Community service event set for Monday in Bennington
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | January 21,2013
BENNINGTON — A local group of AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers has organized a number of volunteer opportunities that will allow residents to make today a “day on” in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the VISTA members will be at the Vermont National Guard Armory in downtown Bennington helping to direct volunteers.
Veronica Ariel, one of the two volunteers who work from the Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, said people could help out at the armory or at one of several other sites that are within walking distance.
“If you come in at 10 a.m. and you sign up, you can go to a project at Meals on Wheels, you can go to a project at the (Bennington) Coalition for the Homeless — there are actually two different types of projects at two sites for the Coalition for the Homeless — and then also there is a site at First Baptist Church where Southern Vermont College students will be ... doing some painting and cleaning,” she said.
Kevin Wandrei, a VISTA member who works with the Vermont Agency of Human Services, said some of the projects will be active like painting but others, like a project on North Street, will be less physically demanding.
Ariel said there are some activities at the armory which organizers are calling “service-to-go,” such as making Valentine’s Day cards for nursing home residents, activity books for young hospital patients and thank you notes to members of the National Guard that would be appropriate for people of all ages.
According to Nicole Rau, the other VISTA member at the hospital, she and her peers reached out to as many local agencies as they could to find volunteer opportunities. They did choose, however, to limit this year’s projects to sites that were within walking distance of the armory to make it easier to organize and easier for participants.
The event, while held today on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, is tied into National Day of Service that was observed Saturday.
“It’s great to bring that opportunity here to Bennington to coordinate with national efforts to honor Dr. King,” Wandrei said.
Alison Siegel, who works with a college mentoring program, Directing through Recreation, Education, Adventure and Mentoring, or DREAM, said today’s event was put together with the hope that it would become an annual tradition.
“Part of the VISTA mission is sustainability within communities so many of the projects that we do, especially outside of the MLK Day of Service, is focused on not just this year when we’re here but continuing it for if there are VISTAs coming in the next year and, if not, to have community members to work and improve on the project,” she said.
The VISTA members suggested volunteers dress warmly today. While most of their time will be spent indoors, volunteers will walk from the armory to another site and today is expected to be a cold day.
Materials, like painting supplies, will be provided. Volunteers are asked to stay at the sites where they’re volunteering until the projects are completed. Anyone who plans to volunteer off-site is asked to be at the armory to sign up by 10 a.m. and not drop in on any of the sites.
A light lunch will be provided at the armory and, for those volunteering at First Baptist, at the church.