November 12, 2015

Jeff Small Pioneer Award Winner 2015

Posted in Adoption, Awards, Employees, Events tagged , , , , , , at 4:45 pm by Lund

The Jeff Small Pioneer Award: Jeff Small was on the Lund Board of Trustees for 16 years, including 6 years as president.  He was a dedicated and hard working board member who always was looking to the future and the continued success and security of Lund.  The recipient of this award will show similar dedication and hard work in each of the following four areas:

  •  Focus on the mission of Lund, knows what we need and is driven to achieve it.
  •  Courageousness in pursuit of what is right and what is needed.
  •  Confidence in working to secure a brighter future for Lund and its clients.
  •  Persistence in understanding all of Lund’s needs and not giving up on a project or a belief even where there is resistance or slow progress.
  • Above all, the recipient of this award is an advocate and ambassador for Lund

The 2015 winner of the Jeff Small Pioneer Award is Kate Van Wagner, Options Counselor in Lund’s adoption department.  Kate works with pregnant women and their partners and/or family members providing counseling and helping them access needed resources and supports as they plan for their future and the future of their child.  To learn more about Kate’s work, read this blog post.

Julia Conner, Kate Van Wagner, Wanda Audette and Barbara Rachelson at the All Staff Retreat on October 23, when Kate was announced as the Jeff Small Pioneer Award Winner for 2015.

Julia Conner, Kate Van Wagner, Wanda Audette and Barbara Rachelson at the All Staff Retreat on October 23, when Kate was announced as the Jeff Small Pioneer Award Winner for 2015.

Kate was commended for her clear vision, focus and determination but was especially celebrated for her courage. “I’ve intentionally saved courageousness for last,” said Kate’s supervisor Julia Conner when presenting the award. “In part, because I feel it is the most important but mostly because I feel this is the characteristic that truly sums up Kate.  It is courage, a willingness to take risks, and an unwavering dedication to this work that creates positive change. Kate radiates fierce courageousness – as a social worker, as a team member, and on behalf of her clients and her belief in everyone’s ability to grow and change.”

Since one of the definitions of ‘pioneer’ is “leading the way, trailblazing”, we’ve decided to try an innovative interview technique to learn more about this year’s pioneer.  The questions might seem a little unusual but you will see all the traits mentioned above come out in Kate’s answers.

Interviewer:  Describe the color yellow to someone who is blind.
Pioneer Kate: I feel like it smells like when you toast something perfectly and you have the perfect amount of butter melted on it.  You can smell the yeasty bread goodness plus the buttery, melty too.  Maybe that’s because butter is yellow.  It feels rich.  It’s a warm feeling obviously.  What’s the happiest key, musical key?  The saddest one is A minor, I think.  Yellow sounds likes a major chord on the piano, D major. You hear that chord and then you smell the toast.

Interviewer:  Who is your favorite pioneer?
Pioneer Kate: Jane Addams,  Louise Bourgeois, Bread & Puppet,  UVM MSW faculty Susan Roche, Brenda Solomon, JB Barna, Stan Witkin, and Suzy Comerford who are pioneers of Transformative Social Work and sparked the brave/curious parts of me that allow me to do my work.  And my great-grandmother Alice Maher, whom I didn’t get to know but had her MSW (super rare for a woman to have an advanced degree at that time!) and was a vegetarian (frowned upon as a daughter of a farmer!).

Interviewer:  If you had to unload a 747 full of jelly beans, how would you do it?
Pioneer Kate:  Oh man, I feel like you would need to construct something around the plane.  Park the plane on a platform and there is some sort of containing wall around the platform and there’s a giant spout funnel.  You could just open the door and let the jelly beans out and they would go into this funnel. You could pull up pickup trucks.  Where are you trying to bring them?  (Interviewer: Unspecified) Load them into boxes.  The platform would need to be a little tilty too to get the last ones out of the corner.  What I would really want to do is get into the plane with all those jelly beans.  That texture and sound would be amazing.  If they were all one flavor and one color, how pleasing would that be?

Interviewer:  How many cows in Canada?
Pioneer Kate:  Cows?  In Canada? I have no idea. There are farms up there.  Is this a real question?  Why would you ask that? I have no frame of reference for that.  I am horrible at number things, this is why I am a social worker.   I have no concepts of the amount of anything at any point.  A million?  Are there a million cows?  Do you know the answer?

Interviewer:  What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Pioneer Kate:  Once a week my best friend and I have breakfast club, so that was this morning.  We meet really early, she’s also a social worker.  This morning I had coffee  and this is the most hipster thing in the world, chia porridge. It’s delicious and healthy.  It’s chia and buttermilk and it has amazing hibiscus syrup and crumbled pumkpin seeds, dehydrated blueberries and some sort of dried hibiscus flower.  It goes well with coffee, it’s really good.  We go there really early and either we are the only ones there and we are the clearly too loud.  Or there are other people there with their macs and their hipster outfits and we are the only ones talking.  We talk about everything and probably everyone is just listening as entertainment.   It’s like peer supervision in a way.

