Spring Forward with Financial Fitness!

Session Starting Soon! Free “Financial Fitness” Classes in Brattleboro

BRATTLEBORO -- Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) is inviting participants to register for its upcoming workshop series, “Your Money, Your Goals,” to be held in Brattleboro starting April 4. This 7-part workshop series will help participants improve their relationship with money, develop strong financial habits, and take steps toward prosperity. Topics covered include: saving, spending, credit, home buying, insurance, purchasing a car, and saving for college. The instructor will review participants’ credit reports and offer recommendations to build healthy credit or resolve credit issues, as well as provide individualized financial coaching to help participants and their families become more financially secure.

The workshop series is free and open to the public. Those who complete the course may be eligible to join SEVCA’s Individual Development Account (IDA) matched savings program. IDA participants earn $2 for every $1 they save (up to $1,000) if they save a minimum of $25 each month toward purchasing a home, obtaining education or job training, or starting or enhancing their own business.

The course will be held at Marlboro College, 28 Vernon St., Brattleboro from 5:30-7 p.m. on Tuesdays, April 4 through May 23 (excludes April 18). Pre-registration is required. Please call to register at 802-722-4575, ext. 151, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

SEVCA has served as the federally-designated anti-poverty agency in Windsor and Windham Counties for more than 50 years. In the past year, SEVCA served over 9,000 people in Windham and Windsor counties through a range of programs such as crisis fuel assistance, homelessness prevention, weatherization, home repair, business start-up and support, job readiness and skills training, financial fitness, asset building, Head Start, food stamp outreach, access to affordable health care, budgeting/savings, information and referral, and thrift stores.

$15,000 VT Building Communities Grant Awarded to SEVCA’s Head Start Program


Pictured (from l. to r.): Diane Nealy, Agency of Human Services; Governor Peter Shumlin; Steve Geller; and Senate President Pro Tempore John Campbell.

A $15,000 Vermont Building Communities Grant awarded to SEVCA by the Department of Buildings and General Services will help pave the way to a new, renovated facility for the organization’s Head Start center in Windsor.  Steve Geller, SEVCA’s Executive Director, accepted the award at a ceremony at the Statehouse on December 13.

SEVCA’s Head Start program provides comprehensive early childhood education and family support at no cost to low-income children and their families in Windsor County, typically serving around 100 families annually. The program has been without a facility in Windsor since the lease for its center-based program at the Old Windsor Firehouse was not renewed in 2015. The organization has been able to continue serving Windsor families since then via a combination of placing some children in its White River Junction center and providing a ‘home-based’ program to some others, but children would benefit more fully from a center-based experience in their own community. The center-based Head Start program consists of a minimum of 16 hours a week of classroom time, which next year will expand to 30.

SEVCA has identified a building on the corner of Main and Bridge Streets to serve as its new Head Start center, and is in the process of purchasing the property from its current owner, the American Precision Museum. The renovation will consist of a complete rehab, including exterior and interior repairs and renovations, minor foundation repair, roofing, interior walls, new windows and doors, bathrooms and kitchen, new plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems, and weatherization. SEVCA is currently assembling funds for the purchase and expects the sale to be finalized within the month and the new center to be opened in time for the next school year in September. View an article in the Valley News with more detail about SEVCA's plans HERE.

When this article was published, the status of a $300,000 grant from the Office of Head Start was not known, but since then, we've learned the grant was approved, and all financing is now in place to purchase and rennovate the new site.

Delayed Tax Refunds for EITC and ACTC Filers

If you’re expecting a tax refund based on filing for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) on your income tax return, you might not get it as soon as you expect this year. Due to a new law, the IRS will be waiting until February 15 before they’ll begin making direct deposits or mailing tax refunds. In practical terms, even for those who file in late January, the earliest most will get their refunds will be the week of February 27.

Many people depend on their refunds to pay for major expenses or debt they’ve incurred over the holidays. Starting this year, it’s important to plan for the delay in getting your refund and expecting to pay for those expenses out of existing resources. Tips for coping with the delay can be found HERE.

SEVCA’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program recommends that you save or invest your return, and not depend on it for holiday expenses. Each year, we urge tax filers to participate in the “SaveYourRefund” program, which offers a chance to win prizes for those who save at least a portion of their refund. Please contact Susan Brace at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information about SEVCA’s VITA program, which offers free tax preparation assistance to eligible families and individuals. We will start scheduling appointments in mid-January.

Two Grants Awarded to Emergency Home Repair Program

Renewals of two major grants for SEVCA’s Emergency Home Repair Program (EHRP)—the USDA’s Housing Preservation Grant (HPG) and a grant from The Thomas Thompson Trust—will help ensure the program’s viability and provide assistance to an estimated 30-40 homes over the coming year. SEVCA was awarded $26,000 from HPG and $10,000 from the Thompson Trust.

EHRP provides and facilitates emergency home repairs for low-income residents of Windham and Windsor Counties, to enable them to address unsafe, unhealthy, and substandard conditions in their homes. EHRP primarily focuses on small-scale emergency repairs of up to $2,000 for households who don’t qualify for or can’t afford to participate in housing rehab loan programs, have an urgent need not met by other programs, or need additional funds beyond what they are able to borrow. By providing the needed repairs quickly and cost-effectively, EHRP enables recipients to stay in their homes, ensures the safety and health of their families, and allows them to focus their scarce resources on other basic needs.

