Rachel Selsky has been elected president of Youth Services board of directors

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Rachel Selsky is Youth Services’ new board president

This July Rachel Selsky assumed the role of President of the Youth Services Board of Directors, taking the reins from Tom Nunziata whose two-year term has just ended.  Selsky has been on the agency’s Board of Directors for the past four years in a number of leadership positions.

During her tenure on the Youth Services board to date, Selsky has held the position of Vice President and has served on the Strategic Planning, Executive, Rebranding, Public Relations and Legislative committees.  She also organizes the volunteers for Youth Services’ Catamount Half-Marathon and 5K Race each October.  The Albany, NY native first became involved with Youth Services as a young professional in the year-long “Get on Board Fellowship Program” through Marlboro Graduate School.

With a background in urban and regional planning, Rachel Selsky has lived in West Brattleboro since 2010 with her husband Matt, a VT State Trooper, and their young daughter. She works remotely for Camoin Associates, a nationally recognized economic and community development consulting firm, serving as project manager on economic development strategic planning efforts for municipalities and companies.

“I’m looking forward to carrying on the legacy of strong leadership at Youth Services and supporting the great work that the agency does for the youth and families in our community,” Selsky said.

Cathy Coonan of The Richards Group assumed the role of Vice-President of Youth Services’ Board.

Youth Services was founded forty-four years ago to help young people and families in Windham County thrive. In that time they have helped countless numbers of young people discover their own path to adulthood to become a contributing member of our communities through such programs as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Court Diversion, Therapeutic Case Management and Transitional Living.

To learn how you can get involved, contact info@youthservicesinc.org or call (802) 257-0361.

Donate to Windham County’s Big Brothers Big Sisters Appeal

Make a contribution today to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Windham County! DONATE HERE!

Anonymous donors will match the first $3000 in contributions received by June 25. 2016!

Sarah and Kendra

VIEW VIDEO! of  Big and Little Sarah and Kendra spending time together over several years.

 

If you ever see glitter falling from the sky or discover it in odd places, chances are Sarah and Kendra are crafting. Kendra was a six-year-old middle child when she was matched with her Big Sister, Sarah. Given her temper and struggles in school it was decided that she could benefit from a mentor.

Many of Sarah and Kendra’s arts and crafts projects included a lot of glitter because of a mutual love for the sparkle and happiness that glitter brings to them both. A year into their match, Kendra’s grades increased dramatically as her self-esteem, class participation and homework completion increased. Throughout their relationship, Sarah has helped Kendra develop coping skills and identify and avoid triggers for conflicts with her parents and twin siblings.

Sarah and Kendra don’t spend all of their time talking about Kendra’s home life or school. They have a lot of fun fishing, hiking and discovering the music of Taylor Swift together. Their story is on-going, with both getting to know each other’s extended family. Kendra recently served as a junior bridesmaid in Sarah’s wedding!

Life is not all glitter! But with your generous donation, more children living in difficult circumstances will  be matched with a Big Brother or Big Sister in Windham County.

 

 

Stan Holt, beloved decade-long board member is remembered

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Youth Services lost one of its vigorous advocates for young people this spring with the passing of Stan Holt, a Youth Services board member from 1998 to 2011 and active long after he officially stepped down.

Below is a reprint of an article in Youth Services’ 2011 Annual Report which described in detail how Stan and his wife Marge came to be involved in youth issues throughout their careers and move to Windham County, VT.

Like the growth of the spruce and fir on his Christmas tree farm in Townshend, Stan Holt’s commitment to the development of youth leaders has increased during his lifetime.  Depending on how and when you’ve met him, you might know Stan better as a Protestant minister, a community organizer, a family man, the organizer of the annual Grace Cottage Hospital Fair, or as the sole director for thirteen years from the West River Valley on the Youth Services Board. 

In all these roles, Stan’s interest in youth has grown and evolved leading him to his present connection to Youth Services.   The seed was planted in Stan’s job as an associate at the First Presbyterian Church in Potsdam, New York and later in Cincinnati, Ohio. There he served as a campus minister, doing outreach with students that, given the political environment and student movement of the early 60’s, evolved into civil rights work for three denominations under the aegis of the Westminster Foundation. 

“What happened during those years influenced the rest of his life,” explained Marge, his wife of 58 years.  “We always had young people in the house.  Stan would often bring someone home who needed a roof over their head and while initially a kind of shock, it enriched our lives,” she recalled with a smile.

