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Community Initiatives
Below are examples of UWWC’s collaborations to address community needs:

Community Day of Caring
UWWC holds this annual day of volunteer service to mobilize the caring power of the community to provide assistance to Windham County’s nonprofit organizations, which all do so much every day to help the residents of our county. 2012 will be our third annual Community Day of Caring and we invite community members of all ages and abilities to join hands-on volunteer projects to benefit human service organizations in Windham County. In 2011, Day of Caring was held just six days after Tropical Storm Irene devastated our region. We were heartened and inspired by the huge response by our community - over 200 volunteers mobilized to help their neighbors after the storm, as well as nonprofit organizations that provide vital services year round. Teams of volunteers participated from area businesses, civic and faith-based groups, and schools, among others. The 2011 event was sponsored by Entergy and was also supported by essential in-kind donations from: Leader Beverage, C&S Wholesale Grocers, Bruegger’s, WTSA, Vermont Bread Company, Vermont Country Deli, and Green Mountain Coffee. Our next Day of Caring will take place on Saturday, September 1, 2012 – please join us as a volunteer or project site!

Disaster Response
Brooks House Fire Fund (established in April 2011 in response to a fire in an historic building on Main Street in Brattleboro)
Before the smoke had even cleared, the Brattleboro area community had rallied around its neighbors in need after a devastating fire to an historic building on Main Street, housing tenants and businesses. Fortunately, no one was injured and in the subsequent days, weeks and months, the United Way of Windham County helped facilitate appropriate triage for the tenants with a wide variety of human service providers, received donations from various benefits, including Unity for Community, the Stakeout restaurant, Race for a Reason at SIT, and the Hooker-Dunham Theater. All proceeds from these benefits and donations to the Brooks House Fire Fund were made available to Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) to meet the long-term needs of the tenants.

Southeastern Vermont Irene Long Term Recovery Committee (LTRC) – Advisory Board
In the devastating wake of Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011, United Way of Windham County began to convene human service providers, as we had after the Brooks House Fire. With guidance and support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Volunteer Agency Liaisons that were assisting Windham County, this weekly meeting transformed into a Long Term Recovery Committee, comprised of a wide range of community stakeholders, including emergency management, human service providers, the faith community, and state government, to assess the damage on a human scale and link those affected by the storm to all available resources. Financial support for Vermont poured in from across the nation and throughout the world and the Southeastern Vermont Disaster Recovery Fund was established, with UWWC as its fiscal agent. UWWC also heads the Volunteer Coordination committee of the LTRC, ensuring that needs identified through the assessment process can be linked to the human resources available, utilizing volunteers with a variety of skill levels.

Wilder Fire Fund (established in December 2005 in response to a fire in an historic building on Main Street in Brattleboro)
UWWC was the fiscal agent for the fund established to benefit the residential victims of this fire. All donations to the Wilder Fire Fund were made available to the tenants to meet their long-term needs.

Early Education
Building Bright Futures of Southeastern Vermont
United Way of Windham County is represented on the Brattleboro District Building Bright Futures Council, one of twelve Regional Councils (one in each Agency of Human Services District). Building Bright Futures seeks to assure that all Vermont children are healthy and successful by improving the quality, affordability and accessibility of services for families with children under the age of six in the areas of health, early care and education. Each Regional Council coordinates regional programs and services, communicates local gaps in services to the State Council and develops and monitors regional plans for service delivery. The Building Bright Futures Council of Southeastern Vermont is taking action over the course of the next five years to promote the well-being of children in the Brattleboro AHS District. The Council’s plan includes:

  • Advocacy for an equitable and effective system of services and supports for children and families
  • Provision of professional development, mentoring, and leadership development to providers of early care, health and education
  • Advocacy for better working conditions for caregivers and educators of children and families
  • Meaningful opportunities for residents to participate in action to improve children’s quality of life.

United Way of Windham County’s Fund for Quality Early Education
In 2007, UWWC’s Board of Directors resolved to improve childcare by funding programs that impact the entire childcare system in Windham County. Rather than fund individual childcare programs, UWWC endeavored to improve the quality and financial stability of childcare on a system-wide basis and that will provide measurable outcomes. To that end, UWWC established the Fund for Quality Early Education to support early educators’ professional development and program enrichment. Our partner in this work is Windham Child Care Association, who serves as the fiscal agent and administrator of the funds. Founded as Vermont’s first child care resource and referral agency in 1981, Windham Child Care Association’s work with nearly 300 early educators now includes providing professional development opportunities. 

Through the Fund, early educators can apply for grants to assist them in professional development, such as paying for college courses, conferences and workshops, or mentoring.  They can also access funds for program enrichment, including special events, materials, and activities. In 2011, we added a program improvement category, for equipment and materials. Both UWWC and Windham Child Care Association expect that more early educators will be able to increase their participation in the STep Ahead Recognition System (STARS). The STARS program was instituted by Vermont’s Child Development Division in 2004 and recognizes the efforts of programs that go above and beyond regulatory standards. Since the STARS program’s initiation, Windham Child Care Association has also been assisting early educators in attaining STARS rankings. In February 2008, fewer than 10% of the early education providers in the Windham County were participating in the STARS program. In 2011, that number had risen to over 50%.

Applications to the Fund for Quality Early Education are accepted on a rolling basis, reviewed by a committee, and accepted until funds are exhausted.  There is no set grant amount, but awards average $500-$1,000 each.

