Windham County's Unsung Heroes 2021

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


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Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Unsung Heroes

Earlier this spring, the Brattleboro Reformer 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 Windham 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 Reformer’s presenting sponsor for Unsung Heroes: Berkley & Veller Greenwood Country Realtors — a full service, independent real estate agency and family company that continues to lead Windham County, Vt., and Cheshire County, N.H., in real estate sales and service. Together, we are privileged to honor those highlighted here and wish everyone a bright and healthy year.

Unsung Heroes | Saturday, June 12, 2021



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Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Unsung Heroes


HCRS is a mental health agency based in Windham and Windsor counties, providing alcohol and drug treatment, services for individuals with severe and persistent mental health illness, emergency services, developmental services, and additional extended services for families and children. Crisis clinicians provided vital services before the pandemic. Then the need for such services became even more pronounced and HCRS stepped up to the challenge, immediately developing new protocols and using technology to continue its important work in the community. Kate Lamphere, adult services director at HCRS, said the group provided iPads to each hospital it partners with to assess individuals experiencing a mental health emergency. “This technology allowed our crisis staff to quickly respond to mental health crises,” Lamphere said. “In addition to offering telehealth

services to the local hospital emergency departments, crisis screeners also were able to provide telehealth to clients in their homes which allowed for a reduced risk of COVID and an increased response time. Additionally, crisis screeners were responding to emergencies in person through the duration of the pandemic in response to individual’s needs.” Lamphere said in many ways, telehealth increased the screeners’ ability to support community members. “I’m proud to say that, throughout this pandemic, our crisis team has always been at the forefront, ready and willing to go out in the community whenever they were needed,” Lamphere said. Lamphere said HCRS is thankful to see the number of COVID cases significantly decrease in Vermont and around the United States. “Although this has been an exceedingly difficult time, we have learned a great deal,” Lamphere

said. “Our expanded knowledge gained through the implementation of telehealth services, will undoubtedly enhance services going forward. We know that people have struggled with their well-being due to the isolation of the pandemic; we’re hopeful that anyone who is having a hard time coping reaches out to us. We’re also hopeful that people will begin to realize that mental health concerns can happen to anyone.” Sarah Hadden, who handles clinical support at the Brattleboro Retreat, applauded HCRS’s ingenuity in developing new policies and practices, and using virtual and telephonic screenings for new patients without creating additional conflict as things also changed at

receiving facilities. “There is no doubt that all nominations should receive recognition for their services during the Covid-19 pandemic, but a special show of gratitude should be given to all the crisis clinicians at HCRS for their work ethic during this challenging and historical time,” Hadden said. “The world stopped but their work to respond to individuals in crisis did not. It only intensified.” Lamphere suggested one of the silver linings of the pandemic might be a reduction in stigma related to mental health. “We are thrilled to be able to provide more in person services and supports and look forward to continuing to serve people via telehealth as desired,” Lamphere said.

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KRISTOPHER RADDER, BRATTLEBORO REFORMER Preschoolers at Brattleboro Centre for Children make Valentine’s Day cards for seniors in the community.

servative side when we’re talking about our children’s health.” As for the term “unsung heroes,” Mann said the entire field of early childhood education deserves that label. “This is a field that does not necessarily have a lot of recognition for the heroism that the people who work in it really do have.” Emily Wagner nominated the Brattleboro Centre for Children,

saying that “throughout the pandemic they have been steadfast in their service to the Brattleboro area’s children and families. They served essential workers during the closure period and have been vigorous in their work to keep kids, families and teachers safe. Despite the challenges of providing child care during a pandemic, the staff have created warm, wel-

coming and engaging classroom experiences for the children. I have been so impressed with how the staff have risen to meet the challenges of the pandemic and ensure that our community’s children’s needs are met. They ensure parents get to work and that children feel loved in an environment where they can thrive. They are a blessing to the community.”

