Volunteerism at Laurentide Apartments

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[story written in 2021]

This will be the last place I plan to live. I intend to age in place. I’m committed to this community and I want to use my time here to help others,” said Regina O’Flaherty.

She was referring to Laurentide Apartments, a new building in Burlington that is home to a wide variety of people in need of affordable housing. Residents moved in October 2019 to this new neighborhood called Cambrian Rise being developed with a new City park and overlooking the shores of Lake Champlain.

Inside amenities such as the community room and library encouraged residents to build connections. Sal Millichamp, an experienced social worker, and Regina, an immigrant from Germany with a background in assisted living, recognized the potential in these spaces.

Together they took the lead in organizing weekly coffee hours, meetings with property management, and connecting with CHT’s resident engagement staff to bring in community partners to organize educational workshops on things like composting as well as local artists to initiate a participatory art project. These events were just underway when the pandemic suspended all in-person inside gatherings.

A combination of rising unemployment, closing of school, and the Governor’s Stay at Home, Stay Safe order exacerbated already stressful lives. Seemingly more than ever, there was a need for stronger supports.

In addition to programs that helped people cover their rent, other Covid-19 relief programs helped establish and fund the Vermont Everyone Eats program to provide free, nutritious meals to Vermonters affected by the pandemic. With staffing stretched and the need great, Sal and Regina stepped up at Laurentide, allowing CHT to host events at other sites, support more residents as volunteers, and help feed many more people in need of this resource. With the backing from our partners and resident leaders like Sal and Regina, over 2,700 meals were distributed.

The pair at Laurentide also volunteered to keep the community art project going in coordination with local artists Corrine Yonce and Lydia Kern. It was fitting that in this time that people needed to stay home that the project involved people sharing what home means to them. Now the art piece hangs completed in the community room, awaiting a time we can celebrate the final design together.

Looking toward the future, we hope to engage more residents in community leadership opportunities, recognizing how together we can build more unity in our neighborhoods. If you are interested in volunteering, please reach out to Resident Engagement Specialist Meghan Tedder.