Jan Demers, CVOEO provides services to welcome new Americans

When my family gathers for dinner we think carefully about the menu. My daughter and daughter-in-law are lactose intolerant. Two of us have diabetes. One daughter-in-law doesn’t eat beef or pork. Another can’t be in the same room with anything having to do with fish without risking a severe allergic reaction. Thoughtful planning ensures that we have wonderful meals and even more fulfilling conversations.
The way CVOEO provides services for new Americans takes the same kind of thoughtful planning. The services offered are exactly the same. The delivery requires extra care.
Any eligible new American can participate in our crisis services of food, access to help with housing and fuel.
There are those seeking asylum in Vermont who don’t have access to the majority of our crisis services. Though they have fled for their very lives, they are not eligible for state or federal services. They are able to get help through CVOEO’s food shelves. These families, though few in number, are in most precarious and desperate situations. Last year we were able to help 17 families through a program we created entitled ASAP (Asylum Seekers Assistance Project). With a small amount of funding we were able to give limited financial assistance and educate these families to our banking systems. Our partner for this was the Vermont State Employees Credit Union (VSECU).
We were able to help them with the limitless forms they need to complete. We were able to give them a certain level of comfort through staff members or interpreters so that they could hear their own language being spoken.
At the end of this one year there were seven households who had temporary social security cards with employment authorization. Five individuals are now employed. There are several individuals who have secured credit cards and 14 households with active checking and savings accounts. They now give of themselves through volunteering time at CVOEO and other agencies. We currently have a champion who made it possible to continue that program a second year through a private donation.
Last year we served 1,603 new Americans. They participated in our Head Start Program, Vermont Tenants Program, at CVOEO Community Action offices, Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program and with our Financial Futures Program in St. Albans, Burlington and Middlebury. Our courses on “Growing Money, Spend Smart and Keys to Credit” were interpreted and many of our materials are now translated.
On Thursday, April 13, we will be showcasing their talents and creativity in a unique Fashion Show called Karibu (Welcome). Models from countries around the world will be wearing ethnic dress created by artisans from their own community. This will take place at Higher Ground starting at 7 p.m. For more information about this event you can go to the Facebook page: www.facebook.com/events/221687128300379.
We work to build better lives whether that is cooking for the needs of those we love or planning for the future of those who join us at the table.

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