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Brattleboro Centre for Children, located in Centre Congregational Church in downtown Brattleboro, is a publicly funded pre-school that serves infants to 5-year-olds in the Windham Southeast School District. At the start of the pandemic in March 2020, after Gov. Phil Scott announced the closure of schools, the Centre’s reduced staff provided child care for essential workers such as grocery store employees, hospital and hotel workers, as well as food suppliers and construction workers. Centre director Nan Mann said she was gratified to have her entire staff return to work when the school was given permission to reopen last June. “A lot of people had been very uncomfortable in that earlier period … but when I said we were going to be opening to everybody again, everybody came back, and that was a really important moment for me, to realize that they have the dedication in the face of their concerns and their fear of the virus,” Mann said. “They had the dedication to the children and the commitment to the center to come back to work, and I was so proud of everyone. They show that dedication every day; they follow protocol, they go above and beyond, to keep the place immaculately clean and the children attended to.” In February of this year, the school partnered with Senior Solutions to have the children make Valentine cards for elderly shutins. “It was a wonderful learning experience for the children to share something that they enjoyed, making valentines, and to share that with people that weren’t going to get any,” Mann said. Mann said the mask mandate, as well as social distancing and other precautions, has resulted in one of the healthiest winters for the children that she can recall. “I think the state agency of education has been really cautious, and I think it pays for us to be a little on the con-

Unsung Heroes | Saturday, June 12, 2021



Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Unsung Heroes

LARRY LYNCH CHEF AT EVENING STAR GRANGE, DUMMERSTON Chef Larry Lynch, shown stirring a pot on May 12, and a fiveperson crew prepare a meal for seniors on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at Evening Star Grange in Dummerston. It has been take-out only during the pandemic, with an average of 150 people waiting in line to be served their $3 meal. On May 12, the Evening Star Grange team prepared roast pork, mashed potatoes, cabbage casserole, corn pudding casserole and apple spice cake. The vegetarian alternative was a macaroni and cheese dish. “The biggest thing is the gratification,” Lynch responded when asked to name his favorite thing about making lunches. “The patrons are very grateful to get a home-cooked meal that they don’t have to prepare.” He said he likes assuring that elderly people will have at least one inexpensive meal that’s nutritious

under their belt each month. Senior Solutions covers the first lunch provided each month. Also known as the Council on Aging for Southeastern Vermont, the Senior Staff at the Springfield, Vt. office is made up of Executive Director Carol Stamatakis, Director of Social Services Mark Boutwell, Nutrition/Wellness Director Wendy Germain, Finance Director Richard Woodside, and Community Relations Director Joann Erenhouse. The bi-monthly meals once made for a great socializing opportunity for seniors, but the Evening Star Grange crew and Senior Solutions have worked together to make sure those in the community still have access to a delicious, low-cost meal throughout the pandemic. “Lynch, Sally May and crew have provided take-out meals for seniors every second and fourth Wednesday since the pandemic began,” said Anita Bobee, who nominated the crew as Unsung


Heroes. “Their efforts to make the low cost, tasty meals is greatly appreciated by many in Windham County and surrounding towns. A

thank you recognition for all they do would be one way to say thank you from those of us who get to enjoy the meals.”


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Elaine Beam has been the Saint Michael Catholic School Principal for the past 12 years. She also


teaches third grade math at the Brattleboro school, which includes PreK through Grade 12. She used a summer camp last year to get her students accustomed to wearing masks and social distancing. With the help of volunteers, outdoor classroom spaces were built at the school. “The students have been amazing. We have been open all year, five days a week, because of their willingness to follow guidelines,” said Beam. The principal added that she thinks the panPROVIDED PHOTO demic taught us that we’re one community and that we can experience

success by working together. Beam believes that great communication with all of the students’ families has been very important when it comes to keeping everyone in her school safe during the pandemic. Saint Michael partnered with the Diocese of Burlington, the Vermont Agency of Education, and Department of Health to implement guidelines for reopening that allowed for a safe, caring learning environment for the students during this school year. “My favorite part of this job is getting to work with professionals who value education,” Beam explained. The administrative faculty at the school consists of Beam, Parish/School Administrator Fr. Justin Baker, Academic Dean Steven Duchaney, Sandi Gauthier, Lindsay O’Neil, Serge Valin, Breton Abbondanzio, Janna Andrus, Sarah Bemis, Ayla Clark, Joshua Dionne, Lucija Duchaney, Alyssa Gesualdi, Margie Guthrie, Lynn King, Mary Beth Kinoshita, Daydon Harvey,

Michelle Kuusela, Elizabeth Martin, Mary Miller, Melissa Wright, and Peter Orlowski. Beam was nominated as an Unsung Hero for devising a plan and training all of the school staff to ensure that the school could open up in August, with full-time, five days per week, in-school instruction. “She and her staff/faculty have diligently followed all the protocols set forth in her plan, in conjunction with the guidance from professional health organizations,” said Karlie Borst, who submitted the nomination. “The school has not closed any days due to COVID-19, and there have been no instances of COVID-19 infection in the school. Thanks to Beam’s devotion and leadership, the families of St Michael School students have been able to carry on a near-normal existence. And the faculty and students have enjoyed the ability to seamlessly continue the academic excellence they have come to expect from St. Michael School.”