Interviewer:  Tell me something inspirational from you recent work
Pioneer Kate: The people I work with are usually in the most stressful or overwhelming situations.  They are not calling me and saying how excited they are about their pregnancy.  So my good days might not look like what you think.  There was this one woman who I worked with, in a situation that was super complicated and I worked with her through all kinds of things.  She was going to have the baby any minute and she didn’t know what she was going to do.  The father got involved at the very end of it. We were all at the hospital for a really long time.  I talked with the father in the waiting room, talking with him for eight hours straight, doing therapy with him almost. Other family members were coming and going and there were lots of complex dynamics at play, everyone’s emotions were really up.  I felt like I was holding them together.  I waited for a very long time to be able to see her after the birth, I wasn’t going to leave without seeing her again.  When I saw her she was so thankful, “I knew that you were there with all those people and I knew that you would make sure it was OK and that no one would fight about everything.” It felt important to me that I was there.

Congratulations, Kate, on winning the Jeff Small Pioneer Award.  Your work for Lund is making lives better for women, children and families all across the state of Vermont.  We are so thankful for your dedication, compassion and pioneering spirit.

 

October 21, 2015

Governor Shumlin Declares Lund Day in Vermont

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, Awards, Employees, Events tagged , , , , , , at 9:50 am by Lund

Governor Shumlin with Chelsea Mitchell and Megan Clogdo after signing the Proclamation and making Lund Day official

Governor Shumlin with Chelsea Mitchell and Megan Clogdo after signing the Proclamation and making Lund Day official

“Happy Anniversary,” said Governor Peter Shumlin in a speech at the Hoehl Family Building in South Burlington.   “I am the biggest cheerleader for Lund because for 125 years you have been fighting for the most vulnerable folks who actually have extraordinary potential to make a difference for Vermont and for their families and to be the great moms they want to be.”  The anniversary that Governor Shumlin was referring to was Lund’s 125 years of helping vulnerable families in the state.  In celebration of this long and important history, Governor Shumlin declared October 19, 2015 to be Lund Day in Vermont.  This was an exciting and unprecedented tribute to the organization.  As Executive Director, Barbara Rachelson said, “This is the first time in 125 years that a Governor has proclaimed a day for us.  Making Lund Day throughout the state and drawing attention to the issues that are near and dear to us is very important and we are so grateful. Even though much has changed over the last 125 years, we are still true to the heart of the mission.”

In addition to Governor Shumlin and Barbara Rachelson, Board President Sara Byers, Lund program participants Chelsea Mitchell and Megan Clogdo, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, and Secretary of State Jim Condos all offered testimony to the positive impact of Lund’s services in the community, the state and their own lives.   “I believed I was above addiction.  It wasn’t something I thought I would have to deal with.  Fast forward two years and there I was in need of somewhere or someone to help.   Newly sober and pregnant, I mustered as much courage as I could and reached out to begin my long journey with Lund.  It is a decision I never regretted.  I needed to learn how to live again,” said Megan, who gave birth to her twin sons while living at Lund’s residential treatment program for substance abuse and mental health issues.  “I cannot think of another place where I could have successfully done that.”

Governor Shumlin touched on the prevalence of opiate addiction in Vermont, the need for high quality early childhood education and every child’s right to grow up in a loving family during his remarks and implored the gathered crowd to continue to work together with Lund on these critical issues.  “Let’s use this 125th anniversary  to say as a state that we will support Lund and everything they do with all the resources that we have.  And we’re going to continue to have the honest conversation about the problems that lead too many to need the services that are provided here.  Let’s hope that 125 years from now, Lund continues to thrive.”

After signing the proclamation and being presented with cookies baked that morning by students at Lund’s New Horizons Education Program, Governor Shumlin took a tour of Lund’s Hoehl Family Building.  His first stop was the Early Childhood Education Program where he observed the youngest children in the baby room and then took a moment to talk with teachers during their lunch break.  Governor Shumlin is unendingly personable and cheerful and makes the people around him feel comfortable, never stumped for something to talk to people about.   “They’re best when you leave them. They go red and wrinkly and then they’re perfect,” he said to one teacher about the pomegranate she was eating.  “Oh goodness,” said another, relieved when she saw the pomegranate. “I thought he was talking about babies!”

The last stop was New Horizons where Govenor Shumlin strode in and asked, “Now who made those delicious cookies I just ate?” and talked to the students and teachers and inviting them to pose with him for pictures.  “Keep up the good work,” he told them all.  “I’m proud of you.”   He echoed this sentiment through all the departments at Lund and to the agency as a whole and was later heard saying to a reporter outside the building, “Lund has touched over 50,000 lives.  But you know that 50,000 is not just a number, it’s 50,000 stories of moms who want to do better for their kids.  It’s an incredible history.”