“Civil rights work was unavoidable in the 60’s,” Stan explained.  “The House Committee on Un-American Activities got after us and we exposed their hypocrisy and fought to highlight the damage they were doing to our democratic principles,” he explained.  Learning more about the overlap between local and national politics led to community organizing in Chicago in 1968 and then on to Providence, Rhode Island where he worked with the Catholic Church.  There he started an organization called PACE (People Acting Through Community Effort) in the poorer communities to “get things accomplished” on the neighborhood, city, and state levels.  Stan worked on issues such as reducing crime, improving the quality of schools, expanding employment opportunities, and installing needed stop lights on dangerous corners. 

“At that time, most of the city services went to the better neighborhoods,” Holt explained.  Stan’s organization worked with parishioners, labor unions, and anti-poverty groups to find and train leaders, a role which he says he enjoyed the most. “Having people realize their leadership potential was the best,” he recalled.  Stan and his staff would train community leaders to build a following so they could turn out 400-600 people when they needed to pressure the mayor or city council to redirect needed resources.

Then the family moved on to Baltimore for about 4 years before heading to Boston in the late 70’s to join Massachusetts Fair Share, a statewide progressive organization which worked on a plethora of issues.

Marge took care of the four kids and the many moves.  “I got very good at packing up the house in less than a week and hitting the road,” she recalls grimly. Moving was often a difficult adjustment for the four children who ranged at the time from elementary school students to teenagers. Wherever they landed, Marge would seek out a teaching job, something she continued in Vermont after they moved in 1981 to the family homestead in Townshend, which Stan’s father had bought in 1955 and is now under the stewardship of his siblings and their descendants.

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Stan and Marge started planting Christmas trees on the family property, which had been a potato farm in the 1930’s and later a dairy farm. Meanwhile, Stan was good enough at organizing that people would call him to consult on issues ranging from the toxic waste of chemical factories in Louisiana to work on public health issues in Massachusetts. Their crop of Christmas trees peaked about 15 years later, and they would cut close to 1000 a year for markets in Boston and Albany while also selling them locally and as the “Cut Your Own” variety.

Marge’s years teaching at Wardsboro and Windham Elementary Schools opened her eyes to the challenges facing youth in rural areas, many of which Youth Services tries to mitigate through its 8 different programs ranging from Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring to parenting skills for families in danger of losing their children to the state. “Problems can go undetected for so long before they come to the surface, in the classroom,” she recalled.  “It is critical that children have some way out of situations they can’t deal with, before they reach a crisis point.”

Growing up in a suburb and always working in cities, Stan was somewhat taken aback at how isolated many youth were in the West River Valley.  “It was an eye-opener,” Stan said, who always hires local youth to help him with his tree operation.  “I was surprised how difficult even getting from one place to another was if you didn’t yet have a driving license,” he said.  During his time on the board, Youth Services put fresh energy into looking at the underlying conditions, such as transportation, that affect the rural youth they serve.

“I think I had sensitivity to youth problems,” Stan said, explaining what motivated him to join the Youth Services board.  “I had seen in the city neighborhoods how ‘at loose ends’ kids could be which sometimes led into substance abuse and other problems.  I thought, ‘This is something I can get behind.’”

Youth Services chairman of the board, Steven Sayer, describe Stan as a guiding force for the organization, and a solid citizen.  With his natural reserve and his dry wit, Stan weighed in on countless initiatives related to legislation and tirelessly worked on fundraisers like the agency’s Jazz Jubilee. “Stan seldom said no to any task if he saw value within it,” stated Sayer.

“He can always be relied on,” explained Sayer, who worked several years with Stan on Youth Services’ Legislative Committee which ensures that Vermont legislators and in recent years, Vermont state senators and congressmen, are aware of issues affecting youth in Windham County.

According to David Brown, a fellow board member who now acts as interim director of Youth Services, Stan was always respectful of the role legislators’ play.  “There was never a pounding fist with Stan.  He was direct about the needs of youth in Windham County but addressed the issues and asked for their support without being pushy or threatening,” Brown recalled.

Though he’s slowing down ‘just a tad’ with his consulting and staying closer to home as a result of the loss of some of his eyesight in recent years, Stan’s roots in service toward his adopted community of Townshend, Vermont and the youth of the area remain strong.

Wish List

We are currently looking for items for our housing units in Brattleboro and Bellows Falls. Youth Services provides transitional living and case management services to young people in Windham County communities who are homeless or are unsafely housed.

