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.

 

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.

 

September 2, 2014

Angel in Adoption – Judge Susan Fowler

Posted in Adoption, Awards tagged , , , , , at 7:39 am by Lund

Lund is so pleased to congratulate Judge Susan Fowler on winning an Angel in Adoption Award from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.  The award is given to an individual, family or organization who has made an exceptional difference in the lives of children looking for families.  Judge Fowler has overseen the finalization of over 1000 adoptions in the state and has worked with Lund for many years.  “We are very lucky to have a judge that is so passionate about adoption and the importance of belonging and family. Judge Fowler makes every adoption unique and special,” says Wanda Audette, Director of Adoption at Lund.   Judge Fowler’s most special duty is to pound the gavel and sign the paperwork and in so doing, create forever families.

“Judge Fowler is a huge part of our adoption community,” says Julia Conner, Private Adoption Coordinator at Lund. “She treats birth parents with dignity, respect, fairness, and understanding. She helps our adoptive families commemorate an incredibly important moment in their lives and approaches adoption finalizations with humor, music and joy; putting families at ease and creating a lasting and memorable experience.”

While a joyful situation, the finalization can also be nerve wracking for families and as an adoptive parent herself as well as a judge with such extensive experience, Judge Fowler does everything she can to help ease the situation.  Lund’s Case Finalization Manager, Karisa Thompson, has seen this first hand during the eight years she has worked with Judge Fowler.  “When adoptive families arrive at court, they are generally nervous, excited, and relieved all at the same time.  Judge Fowler plays jazz music so when families enter the courtroom, they are reminded that they are there to celebrate their family and the music puts them at ease.   She is a ray of sunshine at the end of a long, difficult process for our foster children and adoptive families.  She is personable, happy, and takes each hearing in stride based on how the child is reacting.  I have seen her stop talking and sit back with a smile on her face as a toddler spun and danced in circles in the court room and if a child was fearful or screaming, she just talks faster so the family can move on with the celebration.  Judge Fowler makes every adoption a special celebration.”

Judge Susan Fowler, Vermont's 2014 Angel In Adoption.

Judge Susan Fowler, Vermont’s 2014 Angel In Adoption – “A ray of sunshine”

Judge Fowler’s top priority is always to ensure permanency for children as soon as possible. “She is extremely flexible and consistently works in the best interest of children.  She maintains open communication with Lund and has scheduled extra hearings for children to be adopted before Christmas and even arranged for a last minute hearing so a child could be adopted the day before her eighteenth birthday.  Judge Fowler does not hesitate to call and ask a question about an adoption packet and is always willing to help advocate on behalf of Lund when confronted with issues regarding other probate courts,” says Karisa.

Judge Fowler will be recognized at the Angel in Adoption Gala on Wednesday, September 17 in Washington, D.C.

For more information about adoption in Vermont and Judge Fowler’s award, please watch the following news coverage from WCAX.

http://www.wcax.com/category/166239/video-landing-page?clipId=10517653&autostart=true

http://www.wcax.com/story/26377101/meet-a-real-life-angel-in-adoption

November 19, 2013

The Elizabeth Lund Employee of the Year 2013 – Graham Kidder

Posted in Adoption, Awards, Employees, Foster Care Program, Project Family tagged , , , , , , at 8:00 am by Lund

When Graham Kidder was announced at the all staff retreat as the Elizabeth Lund Employee of the Year, everyone jumped to their feet in congratulatory applause.   Graham is a permanency planning counselor who works with the Brattleboro and Springfield Department of Children and Families offices in southern Vermont.  Over the past twelve and a half years he has finalized the adoption for over 300 children previously in foster care.

“Graham doesn’t just sit back and wait for things to happen,” said Wanda Audette, Director of Adoption who presented Graham with the award, “he makes them happen.  He is a streadfast support, creative thinker and an immense resource.  He believes that adults really need to listen to children and that their voices deserve to be heard.   It is Graham’s absolute insistence that it is not OK to settle for good enough.”

Wanda Audette (left) and Barbara Rachelson (right) with The Elizabeth Lund Employee of the Quarter 2013 Graham Kidder.

Wanda Audette (left) and Barbara Rachelson (right) with The Elizabeth Lund Employee of the Quarter 2013 Graham Kidder.

