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Elk herd on the loose in Derby

in Derby/News/Northeast Kingdom

DERBY — The search is on in Derby for a variety of non-native elk that escaped their pasture by the Cow Palace on Sunday.

Some of the elk, who belong to Doug Nelson, returned on their own shortly after being let out.

Others have been spotted roaming, and swimming around the area, with pictures almost immediately popping up on Facebook timelines.

Wardens from Vermont Fish and Wildlife say they are aware of the situation and are working with Nelson to retrieve the animals.

The elk herd is somewhat of a landmark in the area, often photographed by visitors to the Cow Palace restaurant.

One of the dishes on the Cow Palace menu is elk sirloin.

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    Travis Blake, Tara Patten and Brandon Malshuk discuss distribution of the Overdose and Awareness and Memorial Walk Posters.

Walking in Newport to remember, prevent, inspire and educate

in Newport/News/Northeast Kingdom

NEWPORT — There will be an “Overdose Awareness and Memorial Walk” in Newport on June 24, from 1-4, starting at the Newport Gazebo in Gardener Park. The walk is only part of the event, however. It will also include speakers, information on and connection to support available in the area, the continued creation of a memory board, and a Chinese lantern release along with music, pizza and other refreshments.

There were 108 overdoses in the state of Vermont in 2016, with 104 of those being Vermonters. They are sobering numbers.

“All these lost lives were real lives. Real human beings,” thirty-year-old Travis Blake said.

Blake is one of the volunteers who helped organize the event. He is also in recovery from addiction after finding a mix of support that works for him. He wants to send the message of awareness that addiction can kill, but he also wants people to know that there are many paths to recovery, and sometimes it takes some looking around and trying different options.

The point is, he said, there are forms of support out there. There is hope.

Another organizer and volunteer, Tara Patten, helped begin “NEK Stands Strong” after her best friend, Charlie Buckland, died from an overdose. It’s a trauma that is burned into her heart.

“It was three years ago this December – not long before Christmas. December 19th,” she murmured.

The schedule stays true to the dualistic message of loss and hope combined. There will also be T-shirts and bracelets for sale to benefit NEK Stands Strong and its events.

“We aren’t a nonprofit, but the proceeds will be held by Journey to Recovery on our behalf,” Patten explained.

The event is open to the entire community, and participants don’t need to be facing addiction to take part.

“It’s something that touches everyone in one way or another,” Brandon Malshuk said. Blake added that there will be many volunteers to help and answer questions.

“We’ll be wearing the purple shirts, so we’ll be easy to see. Any path to recovery is a good path. Everyone’s life matters.”

For more information on the walk, please call the Journey to Recovery Center at 802-624-4156.

Summer Block Party in Newport kicks off summer and free lunches

in Arts and Entertainment/Newport/News/Northeast Kingdom

NEWPORT — The 4th Annual Summer Block Party will be held at Gardner Park in Newport, on Thursday, June 22 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The afternoon will feature free food for all kids 18-years-old and younger from the Lunchbox food truck, family-friendly games and activities such as dancing and face painting, and a fun-run around the park.

The Summer Block Party is hosted by Green Mountain Farm-to-School and Newport Parks and Recreation.

“The Summer Block Party is an opportunity for us to say thank you to the community for all of their support while also letting them know that the Lunchbox will be serving free lunches to kids again this summer,” says James Hafferman, executive director of Green Mountain Farm-to-School.

The activities for the fun afternoon are organized by over a dozen community organizations that are participating in the event. United Church of Newport will be doing a sing-along and games, the Wellness Center of North Country Hospital will be doing dance and zumba, and Let’s Grow Kids will have life-sized Legos, to only name a few.

The event is also sponsored by various business throughout the region.

“The support of many different organizations and businesses make the Summer Block Party possible,” says Hafferman. “We are lucky to have such a caring community that comes together to make a fun, family-friendly event like this possible for everyone.”