An indispensable connection during a pandemic

community notifications. “Staff found critical information and content being shared online and developed partnerships to get that information to cable viewers,” said Trowbridge. And then there was an explosion of interest in providing support to those who wanted to livestream events such as concerts, church services, graduations, and other public events. “Staff rose to the challenge without missing a beat and used every ounce of their home internet capacity to provide a technical backbone for the community,” said Trowbridge. BCTV has kept its viewers connected during the pandemic, but they’re ready to get back to something that might be considered normal again, especially in the early summer, said Trowbridge. “We are excited that graduations in 2021 will be held in person so that we can get back to covering events rather than the livestream being the event,” she said. “Thank you to the volunteers, donors, and sponsors who supported us through the year.”



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In 1976, the town of Brattleboro founded the first public access television station in the Green Mountain State. Since then, the station has expanded to serve eight communities with a media center production facility, while perfecting the ability to dispatch remote crews to cover official town functions, community events, high school sports, and arts and entertainment. Its mission is to promote civic engagement and transparency, and to empower community members to share their knowledge, views and creativity. BCTV staff also trains community members to be volunteer documentarians or to create their own content for broadcast on two cable channels on a regular basis. But like many organizations, BCTV had to find new ways to continue its mission during a pandemic. “Despite the necessity of the station’s physical office and studios being closed to the public, Brattleboro Community Television has ably and creatively assisted the eight towns in its service area to provide coverage of COVID-related meetings, including select board meetings and town meeting 2021. The staff has provided content ranging from worship services to talk programs, all to help sustain our community during this challenging period. In cases where live filming is necessary, it has been done with the greatest care, protecting all involved.” -- Jim Levenson, Compassionate Brattleboro Cor Trowbridge, the executive director of BCTV, said she was honored on behalf of all the staff members and volunteers to be recognized as unsung heroes. “From Day 1 of the shutdown, BCTV staff got to work figuring out how to cover and archive online meetings and events, while responding to a flood of requests for technical assistance of all kinds,” she said. But what was being asked was much more than continuing to offer access to official meetings and

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Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Unsung Heroes

JOANNE ROGERS COVID SCREENER PROGRAM MANAGER, BRATTLEBORO MEMORIAL HOSPITAL JoAnne Rogers has worked at Brattleboro Memorial Hospital for 28 years, its long-time volunteer coordinator. When the COVID-19 pandemic was declared a national emergency, things were so uncertain that the hospital had to temporarily discontinue the use of volunteers. This left Rogers with a new job -- coordinating a team of employees as virus screeners at each entrance of the building “Our top priority was to keep our facilities safe for our patients and staff,” said Steve Gordon, president and CEO of BMH. “In line with hospitals across the country, we created a new team of screeners who would be placed at each entrance of our main buildings, equipped with a checklist of questions, hand sanitizer, surgical masks, and digital thermometers. Gordon said Rogers graciously accepted the responsibility. “JoAnne has been a kind and courteous presence for the team

and I am grateful for her respect and good listening ear for all who come through our doors,” said Gordon. “Her role has been critical in helping us minimize exposure and ensure patient safety. We are so proud of JoAnne and her team of screeners.” “JoAnne took on the enormous responsibility of Covid Screener Program Manager at BMH during the pandemic, in order to ensure the safety of the patients and staff of the hospital,” wrote Sharon Levinson, who nominated Roger. “She has worked tirelessly to accomplish this; creatively keeping all positions covered under all circumstances, coming to work early and staying late to cover shifts, writing policies as regulations changed, and assisting with the flow of Vaccine Clinics. JoAnne makes everyone who walks in the doors of BMH feel welcome and special, and is an inspiration to the wonderful screeners who work with her, who are all fantastic as

well.” Rogers said when the screening program started, she was coordinating hospital staff as screeners, but now BMH has 20 new employees whose sole duty is to check folks coming in the facility’s entrances. “People, even today, are nervous coming to the hospital,” she said. “We try to put them at ease, doing everything we can to keep everyone safe -- checking temperatures, wiping down surfaces and provid-

ing hand sanitizer.” Rogers said she didn’t consider herself an unsung hero. She said the real heroes are the BMH staff members who worked throughout the pandemic in the Emergency Department, in the operating rooms, in oncology or just on the floors working with patients. “Everybody here at the hospital deserves the title of unsung hero,” said Rogers. “The care they show for the patients is just unbelievable. It is very impressive.”


