News

Volunteers Still Needed for SEVCA’s Free Tax Assistance Program

Great Way to Make a Difference in Your Community!

Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) will provide free tax preparation for lower income taxpayers for the 2018 tax filing season through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. In order to help as many families as possible claim the tax credits and refunds available to them, SEVCA is now recruiting volunteers to work at sites in White River Junction, Windsor, and Westminster during tax season. We especially need volunteers in Westminster-- training at this site is taking place on Tuesday afternoons in December and January

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program offers free tax help to people who have low to moderate income, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited English-speaking taxpayers who need assistance in preparing their own tax returns. IRS-certified volunteers provide free federal and state income tax return preparation with electronic filing.

Don’t know that much about taxes? Don’t worry — you’ll receive specialized training from a certified VITA instructor plus IRS online courses. We are looking for individuals who are willing and able to commit 3 to 4 hours per week from January 30 – April 10, 2018. Although prior tax preparation experience is not necessary, a commitment to training and certification is required. Training sessions will be held in Westminster during December & January and at your convenience using online IRS self-study training materials. Continuing on-site training and supervision is provided during the tax preparation season.

To learn how you can make a difference in your community by joining a great group of dedicated VITA volunteers, please contact Leslie Wood at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (802) 722-4575, ext. 199.

 

  VITA volunteers

VITA volunteers practicing tax prep skills

Addressing Climate Change: Opportunities or Pitfalls for People with Low Incomes?

How is addressing climate change a potential business opportunity? This was the question considered at a September 12 public forum in Brattleboro, sponsored by Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility (VBSR) and the Vermont Natural Resources Council. Speakers talked about the growth of the clean energy sector, and the jobs that have been created through making homes and businesses more energy efficient and/or pursuing alternative energy sources. SEVCA Executive Director Steve Geller broadened the discussion to include a consideration of the impact on people with low incomes.

While agreeing that new policies to address climate change would have long-term positive effects for us all, Geller provided some cautionary comments on proposals that would mean that people with lower incomes might face increasing costs in the short-term that they are in no position to afford. For example, the Carbon Pollution Tax proposal introduced in Vermont by State Rep. David Deen (also presenting at the forum) would significantly increase fuel costs for home heating and transportation. Geller pointed out that each year, low-income households pay over $2,000 more than they can afford on home heating costs, with those earning less than 50% of the poverty level forced to pay about 46% of their income for home utility costs (heating, cooling, electricity). Policies aimed at reducing emissions should not result in even more excessive cost burdens for people who can’t even afford to meet their basic needs, and incentives for introducing energy efficient technology need to be structured so that people with lower incomes can utilize them.

Read more HERE.

Program Deadlines Loom: Energy Efficiency Program and Jobs for Independence

Free Energy Assessment and Energy Efficiency Improvements Available

SEVCA is providing home-visits to install energy-efficiency improvements to area low- and moderate-income households in order to help reduce their energy bills. A Vermont Community Energy Partnership Program grant has made it possible for these free services, which include:

  • Direct installation of efficient products: LEDs, advanced power strips, low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, pipe wrap for domestic hot water, and caulking and weatherstripping.
  • Identification of energy-saving opportunities: assessment of inefficient refrigerators, freezers, and clothes washers; opportunities for reducing heating and cooling costs; eligibility for energy-efficient mobile home replacements; eligibility for the Weatherization Assistance Program or other programs

Interested Windham and Windsor County residents should call John Nielson at (800) 464-9951, ext. 138 for more information and to schedule a home visit. Current funding ends in December, so don’t delay!

Want Help Getting a Job? Hurry to Sign Up Before "Jobs for Independence" Recruitment Ends!

Vermont’s SNAP Program, called 3SquaresVT and administered by the Department for Children and Families (DCF), was awarded a three‐year $8.9 million dollar grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop a job readiness and training pilot program for people getting or eligible to get SNAP benefits.

            Vermont’s pilot, called Jobs for Independence (JFI), will be closing the application process in December, so potential participants are urged to apply now! So far, SEVCA has enrolled 367 participants, and statewide, 75% of the expected 3,000 participants have been enrolled.

            JFI can help people even if they: don’t have stable housing; have a mental health issue; are struggling with substance abuse or recovery; or have a criminal record. Vermonters who get or are eligible for 3SquaresVT benefits may be eligible to participate. Those selected for the program could get help to:

  • Resolve issues that may be keeping them from work (e.g., criminal record, mental health, substance abuse, or unstable housing)
  • Find new or better jobs
  • Gain work skills and knowledge
  • Pay for things they need to work like car repairs and work clothes
  • Earn the Governor’s Career Ready Certificate at the Community College of Vermont (CCV)
  • Achieve industry‐recognized certification (e.g., in CDL or IT Software)

3SquaresVT participants who are interested in JFI should call SEVCA to see if they qualify. In Windham County, contact Elizabeth McEwen at 802 376-0362 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. In Windsor County, contact Elizabeth Meuse 802 376-0361 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Say ‘Hello’ to Some of Our Newest Staff Members at Head Start

SEVCA's Head Start program, with classrooms in Springfield, Chester, White River Junction, and Windsor, is sure to have a busy year, especially with the expanded hours now offered at three of our four sites. Helping all those energetic children reach their full potential requires a special kind of staff person, and we are happy to welcome the following people as part of Head Start's great team!