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    All photos by Phil White.
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Local riders win the Moose

in Derby/Newport/Northeast Kingdom/Outdoors/Vermont

NEWPORT — Randy Durivage and Laurie Durivage of Derby, defended home turf and won this year’s Moose, a 103 mile “timed event” that runs through Caledonia and Essex Counties.

Randy Durivage, 54, shared the title of King of the Moose with Julian Grijns, 42, of Westport, CT, both finishing with a time of 5 hours 33 minutes and 30 seconds.

Laurie Durivage claimed her title as Queen of the Moose with a time of 5 hours, 50 minutes and 55 seconds.

The Moose starts at Mike’s Tiki Bar in East Burke. Cyclists have to tap the bar at the finish. It runs up Route 114 to Island Pond, Norton, and Canaan, Down the Connecticut River on Route 102, back to Island Pond on Route 105, and down to East Burke on Route 114.

Second and third among the women were Fran Plaisted, 53, of Orford, NH (6:07:50) and Carrie Nourjian, 64, of Stowe, (6:08:23).

Tied for third place among the men were Jake McLoughlin, 27, of Lyme, NH, Michael Fogg, 57 of Norwich, and Benjamin Williams, 43, of Thetford, all with times of 5:57:53.

Each of the male and female winners claimed a 6 pack of day tickets to Burke Mountain, a quart of Couture’s Maple Syrup, and a half pound of Brault’s beef jerky.

This year, seven teams competed in the Team Challenge, KVG, Upper Valley Velo, Team Ottawa, Flatlanders, Vermonters, Onion River Sports and Burke Mountain Academy.

The Upper Valley Velo narrowly edged out KVG.

The Moose is one of the three days of riding in the June Tour de Kingdom, which also includes a guided ride around Lake Memphremagog on Friday and a Lake Region ride on Sunday.

About 50 cyclists participated in the weekend, traveling from Ontario, New Jersey, Illinois, New York, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and all around Vermont.

Newport Police leaders recognized by New England Narcotic Officers Association

in Newport/News/Northeast Kingdom

NEWPORT — Two members of the Newport Police Department were recognized for their roles assisting with the arrest of more than two dozen individuals in Orleans County on drug charges earlier this year.

Chief Seth DiSanto and Sgt. Travis Bingham were recognized by the New England Narcotic Officers Association last week for their contributions to a Vermont Drug Task Force operation that included 79 controlled drug purchases and 87 charges—including the sale of heroin, the sale of crack cocaine and aiding in the commission of a felony—against 32 individuals throughout Orleans County.

Of those arrested, 25 were Newport residents.

The arrests, which all came on Feb. 14, were the result of a months-long investigation that would not have been possible without the cooperation of numerous law enforcement agencies, including the Newport Police Department and Vermont Drug Task Force.

Chief DiSanto and Sgt. Bingham, along with Orleans County State’s Attorney Jennifer Barrett, were recognized late last month with the Henry “Hank” Haverkoch Memorial Award, which is named in honor of the late Bennington Police Department officer who is remembered for his unwavering commitment to keeping the youth of his community drug free.

“I am proud of everyone who was involved in this operation, which stands as a great example of what is possible when law enforcement agencies collaborate and work together,” Chief DiSanto said. “These deadly drugs pose a serious threat to our community and we will remain committed to holding dealers accountable for their actions.”

Howard Frank Mosher’s personal book collection to be housed at Leach Public Library

in Arts and Entertainment/Irasburg/Newport/News/Northeast Kingdom

IRASBURG — The Irasburg Selectboard and the Trustees of the Leach Public Library have announced an Open House to introduce and honor the Howard Frank Mosher book collection, to be housed at the library.

The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, June 2, at the library, located on the Irasburg Common.

The Open House will immediately precede a 2 p.m. memorial service for the beloved Irasburg author, to be held at the Irasburg United Church.