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Unsung Heroes | Saturday, June 12, 2021


Brattleboro Pharmacy is a locally owned and full-service pharmacy. The store was closed to inside service at the start of the pandemic, but continued to offer its full range of services, filling prescriptions and providing essential medical services and products through curbside pickup and home delivery. “I felt that closing the store would be the best way for people to feel safe,” said pharmacy co-owner and manager Andy Miller. “From there, my staff went through the process of how they were going to best serve the customers and get the deliveries out. To their credit, they made it work. They all have been working unbelievably hard through all kinds of weather, coming out and servicing people, taking care of all credit card payments, and our driver (Dan Dandrea) is going out all over the place.” Miller said the store pharmacists adjusted their shifts so there would always be someone available to help customers, with no interruption in service. “That’s always been my mainstay,” Miller said. “If people are going to come here, we have to be here for you. Our customers are heroes, too, because they can be understanding that we’re making this extra effort, and things aren’t the same and they have to be pa-

tient. It’s a two-way street.” Most recently, Brattleboro Pharmacy worked with the state to become an official vaccination site. Miller said the store will continue to follow all protocols and recommendations from the state until the store can return to a semblance of normal business. “My main focus has always been to be respectful of each other’s opinions,” Miller said. “Regardless of whether you agree or not, just be respectful. Even simple things like the mask or distancing or whatever is recommended, just be respectful, because it’s not a big deal to do it, and it makes everybody feel better.” Along with the sense of security that vaccinations can provide, Miller said there are long-term benefits that can remain after the pandemic has lifted. “I hope … people will have a heightened awareness about public health, about things like washing their hands, covering your mouth, not coughing on people,” he said. “Because one of the interesting things that has happened is that the seasonal flu was very low this year, and that’s because everybody was so isolated but also using good practices with sanitization and things like that. So I hope we also have a heightened awareness about public


health and contagious disease.” Nominator Annie Kaufmann said “the staff at Brattleboro Pharmacy have been working tirelessly since the beginning of the pandemic to provide the community with prompt, thoughtful and immediate pharmaceutical care. When the pandemic began, they were not afforded PPE but continued to service their customers at great risk to themselves and their families. They worked tirelessly, sometimes long after hours, to make sure their

patients were informed and cared for. Since they’ve closed their doors to the public, they go above and beyond to make sure prescriptions are mailed or dropped off to those unable to pick them up. Most recently, they’ve gone through the arduous and complex process of working with the state to become a vaccination site. Day after day, they continue to surpass the duties asked of them and provide excellent, often unnoticed, care for our community.”



The owners and staff stuck by the community throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Early on, they stayed open despite the unknown dangers. They “did so with grace, energy and concern for individual customers,” Lyndall Boal said. “All, the butchers, deli workers, check out, fruit and vegetable personnel never put their own safety first as they provided their essential services for months on end.” The shelves were always stocked. If any products were missing, staff

explained their absences. Boal said when toilet paper was on short supply, it was carefully and equitably rationed at the checkout counters. “The Riverbend was like a community mental health center for many of us, with the friendly recognitions and constant assistance with products,” Boal said. “They all definitely have helped us survive this frightening time in better shape than we would have been otherwise.”