FamilyWize Prescription Discount Program
Designed for people that have no insurance coverage or are underinsured, FamilyWize is a prescription discount card that can be presented to pharmacies by customers picking up their prescriptions. There is no enrollment, paperwork, eligibility or fee for customers to use the card. United Way recognizes that many people have insufficient health care coverage, no prescription coverage or need medications not covered by their insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or VA benefits. United Way, along with other community organizations and businesses, has been distributing FamilyWize prescription drug discount cards in Windham County since 2007, providing over $159,000 in savings to customers, at an average savings of 39%. FamilyWize cards are available at local pharmacies, businesses, employers, and through our office or on our website (www.unitedwaywindham.org). To access a list of participating pharmacies or for more information, visit www.FamilyWize.org.

Free Adult Dental Care Clinic
This event began in 2008 with Dr. John-Michael Stewart of Bennington Oral-Facial Surgery Associates, Dr. Louis Beaudette and Dr. Robert S. Ruhl, of Wilmington, Vermont. In 2011, the event took place across Southern Vermont with providers participating in Rutland, Manchester, Bennington, Wilmington and Brattleboro, in partnership with the United Ways of Rutland, Bennington and Windham Counties and the use of Vermont 2-1-1 as a valuable information and registration tool. Dental and oral surgery offices in Windham County (Brattleboro and Wilmington) saw 184 individuals and provided over $90,000 in donated services.  All participants received free tooth brushes, floss, toothpaste and dental care information, as well. This annual event will next take place on Saturday, May 5, 2012.

The Hunger Council of Windham County
The Hunger Council was formed in March 2011 in an effort to coordinate services and resources around the issue of hunger in Windham County. The Council is currently comprised of over 30 social service providers, advocates, legislators, media representatives, and others involved in the issue of hunger. The Council is generously supported by The Canaday Family Charitable Trust and the Windham Foundation. UWWC’s Executive Director co-chairs this council with the CEO of River Valley Credit Union.

Nonprofit Capacity Building
Benchmarks for a Better Vermont (BBVT)
BBVT is a federally-funded grant project designed to strengthen the capacity of Vermont nonprofits through the use of performance measurement to assess the impact of their work and maximize the use of limited resources. BBVT’s lead organization is Marlboro College, working in partnership with United Way of Chittenden County, United Ways of Vermont (United Ways of Addison, Lamoille, and Windham Counties), Vermont Community Foundation, Common Good Vermont, and SerVermont. Using the Results Accountability (RA) framework, BBVT offers a “ladder of opportunity” for Vermont nonprofits to strengthen their ability to measure performance, better serve their clients, and increase sustainability. Opportunities offered include a statewide conference on RA, access to the Core Capacity Assessment Tool, an online organizational self-assessment, and a 15-month long Performance Institute for 15 small and medium-sized organizations, chosen through a competitive process. This 2-year project is funded through a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Professional Development
Through funding from the Eagleridge Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation to support a series of professional development opportunities, the United Way of Windham County and the Program in Nonprofit Management at Marlboro College co-sponsored a series of advanced workshops, designed for nonprofit leaders. The series included Social Media for Nonprofit Organizations, an all-day training, Partners in Leadership, for nonprofit Executive Directors and board leaders, facilitated by Jim Lefevre in March 2011. Boarding 101: An Orientation to Nonprofit Board Service was also offered for the second time in April 2011. Other topics in this series will include Free Google Apps for Nonprofits, Tools for Community Organizing, and Grant Writing. UWWC will continue to look for ways to support the health of the nonprofit sector in Windham County through collaborations, partnerships, and training.

United Ways of Vermont
Established in 1979, United Ways of Vermont (UWVT) was created to maximize the benefit of a state-wide organization for local United Ways. UWVT is the governing organization for the Vermont 2-1-1 program. UWVT is made up of ten United Ways serving Vermont. The board meets quarterly to meet with the Executive Director of Vermont 2-1-1 and to discuss joint statewide efforts that can improve all communities. The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program and VT 2-1-1 are two current programs being conducted statewide and there is a commitment to explore taking other local programs to scale across the state.

Vermont 2-1-1 (a program of the United Ways of Vermont)
The mission of Vermont 2-1-1 is to promote the health and well being of all Vermonters by developing, coordinating and sustaining a statewide information and referral system for streamlined access to social services. A public-private partnership that provides a single point of contact for access to community resources, Vermont 2-1-1 connects Vermonters with a trained information and referral specialist who evaluates the caller’s situation or need and makes the connection to the appropriate community service. In 2010 call volume reached an all time high of 47,998 calls. An additional 9,911 callers in 2010 over 2009 received professional assistance finding the resources they needed.

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program
During the 2011 tax season, The United Way of Windham County and Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) joined forces for the fifth year in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program to provide assistance to eligible taxpayers through the donated time and expertise of 12 volunteers. More than 350 eligible taxpayers received free services in Brattleboro and Westminster.  Individuals who lived or worked in Windham County, and whose household income was at or below $49,000, were eligible for these free services.  For the second year in a row, Vermont 2-1-1 provided their assistance by screening and transferring incoming calls.  Approximately 365 phone calls from taxpayers seeking help with their taxes were handled by Vermont 2-1-1 operators.  Volunteer tax preparers devoted more than 650 volunteer hours assisting local taxpayers recover the following tax benefits: Earned Income Credit, Child Tax Credit, Child & Dependent Care Credit, Education Credits, Retirement Savings, Contribution Credits, Making Work Pay Credit, Vermont Property Tax Adjustment, and Vermont Renter’s Rebate. In 2011, Windham County taxpayers received over $215,000 in Earned Income Credits, in addition to federal and state refunds totaling over $500,000. These funds were returned to individuals in Windham County as refunds, rebates and credits, helping to stimulate the economic stability and growth of our community. 

Windham County Health Assessment
Convened by Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and including representatives from the Agency of Human Services, the VT Department of Health, Grace Cottage Hospital, Senior Solutions, and Hilltop House, this countywide health assessment, done every three years, is scheduled to be complete by September 2013. UWWC’s Executive Director sits on the health assessment advisory board.

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