Howard Frank Mosher died on January 29, 2017, at his Irasburg home.

In December 2016, Mosher sent “A Christmas Letter to Irasburg’s Library Trustees and Select Board,” donating his book collection to the library.

“What an honor it is,” Mosher wrote in his letter, “to present my beloved personal book collection to the Leach Memorial Library in Irasburg, where my still-more-beloved Phillis and I have lived for forty very happy years. Here in this northern Vermont town founded in 1781 by Ethan Allen’s brother Ira, Phillis and I have made our home for most of our adult lives, raised our children, and caught (way too many) trout (brookies, browns, and rainbows, but mainly brookies). Here, too, is where I’ve written most of my fourteen books, including mu 1989 novel A Stranger in the Kingdom, inspired by the so-called “Irasburg Incident” of 1968. To this day, A Stranger in the Kingdom is probably my best known book, though my own favorite is Northern Borders.”

The donated collection includes several matched sets of the classics, including a set of Shakespeare’s works inherited from Mosher’s grandfather and a set of the works of Dickens previously owned by longtime Irasburg librarian Doris Alexander. Also included are books about the Lewis and Clark expedition and books on slavery and the civil war that the author used in research for two of his novels.

“I love to write,” Mosher concluded his December donation letter. “Always have. And Irasburg and the Kingdom have been a treasure trove of stories. But I live to read. I like thinking that, in the future, some aspiring young storywriter may pick up some of these books and, as I have, find them inspiring and helpful.”

Leach Library Director Laurie Holland echoed Mosher’s view.

“We look forward to introducing aspiring young story writers, and everyone else, to Howard’s extraordinary book collection,” she said.

Refreshments will be served at the Open House.

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    Ms. Damsell surveying planting surviorship at a Riparian Restoration Project along the Black River in Craftsbury. In 2016 the Orleans County Conservation District completed planting projects on over ½ mile, with 1,000 trees planted to restore riparian forest along the Black River.

Damsell leads Orleans County Conservation District

in News/Northeast Kingdom/Outdoors

NEWPORT — Sarah Damsell marks her first year as the new District Manager of the Orleans County Natural Resources Conservation District.

Damsell comes to the Conservation District after working as an Agriculture Resource Specialist for the Vermont Association Conservation Districts for three years and the Conservation District Manager in Essex County for over two years.

She brings a passion for conservation coupled with a deep understanding of current agricultural and land use challenges. Her background working in the conservation field, vegetable and dairy farms, and for seven years as an Organic Farm Inspector for the National Organic Farm Association of Vermont, provides her with the intimate knowledge to engage with local farmers and landowners, understand their challenges, and aid them in completing conservation projects on their land with a key goal of improving water quality.

Over the last year, Damsell began working with a variety of partners to reduce nutrient runoff into Lake Memphremagog, as part of a Regional Conservation Project working with the State of Vermont and a variety of local partners. This work is funded through a federal grant and includes working with local farmers to develop conservation and nutrient management plans, and helping farmers access funds to implement projects to reduce nutrient runoff and erosion.

She is also organizing an areaway rental program used to reduce soil compaction while increasing soil health and improving water and nutrient filtration.

In 2016, the areaway rental program was used on 947 acres in Orleans County.

Damsell’s work does not stop with farms, as she also is working with the towns of Derby and Coventry to complete road erosion and structure inventories to better understand how to improve municipal road infrastructure to reduce runoff into our waterways. She has also been working in the forests, planting trees along the Black River in Craftsbury to restore riparian habitat and re-connect wildlife travel corridors along the river, as well as organizing a portable skidder bridge rental program to help local loggers minimize runoff into waterways while working in the woods.

Her work in 2017 will continue much of the work of the past year, striving to assist local landowners in conservation our natural resources. This spring, the Conservation District will also be offering a tree and shrub sale to landowners, where trees and native shrubs can be purchased for spring wildlife and conservation planting.

