Volunteers build goodwill at Respite House

Elfuns’ use grant money to construct new patio

By Ben Moger-Williams
Observer staff

The Vermont Respite House has a new patio, thanks to the hard work of volunteers from the GE Elfun Community Foundation.

The Elfuns, also known as the GE Volunteers, are a group of retired General Electric Co. workers in the greater Burlington area. The group tries to do one large community service project a year, said Ed Finkbeiner, vice president of the Burlington chapter. They must apply for money for projects through the Elfun Community Foundation. This year the group asked for $7,000 for renovations to the Respite House, and they received it.

“You have to have a lot of personal involvement,” Finkbeiner said. “You’ve got to have some sweat equity into it otherwise they won’t give us the money.”

And sweat they did. The volunteers worked for several days constructing the shelves, gutter downspouts and the patio itself. Four Seasons Garden Center, Gregory Supply and contractor Forrest White also helped with construction and planting of greenery around the patio, Keegan said. The volunteers also moved a pergula, or trellis into place.

The new patio looks out over a garden in the inner courtyard, Keegan said. “It was just grass before,” she said. “This creates a whole other place for residents and their families to be together.”

The patio project is part of a larger overall plan, designed by Respite House volunteer and Williston resident Mary Jo Childs. In January, Elfun member Norb Crouchley approached the director of Vermont Respite house, Sharon Keegan, asking if there were any projects she needed done. Keegan told Crouchley about the plan, which involved shelving in the garage, a gutter system and the patio.

“It was a beautiful coming together of community to care for the Respite House and to fulfill some of these special projects that enhance the lives of our residents,” Keegan said.

Keegan said the residents at the Respite House enjoyed seeing people being active and were grateful to the volunteers.

“They said it was beautiful and very special, and would really look forward to sitting out there,” Keegan said. “All we need is another climate.”

Keegan hinted that there are still more elements to the overall plan that have yet to be completed. She said they are looking to build a side courtyard patio, and need help with the stonework, and building a small waterfall.

Finkbeiner did not know what the group’s next project was going to be.

“ We’re going through the process now of developing our request for next year,” he said. “It could be anywhere in Chittenden County.”

The Elfun Community Foundation was founded in 1928 as a way for GE stockholders to keep an eye on the company and to make suggestions regarding GE’s future. The name is an abbreviation for “electrical funds.” In the 1980s, the organization began to focus more on community service and volunteerism. Now the organization boasts members in more than 40 countries and they perform more than 1,100 volunteer projects each year, according to the organization’s Web site. GE has not been in Burlington since 1993, but many former GE workers stayed connected to the Elfuns. Finkbeiner said there are about 113 members who are active in the Chittenden County area.

ounded in 1991, the Vermont Respite House is the only state-licensed home for the terminally ill in Vermont. It is run by the Visiting Nurses Association.