Wanda told two stories that illustrated Graham’s dedication to his work.  She spoke of a little boy who had been very close to the finalization of his adoption when the pre-adoptive family decided that they could not go forward with the adoption.  This was a devastating blow for the child.  Graham immediately sprang into action and worked very closely with the boy and his team to identify another placement.  He had to think creatively to find a placement but did so and worked with the family to support them through the finalization of this adoption.  This boy has a forever family because Graham understood and prioritized the importance of  family.   Wanda also spoke of a 15 year old girl who Graham drove with to Massachusetts so that she could be featured as an Adopt US Kids Wednesday’s child which is something that cannot be done in Vermont due to different adoption regulations.  Graham stops at nothing to find homes for children and in so doing has also become a valuable resource for other adoption workers  with difficult or problematic cases.

Graham feels overwhelmed and honored by the award and spoke of how much he enjoys his relationship with other adoption workers at Lund despite the geographical distance.  “I have to  make independent decisions based upon what a certain situation calls for in the moment, since I work so far away from Lund and I am thankful for the support I have in doing that.    When asked about something that reinforces the importance of his job, he spoke of a girl who he had helped to find a family for being a counselor at his daughter’s camp last summer.  “It was wonderful to see how far she has come and how confident she is now.”  There is no doubt that Graham takes on his work with compassion, understanding and real pride.

Wanda read congratulatory words from his children at the end of her address that sum up the award very well. “We are so proud that you help kids get a family. Every kid deserves a nice home and you work very hard to help them have that. Kids are so lucky to have you to help them find their family. You must make them feel good because you help them to feel that everything will be ok.”

Congratulations Graham on your award and the wonderful work that you do every day.  Lund and the children of Vermont are so lucky to have you.

October 7, 2013

Sunshine and Smiles at the 16th Annual Adoption Picnic

Posted in Adoption, Employees, Events, Foster Care Program, Project Family tagged , , , , , , , at 8:10 am by Lund

“I expected something small, a few people on a picnic blanket…not this,” said one adoptive parent as he looked around in amazement at Lund’s 16th Annual Adoption Picnic last weekend.  Over 500 people attended the event which celebrates adoption and adoptive families with food, entertainment and companionship.    It is the largest statewide event for adoptive families in Vermont and even attracts guests from out of state.  “The Adoption Picnic is one of the few places in Vermont where adopted children get to see and meet other children who are adopted and look like them, it gives children a sense of sameness which is so important,” says Toni Yandow who works in adoption at Lund.

Inside the Inventor's Workshop, anything goes!

Inside the Inventor’s Workshop, anything goes!  (Photo credit: Kim Keefe)

This year’s event was held at the Champlain Valley Fairgrounds and the beautiful weather ensured that the bouncy houses, climbing wall, and fire truck outside were big hits.  Inside were arts and crafts activities, face painting, circus skills training, a clown and an inventor’s workshop where kids were actively encouraged to make a mess!

The picnic was hosted by the adoption department at Lund with help from 74 volunteers from Lund, St. Michael’s College and the community and could not happen without their enthusiastic help.  It was a very happy event full of people enjoying being together as a family.  There were couples shining with pride with brand new babies and families with many older adopted children attending the picnic for the tenth time.   Each family setup was different but they all had reason to celebrate adoption.    “The Adoption Picnic is important because it celebrates family,” says Wanda Audette, Director of Adoption at Lund.  “Families come together and we are able to witness our mission coming to life.  No child or family is left behind and our hearts are full.”

Wanda addresses the crowd before the circus show begins

Wanda addresses the crowd before the circus show begins

Last year Lund finalized 188 adoptions and 170 of these were of older children through Project Family, our nationally acclaimed partnership with the Vermont Department of Children and Families.   The tangible effect of this work was so clear at this event as families who came together through adoption spent the day celebrating under the sun of a beautiful late September afternoon.   “It’s her favorite day of the year,” said one mom of her daughter.  It’s one of our favorites too.

Not a cloud in the sky!

Not a cloud in the sky!

October 2, 2013

An Impressive Milestone for Karisa!

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, Adoption, Employees, Project Family tagged , , , , at 10:29 am by Lund

Karisa Thompson is the finalization case manager at Lund and she works with our adoptive families in the final stages of their process to bring children into forever families.  Wanda Audette, Director of Adoption, stopped me the other day to ask that I come and take a photo of Karisa as she had reached the amazing milestone of her 500th finalization.  By the time I could take a photo she had reached 504.  By the time you read this, the total has probably jumped up yet again!

