Spotlight: Governor’s Service Award Winners

Posted On September 15, 2014 By | 2 Comments on Spotlight: Governor’s Service Award Winners

The Governor’s Service Awards, honoring Vermonters who are dedicated to helping their communities, took place on Friday and coincided with AmeriCorps’ 20th anniversary.  Overall, it was a day full of joy, appreciation, and dedication to service.

Dealer.com: Winner Governor’s Service Award in Corporate category

Dealer.com has been incredibly supportive in the COTS mission.  Since our partnership began three years ago, Dealer has been a corporate sponsor of our COTS Walk in 2012, 2013 and 2014.  They have given $6,000 in sponsorship of the Walk to date.

Dealer.com accepting a Governor’s Service Award

In addition to their monetary support, Dealer.com is invested in providing volunteers to the community.   Dealer has been especially active in the COTS Daystation meal program.   All groups who prepare Daystation meals are asked to donate and prepare enough food for 50 people.  This includes a main meal and a fresh veggie side.

Through Dealer.com’s Employee Volunteer Program, they have provided at least 40 volunteers who have donated and prepared meals for the Daystation on six different occasions in the past year — they provided meals in October, November and December of 2013.  Theses volunteers made hot noontime meals for 300 homeless adult individuals in our community.  In addition, they have already committed to sending four more volunteer groups to the Daystation this upcoming October and November.  That will be another 200 meals donated and prepared for homeless adult individuals before the end of 2014.

Dealer also organized a business-wide collection drive in February 2014 to collect socks for homeless individuals and families in the community.  750 Dealer.com employees (94% of their entire workforce) worked together and made a significant donation of 750 pairs of wool and synthetic outdoor socks to COTS.

The community receiving the strongest and most direct impact from Dealer has been the clients at the COTS Daystation.  The Daystation is a daytime drop-in shelter that is open seven days a week, offering a refuge from the streets and access to an array of services and medical care.  Staff provides support, assistance and referrals, as well as educational and recreational opportunities whenever possible.

The Daystation is purposely designed to be a low-threshold support system in order to offer an entry point into services for those who have slipped the furthest through the cracks of standard community support systems.  Dealer’s impact is so significant because it is often the free noontime meal served each day that first brings homeless adults into the shelter.

By investing their time, energy, and creativity into the lunch program, Dealer.com is ensuring that the draw of the noontime meal increases and in turn brings more people into the Daystation.  Newcomers and individuals who share a meal with Daystation guests and staff are making connections and developing trust that will hopefully lead to connections to case-management and goals towards moving back into housing.

Dealer.com’s sock drive also had a significant positive impact among those whom COTS serves.  Good foot health is so important to the homeless and precariously housed individuals and families we serve, especially in the winter time, when those without shelter are often forced to stay on their feet for long periods of time while out in frigid temperatures.  Having a good pair of warm socks goes a long way in those situations.  Dealer’s collection drive provided 750 adults in the community with warm feet.

Dealer.com has also made an impact on the COTS community on an agency-wide level by committing sponsorship dollars to the COTS Walk over the past three years.  Sponsors are so important to our Walk event because their monetary support ensures that every dollar raised by walkers will go directly to shelter, support services, and innovative prevention solutions for community members in need.  That means that of the $179,000 we raised from walkers this year, none will go towards covering event expenses.  Instead, that full amount will go directly towards making an impact on the community COTS serves.

Dealer.com stands out as a community business partner and as employee volunteers because their commitment to our organization is a thoughtful, comprehensive, and ongoing one.  Many businesses in the community have shown interest in providing a one-time meal to the Daystation meal program, but few have scheduled multiple meals the way Dealer has done.

Dealer’s employees are always extremely thoughtful and creative with the meals they plan.  The Daystation Manager, Tim Coleman, was especially enthusiastic after one of their meals last fall: “Dealer.com strikes again with a fantastic spaghetti lunch with a strawberry spinach salad, fruit salad and cookies. Clients who were leaving the Daystation after eating were heard to comment it was the best meal they have had in months.”

