Thanks to CCTV for interviewing our board president about the COVID-19 Special Relief Fund.
We are living through times that many of us have never experienced before, and certainly weren’t on our mind when we founded the ONE Good Deed Fund six years ago. But we started the fund to help those who needed financial assistance to do something to help their neighbors and neighborhood, and it’s our turn to step into that roll. In response to the unprecedented business and venue closures, we have opened a special relief fund for Burlington residents who have lost income due to the pandemic. For more information and an application, please see our COVID-19 Relief page.
What gives us hope is that the kindness and generosity of Vermonters in a crisis is incredible. We will all make it through together. Let’s remember that at the end of the day, we all belong to each other.
It’s Giving Tuesday, and instead of asking for your support, we’re saying thank you for what you’ve already given. For all of you who donated your warm clothes and gave financial gifts, we are so grateful. We collected and bought over 100 coats, sweaters, snow suits, and boots, and bought 60 pairs of gloves that are getting distributed to families and seniors. When the world seems dark, the kindness and generosity of community members is a bright light.
Here are just some of the clothes waiting to be picked up. Thank you to the ever wonderful ONEderful award winner Mellisa Cain for not just spearheading the organization, but also washing all the clothing and then sorting it all!
As those of you are local know, winter came early in Vermont this year and there is a significant need for high quality winter clothes for adults and children in Burlington. There are a lot of agencies doing a great job of working with the area thrift stores and getting donations for their clients, but there is a lot more need than they can fill, and the folks who aren’t clients are desperate for warm gear. To help fill that gap, we are asking for your support in two ways:
1) If you have the ability to donate, you can help us raise funds to buy clothing and gear. You can make a tax deductible gift through paypal here.
2) If you have high quality warm clothes and boots in good condition (think
clothing without tears or stains that you would give to a friend) we will
happily take those too. Please contact us and we’ll connect you with the amazing Burlington grassroots organizer (and ONEderful Award winner!) Mellisa Cain, who is matching those with donations with those who need them.
Congratulations to this year’s ONEderful award winners! The ONEderful awards recognize people who live in the Old North End and make it a better place through their volunteer work. The winners are:
Jean Waltz – nominated by Mellisa Cain, who shared that “Jeanie has been organizing the Ramble for years. This is no small task. Now, organizing a large scale festival is a difficult undertaking no matter what the circumstances. When adding in the red tape of bureaucracy in Burlington, the MANY, MANY, MANY, MANY ideas and voices of the people of the O.N.E. and serving the diverse needs of the population, organizing the Ramble has to be one of the most difficult tasks of all! Yet, Jeanie handles it with grace, humor and her natural teacher shows in every project she manages. Jeanie goes out of her way to engage folks in the process of the Ramble who may otherwise not engage, which sets her above and beyond the typical leader. Jeanie is a true community leader, mentor, and mother of the O.N.E.”
Cooper Cudney – nominated by Cheryl McDonough who wrote: “Cooper is a teen-ager with a BIG heart. He quietly shoveled my driveway (and walks and cleared car!) after each storm and left before I could thank him!”
The volunteer team behind the ONE Community Dinner – nominated by both Mellisa Cain and Jen Berger who both wrote about the way the monthly dinner takes a lot of effort by a large team of volunteers, and creates connections between neighbors while they sit together an enjoy great food.
We will be celebrating all of these fantastic winners at the BTV Brunch Connection on May 5th from 11 – 1 at North End Studios.
A note from board president and ONE Good Deed founder Laura Hale
It’s the giving season: that time of year when people are asked to reflect on what they have and to share with others. It feels good to give. Writing a check or sending a toy off to a drive feels great when you think about all the joy it will bring others. It feels good when stories of anonymous donors and viral gofundmes flood social media. I’ve shared several myself. But the deeper I look, the more I find that they all have one thing in common: there are those who give charity and those who receive charity. Those who give are compassionate, and those who receive are grateful. People with more are “generous” and “kind hearted” while people with less are described as “impoverished”, and “needy” and “less fortunate”. Which would you rather be? It’s very well-intentioned, but there’s no room for complex humanity and dignity in this version of charity. Nothing changes when the season is over. There continues to be “us” and “them” and it’s clear which side is held in higher regard.
