Women making a difference in Williston (1/7/10)

Jan. 7, 2010

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

This week is National Women’s Self-Empowerment Week, and the Observer is highlighting several women who make an impact in Williston.


Jensen gives back through service

Williston resident Jeanne Jensen said her love for the town has inspired her to give back to the community in many ways.

She’s the Champlain Valley Union High School Board chairwoman, as well as vice president and treasurer of the Williston Community Food Shelf. Both positions require an enormous time commitment on top of her job as finance manager at IBM, but she finds the causes worth the extra effort.


Jeanne Jensen

“If you enjoy your work and if you work with people who are passionate, you can get things done,” Jensen said.

She’s been a member of the CVU School Board since 2003 and chairwoman almost as long. She wanted to become more involved in the school system after volunteering on several committees in Williston. When former board chairman Bob Mason stepped down to accept his position as chief operations officer with Chittenden South Supervisory Union, Jensen stepped in.

As board chairwoman, Jensen sets agendas and works with the board to determine the school’s multi-million dollar budget. She said working with the board requires a lot of time, but every member is committed to providing the best education for every CVU student.

Her three-year term expires this year and Jensen said she plans to run for reelection.

On top of her CVU duties, Jensen volunteers with the Food Shelf, handling finances and board responsibilities. She began volunteering with the organization when founder Jill Lang announced she intended to start a Food Shelf.

“I said right from the beginning I’d be willing to help,” Jensen said.

She said the Food Shelf has become an important aspect of Williston.

Jensen said she’s also pleased with her work getting the bond passed for the town’s recreation paths.

As 2010 starts, Jensen said she’ll continue to help Williston through her board work and volunteer efforts.

“What can I say, I love this town,” Jensen said.


Plato’s Closet a destination store

Despite an uncertain economy, one store in Williston remains busier than ever.

Plato’s Closet in the Taft Corners Shopping Center had a banner year in 2009, said co-owner Roberta Hines, and she hopes 2010 will be just as successful.

Hines, who owns the store with her sister Stephanie Longshore and mother Grace Plante, said it’s her family’s dedication that helps make Plato’s Closet a popular destination in the Champlain Valley. The franchise store sells secondhand clothing, much of it popular brand names, for much lower prices than department stores. Hines also buys clothing from customers, paying more for trendier items.


Stephanie Longshore, Roberta Hines and Grace Plante (from left)

She said as the economy has wavered in the past year or so, she’s seen the number of customers increase greatly.

“We think the economy has definitely reflected back to our business, and in a good way,” Hines said.

Plato’s Closet opened in Taft Corners nearly eight years ago, with Hines and her family as owners. Longshore used to work for BFGoodrich and Plante used to work for Chittenden Bank. The mother-daughter team decided to open Once Upon a Child 16 years ago, with Hines leaving her social worker job in Burlington to join them. Plato’s Closet became such a focus for the family that they sold Once Upon a Child two-and-a-half years ago to new owners. That store continues to do well in the Taft Corners Shopping Center, Hines said.

While shoppers continue to walk out of the store with merchandise at lower costs, customers come in looking to sell their secondhand clothing. Hines pays cash for the items. She said many come in looking for quick money to help pay for rent or food. Hines said she’s seen the stress in people’s eyes over the past year and has been happy to help in some small way.

Hines also said Vermont shoppers welcome a chance to have a trendy, secondhand store within the state.

“Vermonters don’t have preconceived ideas of secondhand stores,” Hines said. “Used clothing doesn’t bother them.”