EHRP was designed to respond to a critical need that SEVCA identified through its experience in working with area residents. SEVCA’s Family Services staff commonly encounter low-income homeowners struggling to pay monthly expenses—mortgage, heat and electricity, food, healthcare, etc.—leaving them with nothing to invest in keeping their homes habitable. And SEVCA’s Weatherization staff see firsthand the substandard housing conditions many residents live in; yet too often, they are unable to provide Weatherization assistance, which would stem energy waste and reduce energy costs, due to the unacceptable condition of the ‘building envelope.’  SEVCA’s 2015 Community Assessment survey reinforced the need for the program, with 80% of the homeowners surveyed saying that they had major repair needs in their homes that they were unable to address.

Get to Know New Weatherization and Home Repair Staff

WX staff 2016

There have been LOTS of changes in the Weatherization department over the past several months, with a number of new hires and a promotion! But “new” is a relative term, since many are actually rejoining SEVCA after an absence of a few years. Here’s the rundown:

Nate Stoddard: promoted to Operations Manager for Weatherization in September. Nate has been with SEVCA since 2009, when he started as an energy auditor. He’s held a number of positions since then, including advanced auditor, quality control, and auditor supervisor. His recent promotion involves the creation of a new Operations Manager position, combining the previous Auditor Supervisor and Production Coordinator positions in the department. Nate is enthusiastic about the increased efficiency in the program’s ability to plan the work flow with this new role, since having the production side and the auditors both report to him streamlines the process and creates better service for clients. Prior to joining SEVCA, Nate worked in the building industry, the automobile service industry, and served 5 years active duty in the Army from 1987-1992. He is a father of two and lives in Westminster.

Tristian Crawford: Auditor, hired in October. Tristian rejoined SEVCA to train as an Auditor, having served as a Crew Chief from 2014-15. He officially became an Auditor this month. A Bellows Falls native, he now lives in Chester with his wife and two boys, ages 6 and 9. Prior to working for SEVCA, Tristian did power line maintenance for 10 years. He says he’s “…happy to be back, and I’m looking forward to being here for a long time.”

Todd Clark: Crew Chief, hired in April. Todd is another staff member who has rejoined Weatherization after an absence. He served as Crew Tech for 3 years and Crew Chief for 7 years from 2003-13. Todd has had a number of other jobs, including 12 years at C&S Wholesalers and most recently, as a Community Outreach Specialist for HCRS, where he still works part time as a member of their Crisis Team. Todd has also trained as an EMT, though he is not certified. This father of five children, ranging in age from 11-26, he has lived in Westminster for the last 20 years, although he grew up in Maine. He says he loves the opportunity to learn different things at SEVCA, and that “it gives me a good feeling to help people.”

Brian Mueller: Crew Tech, hired in November. This former Marine and helicopter mechanic, who hails from Colchester but moved to Bellows Falls 15 years ago with his wife and three kids, has worked for many years in property maintenance and small construction. He first learned about SEVCA through his employer, who was a contractor for our Emergency Home Repair Program (EHRP), inspiring him to join the Weatherization staff as a Crew Tech from 2010-13. He left to work independently for a time, but was happy to come back to SEVCA when the opportunity arose, saying “I feel very welcome here.”

Harrison Rouleau: Crew Tech, hired in October. Harrison is a recent graduate of Kindle Farm High School who comes to SEVCA with a background in carpentry, logging, and farming. In fact, he says he’s a “jack-of-all-trades, master of none!”  He values the on-the-job training he is able to get at SEVCA and has shown himself to be a hard worker who has an affinity for weatherization work.

Alexandra Jarrin: Business Administrator, hired in July.  Alex, a former AmeriCorps worker in the Northeast Kingdom in the early 1990s, said she was eager to get back to working in the nonprofit sector after working 25 years in the corporate sector. When she saw the job posting as Business Administrator for Weatherization, she said to herself, “This is my job!”  In this position, Alex deals with all Weatherization client applications, certifying eligibility and ensuring all the necessary documentation is submitted, and she’s also responsible for billing and reporting. “Every day is different,” she says. “No two situations are alike. It’s extremely rewarding.” A resident of Bellows Falls, Alex is the mother of three sons and has three grandchildren. She has an MBA from the Hagen School of Business at Iona College in New York.

Tawny Staskunas: Office Assistant, hired in July. Prior to joining the SEVCA Weatherization team, Tawny worked with the Rehab Loan Program at Windham & Windsor Housing Trust where she developed a knowledge of the resources available to help low- and moderate-income homeowners have safe and warm housing. Tawny enjoys being able to collaborate with other organizations to provide the best possible outcomes for customers. Tawny has a BA in Human Service Management from Southern Vermont College and spent most of her career at the Vermont Department of Labor, retiring after 30 years. She resides in West Chesterfield with her husband, John and their dog, Gypsy.         

John Nielson: Emergency Home Repair Coordinator, hired in December. John worked for SEVCA on a special ARRA-funded project from 2011-12, managing the installation of solar hot water and hot air panels to help low-income households save on energy bills. Now he’s returned as the EHRP Coordinator, based in the Weatherization Department, saying he feels very much a part of the Weatherization team and still knows a lot of the staff. John lives in Westmoreland, NH, and most recently worked in a Maintenance/Security position at the Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center in Greenfield, NH, an hour away from his home. Enjoying the much shorter commute from just over the river, John says he’s excited about the opportunity to revive the EHRP, which has been without a Coordinator for much of the year. He brings a long history of construction experience to the position, along with the motivation to help SEVCA achieve its mission.

“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)