November 28, 2014

Volunteer Opportunities

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The listings below are a small sample of more 300 volunteer needs online at www.unitedwaycc.org. For more information, call 860-1677.

SALES help

ReSOURCE is looking for volunteers to staff 3 stores. Flexible weekday, weekend and evening shifts.

ENGLISH INSTRUCTORS & MORE

The Somali Bantu Community Association is seeking English instructors to teach one-on-one or in classroom settings, two to four hours per week. It also seeks grant writers, researchers, office assistants and program managers.

REPARATIONS

Winooski Community Justice Center is seeking community members for its reparative board. Volunteers provide an opportunity for offenders of low-level offenses to repair the harm they have caused to the victims and community. Training is provided; serve four hours/month.

JOIN THE EVENT TEAM

The Brain Injury Assoc. of Vermont needs a volunteer to work with a committee to coordinate all aspects of the 2013 Walk for Thought in May.

APRIL EVENTS

A number of local groups need volunteers for April events:

Vermont Operation Military Kids is looking for volunteers to help run field-day type activities for military kids on April 20 from 1-4 p.m. at Norwich University.

Camp Common Ground needs volunteers to spend a day marking trails on the edges of its property in Starksboro. April 18, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Rokeby Museum is looking for tour guides and greeters at its new Education Center from May – October. Learn more at a coffee hour April 20, 10 – 11 a.m.

National MS Society, Greater New England Chapter needs help with set up, registering walkers, staff rest areas, etc. at the MS Walk in Burlington. April 27, minimum four hour shifts from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m.

MAKE IT SPECIAL ALL YEAR

Special Olympics Vermont is seeking volunteers of all ages and abilities for various year-round opportunities. Families and groups large and small are welcome! Flexible scheduling depending on opportunity.

PLACES I’VE PLAYED: Where have all the bumpers gone?

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By Bill Skiff

 

Gone to Plastic every one.

Will they ever bump?

No, they never will.

Gone to junkyards every one.

I remember the night my buddy’s car wouldn’t start after the dance—he was so excited over his new girlfriend that he left his lights on. No problem. I simply jumped into Dad’s Ford, drove around behind his car, aligned our bumpers, and began pushing his car down the road. As soon as we got up enough speed, he popped the clutch and away he went.

Then, there was the time the wind blew down a small maple tree on our front lawn. I got our chainsaw and cut it into logs. Then I wrapped a chain around each log, hitched the other end to the back bumper of the truck and dragged it to the woodpile.

One summer Dad’s farm truck broke down, so he rented a hitch that clamped on the back bumper of his sedan. He hitched the car to a wagon, filled the wagon with trash and headed to the dump. The car’s engine overheated—but the bumper held strong.

When I was learning to drive, I backed into our mailbox. The car bumper did its job. The four-by-four post was broken off at ground level, but the Ford’s bumper didn’t even have a scratch.

Well, don’t try any of those things today. I know because I tried one just last week. Bad idea.

It seems as I get older, I look for ways to conserve time and energy. I am just beginning to realize that when I follow this strategy, it usually ends up taking me more time—and seems to end up costing me money.

Last week, I drove down from my house to the road to get the paper. It’s not that far, but when you figure in the wind chill walking factor, it can seem a lot longer. When I arrived down at the bottom of the driveway, I pulled into the road and backed up toward the mailbox to grab the paper.

This time, when I executed my save-time-and-energy routine, I misjudged my backing angle. I hit the post with my bumper—just as I had done as a teenager. However, this time when the post broke, so did my bumper. The impact scattered the left fender. And the bumper split all the way across the back of the car, leaving a variety of accessories lying on the ground.

Where was my bumper when I needed it? All I did was bump something. I paid for that bumper when I bought the car so why did it let me down when I needed it? Maybe for the same reason insurance companies raise your rates when you ask them to make repairs—after you have been paying them all those years for not repairing anything.

I told my buddy Ken about my bumper boondoggle and you know what he told me?

“Bill, they are not made for impact, they are made not to rust.” The body man told me, “Bill, in this freezing weather those plastic bumpers are so cold that any impact will shatter them like ice.” Thanks, guys.

After admitting the whole thing was my fault and receiving the estimated cost of the repairs, I remembered one of my Dad’s favorite sayings—”Education is expensive.”