In addition, in May the Conservation District is hosting Conservation Field Day for local 4th & 5th graders at the Randall farm in Troy.

In Orleans County, the Conservation District operates as a local non-profit with close affiliations with both state and federal agencies, creating the unique position to effectively connect farmers, municipalities, state agencies, local schools, and landowners across the county.

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    Guests of last year's Taste of the Kingdom enjoy the array of food, drinks, and fun at Jay Peak Resort.

Taste the flavors of the NEK at the 9th annual Taste of the Kingdom

in Newport/News/Northeast Kingdom

NEWPORT — The 9th Annual Taste of the Kingdom, a fundraising event held by Green Mountain Farm-to-School (GMFTS), will be taking place on March 1 beginning at 6 p.m. at Jay Peak Resort’s Foeger Ballroom.

Tickets are on sale now and available for purchase online.

Guests will be treated to the delicious creations of over 20 featured Northeast Kingdom chefs, farmers, and brewers, such as Kingdom Brewing, Burke Mountain Confectionery, Barn First goat cheese, Jay Village Inn, and so much more. There will also be live music and a silent auction featuring NEK-area businesses.

“The Taste of the Kingdom is an evening of celebration where friends and family can come together to enjoy the thriving local food scene in the Northeast Kingdom,” said James Hafferman, executive director, GMFTS. “We love bringing together all these top farm and food producers from the region and giving people the opportunity to meet and mingle with them.”

All proceeds from the event will go to benefit GMFTS and its programming.

The support from the community will help to ensure that the organization can continue planting school gardens, teaching students about nutrition and agriculture, serving free meals during the summer through the Lunchbox food truck, and connecting area farmers with local institutions to increase their economic viability through their regional food hub, Green Mountain Farm Direct.

“The Taste of the Kingdom is a great opportunity for the community to enjoy some of the delicious flavors found throughout the Northeast Kingdom while also supporting the work of connecting farms, schools, and communities through food and education,” said Shane Rogers, communications and development coordinator for GMFTS.

For more information on the 9th Annual Taste of the Kingdom or to purchase tickets, follow this link.

Police warning Orleans County residents of phone scam

in Albany/News/Northeast Kingdom

NEWPORT — Police are warning of a phone scam that cost a local man $1,500.

On Tuesday police say they received a call from a resident of Albany stating that he was the victim of fraud.

The victim told police that a man, who identifies himself as “William Keeley,” called his residence stating he was providing legal aid for one of his friends.

Keeley told the victim that his friend was in a car accident and was currently in police custody. He went on to ask him to send over $1,500.00 through Walmart in order to bail out his friend.

Once the money was sent, police say Keeley called back stating there were complications with the incident and that more money was required in order to pay for bail.

Police are alerting the public to this scam, and say it is being used across the area to fraudulently gain money from unsuspecting individuals.

“If you receive a phone call with someone using a similar scenario, do not send them any money. As always be sure to confirm the identity of any individuals asking for money over the phone,” a statement issued by police reads.

Weather alert: dangerously cold wind chills of 35 below zero coming to Orleans County

in Newport/News/Northeast Kingdom

ST. JOHNSBURY — The National Weather Service has issued a Wind Chill Warning for Orleans County starting Thursday afternoon into Friday morning.

According to a statement issued by the National Weather Service, wind chills in the area could reach as low as 35 below zero. These temperatures have the potential to pose a danger to health and property.

The Coldest wind chill values are expected to occur between 10 p.m. Thursday evening and 8 a.m. Friday morning.

Hypothermia, frostbite, and other hazards are a concern in these conditions and precautions are advised to ensure the safety of individuals and property.

Please note the following actions and take any steps necessary to keep yourself and your family safe.

Limit time outdoors:

Minimize outside activities, particularly the elderly and very young. Also, consider your pets and limit their time outdoors.

