Category Archives: News

Cathy Coonan of The Richards Group Elected President of Youth Services Board

Cathy Coonan, Youth Services’ new Board President

Cathy Coonan, insurance professional at The Richards Group, recently assumed the role of President of the Youth Services Board of Directors, taking the reins from Rachel Selsky whose four-year term has just ended.  Coonan has been on the agency’s Board of Directors for the past five years in a number of leadership positions.

During her tenure on the Youth Services board to date, Coonan has held the position of Vice President and has served on the Executive, Development, Events and Golf Tournament committees.  Last month she co-chaired a successful Youth Services Annual Golf Tournament and Helicopter Golf Ball Drop with Craig Miskovich.

Coonan has served before in similar capacities in the region, as board chair of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital 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 Garden Path Elder Living.

A commercial insurance agent for The Richards Group for the past 35 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 everyone at Youth Services,” said Russell Bradbury-Carlin, Youth Services’ executive director. “Cathy’s analytical abilities and her calming and sensible problem-solving makes her an excellent leader and role model for the board,” Bradbury-Carlin explained.

“I’m looking forward to continuing the legacy of strong leadership at Youth Services and supporting the critical work that the agency does for the young people, adults and families in our community,” Coonan said.

Ana Saavedra of Edward Jones Investments assumed the role of Vice-President of Youth Services’ Board.

Youth Services was founded forty-eight 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 runaway and homeless youth programs, Court Diversion, our mentoring programs, substance abuse counseling and DemoGraphix- a youth-led screen printing business.

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

 

 

 

Michael Silberman applies expertise in Organizational Development and Private/Public Partnerships on Youth Services’ Board

Michael Silberman

Michael Silberman of East Dummerston recently joined 9 other community members in serving on Youth Services’ board of directors. Through 10 programs ranging from Court Diversion to mentoring in a youth-led business, the nonprofit agency helps Windham County young people, adults and families thrive.

Silberman has worldwide experience in public-private partnership development, training and workshop facilitation, program management, project design, and organization development interventions for Civil Society, in USAID and Public Service organizations. He has worked in international development, training, and organizational management since 1978, primarily in Asia and Africa. Silberman has been employed extensively with USAID, both as a personal services contractor and a consultant, providing assistance to Missions in the major global regions.

“Michael’s strategic planning background, his insights into public-private partnerships, his experience with stakeholder engagement and his deep commitment to Windham County will be a tremendous asset to the Youth Services board,” said Cathy Coonan, Youth Services’ board president.

“As the newest member of Youth Services’ board, Michael brings valued expertise in philanthropy and strategic planning that we’re looking forward to tapping as we make plans for Youth Services’ next decade,” Coonan said.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Youth Services chosen for Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program

Youth Services is excited to announce a new project to end youth homelessness in our community!  Three years ago Youth Services staff and clients worked with local and state partners to apply for the U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project (YHDP).  Vermont was among 11 other communities in the U.S. chosen to test out intervention that address the complex factors faced by youth and young adults who are without a safe place to call home.

According to Executive Director, Bradbury-Carlin, Youth Services staff and clients had a profound impact on the formation and successful application by Vermont Coalition of Runaway and Homeless Youth Programs to HUD.  From serving on state-level committees and work groups, supporting youth to join the state Youth Action Board, to conducting focus groups and analyzing data, Youth Services staff and clients were instrumental in this funding coming to Vermont.

Now officially a host for the federally-funded Youth Homelessness Demonstration Program, Youth Services is one of ten organizations implementing projects to prevent and end youth homelessness in Vermont.  Youth homelessness is a complex social issue, especially in this state.  Vermont’s rurality, which is part of the fabric of our identity, combined with the lack of transportation, youth-friendly vocational opportunities, youth-centered public infrastructure and spotty internet and cell service make it hard for many young people to sustainably transition to independent housing and access resources.

“Through the Youth Homelessness Demonstration Project we heard from Vermont youth that they face many challenges that contribute to and perpetuate housing insecurity and homelessness,” stated Bradbury-Carlin.  “They described facing stigma because of their age or socioeconomic status, a lack of permanent connections such as trusted non-paid adults that they can fall back on in times of need, challenges finding stable and non-exploitative employment, unsustainable transition plans from foster care and a lack of clarity around how to get help,” he explained.  “We’re excited to delve into this project and we definitely have our work cut out for us!”

