Vermont Community Garden Network will take over “HANDS in the Dirt”

After many years of working together, Vermont Community Garden Network (VCGN) will be taking over our “HANDS in the Dirt” program. With our mutual support of gardens and related programming at senior housing, long-term nursing centers, and senior centers, VCGN is well-positioned to continue to provide development and activities.

We are thrilled that VCGN will carry on our mission. They have the organizational capacity and an excellent staff to keep growing. Thank you, VCGN!

Here’s a photo of Annette, so happy to finally have her own garden.

18th Annual Holiday Dinner

The planning has begun! Our best-on-the-planet “A-Team” of Doug Davis, Mitzy Foy, Tina and Tim Gibbo, Jess Hyman, Mark Larson, Amy Livingston, Chris Moldovan, Tim Palmer, Charles Reeves, Linda Retchin, Jeff Solomon, and Mara Welton are managing the Christmas Day delivery of a hot meal and giftbag to folks 50 or older. We’re planning on 1,000 deliveries all over the county again this year.

Age Well, Burlington School Food Project, Elks Lodge, Penny Cluse Café, and Temple Sinai lend their time and talent toward making the magic happen. Many volunteers and businesses provide people power and donations. We just couldn’t do it without all of you!

From November 29 until December 17, Age Well will be taking reservations from anyone who would like either a ham dinner or vegetarian lasagna delivered. We can also provide meals for other family members, but the seniors we serve typically live alone. Please call Age Well at 865-0360 to make a reservation.

We’d LOVE your support! We’ll need your help with giftbag items, giftwrapping, doing pick-ups and drop-offs, stuffing envelopes, and/or making a financial donation to offset the cost of our endeavor. Please visit for more info on ways you can lend a hand. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Summer’s Winding Down

My favorite month is August. I love the heat, swimming in the lake, beach picnics, and toes in the sand. I’ve always wished that it could last longer.

But, here we are at the end of the summer. We’ve been fortunate enough to have some in-person workshops for both “HANDS in the Dirt” and “HANDS in the Kitchen”, while keeping our eye on COVID. Gardening expert Charlie Nardozzi shared his advice at both Heineberg Community Senior Center and CORE Adult Center. Chef Robin did a workshop at Whitcomb Woods and hopes to be back there soon. Otherwise, they each created wonderful online presentations throughout the year—those can be found right here on our website.

Vermont Community Garden Network is offering workshops at the CORE Adult Center on September 8, September 22, and October 6.

Red Wagon Plants donated lots of gorgeous veggies this spring so that many of our garden sites could grow some food…even if they couldn’t have us there in-person. Gardens needed extra watering this summer, but they look great.

Age Well, Burlington Parks Recreation & Waterfront, and Heineberg Community Senior Center pooled resources to purchase a 12-passenger and 2-wheelchair capacity van. That will help tremendously so that seniors can both shop for groceries as well as take some fun trips.

Suddenly, we’ll be gearing up again for our Holiday Dinner. We delivered 1,000 meals and giftbags last year and expect a similar number again. You’ll be able to lend a hand in many different ways so please stay tuned!

Very special thanks to AARP Vermont, Age Well, City Market, Gardeners Supply, Hannaford, Red Wagon Plants, and Vermont Community Garden Network for their support as well as all of you who have donated money to keep our programs going. Thank you and enjoy the rest of August!

Charlie at CORE Adult Center

Honoring Juneteenth

On June 19, 1865, enslaved people in Galveston, Texas finally received word that President Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Juneteenth, as the day has become known, represents freedom and hope for African Americans.

HANDS acknowledges that we all need to continue to work for equity among people regardless of race, color, or ethnic background.

Burlington will be celebrating Juneteenth. Please find the schedule of events at

As Jo Vill said recently on StoryCorps, “If you sow love, you get love back.” It’s that simple.

Thanks for “Clapping Your HANDS”!

I would like to thank so many people and businesses who helped to make our “Clap Your HANDS” online concert and auction so successful. First, our organizing committee included Holly Cluse, Carina Driscoll, and Jodi Whalen…all remarkable women who donated countless hours toward lining up auction items, posting online through social media and the auction site, marketing, soliciting donations, and every other detail in-between. Second, thanks to Dwight & Nicole, Kat Wright, and Brett Hughes for donating their time for our concert. Third, we could never have done all of the production work without Luke Awtry. Fourth, thank you to musicians and other local personalities who donated their time for personalized video greeting that bidders fought over. Fifth, thank you to everyone who donated items for the auction. Sixth, thank you to very single one of you who checked out the auction and then bid on items.