Thank you to Governor Shumlin and everyone who attended the celebration.  Happy Lund Day to all our friends, partners and supporters!

To catch up on media coverage from this event, check out these links:

 

 

July 24, 2015

Making ‘Small Talk’ at Lund – Guest post from Let’s Grow Kids

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, Events, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP) tagged , , , , , , , , at 9:33 am by Lund

(This blog post appeared as an e-mail sent by Let’s Grow Kids to their supporters, partners and fans.  We’re happy spread the word on our blog too)

Last Sunday, at an event called “Circus-palooza” in Shelburne, a single dad took a deep breath and admitted on camera, “Sometimes it feels like you might as well just sit at home and not work at all. Because the expenses of child care are overwhelming. I can’t keep up.”

This hard-working dad was participating in an interview for Small Talk, a new initiative of Let’s Grow Kids and several key partners to collect the personal stories of Vermonters who have interacted with Vermont’s early childhood system.

The Circus-palooza interviews were a test run for Small Talk’s official launch event this past Tuesday at the Lund Early Childhood Education Program in South Burlington. The Small Talk team interviewed seven more Vermonters at the Lund site—including parents, providers and State Representative Barbara Rachelson, who is the Executive Director of Lund (below speaking with LGK Campaign Director Robyn Freedner-Maguire).

“We were so honored and thrilled to host Small Talk at Lund, and we’re grateful for all the work that Let’s Grow Kids is doing to spread awareness about the importance of Early Childhood Education in Vermont,” Barbara said. “The families that we work with at Lund are faced with many challenges when trying to find affordable, high quality childcare for their children so that they can work, pursue treatment or continue their education. Helping to make Vermonters aware of these issues and giving a forum for people to share these stories is so critical, and Small Talk is a great way to do that. As a child advocate, working parent, employer, director of a nonprofit organization devoted to the wellbeing of children and families in Vermont and, finally, as a legislator, I am proud to support the work of Small Talk.”

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Community Education Director Molly Loomis and Small Talk Coordinator Lisa Boege Loomis conducting interviews.

This summer, the Small Talk team—LGK community education director, Molly Loomis and Small Talk coordinator, Lisa Boege Loomis (left)—will be on the road, meeting Vermonters across the state and recording their stories on camera. The Small Talk van, a mobile video-editing recording studio, will visit fairs, markets and other community events for scheduled interviews. Small Talk will also visit communities on request. Click here to see a list of currently scheduled Small Talk events or to request a visit to your region.

What will Let’s Grow Kids do with the stories? “Policymakers, community leaders, and others need to hear these stories to understand why the early years are so important and how we can do a better job of giving every child a strong start and equal chance in life,” says Molly. Some of the videos will be posted on the Let’s Grow Kids website and YouTube channel, and will be available for sharing via social media and email.

In one of the Small Talk interviews at Lund a mother said, “We need so many more Lunds. I was incredibly fortunate to find it—I feel like I’ve won the childcare lottery! But if I’ve won, how many other moms have lost?” This mom was speaking to the fact that quality child care is unaffordable and inaccessible for too many families who rely on it in Vermont.

“If I want my son to go to college one day or if we want to do fun stuff like take trips, or go to the beach, or go to the zoo, I can’t afford to keep working in the job that I love,” said an early educator at Lund. Child care professionals in Vermont and across the nation often don’t earn a livable wage because the costs of offering quality care are high, and providers know they can’t fully pass those costs onto the shoulders of already financially strapped parents.

“We really believe in the need for affordable, high quality child care that is accessible to all families,” says Charlotte Blend, communications coordinator at Lund. “The work of Let’s Grow Kids is making important and needed steps in getting this message out to the public and to the agencies that can affect real change. The voices that come out of these Small Talk videos represent the reality that so many parents and teachers face and we were very happy to have this avenue to help share those voices.”

Voices from Lund on real early childhood experiences and challenges.

Voices from Lund on real early childhood experiences and challenges.

To find out how Small Talk interviews work or see a list of potential questions you might be asked, visit letgrowkids.og/small-talk. Small Talk’s next stop is at Lamoille County Field Days in Johnson this weekend. Sign up for that event here.

Let’s Grow Kids is grateful for the support of its excellent partners: Building Bright Futures, Vermont Community Access Media, and The Vermont Folklife Center.

June 16, 2015

‘Any obstacle is worth overcoming’ – Honoring Ceremony 2015

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, Employees, Events, New Horizons Educational Program, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Outreach, Workforce Development Program tagged , , , , , , , , at 3:22 pm by Lund

Today is your day,” said Executive Director of Lund, Barbara Rachelson to the students of the New Horizons Education Program. “I know the path you took to get here today was not always easy or fun, and yet, you endured.  Parenting, pregnancy and being a student, each in their own right presents challenges.  There are lots of ways for you to find to not show up – if your baby is sick, if you didn’t get sleep, if you are having a hard day but you persevered.  I hope that you are glad that you did and you feel proud.  I certainly feel proud for you.”

