in Vermont. Believe in yourselves, believe in each other. Allow a little wonderment to creep into your lives. Don’t be so quick to shoot down someone’s idea. Snarkiness is not something to be proud of. It’s certainly ok to have questions but don’t let that get in the way of other people’s enthusiasm. It doesn’t mean you have to believe everything but it does mean that you cannot disbelieve everything . Don’t rain on the belief parade of others.”
It was easy to believe in Vermont when you look at the important, effective and widespread work of the Vermont Community Foundation. We thank them for their support of Lund in so many ways over the years and for their leadership in our state.