Youth Services YHDP transitional housing projects will be situated in Bellows Falls and Brattleboro and Rapid Re-housing vouchers will be awarded to youth throughout Windham County.

For more information about support for youth experiencing housing instability or homelessness, to learn about youth homelessness in our community, call (802) 258-0361 or visit our web pages.

 

See reports below for more details: 

Youth Homelessness Prevention Plan Committee Application to HUD

Youth Engagement Report

Friends For Change innovates virtually during COVID-19

Youth Services’ play-based after school club, Friends For Change, was recently recognized for innovation during the pandemic at a virtual forum hosted Vermont Afterschool, Inc. Comprised of afterschool programs, state agencies, policy makers and funders, the forum showcased ways that programs are stepping forward in all kinds of important and creative ways to extend supports to children, youth and families in their local communities.

Emilie Kornheiser, Youth Services’ Director of Workforce Development described her program’s transition from a face-to-face youth-led/adult guided, trauma-informed club in Bellows Falls to one where staff initially filling a “first responder” role, ensuring that disconnected youth had everything from healthy food to internet access to toilet paper to over the course of a month, the group successfully transitioning to a virtually connected, social emotional intelligence play-based group.

 “I’ve been blown away with the capacity of our team,” Kornheiser related, as she described not only the daily check-ins and school-work assistance that one would expect but nature walks on the phone to motivate the youth to get outdoors, virtual scavenger hunts in museums and deep emotional circles which provide the space for participants to mourn the changed landscape of their lives.  “Somehow staff were able to take that spirit and translate it into the work they were doing virtually,” she said.

 Because the club has been designed for and by youth who have stories of resiliency, Friends for Change provides programming specifically for youth who have experienced trauma associated with poverty, discrimination, and or experiences with foster care and/or family instability. Providing space for youth to talk with one another about issues they care deeply about has always been a hallmark of the group whose members range in age from elementary through high school. That includes validation of their gender identity and feelings of isolation which they may not be able to safely share at home.

“Sometimes our team and the other youth group members are the only people recognizing these youth in their own gender identity,” said Kornheiser. “When there isn’t a pandemic going on, this is an absolute lifeline; during COVID, it can be a life or death support that we are giving!  So this is some of the most important work that we’re doing,” she explained.

Download Youth Services’ Summer Resources Calendar 2020

Area schools have taken their classes on-line but many summer camps are  holding out hope that they’ll be able to be in session this summer, most likely with some adaptations to ensure safety for all involved (the children, family members, administrators and camp counselors).

Youth Services published its Summer Resources Calendar 2020 in April, not knowing how many of the camps listed would actually be in session come June.

“Parents and grandparents really depend on area summer camps to provide structured play and learning during the summertime as  well as childcare while parents are working,” notes Russell Bradbury-Carlin, Youth Services’ Executive Director.  “We’re hoping that as COVID-19 testing becomes more widespread, it will allow at least some camps in Windham County to be able to open this summer,” stated Bradbury-Carlin. “Fortunately, summer camps know all about reinvention and putting the needs of the families it serves first!”

Summer Camp listings on the Calendar cover a range of ages and interests, from circus arts, to music, nature and tennis, as well as overnight camps such as Camp Waubanong and Green Mountain Camp for Girls.

Please contact individual camps for the latest information on openings/closings. Youth Services  is maintaining an updated list on this webpage below.

The Summer Camp Calendar is sponsored by Youth Services Pacesetters: The Richards Group, Brattleboro Subaru, and GS Precision.

Download or print:

Original 2020 Summer Camp Calendar Listing

 Update Summer Camp Calendar Listing as of 6-11

Summer Jobs Listing

 

Youth Services Case Manager Honored for Two Decades of Service

Patrick Fleming 

Patrick Fleming, a Court Diversion case manager for Youth Services since 1981, was recently honored by the organization for his nearly two decades of restorative justice work in Windham County.