We raised over $10,000 and you helped! That allows us to fund some of our “HANDS in the Dirt” gardening programs this summer at long-term nursing centers, senior centers, and senior housing as well as our “Support Buddies” program that gets groceries and meals to seniors. Thank you so much!

Standing with our Asian-American Community

HANDS stands with our Asian and Asian-American communities across the country. We share in the sorrow, grief, and anger of insult, injury, and lives needlessly lost.

Racism, hate, and misogyny are unfortunate themes and we condemn people’s actions when they use language and behavior that insults or injures another person based on their race or ethnic background.

HANDS serves seniors in Chittenden County. The Asian and Asian-American community is strong and vibrant here. There are Asian-owned grocery stores, restaurants, and other businesses. We all live in neighborhoods together, have our children in schools together, laugh together and grieve together.

We stand beside you as you grieve for families and friends in Atlanta. We stand beside you as your communities witness unspeakable racism due to COVID. And we ask others to do the same.

Please “Clap Your HANDS” With Us!

“Clap Your HANDS” showcases a virtual benefit concert by Dwight & Nicole and Kat Wright & Brett Hughes on Sunday, April 4, at 7:00pm, followed by a week long music-themed online auction. Proceeds will benefit our “Support Buddies” program which we created last March, in partnership with Heineberg Community Senior Center, to provide food and resources to seniors isolated at home during COVID. Please join us!

The online auction includes an autographed Phish poster, dance party with Dan Cahill aka DJ Brunch, Matthew Thorsen photographs, and artwork by Shepard Fairey among many other items. Cameo personalized video greetings will also be offered by A2VT, Darlingside’s Auyon Mukharji, Rusty Dewees, Myra Flynn, Bobby Hackney, Chad Hollister, Brett Hughes, Dr. Mark Levine, Charlie Nardozzi, Robert Resnik, and Lowell Thompson among others.

The cost of the concert is $10. Tickets can be purchased at The free online auction will be at from April 4-11. Please check our “Home Page” for more info. Very special thanks to August First, Luke Awtry, Holly Cluse, Carina Driscoll, Fountain Fund, Lucky Next Door, Jodi Whalen, and all of the people and businesses who have donated time and/or items. We couldn’t do it without you!

How to Handle Isolation During COVID

7 Ways for Seniors to Handle Isolation During COVID

As the weather warms and the ground thaws, the pandemic continues to stretch on. But as the long winter yields to spring, the vaccination distribution begins to reach a broader population, and the end, we’re hopeful, is near. As we await the guidelines that will minimize 6 feet to none, we must still abide by social distancing. As such, seniors are still bearing the emotional and physical effects of the pandemic. The great news? There are ways for seniors to handle isolation during COVID that can inspire connection and motivate physical movement.

Early in the pandemic, seniors were recognized as a highly vulnerable population to COVID-19. According to Mass General, “Physical distancing has been the critical measure in the prevention and spread of infection within this age group.” That significant time separated from loved ones can have an impact on mental health. Seniors can be supported in a myriad of ways, padding the remainder of the pandemic with a plush reminder that they’re connected to loved ones and the world around them.

Engage in a new skill

Seniors isolated at home may lose a sense of routine or purpose. To veer away from a sense of loneliness, try engaging in a new skill. Megan Humphrey, Executive Director of HANDS, suggests painting, learning a new instrument, joining an online group, writing and knitting. A new activity may inspire a newfound motivation, making each new day an adventure in its own right.

Utilize technology for virtual visits

“Virtual visits provide connection,” Megan says. While chatting on the phone can be a source of connecting, seeing someone over platforms like Zoom allow a “greater connection”. Recognizing faces and facial expressions helps mimic an in-person visit, which could provide much needed comfort when the world feels as if it’s shut off.

Connect with a penpal or support buddy

If writing a letter has become a new found hobby, explore the world through snail mail! Anticipating a letter could be an exciting addition to each day. Plus, scripting a letter could stimulate the brain.

In a response to COVID in March 2020, HANDS partnered with Heineberg Community Senior Center to create “Support Buddies”. Volunteers were matched with isolated seniors and friendships blossomed. “Volunteers checked in periodically with seniors and that really helped. Some deep friendships have blossomed and that’s so heartwarming,” Megan shares. Finding a buddy, whether zip codes away or within the same county lines, allows seniors to socialize without being put at risk.

