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New Haven family thankful for support after home burns down

NEW HAVEN — At 3:30 a.m. on New Year’s Day, New Haven residents Matt and Jackie Schlein received a frantic call from their daughter, informing them that their home was on fire.
The Schleins were out of town visiting relatives in Saugerties, N.Y. When they arrived home in New Haven a few hours after receiving the phone call, their house was, as Schlein wrote on his Facebook page, a “toasted shred” of the structure that he and his family had lived in for 18 years. They lost their cat, their belongings, and the structure of their home.
But Schlein, who is the founder and director of the Willowell Foundation and runs the Walden Project (an alternative education program run through Vergennes Union High School in Monkton) told the Independent via email that many community members had turned out in droves to support him and his family.
“This tragedy has only reinforced our ties and appreciation for this community,” Schlein wrote.
The VUHS community, he said, has organized fundraisers, and offered meals and support. At Mount Abraham Union High School, where his youngest daughter is a junior, students raised money to buy her a new wardrobe. On Feb. 9, at 7 p.m., the Vergennes Opera House will host a benefit performance by local band Panton Flats. And Schlein’s students, past and present, from the Walden Project have reached out to offer whatever help they can.
Schlein said that even his insurance agent has been fantastic.
“I taught her children, who are now grown, so I feel like there is a trust there that you can only get from living in a community and being here for a prolonged period of time,” he said.
In an interview and in his frequent online updates to the community, Schlein seems hopeful and upbeat.
“I wanted to let everyone know that I am fine, as is the rest of my clan,” he wrote in a Jan. 1 post. “We’ve been knocked down, but we are in the process of getting ourselves back up.”
He was also aware of how comparatively lucky he and his family were.
“We are acutely aware of the many people in Vermont who are homeless but do not have all the support we do,” he said. “While this is a tragedy for us, there is also much hope for a better tomorrow. Many folks don’t have a chance to rebuild and look to tomorrow with hope.”

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