March 19, 2019

Local volunteer opportunities

The listings below are a small sample of the more than 300 volunteer needs from more than 250 agencies online at If you do not have computer access, or would like information about the volunteer opportunities below, call 860-1677.



Volunteers are needed to help support women making the transition from correctional facilities to Chittenden County.

Mentors can help women find suitable and affordable housing and employment and rebuild their lives. Volunteers can also help with short-term assistance such as transportation. Fall training session for mentors begins Feb. 6 at 5:30 p.m. References and background check required.


Volunteers are needed to tutor young adults in reading, language, math, etc. Volunteers can answer questions, explain assignments and help students complete their work. Friday afternoons, from 1:15-3:15. Background check required.


H.O.P.E. Works is seeking volunteers to train and serve as enthusiasts with a goal of ending sexual violence in the community. Volunteers have no formal obligations once they have finished training, but are equipped with the knowledge and certification to challenge and change attitudes and behaviors among peers. Volunteers receive Vermont certification as crisis workers upon completion of training. Feb. 9, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. $25 registration fee.


The Burundian American Association of Vermont is looking for a program manager to help its members receive power skills through training and to help with community development. The goal is to create more collaboration and to help Burundian children learn their parents’ history and cultural background. Volunteers can also help teach reading and writing skills, teach driver education, help with the naturalization process, etc. Flexible scheduling.


Lake Champlain International is looking for volunteers to don the Bobber Bob costume and motivate kids to engage in outdoor activities. Spend an hour or so dancing and waving at intersections around the county.

Volunteers should have an available truck, minivan or SUV to fit the costume and should have a nearby friend to insure safety at intersections.

The organization is also looking for a professional graphic designer and pollution prevention awareness enthusiasts to leave information at neighborhood homes and chat with folks about the importance of certifying their homes as watershed-friendly. Flexible scheduling for all opportunities.


Howard Center – Child, Youth & Family Services is seeking a professional volunteer facilitator for a two to three month period this spring to plan, implement and summarize a series of focus groups for Community Friends Mentoring participants. Volunteers should have experience as a group facilitator for adults and youth and as a project planner. Flexible weekly scheduling.


Sara Holbrook Community Center needs volunteers to work one-on-one with students who need some tutoring in reading, writing, math, history and/or science. Flexible after-school scheduling, two-hour shifts. References and background check required.

Awards to recognize local volunteers, businesses

Local agencies and outposts are seeking nominations for a wide spectrum of awards in the next two months, honoring individuals and businesses making a difference in their communities.


Connecting Youth is now accepting nominations for its annual Aw Shucks award, which recognizes volunteers and businesses consistently supporting young people. CY is a community-based organization that works to create a safe environment for youth.

“There are unsung heroes in the community who are supporting youth in really vital and unique ways who don’t always get noticed or recognized,” said Christine Lloyd-Newberry, CY program director.

Nominees should live or work in Williston, St. George, Charlotte, Hinesburg or Shelburne. The nominee should have “a record of success as a volunteer in helping young people and families … (and) gone above and beyond in their efforts to help create a safe and healthy CY community,” according to the award description.

Since the award began 17 years ago, CY has honored more than 200 community volunteers.

The deadline for nominations is Feb. 15. The Aw Shucks awards will be presented on the evening of April 8 at Champlain Valley Union High School.

Lloyd-Newberry said CY has received approximately 20 nominations so far. The organization will select two award-winners from each town, as well as one business.

“It’s always a tough choice,” she said.

Lloyd-Newberry encouraged community members to nominate their peers.

“It’s a wonderful way to be able to recognize the people (about whom) we all say, ‘Oh my goodness, how do you do that, you are such an asset to our community,’” she said.

To submit a nomination, visit Alternatively, email with the name of the nominee or business,
his or her contact information (address, phone and email),
your name and contact information and
a description of why the person or business should receive an Aw Shucks award.



Senior volunteers can be recognized with the Salute to Senior Service program, which honors the contributions of adults 65 and older who give at least 15 hours a month of volunteer service.

Nominations will be accepted from Feb. 1 through March 31. State winners will be selected by popular vote from April 15 to April 30. From those state winners, a panel of senior care experts will pick the national Salute to Senior Service honoree.

