Student ambassadors spread holiday cheer at Vermont Veteran's Home

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BENNINGTON — Local students this week sent holiday cheer and season's greetings to residents of the Vermont Veterans' Home.

A bundle of Christmas cards, many of them handmade and of variying sizes, shapes and colors, were presented to the organization during a brief ceremony at Mount Anthony Union High School Wednesday morning.

The effort was led by the seven Student Ambassadors, a program of the Benningtonbased Alliance for Community Transformation (ACT).

"I love spreading cheer during the holiday season," said Tara Hall, an ambassador and MAU sophomore. "It's a time when people who don't necessarily have a family need someone to be there with them."

On hand at Wednesday's ceremony were Kiah Morris, director of ACT and also a state representative, as well as Veterans Home employees. Two residents of the home also attended: Kevin Kendrick, a former combat engineer with the U.S. Army, and Robert Kiernan, who served as a fighter pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps Aviation.

Additional cards were going to be sent to the Veterans Home later in the day as there were still cards floating around the school, students said.

The Youth Ambassadors program, now in its forth year, is represted by students who attend Grace Christian School, Mount Anthony Union High School and the Sunrise Opportunities Program.

It was a school-wide effort, students said. Many students offered handmade cards and others purchased cards and personalized them.

AmeriCorps VISTA Nevin Lessard said the students came up with the idea last month.

"We got together and I asked them, 'What do you want to do,'" he said. "They wanted to get involved with the Veterans Home around the holidays."

The result, he said, was a project that brought two generations together and let youth give thanks to the veterans' service.

"It's cool because they worked so hard before us," said Lindsay Finney, an ambassador and MAU junior. "It's great to give back to them."

Lessard said in addition to community service, the program aims to educate ambassadors on topics they are concerned with and issues that affect the community. That includes physical and mental health, as well as tobacco and other substance use. Each ambassador is trained to be a resource for their peers.

"Students aren't always going to go to adults," Lessard said.

The other five ambassadors are: Ashley Kennison, Cody King, Sierra Palmatier, Sophia Prandini and Cindy Stearns.

Col. Al Faxon, the home's COO and deputy administrator, expressed his gratitude to the students.

"It's tremendous that during this time of the year when you're busy with exams and everything else going on, you're still able to think of us and our heroes," Faxon said. "We're very appreciataive."

Contact Edward Damon at 413-770-6979


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