Wednesday January 16, 2013

KEITH WHITCOMB JR.

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- Anyone looking to vent their urge to help the community will have much of the pre-planning work done for them on Martin Luther King Day.

The "I Have a Dream" Community Service Day will be held Monday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Those wishing to help out should go to the Vermont Army National Guard Bennington Armory at 100 Franklin Lane after they have signed up with Kevin Wandrei, of AmeriCorps, which has partnered with Southwestern Vermont Health Care to put on the event. Wandrei can be contacted via phone at 802-447-2885 or emailed at kevin.wandrei@partner.state.vt.us. Volunteer registration begins at 9:45 a.m. All ages are welcome, according to Eileen Druckenmiller, a spokeswoman for SVHC.

In August, SVHC was assigned two volunteers from AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA), a group that attaches volunteers to non-profits who then work to improve things like nutrition and housing in communities. The two volunteers, Veronica Ariel and Nicole Rau, have helped coordinate the service day.

Ariel said three projects lined up are sorting donations for the Bennington Coalition for the Homeless, assisting in the kitchen for the Bennington Meals on Wheels program, and painting at the First Baptist Church.

She said 14 volunteers from Southern Vermont College have signed up already for the painting project but there might be room for others if some can not make it.

Rau said another option exists for those who may not have the time to commit to the other projects. They can make "thank you" cards for National Guard members, activity books for the patients in children's hospitals, or cards for those in nursing homes. She said the nursing home cards may go to the Pines of Rutland, where other VISTA volunteers are working, or the local Centers for Living and Rehabilitation. These projects are done at the armory while the others are in walking distance. A light lunch will be provided.

Rau said also assisting will be students with the Alliance for Community Transformations (ACT) Youth Ambassador Program, which includes four students from Mount Anthony Union High School, one from Grace Christian School, and one from Arlington Memorial High School. Rau said the students are learning how bring health care education to those in their age group with a focus on youth perspectives.