Looking forward to summertime

Between all of the raindrops this spring, we’re planning the summer “HANDS in the Dirt” gardening programs. We’ll have gardens and related programs at Canal Street Veterans Housing, Ethan Allen Residence, St. John’s Hall, St. Michael’s College (veterans garden), and Thayer House. And we’re lending support to the programs at Champlain Senior Center, Heineberg Senior Housing, and Wright House. We’re lucky enough to have the help of gardening expert Charlie Nardozzi, Red Wagon Plants, and Vermont Community Garden Network among so many others.

I’d like to clone Chef Robin! She’s such a great teacher. She’ll be back at Thayer House to teach us all about fresh produce in her summer workshop series.

And we’ll be starting a brand new pilot project to get meals delivered to some low-income seniors in Winooski. The Good Food Truck, through the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf, will be preparing and dropping off the meals. Thank you, Emmet and Ren!

New Cooking Program!

We’re thrilled to announce a new program! In collaboration with Chef Robin Burnett, Thayer House, and Vermont Community Garden Network, we’re offering an 8-week cooking and nutrition series called “HANDS in the Kitchen”. Anyone 50 years and older is welcome to join us at NO CHARGE on Tuesdays in March and April. Folks can come to one or all of the classes at 4:30 at Thayer House (1197 North Avenue in Burlington) on March 7, 14, 21, & 28 as well as April 4, 11, 18, & 25. Chef Robin will be emphasizing ways to cook less expensively and eating in a way that’s healthy. For more info, please contact us at handsvt@gmail.com.

Happy New Year!

Our Holiday Dinner on Christmas Day was so heartwarming this year, thanks to many of you. We delivered many more hot meals and giftbags all over Chittenden County than last year—310 meals this year, 225 meals last year. In addition, we provided another 170 giftbags at the Elks Club sitdown dinner. On a tough day for so many people, we were able to bring a little sunshine into their lives. Special thanks to Age Well, Burlington School Food Project, Elks Club, Temple Sinai, and hundreds of businesses and individuals who volunteered time, provided giftbag items, and donated money to help with expenses.

Up next, we’ll be offering cooking/nutrition workshops at a couple of housing sites over the winter. And this spring, we’ll gear up to provide more senior gardening programs, in partnership with Vermont Community Garden Network.

During the month of March, 100 decorated wooden hands will adorn the walls at Penny Cluse Café…with an auction on Thursday, March 30. So, we hope to see you then!

A New Season

Summer, my favorite time of year, flew by in the blink of an eye. September raced along, too, even as I continued to swim as often as possible. Tomorrow is October!

So, I’ll shift gears and gear up. We need to start planning for the Holiday Dinner on Christmas Day, as well as the fundraising effort so that we can provide meals and giftbags for about 350 people and continue our other endeavors.

And even in the midst of winter, we’ll be planning next year’s garden programs through our partnership with Vermont Community Garden Network. “HANDS in the Dirt” was able to provide 5 garden programs at the following locations: Archibald Community Gardens (intergenerational with “Shaun’s House” childcare and seniors), Canal Street Veterans Housing (intergenerational for vets transitioning from homelessness), Ethan Allen Residence (long-term skilled nursing care with some residents with dementia), St. Michael’s College (large garden plots for intergenerational veterans garden), and Thayer Apartments (senior housing where we had a nutrition and cooking program based on what seniors received in their CSA share).

I’d like to take a moment to thank each and every one of you for “lending a hand” by donating gifts, time, and money so that we can continue to expand our reach. Your generosity allows us to include more seniors all the time. Much gratitude!

Hazy, Hot, and Humid

As I write this, another thunderstorm is rolling through. The past few days have been hazy, hot, and humid and I think we all just want to be at the lake…or in the lake…to cool off. But, the gardens need the rain so I’m happy about that.

In partnership with Vermont Community Garden Network, gardening expert Charlie Nardozzi and others, we’ve been able to establish 5 gardening programs this summer. For the third year, we have a gardening program at Ethan Allen Residence, a long-term skilled nursing center. New locations include the Canal Street Veterans Housing in Winooski; a veterans garden at St. Michael’s College in Colchester; Thayer Commons (senior housing) in Burlington; and the Archibald Street Community Garden in Burlington’s Old North End where we’re partnering seniors with a local childcare center.

