It’s November, and I’ve just spotted the first snowflakes of the season. I’ve been reflecting on my upcoming birthday, especially because this year is a milestone year. I won’t tell you the number, but I’ll share that I’ve reached the point in my life at which I sit in the middle of multiple generations including my aging father, five adult kids, and several grandchildren.
I see the hopes and dreams of each generation, along with the many challenges they face, and I find myself thinking about the seasons of our lives and how United Way of Northwest Vermont supports people of all ages, in every season.
For example, as my husband and I welcomed my dad into our home, we needed help to meet the needs of a brilliant and engaging older person with decreased mobility and sight loss. Non-profits like Age Well, a United Way funded partner, gave us the support and direction we needed.
One of my kids is a new nurse and trying to build a financially stable future. When I couldn’t figure out how to help her navigate the confusing student loan repayment process, a resource coordinator from United Way’s Working Bridges program jumped in.
And, while I am optimistic about the opportunities that my grandkids and their friends will see in their lifetimes, I see the growing mental health and substance misuse challenges that so many of our younger folks are faced with.
United Way’s Mental Health Initiative is bringing people and organizations together across the region, like Northwestern Counseling and Support Services, to improve timely access to mental health services for all ages in a system where the need exceeds the current capacity to provide support. This initiative is working to reduce stigma, strengthen suicide prevention resources, find solutions to workforce challenges, and is supporting projects focused on youth mental health such as stand-alone therapy pods in schools so students have a private space to meet with a therapist during school hours.
Through the Northwest Vermont Prevention Network, we are working with partners to reduce substance misuse and help people of all ages access the resources and supportive relationships they need to live healthy, purpose-driven lives and we’ve made grants to support programs in Franklin County at the Swanton Recreation Department, Sheldon Middle School, Georgia Public Library, and the Northeast Supervisory Union.
United Way is here for Vermonters across the lifespan. We partner with local programs that take a multi-generational approach to supporting individuals and families like Spectrum, Martha’s Kitchen, Turning Point, Tim’s House, and Voices Against Violence to name a few. We also run our own Foster Grandparent Program which enhances social connections for older Vermonters while enriching the lives of local children who need extra help to succeed in school and we fund Franklin County Caring Communities to support more mentorship opportunities in our area.
As I finish another trip around the sun, this is one lesson that I’ve learned: We all have times in our lives when we need help, and times when we can give help. And, I have seen first-hand how our community rallies to help those in need. We can do so much more when we work together.
That’s why I’m passionate about the work that United Way of Northwest Vermont does.
We’re a community-led organization. We make real change by focusing on the unmet needs most important to—and told to us by—our community. Through the generosity of caring community members and local businesses, we raise resources, mobilize volunteers, and bring community members together to advance local solutions that make a difference in the lives of our friends and neighbors.
At every age, in every season, United Way is here. But we can’t do this work alone. Our work is powered by local people who are committed to supporting the vitality and resiliency of our community. From donations to volunteer hours, when we invest in our community today, we help to ensure that support will be available when needed.
If you need help, please dial 2-1-1, a statewide, confidential information and referral service to be connected to the organizations that can provide support. And, if you are experiencing a mental health or substance misuse crisis, dial 9-8-8 for 24/7 connection to confidential support from local counselors and mental health professionals.
A longtime St. Albans resident and former mayor, Gamache has dedicated her career to supporting mission-driven organizations in Vermont. She is currently part of the senior leadership team at United Way of Northwest Vermont and serves on several nonprofit boards.