Youth Services’ Court Diversion program involves victims, offenders, and community members in a constructive process that helps offenders repair the harm to victims and the community, according to Sally Struble, Youth Services’ Director of Restorative Justice programs. Every year, this one program works with close to 300 referrals.

“Patrick is the glue between our volunteer panelists and the offenders,” Struble explained, describing how once the State’s Attorney offers Diversion to adults charged with committing a crime or youth charged with being delinquent, Fleming meets with both the offender and the volunteer panels to prepare for one or more sessions together.

“Patrick’s skill and commitment to the goals of the program make him an outstanding liaison,” Struble said. “Our hope, realized in 90 percent of his cases, is that the offender not only learn from their mistakes, but also make different choices in the future.” After successful completion of the Diversion program, the original charge is dismissed, she explained.

“While being charged with a crime is often experienced by the client as a mini-tragedy, more often than not they avail themselves, with the support of the panel, in finding the silver lining,” Fleming attested. “In many cases that means re-evaluating their behaviors,” he stated. “Being able to refer them for counseling or substance use treatment as part of their diversion agreement is very helpful in this process,” Fleming admitted.”

The entire process takes on average between 60-90 days from start to finish, Fleming said. Describing how in an average week he prepares five distinct panels of trained community volunteers in Brattleboro and one in Bellows Falls. The case manager credits the Diversion Board members, who meet only once a month to hear cases, with possessing a diverse skill set that when combined is like a carefully tuned orchestra.  “I’m in awe of our volunteers. They hit all the notes and I always end up learning from them!” Fleming exclaimed.

Fleming described how powerful it is for clients to grapple with what they did and how it impacted others.“Unlike pleading guilty, paying a fine and getting a record, our participants have to engage with their actions and come to terms with the human elements,” Fleming emphasized,

What keeps Fleming doing this work case after case, year after year? “I’m interested in people. I’m interested in the challenges each case presents,” he stated. “When our participants comprehend that their life is out of balance and that there is an opportunity to set something right, take responsibility, make this crisis into something positive, we get to witness a truly transformative change for the better,” he said.

“What more can one ask for?” Fleming enthused. “Being an agent of change is the best feeling, treating them with respect and kindness in the process. Helping people to become healthier- that’s everyone’s goal.”

For more information on becoming a Youth Services Court Diversion board member, contact Sally Struble, Director of Restorative Justice at Youth Services at 802-257-0361 or email info@youthservicesinc.org.

Vickie Case inducted into Youth Services’ Hall of Fame

Vickie Case,  a Youth Services Board member for 15 years, was recently inducted into the organization’s Hall of Fame, designated as “Envoy Extraordinaire” for her role as a valuable link to the Windham County communities.

Vickie Case, Inductee, Youth Services’ Hall of Fame

The award ceremony at Duo Restaurant in December included moving testimonials from Youth Services Executive Director Russell Bradbury-Carlin, and Board President, Rachel Selsky.

According to Youth Services Executive Director, Russell Bradbury-Carlin, the Hall of Fame is a way for Youth Services to recognize community members like Case who make outstanding and sustained contributions to youth development and the agency’s outreach. “Vickie is a magnet,” Bradbury-Carlin hypothesized.  “She attracts people’s attention and interests.  This is why she is so good in all of the roles she plays in the community and why we consider her an “envoy extraordinaire” for Youth Services,” he said.

Case is the fourth inductee to Youth Services’ Hall of Fame, joining the late Ben Underhill, a former board member who was honored with the MVP Award; former board member Liz Richards, who was recognized with the Community Ambassador Award; and court diversion volunteer Marilyn Buhlmann, who was inducted as its first Restorative Justice Advocate.

According to Board President Rachel Selsky, Case is a ‘true believer’ in Youth Services’ mission and isn’t shy about convincing others of the value of supporting Youth Services as part of their marketing budgets. “Vickie generated countless new event sponsorships for Youth Services through contacts she had through her work then in radio advertising. “Thanks to Vickie’s persuasive powers, numerous businesses came around to seeing it as a win-win situation and many continue to support us today as a result of her introductions,” Selsky said.