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 [email protected]

 

Letters to the Editor

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Thoughts on iPads

I am also against our fifth and sixth (and seventh and eighth) grade students being given iPads.

My thoughts are: our high school students are not given iPads. Do all other schools in our county give them to students? How does one control how the iPads are used other than for schoolwork? Technology is moving too fast and is too costly—especially for some families.

No matter the number of students, education costs keep increasing. We have to control our household budgets—the same goes for school budgets.

I wonder why we don’t eliminate computers, etc. from our kindergarten and elementary grades? It has been proven that any age, any time can pick up computer skills. Why are cell phones allowed in school?

We have a problem with alcohol and drug addiction and now computer addiction. When families go shopping, out to eat, to visit family and friends, the computer gadgets are always in hand. Children are entertained with these gadgets. Adults also have become addicted to instant contact. And what happened to family time?

Responsibility children and adults had in the past has been taken away. It bothers me to read the words “we need a budget that doesn’t harm our children.” A little harm can be beneficial. We learn much from hard work and life’s lessons.

I notice big increases in the budget such as:

Professional development up 24.61 percent

Supplies up 23 percent

Early Learning Partnership up 14.70 percent

Equipment up 40.97 percent

Last year’s budget had its large increases also:

Co-curricular activities increased by 13.94 percent

Support Services increased by 23.15 percent

504 Plans increased by 13.03 percent

Early Learning Partnerships increased by 15.70 percent

Ginger Isham

Williston

 

Ski and Ride thank you 

We would like to extend a thank you to all involved in the ski and ride program. To all the volunteer parents on skis/boards or off, thank you for your time. We so appreciate the time you gave to help make the program a success. We hope you had fun and will consider helping again next year—don’t be afraid to bring a friend.

To the student instructors, you were awesome. You continued to work to be great instructors with smiles on your faces, thank you. To Cid Gause, Cindy Pavlik, Amy Benoit and Kim Richburg, your record-keeping and communication is a critical piece that we are so happy we do not have to do, thank you. And to the skiers and riders, you were fabulous. We were able to ski and ride on a different surface each week. What a great experience that was. You represented Williston Central School so well at Cochran’s and Stowe. Thank you. We hope you had as much fun as we did.

Thank You.

We look forward to skiing and riding with you next year.

Program organizers Sam Beatson, Nadine Paffet-Lugassy, Lynn McClintock, Kevin Finnegan

GUEST COLUMN: CVU engineering–a focus on making and doing

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By Williston representatives to the CVU School Board

Ask Champlain Valley Union High School design and technology teacher Olaf Verdonk about engineering education at CVU and he’s got a lot to say. And his message is timely. Verdonk’s passion about applying the math and science theory that students learn in their traditional coursework intersects perfectly with Gov. Peter Shumlin’s recent remarks about the need to ramp up statewide STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning for the economic wellbeing of Vermont.

What is engineering? Surprisingly, according to a Harris Poll, 62 percent of Americans cannot answer that question. An oft-stated definition, however, is that engineering is applied math and science. Professor Mike Rosen of the University of Vermont College of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences feels that this definition is necessary but insufficient. He has described engineering as a three-legged stool, with the legs representing math and science theory, creativity and the ability to make and do. He expressed concern that engineering education has traditionally done a poor job of addressing the latter. This is where the vision of the CVU technology staff shines.

Take the UVM TASC Engineering Competition, for example. CVU students have traditionally done very well in these hands-on competitions, and this year was no exception. Students who take the course are asked to research, brainstorm, collaborate, delegate, prototype, test, optimize, schedule, set goals, build consensus and constantly problem solve. At the beginning of the course, students submit a resume outlining their skills and courses taken, and, this year, two teams were created comprising a computer aided design (CAD) expert, fabricator and someone with electrical experience. Those who desire to serve as team managers must also provide a cover letter explaining why.

Engineering Club is another example of CVU’s focus on bringing engineering to life. Offered for the past six years, Verdonk, the club’s advisor, has charted a new direction for the group. For the first time ever, CVU fielded a team in the FIRST Robotics Tech Challenge, an international robotics competition that provides an intense real world engineering and problem solving experience for high school students.

