October 1, 2015

“I hope she stays here forever” – Phyllis Palmer, Volunteer Extraordinaire!

Posted in Awards, Events, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP), United Way, Volunteer Spotlight tagged , , , , , at 11:51 am by Lund

Teachers and children at Lund’s Early Childhood Education Program love volunteer Phyllis Palmer. The children love that whatever she is doing with them, she makes them feel important and cared for and the teachers feel exactly the same way. Phyllis has taken on the charge of caring for the whole program. Childcare Coordinator Judy Harvey says, “Phyllis has gone above and beyond what I could ever expect from a volunteer. Her work with the children is amazing and everyone loves her. She just does what needs to be done, whatever it is. And she takes the most wonderful care of the teachers. It feels like she has been here forever. I hope she stays here forever.”

When there is something that needs to be done, Phyllis gets to it. “I hope that in the few hours I am at Lund each week I can contribute to the collective effort that makes the center so special and run so smoothly,” she says. “Sometimes that includes sweeping the floor after snack, wiping down rest mats or washing a few dishes. It also might mean rubbing the back of a restless 3 year old, or reading a book to whoever needs a lap and some one-on-one time with an adult.”

Phyllis, a retired Kindergarten and First Grade teacher, is especially dear to the older preschoolers. She brings intentional structured activities to work with the children on early literacy and math skills. She is able to bring small groups of children out of the classroom to play learning games and practice the skills that they will need in kindergarten. The children love Phyllis and look forward to their time with her. They refer to her days as “Phyllis Days” and take the “schoolwork” or “kindergarten work” they do with her very seriously.   These children would not have such focused exposure to these activities without Phyllis. She is actively improving their level of kindergarten readiness and giving them tools and experiences that will help them succeed in kindergarten from the very first day. The children are excited about school and know what to expect when they get to Kindergarten.

This genuine and considerate care does not stop with the children. She takes great care of the teachers at the program as well, knowing that the work they do is challenging but crucial for the happiness, stability and education of the children. One rainy summer day she dropped off a new copy of “Blueberries for Sal” and homemade blueberry bread for the teachers to enjoy. She accompanied her gift with an uplifting note that said, “Blueberries need the rain.” She knows and appreciates how hard it is to be stuck inside because of rain with active toddlers and preschoolers who need to run, climb and get outside in the fresh air.   She also has volunteered for two years in a row (in searing heat in 2014 and cold, windy rain in 2015) to work at the rest stop at the Charlotte Senior Center providing snacks and help to riders participating in the Lund Ride for Children.

The teachers at LECP were delighted to nominate Phyllis for a United Way Building Block Award for her outstanding commitment to the program. She was honored, along with many other community members, at the United Way’s celebration breakfast last week held at the Flynn Theater in Burlington.   “Receiving a United Way Building Block Award was quite a surprise! If somehow it sheds light on the amazing job the whole staff at Lund’s Early Childhood Education Program does every day of every week, then I am both honored and humbled.” Once again not missing the chance to celebrate and look out for the teachers who are so happy to work alongside her.

Phyllis (third from right) with the other winners of the United Way Building Blocks Awards for Education at the Flynn Theater, September 24, 2015.

Phyllis (third from right) with the other winners of the United Way Building Blocks Awards for Education at the Flynn Theater, September 24, 2015.


September 5, 2014

United Way Building Block Awards – Celebrating the Powerful Connection Between Individual and Community

Posted in Awards, Board of Trustees Spotlight, Employees, Events, United Way, Volunteer Spotlight tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 11:31 am by Lund

The large ballroom at the Sheraton Hotel was full yesterday morning as volunteers, community members, representatives of the local non-profits and supporters of the United Way gathered to celebrate the Building Block Awards and officially launch the United Way’s 2014 campaign.   The Building Block Awards are given to volunteers at local non-profits who have made a difference in the United Way’s target areas of income, education and health.  Lund celebrated volunteers who have made a huge difference in our organization – Ann Klinkenberg and Paulette Thabault and Peter Gunther and their family.  Ann volunteers in the New Horizons Educational Program tutoring students one on one and providing assistance to the teachers in the classroom.   Since the students are all at different stages in their education, having Ann’s support to provide individual assistance is absolutely key in the students’ success.  Paulette and her husband Peter and their children have done many different things at Lund from helping at the bike ride, representing Lund at events and panels, hosting fundraising events and recruiting their children to play Santa and his elves at the very last minute and saving the Glen Road Holiday Party!  Paulette has also been a board member since 2007 and chairs our strategic planning committee.

