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Helena Van Vorst tapped as new director of United Way

MIDDLEBURY — Until recently, Helena Van Vorst was helping the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum find resources to weather stormy financial weather.
She’s now taken the helm of a different nonprofit — the United Way of Addison County — which will rely heavily on her fundraising skills in its mission to help area agencies get the resources they need to assist local folks struggling to make ends meet.
Van Vorst, born and raised in Ferrisburgh, was one of 40 applicants for the top UWAC job vacated in December by Kate McGowan, now the interim director of the Brattleboro-based Center for New Leadership.
United Way of Addison County’s search committee was impressed with the quality of candidates, which included Nancy Luke, UWAC’s manager of development and marketing. Luke had served as interim director prior to Van Vorst’s appointment and helped carry UWAC past its 2017 fundraising goal of $650,000 to help Addison County nonprofits dispensing services ranging from child care to counseling.
“It was a difficult choice, but we’re very excited about Helena coming on board,” UWAC board Chairman John Dale said of the search process.
Van Vorst, 38, said she’s pleased to have landed the job and wants to help the organization build on its current successful programs and fundraising techniques. She likes the idea of leading an organization that helps many people receive a variety of services.
“That’s where my passion rests — making a whole community as healthy as possible,” Van Vorst said. “There are some pressing issues facing Addison County, but the people who live here have all the heart and the strength they need to address those issues. What’s so admirable about the United Way of Addison County is that they’re drawing on those strengths and bringing people together to address those issues.”
Van Vorst joined the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum (LCMM) as its development director back in 2006, helping the organization apply for grants, develop corporate sponsorships and solicit gifts to sustain its budget. She left that job in 2011 to join the Burlington Partnership for a Healthy Community, a nonprofit focused on “reducing the causes and consequences of substance abuse” in the Queen City.
“But I never really left the Maritime Museum; I was always helping them out if they had a tight deadline or any turnover, to help them through any changes,” Van Vorst said with a smile.
The LCMM coaxed her into returning to her old job last April. It turned out to be a brief return, owing to her interest in the UWAC job.
Prior to joining the LCMM, Van Vorst spent two years helping the Vergennes-based Champlain Valley Christian School with a capital campaign.
She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Dordt College in Souix City, Iowa, and a master’s degree in Communications and Leadership Studies from Gonzaga University.
Van Vorst, her husband Matthew and their children Isabelle (age 9) and Hendrick (age 5) live in Vergennes.
In her role with the UWAC, Van Vorst will oversee a staff of six full- and part-time workers. She and Dale gave a lot of credit to that staff for its fundraising efforts. The crew had raised $652,000 — $2,000 clear of the 2017 goal of $650,000 — with still three weeks left to sweeten the pot before the June 30 close of the fiscal year.
And Luke proudly announced a concurrent Legacy Society endowment fund drive has netted $150,000, which is $100,000 more than the original goal. Interest from that fund — which coincides with UWAC’s 50th birthday — will be used to help fill in any fundraising shortfalls in future annual campaigns.
Speaking of the 50th anniversary, UWAC supporters can attend a “Party Like it’s 1968” celebration the agency will hold at Tourterelle Restaurant in New Haven on Thursday, June 14, at 6 p.m. The party will feature 1960s-themed food, music and vintage cars, according to Luke. The $50 admission will help support the United Way.
Reporter John Flowers is at johnf@addisonindependent.com.

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