The “RoboHawks” consist of 15 students who spend two and a half hours every Monday and Thursday after school with Verdonk to work on robotics, mechanical construction, programming, planning, web design, presentation and collaboration—all for no credit (and no advising compensation). These students are perfect examples of great education in action—collaborative, hands-on, self-driving, teacher supported (not led). In order to raise funds to participate in the FIRST competition, they had to obtain corporate sponsors.

What’s next? Verdonk believes that it is important to get students doing and making at an earlier age. And, he believes there is a need to draw more students outside of the student population traditionally drawn to tech classes and engineering. Verdonk provides a clear, compelling and exciting definition of engineering.

“Students don’t understand that their entire built environment is the work of engineers, which profoundly drives human behavior and quality of life everywhere,” he said. “In short, engineering is essential to our health, safety and happiness. If more students could see that link, a more diverse representation of students might choose to get involved in engineering.”

Willston representatives to the CVU School Board include Jeanne Jensen, Jonathan Milne, David Rath and Polly Malik. Their contact information is located on page 6 of the Observer.

 

Young Writers Project selections — ‘Bottle’

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Each week, Young Writers Project receives several hundred submissions from students in Vermont and New Hampshire in response to writing prompts, and they select the best for publication in the Observer and 21 other newspapers and on vpr.net. Here, we publish general writing submissions and responses to the prompt, “Bottle: You are walking along and you find a message in a bottle. What does it say?” Read more at youngwritersproject.org, a safe, civil online community of young writers.

 

General writing

Running

By Lily Michalak 

Grade 5, Williston Central School 

Running

Speed

Color filtering through clouds and trees

Arms spread

Happy and awake

 

The wind is like ice cubes

Skimming my cheek

I feel as if

My legs are

Running on their own

I treasure these moments

 

Alone and free

I can run far

And forever

No time limits

I have no rules

 

Leaves lining the road

As if they are tiny people

Watching me

I can hear them

They are cheering me on

As if they never want me to stop

 

The sun is gorgeous

I can feel its last rays of the day

On my face

It is a privilege

 

The peace flows over me

I can hear the moo of

A cow

I must return home now

Turning is so sad

I feel the

Chill of night

 

Message in a bottle

Help

By Naomi Diamond 

Grade 5, Williston Central School 

Help, the message read. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was a dream come true. My chance to show the world what I great person I really was. I felt as if I just won a million dollars.

The minute I read the word, I knew in my heart that I needed to help that person who needed my help. I just knew it. I threw on my backpack, shoved my jacket and some snacks in and kissed my mother goodbye.

We lived right next to the ocean shore so my mother was quite used to me going off exploring my surroundings. What she didn’t know is that this time, I wasn’t going exploring…I was on a mission. Maybe even to save a life.

I climbed into my canoe and lowered myself into the dark, murky water. The ride was amazing and I saw wonderful fish, however no sign of anyone! Finally through the setting sun I saw an island. An island! How did I never discover this before? I quickly paddled to shore, but just as I was stepping out of my canoe, I woke up. And realized it was all just a dream.

 

Bottle

By Eryn Erdman

Grade 6, Williston Central School

On the beach.

Sand slipping through my hands.

A cool wind.

The blue sky.

Birds chirping.

Wind blowng.

Bottle washed up. It’s rusty.

Inside the bottle, a quote. A note.

Inside it says:

Past the ground is the sky.

Past the sky are the stars.

Past the stars, you will go if you believe in yourself and where you can go.

 

Upcoming prompts

Mystery 

Something very strange just happened, and you don’t know how or why. Write a story. Be succinct. Alternate: Photo #10. Write about this photo – from any angle. Due April 5.

Photo 10

Photo 10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dislike 

Write about something that disgusts you, no matter how wrong, distasteful or awkward it is. Alternate: Fairy tale. Write a fairytale that includes the phrase, “one thousand peas.” Due April 12.

Scared

What really scares you? Why? Tell a story about when you confronted it. Alternate: White lie. Write about a little white lie that grows and turns into a bigger lie until you can’t keep up. Due April 19.

Climate Change Writing Challenge

Write about one of the biggest issues of our time. Prizes and recognition on Earth Day!

Respond in poetry or prose to one of these prompts:

1. The year is 2050. Looking back, the climate crisis was solved in the most unexpected ways. You were there for a crucial moment. What happened?