Dress warmly and stay dry:

Wear several layers of loose-fitting, lightweight clothing, rather than a single layer of heavy clothing. Wear a hat, mittens, and sturdy waterproof boots, protecting your extremities. Keep babies and older adults dry and in warm rooms.

Eat and drink healthy:

Well balanced meals help you stay warmer. Drink warm fluids to maintain a healthy temperature. Alcohol and caffeinated beverages cause you to lose heat more rapidly.

Avoid hypothermia and frostbite:

Symptoms of frostbite include a loss of feeling and a pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose. Hypothermia signs include shivering, exhaustion, slurred speech and in infants, bright red, cold skin. If symptoms are detected, seek medical help immediately and get to a warm place. Slowly warm the affected areas as you await medical assistance.

Have sufficient heating “fuel” for your home:

Check your heating supply, whether it’s oil, propane, wood, wood chips, etc. If you need information on heating assistance you can dial 2-1-1.

Heat safely:

If you lose your primary heat source, use only safe alternate sources like a fireplace, wood stove or space heater and ensure they are ventilating properly.

Ventilate to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning:

If you use a generator, ensure it is used outside, away from open windows, doors or air intakes. Exhaust from a generator or a heating source can cause a buildup of Carbon Monoxide (CO) in the home. Carbon monoxide is a deadly, colorless, odorless, poisonous gas. CO poisoning can mimic flu-like symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue.

Higher levels of exposure result in disorientation, drowsiness, unconsciousness and death. If you experience these symptoms leave the home and contact help. Test smoke alarms and Carbon Monoxide (CO) detectors.

Be a good neighbor:

Check on older or disabled relatives, friends and neighbors to make sure they are keeping warm safely.

Be prepared:

Have a well-stocked Winter Home Emergency Supply Kit that includes flashlights, portable radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit, bottled water and non-perishable food.

Make sure your car is properly winterized:

Keep the gas tank at least half-full. Carry a Winter Emergency Car Kit in the trunk including blankets, extra clothing, flashlight with spare batteries, a can and waterproof matches to melt snow for drinking water, non-perishable foods, windshields scraper, shovel, sand, towrope and jumper cables.

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    Markus Vogt of the Newport Community Learning Center with three students in "Essentials of Math" this semester

CCV and NEKLS collaborate

in Northeast Kingdom

NEWPORT — Community Colleges in the Northeast Kingdom have teamed up with Northeast Kingdom Learning Services (NEKLS) to help students connect to the college while working on skill gaps – and best yet, doing it all for free.

It happens through math and English courses called “College Essentials.”

According to the CCV Coordinators of Academic Services, Jennifer Gundy in St. Johnsbury and Cynthia Swanson of Newport, CCV and NEKLS have certainly worked together for years, but the structured way they go about it now provides big benefits to students.

In the past, students had to pay to take a course to get them ready for college-level math or English if a placement test showed that they needed skills.

“For some students – especially first-generation college students – it’s easy to feel overwhelmed,” Gundy said.

At times, just the idea of having to pay for a course that would only be preparing them could be enough to make them back away from going to college.

Markus Vogt and Tom Barth, Community Learning Center Managers for NEKLS, also saw some issues with a less structured connection as they shared with CCV in the past.

“Some students would receive their high school diploma through us but were hesitant to take a course at CCV and work with someone unfamiliar and in a setting that is unfamiliar to them,” Vogt said.

With the new system, “College Essentials” classes are available for free, and an NEKLS employee offers the course at CCV rather than at NEKLS Learning Centers.

It’s a free offering, but students sign up at the college, are enrolled as college students, and have a very soft first experience with the college environment. If they were past NEKLS students, then they transition via a familiar face.

“They don’t pay for these courses but they get acclimated to college. They are in college. They receive a CCV email account and everything any other student has,” Swanson said. “The partnership is really important.”

Both Coordinators of Academic Services pointed out another benefit: There is an open door policy at NEKLS Centers.