 WISH LIST

Please contact Youth Development Director Lauren Higbee at (802) 257-0361 x129

or email lauren.higbee@youthservicesinc.org to make sure items are needed and to arrange delivery.

 

Bellows Falls delivery address :

4 + 6 Barker St./Rt. 5, Bellows Falls

  • dressers
  • desks
  •  mattresses, box spring, bed frame: sizes twin, twin xl, full
  • pillows
  • sheets (fitted and flat, full or twin and pillow cases)
  • mattress covers (sizes twin, twin xl, full)
  • blankets
  • bedspreads or comforters
  • towels and wash cloths
  • bath mats and bath rugs
  • shower curtains and liners, shower rods, curtain hooks
  • kitchen garbage pails
  • bathroom or bedroom waste baskets
  • toilet brushes and plungers
  • window blinds
  • curtains
  •  sofas
  • living room chairs
  • TV stands
  • end tables
  • lamps
  • extension cords
  • kitchen table
  • kitchen chairs
  • pots and pans
  • sink strainers
  • paper towel holders
  • silverware
  • dishware
  • mugs
  • dish towels
  • sponges
  • over-the toilet-racks
  • closet louver doors
  • paint, paint brushes, rollers
  • tool set
  • rake
  • snow shovels
  • patio set or picnic table
  • totes
  • recycling containers

Brattleboro:

Delivery location: 175 Elliot St. #2, Brattleboro

  • Art supplies
  • planting materials (pots, soil, seedlings)
  • full size beds
  • twin size beds
  • shelving for the walls (ones that can be screwed to the wall)
  • small square kitchen table
  • pots and frying pans
  • silverware
  • towels and washcloths
  • small entertainment center

 

Helicopter Golf ball Drop

Helicopter Golf Ball Drop Raffle

 WIN $3000!

Click Here to Buy A Golf Ball to Compete!

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016 at the Brattleboro Country Club during Youth Services’ Annual Golf Tourney

One golf ball for $100, maximum sold will be 100.

It’s as simple as that!

Buckets of numbered golf balls will be dropped from a helicopter hovering over the 9th Fariway.  The closest ball to the pin wins its owner a CASH PRIZE of $3000!

(WINNER NEED NOT BE PRESENT TO WIN CASH)

AND…the owner of the ball furthest from the pin wins a 10-minute helicopter ride

(WINNER MUST BE PRESENT TO WIN RIDE) If not present, will be auctioned to highest bidder!

DOWNLOAD SIGN UP & RULES SHEET

Sponsored by Renaud Bros., Inc.

SIGN UP NOW for 31st Annual Golf Tournament!

Golf Ball Drop portraits 004 IMG_0199   YS Golf Tourney 2013 021

Youth Services case manager honored by VT Center for Crime Victims Services

Christine Linn was recognized for her work as an ally of victims of crimes.
Christine Linn was recognized for her work as an ally of victims of crimes.

Christine Linn, a therapeutic case manager at Youth Services received the Ally Award on April 29 in a ceremony in Stowe, VT as part of the Vermont Crime Victim Rights Week Celebration. Linn was nominated for the state-wide award by her organization and her clients, comprised of youth in Windham County ages 16-22 years old who are currently unsafely housed or at-risk of being homeless.

The Ally Award, given each year by the Vermont Center for Crime Victim Services to one volunteer, professional or program in Vermont honors “a remarkable individual or organization who, outside the course of performing their regular duties, has advocated for a victim-centered policy; inspired us through their acts of courage and compassion; whose work has been particularly innovative and pioneering; and whose activities enhance offender accountability and community outreach.”

According to her Youth Services supervisor, Lauren Higbee, Linn works tirelessly for her clients, many of which have severe trauma histories.  One example she gave is Linn supporting her clients in accessing complex systems such as law enforcement and the courts. “Christine also supports them in setting up safety plans if or until they are ready to leave violent relationships,” explained Higbee.

Linn has served as a foster parent through Vermont’s Department of Children and Families, and is also a driving force behind Youth Services support group for young mothers, where she has been instrumental in advocating for young mother’s rights, according to Higbee. “Christine is a model for all of her clients so eventually they will be able to advocate for their own needs and rights,” Higbee stated.

Linn’s actions influenced attitudes, policies, practices, and prevention efforts on behalf of her clients. “Christine isn’t settled or satisfied unless her work incorporates greater systems change,” explained Russell Bradbury-Carlin, Executive Director of Youth Services, who said it was something he noticed about Linn as soon as he started at Youth Services nine months ago.