I speak from experience as someone who has been the recipient of charity, and as someone who has spent most of my career working in nonprofits that give charity. When I was in crisis, living in an unheated basement apartment I could barely afford with a roommate who skipped out on me during one of the worst Vermont winters in decades, I was expected to be humble. Everywhere I went for assistance I was expected to tell my very personal story at the drop of a hat and be visibly embarrassed that I needed help. I was supposed to be small and quiet while people with more resources than I had picked apart my situation and pointed out the mistakes I made that they knew better than to make themselves. It was humiliating. My right to privacy went out the window. Even when the help I received wasn’t actually helpful and left me in a worse situation than I’d been in, I was expected to be grateful. I felt worthless and utterly alone. The whole process was made to break me down when I already felt broken.
During my years working in social service organizations, I saw those same dynamics at play on other end of the charitable giving spectrum. Overworked and underpaid staff members vented about the clients that just couldn’t get it together. Meetings were held to discuss cases where all the intimate details of a family’s life were picked apart without them in the room. Staff were exasperated by the people they served who wouldn’t just follow instructions or required too much hand holding. It was unprofessional to socialize with clients so there was little chance to see the client as a whole person or break down the stark power imbalance. While every single staff member I worked with was a caring and dedicated person, very few of them had faced any of the issues that the people they were serving faced. Funders constantly asked for more data points, success stories, inspirational photos, and return on investment. People were quantified and measured and reported on and organizations relied on the funding to keep the doors open, so there was very little incentive for change. A deep desire to help kept staff pushing forward, but the voices of the people being served got lost along the way. They were expected to be grateful for what they were getting, even if it wasn’t what they really needed, just as I had been. They were expected to be “fixed” and sent on their way. No one wins with charity. Charity keeps people separated.
Community, on the other hand, brings people together. It recognizes the inherent value of all its members, regardless of their resources, and encourages reciprocity. It replaces the spectrum of superiority and shame that charity uses with one based on connection. Community is empowered people who are lifted up for who they are and not what they have. Community is people who support each other as equals and are there in times of celebration and crisis. It is, essentially, relationship.
When I started the ONE Good Deed Fund 4 years ago, my mission was simple. I wanted to facilitate people being kind to each other. I wanted to give out easily accessible micro-grants to people who wanted to do something nice for a neighbor and didn’t have the financial means to do it. I wanted to encourage people to think about the folks around them and hold events that invited all sorts of people to come together and get to know each other. I wanted to build community. And in a lot of ways the fund and those of us involved with it have accomplished a lot. We’ve given out thousands of dollars, brought neighbors together, and have held dozens of events in the Old North End neighborhood. But one major barrier I continue to struggle with is that people are afraid to talk to each other. I’ve had so many people submit grant requests and expect that we’ll do all the outreach while they remain anonymous. When I’ve shared that the point is that they build a connection and do that work with our support, a lot of people have backed out. It was too overwhelming to reach out to someone they didn’t know very well, even if they really wanted to. Fear keeps up separated. Sometimes it comes from very legitimate experiences of ongoing prejudice and violence. But quite often, it’s a lack of experience and fear of rejection.
This dynamic hit home when I helped out with a friend’s event a few years ago. She had worked for months to put together a multi-course meal for people who were experiencing food insecurity and asked me to help serve food. In her plan, as we’ve all seen so many times before, volunteers served and guests, who had been identified as “in need” to be invited, received. When I asked her if she had considered giving everyone an opportunity to participate in some way, she looked horrified. She and I spent hours talking through how she felt that it would impose on people who were already overburdened and that she had a lot of negative ideas about what people outside of her social circle were capable of. I told her about how hard it was to live with lowered expectations of my own abilities when I was seen as “in need”, and after a whole lot of discussion, we redesigned the event so that everyone there was welcome to share in some way. A lot of people helped serve food and clean up, some folks set tables, and one woman led us all in a song she had learned a kid. We all sat side by side and enjoyed each other’s company and an eight year old sitting next to me told me jokes for a full half hour to my utter delight. For a couple of hours we were all equals. But we all walked out into a world at the end of the night that didn’t see us that way.