If students need additional aide, they can stop in at one of the NEKLS learning centers and receive more free tutoring.

“We have tutors here at CCV but not they aren’t available as many hours. This way students working hard to be ready for other college courses get the help they need. They feel guided and supported,” Gundy said.

The change occurred when Gundy took the job in St. Johnsbury after having experienced a similar set-up in the Burlington area. When she came to the Northeast Kingdom, she quickly learned of NEKLS and worked with staff to create the College Essentials model in St. Johnsbury.

After a very successful beginning, the Newport area began their College Essentials offerings.

Over 30 students have been served by College Essentials to date. Vogt and Barth of NEKLS say the results of the classes have been very encouraging. Some students have tested, for instance, as having a 7th grade level in math and finished the course able to enter college.

Some students have needed to take the Essentials course more than one semester, but all concerned have seen a large number of students who are willing to stick with it and work hard at getting what they need to move toward their goals.

The recipe of having support, being enrolled in college, but not having to pay for the basics appears to be a winning one.

For more information on the College Essentials classes, contact the St. Johnsbury office at 748-6673, or the Newport CCV offices at 334-3387.

To learn more about NEKLS, stop in at one of our 5 learning centers, visit www.NEKLSVT.org, or call toll-free, 1-844-GO NEKLS (466-3557).

New beginnings for women entrepreneurs in the Northeast Kingdom

in Northeast Kingdom

NEWPORT — A first-time USDA Rural Business Development grant called 
”ASPIRE!” has arrived to engage and empower women entrepreneurs in the Northeast Kingdom. 

A grant rich in opportunities for applicants, the first tier award will be for $2,000 to help for technical assistance. Circle of Support members then pitch judges for the second tier of $5,000 grants and partnering with community businesses to support the process.

The first cohort of “ASPIRANTS!” at whatever stage of their business development, will be announced by the end of December and be working together in their Circles of Support by the beginning of 2017.

ASPIRE’s kickoff luncheon in Newport will take place on November 30.

Jane Campbell, Executive Director of Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility, will give a glimpse of VBSR’s imaginative new business model and how it empowers the women-owned businesses they represent.

Joe Patrissi, Executive Director of Northeast Kingdom Community Action will give the welcome for ASPIRE!

Amy Robinson. Director of NEKCA’s Micro Business Development Program, will trace ASPIRE’s history and Project Manager Diana Henry will flesh out the details of the grant.

The luncheon is free for applicants, community volunteers, and interested business partners.

The program will run from 12:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m.

ASPIRE! is expected help women grow their business and the economy of the Northeast Kingdom.

802-334-7054 dmhenry@nekcavt.org

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Round Island on Lake Memphremagog for sale

in Northeast Kingdom

NEWPORT — Have you watched HGTV’s Island Hunters and dreamed about owning your own island? Well, you don’t have to travel as far as you may think to make it a reality.

Round Island on Lake Memphremagog is for sale, and it can be yours…for only $1,595,000.

This unique property offers 7 acres and 2,200 feet of natural shoreline on the lake.

The property has two buildings, which includes a solid main cottage that was constructed in 1941.

One of the things making Round Island so unique is that electricity is available on the property through an underwater cable. Due to environmental regulations, it would be almost impossible today to attach an island to the grid in this way.

The location near Owl’s Head offers sensational views of the lake and the mountains.

The annual municipal taxes located in Potton, Quebec, are $3,619.

The property is listed by Sotheby’s Canada.

If islands are your thing, this is not the only local one for sale. Click here to check out another beautiful island in Island Pond listed by Jim Campbell Real Estate.

For all other local real estate in Orleans County, check out the Newport Dispatch Local Real Estate Section.

Judd’s Wayeeses Farms, Brunelle Farms, and Couture’s Maple Shop take home top prizes this year

in Barton/Brownington/Morgan/Northeast Kingdom

BARTON — The Orleans County Maple Producers held their annual maple contest at the Orleans County Fair on Wednesday, August 16.

