Bennington County's Unsung Heroes 2021

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unsung Incredible stories of caring during the pandemic A special publication of The Bennington Banner | Saturday, June 12, 2021

Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Unsung Heroes



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The last year has been the most challenging in our history. We are profoundly grateful to our physicians, associate providers, nurses, and suppo staff who worked together in the interest of the region’s patients. Their compassion, skill, ingenuity, and dedication to safe, high-quality care saw us through every trying moment. We are also fo unate that we received a tremendous outpouring of suppo from our community during the pandemic. Donations of all kinds along with hea elt messages bolstered our effo s and li ed our spirits. All of us together ensured that SVMC remained open, ready, and safe. We never stopped providing the exceptional care and comfo that our region has come to expect. And we couldn’t have done it without you. We are stronger together. Thank you. Underwri en by Corporate Pa ner

100 Hospital Drive | Bennington, VT | 802-442-6361 | 2




One of only three hospitals in New England and 28 hospitals worldwide to achieve five consecutive designations as a Magnet® Center for Nursing Excellence.

Unsung Heroes | Saturday, June 12, 2021


Named the 2020 recipient of the Rural Hospital Leadership Award. Only one hospital in the nation is recognized each year by the American Hospital Association™.

Ranked fou h out of 3,282 hospitals nationwide for value of care. SVMC also earned an A+ overall, highest among Vermont’s 10 hospitals.


Received an “A” score for Hospital Safety Grade from The Leapfrog Group—the nation’s only rating focused entirely on patient safety.

Named one of Vermont Business Magazine’s “Best Places to Work in Vermont” in 2021 for the seventh straight year.


Underwri en by Corporate Pa ner

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SVMC’s commitment to quality care and innovation is recognized by the nation’s leading healthcare organizations. That means you can expect safety, expe ise, and compassionate, personalized care.

100 Hospital Drive | Bennington, VT | 802-442-6361 | 3

Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Unsung Heroes

A SALUTE Earlier this spring, the Bennington Banner launched this Unsung Hero project, an effort to recognize some of the many people who’ve gone above and beyond to help others during the pandemic. We asked readers to nominate their Unsung Heroes — people or groups of people whether they be independent or working on behalf of an agency or organization who responded in big and small ways to help others. We received several dozen nominations and we are proud to present many of them to you in this edition of “Unsung Heroes: Incredible stories of caring during the pandemic.” As you read their stories, some of their stories may sound familiar. You may be hearing others’ stories for the first time. Every story tells of a person or group of people who stepped forward to help others. Is this the complete list of heroes in our community? No. Indeed, tens of thousands of us in Bennington County owe hundreds, if not thousands, of our neighbors a debt of gratitude for their hard work and perseverance to help us all through. Those recognized here, as nominated by their peers, are merely some of them who went above and beyond. Thanks to all of you who took the extra time to nominate your hero and for providing us and your neighbors with their stories, many of which had not been told until now. If you’re inspired by some of the stories you read here, you’re not alone. We too were inspired. We thank the team of writers who helped put together these profiles. We thank the Banner’s presenting sponsor for Unsung Heroes: Southwestern Vermont Medical Center—one of the most award-winning small rural hospitals in the nation—and recent recipient of the American Hospital Association’s 2020 Rural Hospital Leadership Award, ranked fourth nationwide for the value of care by the Lown Institute Hospital Index, and a five-time recipient of the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Magnet® recognition for nursing excellence. Together, we are privileged to honor those highlighted here and wish everyone a bright and healthy year.

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160 Benmont Avenue, Suite 90, Bennington,VT


Helpline: 1-800-642-5119 Website:

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Monday-Friday 8:30-6 Saturday 8:30-2

HUGE THANK YOU! • Faculty • Staff • Administrators • Nurses • Coaches • Contractors • Food Service • Workers • Bus Drivers • Families • Students

Millions of people across the globe donate to charities or volunteer as a means of bolstering their communities and helping the less fortunate. Such help is valuable no matter when it’s offered, but giving back in 2021 has proven to be an especially necessary endeavor. As a global pandemic took hold in 2020, millions of people found themselves battling a potentially deadly virus, while millions more found them-

selves out of work as the economy came crashing to a halt. Health care workers have been on the front lines in the fight against the COVID-19 virus for months on end. Stressful working environments and concerns about bringing the virus home and potentially infecting their families have made the challenges of fighting the pandemic even tougher for health care workers. Supporting such workers in these uncertain times can be a

great way for people to show just how much they appreciate the extraordinary efforts of doctors, nurses, EMTs, and others who continue to confront COVID-19 every day.

ers and their families, offering to babysit on a weekend afternoon or tackle a few chores around the house can help exhausted health care workers catch their breath.

Keep it simple

Donate more than just your time and effort

Efforts to give back to health care workers need not be extraordinary. Simple gestures like preparing a weeknight meal for health care work-

An actively engaged general public can reassure health care workers that they’re not alone in the fight against COVID-19 and other potentially deadly viruses and diseases. While blood is not used to treat COVID-19, various health organizations, including the U.S. Surgeon General’s Office, have expressed concerns that hospitals will not have enough blood on hand to treat accident victims and sick people who need blood to survive. Social distancing measures may be keeping potential blood donors away, but the American Red Cross is urging people to continue donating blood so health care workers can meet the needs of patient care.

Unsung Heroes | Saturday, June 12, 2021


Support efforts to procure more funding for hospitals


ordinary citizens can thank nurses working in their communities.

Nurses have long been unsung heroes of the medical community. But that tide began to turn in 2020 as the world confronted the COVID-19 pandemic and realized just how invaluable nurses are to public health.

· Support efforts to protect nurses. Despite widespread recognition of how vital they are to public health, nurses still may not have unbridled access to personal protective equipment (PPE). An ANA survey of nurses working in various health care settings conducted in fall 2020 found that 42 percent of nurses indicated they were still experiencing widespread or intermittent PPE shortages. In fact, more than half of the 21,000-plus nurses surveyed reported that they were forced to re-use single-use PPE, a practice they said makes them feel unsafe. The public can do its part by urging local lawmakers to support legislation that increases domestic production of PPE so the brave men and women in the nursing profession can feel safe when doing their jobs.

