|By Deborah Boatright, |
Northeast Regional Director,
Vermont's five HomeOwnership Centers have worked together for more than a decade to provide services statewide through the NeighborWorks Alliance of Vermont. This framework was critical last summer when Tropical Storm Irene struck, causing devastation everywhere. A dozen towns were totally cut off as nearly every river in Vermont flooded. Rebuilding efforts still loom large. The Alliance's NeighborWorks Week event was to restore a flood-damaged teen center and was featured by the USDA.
|Vermont NWO volunteers load a heavy piece|
of debris onto a truck. Photo courtesy
of Windsor Windham Housing Trust
The trust and mutual respect among Vermont’s NeighborWorks organizations (NWOs) runs deep within the organizations and was readily apparent throughout my visit. They are thriving in the nexus of independence and interdependence. Different NWOs take the lead based upon their capacity and expertise. Collaborations are based on strength and shared interest.
Champlain Housing Trust established a Mobile Home Lending Program to repair and replace mobile homes (over 15% destroyed by Irene) and received a prestigious Cornerstone grant to strengthen operations of six Community Land Trusts, including those at three other NWOs. NeighborWorks Western Vermont's H.E.A.T. Squad, aggressively conducting energy audits and rehabbing homes under a multi-million dollar Department of Energy grant, will soon be statewide. Central Vermont Community Land Trust and Gillman Housing Trust are part of a national pilot aimed at keeping seniors in their homes.
|Brattleboro Food Coop|
Photography by Ann Wright, courtesy of Windsor Windham Housing Trust
I believe that the continued growth and impact of community development depends on its relevancy in areas such as health, employment, and education. It is all about taking part in strengthening our quality of life. The Vermont NWOs are leading the way by creating new pathways to sustainability and greater impact; and we are proud to support their success.