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A Letter from Paul Habersang, Executive Director of Rock Point Commons

With the COVID-19 pandemic beginning to recede across the United States and especially here in Vermont, we on Rock Point are grateful that we are beginning to return to some semblance of normalcy. That said, even though we may be returning to what feels like the “new normal,” so much has changed and that includes day to day life on Rock Point. I feel it is important to let everyone know what has changed on Rock Point and how we are trying to serve our local Vermont communities in new and different ways.

As you may recall, with the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, all reservations for events and planned functions were literally cancelled almost overnight. By March of 2020, our books were wiped clean, but new opportunities to serve the community surfaced in a variety of different ways. The Howard Center of Burlington contacted us and inquired about housing several of their clients who needed a safe place to stay. We opened our doors. Soon after, Anew Place inquired about using Rock Point’s commercial kitchen to make meals for folks experiencing homelessness. Again, we opened our doors. Over the course of four months, Anew Place produced thousands of meals that were delivered to folks housed on North Beach. When summer camp had to be cancelled because of the pandemic, we repurposed and opened our camp cabins, so that Vermont families could experience a “staycation” right here on Rock Point. That experiment was a surprising and huge success. At a time of such uncertainty, it felt great to welcome families from all across Vermont to Rock Point.

Then, this past September right after Burlington schools were back in session, Burlington High School was forced to evacuate the building due to a high level of PCB’s discovered in the building. Within a day, I received a phone call from Bobby Riley, Principal of BHS’s alternative education program known as “OnTop.” Bobby told me that if the youth in this program had to endure remote ZOOM learning, he would “lose them for sure.” Another opportunity for Rock Point to respond and serve the community was handed right to us. What was supposed to be a temporary home for “OnTop” has turned into a longer-term relationship that extended through this academic year and will continue throughout the next academic year as well. As Bobby Riley has frequently mentioned, the therapeutic healing that Rock Point’s environment provides has made a significantly positive impact on the youth enrolled in this important program. I believe we can all feel good about that.

Earlier this year and in collaboration with Bishop Shannon and the Rock Point Board, the difficult decision to again cancel Rock Point Camp was regretfully made. We know how disappointing that must have been to so many people. However, through a partnership with the Burlington YMCA, soon day campers from greater Burlington will be attending two day camps that will be operating on Rock Point. “Camp Ignite” is a youth day camp for girls which includes a STEM curriculum focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics. “Camp Propel” is a youth co-ed day camp that focuses on outdoors and the stewardship of the earth. While it was disappointing to again cancel Rock Point Camp this summer, I am grateful for the relationship with the Burlington YMCA and the fact that we are able to offer a diverse group of youth a day camp experience on Rock Point.

And finally, we have again opened our repurposed camp cabins to Vermont families who want to “staycation” on Rock Point. Our first guests checked in last week and we are just about booked for the summer. One other way in which we are also supporting our community is by providing living space to four seminarians who are working internships at the University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington. All four of these seminarians are participating in a chaplaincy internship known as CPE or Clinical Pastoral Education. The CPE internship is mandatory for all persons in the ordination process, and believe me, it is a life changing experience. All four seminarians and the CPE leadership at the UVM Medical Center appreciate the fact that Rock Point is providing affordable housing for these interns throughout the course of the summer.

I wanted to tell you these stories, so that you are aware how Rock Point has navigated the pandemic, while pivoting to serve our community in a variety of different ways. To put it mildly, the past year and a half has been a game changer. And because of all these opportunities and changes, the Rock Point Board made the decision to hire a professional consultant to help us develop a strategic plan that will insure Rock Point’s sustainability now and into the future. We were fortunate that the diocesan Grants and Loans Committee approved a grant for us to hire Priscilla Rose, who is a professional consultant with years of proven experience. Priscilla is also the consultant for Mission Farm, Killington, another diocesan entity. We on Rock Point feel confident about choosing Priscilla to help guide us into the future, because she already understands our diocesan culture and recognizes the financial challenges we are facing. Priscilla has committed to completing the strategic planning process by late October of this year and we will share our plan with the wider diocese.

We wanted you, our diocesan family, to know what is happening on Rock Point. From my perspective, it is important to keep you informed about what is happening now and what the future may look like, as we dive into the development of a strategic plan. Over the past year and a half, I have come to appreciate just how special Rock Point is to so many people. On the wall in my office are numerous black and white framed photos that tell the story of how Rock Point has changed lives, whether it has been through attending Rock Point School, Rock Point Camp, or by the many years of gatherings with family and friends. Rock Point will always be a very special place to so many people, and as we move into the future, Rock Point’s mission and ministry will always involve transforming lives for the better in this beautiful sanctuary that’s located in the heart of Burlington. I promise to keep you informed as we move ahead.

Thanks for your support and please have a great summer, everyone.

Paul Habersang
Executive Director
Rock Point Commons

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