According to the American Nurses Association, nearly 400 nurses in the United States died as a result of COVID-19 within eight months of a pandemic being declared in America. Globally, data from the International Council of Nurses indicated that roughly 1,500 nurses lost their lives to COVID-19 by the end of October 2020. That data is sobering and serves as a reminder that nurses put their lives on the line each day they go to work. Such sacrifices are worthy of widespread support, and there are many ways

· Give nurses and their families a night off from cooking. Long shifts in stressful situations have taken a toll on nurses and their families. Neighbors can pitch in by offering to cook and deliver meals or pay for takeout for nurses and their families. This simple gesture can provide a much-needed break for nurses and their spouses who have been stretched thin during the pandemic, and it's a great way to remind nurses their heroic efforts are not going unnoticed. · Help out with chores. Before going to the grocery store, text or call a friend or neighbor in the nursing field to see if he or she needs anything from the store. If nurses shop online for their groceries, arrange to pick them up so nurses can spend more time relaxing at home with their families. During warm weather seasons, offer to mow the lawn or help with leaf pickup.

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Since the outbreak of COVID-19, both the American Hospital Association and the American Nurses Association have expressed hospitals’ need for more financial support as they continue to battle the virus. By supporting such efforts and encouraging others to do the same, people looking to give back can send a message to health care workers that they’re supported and that their voices are being heard.


Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Unsung Heroes

ASHLEY WALKER OF BENNINGTON Mt. Anthony Union Middle School nurse, lead nurse and COVID-19 coordinator at the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Since 2017, Ashley Walker has been the school nurse at Mt. Anthony Union Middle School and lead nurse for the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union. When the coronavirus pandemic hit Vermont last year, she took on another role: COVID-19 coordinator for the eight-school supervisory union. Her new role involved helping interpret guidance from the state government on how to safely reopen schools amid the virus outbreak. This meant closely coordinating with the SVSU superintendent, the state health department’s Bennington office and local pediatricians. “The most important task was keeping our students and staff safe while reopening schools,” Walker, 38, said. A colleague at the middle school, Jennifer Austin, wants the community to know that Walker has shown compassion in fulfilling her many tasks. “She has been not only effective in her communication, but kind and un-

derstanding during a very difficult time for so many,” said Austin, a foreign language teacher. “She makes herself available to anyone and everyone, willing to lend a hand, give her advice or make people aware of critical information, around the clock.” Walker doesn’t consider herself a hero; she said other nurses at the supervisory union have similarly worked hard during this health emergency. “We have all had to make sacrifices in this pandemic,” she said. “We all sacrificed weekends, holidays and time with families to contact trace.” When the rising number of local COVID-19 cases impacted schools, she said SVSU was able to get through these difficult periods through collab-

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— From the nomination put forth by Jennifer Austin

oration among school nurses, building principals, supervisory union officials and the state health department. “Everyone was tired, but we got through it as a team,” Walker said. “We really did lean on each other, helping each other remember that we were doing the very best we could

given the circumstances.” She is glad that more and more people are now getting the COVID-19 vaccine, with shots made available to younger teens in May. Getting vaccinated, she said, is the best hope of ending this pandemic and returning to normalcy.

does the Chamber – in promoting the Shires of Vermont to potential visitors or future residents. He was nominated for going above Executive Director, Southwestern Vermont and beyond to fill that role during the COVID-19 pandemic. Chamber of Commerce Harrington immediately acknowlMatt Harrington leads the South- for information concerning services, edged that “there are a lot of heroes western Vermont Chamber of Com- grants and other support for local to thank” for their work during the merce, often acting as point person businesses. He also has a key role – as past year. He said he was “quite impressed by how Bennington In nominating Harrington as an Unsung Hero, Beth Friedman and the full county pulled together to said, “Throughout COVID, Matt, as head of the SWVT Chamber of make it work,” addCommerce, worked tirelessly to help guide and support small busiing, “I am humbled ness owners with regular email blasts, Zoom conferences and speby this nomination cial online programming. Were it not for him, I wouldn’t have known and think a heck of a lot of people made it about grants available to my particular business.” work.” Nominator Nancy Koziol said Harrington “has been tirelessly Harrington was working on behalf of the southwestern Vermont business and noncited for being a visprofit community throughout COVID. He has provided guidance ible and innovative through guest speakers, CAT-TV programs, helping navigate grants organizing force over the past year of and loans, promoting businesses and simply giving us space to lockdowns. meet, collaborate and support each other.” “I think we just got to work,” Harrington said. “We just saw who was hurting and who needed help.” As the county bePROVIDED PHOTO gan to emerge from

COVID-related restrictions, Harrington said the organization came to “see an opportunity to develop [innovative] ways we can service members, as well as non-members.” The Chamber, he said, focused on providing a range of business and health information through Zoom sessions, local cable channel programs on CAT-TV, and in other ways. The information regarding COVID-19 also was constantly changing and updating, Harrington said, requiring the Chamber and businesses owners to keep adjusting. “We kind of pulled together to lift ourselves up and keep going,” he said. “And there are a lot of things we learned – like how valuable our lodging and restaurant businesses are.” He added, “At the Chamber, we learned in a detailed way how to manage fixed costs. We all learned to do more with less.” Residents could in fact “see a blossoming of Vermont,” Harrington said recently, referring to “a lot of development that came in despite COVID.” Many new residents also moved to the area and to Vermont, he said, “and I think the [population] density is going to go up, especially in downtown Bennington, which is very well set up for that.”




“Ashley is the nurse at Mt. Anthony Union Middle School. She has worked tirelessly on countless committees, both within the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union and at the state level, to assist with the implementation of all CDC guidelines. She has always put the safety of both the students and staff within the SVSU at the forefront. She has been not only effective in her communication, but kind and understanding during a very difficult time for so many. She makes herself available to anyone and everyone, willing to lend a hand, give her advice or make people aware of critical information, around the clock. Her reach knows no bounds, and I, as well as all whom she has helped to deal with this health crisis, am grateful.”