Director of Development Beth Knox with Paulette Thabault and Peter Gunther

Director of Development Beth Knox with Paulette Thabault and Peter Gunther

Learning Together Coordinator Tammy Santamore and NHEP teacher Kathy Rossman with Ann Klinkenberg (center)

Learning Together Coordinator Tammy Santamore and NHEP teacher Kathy Rossman with Ann Klinkenberg (center)

United Way Volunteer Coordinator Amy Carmola referred to the volunteers in the room as “treasures” and said, “Volunteering represents the powerful connection between individual and community. When we volunteer we go beyond taking care of our families and ourselves.  When we volunteer we give our time and our attention, which is such an important part of ourselves, we give that to someone else, to something else.”  Our volunteers make a active difference in the lives of our children and families and we are so grateful for their time, attention and commitment.

The Sisters of Mercy were honored for their work in Vermont with the 2014 Advocate Award.  United Way Director Martha Maksym referred to them as “walking sermons” and congratulated them on the breadth and scope of their work in the state.  Sister Lindora Cabral accepted the award on behalf of the sisters, “Advocacy is such an important part of who we are.  We advocate for those who are poor. For us service and advocacy go hand in hand.”  The Sisters of Mercy founded Mater Christi School, Trinity College, the Women’s Small Business Program, Mercy Connections and other important service intiatives.  Lund is proud to partner them in their work to support women and children in need.

The breakfast was also the kick off of the United Way’s 2014 community campaign to raise $3,850,000 to allow the United way to support the work of it’s 29 member agencies as they tackle the most pressing societal problems and ensure that the most vulnerable members of our community have what they need to be successful.  This year’s campaign is chaired by Robert DiPalma, an attorney at Paul Frank and Collins.    You can watch this year’s campaign video here.

Thank you to the United Way of Chittenden County for allowing us this opportunity to celebrate volunteers both here at Lund and in the wider community.

August 8, 2014

“Creating an Intentional Community of Health”- United Way brings people together to talk about substance abuse

Posted in Events, Residential, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, United Way tagged , , , , at 11:15 am by Lund

We know that opiate addiction is a problem in Vermont that now affects every single part of the community.  The state has seen a nearly 800% increase in opiate use in the last 14 years and a concurrent increase in crime and rates of incarceration.  Governor Shumlin dedicated his entire State of the State address this spring to the omnipresence of this issue, “It doesn’t affect just one class of people, it affects rich and poor,” Shumlin says. “It knows no party lines, it knows no economic lines.”   Bringing this issue to light in such a prominent way has forced people in the state to confront the problem and begin to talk about solutions.

This week the United Way of Chittenden County held a community forum to discuss the problem of opiate addiction and to allow for concerned community members to offer their ideas for solutions.  The event attracted over 120 people from all different backgrounds – medical professionals, law enforcement, social workers, academics, school administrators, parents, community activists, politicians.  It was an interactive meeting with plenty of time allowed for discussion and questions.  There were people in the room for whose lives had never been touched by drug use and people in the room in recovery.  There were people whose political and social backgrounds were so widely different that no other situation would have brought them together.  The common thread was concern for people in Vermont battling this illness.  There was an air of understanding and willingness in the room.  One lady advised the crowd to look around.  “We’ve got the right people in this room,” she said, “open your hearts and see the potential.”