Home Instead, Inc. will donate $500 to each of the state winners’ favorite nonprofit organizations and post their stories on the Salute to Senior Service Wall of Fame. In addition, $5,000 will be donated to the national winner’s nonprofit charity of choice.

“We all know seniors who do so much for our community,” said Patrice Thabault, owner of the Home Instead Senior Care’s local office, serving Chittenden and surrounding counties, in a press release. “These silent heroes give selflessly, expecting nothing in return. And yet, their contributions often make a difference not only to the organizations they serve, but in changing how the public views growing older.”

To complete and submit a nomination form online and to view the contest’s official rules, visit Completed nomination forms also can be mailed to Salute to Senior Service, P.O. Box 285, Bellevue, NE 68005.



EPA is now accepting nominations for the 2013 Environmental Merit Awards, which recognize environmental achievements during the past year.

These regional awards have been given out annually since EPA was created in 1970. Past recipients have included scientists, community activists, business representatives, public officials and other individuals committed to preserving the environment.

An independent EPA panel will select the winners based on the following criteria: long-term effects on the environment; ability to address an environmental problem or need; collaboration with others; ability of the program or accomplishments to be widely shared; clarity and effectiveness of the presentation; and promotion of innovative ideas or techniques.

The awards are given in four categories: individual; business, industry, trade, and professional organization; local, state or federal government; and environmental, community or non-profit organization. Awards are also given under a lifetime achievement category.

The deadline for nominations is March 1. Awards winners will be invited to a ceremony this spring in Boston.

For nomination forms for EPA New England environmental merit awards, visit

— Stephanie Choate, Observer staff


LIFE IN WILLISTON: Nature deficit disorder

By Karen Wyman

Are the days of neighborhoods filled with the voices of children riding bikes, building forts, climbing trees and playing ball in the yard gone forever? It seems that this unstructured outside play that was once a hallmark for many of our own childhoods has nearly ceased to exist. In this age of addictive video games and captivating electronics, do kids even want to go outside and explore their natural surroundings anymore?

Thanks to Four Winds Nature Institute, our Williston children do. Since creative free play outdoors is no longer the norm, the Four Winds Nature program at Allen Brook and Williston Central schools is helping to fill that void by tapping into our children’s imaginations and sense of wonder about the world around them.

The Institute’s own mission statement perhaps best describes its strategy and hopefully ultimate impact on our children and community. “We believe people long for a healthy connection to the environment and to each other. Four Wind’s community-based education programs bring children and adults together to explore the natural world. Through these programs, we are helping people of all ages make meaningful connections to nature. It is these connections that will nurture and fuel us all as we work together to address the increasingly complex environmental issues ahead of us.”

Doesn’t it make sense that if we expect future generations to continue to protect and care for the environment that they must first learn to love it and respect it? The Four Winds lessons are presented to children in a way that sparks their inner curiosity. Through puppet shows, games, skits and outside experiments, the children are exposed to a variety of natural concepts. I was amazed to see firsthand how even difficult ideas are presented in such an entertaining yet influential way. My two Kindergarteners passionately explained to me how urban development, like cell phone towers, is ruining migratory flight patterns for birds. I think there are some adults out there who don’t even think about such things! In addition to gaining an appreciation for the world around them, being out in nature can actually improve children’s health.

Child advocacy expert Richard Louv, author of the book “Last Child in the Woods,” has coined the term “nature-deficit disorder” to describe the lack of nature in the lives of today’s children. This phenomenon is often associated with the rapidly increasing negative childhood trends, such as obesity and depression. Bottom line—children need unstructured time and natural places where they can interact with the world on their own and, in turn, exercise their imaginations and their bodies.

I know there are many fears in today’s society about letting children uninhibitedly explore the great outdoors. Just remember, unstructured doesn’t mean unsupervised. Believe me, I am the first one to worry as my children run around the woods behind our house. Ticks, sunburns and rusty nails, oh my! But after I slather them with insect repellant and sunscreen, dress them in long pants and appropriate shoes and make sure they are up to date on their tetanus shots, they are ready to explore! I shudder to think how I ran around outside as a little girl with no sunscreen, no bug spray and in tiny shorts, a tank top and flip-flops and sometimes even (gasp!) barefoot! I think of the rusty swing-sets I played on and the uncovered sandboxes I plopped myself right in. Times sure have changed.