In order for the Daystation meal program to remain sustainable, we rely on repeat donations from volunteers — in that way, Dealer.com serves as an excellent role model for other businesses and volunteer groups in the community looking to get involved.  Their corporate culture, which includes a paid employee volunteer program, demonstrates a serious commitment to volunteerism in the community and sets an amazing example for other local businesses.

Beyond their volunteer contributions, though, they stand out because they have offered their business expertise to our organization’s leadership.  COTS board member and Dealer.com’s Director of Engagement, Sean Collins, has partnered with COTS to develop strategies to improve quality across the agency by improving and implementing goals.  In particular, Sean has worked with COTS leadership to practice using the SMART goals structure (Specific, Measureable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound).  Now COTS leadership is working with all staff to improve goals to enhance work and professional development.

 

Blue Star Mothers: Winner, Adult Volunteer Group

The Blue Star Mothers are a group of volunteers who run a small non-profit with a mission to support veterans and their families.  Almost from the very moment we first opened Canal Street Veterans Housing in the spring of 2011, the Blue Star Mothers have provided volunteers to this program.  Every month they cook a dinner for the veterans living at Canal Street, something that is looked forward to by everyone living there.

Blue Star Mothers accepting Award from Gov. Shumlin

In addition to preparing and donating a monthly meal the Blue Star Mothers often drop off groceries and leftover food from other events in the community.  These donations are very helpful to the veterans living at Canal Street.  Food is a basic need, and having some of those costs covered by volunteer donations gives veterans more flexibility in their budgets for other expenses they may have.

The Blue Star Mothers are also a major volunteer presence over the winter holiday season.  They provide a festive meal for every major holiday.  This past May, they even made a special meal to celebrate Memorial Day with the veterans.  The residents are especially appreciative of the staple meals of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s that the Blue Star Mother volunteers prepare every year.

In addition to the shared community Thanksgiving meal that the Blue Star Mothers made this year, they donated several additional turkeys so that the veterans could have a private meal with their family as well.

One of the most important things that the Blue Star Mothers provide to the veterans living in Canal Street is the sense of community that comes when a group shares a meal.  The Canal Street residence is intentionally designed to have shared community spaces and an atmosphere conducive to residents spending time together.  The contributions of the Blue Star Mothers are so significant because they seize upon that philosophy — their Sunday meals are gifts that add an additional layer of community to the residents in a way that is comfortable and unobtrusive.

By donating their time, energy, and resources to create a nutritious meal once a month, the Blue Star Mothers create a space for conversation and relationship building among the veterans.  Speaking to the veterans about why this service of the Blue Star Mothers is so special to them, it becomes clear that their thoughtful choices when serving healthy and fresh meals are a big part of it.  But beyond the cooking, veterans appreciate that the volunteers join in and eat with them too.  The Blue Star Mothers are always generous with the veterans, even doing dishes after community meals.

The efforts of the Blue Star Mothers to develop and strengthen the connections among the veterans living in the Canal Street Housing have been hugely successful.  And just as important, their service in Canal Street creates ties between the veterans and the outside community.  With each meal donated and every community partner leveraged to make these shared meals possible, the Blue Star Mothers raise awareness in the veterans that they can rely on a larger community, one that extends beyond Canal Street, for caring neighbors who will support them moving forward.

The Blue Star Mothers stand out from other volunteer groups that donate meals and food to Canal Street for a lot of reasons.  One is the fact that all of the Blue Star Mother volunteers are family members of veterans and already educated on and invested in issues that are important to the veteran community.  The veteran community is very tightly knit, so the fact that the Blue Star Mothers already have deep and meaningful ties to that veteran community allows the veterans living at Canal Street to accept their support more readily.

The Blue Star Mothers also stand out because the Canal Street Veterans Housing program is stronger for their volunteer efforts.  They are invested in the success of these veterans and want to see them graduate the program and achieve their goals of moving into permanent housing.

