This summer I was inspired by the myriad ways our community works together. Good food and great company were had when Champlain Housing Trust hosted a cookout for residents of O’Dell Apartments. Brett Leonard and his team from South Burlington Recreation and Parks did the cooking, Kelly Kendall from South Burlington Public Library was there with the bookmobile bus and police were handing out ice pops.
I attended the graduation ceremony for women from Lund who completed their high school education. Lund is such an extraordinary local organization working to break the cycles of poverty, addiction, and abuse by supporting pregnant and parenting teens, young adults and adoptive families. Other women from Lund were also honored in the celebration held at Vermont Commons School.
During the party, I remembered attending Burlington’s Treatment Court last year. Participants take part in counseling, attend court hearings and follow program guidelines in order to have criminal charges dismissed or reduced. At that hearing, the family judge congratulated one young woman on the birth of her child and for being accepted into Lund housing. At the ceremony I just attended, this woman and her beautiful child were honored for the incredible progress she’s made. Testimony that lives can indeed be saved with compassionate social services.
I also twice visited South Burlington’s women’s prison and wish that our ill-equipped, under-resourced facility and the criminal justice system could better serve those incarcerated and their families so that these women succeed when they rejoin our communities. Some women don’t feel safe and need more therapeutic and vocational opportunities.
Stopping by the Thursday morning Rotary Club meeting, I heard about plans to provide back-to-school backpacks filled with supplies to students in need. Later that afternoon, I met with the South Burlington crew of Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, who removed the invasive species of buckhorn in Wheeler Park. As we gathered under a 200-year old oak tree, it was impressive to hear from the youth about their experiences conserving forest lands.
That same evening, I attended a joint meeting of the South Burlington City Council and Planning Commission and listened to reports from various committees volunteering their time to study how South Burlington can continue to encourage development while balancing environmental impact, conservation and affordable housing needs. Committees asked for more time to complete their extensive scope of work, and the city’s interim zoning pause on development was extended for a few months.
The UVM Medical Center hosted a morning breakfast meeting at the Doubletree Hotel featuring a number of organizations collaborating to deliver integrated early childhood and family care on a statewide, regional and local level. The early results of these innovative partnerships are impressive indeed as the first few years of a child’s life are so very crucial to physical, intellectual and emotional development.
Finally, I attended a full day Social Justice Caucus retreat in White River Junction with legislators and activists trying to be more intentional about developing inclusive political, social, economic and ecological policies for Vermont. What an honor it is to be your citizen legislator and how lucky I am to learn from and participate in all of these community dialogues.
Thanks to those who stopped by and visited our “Ask Your Legislators” table at the Aug. 15 SoBu Nite Out concert at Veterans Memorial Park. As always, I welcome your feedback and ideas.