Six graduates were celebrated for obtaining their high school diplomas at this year’s Honoring Ceremony. Many more students were recognized for academic achievement, college studies, participation in Lund’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Outreach Program, and attendance at Lund’s Workforce Development Program.  It was a joyful and very proud occasion.   New Horizons is Lund’s licensed education program for pregnant and parenting young women but it is so much more than just a school.  It is a place where students find acceptance, support and a community of peers and teachers committed to helping them be successful students and parents.    On a normal school day you are likely to find a teacher holding a baby while explaining how ions are made, students discussing how often their babies use pacifiers over lunchtime or a teacher helping a student follow up with a potential apartment rental during study hall.    Academic achievement and family support are weaved together through every aspect of the program.

Graduates from the Class of 2015 arrive at the Honoring Ceremony

Graduates from the Class of 2015 arrive at the Honoring Ceremony

The Honoring Ceremony is a time when students, family members, staff from NHEP and other Lund programs, community partners, members of the the Lund board, guests and friends come together to celebrate the students’ achievement and progress during the school year.  Babies and toddlers are integral members of the audience and crying (from children and proud adults alike!) is accepted and celebrated.   In addition to Barbara, this year’s ceremony saw speeches from Kim Coe, Director of Residential and Community Treatment Programs at Lund, Ryan Esbjerg from Flex Your Face and Lund Board President Sara Byers.  But the most powerful words came from the students themselves, many of whom stood up to read from speeches they had written.  Excerpts are given below:

“I would like to thank all who have pushed me to accomplish so much.  My daughter is my hope and motivation to get far in life.  Every student here has achieved so much, from doing their best to come to school every day with or without their kids to being able to ask questions when they get frustrated. ” – Brittany, 18, senior.

Mom and daughter addressing the crowd with their words of thanks and congratulation.

Mom and daughter addressing the crowd with their words of thanks and congratulation.

“I like the opportunity Lund gives us for school because it is a better place for us.  We are all teen and young adult moms and regular high school did not work for us.  High school was difficult because we all have kids.  Some of us are single moms and we don’t have people to watch our kids when we need to learn.  NHEP works for us.  When we need to learn, we can bring our kids with us.” – Fatumo, graduate.

“Three years ago I was supposed to graduate, but I put it aside.  I got pregnant and high school was no longer a priority.  With the help of Lund and my teachers I returned to school to finish my education.  They continued to push me to achieve greatness.  I have learned that any obstacle is worth overcoming.”   – Natalie, graduate.

“Every day I come to school and I’m surrounded with amazing and strong women who have struggled and been hurt but they are here choosing to change their life for themselves and for their children.  When you’re here you aren’t judged, you’re accepted and welcomed.  This program has changed my life and I couldn’t be more grateful.  Because of this program, I can watch my daughter grow into an amazing and smart girl while working hard to build our future.  Coming here was one of the best choices I have made for my daughter and myself.   I can finish school and still follow my dreams so when my daughter is older she can finish hers. ”  – Grace.  Student at NHEP since January.

The ceremony was followed by cake, photos and hugs and congratulations at every turn.  “It’s pretty much the best day of the year,” said Courtney Farrell, Assistant Director of Residential and Community Treatment Services, who couldn’t stop smiling all day.  Her feelings were shared by all, especially those students who left the ceremony with high school diplomas in their hands.

January 30, 2015

Coffee and Conversation at the Statehouse

Posted in Board of Trustees Spotlight, DCF, Employees, Events, New Horizons Educational Program tagged , , , , , , at 5:04 pm by Lund

Access to the Statehouse in Montpelier and the politicians who work in Vermont’s beautiful capital is very easy. You have to go around to the side doors in winter as the impressive front entrance has too many steps to easily shovel, but no one will question you about your identity or your business there. If you happen to be carrying a large, unwieldy box it’s even quite likely that a friendly security officer or a passing legislator will hold the door open for you. State government in Vermont is accessible and open to hearing what the people have to say. Lund took the opportunity on Friday, January 23 to connect with legislators by inviting them to an informational coffee hour to learn about Lund’s programs that are designed to help Vermont’s children and families.   For,  decades Lund has worked with the state of Vermont to provide education, treatment, adoption and family support services to Vermont families through contracts and grant agreements with the Vermont Agency of Human Services and the Agency of Education. Through these and other collaborative partnerships, Lund has been able to reach over 3,400 individuals from over 1,500 families last year. The time that Lund staff and board of trustee members spent at the Statehouse was a chance to share the scope and depth of  its work with elected officials from all over Vermont.