Finalization is the point in time where the court grants the petition to adopt of the adoptive parents and the child officially becomes part of the family.  The children can be anywhere from six months old to 17 years and 364 days old.  It is an exciting, joyful and celebratory time and is the end of the legal process of adoption.  “I love being in court,” says Karisa. “I like looking at the parents’ faces and the child’s face.  You can see a huge sigh of relief.  OK it’s done, I have them, they’re not going anywhere.”

Karisa has worked at Lund for nine years, seven of those in the adoption department.  She usually has around 30 children on her caseload at any time.  Some other impressive statistics to end:  Karisa once finalized six adoptions in one day and in her busiest month she finalized 15!

Thank you Karisa for all that you do to make forever families.

Karisa "500" Thompson at her desk at 50 Joy Drive.

Karisa “500” Thompson at her desk at 50 Joy Drive.

 

September 11, 2013

Project Family Wins Prestigious Congressional ‘Angel In Adoption’ Award

Posted in 50 Joy Drive, Adoption, Awards, DCF, Project Family tagged , , , , , at 3:37 pm by Lund

Wanda Audette, Director of Adoption at Lund was in meetings all day in Brattleboro on Monday and it took a call from Executive Director, Barbara Rachelson, to make her pause and step out of the meeting.  Barbara had important news to share.  Project Family, an innovative partnership between Lund and the Vermont Department of Children and Families headed by Wanda and Diane Dexter, Adoption Chief at DCF, had won an Angel in Adoption™ award from the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI).

“Receiving the Angel in Adoption™ is a wonderful honor,” says Wanda.  “ For me personally it reinforces that others agree with the importance that every child deserves a forever family that provides them with an unconditional relationship .  Having a family is a right for every child, not a privilege.”

Wanda in her office in Lund's new building at 50 Joy Drive.

Wanda in her office in Lund’s new building at 50 Joy Drive.

The  Angel in Adoption™ program is the CCAI’s signature public awareness campaign and provides an opportunity for all members of the U.S. Congress to honor the good work of their constituents who have enriched the lives of foster children and orphans in the United States and abroad.  Each year, more than 140 Angels are honored through the Angel in Adoption™ program.

Project Family was founded in 2000 when Diane learned that children were being brought in from out of state to be adopted in Vermont and Wanda learned that there  was a list of children waiting in foster homes in Vermont who had been deemed unadoptable.  For both women, this was unacceptable.  “We at Project Family believe that there are no unadoptable children only unfound homes and we are committed to making sure that every child has a family,” says Wanda.

“It’s really wonderful to win this award.   If you had told me 20 years ago that we would be where we are now, I wouldn’t have believed you.  It’s an amazing feat of collaboration. The DCF family service social workers work with the DCF Project Family staff and the Lund Project Family staff to achieve the highest degree of permanence and well-being for every child.   The most important thing is the continuity of care providers in children’s lives,”says Diane.

Last year (July 1st 2012 – June 30th 2013) 170 children were adopted through Project Family.  This is an amazing change from the statistics before the forming of Project Family.  Another radically improved statistic is that the median time between custody and adoption is 23.8 months.   A vast improvement and under the state’s goal of 24 months. Children are joining forever families because of Project Family.

Wanda and Diane will attend a gala in Washington D.C. on October 9th where all the angels from around the country and three celebrity recipients (Korie and Willie Robertson from ‘Duck Dynasty’ and Deborra Lee Furness Jackman) will be honored for their contributions to finding homes for children through adoption.

Both of the ladies will be familiar with the lay of the land in D.C as both have won this award before once each individually and once together.  To win again is a wonderful achievement and such a great opportunity to bring awareness to foster care adoption in Vermont.  One adoptive parents says of Wanda, “You know what? They say that there are no angels on earth but I think that there are some and that they just hide their wings well.  I think that Wanda is one of those people.”

Everyone at Lund is very proud of the work of Project Family, Wanda, Diane and staff members both at Lund and at DCF who strive every day to find homes for children.  CONGRATULATIONS!