United Way on Opiates

When the crowd broke out into groups for smaller discussions many people could be heard sharing how addiction had touched their lives, “It’s a sad, sad diseases,” said one medical professional, “and we mustn’t forget that it’s a disease.  This is not a choice people are making.  They get stuck in a hole and they can’t get out.”  In a later session of break out groups, the room was posed with questions to discuss – What is the state of treatment facilities in Vermont, what does prevention really look like, how can we provide the tools people need when they are in recovery so that they don’t slip back into the same lifestyle, how can we create an intentional culture of health instead of an unintentional culture of addiction?

Courtney Farrell, Associate Director of Residential and Community Treatment Services at Lund, who attended the meeting found the open discussion time to be most useful as it allowed people to connect the problem of addiction in the state with other issues.  “We had good conversations about how as a community we can be more proactive in working effectively together to support child protection as it relates to addiction in families, rather than just see it as one agency’s problem to fix.”  Collaboration and the interconnectedness of social issues were two themes that underlined the entire forum.  Brian Southworth from Lund, also an Associate Director of Residential and COmmunity Treatment Services, noted, “Participants were energized by the prospect of finding more effective ways to improve communication and more collaboratively address opiate addiction. There were a number of commitments made to facilitate forums in Burlington, and adjoining towns, for the purpose of expanding the conversation and planning.”

Attendees were encouraged to leave the discussion with an idea for one thing that they themselves could do to help address the problem.  One way that you can help is to support Lund which is the only treatment facility for substance abuse and mental health issues in Vermont where women can receive treatment while staying with their child.   Our residential treatment center serves 26 pregnant or parenting women and their children as they work towards an independent, successful life in recovery.  We also provide integrated, wraparound family support and education services to support the whole family in breaking cycles of poverty, abuse and addiction.  Lund works closely with other community organizations to ensure that we have a collaborative approach and a comprehensive understanding of the complex nature of addiction.   To learn more about Lund, click here.   To make a donation, click here

“Lund has shown me a life I didn’t even know existed. Lund has shown me how much more of a person I can be, and what it really means to live, not just to stay alive. Lund has given my daughter, Sienna,  the chance to break the multi- generational cycle of addiction, by helping her to have a mom who doesn’t use drugs.  My mom, my grandmother and my great grandmother are all addicts.  Who knows how far back it goes”  Tina, 26.


March 27, 2014

“A Hand to Offer” – Kids-A-Part Volunteer Highlighted

Posted in Kids-A-Part, United Way, Volunteer Spotlight tagged , , , , , , , , , at 8:41 am by Lund

Jessica Ellerman - Kids-A-Part Volunteer

Jessica Ellerman – Kids-A-Part Volunteer

Jessica Ellermann began volunteering for the Kids-A-Part program in November 2011 because the program connected two of her interests – children and criminal justice.  “As a nanny, I am used to being around kids, but I also appreciate the opportunity to get a different perspective on the criminal justice system. My goal is to be a lawyer and for that I think it is essential to have a diverse perspective on crime, offenders, the system, and society,” says Jessica.  This unique opportunity to support children as they visit their mothers inside the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility allows Jessica a perspective that most do not have.  “My favorite moment is when the mothers enter the room and you can see everyone’s faces light up with joy.  The mother-child bond is precious and should be protected as much as possible. Kids-A-Part encourages mothers to play with their children in an environment that resembles a daycare rather than a correctional facility,” she says.  The Kids-A-Part room is full of books, toys and games that the moms can enjoy with their children.  They can sit together on the couch, hold hands and snuggle up together.  This is not permitted in the regular visiting room at the facility.

Jessica’s prime responsibility is to walk the children from the lobby at CRCF, accompany them through security and escort them to the Kids-A-Part room.  The adults who bring the children to the facility to visit their moms cannot go with them into the visit and so Jessica’s role is essential, “Being greeted at the door by a warm and knowledgeable volunteer, like Jessica, reassures grandparents, fathers and other caregivers who entrust us to bring the children they are responsible for into a jail,” says Jo Berger, Community Case Manager for Kids-A-Part. “Volunteers are also crucial because they carry the little ones and all their bottles and binkies in and out of the facility!”