There were 68 entries in 8 classes.

Best of Show for maple syrup was awarded to Judd’s Wayeeses Farms of Morgan for their Very Dark Strong maple syrup.

Best of Show for maple products was awarded to Brunelle Farms of Brownington for their black raspberry maple sauce which was entered in the Maple Specialty class.

Producer of the Year award went to Couture’s Maple Shop for winning three Best of Class and three Excellent awards.

For a full list of all of the class winners and excellent awards CLICK HERE.

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    Attending the lunch in their honor at the Eastside Restaurant in Newport are, from left: Evelyn Shields, Groton; Pam Smith, Volunteer Department Supervisor for the Council on Aging; Diane Sharon, Browington; Bill Lydiard, Norton; Margo McKee, St. Johnsbury; Carmen LaMarche, Irasburg; Patty Beckwith Senior Companions Coordinator; Meg Burmeister, Council on Aging Executive Director; Karen Budde, RSVP Volunteer Coordinator; Howard Odette, Barton; Jeannine Richards, Newport; Ruth Johnson, Norton; Phyllis McCarty, Derby Line, and Louise Lessard, Danville.

Local Senior Companions honored for their work

in Northeast Kingdom

NEWPORT – The NEK Council on Aging recently celebrated the accomplishments of 15 local “Senior Companions,” who help elderly residents live at home with as much autonomy as possible and for as long as possible.

Last year, 51 appreciative men and women throughout the Northeast Kingdom received 12,880 hours of undivided attention by these Senior Companions, who choose to help those considerably older than themselves live in the familiarity of their own homes rather than in an institutional setting.

They provide a few hours a week of respite so an adult child taking care of a widowed parent with dementia can get a haircut, mow the lawn, clean the house, or stack wood.

Activities often include a weekly excursion to the grocery store with an elderly resident who no longer drives and has no family living locally, playing a game of chess, or going for an afternoon drive for ice cream that helps melt away hours of isolation.

The program is a foundation stone in results-driven outreach done by the NEK Council on Aging.

There is mounting evidence that seniors who regularly volunteer have a lower risk of heart disease and live significantly longer than those who don’t, said Meg Burmeister, the Council’s Executive Director.

“Service gives our many volunteers a renewed purpose in life,” she added.

Last year, clients received nearly five hours a week of convivial exchanges or breaks from the routine of caring for someone else, totaling 252 hours of emotional comfort and assistance.

For their part, the Senior Companions drove an average of 30 miles a week, regardless of the weather, traveling 76,464 miles throughout Orleans, Essex and Caledonia counties.

For this, they receive mileage reimbursement and a small non-taxable stipend. The starting age is 55.

“It’s a great program for getting everyone out and about and participating in their communities,” said Patty Beckwith, Senior Companions Coordinator, referring to the dual benefits for both companions and their clients. “The rural nature of the Northeast Kingdom means a lot of people live far away from daily activities that give their lives meaning. Senior Companions is a rewarding way to continue enjoying life even as you age.”

Beckwith described the current roster of volunteers as a colorful, talkative, witty and caring group who are in the seventh and eighth decades of life.

Photo caption: Attending the lunch in their honor at the Eastside Restaurant in Newport are, from left: Evelyn Shields, Groton; Pam Smith, Volunteer Department Supervisor for the Council on Aging; Diane Sharon, Browington; Bill Lydiard, Norton; Margo McKee, St. Johnsbury; Carmen LaMarche, Irasburg; Patty Beckwith Senior Companions Coordinator; Meg Burmeister, Council on Aging Executive Director; Karen Budde, RSVP Volunteer Coordinator; Howard Odette, Barton; Jeannine Richards, Newport; Ruth Johnson, Norton; Phyllis McCarty, Derby Line, and Louise Lessard, Danville.

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