Gratitude and Impact Report
Gratitude and Impact Report
Our Mission: Mercy Connections empowers people to make significant life changes through education, mentoring, entrepreneurship, and community. Our Vision:
We are successful when: adults reach their goals in an inclusive, compassionate community; Vermont’s economy is stronger because of new businesses started by Mercy Connections’ graduates; people involved in the justice system successfully reenter our community; and Vermonters gain knowledge and connections that lead to healthy and fulfilling lives.
Our Programs & Services:
• Academic Tutoring
• Community Lunch Food Program
• English Language Learning
• Inclusive Entrepreneurship
• Justice & Mentoring
• Personal Growth Education
• US Citizenship Preparation
Staff: Raquel Aronhime, Veronica Bernicke, Lisa Falcone, Heather Gilbert, Maeve Keating, Sara Kermenski, Melissa Lang, Maxine McGowan, Kelly Moran, Joanne Nelson, Caroline Olson, Ashley Sandy, Alana Shaw, Abigail Stevenson, Mary Steussy, Marissa Strayer-Benton, Victoria Tamas, Claire Wheeler
Board of Directors:
Fran Briand, Sr. Lindora Cabral, Arline Duffy, Sarah George*,
Joy Hastings, Ed Howe, Nicole LaBrecque, Michell Langlais, Amit Lodha, Subha Luck, Ray Rouleau, Louisa Williams Schibli, Heidi St. Peter*, Mary Sullivan*, Marie Teme, Ashley Wainer, Leandre Waldo, Jason Williams
*Completed service on June 30, 2023
I am often asked how so much good comes out of this small organization. The answer is our educational mission, committed community and persistent practice to value the uniqueness and promise of every person who walks through Mercy Connections’ doors.
I am grateful for another successful year that served more than 800 people from 35 countries around the globe. Amazing! Participants pursued dreams such as starting a business, learning English, restarting a life after incarceration, passing the U.S. Citizenship exam and others.
Reaching personal goals is only part of the Mercy Connections experience. You see, at Mercy Connections we prioritize what truly matters in life. Yes, it includes learning. It also increases hope, a sense of belonging, joy and connection.
One participant shared that his involvement with Mercy Connections was the first time he felt part of something in his entire life. This type of experience means more than numbers on a page. It is life changing.
In these times of recovery and growth, we can all agree we need more Mercy Connections. Thank you for supporting this mission. I am optimistic about our bright future together.
With gratitude,Lisa Falcone, Executive Director
“I believe that money is not as valuable as knowledge. You can give me a million dollars and I will spend it all. But advice and knowledge is something I can keep for my entire life.”
U.S. Citizenship Preparation Student
I came to America in February of 2019, and when I saw the snow on the ground, I thought I was in the wrong place! It looked like salt everywhere, and I thought maybe I would go to America the next day. This could not be the America that I saw on television with big houses and trees! It was very different.
The hardest part about moving to the U.S. has been the language. In Africa, they taught English, but it wasn’t enough. I came here with little English, as a result it was difficult to share my passions with people.
But I was here, in Vermont. And now it is home.
I am from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and spent years in a Burundi refugee camp. For me, I can say that being connected to Mercy Connections was to be blessed.
I now have enough English to share my passions with other people, and I have opened a church. I am not afraid of using my voice anymore.
Working with Mercy Connections and my tutor changed my life because I gained knowledge. I learned the history of America and my tutor gave me advice on how to live here. No one else taught me this.
I believe that money is not as valuable as knowledge. You can give me a million dollars and I will spend it all. But advice and knowledge is something I can keep for my entire life. It is the most valuable resource.
My story is one about finding hope. A story of being in a place of hopelessness and finding my way out.
I felt that I had gone from being a kid, to having a family — and never had time for myself in between that. I was in a very low place.
I took advantage of the advice they were giving me. One recommendation was to come to Mercy Connections and join the mentoring program, and so I did.
When I participated in the “Fostering Hope & Strength” program, I learned that other people were going through the same thing as me.
I didn’t feel like I deserved much. I gave up my kids, hope of finding a career, my physical belongings and became homeless. I had never experienced depression to that depth. I was homeless for two years.
After the birth of my third child, I moved into a residential program. Living there gave me the structure to my life that I needed, and so I started to feel a little better.
I also joined the Inclusive Entrepreneurship “Start Up” class. Within a week, I had the idea to start my own business making doll clothing.
I think that Mercy Connections is a path-opener for people. It opened a path for me to start a new chapter, and I am grateful to be alive. I went from having no hope and struggling to get through the day, and now I have a 10-year plan.