To find out how to join Vickie in this important work to support our youth and families, please call Youth Services at (802) 257-0361 or email info@youthservicesinc.org

The Reverend Dr. James Kowalski joins Youth Services Board

The Reverend Dr. James A. Kowalski, a retired Episcopal priest who is a long-time second home owner in Townshend, VT, recently joined 13 other community members in serving on Youth Services’ board of directors. Through nineteen programs ranging from restorative justice, to mentoring, transitional living, workforce development and therapeutic case management, the nonprofit agency helps Windham County thrive.

Dr. James A. Kowalski

For the past 15 years, Dr. Kowalski served as Dean of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City. Prior to that, he had parishes in Massachusetts and Newtown, Hartford and Darien, Connecticut. During that time, Kowalski helped found a Youth Services in Newtown, CT which focused on positive youth development, adolescent depression and suicide prevention. He was also key in launching the Shepherd’s Center, a teen pregnancy prevention and pre-Head Start childcare facility in Hartford, CT.

With years of experience serving on Boards for agencies focused on low-income housing, supportive housing, hospital oversight and community mental health, Kowalski brings crucial insights and background to the Youth Services board, according to Rachel Selsky, board president.

Selsky said they are fortunate to have his vast experience when they are developing strategic plans for the future of the organization as well as fundraising.

“Jim’s deep understanding of the many challenges facing young people and the homeless will be a tremendous asset to the board,” Selsky predicted.

As an extension of his ministry, Kowalski was a volunteer counselor at Planned Parenthood in Burlington, where he also was a chaplain at UVM and did clinical training at the medical center and its outpatient psychiatric clinic.

Rev. James Kowalski resides in Townshend with his wife, Dr. Anne Brewer, who works part-time at Grace Cottage Hospital. First exposed to Youth Services by the late board member Stan Holt of Townshend, they became donors many years ago, keeping an eye on the organization as their work took them to other locales.

“We’ve always appreciated what Youth Services was accomplishing in this neck of the woods,” said Kowalski. “Now that I’m in Windham County full-time I look forward to supporting the staff in their work and helping the critical mission of Youth Services to be realized, including its outreach to Townshend,” he stated.

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

Brattleboro’s Youth-Led Company Opens Its Doors: Screen Printing Orders Sought from Area Businesses and Organizations

DemoGraphix, a youth-led business-to-business screen-printing company in Brattleboro, Vermont, established by Youth Services earlier this year, has opened its doors for sales, after a six-month start-up period.

The employees, ages 12-24, have selected a name, designed a logo, trained on the screen printing equipment and establishing policies and a pricing structure during that time, in addition to being paired with volunteer mentors with professional skills such as design, running a small business, and marketing.

Having completed several successful test runs, DemoGraphix employees are now ready to market their services and line up printing orders for promotional products on fabric or paper for the fall, according to Emilie Kornheiser, Youth Services’ Director of Workforce Development.

“We believe that people in Brattleboro want to be conscious shoppers, and will support a business like DemoGraphix offering a living wage and better life opportunities for its employees,” explained Kornheiser.

While DemoGraphix can print on any fabric medium, the two most popular items so far are t-shirts and tote bags, according to the company website. Prices depend on the quality of the materials, manufacturing practices, and the complexity of the design but generally range $10-25 dollars for T-shirts and $5-15 for totes. The designers are happy to have a conversation with prospective clients and will provide an estimate in three days or less.

Launched earlier this year, DemoGraphix, which employs youth in every aspect of the business — design, printing, shipping, customer service, marketing and accounting — is dedicated to delivering job skills and fostering entrepreneurship and community connections, stated Kornheiser.

Members of DemoGraphix can make and sell their own designs as well as be employed by the company. “Our participants learn how to be a member of a team in a connected, supportive environment, and then move on with the knowledge to benefit their community and their own work lives,” Kornheiser explained. “We expect that these youth will have marketable skills and good job references when they leave the company,” she said.

This Youth Services program operates out of Brattleboro Printmakers on Elliot Street. Youth Services pairs 12-24 year olds with volunteer mentors with professional skills relevant to the business who are also interested in being a part of a young person’s life. According to Kornheiser, a major goal of our youth-led business initiative is for the participants to get more than just a paycheck.

