Archive - Sep 5, 2008
By KATHRYN FLAGG
VERGENNES — When Ann Rivers, Richard Catchapaw and Anthony Korda got the call from Vergennes Area Rescue Squad (VARS) Operations Officer Chuck Welch last Friday afternoon, the three volunteer rescue workers had less than an hour to make up their minds. Were they ready and willing, Welch wanted to know, to push off for the Gulf Coast — and could they do it in three hours’ time?
With Hurricane Gustav set to bear down on Louisiana and Mississippi, Welch told them, the call had gone out for out-of-state assistance, and American Medical Response (AMR), the private company responsible for contracting emergency response teams for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, tapped the Vergennes crew for help.
The VARS ambulance crew was one of 11 Vermont rescue crews to head south in preparation for Gustav’s landfall. (A mechanical breakdown in Virginia meant that 10 Vermont ambulances arrived by Saturday evening.)
Though they were given just a few minutes to make the decision, all three responders — Korda, from the Town Line First Response team in Bridport, and VARS volunteers Rivers and Catchapaw — pushed off on the 3,000-mile trek to Mississippi last Friday, just over four hours after VARS received the initial call from AMR.
“They drove straight through,” Welch said, and arrived in Jackson, Miss. — a staging area for out-of-state ambulance crews — on Saturday night around 6 p.m.
“We’re pretty fortunate to have dedicated folks that are able to drop everything and go,” he said.
Gustav is not the first natural disaster that has sent VARS volunteers south to chip in while hurricanes chart their course for the states along the Gulf of Mexico.
By JOHN FLOWERS
VERGENNES —A half-dozen Vergennes-area church congregations are joining forces to pull together money, food, clothing and other resources to help needy residents weather high heating fuel prices this winter.
Working together as the Economic Crisis Community Response Team, or ECCRT, the parishioners have already brainstormed such ideas as filling gas cans with enough fuel to get needy households through the night until they can tap into assistance programs, assembling an emergency firewood pile, reaching out to people who may have surplus vegetables in their gardens, and organizing trips to the Wal-Mart distribution center in Johnstown, N.Y., to get free “seconds” for distribution to those in need.
“We all expect (an economic crunch) is coming, because of the cost of fuel,” said Connie Goodrich, chairwoman of the ECCRT. “Our biggest concern is for seniors on fixed incomes and the working parent who doesn’t qualify for fuel assistance or food stamps.”
ECCRT membership currently includes members of the Congregational Church of Vergennes, St. Peter’s Catholic Church, St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, the Ferrisburgh Community Methodist Church, Addison Baptist Church and Vergennes Methodist Church. Organizers will reach out to fellow parishioners and non-church-goers alike in their effort to find resources for people they fear may have to choose between food, medicine and heating fuel this winter.
“We are anticipating a crisis of some kind,” said the Rev. Gary Lewis, pastor of the Congregational Church of Vergennes.
The Addison Independent reported on Sept. 1 that the number of families needing help from the Congregational Church’s food shelf has jumped 25 percent compared to the same time last year. The food shelf is currently helping around 125 households.
By JOHN FLOWERS
MIDDLEBURY — After almost a dozen years of practicing medicine in Middlebury, Dr. Breena Holmes has decided to at least temporarily retire her stethoscope and return to the classroom.
No, Holmes isn’t going back to school as a student. She’s returning to be a teacher — in Middlebury Union High School’s Health Literacy program.
“This was generally about my need and desire to be with adolescents,” Holmes said of her transition from physician to teacher, which officially commenced last week.
Holmes has, for the past 12 years, specialized in the care of teens as a physician with the Middlebury Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. She has enjoyed that experience, but has also wanted to interact with youths in a venue not confined to short, clinical visits. When she heard of a vacancy in the MUHS health program (brought on by the recent retirement of longtime teacher Peter Ryersbach), Holmes decided to apply for the post. She landed the position and took her place among the rest of the MUHS faculty last week when classes got under way for the 2008-2009 school year.
Holmes, 42, will officially leave Middlebury Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine on Nov. 1. Until then, she will work mornings at the practice and afternoons at MUHS teaching a health literacy course. Deb Karpak is the leader of the program.
“The way I see it, this is a course in teaching decision making,” Holmes said. “It’s what you need to know about your body and your mental health to make good decisions.”
Course material will touch upon alcohol, drugs, sexuality, personal health and media literacy, among other things.
“The fun challenge for me will be to make it more relevant for the older students,” Holmes said, noting a substantial number of juniors and seniors who will need to take this course this year.