2. Do you believe the world can solve the climate crisis? Tell us why.

Due March 29. More contest details at youngwritersproject.org. Presented by YWP and Vermontivate, the sustainability game for Vermont communities

 

About the project

Young Writers Project is an independent nonprofit that engages students to write, helps them improve and connects them with authentic audiences through the Newspaper Series (and youngwritersproject.org) and the Schools Project (ywpschools.net). YWP is supported by this newspaper and foundations, businesses and individuals who recognize the power and value of writing. If you would like to contribute, please go to youngwritersproject.org/support.

Around Town

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Community room artist sought

The Williston Police Department is looking for a local artist to display work in its community room, which is located in the police station and open to the public.

Millie Whitcomb, executive assistant to the police chief, organizes the displays. For more information about displaying art, contact Whitcomb at [email protected]

 

Cheer camp at CVU

Prospective cheerleaders in grades eight through 12 can sign up for a cheerleading camp this summer, led by a National Cheerleaders Association college-certified cheerleader. The camp, held in the Champlain Valley Union High School gym, is set for June 20–22. Michelle Filardi, CVU varsity cheer coach, will supervise the camp.

The camp costs $155, and signups end May 1. Financial assistance will be considered based on need. Contact Filardi at [email protected] to sign up.

 

Deadlines approaching for local scholarships

Vermont Federal Credit Union is awarding four $2,000 scholarships to students with a history of academic achievement and service to the community. Two scholarships will go to graduating seniors and two to students of any age who have been accepted to or are enrolled in an undergraduate program.

Applications are due April 5 and are available at www.vermontfederal.org. Applicants must write about their student and community leadership activities and what factors led them to choose the school they plan to attend. Applicants must also answer an essay question.

The Vermont Golf Association Scholarship Fund is accepting applications for scholarships of $1,000 annually for four years of school. Applications are due April 20 and are available at www.vtga.org.

Applicants must be in the top 40 percent of their graduating class, demonstrate financial need, be accepted as an undergraduate student and have a connection to the game of golf.

A special scholarship will be awarded this year in memory of Rutland High School senior and golf team member Carly Ferro. Applicants must demonstrate a sincere love for golf and dedication to community service, as well as intent to attend a college in Vermont. Use the VGA Scholarship Application and include a one-paragraph explanation of how you meet the intent of the scholarship request.

 

Big Basket Raffle donations

Donations are being collected until April 5 for the Big Basket Raffle, scheduled for April 13. The annual raffle, organized by Williston School District Families as Partners, benefits Williston schools. FAP is also looking for volunteers during the event. For more information, contact Liz Neeld at [email protected]

 

Arts funding available 

Funding is now available for Vermont artists and arts organizations through the Vermont Arts Endowment Fund and the Concert Artists Fund at the Vermont Community Foundation. The Vermont Arts Endowment Fund awards grants up to $5,000 to support the creation and presentation of new work by Vermont artists and arts organizations. The Concert Artists Fund awards grants up to $10,000 to support organizations that present performances of classical music in Chittenden County. Applications to both funds will be accepted through May 1. Visit www.vermontcf.org to learn more.

Public employee pension reform bill signed into law

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James Deeghan

James Deeghan

Observer staff report

Public employees who are convicted of financial crimes like embezzlement, theft and bribery can now be stripped of their pensions.

The new law, signed by Gov. Peter Shumlin on March 20, was prompted by a time sheet padding case at the Vermont State Police Williston Barracks last year.

Former Vermont State Police Sgt. James Deeghan pleaded guilty to two felony counts of false claims and two counts of neglected duty on Jan. 14. Deeghan logged nearly 1,000 fake tickets in an investigation going back six years, according to Chittenden County State’s Attorney T.J. Donovan, whose office prosecuted the case.

Deeghan had been a state police officer since 1990 before resigning in July after fraud allegations surfaced.

As part of a plea agreement, Deeghan will repay the state of Vermont using money from his pension for overtime he did not work, and his pension was reduced from $68,000 to $44,000.

Under the new law, judges can order that any public employee convicted of certain financial crimes forfeit some or all of his or her pension.

The judge is directed to consider several factors including the severity of the crime, the amount of money the state or town has lost, the degree of public trust placed in the individual and whether innocent family members depend on the pension.

The law will apply to new convictions.