Stay physically active

While walks around the block may be limited to ensure community and personal safety, physical activity doesn’t have to fall victim to the pandemic. Virtual group classes have proven to reduce loneliness. A study conducted by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center concluded that “Seniors who joined group exercise classes experienced decreased loneliness and social isolation.” Whether exercise classes are done via a YouTube class or a local gym, a few light reps of seated bicep curls.

Take care of a plant

Studies suggest that nurturing relieves feelings of social isolation. If a pet isn’t present in the household, consider a houseplant. Living, and in need of food, light and maybe some conversation, plants aren’t furry but they require attention to grow. As the snow melts to reveal the soil once again, nurturing a house plant can expand to an entire garden. HANDS’s “HANDS in the Dirt” program offers workshops like “Growing Culinary Herbs Indoors” and “Companion Planting”.

Arrange a book club

Providing structure to a virtual visit emphasizes connection. Virtually offered, it’s an opportunity to forge new friendships. Arranged with family, it’s an opportunity to spend cherished time with loved ones. Benefits of book clubs include conversations, candid and guided. Plus, you’ll get to dive into the pages of new worlds.

Get creative in the kitchen

It’s always an opportune time to pick up a new cooking technique and expand your knowledge of nutrition. “HANDS in the Kitchen” is a program that offers insights into building fresher meals with local ingredients, and how to easily prep for meals. It’s time spent connecting in the kitchen, and results in indulging in colorful, plentiful, independently crafted meals.


Since the beginning of COVID, HANDS has helped provide services for over 1,750 seniors in the greater Burlington, Vermont area. “We don’t do anything alone,” Megan says. “Each program has financial sponsors, community support and volunteer help.” And for that, HANDS is incredibly grateful to be able to continue providing support in our community and beyond.

—Brittany Bennett

Vaccination Information

Almost 50,000 people have gotten COVID in Vermont. We have lost 203 residents and our hearts go out to their family and friends. The United States has now passed the sad and heartbreaking number of 500,000 deaths.

Because most of the deaths from COVID have occurred in older adults, Vermont has made the decision to vaccinate residents by age grouping. Beginning March 1, anyone 65 years or older can get a vaccination (anyone older than that is already eligible). You may register online at or by calling 855-722-7878.

Even if you are not in the currently eligible age group, you are encouraged to go ahead and set up your account online.

You may also receive a vaccination at Walgreens. First, you’ll need to create an account at, fill out a short eligibility screening, and they’ll look for available appointments in your area.

In Vermont, 13% to 20% of the population has been vaccinated, depending on the town. Almost 95,000 people have received either the first or both vaccinations, to date.

Let’s stay vigilant by continuing to wear masks and stay physically apart. Those guidelines and getting vaccinated as soon as possible will help tremendously. Though we’re all weary, it’s the only way we’ll get to the other side of this. Thanks for taking care of each other!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year! We hope that you had a lovely holiday season, despite the limitations of COVID. HANDS, with the help of hundreds of volunteers, businesses, and donors was so pleased to deliver over 1,000 hot meals and giftbags on Christmas Day all over the county.

Almost 200 volunteers donated 700 hours of their time during the holiday season. Supporters purchased items for giftbags, wrapped presents, picked up and dropped off, prepared the meal, made financial donations, organized volunteers, and so much more.
Very special thanks to “A Team” that includes Jordan Anthony, Holly Cluse, Doug Davis and his family, Mitzy Foy and her family, Tina & Tim Gibbo, Jess Hyman & Sean Melinn, Mark Larson & Amy Livingston, Chris Moldovan, Tim Palmer, Charles Reeves, Jeff Solomon & Linda Retchin, and Mara & Spencer Welton. We couldn’t have done it without their guidance, logistics planning during COVID, volunteer management, food prep, and all of the details in-between. We partnered with Age Well, Burlington School Food Project, Penny Cluse Café, and Temple Sinai to make the magic happen.
One senior said “I’m just calling to tell you how wonderful you made my Christmas. I’m having to isolate and I can’t visit with my children so this meant the world to me.” It shows that each of us DOES make a difference, even if it’s a small gesture. With much gratitude, thanks to each of you for “lending a hand”.
The Holiday Dinner was such a sweet way to end the year. May the new year ahead bring health and better times to all of us!

Charlie Nardozzi, delivering to Loriman & Ellen Brigham

Jackie, putting giftbags in a volunteer driver’s car

Doug Davis, Burlington School Food Project, packaging meals