Lund’s Executive Director, Barbara Rachelson has been the representative for Burlington’s Chittenden 6-6 district since 2012 and brings her extensive experience working for and running various nonprofit organizations to her work in state government. “It’s important that our legislature hear about the challenges that the children and families we work with have, so that we can work to make Vermont a place where every child and family can be safe and successful,” says Barbara.   “Being able to talk about the plight of the poor, homeless, addicted, or abused is important, as is being able to talk about human services systems and work of the nonprofit sector. This is the first hand experience that I can bring to the legislature.”   Barbara was able to introduce many fellow members in the Vermont House of Representatives and members of the Vermont State Senate to her colleagues at Lund and connect them over pressing current issues such as child protection, early education, the experience of incarcerated women and other aspects of Lund’s work.

Lund staff and board members at the Statehouse.

Lund staff and board members at the Statehouse.

Lund’s focus at this event was Results Based Accountability (RBA). Over the past year all Lund staff were trained in the Results Based Accountability framework and then participated in establishing performance measures for each Lund program that focus on outcomes that will answer the most vital question, ‘Are People Better Off?’ Lund strongly values continuous improvement of all its programs and reviews are conducted regularly. Lund staff have also worked with contract managers of department areas of the Agency of Human Services to use Results Based Accountability to look at performance measures across contracts/grants in an effort find efficiencies and improvements. Lund is a leader in Vermont in using RBA and is committed to statewide efforts to promote the use of the system among other non-profits. The state is similarly committed to Results Based Accountability to ensure that it is getting the data driven results that  it expects from its investments.   Legislators were interested in the results of our recent programreview of New Horizons Education Program based on our newly established performance measures, and were appreciative of Lund’s reports and handouts which they will be able to use in committee discussions.

Director of Residential and Community Treatment Services, Kim Coe, spent much of her time at the coffee hour talking with people she has known and interacted with during her almost 30 years working in the human services arena in Vermont. Kim and many Lund staff are advocates for the families Lund serves and therefore look for opportunities to be a resource and voice whenever relevant to the issue at hand. “The Vermont Legislature is an extension of ourselves, it is our neighbors, our friends, our business partners. These are real people that are directly connected to what is happening for all Vermonters,” says Kim. “We are so fortunate to live in a state that affords citizens the opportunity to shake the hand of policy makers and to have direct discussions about issues most important to Vermonters. Our citizen legislature prioritizes the voice of its constituents.”

After the coffee hour, Lund staff and board members went to the floor of the House of Representatives to be introduced by Rep. Rachelson and to be recognized by the members of the House. It is a wonderful privilege to sit in the antique red velvet chairs under a portrait of George Washington and see the workings of state government first hand. The formality of the setting and the procedures are made friendly and welcoming by the smiles and whispered greetings of the legislators sitting near the front.

As you prepare to leave Montpelier, it is hard not to take one last look at the golden dome of the State House with its statue of Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, standing guard on top, without feeling that actually everyone in Vermont  part of what is happening inside.

 

December 4, 2014

Elizabeth Lund Employee of the Year 2014

Posted in Adoption, Awards, Employees, Events, Foster Care Program, Project Family tagged , , , , , , , , at 10:34 am by Lund

Melissa Appleton, Post Permancy Worker in Lund’s adoption department, was awarded the Elizabeth Lund Employee of the Year Award at the all staff retreat last month.  Melissa provides specialized support services for families after they have finalized their adoptions or guardianships.  Her focus is to help families manage the joys and challenges of adoption and guardianship and grow stronger by offering support, education and information.  Having worked for 8 years at Lund, Melissa felt honored and grateful to receive the Elizabeth Lund Employee of the Year Award, “I know how special the Elizabeth Lund award is. Lund is a great place to work with committed and skilled staff. I am grateful to receive this award-especially knowing that I work with other Lund staff who are equally deserving.  Knowing these peers nominated me is very special. I could not do this job without the support and encouragement of an amazing team and co-workers. I am also grateful to the Lund families who have taught me about being a social worker and have helped shape my work here at Lund.”

Executive Director, Barbara Rachelson with Melissa, Christina and Director of Adoption, Wanda Audette at the 2014 All Staff Retreat at Hotel Vermont.

Executive Director, Barbara Rachelson with Melissa, Christina and Director of Adoption, Wanda Audette at the 2014 All Staff Retreat at Hotel Vermont.

Christina Shuma, Post Permanency Services Coordinator, presented Melissa with the award referring to her as a “very special and extremely skilled social worker.”  She also remarked on her admirable commitment to professional development and her role as a go to person for post permanency issues not just at Lund but at other organizations she works with.  Everything Melissa does is driven by her commitment to the families, “At the core of her work with families she believes that families want the absolute best for their children and are doing the best they can with what they already know. She sees it as her mission to help these families, who are parenting children not born to them, learn as much as they can about this unique role that they have with their children, how they can parent their children at the child’s developmental level, how parents can learn more about their own parenting style, stress and coping skills; and to ensure that the community of providers involved with the families are sensitive to the adoption or guardianship needs of the child and family,” said Christina.