Connections is a pathopener for people. It opened a path for me to start a new chapter, and I am grateful to be alive. I went from having no hope and struggling to get through the day, and now I have a 10-year plan.”
think that Mercy
You can do it through the power of connection with friends like these at Mercy Connections.”
“The message I’m sharing today is, dare to dream, keep your dreams alive and don’t give up on your dreams!
In Jamaica, I was a full-time award-winning vocalist, but when my family and I migrated to the USA, I had to start all over to build a presence as a singer in Vermont.
I moved to the U.S. in 2017, gained my green card in 2019, and then I could start work. I realized that I had to start networking because everyone knew me in Jamaica, but here, no one did. Then COVID hit, and it shut down live performances and networking.
My experience was not just educational. The overarching memory of my tenure at Mercy Connections is of a warm and comforting space where knowledge was shared freely and bountifully. It was so different from my own University experience in the West Indies. I had never experienced anything like Mercy Connections. The level of compassion is deep and genuine.
Due to the assistance of Mercy Connections’ training and ongoing support, Emanuel Road Records is now a record label led by a woman of color right here in Vermont.
What I was doing musically during this time was recording and songwriting, but I was not gaining a fan base. And that’s how I found Mercy Connections … I needed to find any assistance I could with moving forward with my business.
The message I’m sharing today is, dare to dream, keep your dreams alive and don’t give up on your dreams! You can do it through the power of connection with friends like these at Mercy Connections.
406 PEOPLE PARTICIPATED IN EDUCATION & ENTREPRENEURSHIP PROGRAMS
204 PEOPLE RECEIVED FOOD, COATS OR BASIC NEEDS DISTRIBUTIONS
250 PEOPLE PARTICIPATED IN JUSTICE & MENTORING PROGRAMS
648 COMMUNITY LUNCH MEALS SERVED
1,034 FOOD, COATS AND BASIC NECESSITIES DISTRIBUTED
98% OF PARTICIPANTS SURVEYED SAID THEY MADE PROGRESS TOWARDS THEIR GOALS
100% OF PARTICIPANTS SURVEYED SAID THEY HAD INCREASED FEELINGS OF HOPE, CONNECTION OR BELONGING
This year, participants represented 35 countries of origin and speak 23 first languages.
100% of participants who took the citizenship exam passed
30 new businesses in Vermont
75 entrepreneurs received one-on-one coaching
JUSTICE & MENTORING
2,184 hours of service from 52 matched mentor volunteers
25 new mentoring matches were made
ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNING
• Participation grew by more than 230% year-over-year
• Due to increased demand, group classes were offered for the first time
• 96% of participants reported an increase in knowledge or new skills
• More than 50% of all women at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility participated in our Fostering Hope & Strength program
* Numbers represent program outcomes from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023. People are often enrolled in multiple Mercy Connections’ programs at the same time.
9,135 Hours VOLUNTEERS
Mercy Connections thrives on the goodwill and many talents of incredibly generous volunteers. It simply would not be able to do the critical work it does in the community without them, and for that we are grateful.
Volunteers offered their time through:
• Mentoring for justice-involved women+
• Tutoring for English Language Learning, Academic Support or U.S. Citizenship Preparation
• Support in the Center assisting with the front desk, community lunch, general office support, welcoming participants and more
MERCY CONNECTIONS FISCAL YEAR
JULY 1, 2022–JUNE 30, 2023
20% Grants - Public 20% Grants -Private
5% Direct Service Basic Needs
41% Development Fund
7% Program Fees
“I have learned from the Sisters about respect, discipline, hard work, knowledge, courage and resolve. These traits are all part of Mercy Connections and have been for the past 20+ years.”
Thank you to the generous community of supporters that make this work possible. It is truly something to celebrate!
Investing in Mercy Connections directly supports the lives of hundreds of Vermonters. These gifts make a significant difference in and around our state.
We are deeply grateful for the newly established Elizabeth Candon, RSM and Janice Ryan, RSM Empowerment Fund, given by the Courtney and Victoria Buffum Family Foundation This fund will provide support for small business development programs and restorative services for justice-involved women in perpetuity.
To see a full list of our supporters for the 2023 fiscal year, please go to mercyconnections.org/supporters
Here’s how you can ensure this critical work continues:
1. Make a Gift Today – Scan the following QR code, visit our website, or utilize the remittance envelope enclosed
2. Volunteer – Contact email@example.com
3. Become a Sponsor – For the 2024 Power of Connection event, contact Director of Development, Marissa Strayer-Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Giving Plan – To discuss your giving plan, please contact Marissa Strayer-Benton at email@example.com