Even though it’s winter, let’s encourage our families to get outside more often. Go on a winter walk and look for animal tracks and try to guess what animal made them. Hang a bird feeder together and identify which winter birds are feeding at it. You can take advantage of Williston’s many nature trails or just trudge around your own neighborhood. Catamount Outdoor Family Center also offers a variety of activities all year long. Their mission statement, “to promote family and community well-being through activity and education in a natural environment” is exactly what I’m talking about! Have your family “unplug” this weekend and go cross-country skiing or snowshoeing. (This means actually outside, not a Wii or Xbox version!)

I don’t expect my children to become stewards of the environment overnight, so I am sticking to small attainable goals. Remember being outside playing an intense game of “cops and robbers” or kickball with the neighborhood kids and hearing the sound of the ice cream truck? Everyone then immediately dashed to their respective houses, begged their parents for money and then quickly returned to buy a treat and then get on with the game. My hope is that for once this summer my kids are already outside when this iconic music plays instead of listening for it from the couch.

Karen Wyman has been a Williston resident for seven years, and lives with her husband and twin 5-year-old daughters.


PLACES I’VE PLAYED: Ever ride a jack jumper?

By Bill Skiff

Have you ever found yourself sailing down a hill with your feet flying out both sides of your body and your hands grabbing a couple of wooden handles, trying to keep your balance? If you haven’t, you have missed one of Vermont’s finest winter sports … jack jumping.

Jack jumping is not for the faint of heart, but neither is snowboarding. They both require a fierce desire to learn, especially in the beginning. You have to love falling, falling and falling some more. Both jack jumping and snowboarding have steep learning curves; you must be willing to pay the price to become proficient, but boy is it worth it. Well, at least jack jumping is—I haven’t successfully snowboarded yet.

Jack jumping is an old sport. The earliest ones were reported to have been made in New England in the mid- to late-1800s. In Vermont, they were always homemade from scraps found around the farm. The oldest patent issued for a jack jumper is said to have been in 1929 in Switzerland.

Most historians believe the jack jumper was first used by loggers, then later by children to enjoy the winter months. The Ski Museum in Stowe has a couple of Vermont samples. It is felt they were first made using barrel staves with wooden posts and seats attached.

My dad gave me his jack jumper when I was a kid on the farm. He taught me how to ride it on a hill behind the barn. Dad was a good rider. He came sliding down the hill with his barn boots held at a jaunty angle as he sat on the seat and turned the jack jumper from side to side. All the while he was sliding down, he was yelling to me as to how he did it: “Keep your feet up, stay balanced on the seat, look straight ahead, shift your weight as you turn and hold on tight.”

That was some mouthful, and one hard to duplicate. I never saw Dad do it again but he sure made a believer out of me with that one run.

I still have my jack jumper today. It is covered with fading red barn paint. Its runner is 32 inches long, one-and-a-half inches wide and a half-inch thick. The bottom is covered with an inch-and-a-half-wide piece of polished steel. Fast? I guess it’s fast. I have never mastered it at full speed. The center pole is 16 inches high, with a seat attached to it. The seat is 15 inches long and five inches wide. There are two handles under the seat to hang on to. And hang on you must if you want to ride for any length of time.

Dad’s old jack jumper was my first winter companion. I had not become interested in skiing yet. Also, skiing and the equipment needed were expensive. My dog Teddy and I would climb the hill in back of the house, me lugging the jack jumper and Teddy chasing anything that moved. There were no packed trails or smooth roads to slide down. It was pack your own trail and hope there was enough time left to get in a couple of runs before dark.

I could never master riding with both feet off the ground at the same time, but I was able to master the total ride: getting me down the hill in one piece without stopping or falling. Well, most of the time.

Bill Skiff grew up on a farm between Cambridge and Jeffersonville. After a career in education, he now lives in Williston, where he is a justice of the peace and Fourth of July frog-jumping official. In “Places I’ve Played,” he shares his experiences of growing up in Vermont. Comments are welcome at


Letters to the Editor

Family gives thanks

Upon the recent death of Everett Tatro of Williston, the family wishes to express a grateful thank you to the Williston Fire Department, all of the South Burlington municipalities and to all friends and family who were there for us—your thoughts and prayers were greatly appreciated.