Community organization For Bennington County residents in need of some sort of assistance during the pandemic, Helping Hands of Bennington County has been there to lend its support. The nonprofit organization and community Facebook page with more than 1,300 members is an incredible grassroots effort that has been helping community members in all sorts of ways since its inception nearly a year and a half ago. With the COVID-19 pandemic, the page grew even more as so many community members found themselves in need in one way or another. The group focuses a lot on food insecurity, delivering up to 65 boxes of food at a time through the farmers to families program. The outreach of the community-based organization extends well beyond that one area, though. Through donations and community members volunteering their time, Helping Hands distributed 125

blankets and blessing bags to those As the pandemic continues on, Helping Hands has played a cruin need during the early stages of the Frey-Zupko wants everyone to look cial role in keeping people safe and pandemic. out for one another. healthy. Whether it’s putting food on “It’s just as a way to kind of help “What I’d like to see is every neigh- the table for families or keeping peopeople avoid the judgment, the shame bor helping another neighbor,” she ple warm, the work the communityof asking for help,” said executive said. “Whether it’s through us or based group has achieved cannot be director Amy Frey-Zupko. “As the through each other.” overstated. needs change through the pandemic, Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve been able to step in either as admins and “Helping Hands of Bennington County is a Facebook group. Amy set it up, founders, or as volunteers to kind and with her crew she manages to provide whatever is needed - or others of help everybody. on the Facebook page help people in need. It is an incredible grass roots People come to us effort for neighbors to help for a variety of one another.Check it out! reasons.” It is a great community Sometimes, it can be as simple resource.” as a person mov— From the nomination put ing to a new apartforth by Mary McGuinness ment and needing help finding a bed. “For all their support during No issues are too big or too small for the pandemic and to all the the group, which volunteers we thank you.” has roughly 10 — From the nomination volunteers at the put forth by Carla Toner moment. Frey-Zepka said the group has seen a large uptick in posts and requests PROVIDED IMAGE for help since the pandemic began.

removal, tree bracing and cabling, pruning, stumpgrinding, landclearing and tree planting services, they offer root collar excavations, deep root fertilization and root system invigoration services to landowners interested in the proper care of their landscape investments. They also offer crane services for both residential and commercial applications. Greater Heights Tree and Land Management is the place to call for free tree hazard assessments and expert, knowledgeable advice on your treescape needs or concerns. For more information please visit

Thank you to all the frontline workers! We appreciate you! 802-823-5673

David Dence Jr. • Michael D’Agata

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In 2003, two college graduates to start their MANAGEMENT own Tree SerTREE AND LAND MANAGEMENT INC. decided TREE AND LAND INC. vice/Land Management Company. Both trained arborists, David Dence Jr.and Michael D’Agata followed their passions and Greater Heights Tree and Land Management was born. Operating on the principle that a customer’s 100% satisfaction is most important, they have grown into Southern Vermont’s most experienced, reputable tree service and land management company. As a local company, Dave and Mike are committed to the proper care and management of our area’s trees. In addition to safe tree

Unsung Heroes | Saturday, June 12, 2021



Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Unsung Heroes


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“This dedicated team of health experts selflessly rolled up their sleeves and worked tirelessly, without the public’s understanding of what Bennington’s Office of Local Health does in a crisis. Let’s give this small yet mighty team the recognition they deserve for keeping Bennington County as safe and as healthy as possible.” — From the nomination put forth by Victoria Silsby

The state health department’s nine-person Bennington County office worked to combat the novel coronavirus using multiple approaches. These included COVID-19 testing, vaccination and outbreak prevention, as well as providing the latest health guidance to residential care facilities, schools, work sites, child care centers and shelters. One of the most challenging aspects of the team’s job has been keeping up with the continually changing guidance – which it then has to transmit to the community. “Last spring, most of what we take for granted now as standard guidance during this pandemic was not even on paper,” District Director Megan

Herrington said of social distancing and masking. “Our staff was able to lean on their experience with infectious disease and standard prevention measures.” Although the office anticipated a rise in COVID-19 cases during the winter holiday season, it was still taken aback by the dramatic uptick in the county. The staff overcame this local outbreak through teamwork and close coordination with community partners in order to identify needs and quickly respond. “No single organization or agency can squash a pandemic alone,” Herrington said. The office staff also felt the nationwide crunch in personal protective

equipment during the early months of the pandemic. For instance, when they set up a testing site in Londonderry last July, they couldn’t forget being garbed in gowns that resembled plastic tablecloths and face shields that looked like inverted bleach bottles. But the day was a success: they served at least 300 people in the Mountain community. Victoria Silsby, of the local nonprofit The Collaborative, believes the office should be recognized as an Unsung Hero during the health crisis for its efforts to “selflessly” and “tirelessly” keep Bennington County as safe and as healthy as possible. Amid its pandemic-related work, the office also had to continue pro-

viding other services, such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. Staff transitioned their inperson WIC operations to a remote platform, so that nutritionists could remain in touch with clients and provide food assistance. Herrington believes the pandemic has showed people the importance of basic prevention measures and what an individual can achieve. “Throughout this shared experience, each and every one of us had a big part to play in the safety and health of our friends, families and colleagues,” she said, “and I hope that sense of responsibility stays with us.”

On March 18, 2020, Vermont’s schools were closed by order of Gov. Phil Scott to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Within 12 hours of its closing, Northshire Day School reopened as an essential child care center, a place where children could be cared for while their parents went to work on the frontlines of the pandemic.

