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By the Way for April 27, 2023

The Vermont judiciary desperately needs volunteers to serve as guardians ad litem (GALs), people who represent the best interests of children in court proceedings. When the Department for Children & Families seeks to take a child into its custody, Vermont law requires the court to appoint a GAL — a special advocate who protects the child in juvenile court cases that involve allegations of abuse or neglect. The GAL works closely with the child’s attorney, meets with the child regularly, and gathers information from people involved in the child’s life to understand their needs. The GAL’s goal is to ensure the child has a safe, stable and permanent home as quickly as possible. GALs come from all walks of life, and no prior experience or education is required. Successful applicants must be compassionate, have a flexible schedule, pass a background check and have reliable transportation and internet access. All GALs must complete 32 hours of training and a mentorship with an experienced GAL prior to being appointed to their own cases. For more information, visit VermontJudiciary.org/GAL, email [email protected], or call 1-800-622-6359. Training begins on May 8.

As part of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church’s adult education programming, Shalom Goldman, Professor of Religion at Middlebury College, will speak at the church on Sunday, May 7, beginning at 11:45 a.m., on the role of the prophet in Hebrew Scripture — with a special focus on Daniel. His talk will be free and open to the public.

Addison County’s jobless rate in March was 2.3% — a nice decline from the 2.9% rate our area recorded in February, according to data from the Vermont Department of Labor (DOL). The Middlebury area had a workforce of 18,660 in March, of which 431 were searching for jobs, according to the DOL. By comparison, the county recorded an unemployment rate of 2.5% during March of 2022. Meanwhile, Vermont’s unemployment rate declined from 2.8% in February, to 2.7% percent in March. The comparable United States rate in March was 3.5%, a decrease of one-tenth of one percent from the revised February estimate. The number of employed Vermonters increased by 1,386 in March and the number of jobless folks decreased by 609, DOL reported.

While news was good on the labor front in March, the same couldn’t be said about state revenues. Revenue collections in March revealed Vermont’s General Fund, Transportation Fund, and Education Fund receipts were a combined $241.6 million, or 0.3% below monthly consensus expectations. General Fund revenues collected in March was $164 million — $700K less than the target. Education Fund revenues were $1.6 million below the $54.1 million monthly consensus target. Transportation Fund revenuers were essentially “on target,” bringing in $25 million and beating expectations by around $100,000. Still, looking at cumulative results through the third quarter of fiscal 2023, combined revenues across all three funds were 6.3% above the consensus target set by Vermont’s Emergency Board last July.

Average gasoline prices in Vermont rose 8.2 cents per gallon in the last week, averaging $3.56 now, according to GasBuddy’s survey of 626 Vermont stations. Prices in Vermont are 19.2 cents higher than a month ago and 56.3 cents lower than a year ago. According to GasBuddy, the cheapest gas in Vermont was $3.35 this week; the most expensive was $3.69. The national average is $3.64.

Samuel Luis, a Whiting teen, can really talk turkey. The youth took second place in the 14- to 18-year-olds category, at the 17th annual Bart Jacob Memorial Youth Turkey Calling Contest, held April 15 in Castleton. The contest attracted 21 competitors, including several 4-H’ers. Colby Butler of Dorset edged Luis for bragging rights in the 14-18 group. The Oxbow Mountain 4-H Club of Pawlet sponsored the event in collaboration with the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department at the Kehoe Conservation Camp in Castleton. Anyone 18 and younger was eligible to participate, with each age group required to perform a specific set of calls, using either a store-bought or handmade turkey call. The first-place winner in each of the four age categories received a turkey decoy, courtesy of Vermont Field Sports in Middlebury. They also received custom knives, donated by Joel Flewelling of Rutland. Fish & Wildlife provided Bone Collector turkey calls for the second-place finishers, while third place received shot gun ammunition donated by John Butler of Dorset.

For those who subscribe to meditation to relax and find inner peace, here’s some good news. The folks at “Gather” — the so-called “community living room” at 48 Merchants Row in downtown Middlebury — are holding daily Mindfulness Meditation sessions each week from noon to 12:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday. The sessions are open to all — including those with no previous meditation experience, according to organizers. All of Gather’s amenities, including refreshments and on-site programs, are offered for free, courtesy of the non-profit Bread Loaf Mountain Zen Community of Cornwall. More information is at gatheronthegreen.org.

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