From Pownal to Newport: VYCC Crews Wow Locals!

August 16, 2019 | AllCorps, Conservation, Farm

Conservation crews work in public parks, along waterways, and even with private organizations on community improvement projects like addressing storm water runoff or maintaining local trails. Farm community crews work in Richmond and Newport to grow and harvest food for our Health Care Share projects.

In 2019, over 75 youth Corps members were part of 12 VYCC Community Crews (9 in conservation and 3 in farming)!

As a way to celebrate their accomplishments, each Community Crew hosted a Meet-Up at their project site where community members could meet them, see their work, and learn more about the project impact. It was a great way for Corps Members to gain valuable public speaking skills and for locals to be wowed (and thank the crews).

“Each VYCC Community Crew member puts in hundreds of hours of hard work in the communities they serve. Meet-ups are an opportunity to showcase their efforts while connecting with community members who will utilize VYCC-built trails, bridges, and boardwalks for years to come,” remarked Daniel Schmidt, Program Officer.”

Conservation Crew Meet Ups

“VYCC’s 2019 season put more young Vermonters in direct connection with community members than ever before, with an awesome series of events designed to empower members to share their stories, show off their projects, and celebrate their successes, with attendees ranging from families and friends, supporters, high profile political figures and local government representatives, and project sponsors.  Members were challenged to step up and speak to a group, and given the opportunity to reflect on the value of their work.  Through these events, Vermont communities had a chance to realize the impact of these members service, but more importantly, these individual members had the chance to see that they have the power to make a difference in their community.”

This summer we had nearly 70 community members visit our 9 conservation crews and over 200 folks visit our farm crews for their three farm dinners.

We had a great mix of project partners, local officials, parents, friends, VYCC alumni, and curious community members meet us for:

·       Water bar building and trail maintenance 101 in the Barre Cow Pasture trails with the Washington County Crew;

·       Exploring a new re-routed trail that the Dorset Crew built in the Owls Head Town Municipal Forest;

·       Learning how and why a new staircase was built by the Burlington Crew at Schmanska Park;

·       Walking vastly improved sections of the Allen Brook Trail, including  several new bridges built by the Williston Crew.

·       Meandering along the new riverside path the Women of Wilderness built near the town of Pownal;

·       Discovering how the health of a park improves when invasive species are removed in Wheeler Park, with the South Burlington Crew;

·       Celebrating improved trails in Vermont’s only National Park with the Woodstock Community Crew;

  • And absorbing a demonstration on  erosion control measures to reduce storm water runoff into Lake Elmore, with the Lamoille County Crew.

Community member Liz Cushman Titus Putnam, took part in the Dorset Crew Meet-Up and told the crew, “Your work is vital to saving the planet. We all must continue to work hard, like you are, to protect our natural environment.”

Farm Crew Meet Ups

The Food & Farm program’s crew model is built upon a collective effort from both our Farm community youth crews and young adult Farm crews. Together, they farm our land in Richmond and a large garden plot on the Bluffside Farm in Newport to grow and harvest over 18,000 pounds of vegetables. These crews also washed, packed and delivered 400 Health Care Shares across the state every week for six weeks and processed 380 meat birds. In July and August, the Farm hosted two Community Dinners in Richmond and one in Newport where they fed over 275 people and celebrated the hard work of the crews and the bounty from the fields.

“When we host Community Dinners on the farm, we are celebrating not only the crew members and leaders who cooked an incredible meal from the vegetables they worked tirelessly to plant, tend and harvest; we are also reveling in the vast network of people – from Crew Members’ families to farm volunteers to supportive community members – who make the food and farm program thrive,” said Food and Farm Director Susie Walsh Daloz. “There is no better moment than sitting together around the table of an exceptionally delicious meal, on the land the food was grown with the youth and young adults who grew and cooked it proudly describing their work that made the meal possible.”

 

Along the way, we were honored to have high-profile visitors visit these crews and Meet-Ups.

Vermont elected officials Congressman Peter Welch, Governor Scott, Lt. Governor Zuckerman, Senate Pro Tem Tim Ashe, State Representatives Jill Krowinski and John Killacky, Barre City Mayor Lucas Herring, Barre City Town Manager Stephen Machenzie, and Burlington City Councilor Bushor.

After hearing the Woodstock Crew’s presentation, Governor Phil Scott remarked, “without our youth taking advantage of this program, getting out there and actually doing the tough work, I’m not sure that we would have the trail network that we do.”

The press took notice of these crews’ impact too!

·       NECN interviewed the Woodstock Crew about how to stay safe from ticks.

·       Seven Days’ “Stuck in Vermont” captured the final steps of the staircase that Burlington Crew built in Schmanska Park and had Corps Member Matthew explain how “a VYCC job was way better than a summer of video games.”

·       Across the Fence on WCAX wanted to learn more about our water quality projects from our two UVM Interns.

·       The Manchester Journal spoke to Dorset Crew Member Forest about how being on a crew helped him come out of his shell.

·       The Bennington Banner heard Ray Rodrigues, a member of the Recreation Task Force in Pownal, praise the VYCC Crews as “extremely organized” as they built trails alongside the Hoosic River.

During his Community Crew Meet-Up, Woodstock Crew Member Kip Gaddis, shared with the audience, “[I learned on crew that] moving through all the difficult challenges and not getting down about it. Because, no matter what, the obstacle is still going to be there. You gotta just push through it.”

These were just the community meet-ups we planned! We heard reports (and saw photos on social media) of dozens and dozens of Vermonters finding our crews, praising their work, and often dropping of sweets as a thank you for their efforts!

More About VYCC Community Crews

The VYCC Community Crew model is built upon having local youth work on conservation or farm projects in their own towns here in Vermont. In 2019, we partnered with a variety of organizations, municipalities, and state agencies to line up project sites in and around Richmond, Newport, Burlington, South Burlington, Williston, Woodstock, and Dorset. We also have crews working on community based projects in Washington County (Barre and Montpelier) and Lamoille County (Elmore). In past years we worked with the town of Brattleboro, the cities of St. Albans and Barre, and others.

Local youth, ages 15-18 are paid to work on teams with two young adult Crew Leaders to address conservation projects like trail maintenance needs, remove invasive species, fight erosion, and/or become farmers, growing a full season of organic vegetables as part of our Health Care Share project. Crews get to live at home or camp with their crew, working during the day.

If your town or city is interested in funding a Community Crew, please contact Daniel Schmidt, Program Officer at VYCC.