Four small organizations with big plans have been selected to receive Community Action Grants from AARP Vermont supporting their efforts to make Newport a more “Age-Friendly” city. In partnering with AARP Vermont, Newport has committed to embrace the changing demographics of an aging population by focusing on safe, walkable streets, better housing and transportation options, access to key services and community engagement opportunities for all ages. These Community Action Grants support that direction by funding small, grassroots organizations that are working to advance the Age Friendly movement.
After a thorough review process, the following projects were selected:
Fresh Start Community Farm, Jennifer Black – $2,000
Newport Dispatch, Bryan Marovich- $2,000
Cornucopia Program/Umbrella Inc.: Lynne Rublee- $1,000
The Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Ayeshah Raftery- $1,000
Fresh Start Community Farm — Fresh Start Community Farm was started in 2011 with a mission to provide access to fresh food while also building a strong community. It now operates four sites and is completely volunteer based. Last year, the farm produced over 4,900 pounds of food and donated 2,100 pounds to the community. It also launched an Adopt-a-Grandparent program which pairs elderly and younger volunteers who garden together. With the AARP grant, Fresh Start will expand its programs by purchasing raised beds which will provide wheelchair access for volunteers who need it.
Newport Dispatch — This independent online news site is focused on Newport and surrounding towns featuring human interest, arts and entertainment news. Launched in October 2013, the aim is to provide an additional resource while engaging more people in community activities and issues. The AARP grant will support Newport Dispatch’s effort to provide strong citizen journalism NEK residents and fund more advanced audio equipment.
Cornucopia Program — Umbrella Inc. is a non-profit serving the Northeast Kingdom by providing advocacy services for women and families who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. Cornucopia is an Umbrella program that helps those in unsafe living situations as they move into more secure and independent arrangements. Partnering with Vermont Works for Women, it provides meals to low-income and homebound seniors and these meal sites also serve as a place for those over 60 to access Umbrella’s domestic violence and sexual violence services. The meal sites have proven to offer great meals and a place for seniors to connect with one another and learn about vital community services. This grant will help Cornucopia to extend its job training initiatives for vulnerable female citizens.
The Vermont Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (VABVI) — Established in 1926, VABVI works to help blind and visually impaired Vermonters become independent. Operating across the state, they hold regular Peer Assisted Learning and Support (PALS) classes providing a place for participants (mostly seniors) to discuss how their impairments affect their lives and how to cope with them. The PALS group in Newport, led by Harriet Hall, helps seniors in the area on issues ranging from learning to make meals, continue socializing, coping with vision loss, assistive technology and awareness. The AARP grant will provide a resource the Newport PALS group to secure guest speakers, provide food and materials as well as to organize community awareness events.
AARP officials conducted the selection process along with Patricia Sears of Newport City Renaissaince Corp. and community leader Pam Ladds. “This was an eye-opening experience,” said Sears. “It was encouraging to see so many good ideas out there that enrich our community in different ways. We are very grateful to have AARP as a partner — to not only fund these grants, but to work with us on ways to improve Newport for all ages.”
Ladds indicated how difficult it was to choose winners. “We are fortunate to have such great energy in Newport around community development, but it made for a very difficult selection process,” said Ladds. “I wish we could fund them all!” AARP Vermont’s State Director Greg Marchildon was also part of the selection committee along with Outreach Director Kelly Stoddard Poor.
“We are very pleased to extend support to these projects as a way to foster local community development initiatives in Newport,” said Greg Marchildon, state director at AARP Vermont. “We received a broad range of proposals to consider this year and we hope these modest grants will inspire and support dedicated grassroots groups that have a vision for Newport and how it can be enhanced. We are committed to working with our partners and officials in Newport as they develop future plans and we expect to continue this program next year as well.”