Learn more about Project Family

September 3, 2013

Charmed by Charity for Lund

Posted in Adoption, Donor Spotlight, Events tagged , , , , , at 3:16 pm by Lund

There were ladybugs, mermaids, blue crystals and energy punch at a recent party hosted by Wanda Audette, Director of Adoption and Barbara Rachelson, Executive Director but it wasn’t a practice for Halloween.  It was a Charmed By Charity event for Lund at Alex and Ani in Burlington.  The whimsical charm bracelets, popular with celebrities such as Sandra Bullock, Paul McCartney and our very own Wanda, are a signature item of the company.  Alex and Ani is a nationwide chain of jewelry stores founded by Carolyn Rafaelian based on the principle that everyone has a positive message to share with the world and that jewelry can be a beautiful and effective way to do this.  Carolyn is also passionately dedicated to helping local organizations in the communities where her stores are located and so the Charmed by Charity concept was born. 

During the party for Lund, 15% of the profits of jewelry sold went to Lund.  This amounted to about $400.  This money will go directly into our programs to help women and children thrive.  “I am grateful to the folks at our local Alex and Ani store for their support and help in hosting an event for Lund and very grateful to all who came out that night to shop and raise money for Lund,”  says Barbara.  “It was a fun evening and an enjoyable way for folks to come out and raise money for Lund while buying products made in America.”

Barbara, Wanda, guests and Alex and Ani staff members enjoy the festivities.

Barbara, Wanda, guests and Alex and Ani staff members enjoy the festivities.

June 13, 2013

A Lund Adoption Story

Posted in Adoption tagged , , , , at 3:42 pm by Lund

“For us it was never about the process because we were so well taken care of with Lund; it was about the result.  It was about their lives.  My boys were dealt a pretty rough hand from the start and I saw this as my chance to give them an opportunity at a really good life.  People ask me why would I adopt and I just ask them, “Why wouldn’t I?”  Without Lund my life would be very different, my wife’s life would be very different, my family’s life would be very different.  The realities of now far exceed what might have been.”

overcome

Mike is the adoptive father of two boys, now aged 9 and 7.  He and his wife adopted their sons through Lund as infants.  It wasn’t a straight forward procedure but as he repeatedly says, they were all in from the start and committed to doing whatever needed to be done to bring their boys home to a forever family.

They found Lund initially through a colleague who had himself adopted through Lund.   “It was frightening and exciting at the same time,” says Mike as he begins to tell the story.  “We didn’t know how many questions we had until we started asking them.  But Lund held our hands and steered us through.”

Mike and his wife, Susan, had already begun the process with Lund when the opportunity for a private adoption, outside of Lund, arose.  They talked with Wanda Audette, Lund’s Director of Adoption, who advised them to do what felt right.  They kept Lund informed about what was happening as they moved forward in this adoption and in the background Wanda counseled and supported them.  While driving to pick up the baby from the hospital in North Carolina, the birth mother’s social worker called and told them that she had changed her mind.  They were devastated and after first telling their families, the second call they made was to Wanda. They told her that this wouldn’t deter them, they still wanted to adopt.

A few months later, Wanda called and said that they had been selected to be the family for twins – a boy and a girl.  About two hours later, Mike received a call saying that his office was being closed and that he would be without a job. Not wanting to deplete their savings and cause problems for their older children, they had to turn down that opportunity. Lund fully supported their decision. “But things happen for a reason,” says Mike, “I just needed to get back to sustainable employment and then we were ready again.  In the meantime we visited Lund several times and we became more and more enamored with the organization as we learned about all the other things that it did.”

Soon another call came. There was a baby boy in Baltimore.  “Wanda held our hands all the way through and again encouraged us to do what we felt was right.  We jumped on it and drove down to Baltimore, not knowing what to expect,’ says Mike.   “Wanda kept in communication with us and reassured us at every turn.  72 hours later, we had James.”

Mike spent some time at home with the baby and in about 7 or 8 months, they were ready to adopt again.  They went through the whole process again and after another 8 months they received a call, again from Baltimore, saying that there was another baby boy waiting to join their family.  They packed up James, now 17 months old, and drove down to Maryland.  It was July and desperately hot.  They found themselves in the middle of an extremely destitute neighborhood surrounded by boarded up tenements and trash lying in the streets.  They were a long way from their home in Vermont.  They met the birth mother at an agency that was very different from Lund, “It was very businesslike, very corporate.  With Lund it was more familial.”