Doing work that can be frustrating and sometimes difficult, Melissa takes time to focus on the positives, “One of my favorite parts of being a Post Permanence Service Provider is being able to sit with an adoptive or guardianship family and celebrate the successes. These may not be considered huge successes in general terms: it may be a month at school free of write-ups for behavior or a parent finally getting nightly hugs from their child. To many these may not seem that substantial but to some of our Post Permanence families these small successes are so important. These children and families have not always traveled the easiest road and being able to recognize these celebrations reminds me how important this work is.”

In her free time Melissa enjoys getting outside as much as possible – skiing, mountain biking, swimming, horseback riding.  Activities which she uses to refuel herself to face the considerable demands of her job.  Thank you, Melissa, for your dedication and hard work for families who need you.  We are all very lucky to have you at Lund.  Congratulations on this well deserved award.

 

June 18, 2014

Removing barriers for working families – H.790 becomes law

Posted in Events, Lund Early Childhood Program (LECP), Reach Up tagged , , , , , , , , , , , at 4:31 pm by Lund

Governor Shumlin signed Vermont House Bill H.790 into law today at the O’Brien Community Center in Winooski to the applause of working families and agencies that work to support young people in becoming self sufficient.  The bill makes changes to the time frame during which people previously on Reach Up can still receive benefits after becoming employed.  This will ease the stress of those facing the possibility that working might leave them worse off than when they were receiving benefits – a situation referred to as the ‘benefits cliff’.

Governor Shumlin praised the bill in front of an assembled crowd which included many clients and staff members from Lund.  “We need to make sure we have a system of assistance that doesn’t put barriers up for people who want to work but find that the benefits system punishes them if they take a job or a raise.  What this bill really does is try to fix what we call the benefit cliff.  It tries to fix the system for folks who are given a job or who are excelling at work and are offered a raise.   Everyone wants to work, to succeed, to support their family and we need everyone in right now.  What this bill allows is for us to remove the barriers from raises and from work for people who want to work and want their kids to go to quality child care while they do.”

Governor Shumlin addresses the crowd

Governor Shumlin addresses the crowd, “Everyone wants to work, to succeed, to support their family.”

The key changes are outlined below:

1.  Earned Income Disregard – The amount of income that will be disregarded  when discerning whether someone is eligible for benefits will increase from $200 plus 25% of wages per month to $250 a month plus 25% of wages.

2. Enhanced childcare services financial assistance program – Eligible working parents will now receive full childcare subsidy for 24 months after gaining paid employment instead of 12 months.  This change is tied into the Reach Ahead program which gives assistance to families who are no longer eligible for Reach Up.

3.  Transitional SNAP benefits – Eligible participants moving off Reach Up due to paid employment will receive SNAP benefits for 12 months instead of 6 months.

4.  Case management – Case managers will be called on to work with families any time there is a change that will affect them to make sure that they have access to full benefits.

Chris Curtis from Vermont Legal Aid who worked on this legislation related the changes to real life for working families.   “This bill is about making work pay for Vermont families and it’s all about securing a healthy future for Vermont kids.  Let me tell you what this means in real terms for an average Reach Up family of a single mom with two kids.  It’s going to amount to a 4% pay increase or about $40 extra a month.  Working families have been falling further and further behind.  This legislation puts more money in their pockets and makes it easier for them to get ahead and succeed.  The goal of this legislation is successful families and a good start for kids.”

Reach-Up Case Manager at Lund, Danielle Gingue, sees the immediate benefit of these changes,  “I think continuing the time that families are eligible for Reach Ahead is huge.  I have many families that are scared for their grant to close, knowing that they are only eligible for a 1 year childcare subsidy.  With this new bill, families will be eligible for a 2 year childcare authorization.  Childcare is expensive and having a 2 year period where a participant doesn’t have to worry about their eligibility is pretty big.”

The changes in this bill will reduce the number of families facing the benefit cliff.  As Lund’s Learning Together Coordinator Tammy Santamore says, “These changes provide a greater incentive to employment than the current Reach Up system, essentially providing low income families with a buffer to better plan for financial independence and self sufficiency. The passing of this bill will allow families to plan more for their futures, allowing them to develop savings plans, address emergency expenses without the need for assistance from community service providers, and look toward a brighter future for themselves and their children.”

Or as Governor Shumlin said, quite succinctly, in his opening remarks, “This is a good bill.”

Catch up on media coverage here:  Pete Hirschfeld on VPR      FOX 44

Executive Director of Vermont Works for Women, Tiff Bluemle, Governor Shumlin, Barbara Rachelson - Executive Director of Lund and Chris Curtis of Vermont Legal Aid.

Executive Director of Vermont Works for Women – Tiff Bluemle, Governor Shumlin, Barbara Rachelson – Executive Director of Lund and Chris Curtis of Vermont Legal Aid.

