Home News and Features Community and Business News in Brief, Sept. 6, 2023

Community and Business News in Brief, Sept. 6, 2023

Goods Giveaway volunteers Eileen Dugan and Pat Collier. Photo by Mary Cole Mello.

The Goods Giveaway

Early in July, while helping out with flood clean up, Montpelier resident Jessica Oparowski stared at the piles of flood debris lining the streets and wondered: “. . . what would it be like to lose everything you owned when you had no money to replace things? . . . I was thinking, especially, of renters who were unlikely to have flood insurance.” 

Oparaowski imagined a garage sale, but not a “sale.” What if people in the community gathered the clothing and household items they might normally put aside for a garage sale and offered them to flood victims for free? She posted her idea on Front Porch Forum, and a small army of volunteers went into action. The Barre Aldrich Library offered space for the event, called the Goods Giveaway, on Aug. 18. Posters went up, the Times Argus and The Bridge spread the word, and Lalitha Mailwaganam of Montpelier organized free meals for everyone who attended. Bob Nelson of Nelson’s Hardware in Barre and the Elks Club sent over tents in case of rain. Mark Tatro from Tatro’s Appliances brought over a trailer. Because flood survivors needed to be sure their tetanus shots were up to date, the Department of Health offered vaccinations on site. 

Donations began arriving early on Aug. 17. By 11 a.m., overwhelmed volunteers had to turn away donors. There was no more room. People began lining up at 9:15 a.m. Friday; the giveaway opened at 10:00 a.m.. Patrons were still coming at 5:30 p.m. 

Oparowski remembers a homeless man standing in line, “He told me he came to get some things because his encampment was flooded. I gave him a backpack and a tarp. He offered to help and stayed for the day.” 

One woman took a supply of infant clothing for her neighbor. A volunteer saw a shirtless man arrive on a bicycle. A few minutes later he rode off wearing a shirt. When told that everything was free, one visitor asked, “What’s the catch?”

Leftover items didn’t go to a landfill. Oparowski and other volunteers (including many members of her own family) took them to Amy’s Armoire in Barre and the Goodwill in Williston. 

At the end of the day, Oparowski was tired and grateful. “The volunteers stepped up and gave me direction. They helped to put everything together … I wish I could have thanked all of them in person.”

Now she’s thinking about next year. Maybe our community could use more “giveaways.”

—Mary Cole Mello

FEMA Activates Helpline for Disaster Survivors

Vermont survivors of the July 7–17 severe storms, flooding, landslides, and mudslides can access FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Helpline. Experts will be available to offer advice on how to build your home back stronger and safer.

Help is available to all homeowners, not only those affected by the recent storms, by calling the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Helpline at 833-336-2487, then select prompt number 3 for Vermont.

The FEMA mitigation experts are also available for in-person advice on rebuilding at Disaster Recovery Centers, which are open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Saturday, in affected areas across the state. To find a center near you, visit fema.gov/drc. You may also call FEMA at 800-621-3362 for recovery center locations.

Locally, there is a disaster recovery center located at the Vermont College of Fine Arts in College Hall and another at the Barre Auditorium.

—press release

FEMA Seeking Multi-Family Residences

FEMA wants to hear from multi-family unit owners and landlords as it looks to temporarily house flood victims whose homes are uninhabitable. The Multi-Family Lease and Repair program allows FEMA to make improvements to existing units, bring them up to code, and then house flood victims for a minimum of 18 months. Reach out to FEMA by Sept. 12. To start, send an email to FEMA-DR4720VT-Housing@fema.dhs.gov. Find the information FEMA needs at www.rb.gy/kz0wy.

—from Central Vermont Regional Planning Commission

Fall Central Vermont OLLI Series

Central Vermont Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) programs begin soon at the Montpelier Senior Activity Center on Barre Street, with eight speakers plus a three-film series hosted by Rick Winston (films are shown at the Savoy Theater). The series runs Sept. 20 through Dec. 6. 

The Wednesday series starts Sept. 20, when Linda Radtke celebrates the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1919 and traces the suffragette movement’s alignment with other social justice initiatives through song and story in full-period costume.  

Programs include new Medicare Advantage options, the Vermont Senior Games, the Vermont 251 Club, Rob Mermin’s Parkinson’s Pantomime Project, Ben Koenig on Dorothy Canfield Fisher, UVM Professor Anthony D’Amato on tree species migration, and Garrett Graff with his new book on UFOs.  All this plus three comedies by film director Ernest Lubitsch. 

Register for all 11 Wednesday presentations (all begin at 1:30 p.m.) — eight talks plus three films — for $40 ($70 for two) or for individual sessions at $8 apiece. Payment cannot be made at the programs. Registration and all details are at learn.uvm.edu/olli/centralvt or call 802-223-5886.

—press release

Do Good Fest Contributes over $1.7M to Vermont Flood Relief

The National Life Group Do Good Fest brought in $1,712,445 in donations and pledges for Vermont Community Foundation’s Vermont Flood Response and Recovery Fund 2023.

With the devastation Vermont experienced last month from historic flooding, National Life transformed within three days the annual benefit concert “Do Good Fest,” historically held on the company’s back lawn, to an indoor acoustic performance that was live-streamed so that viewers across Vermont, the nation, and globally could support the rebuilding of Vermont through online donations.

The July 15 event generated 1,845 gifts from 42 states and five countries outside of the U.S., raising $962,445, with National Life matching $750,000.

Partnered with the Vermont Community Foundation’s Vermont Flood Response and Recovery Fund 2023, the funds are dispersed to local relief agencies. Donations are still being accepted.

Broadcast live by Star 92.9 and Vermont’s Own WCAX Channel 3, on July 15 special guests joined the Plain White T’s, Fastball, lovelytheband, and Vermont favorite, All Night Boogie Band, during Do Good Fest, a telethon-type live event held from 6 to 9 p.m.

Rebuilding takes a long time. Donations are still being accepted online at classy.org/give/501764/#!/donation/checkout.

—press release

Local Honors 

Ella Pembroke, of Middlesex, was named to the 2023 spring semester Dean’s List at Simmons University in Boston.