To learn more about getting involved, email: info@ youthservicesinc.org or call (802) 257-0361 x138. To obtain an estimate for print shop orders (T-shirts, bags, bandanas, aprons, or collectible posters) email: demographixvt@gmail.com with a description of the project or call 802-275-7871.

David Brown voted Board Emeritus at Youth Services

David Brown, Board Emeritus

David Brown, an award-winning realtor with Berkley & Veller Greenwood Country, was voted Board Emeritus at Youth Services’ October board meeting on which Brown “served with distinction” for over two decades.

Only three other board members have received the board emeritus status in Youth Services’ 46-year history: attorney Jesse Corum IV and insurance executive Ben Underhill, both now deceased, and Larry Cassidy, one of its founders who continues to be a key advisor.

Russell Bradbury-Carlin, Executive Director, said he has relied on Brown’s intimate knowledge of the organization and Windham Country communities since he arrived at the nonprofit in 2015.  “David has been extraordinarily devoted to the success of Youth Services.  He stops by our offices regularly and is always available to lend a supportive ear or to connect us to people who might be helpful with a new project or a particular issue we are facing.”

Few have worn as many hats at Youth Services as Brown, according to Bradbury-Carlin.  In addition to being a volunteer for 26 years and counting, Brown was a liaison to area businesses for the agency’s Big Brothers Big Sisters program and served as Interim Executive Director from 2011-2012.

Brown’s Youth Services affiliation started as a Court Diversion Board volunteer in 1992 and continues to this day, participating in monthly panels focused on repairing the harm caused by a community member. Diversion holds those who violated the law accountable in a manner that promotes responsibility to individuals, community and relationships and addresses underlying needs or issues that led to the offense.

“David is very much the diplomat on his panel,” attested Patrick Fleming, Youth Services’ Diversion Case Manager who describe Brown’s approach as one that is often able to defuse the individual’s reluctance to address an issue.

Marion Dowling, who is a Diversion panelist with Brown, said he knows how to share space with his fellow panelists. “David is truly the anchor of our panel. I have learned so much from his way of seeing the whole picture of the individual in front of him,” Dowling said.  “He has a remarkable way putting the client at ease, using a lovely sense of humor which allows the person freedom to share in an open, trusting manner,” explained Dowling.

In addition to countless volunteer hours, Brown has also shared his creative side with Youth Services, donating his own pastel paintings to the organization’s annual gala and silent auction that he co-chairs, and by asking other local artists to contribute their artwork.

“David is amazing to work with,” stated Liz Richards, who co-chaired the Jazz Jubilee and the Denim & Diamond- themed galas with Brown for 15 successful years. “We had a lot of fun pulling off annual galas & silent auctions at the Grafton Inn that had Youth Services supporters coming back year after year,” Richard recalled.

Brown was the organization’s board president from 2004-2006. Allyson Villars, executive director at that time, recalls Brown’s kindness of spirit, and his unbiased concern for staff and board members, clients and volunteers and his modeling of all the values Youth Services promulgates with youth living in difficult circumstances.

“He was always my go-to-guy, my first phone call, my port in any storm, and both my last meeting of the day and my first meeting in early mornings. David was my guide, my mentor, my confidante — a great boss,” Villars explained.  “When I think of the reasons for Youth Services’ success at that time, his ever-presence, wise counsel, and willingness to go above and beyond is always one of the things that comes to mind,” she recalled.

Supporting and mentoring new board members was a role Brown also relished, introducing each new board members to the staff and helping them find a way to use their expertise on a committee to benefit Youth Services. Rachel Selsky, the present board chair recalled Brown as her mentor during the Get on Board non-profit board management certificate program she was taking through Marlboro Graduate Center.

“David’s enthusiasm for Youth Services was infectious and I was truly impressed by his open heart and commitment to the organization. I am especially appreciate of all the wisdom and laughs we have shared.  “We are grateful to be able to honor David’s efforts on behalf of the young people of Windham County, with the title of board emeritus. David’s dedication to Youth Services has set a high bar for the rest of us,” said Selsky.

Mentors for adolescents and young adults are currently sought. To get involved as a volunteer or to donate to Youth Services, visit youthservicesinc.org or call (802) 257-0361.