Jessica remains in the Kids-A-Part room during the visit and is available to play with one sibling while another spends some one on one time with mom or to just be there for support and continuity for the children.   When it is time to leave, Jessica is there again to ease the transition.  “Saying goodbye to Mom is difficult, but the walk out is much better when Mom is able to say, ‘This is my friend Jessica, and she is going to hold your hand until you get to the lobby to Gramm’.  It would be awful to notice a child struggling and not have a  hand to offer him or her,” says Jo.

This experience has been rewarding for Jessica herself, and something she can use in the future, as well as being so important for the children and their caregivers.  “My work with Kids-A-Part has been a valuable experience. The program has certainly changed my views on crime, punishment and its consequences. Knowing how prisons affect our community and the individuals involved will prove to be an important tool throughout my career.”   Jessica plans to return to her native Germany this fall to finish law school.  She will take moving memories  with her that she won’t forget, however far her work and life takes her from Vermont.  “We have a holiday party every year, which I always find very rewarding. During this visit, the children and their mothers get to celebrate the holidays in the warmly decorated Kids-A-Part area. We usually start out with a pancake breakfast and then offer a variety of activities such as cookie decorating, singing in front of the tree, giving gifts etc. The holidays are a time to cherish love and should not be missed by children even if their mothers are incarcerated.”

Thank you, Jessica, for your important work helping to reduce the impact of a mother’s incarceration on her children.   You have truly made a difference.

September 6, 2013

Laura Crain Honored by United Way with ‘Building Block Award’

Posted in Awards, Events, Kids-A-Part, United Way, Volunteer Spotlight tagged , , , , , at 5:41 am by Lund

“The Kids-A-Part Storybook program allows incarcerated mothers an opportunity to ‘mother’ from prison.  It is a wonderful program that gives a mother and her child another avenue to stay connected when they cannot physically be together,” says Laura Crain, who volunteers once a month recording mothers in the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility reading stories for their children.    The recordings and the books are then given to the child so that they can play their mother’s voice over and over whenever they just need to hear mom.

Laura is a librarian at St. Michael’s College and she well knows the importance of reading to young children and the power of the connection between mother and child through story telling.  “My favorite part is talking with the moms about their children, hearing the love in their voices as they describe their children’s personalities and achievements.  I also really enjoy preparing these amazing voice recordings of the mothers reading the stories,” she says.  Separation is very difficult for both the mother and her children and Lund’s Kids-A-Part program seeks to reduce the impact of this separation in many different ways.  Laura’s work makes a real and tangible difference in the lives of children who cannot see their mothers every day.

Laura has given much more than just her time to this program.  When the recording equipment broke, she bought new equipment and donated it to the prison, when the program needed books, she solicited donations from a local bookstore.  While Laura does work closely with Jess Kell of Lund’s Kids-A-Part, much of the program is down to her. “This is one of the Kids-A-Part programs that just could not happen without the help of a volunteer and is one of the most important to the mothers and their children.  Laura has made it a priority to donate her time and resources to make this possible,” says Jess.

The program is about reading, of course, but it also about taking time to acknowledge that for these women, they are mothers first and prisoners second.  For the children they are, only and always,  just Mom. “Laura is incredibly patient with the mothers who are not always confident in their reading skills. She is lovely, soft-spoken, generous, compassionate, thoughtful, and flexible within the workings of a correctional facility.  This meaningful and positive way to stay connected to their children is very important to the emotional well being of the mothers as well as their children.   Laura makes this program a point of calm and of happiness in an environment which can be lonely and stressful,” says Jess.

Laura was recognized this week for her tireless commitment to this program with a United Way Building Blocks Award at the United Way Community Celebration and Campaign Kick Off Breakfast.    Campaign Chair Tammy Shannon complimented programs, such as Storybook that “educate and empower our children” and said that she was awed by the love and support in the room as 89 volunteers including Laura were celebrated for their work.

