I keep two winter coats in my office year-round now: a man’s and a woman’s coat. The “why” takes me back to last winter when Jonathan came into the office to ask for help. I’ve known Jonathan for five years. I’ve seen him in the worst of times under the influence of drugs and alcohol with no place to lay his head for the night and little hope for the present. I’ve known him in times when he was working a plan for safety and security. At this visit he had spent a very short time in jail and just needed a bus ticket home.

Along the way he lost his coat, gloves, wallet and phone. He didn’t know where, but he was here now and though I had $25 to give, he only wanted $4.

I didn’t have a coat to share and right there and then I promised myself that wasn’t going to happen again.

Doing the right thing at the right time for the right reason is a foundational platform for bridging gaps and building futures. My relationship with Jonathan is built on mutual trust. Trust that we both want the best in life for each other.

“Always recognize that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as means to your end,” philosopher Immanuel Kant said.

The highest number of households served by Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity is the category of households with incomes of 50% of the Federal Poverty level, or $12,874 a year for a family of four. That, with the number of households who had no reported income (669 households), emphasize the continued need for crisis services of housing, food and fuel.

Jonathan is not a number to me.

I know his sincerity and I know his struggle. We don’t stay in crisis. CVOEO’s services bring assistance to family stability with Weatherization, Head Start, Vermont Tenants, the Mobile Home Program and the Fair Housing Project.

The out-of-poverty programs of workforce development found in Community Kitchen Academy and the Financial Futures Program testify of the invested hope CVOEO has for accomplishing our vision of bridging gaps and building futures.

Last year CVOEO served 23,158 people. Over 4,453 of them were children under the age of 13, 2,011 were people 65 years of age or older, 1,341 were homeless, 3,418 were races other than Caucasian, and 2,486 had post-secondary education.

In our everyday work to bridge gaps and build futures, it is gratifying to see our board give so generously of their time and themselves to make certain that we succeed. There is a proverb that says “Two is better than one because there is better return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up.”

Jan F. Demers is Executive Director of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity. 862-2771 ext. 740. jdemers@cvoeo.org.

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