The family of Everett Tatro


Issues with our fire department

Our fire trucks are going to Blair Park elderly complexes weekly. Sometimes more than once a day for things like burnt toast or boiling water setting off an alarm that rings directly into the fire station. I understand a different system could be put in so a person on site could check when it goes off and alert the fire department. When Cathedral Square was in charge and owned these buildings, this was not a problem. Today, the owners live in Massachusetts. Where is their responsibility in this situation? Could someone on site or nearby help with this issue? A young person comes in infrequently to leave messages or changes, etc. for the residents but has no interest in this issue.

I also don’t understand why the big trucks need to be sent. Could not a small truck be dispatched to check out the situation and then call for backup if needed?

I also don’t understand why big trucks need to be sent to a house emergency. I have been told it is because manpower may be needed. Can’t manpower come in a small truck? Also, the blaring of sirens can be upsetting to folks nearby who think a major catastrophe is going down, especially for the elderly.

I do understand a fire truck being sent to the scene of a car accident in case of fire.

Every time the trucks go out, taxpayers pay for the service. And the fire department wants to increase its budget?

Ginger Isham


GUEST COLUMN: Williston needs the 1-to-1 iPad initiative

By Bonnie Birdsall


Here in the Williston schools, we are excited and very fortunate to have this new initiative included in next year’s proposed budget for our fifth and sixth graders. Some members of our community are asking excellent questions and we thought we’d share some background information.

After many conversations initiated by teachers at the grades 5-8 level from last spring through the fall of this school year, a group was formed to begin discussion about what embarking on a 1:1 program might look like in Williston. Representatives from each academic team, the technology department and administration were invited to join the group and began to meet. This group met to discuss this idea and most importantly, come up with WHY we would want to go down this road. We also received great support from the community about exploring this avenue.

We have looked at five critical steps for implementing this 1:1 initiative. Careful thought and research continues to go into these steps and much more.

Step 1: define the goals of the 1:1 program

1. Technology is our main resource. It’s easier to find resources online to support literacy (Common Core), have the ability to annotate work and it’s less expensive than buying hard copies of books.

2. World competition: if we want to compete, we need to join in.

3. Personalizes education. It provides great resources for kids with all different styles of learning.

4. It’s a major shift in our learning environment; it provides transparency and ownership of learning, and students create their own personal learning networks.

5. Students have the ability to publish their work, widening their audience.

6. Equity: it levels the playing field for all students.

7. We’re providing 21st century tools for 21st century learners.

8. It helps teachers design learning experiences to support a paradigm shift.

9. It’s the intent of 1:1 programs to empower students with the responsibility of anytime, anywhere learning. Everyone will have 24/7 access.

10. It fosters creativity, motivation and engagement.

Step 2: The role of the device in our classrooms 

The device is simply a device. It is not coming to take over our classrooms, nor is it replacing quality teaching. This device will give students a better opportunity to share, connect and seek out information. It will not be a distraction, but another arm of the classroom.

Step 3: Harnessing the device’s power

We will offer professional development that not only presents the device’s functionality, but displays examples of it in use for our faculty. Funds for professional development are built into the budget. We are also fortunate that we have many resources and people to turn to who have traveled down this road already. Locally, this includes Burlington, South Burlington, Essex Junction, Essex Town and many more schools in Vermont that have already initiated 1:1 experiences with students.

Step 4: Put it away when appropriate

Our students will not be using this tool and only this tool throughout the day. They will still use pencil and paper, have face-to-face interactions and solve problems collaboratively. “Technology tools are essential. It is no longer good enough to have a scheduled ‘computer time’ on shared devices. On the other extreme, it is also not appropriate to have students ‘staring at a screen’ all day. The tools our students use as part of their investigations need to be there, in the background, available when they need them. They may need to check a fact, look up where a town is on a map, jot down a key bit of information. Having a tool on hand progresses their learning immediately,” wrote Richard Lambert, an Australian assistant principal, on his education blog,

Step 5: teach, model and support information literacy

The iPad’s powerful collection of multimedia tools provides innovative ways to inspire student learning. The device is an avenue for learning and discovery, but it cannot replace the student’s ability to think critically and question. The device will give them access to a plethora of information and potential answers, but it will not always give them a clear course to follow. That’s where effective teaching is essential and new literacies are taught.