Connections have been so heartwarming, proving once again that it doesn’t have to be complicated to bring people together to share time and stories. Kids and seniors laugh together as they harvest mint for lemonade, older and younger veterans build a raised garden bed, folks learn how to prepare an unusual vegetable in their CSA share of veggies. Getting our “HANDS in the dirt” continues to grow and we couldn’t be happier about that.

Special thanks to Burlington Parks & Rec, Canal Street Veterans Housing, Cathedral Square, Ethan Allen Residence, Charlie Nardozzi, St. Michael’s College, Shaun’s House, and Vermont Community Garden Network!

Happy Springtime!

Even though it snowed this morning, we’ll be meeting later this week at one of our new garden sites. That always seems so hopeful!

We’re waiting to hear back about some potential funding, but we’ll at least be gardening with seniors (and kids, too, at a couple of the locations) at 4 different sites around Chittenden County. We’re continuing our delightful collaboration with Vermont Community Garden Network and gardening expert Charlie Nardozzi. For the third year, we’ll have a gardening program at Ethan Allen Residence, a long-term nursing center. Our new locations include the COTS Canal Street Veterans Housing in Winooski; a partnership with St. Michael’s College, Camp Johnson, and the Veterans Administration; and the Archibald Street Community Garden where we’ll be gardening with seniors and a local childcare center. We’re paying special attention to older veterans and older New Americans.

It will be so nice to see lots of green again, be outside in the sunshine, and have more folks engaging with gardening.

Here are some of the kids who will be joining us at the Archibald Street gardens.

HANDS kids at Archibald gardens

A New Year Begins

Happy New Year! We were thrilled that we were able to deliver 210 meals and 400 giftbags this holiday season. Thanks so much to all of you who donated time, talent, goodies, and financial contributions to make it all happen.

Now, with much help from Holly Cluse, we’re planning “A Show of HANDS” which will showcase 100 small wooden hands on the walls at Penny Cluse Café during the month of March. There will be a silent auction there on Thursday, April 2 from 5:30-7:30 p.m. so we hope that you can join us then. And, if you’d like to decorate a hand, please be in touch with Holly at hollycluse@gmail.com and you’ll get all of the details. Thank you!

Gratitude

Gratitude is such a sweet emotion in its declaration. Today highlighted both sides of thankfulness. First, I received a call from an older Vermonter who wanted to reserve a meal delivery on Christmas Day. She thanked us profusely for providing such a nice option. Second, I found out that we’ll be having live music provided by Tim Searles at our volunteer giftwrapping event. Sweet! From the bottom of my heart, I thank all of the folks who come together to make this tiny non-profit such a special endeavor. We’re all just trying to make our little corner of the world a bit nicer. Happy Holidays!

Counting Blessings

It’s snowing at the moment…I never seem quite ready for winter, but it comes along anyways.

With Thanksgiving next week, I just wanted to pause to count my blessings. Everything I do has even greater reach because of so many others, those in organizations, businesses, and as individuals. Thank you to each and every one of you who volunteer time, money, and goods to help have HANDS reach our goal of filling some gaps in getting food to older Vermonters.

May you be surrounded by family and friends as you celebrate the holiday season.

It’s Autumn Already

After a glorious autumn, we’re gearing up for the holiday season. As part of a huge community effort, we’ll be providing the 10th Annual Holiday Dinner for Seniors—both a delivered meal and sitdown dinner, complete with giftbags, on Christmas Day throughout Chittenden County. The Burlington School Food Project, Champlain Valley Agency on Aging, Elks Lodge, Temple Sinai, and many others come together to make the holiday season sweeter for almost 300 older Vermonters.

This summer, we were happy to partner with the Vermont Community Garden Network and the New England Grassroots Environment Fund to provide new gardens and an 8-week educational program at Ethan Allen Residence, a nursing center. It was very satisfying as Maggie Callahan enticed folks to come on out into the sunshine, play in the dirt, have healthy snacks, and chat with each other.

If we can raise enough money, we’ll be able to fund a couple of senior centers as they try to continue providing meals for older Vermonters. That would be great!

Looking ahead to March, Penny Cluse Café will host our annual “Show of HANDS”, decorated wooden hands that adorn the walls there and are then purchased through a silent auction. Holly Cluse, Charles Reeves, and the staff there are so generous and enthusiastic.

So, there’s lots going on as we launch our annual fundraising efforts, plan the holiday season, and begin to pass out the wooden hands for artistic inspiration. Thanks to everyone who will help along the way!