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Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Unsung Heroes The Brattleboro Reformer | 10

COMMUNITY HOUSE 135 HIGH ST., BRATTLEBORO Community House is a non-profit, short-term residential program for children ages 6-12 who are experiencing behavioral and emotional challenges in the context of complex trauma. The majority of the children they help have been in multiple out-ofhome placements and are in need of a higher level of care. The staff at Community House works with kids from across the state with a variety of presentations and needs. The residents at Community House have often suffered indescribable loss, trauma and displacement and require stabilization in order to best assess their educational, social, and emotional needs. Christine Stafford, a child and adolescent social worker, said life can be hard for children living in today’s world -- the strain of societal pressures, the need to do more with less, and technology can be overwhelming in the best of circumstances. She said Community House offers compassionate caregivers who understand the complexities of individual, family and systemic trauma. They can help youth who are struggling to fit in, those who are trying to cope. “The men and women who make Community House possible are superheroes day in and day out to the children that they help,” said Stafford. As the global crisis continued, the staff at Community House became the only physical contact the children would see, as in-person visits with family and community caregivers were put on pause. Staff added video visits and found ways to incorporate families into the daily lives of their

children. Phone calls, letter writing and photo updates became part of the daily routine as we everyone moved through 2020. In order to meet the needs of the residents, Community House staff often abandoned their own needs of visiting family and friends, in order to ensure children and coworkers were kept safe. As local parks and community events disappeared, staff took on the role of entertainment to ensure residents continued to enjoy a life rich in experiences. Stafford said it is nearly impossible to encapsulate all the special moments the staff has had with

the child over the course of their stay in the program. Community House staff watch the children come in, fearful of the world, fearful of adults, fearful of the system designed to protect them and even fearful of the ways in which their bodies and brains respond to trauma and subsequent emotions. Stafford added that Community House staff have said that they are truly blessed to watch children blossom and grow as they get the opportunity to enjoy one of life’s greatest treasures -- childhood. With their needs being met by dedicated staff, the residents are able

to be what they do best, be kids. Play, laugh, and learn to trust the world around them, she said. “Community House supports the most vulnerable of our society, helping children get a better start at their young lives,” Stafford noted. “ It’s truly the work of heroes to make a difference in someone else’s life — and even more so when the person might be too young to even realize all that is being done for them. The board is grateful to know that the most vulnerable in our community are given the help and nurturing they deserve from a dedicated staff.”


Unsung Heroes | Saturday, June 12, 2021



The Windham & Windsor Housing Trust thanks all who lent a helping hand to keep our neighbors and community safe. PROVIDED PHOTO

Student Judy Yogman of Rockingham nominated her teacher for helping people in Windham County, and “far beyond,” avoid isolation during the pandemic, and maintain their mental health and emotional sense of well-being.” While McCormick usually charges for her beginner ukulele classes, this ukulele community and group lesson was free every Saturday -- to anybody -- all over the world, in fact. People from Australia, St. Croix, Croatia, Israel and other countries in Europe, as well as other states -- including Vermont -- participated, via Zoom. “The bigger concept was to do something beautiful,” said McCormick. “And do it in a really rough time.” McCormick hopes her Saturday morning Silver Linings group continues, even as the coronavirus pandemic lifts. “It was an act of service, a ministry in a way. Something I could do.” She chose the name Silver Linings to prove that there was something good in a difficult time.

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Lisa McCormick is a Brattleboro musician who started a free virtual ukulele club in the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, helping people with their love of music, and ukuleles, and their need to connect with other people, musically. McCormick was nominated because she created something new and usual that helped many others who were under a lot of stress during the pandemic. She said that during the pandemic people were separated “from things that gave them joy,” and the Saturday morning ukulele club restored some of that. “I wanted to release that joy,” she said. McCormick, who is well-known for her guitar performances in the Brattleboro area, started playing the ukulele, which she said is addictive. She said the club, which is made up mostly of “Boomers” like herself (McCormick is almost 65), would play everything from old rock songs from the Beatles and Bob Dylan, as well as sweet oldtime favorites such as “You Are My Sunshine.”

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Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Unsung Heroes

THE PRESS AND MAILROOM STAFFS OF YOUR BRATTLEBORO REFORMER The commitment and effort to make and assemble your printed newspaper is no small feat Among the people whose efforts Among the people whose efforts helped the Windham County community survive through the pandemic, the men and women who work in the Brattleboro Reformer press room and mail room deserve recognition. They work on the ground floor of the building, often at night, so they can easily go unnoticed, making them true Unsung Heroes. Many Reformer readers have written in to appreciate how important the paper has been to them during this difficult time. We are proud that the Reformer 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 Brattleboro Reformer 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 Windham 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.