Laura Crain and Jil

Laura with Jill Cunningham, Lund’s Volunteer Coordinator

There are problems in Chittenden County – opiate addiction, hunger, lack of affordable housing, poverty – but there are wonderful organizations supported by the United Way who are working hard every minute to do what they can to give a hand, a voice, shelter or a chance to those who need it.  Volunteers, community leaders, staff from non profit organizations, city and state officials all heard the call from Tammy Shannon and the Campaign committee to give, advocate and volunteer.

Despite these problems and all the work that still needs to be done amidst uncertain economic times, there is a little boy in your neighborhood who is going to reach for his CD player tonight, find that special book on his shelf and close his eyes as his mother reads him a bed time story.  And at the same time down on Farrell Street, behind high walls, there is a mom who can rest just a little bit easier knowing that part of her is with her child as he goes to sleep.  Everyone at Lund is so grateful to Laura for making this possible.

August 14, 2013

Opiate Addiction in Vermont – What can we do?

Posted in Board of Trustees Spotlight, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services, United Way tagged , , , , , , , , , at 3:41 pm by Lund

On Wednesday August 7th the United Way of Chittenden County sponsored a viewing of a short documentary film titled “The Opiate Effect” followed by a panel presentation and community discussion about opiate and heroin addiction in Vermont.  The film is a powerful and educational document weaving the experience of a family who lost a son/brother to a heroin overdose; the testimony of three young people who lost everything they valued—friends, family, jobs, school, respect—to addiction to opiates and heroin; and a fictional young man who stands on the precipice of misuse of a prescription opioid medication.  Viewers will be brought to tears by the pain and anguish caused by use of and addiction to opioids—whether the legally produced opioid medications or the illegal and highly toxic heroin. The film is brutally clear that any use of heroin and any misuse of opioid medications is bound to result in tragedy and significant loss.  No one has power over these substances!

Image courtesy of Baitong 333 at freedigitalphotos.net

Image courtesy of Baitong 333/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The panel hammered home the startling prevalence of heroin in Chittenden County and all of Vermont and the appalling ease of access to prescription opioid medications.  U.S. Attorney Tristram Coffin, Burlington Police Chief Michael Shirling and Spectrum Youth and Family Services Associate Executive Director Annie Ramniceanu revealed the frightening level of crime associated with the distribution of heroin and opioid medications.  Violent crimes, thefts, prostitution are all primarily connected to the illegal distribution of heroin and opioid products.   Also speaking on the panel were Bob Bick, Director of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services at the Howard Center, Mary Alice McKenzie of the Boys and Girls Club and Dr Carlos Pino, Medical Director of the Fletcher Allen Center for Pain Medicine.    All of the qualified and compassionate panelists presented their own take on the problem but all could agree on three essential steps towards a solution:

1.  Prevention – Start with children when they are young and provide a really good prevention program that is directly responsive to their needs.   Recognize how pervasive and quotidian this problem is for children and understand that a blanket “Drugs Are Bad”   approach is just not enough.

2.  Treatment on demand – Those who are ready to get help with their addiction should not have to wait six or eight months to get the help that they need. There are currently 832 people on the waiting list for treatment at the Howard Center.

3.  Swift and severe justice – The words that Police Chief Schirling used to describe how punishment for drug dealers ought to be.

What can we do about it?  The panel exhorted community members to become educated and get involved in raising awareness and combating misuse of opioid medications and any use of heroin.  All panel members echoed the need for community—every citizen—response to the problem. One easy but powerful step every one of us can take is to hide or lock-up any opioid medications we may have in our houses.  The number one source, by far, for prescription medicines that are found and misused by teens and others, is our own medicine cabinets.  Oxycontin, Vicodin, Percoset, and generic opioids are commonly found in medicine cabinets in family homes.  Lock these medicines up! Discard them on “Take-Back Days” sponsored by law enforcement agencies!

Lund is a community and state leader in helping young people combat use and addiction to drugs.  Without the kind of help that Lund provides to help young women address substance abuse problems and build resilient lives, many more young people would be lost to addiction and crime.

Written by Will Rowe, Lund Board of Trustees.