On Friday, February 5, a team from St. James, Woodstock, delivered a truckload of household and personal care items to the Colchester office of the Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program (VRRP). This capped a two-month long process of publicity and the collection and sorting of hundreds of donations to help newly arrived refugees to settle in Vermont. In addition to the contents of the 20-foot U-Haul, area residents gave at least $500 directly.
VRRP helps 350 people a year to find a new life In the Burlington area, within easy range of the agency’s many support services, and the many other families who have come through VRRP’s doors. In early January, a Woodstock-area interfaith group, led by St. James, organized a screening of the documentary Welcome to Vermont: Four Stories of Resettled Identities. Screened at the Woodstock Town Hall, with the support of Woodstock’s Pentangle Arts Center, the film drew over 100 viewers, kicking off the effort to encourage people to donate household goods and to make cash donations to VRRP. Following the movie, Laurie Stavrand, VRRP’s Community Partnership Coordinator, and UmeshAcharya, a UVM student originally from Bhutan, spoke and answered questions. Another screening of the film will be scheduled soon.
St. James leaders worked with members of the North Universalist Chapel Society, the Taftsville Mennonite Church, Congregation Shir Shalom and the Our Lady of the Snows Roman Catholic Church, as well as receiving donations from a cross-section of Woodstock and Upper Valley residents.
The Woodstock group will meet soon to review the experience of these past weeks, and make plans for further projects to support refugees. For more information, go to the project’s blog: projectwelcomewoodstockvt.blogspot.com
– The Rev. Norman MacLeod, Rector, St. James, Woodstock