April 26, 2017

Koutras, Colbourn win volunteer awards

By Stephanie Choate

Observer staff

August 29th, 2013


John Koutras has volunteered with the Vermont Family Network for seven years. (Observer courtesy photo)

John Koutras has volunteered with the Vermont Family Network for seven years. (Observer courtesy photo)


Nancy Colbourn enjoys a woodworking activity with one of her mentees. She said mentoring is ‘an easy way to give back.’ (Observer courtesy photo)

Nancy Colbourn enjoys a woodworking activity with one of her mentees. She said mentoring is ‘an easy way to give back.’
(Observer courtesy photo)

Two Williston residents will be honored for their volunteer work by the United Way of Chittenden County next week.

John Koutras and Nancy Colbourn are among the 89 recipients of the United Way’s Building Blocks Awards, which honor volunteers working to build a stronger community in the areas of education, income and health.

Koutras and Vermont Family Network

Koutras volunteers on the board of the Vermont Family Network, a Williston-based organization that promotes better health, education and wellbeing for all children and families, with a focus on children and young adults with special needs.

“I’m flattered, I didn’t expect it,” Koutras said. “I’m really excited about hopefully getting the organization to be increasingly known in the community and if this award helps to do it, that would be wonderful.”

Koutras has worked with the organization for seven years.

“I am always really impressed by the dedication and commitment of the staff in helping children with any kind of special needs they may have, and families,” he said.

Koutras said the organization is currently focusing on fulfilling its mission in the face of federal budget cuts.

Jeff Morton, director of development and marketing at the Vermont Family Network, nominated Koutras for the award.

“He is quick to rise to any occasion where his help is needed and has been devoted to insuring our organization’s Board is robust and reflects the needs of our organization,” Morton wrote in his nomination letter. “His enthusiasm is infectious as he is quick to look at the positives which influence everyone around him. He is a great leader, not only on the board level, but whenever he stops by our office, the staff are quickly engaged by his insightful remarks, thoughtful gestures, and sincere interest in listening to them talk about their work.”

Colbourn longtime mentor

Colbourn is a mentor with the HowardCenter Community Friends Program, as well as CY Mentoring.

Through CY, Colbourn—along with a group of other mentors—spends time with students in grades 5 through 8. She then continues the mentoring through the HowardCenter until the student graduates.

Colbourn said students are “clamoring” to get into the mentoring program.

“Every child wants to have a mentor, I think,” she said. “It gives them an opportunity to have an adult friend who is not their parent and not their teacher and will give them undivided attention for an hour.”

Colbourn said mentoring is an easy way to give back.

“I don’t think people realize what an easy volunteer opportunity it is, and you get so much back,” she said. “It’s a really positive thing for everyone.”

Catherine Shahan, program coordinator at the HowardCenter, nominated Colbourn, along with 13 other mentors who have spent a combined 107 years in service.

“Each of these mentors from throughout Chittenden County has spent five or more years watching—and helping—their young friends grow,” Shahan wrote in a joint nomination letter. “They have participated in their mentees’ triumphs and tragedies. They have supported our community’s young people by being there when they said they would and treating them as the important, interesting, worthy, and fun human beings they are.”

The pair will be honored at a celebration breakfast on Sept. 4.


  1. youngvt says:

    I am writing in response to Mr. Hoxworth’s article on transportation costs for the poor in Vermont. I would like to suggest further research on this topic before we simply just give another handout or tax credit. The poor, may, have a higher disproportionate burden on their transportation costs than the wealthier residents of Vermont; however, they also have a lower disproportionate burden on taxes and housing. Pick your evil.
    We can simply just give every poor Vermonter an energy efficient car, gas card, free tuition, renter’s rebate, etc.…but the only way out of poverty is through the combination of education, hard work, and discipline. Education and degrees are not handed out or purchased; a person has to EARN them. This seems to be the only way out of poverty—sorry, there are no shortcuts.
    If we continue this trend of enabling, our entire state will be a welfare state.

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