“I believe that this pension forfeiture law gives us an important tool going forward to protect taxpayers and keep the public trust in those rare instances where a public employee engages in a crime for financial gain,” Shumlin said in a press release. “Our public employees are hardworking, honest Vermonters who also wanted to see this protection in place, and I appreciate the support we received from the public labor organizations in helping to pass this bill.”

Roughly half of all states have some type of law on the books dealing with pension issues linked to criminal cases.

Williston students know how to ‘grow money’

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FRONT-FinancialPosters

Williston Central School fourth graders (from left) Emily Glickman, Shane Skiff and Evan Forrest earned first place, an honorable mention and third place in the Be Moneywi$e Financial Literacy Poster Competition. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

A group of Williston Central School fourth graders has financial and investment advice that many adults could stand to hear.

“Buy needs before wants,” said Evan Forrest.

“You should spend it on a house,” said Emily Glickman.

“Get a savings account at your local bank,” said Shane Skiff.

The three Williston students, all 10, were recently honored for their artwork and financial savvy in the Be Moneywi$e Financial Literacy Poster Competition, an annual contest sponsored by the State Treasurer’s Office and the Vermont Bankers Association.

Students in grades three through 12 are asked to create a poster that illustrates the year’s theme. This year, students were asked to complete the phrase, “I can grow my money by…”

Emily Glickman took home the top honors in the elementary school division, winning $100 cash, and $100 for her school. Evan Forrest took home third place and Shane Skiff received an honorable mention.

“In the past they’ve done well, but this year they really did good,” said art teacher M.C. Baker. Baker said this year’s group of students spent a multitude of recess and after school hours working on their posters. “They really put their all into it,” she said.

Emily said she was surprised to hear she had won—and didn’t initially hear the announcement, since her classmates were cheering so loudly.

“Everyone in my class was cheering, and I was shy for a second,” she said. “Everyone’s artwork is great…. I’m kind of thrilled that I won.”

Perhaps predictably, Emily is doing something fiscally responsible with her winnings.

“I’m putting it in a savings account for college,” she said.

Emily, Shane and Evan, along with their families and Baker, are headed to Montpelier April 11 to receive their prizes.

Nearly 400 students submitted posters—246 of them in the elementary school division. Winners are chosen based on expression of the theme, artwork style and content, and creativity.

“The posters from Williston just have a great balance of not only artwork, but also a real understanding of the money concepts we were asking kids to illustrate,” said Lisa Helme, director of financial literacy and communications for the state’s treasury department. “Those students did a great job.”

Helme said the treasury department looks at the contest as a learning opportunity first and art contest second.

“A lot of times money is a taboo subject,” Helme said. “Anything we can do to help facilitate conversations about money we feel is a step in the right direction.”

Baker said it’s clear parents have been reaching out to their kids about smart money techniques, and the contest helps encourage those conversations.

“It gives us a chance to touch on good saving techniques and what is an investment,” Baker said. “It’s a wonderful vehicle, through the art class, to say, ‘hey, what would you do with your money? You’re going to be working really hard for it, how will it work for you?”

Baker said her students took the question seriously, asking each other at recess what they’d do with their money. The answer leaned decidedly away from candy and toward college funds, Baker said.

Emily, Evan and Shane said they each receive an allowance—and most of it goes right into their savings accounts.

“It’s good to save it,” Shane said. “Don’t just throw money around too much.”

Helme said children are never to young to begin learning about finances.

“Our financial world is just getting more and more complex,” she said. “The more we can help our children feel at ease about the subject of money and begin to feel like they can manage money, we feel that just puts them on firmer ground as they enter adulthood.”

 

FRONT-Poster-Emily-Glickman-032813

Emily Glickman’s poster won first place in the Be Moneywi$e Financial Literacy Poster Competition.

FRONT-Poster-ShaneSkiff-032813

Shane Skiff’s poster received an honorable mention.

FRONT-Poster-EvanForrest-032813

Evan Forrest’s poster took third place.

 

 

NEFCU to host financial literacy seminar

New England Federal Credit Union is set to host “Economy of Me,” a financial literacy seminar for students in grades 9-12. The seminar, which is free and open to the public, is scheduled for Wednesday, April 10 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at NEFCU’s Williston branch.

“It’s a great opportunity to learn about finances and how to manage money, because I think it’s important, especially as they move along in their life, to learn about finances at an early age,” said Cindy Morgan, NEFCU senior marketing executive.