While some day care centers chose to remain closed in the pandemic’s early days, half of Northshire’s 30 teachers volunteered to work in the school, caring for the 41 children who were enrolled. “They literally had a choice to stay home and get paid the same amount that they were getting paid to provide essential childcare,”

said Laurie Metcalfe, the school’s executive director. In spite of the many unknown risks in the early days of COVID-19, “they willingly stayed on and said, ‘We’re here for the kids. Somebody needs to be here for the kids.’” This kind of response by the school’s committed staff -- showing

“I returned to Manchester in the middle of the pandemic, with uncertainty about if my young children could go to school, whether or not they would be safe, and how our family would continue to earn an income. “Northshire Day School has gone beyond our expectations, providing nurturing care while adapting to everchanging mandates with our children’s safety as their top priority. During the COVID-19 Stay Home, Stay Safe Order, NDS provided essential childcare for essential workers, bins with food available 24 hours a day for anyone in need, bins with books and art supplies, and educational activities for children to do at home. Many NDS educators chose to work in-person while others learned to teach early childhood curriculum online. It truly takes a village to raise happy and healthy children, and Northshire Day School is an essential component of that support system for local families.” — From the nomination put forth by Jennifer Luty, NDS parent and development director

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up early and staying late to do additional laundry or extra cleaning, or to make sure that every child gets a health check in the morning -- doesn’t surprise Metcalfe, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not deeply appreciated. “Where the rubber meets the road, when things got really hard, and somewhat scary, they really stepped up and really just -- shined, to be honest,” she said. “I’m still amazed at all the hard work that went into just getting through the last 18 months.” The school reopened for in-person instruction as soon as they were allowed to by the governor, and has remained in-person every school day since. Thanks to efforts to slow the spread of the virus -- adopting face masks before they were required, for instance -- Northshire has had only a handful of COVID cases, and not one transmitted from one person to another inside the building. “Most of our staff didn’t take any vacations last year, not because nobody could travel because of COVID, but because they were committed to being here for the children,” Metcalfe said. Only now that vaccines have taken hold and COVID numbers are in decline are staff members allowing themselves to breathe a little easier. “I just I can’t say enough about the importance of early childhood educators and the importance they’ve had in these children’s lives. Always, but particularly during this time period,” she said.

Unsung Heroes | Saturday, June 12, 2021



Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Unsung Heroes The Bennington Banner | 10


Food service provider, SVSU


Transportation provider, SVSU Preparing and delivering meals to hungry children and families during the pandemic takes a team effort. But for the workers of the Abbey Group and Dufour Bus Company, the process of preparing and delivering meals to kids who might otherwise go hungry has been a mission rather than a chore. The Abbey Group, which provides food services to the Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union, and Dufour Bus Company, went to work on March 13 when Gov. Phil Scott declared a state of emergency to fight the pandemic. Maureen O’Neill, the Southern Vermont food service director for Abbey Group, and Mike Gardner, the district manager for Hinsdale, Mass.based Dufour, both said their workers jumped into the task and made it their mission. “We were essential workers. They stepped up to the plate and kept the kids fed,” O’Neill said of her crew of about 17 workers. “They’re my lunch heroes. … they’re an amazing group of people that care about feeding kids,” she said. The hardest part of the mission, O’Neill said, is that her crew thrives on the personal interaction with children at the 11 schools or programs Abbey Group serves. When schools went to remote learning, that was taken away. “Part of what makes this job wonderful is seeing smiles on the kids’ faces daily.” she said. “That was all taken away from my staff. But they didn’t complain. They put on their hair nets and face masks and kept going.” That left delivery to the 40 or so drivers Gardner manages at Dufour. “It was a collaborative effort,” he said. “It was a pile of us that worked on it together to make it happen.” The task wasn’t easy, given the SVSU’s geography. While many of the district’s students live in Bennington, many others are in rural areas of

CAROLINE BONNIVIER SNYDER — BENNINGTON BANNER Kristy Pratt and Katie Gerity pack up lunch bags for children from the back of the van in Pownal

“During the pandemic the Abbey Group has put out countless meals to children aged two to eighteen throughout the area covered by SVSU. They have consistently provided quality food and service with a smile throughout. They were greatly helped by caring bus drivers and bus aides who helped deliver meals to stops each and every day. “I got to ride along one day, in my role as an educator. It was wonderful to see the interactions between Dufour employees and families/students picking up meals. There was laughter shared, or updates on animals, or asking about school work. It was incredible to see this in a time that felt so isolated. Both of these groups provided some normalcy to students’ lives and connected them with food and caring adults. Their contributions should not go unrecognized.” — From the nomination put forth by Katie Sullivan

Pownal and Shaftsbury. “They just kind of did it because they felt a responsibility” to make sure children were being fed,” Gardner said. “No one was looking to get any glory out of it. They did it because it’s the right thing to do. They were trying to make sure kids were eating and being taken care of.”

That said, “I know they felt good about it,” Gardner added. The drivers noticed when the kids on their routes were missing deliveries, and made a point to let people know, he said. “They were paying attention.” For Gardner and the rest of the crew, the food delivery brought home how much hunger and food insecuri-

ty the community faces. He said drivers noticed when no one was home to take meal deliveries, and alerted supervisors when they returned to the garage. “Even though you know there’s a need, until you witness it and see what it does you take it for granted,” Gardner said.

