Pair honored at first-ever Bennington County Coalition for the Homeless awards banquet

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MANCHESTER — The Bennington County Coalition for the Homeless gave out two awards and heard music with an inspirational message from a Grammy-nominated musician at its first-ever "Working Together, Making A Difference" banquet, held Aug. 19 at the Kimpton Taconic Hotel in Manchester.

The coalition, which serves homeless men, women and children throughout Bennington County, honored two of its longtime employees and supporters by naming awards after them.

The Salley Gibney "You Are Never Alone" scholarship award was presented to Haley Nelson, a single mother who sought assistance at the Thatcher House Family Shelter when she and her daughter found themselves homeless. The award was named for Gibney, a Manchester resident and longtime BCCH supporter, and is intended to honor a person who embodies Gibney's compassion and drive to empower others.

Nelson has since returned to permanent housing and is returning to school to pursue a career in social work, as she wishes to help others through the challenges she faced. The organization hailed her for her "strength, courage and love for her community."

The Carol Van Ness Employee of the Year award was presented to Raymond Rebideau. Van Ness, who died in 2011, was a BCCH employee who was known for her dedication and compassion to the organization's clients.

Rebideau, a one-year employee of BCCH, was honored for showing the same dedication and compassion as Van Ness. "He has given back countless hours to BCCH, helps former guests move into their new homes, and willingly bails the shelter out during scheduling issues," the organization said of his efforts.

According to BCCH, to date the organization has served 12 veterans, 29 individuals fleeing domestic violence, 30 people over the age of 65, and 41 children to date this year. There are currently 18 families on the family shelter waiting list, and 2-3 persons have to be turned away daily from the organization's new 16-bed shelter at 966 Main St. in Bennington, according to the organization.

Keynote speaker Joseph Wooten, who plays keyboards for the Steve Miller Band, spoke about his interactions with homeless people while on tour. He said that his conversations with the homeless are often the most interesting and enlightening experiences he has on the road.

America's greatness is defined by how it takes care of its most vulnerable people, Wooten said.


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