Each year at Champlain Housing Trust’s Annual Meeting and Dinner we include an awards ceremony to recognize and bestow appreciation to community members who have gone above and beyond. For us, these awards also serve to hold up the values CHT would like to emulate. Recognizing others creates a model for bringing out the best of our own intentions and contributions. Our award recipients are bringing about change reflective of the values that led to our founding: community, equity, inclusion. This year’s honorees are Laurie Grant, the City of Winooski, and Jennifer Hollar.
Joan Beauchemin Award for Civic Engagement – Laurie Grant
Celebrating a resident member of CHT who makes outstanding contributions to their communities through volunteerism, public service and advocacy, the CHT Board decided overwhelmingly to convey the Joan Beauchemin Award for Civic Engagement to Laurie Grant.
Laurie is a resident at Laurentide, a relatively new property built as part of Cambrian Rise on North Avenue. During the Covid-19 pandemic some disruptive behaviors began at and around the property. As a resident, Laurie responded to that in order to help her community turn the tide. She was the facilitator for the 10 week Building Leaders, Building Community (BLBC) program, an intensive resident leadership education program hosted by NeighborWorks America. Since participating in the BLBC program, Laurie has created the resident-led Laurentide Cares Team which hosts events, among other things, for the Laurentide community. Laurie put together a Halloween party, a Thanksgiving potluck, bi-weekly Social Hours, and organized a Thanksgiving meal kit giveaway. She organized a Holiday Cookie Swap and Gingerbread House competition as well as a New Year’s Eve party. Laurie has committed to being the facilitator again for BLBC in spring of 2023.
Special Community Award – the City of Winooski
The CHT Board voted overwhelmingly to recognize the City of Winooski with a Special Community Award this year. Winooski has excelled in many ways over the last few years in advancing social and racial equity and in supporting affordable housing. The list of accomplishments is outstanding:
The City established an Inclusion and Belonging Commission, and the Housing Commission advocated for changes to zoning to incentivize more family housing to be built within the City, offer developers the opportunity to add density if 100% of their units are three-bedroom and affordable which the Planning Commission and Council adopted in August 2022.
The City passed all resident voting giving all Winooski residents the right to vote in its municipal elections.
Winooski families, concerned about their children’s safety walking to school — particularly during the winter and on streets lacking sidewalks — have long advocated for buses, with immigrant parents often taking the lead. The effort dates back 18 years, according to advocates. Last month, the Winooski School District created a community-driven bus service, serving the students who live farthest away from school buildings.
And this award also recognizes the City of Winooski for two additional reasons:
The City of Winooski donated the land for the first new construction of an affordable homeownership project in over a decade to develop Butternut Grove! This created 20 new two and three bedroom homes in the heart of Winooski. The City’s support for CHT’s new marketing and outreach efforts was critical to our success of conducting homeownership classes in six languages.
And lastly, for addressing inequitable housing policies in order to protect Winooski tenants from displacement and racism. The Mayor of Winooski, the Winooski Housing Authority, Winooski Code Enforcement, the Winooski School District, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, AALV, Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity, and CHT all united for a response and action which kept these residents in their homes. The letter sent to state officials contained all of the right policies that still need to be addressed: protection from displacement, the need for more affordable housing, and a recognition that racism should not be tolerated anywhere, anytime.
Brenda Torpy Founders Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Advancement of Perpetual Affordability – Jennifer Hollar
The CHT Board voted overwhelmingly to honor Jennifer Hollar with the Brenda Torpy Founders Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Advancement of Perpetual Affordability. We are honoring Jen for more than 30 years of service. Notably, Jen joined the Board of the Montpelier Housing Authority in 1991 and served for 10 years. Jen co-chaired the Montpelier Housing Task Force for many years, and she spent several years as chair of the board of the Central Vermont Community Land Trust (now Downstreet Housing and Community Development).
We also recognize that in 2011, when tropical Storm Irene wiped out thousands of homes throughout Vermont, Jen worked with calm and purpose in her role as Deputy Commissioner for Housing and Community Development to manage a tragedy that affected many Vermonters. Jen spent the next five years making it her personal mission to ensure that housing was available for every person whose property was destroyed. It would be difficult to overstate how hard Jen worked — and how personally she took that responsibility — during those five years.
In the final seven years of her career as the number two person at Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, Jen knew how to get things done — at the legislature, in state agencies, and within the organization. During the course of these seven years, Jen was at the forefront of our effort to secure and spend well the housing revenue bond, $33 million in Coronavirus Relief Funds and over $200 million in special funding for housing. To be clear, her work, enabled many of us, and especially CHT, to excel and respond to the need for affordable housing.