Speaker, author, and standup comic Colin Ryan will present the seminar. Morgan said he will cover the importance of good credit, how to save and building a financial foundation.

Morgan said financial management education is often lacking for young people.

“We’ve been doing sessions for young adults for many years and we find that they’re not getting that kind of education in other places,” she said.

Tomasi honored for ‘heart’

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By Rachel Gill

Observer correspondent

Theresa Tomasi credits her 28 adopted children with teaching her everything about everything.

“It’s a great experience to be a parent, believe me, there is never a dull moment,” Tomasi said. “My children have taught me all I know today and all about myself.”

Since 1962, in addition to the children she has adopted herself, Tomasi has aided in 9,000 adoptions through her work at Lund, a family treatment and support center for pregnant or parenting teens, women, adoptive families and children. Tomasi was the organization’s executive director for five years and a member of the Lund Board of Trustees for six years.

Tomasi’s dedication to children led Lund to recognize her with a Heart of the Community Award, scheduled to be presented March 28. Her fellow honorees are Ann Bielawski of Shelburne, a volunteer at Lund for 15 years, and James Pizzagalli of Shelburne, a former member of Lund’s Board of Trustees and program supporter.

“I consider it a very nice honor when someone thinks your work is important and it’s also a very important validation,” Tomasi said. “I appreciate that they thought of me and it makes me feel good.”

Barbara Rachelson, Lund executive director, said Tomasi’s efforts helped Lund achieve its current success.

“She transformed Lund from a place for women to come and hide to wait out their nine months into a place to receive educational skills and the proper counseling to be successful,” Rachelson said. “Theresa came when Lund was experiencing some hard times and helped Lund in lots of ways. She was there just at the right time, in the right way, she’s an angel.”

Amy Cronin, Lund special events and sponsorship coordinator, said all award recipients deserve the honor.

“We looked to celebrate individuals with innovative and enduring contributions to Lund and the community as a whole, and they all meet that criteria,” Cronin said.

Tomasi began working with Lund in the early 1960s, during her summer break from McGill University in Montreal, where she was working toward a Master’s degree in social work.

“Lund was such a caring, loving facility that did a lot of good work,” Tomasi said.

That experience sparked a personal interest in adopting. Tomasi adopted her first child, Tracy, the summer after she graduated in 1962.

“It was through the grace of God that one of my classmates at McGill worked for an adoption agency,” Tomasi said. “At the time, it was very difficult to adopt as a single parent, so having that connection was helpful.”

Despite her classmate’s help, the adoption process wasn’t easy.

“At the time, in Canada, children had to be placed with parents of the same religion,” Tomasi said.

As a Catholic, the odds were in her favor.

“I was very lucky to be Catholic, as the number of Catholic children was much higher,” Tomasi said. “This was a problem in some cases, because once children were beyond the infant stage, it made placing them much more difficult.”

After Tomasi’s first adoption, she was hooked.

“I got addicted,” she said. “I didn’t intend to, but it just made me so happy to get my first and after that I figured I have room for one more, and it just kept going from there.”

The rest of Tomasi’s 27 adoptions were arranged through Lund.

“Lund impacts so many lives through adoption and I know personally what it has meant to be able to adopt and give these children the permanency of having a home,” Tomasi said. “Once you see the need out there, you just can’t help but to want to provide for these kids.”

Tessa, 19, adopted at 8 months, and Tova, 21, adopted at age 8, both said Tomasi is always finding ways to improve children’s lives.

“She never stops giving,” Tessa said. “She is actually sponsoring a school for the blind in West Africa, she sends them sends textbooks, Braille papers and other school supplies.”

Family get-togethers, though busy, have always been very special for Tova.

“Some of the best memories are during holidays like Christmas or Easter and having everyone together, some of the best times,” Tova said.

For Tessa, having Tomasi as her mom has meant making new friends.

“It’s always been a fun experience living here and meeting kids from other countries,” Tessa said. “She makes everyone so comfortable and makes it easier to connect with everyone.”

All the siblings have given Tomasi a special nickname.

“She’s Mother Teresa, she’s very patient,” Tessa said. “Today one of our brothers had a soccer game and it’s freezing, but she stuck it out.”

Tessa is certain that being a part of a large family is the way to go.

“It’s the best thing,” Tessa said. “We never fight, we always have support and someone always has your back.”