To that effect, and one of the most inspiring things about this volunteer group, the Blue Star Mothers give $200 to each veteran when he or she graduates the program and moves into permanent housing. This money helps to cover move-in costs, furniture purchases, and utility setup fees. Beyond their generous monetary gift to each graduating veteran, the Blue Star Mothers also work with veterans to help them find furniture and other basic need items for their new places.

 

Katherine Mansfield: Winner National Service Participant

Kathrine Mansfield, the VYDC AmeriCorps member serving as the Children’s Programming Specialist in family shelter, has done excellent service in the year she’s been with COTS.  Her efforts are primarily focused on getting kids living in shelter active and eating healthy.

So proud of our AmeriCoprs Member, Katherine Mansfield!

Kathrine recently launched Vermont’s first snack program in a family shelter. The new program debuted at the Main Street Family Shelter, which hosts 10 families each night.  The program she developed offers healthy snacks and meals to children and provides structured after-school time for children in shelter.

With the help of volunteers under Kathrine’s supervision, healthy snacks are served from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. On Tuesday nights, they prepare and serve a full dinner with the children.  The children living in shelter have consistently attended this programming and often speak to how much they enjoy snack time.

In addition to fostering healthier eating habits in the children living in shelter, Kathrine has focused on coupling better food choices with more physical activity.  Kathrine, who has a background in dance, has incorporated dance classes into the children’s programming at COTS family shelters.  Kathrine also frequently organizes visits to the YMCA throughout the year for the kids in shelter, works to find scholarships for camps during the summertime, and connects volunteers who are interested in fitness for the children staying in shelter.

The children living in family shelter have been exposed to so many wonderful new programs due to Kathrine’s dedicated service.  Staff and families living in shelter see the positive influences of the snack program in the choices the children make around food.  One specific example of this is the children’s new found love of sweet potato chips.  Since learning how to make this healthy snack alternative, children in shelter are often found eating these home-made chips.   Doritos used to be a favorite snack among the kids in shelter, but now, they are more interested in the sweet potato chips.

Kathrine also has the kids helping out in the family shelter garden, growing all kinds of fresh vegetables that are then incorporated into the menu in the snack program.  Now fresh veggies are a lot more popular snack item in family shelter.  Her efforts are so important because she’s helping kids develop healthy eating habits that they can take with them into adulthood.  And in terms of a larger community impact, snack programming in shelter works to address the nation’s food scarcity and obesity epidemic, which hits families who are homeless particularly hard.

Kathrine’s dance classes have also had a profound impact on the children and families living in shelter.  Under Kathrine’s guidance, the children have experimented with lots of different kinds of dance, from classical ballet and modern dance to breakdancing and acrobatics.  The amazing thing is how much the kids have taken what they’ve learned and made it their own.  It is not uncommon to find children who have participated in Kathrine’s dance classes busy choreographing their own movements and motions.

One of the most exciting impacts of the class has been watching the children learn from one another and be inspired by the different movements of their peers.  Dance empowers these kids to grow their confidence and realize their unique talents.  They will continue to use the physical, mental, and emotional skills they have learned from dance as they move throughout their lives.

Kathrine stands out because she is so driven and passionate in her AmeriCorps service to the children living in family shelter.  She makes every effort to provide these kids with opportunities that will teach them healthy lifestyle habits, but will also allow them to escape the very real stresses that can exist for kids and families living in a shelter situation.

Kathrine is a strong role model too, because she shares her passion and excitement for service with the volunteers she has brought into shelter.  Children’s programming has becoming much more robust under her tenor and volunteers have more diversified responsibilities under her guidance.

The dance program in particular has produced inspiration among staff and families in shelter.  One time in a dance class, a parent who had always been quiet and withdrawn was moved by her children’s joy in dancing to step forward and start dancing too.  This was someone that had always been extremely reserved, but who was suddenly so connected to what was happening in that moment and to her family.  Dance can forge powerful connections between people from different places and across different ages when shared in the same space.

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2 responses to “Spotlight: Governor’s Service Award Winners”

  1. Richard Mansfield says:

    Kathrine Mansfield is my niece and I cannot be more proud of what she has accomplished. Kathrine has always been active in community programs and her best days are still ahead. Great Job.