For 30 years, CAT-TV has helped inform the community; during the pandemic, it was a lifeline Selfies on CAT-TV platforms along vered and revamped our content pro- has to offer, especially the amazing tocol, rebranded the channels and sense of community that rises to the with daily COVID updates. Byers described the CAT-TV team added to our programming lineup surface when we are in need! We are behind the scenes: Operations Man- while still providing services to the stronger together. “CAT-TV is grateful to be able to ager William Gardner (he celebrated community, juggling remote work 20 years with CAT-TV this year, Byers environments and keeping our eye continue to serve this community as we have for 30 years,” Byer said. “We said); Production Manager Mike Cut- on the ball.” One shining moment of the pan- are excited to document post-panler built relationships and alliances and ensured that events were shared demic is a greater appreciation of demic life and follow our mission with the community, nonprofits were the community we serve,” Byer said. to provide a forum for free speech, supported, meetings were covered, “When faced with the challenges, our offer production training and resports games were live and informa- community came together and pulled sources and engage citizens in local government. We are privileged to be tion was made available; production through the hard times. “We believe that Bennington will serving this amazing community assistants Jim Vires and Josh Boucher are the “boots on the ground” come back from this crisis even stron- and are honored to be recognized for covering meetings and events; and ger and prouder of what our area our efforts.” Digital Media Coordinator Tony Connor sees to it that CAT“Communication is key in a crisis. Catamount Access Television went above TV’s three channels are running the latest and beyond to do the reporting we so badly needed. Partnering with the Southcontent and are runwestern Vermont Chamber of Commerce, CAT-TV created at least 15 telecasts in ning fresh and rel2020 as the Chamber partnered with Southwestern Vermont Medical Center and evant programming. other partners to help communicate healthy information and recovery efforts. Viewers may not “They continued to suphave known this, but port democracy even during during the pandemic the crisis as we watched SeCAT-TV tackled a lect Board meetings, school “looming channel board meetings, ballot countreassignment at the ing and more. They never height of the panmissed a step and helped to demic.” For a televibring the region into the 21st sion station, that’s no easy task when Century by providing crucial there’s no pandemic. technology and experience But the staff at CATas we transitioned from inTV made it happen. person to remote. “If you can picture “As a community organizer, five of us spread out CAT-TV continued to provide as far as possible, needed morale boosts by masked, with safety carrying on musical shows, glasses and gloves on theatrical performances and — seeing each other talent shows. They were a for the first time after steady heartbeat for all of us months of lock down as we dealt with the pandem— faced with develic. They were our friendlyoping a plan for the move of our channel neighborhood public access locations while the channel when we needed world was spiraling ‘public’ access the most. For from a global panthat, they are communication demic,” Byer said. heroes for all of us.” “We had a newly — From the nomination formed team, a pandemic and a huge put forth by Matt Harrington, task ahead but over executive director, the following weeks, Southwestern Vermont we pulled together, Chamber of Commerce plastered the walls with notes, plans, diagrams, charts and graphs — all with social distance, masks, glasses, and gloves. PROVIDED PHOTOS In the end, we perse-

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For residents of Bennington County, Catamount Access Television has proven to be an invaluable resource during the pandemic. The staff of three full- and three part-time employees may be small, but they are indeed mighty and deserve a rightful place among Bennington County’s Unsung Heroes. “At the heart of the team is a belief in our mission and putting our community first. Each member is good at what they do and are committed to their individual role while still supporting other team members in the overall success of the organization,” said Lisa M. Byer, executive director of CAT-TV. During the pandemic, CAT-TV stepped up to help broadcast important local information about the virus to the community, while maintaining its commitment to award-winning, quality programming ranging from candidate debates to select board meetings to high school sports games to news and information broadcasts. Nominator Matt Harrington called CAT-TV a “steady heartbeat for all of us as we dealt with the pandemic.” Could a compliment be any higher? Byer, executive director of CAT-TV, said the station plays a unique role in the community and the pandemic highlighted the importance of that role. “During this time, our staff never stopped working and quickly adjusted to the challenges in front of us so that we could continue to fulfill our mission to provide a voice to the community, to keep the doors of democracy open and to document on a hyperlocal level,” Byer said. “We are proud that our work kept the community informed, entertained and connected during an unprecedented time in our history.” Some of that effort included assisting town and school boards with adapting to remote meetings and area churches to provide remote services; partnering with the Chamber of Commerce and Southwestern Vermont Medical Center to provide live COVID updates; creating a weekly remote music series to highlight local musicians and offer respite from the pandemic; giving small businesses and nonprofits opportunities to highlight their services or events; covering events like graduations, sports games and parades; developing the “Deck the Halls” initiative featuring the holiday decorations of community members; and sharing Vaccine

Unsung Heroes | Saturday, June 12, 2021



Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Unsung Heroes

“Penny Vanaman and the volunteers from Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services (GBICS) have worked tirelessly to keep the Kitchen Cupboard open, available and safe during the pandemic. Knowing that individuals and families would need access to food even more during the COVID shutdown, they swiftly moved their distribution outdoors. When cold weather hit, they nimbly shifted their distribution back inside with COVID-safe practices in place. Penny and the Kitchen Cupboard volunteers recognize that access to food is an essential service to our community and consistently and creatively work to make sure the Kitchen Cupboard is available to individuals and families during this difficult time.” — From the nomination put forth by Natalie Basil

Penny Vanaman puts food out during the distribution at GBICS.



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Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services


As the coordinator of a 25-person volunteer effort, Penny Vanaman of the Greater Bennington Interfaith Community Services’ Kitchen Cupboard program is rarely wanting for things to do. But keeping busy and making sure no one in her community goes hungry is the perfect role for Vanaman, a 62-year-old former licensed practical nurse. “I do what I do because I love it!” she said on a recent Saturday morning as she and her fellow volunteers readied for customers at GBICS’ Depot Street home. “I love working with the community.” As a non-profit community agency, GBICS’ mission is “to advance the health of our neighbors by helping them meet their basic human needs including access to food, shelter and healthcare.” That mission was tested at GBICS and at food pantries across the region, as the sudden loss of jobs left families scrambling to fill basic needs. “It was a battle, but we got through it,” Wayne Goddard of Pownal, who is part of Vanaman’s volunteer army, said of those early days.

Vanaman, who previously worked as an LNA, has been part of GBICS’ efforts for eight years, starting with the Bennington Free Clinic and the Bennington Oral Health Coalition. From there, Vanaman followed her passion for food to an educational nutrition program called “Food Fit,” and then on to the Kitchen Cupboard. Her desire to help clients make the connections between food and health continues; a garden on site at GBICS will provide more fresh vegetables for service patrons. “All the credit goes to my volunteers,” Vanaman said. They’re the strong guys. They’re the ones out here to help me.” Those volunteers, Vanaman said, help pick up donations from stores, assist with distribution by truck on Wednesdays and Fridays, and visit local farms to pick up fresh produce. “It’s wonderful that I have my volunteers. They’re a great strength for me,” Vanaman said. “We’ve been through so many changes with COVID. It’s changed us up so many times. We had to stop, turn around and change up how we do things,” she said of the pandemic.

We are here for you.