Tomasi also points to her large family as the key to being able to do what she does.

“Sometimes, I feel like the most disorganized person in the world, but because the children are all really helpful, it makes it all work,” Tomasi said. “It’s just a family affair, as they say.”

A sweet time of year

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Williston sugarhouse owner Mark Yandow, who runs Sugartree Maple Farm with his wife, Amy, showed kindergarteners from Allen Brook School how he boils sap on Monday. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)

Williston sugarhouse owner Mark Yandow, who runs Sugartree Maple Farm with his wife, Amy, showed kindergarteners from Allen Brook School how he boils sap on Monday. (Observer photo by Stephanie Choate)

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

Like a flock of baby birds, Williston kindergarteners clustered around the trunk of a freshly tapped maple at Sugartree Maple Farm Monday, letting the sap drip onto their outstretched fingers for a taste of the sweet liquid.

A chorus of exclamations rang out from the tightly knit group—“It’s sweet!” “I like sap!”—before the children ran off to examine the next bucket, slowly filling with sap in the early spring sun.

The Allen Brook School students visiting Mark and Amy Yandow’s Williston sugarhouse were not the only ones to check out one of Vermont’s most cherished industries.

Thousands of Vermonters and visitors to the state stopped by dozens of participating sugarhouses during the 12th annual Vermont Maple Open House Weekend.

Mark Yandow estimated that 1,000 people came by his sugarhouse over the weekend, sampling sugar on snow and snapping up syrup and maple treats.

Britnee Glass and Matt Wanderlich tasted sticky-sweet sugar on snow outside the sugarhouse Sunday.

It was Glass’s first taste of the confection, as well as her first visit to a Vermont sugarhouse. Wanderlich, a Vermonter, said he hasn’t been to a sugarhouse since he was young.

“It’s awesome,” Glass said. “It’s like taffy. It’s really sweet, but it’s good.”

Glass said she loved the idea of an open house.

“I think it’s great for someone like me who grew up in Washington, D.C. and has never been exposed to how it works,” she said. “Vermonters love their maple syrup. I’m always pleasantly surprised by all the different things they do with it.”

Amy Marks and her 8-year-old son, Jack, stopped by to see the sugarhouse and taste the sugar on snow—though Jack was more interested in a large bag of fluffy maple cotton candy, which he pronounced “really good.”

Marks said she loves the idea of opening up sugarhouses to the public.

“It’s great for Vermont,” said the Shelburne resident. “It brings people here and brings everyone together and it’s fun for kids.”

After a somewhat slow start to the season, Williston syrup makers are hoping the recent string of perfect sugaring weather—sunny days in the mid-40s and cold nights in the mid-20s—will hold.

Mike Isham of Isham’s Family Farm said he’s made about 25 percent of what he expected for this time of year, though he said the syrup’s flavor has been good and its sugar content is high.

The last few days have been good for sugaring, and he’s hoping the sap run will pick up over the next two weeks, he said. He’s also hoping for a bit of precipitation—ideally a blanket of snow, which would keep the ground cold and prolong the season.

“We need some moisture … a good snowstorm would be nice,” he said. “We like what the skiers like.”

Ann Comeau, who runs the Comeau Family Sugarhouse in Williston with her husband, Bernie, also has an eye on the forecast.

“We’re hoping it doesn’t get too warm too soon,” Comeau said. “My husband always says messy weather is good for sugaring.”

Comeau said their season has been great so far—much better than last year’s season, which ended abruptly.

This year, the Comeaus took advantage of new technology—taps with a small plastic ball that stops sap from flowing back into the tap hole, sending a signal to the tree to heal the hole and eventually stopping the sap from flowing. The new taps allowed the Comeaus to tap their trees in the beginning of January, extending their sugaring season. So far, they’ve made about 800 gallons.

Mark Yandow—standing in his sugarhouse Monday, as maple-scented steam from boiling sap filled the air—said he’d made 292 gallons so far, and estimated he’d make another 80 to 90 gallons that day.

“Every season is different,” he said. “The next two weeks is where the bulk of our syrup is going to be made.”

Yandow said he thinks the season could go well into April this year.

Once the ground thaws and buds begin to come out, the sugaring will stop.

“Once the worms come out on the dirt roads, it means the frost is gone and the season is done,” Isham said.