Home Commentary DOT'S DOWNTOWN BEAT: Have Fun Helping Others: Volunteer Your Time

DOT'S DOWNTOWN BEAT: Have Fun Helping Others: Volunteer Your Time


by Dot Helling

Central Vermonters give back. Are you retired? Working part-time? Have no obsessive hobbies that keep you “24/7” on the golf course, trails or water? Simply want more to do? Well, here’s an answer: VOLUNTEERISM. The opportunities in Central Vermont are boundless and the need exists. Here are some ideas to get you out there helping others and our community.

Central Vermont Habitat for Humanity, Inc. (yes, “the Jimmy Carter thing”) is building a home for a qualified family off Route 2 adjacent to the Benson Conservation Area. The existing home was removed, the old garage torn down and the site prepared for a new stick built passive structure. I am working at the site with a diverse group of volunteers including soon to be homeowners Stephanie Boucher, Nick Dentico and their one-year-old daughter Amelie. Supervisors include Bruce Landry, Chris Miksic and Debbie Goodwin, Central Vermont Habitat’s executive director. The hours and jobs you work are versatile. You do what you can, when you can, and show up when you say you will. Construction skills or experience are not required, although expertise is welcome. There are a myriad of jobs from brush removal to raking to banging nails that you can do, and alot to learn. If interested contact Central Vermont Habitat. Another house is in the planning stages so the work will not run out.

If you want to improve the appearance of our community, jump on board with the Trash Tramps who meet on Tuesday afternoons to clean up our downtown streets, and keep the “Green-Up” tradition going year-round. You’ve probably seen them in their yellow vests and protective gloves, garbage bag and pickup implements in hand. Sign up at the Montpelier Senior Activity Center (MSAC) on Barre Street. If you participate as a Trash Tramp, you might get adorned with a catchy nickname such as “Antonio (Otis) the Bagman,” “Sakholder Sue (Roop)” or “Sister Sludge (Nancy Schulz).”

MSAC also needs other types of volunteers. You can teach classes, lead group outings, do office functions, activity planning, cleaning, food preparation, or simply assist with elder needs. Activities take place all week long and on weekends, including painting and yoga classes, readings, walks, scrabble, music and dancing options. Membership is affordable, support is great.

Prefer to work with a younger set? Our local schools have reading and tutorial programs for volunteers. Residents like Lynn Wild and Paula Emery lead field and after school programs. Emery recently worked a day with U32 students and made a huge difference in the lives of two homeowners. They mulched, weeded and mowed for Barbara Eniti who is in her 90s, and cleaned out a full and sometimes moldy and “mousy” garage for a crippled woman suffering a debilitating disease.

If you like being outside sign up with Geoff Beyer our City Parks Director, or with John Snell of the Montpelier Tree Board to participate in the removal of invasives, or the weeding, planting, watering and pruning of trees and flowers, or woodlands projects in Hubbard Park. Keep your ears open for River Cleanup day usually held in August. Many of these outdoor activities and contacts for them are posted on the city’s website: montpelier-vt.org. You can also volunteer at the Nature Center and work in some of the community gardens.

Rather stay indoors and be around books and the solemnity and archival smell of libraries? Then Kellogg Hubbard Library is your place. You can volunteer to work the stacks, work events, help with book sales, fund-raising and much more. Other “inside jobs” include volunteering for Meals on Wheels, the food kitchens, at the hospital and for a number of medical, mental health service and assisted care providers. It’s amazing what a “touch of love” will do to brighten the life of a sick child, a disabled adult, a dying elder.

If you yourself need some assistance and want to barter or volunteer, join the Onion River Exchange. It’s a web-centered barter economy that works on a time bank system whereby folks trade services such as baby sitting, weeding, computer help and more on an hour for hour basis. The offices are on Barre Street. The contact person is Heather Kralik.

The Vermont-New Hampshire Red Cross needs volunteers in the Central Vermont area to serve here and in other areas requiring disaster relief. They will train you to provide mass care, sheltering and counseling in disaster situations. Contact them on the internet or email jon.stacy@redcross.org .

Are you an animal lover? The Central Vermont Humane Society can use dog walkers, foster families, animal care, office and special events volunteers. They also need folks for landscape and facilities maintenance and safe animal transport. Check them out at centralvermonthumane.org

Want something more serious? Then run for City Council or volunteer for one of our municipal boards or committees. The seats rotate and openings occur regularly. Whether you want to be a city policy maker or an enforcer, you may find your niche. You can participate in the preservation and designing of our city by serving on the planning board, design review or associated committees. You can help preserve and enhance our Central Vermont experience by participating in groups such as Montpelier Alive! Keep on the alert through Times Argus postings or the city’s website: montpelier-vt.org.

There are a myriad of opportunities and organizations I have not mentioned here. Just look around and talk to people and you will find a way to help our community. Ask if you’re needed at your favorite haunts, pick up a piece of trash on the street, help an elder or disabled person cross the road or carry home groceries, volunteer at community and school events. Reach out and touch someone every day, whether it be small or large, a physical or mental assist, matters not. Being there for others in the smallest of ways will empower you and make your day while enhancing our neighborhoods and the lives of our residents who live in them. Just do it!