Ethan Therrien, Crisis Clinician, Emergency Services

We do whatever is necessary to make it possible for people to access the mental health care they need, from help in a crisis to daily wellness. Our staff are heroes every day. You can be a hero, too. For more information, visit

UCS is an affiliate of Vermont Care Partners, a statewide network of sixteen non-profit community-based agencies providing mental health, substance use and intellectual and developmental services and supports.

School nurse, Burr and Burton Academy

“Megan Beattie-Cassan has been the school nurse at BBA for six years. This past school year was like no other. Megan has worked countless hours, beginning when COVID first hit. While on a school year contract she literally worked seven days a week last summer, multiple hours per day. While most of us in the school world were trying to finally trying to “unplug” from online learning last summer, she was Zooming in everyday to state meetings, chatting with worried students and families that had contracted COVID and setting up for the upcoming school year. She has been on the front line, fielding phone calls at 10 p.m., screening sick kids, and referring families for testing all while in school for her NP. Yes, her first three years at BBA, she was in school for her master’s in nursing. That wasn’t enough. This past year, right before PROVIDED PHOTO COVID hit she began her Nurse Practitioners Program. There were many moments she wanted to bow out. “ Too much on our plate,” I would say. Nope, not for Megan. She’s a school nurse, student for NP, COVID frontline worker, and mother to four boys under the age of 13. That, my friends, is an unsung hero. I’m not sure you realize how much school nurses make....... but its far less than any of the other nominees you will mostly likely get. Our hospital nurses and doctors have been getting a lot of publicity, as they should, but let’s not forget about our nurses who are responsible for 750 students a day.” — From the nomination put forth by Megan Brooks Campbell call at all times, to help with contact tracing, or to assist students, families and staff with their concerns and questions. “Calls could come in at any time of day or night,” she said. At the same time, she was raising her own four children, ages 10 through 14, and

enrolled in a nurse practitioner program, doing her own remote learning from a university outside of Chicago. Her summer was spent in meetings with the Vermont State School Nurses Association, where “we had really prepared for the worst.” That Ver-

mont’s response to the coronavirus has been a success story she credits to the state’s leadership, at all levels. “The big thing is how much the community pulled together,” BeattieCassan said. “This was a team effort, a collaborative team effort.”

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Each year, Burr and Burton Academy presents an award called the Rowland Chair to recognize two employees who are innovative, who inspire students and their peers, and who clearly have committed their hearts and souls to meeting the mission and vision of the school. The recipients are almost always teachers. This year, one of those awards went to the school nurse, Megan Beattie-Cassan. That tells you all you really need to know about Beattie-Cassan’s contributions to the school in this most extraordinary year. From the earliest days of the pandemic, when the coronavirus was first a concern to students traveling abroad, to the more recent days of vaccinations for those as young as 12, Beattie-Cassan has played a critical role in keeping the school community safe. From the beginning she was a mainstay of the school’s critical response team, working across departments to make sure that the 750-student campus was as safe as it could be -- helping with everything from setting up handwashing stations to creating an isolation room for those who might be symptomatic. Their measures were so effective that the school had not a single case of COVID-19 being spread from one member of the community to another. The students’ needs extended beyond physical health, as well. While many adults have had difficulties adapting to feelings of isolation that come with social distancing, students have faced an even greater challenge, Beattie-Cassan said. “As children, one of the most important parts of their life is being social,” she said. “We were able to talk about that quite a bit.” Never mind her 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. shift -- Beattie-Cassan was on

Unsung Heroes | Saturday, June 12, 2021


802-442-9665 x 202

8-5 Mon-Fri • 8-3 Sat • 124 Northside Dr., Bennington


Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Unsung Heroes

RUSS GOODRICH OF BENNINGTON Registered nurse, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center Russ Goodrich has been on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic since it entered Bennington County in March of 2020. The RN works the night shift in the Intensive Care Unit at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, and was part of the staff tasked with handling the very first case to come into the hospital. It’s something that Goodrich will never forget. “It’s kind of like September 11th, you know exactly what you were doing and what the day was like,” Goodrich said. After a 12-hour shift working with the patient, Goodrich was worried about spreading the virus to his wife and four-year old son. He texted his wife as he was leaving the hospital. “I’ll explain later, just leave a change of clothes in the garage,” he texted. Goodrich changed in the garage that morning. The RN said daily changes to his life have become routine over the past 14-plus months. “You change your daily routine. You have that thought in the back of your head of not wanting to bring it

home with you,” Goodrich said. Goodrich has been working tirelessly throughout the pandemic, dealing with his fair share of coronavirus patients. Goodrich even changed his schedule at one point, switching to the day shift to work more closely with one particular patient who tested positive. Goodrich hopes the Bennington community can move past the virus soon. “My hope is that this little fatencapsulated protein that causes all these problems just kind of goes away and runs its course, like most viruses,” he said. The nurse is thankful for his colleagues, and all others that share his profession for the work that they have done during these unprecedented times. “It’s not just one person. It takes a village, and healthcare is definitely that village,” Goodrich said. “Day in and day out nurses all over the world are doing extraordinary things.” It’s community members like Goodrich and other healthcare workers that have made the past year a little safer for the Bennington community.


“I’m nominating Russ for this unsung award because...well where do I start? This man is a critical care RN in our local ICU at SVHC here in Bennington. He is a night shift RN and works 12 plus hours per shift. He is also a daddy to an energetic four year old who already wants to follow his daddy’s footsteps.” — From the nomination put forth by Katie Stratton

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The Bennington Banner |

Join us in thanking the

education community teachers • staff • students • parents

We appreciate you!

Our mission is to enrich the intellectual and cultural life of the community by providing accessible, diversified educational programs to the public. As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, donations are fully tax-deductible. 14

We welcome school faculty & staff to attend our lectures as our guests.