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HOSPICE PROGRAM COORDINATOR AND CARE COORDINATOR, BRATTLEBORO AREA HOSPICE Patty Dunn coordinates a core group of about 80 unsung heroes -volunteers spread out across Windham County who spend time with dying people and their families. “We ask our volunteers to wear lots of hats,” said Dunn. Volunteers often help out by picking up groceries, prescriptions or laundry. They might be asked to mow a lawn, walk the dog, or mop the floor. Maybe a client just wants someone to hold their hand while they sit outside and feel the breeze or while they Zoom with a far-away relative. Another client might want a volunteer to read to them from their favorite book or play that song that was all a hit when they were 16. Most importantly, said Dunn, volunteers are asked to listen. “The kind of work they are doing calls them to those deeper, wiser places where they listen and find universal wisdom,” she

said. “It’s a quality of listening that many of us hunger for in this fast-paced world where we are all distracted. Our volunteers put everything down, look you in the eye and listen generously, connecting in a way that is gratifying for the listener and those they listen to.” Dunn also has that quality, that deep-abiding wisdom that comes with quieting the mind so that you can truly hear what a person is in need of the most. “She has a true gift of connecting with people in a genuine manner and with an abundance of compassion, humility, and understanding,” Jan Dreschler said in her nomination letter. Dunn looks for those same qualities in the volunteers who walk through the door at BAH. “The common thread is a deep sense of compassion,” she said, but it can be emotionally fraught spending time with a dying person and

their family, if they have one avaialbe. “We ask our volunteers to make room for their discomfort. Strength is found at the heart of vulnerability.” Dunn said she hopes Brattleboro and southern Vermont remain a compassionate community, one that can comfort a dying person while also making room for their own grief. And joy, MARCUS DESIENO/SPECIAL TO THE REFORMER too, she said. Francis Herbert spreads mulch around a sign for the “The greatest Hospice Memorial Garden in Brattleboro. gift of this hospice work is we discover over and over the preciousness toward the limited ing each other home. That’s what life we have left,” she said. “As we believe. We are all going there, Ram Dass said, we are just walk- heading in that same direction.”

Unsung Heroes | Saturday, June 12, 2021



RETIRED PHYSICIAN, BELLOWS FALLS | MEDICAL DIRECTOR, PINE HEIGHTS NURSING HOME, BRATTLEBORO hospital in his own car when they couldn’t get there themselves. “I’ve always made house calls,” said the 73-year-old physician, who specializes in elder care. “To me, it


wasn’t a big deal.” He wore personal protective equipment, and kept a proper distance, he said. “It was clear from the science that the virus was airborne.” Dr. Griffiths was nominated by three women from the Bellows Falls area who said he made a tremendous difference in their lives and the lives of their families during the pandemic, helping them in a very difficult and frightening time. The patients were too scared to leave their homes, but needed medical care. He even took care of one woman’s cat while she was in the nursing home. Dr. Griffiths closed his private practice in Bellows Falls in 2013, but continued in medicine and he is the current medical director for Pine Heights Nursing Home in Brattleboro. The 80-bed nursing home didn’t have a single case of

COVID-19 (knock on wood) during the pandemic, he said, either among staff or residents. “I really kept after people about the masks,” he said. “I tell you, I was a pain, a bigtime pain in the neck,” he said. “Vermont did very well” in controlling the virus, he said. “I worried about it, sure, but it was pretty clear it was airborne and maybe contact spread.” But it was giving people in Bellows Falls and Rockingham unusual personal care during a very difficult and threatening time that won him accolades. People were scared to leave their homes and seek medical care, he said, so he knew he had to reach out. In some cases, the people were his neighbors in the village of Bellows Falls; others were in Vernon and Guilford. “I plan on continuing,” he said. “It’s a service, not just a job.”

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Dr. Walter Griffiths, or Dr. Wally to his fans and patients, did the unthinkable during the pandemic. He made house calls. He even drove one patient to the


Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Unsung Heroes The Brattleboro Reformer | 14