“Youth Services has watched her join with Economics Services Division, Vermont Adult Learning and the Parent Child Centers to streamline high school completion options for vulnerable young adults in our area,” said Bradbury-Carlin. “Christine sits on the Brattleboro Citizen Police Communication Committee and she is constantly using any interactions as opportunities to educate providers, families, and legal parties about the effects of trauma, mental illness, stigma and attachment on victim’s behavior, follow-through, and long-term healing,” Bradbury-Carlin stated.

Youth Services staff and clients alike note that Linn will routinely work weekends and evening hours to support her client’s goals and ensure their safety. “Her resourcefulness is always beyond what any supervisor can imagine,” said Higbee who cited the example of Christine applying for the Green Street Elementary School and surrounding neighborhood in Brattleboro to become a designated Promise Community through the State of Vermont, which will result in access to up to $200,000 in funding and resources to support families, children and the neighborhood as a whole.

“Christine is engrossed in creating a stronger community by supporting families connecting to one another,” said Higbee. “Windham County greatly benefits from Christine’s commitment to our young people and to changing the culture and practice of Vermont to be safer and more responsive to victims of crime.”

For more information on Youth Services’ 18 programs in prevention, intervention and youth development in Windham County, visit youthservicesinc.org or call (802) 257-0361.

Youth Services’ Big Brothers Big Sisters Hires New Staff

Youth Services’ newest employee is Sarah Caito, recently hired as a Match Support Specialist for its Big Brothers Big Sisters’ school and community-based mentoring programs.  She is a Big Sister herself and has worked for the NH affiliate of Big Brothers Big Sisters in a similar position since 2014.

Sarah Caito, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Windham County Match Support Specialist
Sarah Caito, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Windham County Match Support Specialist

The afterschool or lunchtime program takes place at several elementary schools in Windham County while the adult mentors in the community-based program arrange to meet with their “Littles” at varying times most convenient for their schedule; usually in the late afternoon or on weekends. Sarah is already recruiting, interviewing and screening prospective mentoring volunteers.

Sarah comes to the Big Brothers Big Sisters mentoring program with previous experience working with children and families in New Hampshire, as a paraprofessional and substitute teacher in Bedford; an ESOL teacher in Derry, and as a music and drama director at the YMCA in Goffstown, NH.

According to Kimberley Diemond, Director of Mentoring at Youth Services, Caito’s strengths are in connecting with volunteers, and developing the skills volunteers, clients and families need to make a difference in the life of children. “Sarah also has a great insight into who people are, what motivates them, and how well they’ll interact when matched together,” Diemond stated.

Big Brothers Big Sisters operates under the belief that inherent in every child is the ability to succeed and thrive in life. As the nation’s largest donor and volunteer supported mentoring network, Big Brothers Big Sisters’ mission is to provide children facing adversity with strong and enduring, professionally supported one-to-one relationships that change their lives for the better, forever.

Caito has a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Elementary Education and English as a Second Language from Florida Southern College in Lakeland, FL and until recently lived and worked in Peterborough, NH.

For more information on how you can become a mentor, contact Sarah Caito of Big Brothers Big Sisters at Youth Services at (802) 257-0361 or by email at sarah.caito@youthservicesinc.org.

Cathy Coonan and Pauline Deen join Youth Services Board

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Cathy Coonan and Pauline Deen, both of Brattleboro recently joined 15 other community members in serving on Youth Services’ board of directors. Through 10 programs ranging from Court Diversion to mentoring, the nonprofit agency helps Windham County young people and families thrive.

Coonan has served before in similar capacities in the region, on the board of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital (3 years as board chair) and as a founding member of Building a Better Brattleboro. She is active in the Brattleboro Rotary Club and serves on the Board of Directors of Holton Home. Pauline Dean is presently on the board of BCTV and on numerous committee within The Brattleboro Retreat.

A commercial insurance agent for The Richards Group for the past 30 years, Coonan is a Certified Insurance Councilor specializing in health care and human service organizations. Coonan’s many contributions to the community were recognized by the Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce when they named her 2004 Person of the Year.

“Cathy’s organizational skills and her deep community roots, having spent her entire life as a resident of Windham County, will be a tremendous asset to the Youth Services board,” said Tom Nunziata, Youth Services’ board president. “As the newest member of Youth Services’ golf tournament committee, Cathy also brings valued expertise from running the Brattleboro Rotary Club’s successful tournament for many years,” he said.