The global pandemic changed many aspects of life as the world knew it, and that includes volunteering. Volunteering continues to be one of the best ways to help your community and perhaps even to become an unsung hero in your neighborhood or town. A report from the Mayo Clinic Health System noted that adults over age 60 experienced greater life satisfaction and greater positive changes in their perceived health as a result of volunteering. Many people have continued to volunteer during the pandemic, and those that want to do so can take these steps to make sure their efforts to give back are as safe as possible in order to help everyone get back to a sense of normality.

temperature each day and familiarize yourself with the symptoms of COVID-19. If you suspect you are unwell or are even slightly under the weather, contact the charity and tell them you won’t be showing up that day. Operating with an abundance of caution during the pandemic can save lives.

Consider virtual volunteering. Virtual volunteering is a safe way to give back that won’t expose volunteers or others to the COVID-19 virus. Charitable organizations need be-

hind-the-scenes help just as much as they need volunteers with their boots on the ground. Virtual volunteers can help with fundraising efforts and event planning, but also help charities overcome the logistical challenges of operating and meeting their missions during the pandemic.

Unsung Heroes | Saturday, June 12, 2021


Speak with your physician first. Anyone, but especially seniors, who wants to volunteer during the pandemic should discuss those aspirations with their physicians prior to offering their services to charitable organizations. Doctors can discuss the acute and chronic threats posed by the COVID-19 virus and examine each individual’s medical history to help potential volunteers decide if working with a local charity is safe. In addition, doctors can check patients for COVID-19 symptoms and even have them tested to make sure they won’t be putting anyone in danger should they decide to volunteer.

The Bennington Banner |

Contact the organization prior to volunteering. Some organizations may not be allowing potentially at-risk volunteers to perform in-person tasks. Contact the organization you hope to work with prior to signing up to confirm your eligibility, but also to discuss the safety protocols they’ve put in place to protect the health of their volunteers.

Monitor your own health. If you’ve signed up to volunteer, it’s vital that you monitor your own health. Health officials believe the COVID-19 virus has spread so rapidly for a number of reasons, including the likelihood that many people have had the virus but shown no symptoms. Charitable organizations will no doubt assess the health of each volunteer when they show up to work, but volunteers also should make such assessments on their own. Check your


Robert Gomez gathers eggs for the Vermont Food Bank’s Veggie Van Go food distribution at Pownal Elementary School.


Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Unsung Heroes The Bennington Banner | 16

THE PRESS AND MAILROOM STAFFS OF YOUR BENNINGTON BANNER The commitment and effort to make and assemble your printed newspaper is no small feat Among the people whose efforts helped the Bennington County community survive through the pandemic, the men and women who work in the Bennington Banner press room and mail room deserve recognition. They work on the ground floor, often at night, so they can easily go unnoticed, making them true Unsung Heroes. Many Banner readers have written in to appreciate how important the paper has been to them during this difficult time. We are proud that the Banner is the place where the community turned to get the facts about the virus, its impact and later its cure. The pandemic has been an object lesson in the value of quality local journalism. However, the attention and appreciation is usually directed to the reporters, photographers and editors whose names appear connected to the stories that are so important. There would be no printed Bennington Banner if scores of people did not come into our production rooms every night despite the weather and the virus to literally make the paper. The press room normally operates with a crew of about eight, who often work in close quarters. The work is physical and can be dirty; after all, we “buy ink by the barrel.” (Actually, it is delivered in tanker trucks.) The mail room is where the printed papers go from the press. It is where they are bundled for distribution to our carriers, honor boxes and retail stores. It is also where the sales flyers and inserts, including the discount coupons that help so many of us get through the tough times, are placed into the papers. The number of people who work in the mail room varies depending on whether the next day’s paper has inserts, and if so, how many. In the old days, it was the place from which many papers were mailed, hence the name, mail room, which has stuck not only here but throughout the industry. In addition to bringing Bennington County the news about the virus, having the daily paper during the pandemic perpetuated a small, but important, routine for so many of our readers. And we believe that those who worked night after night, here in our facility, are unsung heroes of the pandemic.


Unsung Heroes | Saturday, June 12, 2021

SHAUNA CAMP OF BENNINGTON Pharmacy technician, CVS inated individuals at multiple pharmacy locations in Vermont, including Bennington, and played a supporting role with an immunizing team that traveled to a White River Junction nursing facility. “It’s been amazing,” said Camp. “You come across people who drove all the way down from Burlington because it was the only appointment available.” A large part of her job at the pharmacy involves customer service -helping customers find coupons and discounts and directing them to various agencies that can further assist them. Camp has worked in the field for about two decades and regards customers, many of whom she sees on a recurring basis, as extended family.

Camp was born and raised in Bennington, where she lives with her husband and two children. She sees her role as a vaccinator as part of an effort to regain “a sense of normalcy.” When she stepped up at work to combat the coronavirus, her husband, she said, assumed cooking responsibilities at home -- all with an eye toward the “same goal -- getting one step closer to this being not so normal anymore.” Speaking in mid-May, Camp said she was looking forward to an upcoming cookout with vaccinated family members, the first such gathering in quite some time. “You don’t take the little things for granted anymore,” she said, adding that, in this new era, the refrain, “Oh, I’ll call them another day,” doesn’t fly.

“Shauna has worked for 20 years in the pharmaceutical health care field. Seventeen of those years have been with CVS. When CVS found it could offer vaccinations, the company offered to train employees who were willing to learn how to give the shots. In spite of working full time at CVS, and part time with our company, Bennington Express Lube & Car Wash, and with two young children at home, she signed up without hesitation. Shauna wanted to make a difference. She was trained and has been involved with clinics from Bennington to Rutland and to White River Junction. Her tireless energy has contributed impressively to helping our community through this pandemic. She is an “unsung hero” to me.”

We salute all the

“Unsung Heroes” who have put themselves at risk to keep us all safe and healthy.