A 1:1 initiative should be our ally in the daily task to provide our students with the best access to information and promote learning. There is no denying the rapidly changing pace of our world. It is our responsibility as educators to prepare our students for this world. A 1:1 environment is simply a start. We are preparing our students for their future, not our past.

To help answer questions about this initiative, we are establishing a resource page on the school’s website. If you have specific questions, feel free to contact Bonnie Birdsall

Bonnie Birdsall is the technology integration specialist for the Williston School District.


Academic Honors

Student scholars recognized

Five local students have been invited to apply to become U.S. Presidential Scholars.

Champlain Valley Union High School students Andrea Joseph of Williston, Jonathan Liebman of Williston, Conor Mcquiston of Williston and Carolyn P. Woodruff of Charlotte, along with Burlington High School student and St. George resident Monica Barker were named among 46 Vermont students on the list.

The U.S. Presidential Scholars Program was established in 1964, by executive order of the President, to recognize and honor some of the country’s most distinguished graduating high school seniors. Each year, up to 141 students are named as Presidential Scholars, one of the nation’s highest honors for high school students.

Scholars will be selected in April and recognized during National Recognition Weekend in June. Scholars receive an expense paid trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with government officials, educators, authors, musicians and scientists.

Students named to deans’ lists

The following Williston students were named to their college or university deans’ lists:

Emily Asch, Saint Michael’s College

Katherine E. Buxton, St. Lawrence University

Christopher Cozzalio, Johnson State College

Kristin E. Darby, Clarkson University

Emily Faraone, Roger Williams University

Adam Geffken, Saint Michael’s College

Julie Ho, Saint Michael’s College

Shelly Ho, Johnson State College

May Hoyt, Saint Michael’s College

Kelsey Jensen, Colgate University

Shelby Knudson, Saint Michael’s College

Kendal Kohlasch, Siena College

Elena L. McCormick, St. Lawrence University

Melanie Montbriand, Johnson State College (President’s list)

Jessica A. Novak, St. Lawrence University

Erin O’Brien, University of New Hampshire

Kiersten Olivetti, Johnson State College

Eric Robinson, Saint Michael’s College

Frederick Spencer, Johnson State College

Advocacy groups push for school lunch bill

Advocacy groups are asking legislators to support bills in both the Senate and House that would provide free school lunch to all low income students.

Hunger Free Vermont, VT Food Education Every Day and the School Nutrition Association of Vermont recently hosted School Nutrition Action Day at the State House.

“All over Vermont, school cafeteria workers report that students are going without lunch because they don’t have the funds to pay for lunch and there is no food at home,” said Dorigen Keeney, program director for Hunger Free Vermont. “Many of these students live in households that make too much money to qualify for free school meals, but not enough to meet basic needs.”

Sen. Sally Fox and Rep. Johannah Donovan are introducing bills that would use state funds to pay the student’s portion of reduced price lunch—40¢ per lunch—to ensure that the more than 6,000 students who fall into this reduced price category have access to lunch.

The proposals are endorsed by educational and school food organizations.

“We cannot afford the current system that puts low income students in the position of going hungry or having to sneak food or get money from teachers,” Kathy Alexander, former president of VT School Nutrition Association and food service director for Addison Northeast Supervisory Union, said in a statement.

“We should be certain that our contribution to the plate is just healthy food, period. Not shame, worry, fear, or, God forbid, hunger.”

The proposal outlined in these bills S.26 and H.60 is estimated to cost $320,000 per year and would leverage an additional $390,000 per year in federal funds, as more school meals would be served. School meal programs are currently struggling financially as the federal reimbursement has not kept up with the cost of providing meals, especially this last year with the higher nutritional standards.

“These funds will not only feed hungry students but will support the financial health of the school meal programs,” said Marissa Parisi, executive director of Hunger Free Vermont. “We encourage the Legislature to support this proposal that supports students, working families, and communities.”

Initial school budgets pared down

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

Williston and Champlain Valley Union High School boards finalized their respective budgets for fiscal year 2013-2014 in the past week, both shaved down from earlier versions.