June 13, 2014

“Take every opportunity you are presented with.” – Honoring Ceremony at New Horizons

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, Events, New Horizons Educational Program, Residential, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Outreach tagged , , , , , , , , at 11:54 am by Lund

Students, teachers, family and friends had reason to celebrate on Tuesday as New Horizons Educational Program held the Honoring Ceremony to honor graduates, those who made academic progress and the participants in our teen pregnancy prevention outreach program.  Less than half of teen mothers graduate from high school  (stayteen.org) because it’s incredibly difficult to juggle parenthood and school.  Our students have worked so hard to meet the challenges they face.  A high school diploma is a key step towards future success for themselves and their families.  As one graduate said, “I don’t want to be the mom telling my kids to stay in school and to graduate when I didn’t do it myself.”

Barbara Rachelson, Executive Director of Lund, began the ceremony with words of welcome and advised the students to remember that they can and should learn something every day.  Vermont State Treasurer Beth Pearce was one of the keynote speakers and she spoke about the importance of financial literacy and making plans for the future recognizing that graduation was the an essential starting step towards this future.  The second keynote speaker was Lund graduate Maghon Luman who currently works at the Community Justice Center in the Offender Reentry program which provides support to people leaving prison.  She spoke of how, at 23 years old, she had everything she could have wanted – a great job, nice house, car, loving husband and baby daughter – but how becoming an addict took all that from her.  She credits her recovery and her current success as an employed and stable parent to her commitment to embracing every opportunity.  “Take every opportunity you are presented with and if there isn’t an opportunity, make one for yourself.  Work hard to create the chances you need and be persistent.”  She also offered her congratulations to the students, “Whatever you have completed today, school, a grade or even a class, be very proud of yourself.”

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Maghon addresses the crowd.

New Horizons teacher, Kathy Rossman, presented six young women with their high school diplomas and echoed Barbara’s statement by urging them to continue their education every day and to educate their children as well.  Certificates were also awarded to students who had made academic progress and to those who had participated in Lund’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Outeach Program.  Laura May Ackley who runs this program takes willing young mothers to schools to present the reality of teen pregnancy.  It is such a powerful teaching tool for students but can also be scary and sensitive for the moms presenting.  “I’ve seen your moments of weakness and I’ve seen your strengths,” said Laura May.  “I’ve seen your beauty and I’ve seen your scars.  Thank you for sharing your stories.”

Crystal Parent, one of the six graduates, was presented with the Kit Stone Humanitarian Award which is awarded each year to a young woman who had taken opportunities presented to her and made them work for herself, her family, her peers and her community.  Crystal is a successful graduate of New Horizons and recently left Lund’s residential program where she had been living with her two children.  Shes is now participating in a food services training program and learning valuable skills for future employment.  Treasurer Pearce read a letter from Governor Peter Shumlin congratulating Crystal on her achievement, “Completing one’s diploma is a major milestone, but I understand that you did not stop at educating yourself; you went on to share your knowledge with others at outreach events across Vermont.  I commend you for your hard work, for giving back to the community, and for you commitment to your future.”

Crystal with Vermont State Treasurer Beth Pearce as she reads a letter from Governor Shumlin.

Crystal with Vermont State Treasurer Beth Pearce as she reads a letter from Governor Shumlin.

By coming to New Horizons Educational Program and juggling the complexities of being a young mother, each of these students is showing their commitment to being in the 50% that do graduate from high school.  They are doing it for their themselves, of course, but more importantly they are doing it for their children.

Graduation Day for one hard working student, seen here with NHEP teacher Kathy Rossman.

Graduation Day for one hard working student, seen here with NHEP teacher Kathy Rossman.

To see a wonderful news coverage of this event, please click here

February 11, 2014

Meet Gene Richards – Heart of the Community Award Winner!

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, Awards, Board of Trustees Spotlight, Volunteer Spotlight tagged , , , , , at 8:28 am by Lund

Gene Richards is a landlord managing over 250 rental properties in Burlington and Florida, Director of Aviation at Burlington International Airport, CEO and founder of Spruce Mortgage, a father, a husband, and the person that many Burlington non-profit organizations call when they need advice or need to get things done. “Initiative is Gene’s  middle name! All we do is tell him what we need or the difficulty we are facing and he takes it from there!   He is our go to guy and problem solver.  If we have a need we can’t meet, we call Gene and he makes it happen,” says Barbara Rachelson, Executive Director at Lund.

Gene Richards was nicknamed "Eugenius" by a friend who the then recruited to volunteer at Lund, of course.

Gene Richards was nicknamed “Eugenius” by a friend who he then recruited to volunteer at Lund, of course.

Gene met Barbara when he was working on her house (oh, did we not mention that he is also a contractor?) and he soon came to visit Lund’s old building at Glen Road.  He was not impressed by what he saw and thought that the clients deserved better than the somewhat run down conditions. He joined the Buildings and Grounds committee and got to work.  It didn’t stop there and Gene has served on many committees at Lund and was jointly responsible for creating Lund’s most successful fundraiser to that point – a gala evening for 450 guests. 

Gene’s enthusiasm and energy for Lund is infectious.  He has recruited many other volunteers to help with all sorts of projects, including his own family.  Gene’s wife Julie has been the official photographer at many Lund events including the adoption picnic and the Ride for Children.  His sons, Stephen and Eugene have also been involved with collection drives and direct mail initiatives.  

