by Nat Frothingham
MONTPELIER — For the two dozen or so people who gathered in the “Skylight Conference Room” at the Vermont Center for Independent Living on September 6 — the press conference that followed had two distinct moments. The first moment was business and the second was pleasure.
USDA Grant Awarded
During the business side of the press conference Ted Brady — state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Vermont & New Hampshire Rural Development program — announced an overall grant of $314,084 to seven not-for-profit agencies in the two states that will help some 58 homeowners “to make life-safety and other needed repairs on their homes.”
As part of the overall two-state grant program, two Vermont not-for-profit organizations with offices in Montpelier will receive federal funding.
First, the Vermont Center for Independent Living will receive $26,021 to support accessibility modifications and home repairs for Vermonters with physical disabilities.
Second, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board will receive $70,000 “to provide assistance to developers undertaking multi-family rehabilitation projects in the Northeast Kingdom counties of Caledonia, Essex and Orleans.
VCIL Staff Member Tyler Sweeten Honored
On the pleasure side of the press conference was Brady’s announcement that Tyler Sweeten, who works for Vermont Center for Independent Living Honors Staff Member Tyler Sweeten as a peer counselor coordinator, was being honored with a Gold Star Partner Award. In presenting this award to Sweeten, Brady praised her effectiveness in helping senior and disabled Vermonters gain access to USDA monies that makes it possible for clients to make home repairs and upgrades as part of Rural Development’s “504 Home Repair Program.”
Sweeten, who lives in Barre and has first-hand experience in living with a disability, was described at the press conference as someone who works tirelessly to make sure that seniors and people with disabilities get the financial help they need to repair their own homes so they can continue to live independently.
When Brady said that Sweeten was to receive the Gold Star Partner Award, all those assembled broke into warm applause.
In accepting the varnished wooden plaque, Sweeten said this to the audience of family, friends and work colleagues:
“I’ve never been nominated for anything.”
She went on to talk about “leveraging funding” — meaning finding a grant here, then a small loan there, then another grant over there — and putting these bits and pieces of money together to get a home improvement project done.
“I love leveraging funding,” she said. “It’s been awesome working with everyone. You’re all rock stars!” she concluded brightly to another burst of applause.
VCIL Honors Montpelier Restaurant Owner Mary Alice Proffitt
In other news, as this issue of The Bridge goes to press, the Vermont Center for Independent Living is to recognize Montpelier restaurateur Mary Alice Proffitt of Down Home Kitchen at on Main Street with the “Rosemary J. Miller ‘Dining for All’ Award.”
The award is named for Miller, who worked for over 30 years as the Vermont Center for Independent Living ’s receptionist. According to a press release, “Miller was born with cerebral palsy but has never let her disability slow her down.”
In discussing the award, Executive Director Sarah Lunderville said, “With this award we honor Rosemary Miller, who was on the front lines of VCIL for over 30 years, and her love of our community and good food.”
After talking about the award, Launderville shared an appreciation of Mary Alice Proffitt.
Said Lunderville, “When Mary Alice came to town, she put her heart and soul into making sure this restaurant is accessible to all. She could easily have decided to ask for a variance or abatement from the state, citing the difficulty of the space, but her character and values shined through when she made the (restaurant) modifications. She took a space that had never been accessible to someone with a physical disability and offered opportunity. We are honored to give her this award.”
Stefanie Monte, executive assistant at Vermont Center for Independent Living, offered this praise to Proffitt:
“The entrance and bathroom at Down Home Kitchen had been made accessible. But beyond the physical modifications to the space, Down Home has created a warm and inviting atmosphere.
“If you’re blind you don’t have to worry about what’s on the menu, the friendly staff will read the menu aloud. It’s not just the physical improvements to the building. It’s really the whole warm and inviting atmosphere.”