Their second adoption was more complicated.  They were dealing with three different states, things got hung up and the expected 72 hour turnaround stretched to 8 days.  Mike, Susan and James were cooped up in a one room efficiency waiting for their new baby, Henry, to come home to them.  Mike was working, Susan was nervous to leave the hotel and James was busting out of the walls of that one room, during the hottest part of the summer.  They called Wanda at least twice a day for reassurance.  It was a stressful situation and all they could do was wait.  After 9 days they got the call that they could go and pick up baby Henry.  It was 6pm.  They drove home to Vermont straight away and when they arrived, James was so happy to be home that he ran around the house for an hour and a half.  Their family was there, it was a happy scene.  Nobody cared that it was 4am.

“James plays sports – baseball, football, hockey. He is half a head taller than kids a year older than him.  But he’s so gentle and sensitive. Henry is 50lbs soaking wet and not interested in sports at all.  He couldn’t be a happier kid” says Mike smiling, as he talks about his sons.  “I couldn’t love them more.  I think about those little guys every minute. They know they’re adopted.  It hasn’t caused any problems yet and we’ll handle it as best we can if it does.  I’m in it for the long haul and I know Lund is too.  When I’m 130 and my sons are wiping oatmeal off my chin, I know Lund will be there.”

“You know what? They say that there are no angels on earth but I think that there are some and that they just hide their wings well.  I think that Wanda is one of those people.”

You can support Lund’s many programs, including adoption, by making a donation.

Thank you.

April 1, 2013

Supporting hope and changing lives: tireless volunteers honored by Lund

Posted in Awards, Volunteer Spotlight tagged , , , , , at 2:12 pm by Lund

Ann Bielawski, James Pizzagalli and Theresa Tomasi receive Heart of the Community Awards

“Great organizations make great communities,” said James Pizzagalli, one of Lund’s 2013 Heart of the Community Award winners at the awards dinner on March 28th and he made it clear that he sees Lund as one of these great organizations.  Lund feels strongly about Pizzagalli too.  His niece, Lisa Pizzagalli, who is  President of Lund’s Board of Trustees introduced him as a “tremendous leader with a  continued focus on children and families.”  James  Pizzagalli, of Shelburne, served on the Lund board for nine years from 1982 to 1991 and has continued to be a generous supporter and advisor as Lund has grown and changed over the years.  He played an especially important role in helping Lund to secure a new building at 50 Joy Drive, the former home of Pizzagalli Properties.  “Lund has developed into a tremendous organization,” said Pizzagalli, “and it’s great to be a part of it.”

Pizzagalli was not the only community member honored at the ceremony last Thursday night.  Ann Bielawski and Theresa Tomasi were also celebrated for the impact that they have had on the women and children at Lund over the years.

Bielawski, of Charlotte, began by baking cookies for volunteers at a Lund phonathon and hasn’t looked back since.  She has worked tirelessly on many projects varying from serving on the archives committee preserving Lund’s history, engaging members of Charlotte Congregational Church to also support Lund, putting together Back-to-School backpacks to filling in for the nurse at the residential treatment facility.  “I am so grateful to be here,” says Bielawski, “and grateful to be a volunteer at Lund.”

“Theresa is Lund,” said Wanda Audette, Director of Adoption at Lund, as she introduced Theresa Tomasi mother of 27 children and recipient of a Heart of the Community Award.  “I am inspired by her dedication to the growth and potential of her children and her family,” continued Audette.   Tomasi, of Williston, served as Executive Director at Lund and was the one who hired Audette.   “Lund has been very important to me, professionally and personally.  I am so grateful to Lund and so grateful for all my children,”  said Tomasi who was joined at the awards dinner by five of her children all of whom had been adopted.

The dinner was held at the Burlington Country Club and the delicious meal was augmented by chocolates donated by Lake Champlain Chocolates and cupcakes from My Little Cupcake that well very well received by the guests.  Thank you to both of these businesses for their support.

Ann Bielawski with friends from Charlotte Congregational Church

Ann Bielawski with friends from Charlotte Congregational Church

Lund is so grateful for the support of all three of these wonderful honorees and the many and varied ways in which they uphold the mission of Lund to help children and families thrive.   Their vision, perseverance and love is felt through every aspect of the organization.

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