It is unclear how Gene is able to be so dedicated to his family and friends, manage all the work that he does for different non-profits, run the airport (have you seen the recent expansions, focus on local businesses and innovative features there?) and his other business interests and still have time to sleep at night.  He is also the middle of the six degrees of separation for Burlington, in fact he reduces it to about one degree!  If you don’t know Gene, you know someone he knows or you know an organization that he helped to make strong.  He probably built the house that you live in and your boss in his brother-in-law.  There aren’t enough hours in the day for this to add up but however he does it, we’re so thankful that he does.  

“Gene is one of those amazing can do people.  He is eternally optimistic, has boundless energy and ideas and thinks big and creatively.   He is a fundraising force not to reckon with and has the biggest heart I know,” says Barbara.   Everyone at Lund is proud and delighted to be honoring Gene with a Heart of the Community Award this year.

 

January 31, 2014

“One of the Greatest Privileges of My Life” by Sara Byers, Vice President of Lund’s Board of Trustees.

Posted in Board of Trustees Spotlight, Events, Residential, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services tagged , , , , , , at 12:10 pm by Lund

Waking up at 4:55am this morning to meet my board colleagues for our ride to Montpelier, it felt early.  The sun was beginning to rise over the mountains as we made our way south along I-89.  The frigid temperatures were evident as my toes curled inside my boot for warmth.  However, the trip was worthwhile.  We were headed to the Vermont State House to represent Lund.

Opening the broad, heavy doors, we experienced the peace and beauty of the State House during the early morning hours.  As a former page in the legislature, I was immediately transformed to my days in a green jacket, feeling a pull to the Sergeant at Arms office to receive my daily tasks.  However, this time, as a grown up, I headed to the empty coat room to hang my jacket.  One of the most wonderful things about our State House is the ability to just walk in.  It truly does belong to the people.

Making our way up the stairs and into the cafeteria, there wasn’t a whole lot of activity.  Cleaning crews were apparent throughout, and the hustle and bustle of the day’s work was soon to begin.  We got to our destination and waited for a few minutes when our Lund staff team arrived.  They quickly focused on setting up our display, paperwork outlining our work, pins with our Lund logo.  As board members, we stood in awe – it was apparent they were used to this work and very committed to it.  A few other Board members joined us, along with more staff and our executive director, Barbara Rachelson, who was doing double duty as a legislator from Burlington.  As legislators, lobbyists and administration officials began to filter in, they were welcomed with free coffee, desserts and smiling faces.

The room quickly filled up with people eager for their caffeine infusion.  As they engaged in conversation, they were immediately drawn in by our amazing staff.  These dedicated people were able to answer any questions directed to them.  Their passion and dedication was infectious.  They were superstars, dedicating their lives to improving the lives of others.  It is no wonder that Lund is able to achieve the outcomes they do with these individuals working at it day in and day out.  It got me thinking about my own family.  These staff members are one of the reasons two of my young relatives are thriving today.  If there was ever a question about their work, I could validate it.  With a drug problem and nowhere to go, Lund took in a close relative when she was pregnant.  The Lund program was incredibly comprehensive, teaching life skills along with parenting skills, helping her see the light at the end of a long tunnel.  Months later, her children were born free of illicit substances and ready to take on the world.  Today, they are almost eleven.  I can’t imagine our family without their smiles, life and humor.  If it wasn’t for Lund taking her in when she needed it, I’m not sure where these beautiful children would be today…..I shudder thinking about it.  These compassionate Lund professionals cared enough to make a difference.  The individuals who supported Lund with financial help made a difference.  The State who supported many of Lund’s programs made a difference.

As I looked at the crowd of legislators around our table, I was overcome by the attention and dedication shown by our elected leaders.  These individuals truly cared about Vermont and its people, and were genuinely interested in hearing about Lund’s work.  Many legislators were eager to stop by and visit our facilities, others spoke of their personal connection with Lund and some were looking forward to joining us at our Heart of the Community celebration.  The people working under the Golden Dome understood the value of Lund’s work and its place in our greater community.

As the Board Vice President, I was incredibly humbled this morning; humbled to be surrounded by so many people doing amazing work; humbled by our Lund team and their passion for improving the lives of families; humbled to be able to give back to an organization that had given me so much; humbled for the opportunity to represent this almost 125 year old institution.  When the legislative day was called to order, the Speaker recognized Barbara Rachelson, who in turn welcomed the Lund team to the House Chamber.  As I stood to be recognized, the applause was overwhelming.   I was honored, filled with pride and emotion.   The opportunity to work with Lund’s incredible board and talented staff in this wonderful state is one of the greatest privileges of my life.

Sara (second from right) at the Statehouse with board colleagues and staff members.

Sara (second from right) at the Statehouse with board colleagues and staff members.

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