HILLTOP MONTESSORI SCHOOL TEACHERS 99 STAFFORD FARM HILL, WEST BRATTLEBORO Hilltop Montessori School is an independent, non-profit educational institution in Brattleboro for children aged toddlers through middle school. Teachers at the school were nominated for an Unsung Hero award for making the return to fully in-person instruction a positive experience for families. Tamara Mount, head of school at Hilltop Montessori, said teachers and administrators worked hard last summer to develop a reentry plan that would meet state requirement plans and be comforting to staff and parents who were concerned about the safety of in-person learning. “So many of us needed the community and social/emotional support provided by being in person,” she said. “We saw children from toddlers through middle schoolers who had felt the isolation of the spring and summer of 2020 and, in the fall of 2020, were craving the company of their friends and teachers. We have spent the year prioritizing state health and safety procedures as well as the social/ emotional needs of our students, in an effort to help build back the relationships that had become ‘remote’ and support our students during this strange and tremulous time.” Having students on campus five days a week allowed families to stabilize their work needs and for children to socialize, Mount said. “Our families were wonderfully appreciative and supportive of us meeting in person, and we would not have been able to do so with-

out their partnership,” she said. Mount said the school was pleased to be nominated for the award. “Early on in the school year, when most schools in our county were still remote, Hilltop Montessori had been in person every day since the school year began,” said Joslyn McIntyre, a parent at the school. “The new drop-off routine meant parents had to stay in cars while teachers conducted health screenings and walked students into their isolated, podlike classrooms. It was a serious affair at first, with everyone trying to learn

the new protocols and keep their masks on at all costs.” McIntyre recalled listening to Cyndi Lauper’s hit “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” pretty loudly in the car one morning with her two kindergarten-aged daughters. “Suddenly I noticed that a handful of our teachers had dropped what they were doing and were dancing over to my car,” McIntyre said. “Everyone was smiling; it was a moment. It wasn’t just a moment, though, because I’m convinced this is going to be one of the memories my young daughters take away from this pandemic.

Months later, they still ask me to play ‘that song’ almost every day on the way to school. There are a lot of things they could remember from this time, but one thing I am absolutely certain they will remember is the joy, love, comfort, strength, and courage their amazing teachers brought to school — in person! — every single day of this year. And, of course, they’ll remember the infectious joy of ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun.’” Mount said staff feel with the success of this year, they have added to the sustainability of the school’s programs into the future.


Unsung Heroes | Saturday, June 12, 2021



KRISTOPHER RADDER — BRATTLEBORO REFORMER Members of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital and United Way of Windham County were honored for starting Windham County Dental Center during the annual Chamber Breakfast at the Brattleboro Retreat in 2020.

munity Partnership, Elnu Abenaki, Greater Falls Connections, Out in the Open, The Root Social Justice Center, The Susu Healing Collective, United Way of Windham County, and West River Valley Thrives. The items and experiences included in the care packages fell into two categories aimed at improving and maintaining both physical and mental health and wellness: COVID-19 prevention and connection to self and community. Ruben Garza, Director of Development and Community Impact for United Way of Windham County said that United Way of Windham County hopes for Windham County is that we as residents do not return to normal because the old normal wasn’t equitable for everyone in our community. While they have focused on responding to and recovering from this pandemic in the short-term, they are working long-term to reimagine the future where everyone has equal access to healthcare, wellness, living conditions, education, and work opportunity.

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United Way of Windham County is a 501c3 non-profit that engages in hope through developing internal programs, supporting external programs, and working as a social connector. United Way of Windham County says it strives to improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of the community. Funded by individual donors and at times local and state grants, United Way of Windham County engages in public relations and some self-promotion, therefore antithetical to the idea of an “Unsung Hero.” With a nearly 65-year history in Windham County, United Way’s role as a social connector and resource for internal and external programs is well documented and celebrated amongst those who have received a grant, resource or support. Through the United Way of Windham County COVID-19 Response Fund, the organization has distributed more than $70,000.00 to local nonprofits and businesses. It has provided financial support to food shelves in Bellows Falls, Wilmington, Putney and Brattleboro; grants to housing organizations totaling more than $20,000; and granted much needed funds to arts and cultural organizations, so that they can continue to make Windham County a more beautiful and equitable place to live and enjoy. United Way of Windham County’s COVID-19 Response Fund secured grants to downtown businesses in need of rental assistance, CARES organizations, Youth Programs. United Way of Windham County released funds in the amount of $90,322, via a Vermont Department of Health Grant, to 11 area organizations in support of the Collaborative Care Package Project. The participating organizations were: The AIDS Project of Southern Vermont, The Brattleboro Community Justice Center, Brooks Memorial Library, Community Asylum Seekers Project, Deerfield Valley Com-


Saturday, June 12, 2021 | Unsung Heroes The Brattleboro Reformer |


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