Pauline Deen has 16-years of experience as an educator, five of which have been working with young people at the Meadows Educational Center, a therapeutic alternative school located within the Brattleboro Retreat where she is a case manager and intensive special education elementary teacher.

“Pauline’s familiarity with working with children and families in crisis, gives her insight into the mission of this agency which adds an important dimension to our board,” said Nunziata. “We look forward to tapping her expertise and experience in working on the front lines of helping youth,” he said.

To learn how you can get involved with Youth Services or to refer a youth for assistance, visit www.youthservicesinc.org or call 802-257-0361.

New Case Manager Hired for Youth Services Bellows Falls Office

 

Jennifer Tolaro-Heidbrink
Jennifer Tolaro-Heidbrink

 

Jennifer Tolaro-Heidbrink is the new therapeutic case manager at Youth Services on the team which provides wrap services for youth ages 16-22 who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.  Tolaro-Heidbrink sees clients out of Youth Services’ Bellows Falls office at Parks Place.

Youth Services works with youth up until the age of 22 as they engage in the transition to independence and self-sufficiency. Using an intensive, therapeutic case-management model, this program focuses on building awareness and life skills in core areas of housing, education, employment, and health.

“Jennifer balances her work with 6-8 clients while managing the Bellows Falls Youth Shelter. She uses a wide range of skills to support the young people with job searches and work readiness, budgeting and money management, how to find and keep an apartment, exploring educational options, while employing sound clinical judgement and skills,” explained Lauren Higbee, Youth Development Director.

Tolaro-Heidbrink has a Masters degree in Mental Health Counseling from Antioch University New England and is licensed as a Clinical Mental Health Counselor by the State of Vermont.  She completed her counseling internship during her master’s program at Youth Services so is familiar with the staff and clientele that the agency serves, stated Higbee.

During the past three years Tolaro-Heidbrink was employed as a clinical case manager at The Gateway Program in Springfield, VT where she provided case management, individual skill-based counseling, interventions and crisis management and for students aged five through 18.  Previous to that she was a school-based clinician for Health Care and Rehabilitation Services.

“We see the amazing resiliency of our youth on a daily basis even when faced with uncertainty,” Higbee stated, noting that this special population faces many challenges; from difficulty finding and maintain housing to accessing appropriate local and state resources within two systems of children and adult services. “We continue to expect our case managers’ work load to increase as we see the complexity of each client’s needs expand,” Higbee explained.

For more information about Youth Services therapeutic case management program in the greater Bellows Falls area, please contact Youth Services’ Lauren Higbee at (802) 257-0361 x129 or visit www.youthservicesinc.org on-line.

Youth Services RAMP Program Seeks High School Participants for Career Mentoring

RAMP

As students get into high gear during their second semester, Youth Services Workforce Development staff are busy seeking referrals of youth, ages 13-17, in need of extra support and career mentoring at Brattleboro Union High School and Bellows Falls Union High.

Now in its fifth year, Youth Services’ Ready-to-Achieve Mentoring Program (RAMP) meets once a week after school to connect students with professionals for career-focused mentoring and to encourage them to remain in school. Adult mentors join students on site tours to businesses and colleges, serve on occasion as guest speakers, and help participants work on their personal career plans, according to Susan Lawson-Kelleher, the organization’s Workforce Development Coordinator.

Careers in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) are particularly emphasized, but students of all interests are encouraged to apply. Mentors are sought who have an ability to relate to young people who often live in difficult circumstances and who have a willingness to share good job readiness skills that might spark a teenager’s interests.

“The idea of RAMP is to help area students to envision a brighter future and then develop the skills and steps to get there,” Lawson-Kelleher explains. RAMP meets once a week after school during the academic year at Brattleboro Union High School on Tuesdays from 3:30-4:30 p.m. and at Bellows Falls Union High School on Thursdays from 3-4 p.m.

As a job training program attendance is incentivized, with each student earning $5 for each session attended. “Where else would I get paid to do fun stuff and meet new people while exploring cool careers?” asked Brendan Hodge, a recent RAMP graduate from BUHS. Both of his siblings took advantage of the opportunity as well.

To find out more information or to refer a youth you think might benefit from career mentoring, call Susan Lawson-Kelleher at Youth Services at (802) 257-0361 or email RAMP@youthservicesinc.org