Like schools across the state this year, both boards have struggled with increases to their baseline budgets, largely due to increases in health care costs and 3 percent scheduled salary increases.

The Williston School Board on Jan. 24 approved a budget of $17,468,262, a 5.09 percent increase over last year’s budget.

“It’s tough to put an increase out there, but when you look at the history, (the budget has) increased less than 2 percent over five years,” Board Chairwoman Holly Rouelle said on Tuesday. “We feel good about adding the science (consultant) and also the 1-to-1 iPad initiative.”

On Jan. 28, the CVU Board was buoyed by a quarterly financial management report after its last meeting in January that was “much better than expected,” CVU Board Chairman David Rath told the Observer.

“In a budget season where there has been nothing but bad news, it was nice to get one piece of good news,” he said.

The report allowed the board to come down to a final budget of $22,038,941—a number that will result in a single vote on the March 5 ballot and a 2.89 percent increase from the 2012-2013 budget. If the budget had exceeded the current fiscal year’s spending, adjusted for inflation, plus one percent, it would have resulted in a two-part vote. The board reduced the final budget from the $22,075,261 to $22,104,261 range discussed at its last meeting on Jan. 10.

The board opted to significantly reduce as-yet-unidentified budget cuts, known as “go-gets,” and hold off on adding the half-time math coach, half-time power reading position and substitutes it had previously discussed.

“This was a very difficult budget process for this board and we all felt good to have worked out a way to do a one-vote budget that we think limits risk and is reasonable for our communities,” Rath said.

Voters in Williston, Hinesburg, Shelburne and Charlotte must ultimately approve the budgets on Town Meeting Day on Tuesday, March 5.

Selectboard approves 4.4 percent budget increase

Bond vote on new public works building on ballot

By Luke Baynes

Observer staff

The Williston Selectboard approved a fiscal year 2014 operating budget of $8,845,370 on Monday—a 4.4 percent increase over the current fiscal year.

Based on current municipal grand list projections, the $370,140 budget increase equates to a rate of 24.38 cents per $100 of assessed property value, compared to the current 23.23-cent rate. Put another way, the increase would equal a tax bill hike of $11.50 per $100,000 of property value.

The fiscal year 2014 budget approved by the Selectboard represents a $79,410 decrease from the budget initially presented in early December. Cuts include a $10,000 decrease in funding for the Environmental Reserve Fund and the elimination of almost all funding for new positions or work hour increases across various town departments.

“What I’ve cut out of here are all new positions, or increases in hours, with two exceptions,” Williston Town Manager Rick McGuire told the Selectboard. “One is the police position that was requested for a full year and I put it in for a half year. And the other exception is the intern for the manager’s office. I cut in half the request (from $10,000 to $5,000 in wages).”

The Selectboard also chose not to include a request from Williston Fire Chief Ken Morton to add two full-time firefighter/EMT positions.

“I prioritize public safety. I think the town should be very, very cognizant of that, and I do feel conflicted about removing what Chief Morton says he needs,” acknowledged Selectboard member Debbie Ingram, “but also, as I said last (meeting), there have been so many people who have been suffering economically, and to ask those people to pay more, I feel bad about that, too.”

Selectboard member Chris Roy said that all things considered, he is satisfied that the budget cuts are fair.

“The impact of this budget is spread around pretty well to many different parts of the town’s services, and I think that that’s good, in that it’s not just singling one area out for the most cuts,” Roy said.


The Selectboard also agreed Monday to include a bond vote item on the Town Meeting Day ballot that will ask voters if they wish to authorize the construction of a new Williston Public Works facility at a total cost, including land acquisition expenses, not to exceed $5.9 million.

The measure would require the town to borrow funds through the issuance of a municipal bond, although a $70,000 earmark in the town’s capital budget, plus the sale of the town’s existing public works facility for a projected $1 million, would likely reduce the bond amount to about $4.85 million.

The estimated $5.9 million project cost represents a significant downgrade from the preliminary $7.7 million estimate presented at the Selectboard’s Jan. 14 meeting.

McGuire called the $5.9 million estimate “very, very, tight,” but noted that the project can be scaled back if necessary.

“We think we can do it for this (amount),” McGuire said. “We’ve been working with one individual contractor who thinks we can do it for this.”