— From the nomination put forth by Lodie Colvin

Erika Floriani

Rachel McFadden

Brie Burdge 802-753-7771

The Bennington Banner |

Jenifer Hoffman



Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Unsung Heroes The Bennington Banner |


Head of School, Village School of North Bennington Timothy Newbold is Head of School at the Village School of North Bennington, a pre-K through grade six independent school that serves students from North Bennington and Shaftsbury. Newbold was nominated as an Unsung Hero for his work leading the school’s staff, students and community through the early, uncertain stages of the pandemic and into the fall for the reintroduction of in-person learning. In March 2020, shortly before Gov. Phil Scott ordered the closure of schools statewide, Newbold warned staff of that very possibility, affording them time to prepare for the pivot to distance learning. A spring full of packet pickups and classes via Google Meet ensued. “It was a wild spring,” Newbold said, who credited teachers for their ability to manage the unprecedented shift. “They were not trained for that, but they jumped right in.” At the end of the school year, with the customary graduation ceremony for sixth graders deemed infeasible, Newbold, the school’s sixth grade teacher and a videographer parent produced a graduation video that recognized each student individually. The video was screened live and attracted hundreds of viewers -- far more than typically attended in-person graduation events in past years. Following extensive planning, the school welcomed students back in the fall for a hybrid, mostly in-person learning experience. (Some students and teachers elected to continue in an entirely remote capacity.) Certain grades moved to larger spaces within the school building, volunteers built plexiglass barriers and teachers rejiggered their curricula. Newbold said he virtually attended a number of regional and national conferences on emerging best practices. “It was a lot of work,” he said. “Everybody was willing to roll up their sleeves and make it work.” It’s been an undeniably stressful and tiring time, Newbold acknowledged. Also undeniable: The considerable exertions of heroes like him made the past year a little more bearable.


“In mid-March 2020, Tim Newbold, Village School of North Bennington Head of School, learned that with the outbreak of COVID-19, the school would need to close its doors the following Tuesday. Concerned about the students missing valuable end-of-the year lessons, he and the VSNB teachers went to work preparing for the possibility of a longer term dismissal, and to make certain that the school’s approximately 130 students would not miss a beat when they had to switch to distance learning. Students left the building on March 17th with pencils, pads and Chromebooks and materials for several weeks of lessons. When it became clear that school would not reopen, he submitted the school’s Continuity of Learning Plan to the Vermont Agency of Education, and by April 14 it was approved, enabling the school to continue its remote teaching of new skills and concepts. That spring was a difficult one for anyone, made even more so when benchmark events could no longer take place. The VSNB 6th grade graduation has always been a right-of-passage for the students. Knowing that it couldn’t take place in the standard format, Tim and the 6th grade teacher at the time, with help from videographer Michael Beach, created a very special virtual graduation video, where one-by-one, each student was recognized for their individual strengths and talents. This video was then shared with the students and their families as a keepsake. In advance of their graduation, Tim presented each student with a special, personalized gift, as he’s done in years past. Tim firmly believed that come fall, opening the school (with all safety protocols in place) was the very best option for students socially, emotionally and academically, as well as for families, and the VSNB teachers supported him wholeheartedly in that effort. Tim, with help from the staff and volunteers, spent most of the summer preparing for reopening, investing significant time and resources to do his best to keep students and staff safe in the 2020-2021 school year. As the summer progressed, Tim was extremely thoughtful in communicating with parents, the Board of Trustees and the general community, updating them on the classroom changes, and informing them of the new learning modalities and safety protocols that would be in place when school opened. Thanks to Tim’s thorough planning and devotion, the Village School, unlike most schools in the area, reopened its doors for in-class instruction on September 8, 2020. As families dropped off their children, Tim and support staff warmly greeted them. Students found that, thanks to all the work completed during the summer, their classrooms were still bright and welcoming but set up differently than in the past, with plexiglass dividers mounted between various seating areas, hallways designated as “one way,” sanitizing stations set up throughout the building and playground, masks required and available for all and many more safety protocols. Tim’s work didn’t end there. As with any business or institution remaining open during COVID-19, the modifications needed for all day-to-day functioning needed to be constantly monitored and adapted as things changed—from making certain supplies of personal safety materials were always available to working out ways to provide meals for the students in a safe environment, to making adaptations to playground protocol and so much more. Throughout the year, Tim supported the teachers and staff with weekly virtual meetings as well as smaller team meetings, where best practices and resources were shared. He was diligent in supporting the teachers and staff as they kept their students engaged and safe, doing his best to keep their spirits up and to find ways to brighten their days whenever possible. Tim Newbold is an unsung hero in so many ways. He’s worked incredibly hard to make certain that Village School students continue to get a solid education while remaining engaged and joyful in their lives. He’s supported parents in any way possible, and has done his best to support the teachers, all of whom have faced so many challenges this year—both in the classroom, and as with many of us, in their personal lives. The North Bennington community and the Village School is extremely fortunate to have Tim’s leadership, especially during these incredibly challenging times.” — From the nomination put forth by Judie Brower


Your unwavering compassion, dedication and sacrifice have made you our heroes and superstars. Your hard work, optimism and kindness have made so many lives happier and healthier through this unprecedented time.

Unsung Heroes | Saturday, June 12, 2021

and so very proud of our health care providers and entire team.

Thank you, to all of our Equinox Terrace employees. We are so very proud of our stellar team.

Ann Bouza, Executive Director (802) 362-5141 324 Equinox Terrace Rd, Manchester Center, VT 05255

The Bennington Banner |

• Award-winning • Family-owned • Studios and apartments • Superb life enrichment programs • Chef-prepared dining • Transportation • 24-Hour Care/Assistance • Medication Management • Memory Care • Respite Care • Long-tenured management


Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Unsung Heroes The Bennington Banner | 20

The staff at Hoisington Realty would like to thank all our local EVERYDAY heroes! Kathleen Hoisington - 802-379-1656 • Joyce Scarey - 802-688-7243 • Suzy Yucht - 802-688-9314 • Kelley McCarthy - 802-779-4115 Nancy Stagnitti - 518-960-0464 • Tim Corcoran - 802-688-6279 • Phil Lewis - 802-681-5848 • Monique Geannelis - 802-379-0227


(802) 442-8337 • FAX (802) 442-1098

489 Main Street, Bennington, VT 05201• E-mail: Internet: • M–F 8:00AM-2:30PM, Saturday 9:00AM-12:30PM, Sunday by Appointment

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