Jazmin McNeill, Lead Teacher, based at Pine Street Preschool, Springfield’s Head Start Center. Jazmin may have only become a Head Start teacher last year, but she is not new to Head Start: in fact, she is now teaching in the very same room where she and her two brothers attended Head Start as a child! Jazmin remembers her mother saying how grateful she was for the program, and Jazmin has her own “very positive memories” in that classroom, which might have been one of the reasons she decided to apply. Jazmin has an Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education from CCV and is working toward her Bachelor’s at Granite State College; she expects to complete her studies and become a licensed teacher in Early Childhood Education and Special Education by April 2018. Prior to working at Head Start, Jazmin worked for 7 years at local child care programs. She admits to being a bit overwhelmed at first by all the paperwork at Head Start, but after a few months, “everything clicked, and I saw how it all fit together.” Midway through the year, she took on more responsibility by becoming the Center Manager and Site Director for Pine Street Preschool, which essentially put her in charge of most of the paperwork pertaining to that Head Start site! She helps maintain state and federal requirements for the quality and safety of the program and generates monthly reports for the HS management team. Jazmin has not been thrown in the deep end, however; she has numerous sources of support--her supervisor, the HS management team, and two local mentors that are part of her teaching program. “Head Start has made me a better teacher; the opportunities here for professional development have really helped me to grow,” she says. Jazmin lives in Ludlow.

Lauren Wallace, Teacher Associate, also based at Pine Street Preschool in Springfield. Lauren has a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Keene State College, and when she began looking for a job after graduation, she wasn’t quite sure what her next step was going to be. She ended up taking a job in a local preschool, and over the next few years, found that teaching was to become her new passion. Looking for advancement opportunities, she joined Head Start last year, and she has started to pursue an Associate’s degree in Early Education from CCV. Lauren found that Head Start involved a lot more interaction with the families of the children enrolled, as well as a more structured process of child assessment than her previous employer. All teachers are involved in assessment at Head Start, and she gained experience in the Teaching Strategies Gold screening and assessment tools. Lauren says she can now see and document the progress kids are making toward learning targets, “…and I think that’s exciting! There’s more structure, more work, but it’s worth it because, ultimately, it’s the kids who benefit!” When asked whether her degree in Psychology may have helped prepare her for her role as a teacher, Lauren said that the “active listening” skills she gained as a student were most important to her success as an early childhood educator. “A lot of kids might not be truly heard within their families, so it makes a big difference to their development that we are able to show them that what they have to say matters.” Lauren moved to Springfield from Arkansas when she was 14 years old, and still lives in Springfield.

Luke Parmenter, Food Service Provider, based at Northwoods Head Start Center in White River Junction. Luke’s involvement with Head Start began 11 years ago when his triplets entered the program. Born 8 weeks early, the triplets needed assistance developing speech and fine motor skills, and they received support from Essential Early Education (EEE). When the children were ready for preschool, EEE recommended the family consider enrolling in Head Start. Luke says that Head Start “…opened up a whole new world” to his children, and that they established important friendships that have continued throughout their childhood. Because Luke worked nights, he began serving as a substitute food service provider during the day, as needed, while his ex-wife, Michohn, served as the primary food service provider. When she moved into a teaching position at Northwoods, Luke joined the permanent staff, which gives him an extra income while still enabling him to spend time with his 5 children (the now-14-year-old triplets and two older siblings) during school vacations. “My children are my life!” he says. Luke was born and raised in White River Junction.

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A Big "Thank You" to Donors Contributing to Our Summer Appeal

Appeal Raises Funding for Emergency Home Repairs

Some of our neighbors in Southeastern Vermont count themselves lucky just to have a roof over their heads… even if that roof leaks and their housing poses real health and safety hazards for themselves and their families. They cope with the leaks, sagging floorboards, moldy basements, and rotting windowpanes and try not to think about how precarious their living situation really is. These residents—often elderly, disabled, or families with young children—are forced to live in substandard housing because they simply can’t afford the minimal repairs needed to solve these problems...repairs that would, in many cases, unlock additional resources available to weatherize their homes and further improve their quality of life while significantly reducing energy waste.

SEVCA’s Emergency Home Repair Program (EHRP) helps these families by providing no-cost home repairs and service coordination to help connect them to other needed resources, such as our Weatherization program and other home repair grants and loans. It meets a critical unmet need for households who can’t afford or don’t qualify for loan programs, have an urgent need not met by other programs, or need additional help beyond what they are able to finance through borrowing. EHRP enables recipients to stay in their homes, improves the safety and health of their families, and allows them to focus their scarce resources on other basic needs.

SEVCA’s recent appeal for funding to help sustain the Emergency Repair Program has already raised over $7,500! We’d like to thank all our contributors for their generosity.

“Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world. ”

Jane Addams (U.S. social worker, 1860-1935)