So what do we do? How do we get away from charity and toward community? How do we get to the place where no one suffers from a lack of basic resources and support, or is dismissed because of who they are? How do we get to the place where people step in and lend a hand before someone hits a crisis point simply because they know and value that person? What’s the path to a world where we embrace what makes us different as what makes us priceless? First I want to acknowledge that this is not the way most of us live and the shift isn’t always easy. But we have to start somewhere and keep trying. It takes practice, and it can be challenging and messy to figure out how to connect with the people around you in a transformative rather than transactional way. It takes each one of us noticing our own assumptions about other people and questioning where those assumptions come from. It takes stepping away from the roles we are most comfortable in and re-imagining what we are each capable of. And you can start with small acts. Say hello to your neighbors, even if you’ve lived where you are for a long time and feel awkward that you haven’t interacted before. Especially if you don’t face prejudice and violence because of who you are, this is your chance to step up. If you’re not up for knocking on someone’s door, leave a note for them introducing yourself. If you’re in a community where homes are close together, spent time outside and greet people as they walk by. Make time to really listen to people when they share their experiences with you. Believe them. Treat their sharing with you as the gift that it is. If you’re someone who is in a position of traditional authority in your community, notice who is missing from your meetings and events and think long and hard about why. Ask questions and be willing to make changes to include those who aren’t included and empower them to be a vital part of your process. Go places where you haven’t before and broaden your social circles. Learn to recognize all the talents and gifts that people have to offer far beyond their financial means. Apologize when you mess up and try again. We won’t move forward and toward each other if we keep living in a divided society. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together and it’s up to each one of us to create a place where we all thrive.
We are thrilled to announce that instead of the ONE Spring Fling we’ve hosted annually in the past four years, we will be hosting a free community breakfast on Saturday, April 28th from 10 – noon! More details to come, but we can share that our goal is to bring people from all backgrounds living in different parts of Burlington together and give them the chance to get to know each other, and leave feeling a deeper connection to our community.
CLEAN UP CLEAN OUT EVENT
Saturday, June 24th
10am – 2:30pm
Sustainability Academy, 123 North St, Burlington VT
Paved lot next to the playground
Entrance on Murray St.
Join your Wards 2, 3, and Central District City Councilors to clean up and clean out! If you have trash and other household items that have been cluttering up your home, yard, or neighborhood, this is your chance to get rid of them for free. Bring them to the Murray Street entrance to the Sustainability Academy where Murray and North St intersect between 10am and 2:30pm on Saturday, June 24th and you’ll have access to dumpsters from Casella Waste, and recycling hauling thanks to CarShare VT’s truck and volunteers.
If you have questions, would like to volunteer, or need help getting items to the dumpsters, please contact:
If you have household goods that are in good shape, ReSource VT will pick them up for free Monday through Friday. Call (802) 658-4143 x19 to schedule a pick up.
Thank you to all who submitted nominations for the ONEderful Awards we’ll be giving out at the 3rd Annual ONE Spring Fling on 4/8! We are thrilled to be able to celebrate this year’s ONEderful Award winners Bonnie Acker, Mellisa Cain, and Carol Ann Wooster. Why are we so excited? Because they are fabulous people doing fabulous things in the Old North End. See what their nominators had to say:
“Bonnie is the “Gardening Queen” in the Old North End. In addition to her gorgeous artwork that adorns many walls in the ONE, Bonnie has spent countless hours designing, planting, and maintaining vegetable and flower gardens at the Integrated Arts Academy. Many an early morning finds Bonnie weeding, watering, and nurturing at IAA. During harvest, neighbors can stop by and taste a sweet berry or fresh bean. Bees happily buzz around the flowers, gathering nectar.
Manuka, a junior in high school, stopped by one day with her father to thank Bonnie for the fresh food they’ve gotten from the gardens. Through sign language and Manuka’s translation, her father was describing his gratitude. Because of Bonnie’s gardens, a neighbor with a 3-year-old has decided that she wants her own garden now. Thank you, Bonnie, for sharing your skills and your excitement about getting fresh food to so many!”
“Mellisa volunteers for every possible thing I know about in the neighborhood. She is nonstop in her commitment to the community. She does the community dinners, she does rights and democracy, she organized a vigil against the election, she volunteers with neighborhood teens. She goes and she goes. She is a total champion.”
“What does Carol do for the Old North End? The Sunshine Free Library— a continuation of always giving! I’ve known Carol for 20 yrs. At Burlington College we collected & distributed art works by community members in a book for free. She is constantly stepping out in her community to help make people feel loved, appreciated, and have their unique gifts be seen & celebrated. She is a champion of the MS walk, having navigated this disease for many yrs herself. Even with her own struggles, she reached out to let neighbors know they have support in rough times, like when I had cancer. She is someone who has lived in & loved the ONE before it was popular to do so. She shares her respect & love of her neighbors w/out basking for fanfare so I think it would be wonderful to give her some.”