NEWPORT — Residents of the region are officially invited to the Northeast Kingdom Collaborative’s annual NEK Day at the Statehouse on Monday, January 24 at 10:00 a.m.
Anyone who makes their home in the NEK knows that the region faces a unique set of challenges compared to the rest of Vermont.
As the most rural, least-funded corner of Vermont, the NEK has been disproportionately impacted by the fallout from Covid.
The only event of its kind in the Kingdom, NEK Day at the Statehouse is a chance to connect, although virtually this year, with legislators and fellow NEKers to celebrate the region, share priorities, and learn what’s been happening at the state level.
Kingdom citizens work some of the longest average hours for the lowest average incomes in Vermont.
The housing market is among the most susceptible to out-of-state buyers pricing out essential workers.
More than half the preschoolers in the region don’t have access to high-quality child care.
Still, the Northeast Kingdom retains its undeniable spark.
“People in the Kingdom are here for good reason,” says Northeast Kingdom Collaborative (NEKC) Director, Jen Carlo. “It’s the community support. The natural beauty. The ability to connect with nature and each other in a way that just doesn’t happen in more populous areas.”
There’s no doubt that the Kingdom is essential to the identity of Vermont. And yet Kingdom residents are often forgotten at the legislative level. That’s where the Northeast Kingdom Collaborative comes in.
An independent convener, the organization says they serve as a unified voice for the region, bringing people together across differences and reflecting the needs and interests of the communities it serves.
“I’ve learned that most of my job is to listen,” said Carlo, who took over leadership of the organization last April. “The folks here in the Kingdom know what they need to thrive.”
NEK Day @ the Statehouse is open to all NEKers at no cost and offers a rare opportunity to connect directly with the legislators who represent them.
This year, the NEKC is advocating investments in workforce development, housing, child care, mental health care, and Northern Vermont University.
The hosts anticipate that this year’s event, the fourth of its kind, will be the biggest yet and say the more NEKers who show up, the greater the impact.
“It’s vital that NEK voices are heard,” said Carlo. “And the use of a virtual platform for this event has increased access for NEK residents who otherwise couldn’t take the day off of work or travel to Montpelier.”
Participants at the event will get to hear from Senator Leahy, the Northeast Kingdom Collaborative, and key advocates about the successes and struggles of the region.
They’ll also be invited to share their own stories of innovation and triumph. They’ll add their voice to conversations about what the region needs in order to thrive.
Finally, they’ll hear reflections from legislators–what will they take from the event back to the statehouse?
“We want to hear from rural Vermonters,” said Carlo. “We need to. It’s the only way to ensure our region, our citizens are prioritized at the statehouse.”
There are no unqualified attendees and no cost to attend. All concerned voices of the Northeast Kingdom are encouraged to register.
For more information on the event, or to register to attend, visit: https://www.nekcollaborative.org/news-1/nek-day-2022