By Brett Yates
New Chittenden resident Nicole Vachon Hanlon has taken the reins at Barstow Helping Hands, a club that connects students at the local pre-K-8 school to charitable endeavors and community involvement. On Oct. 25, she visited the Chittenden Select Board to solicit ideas for new projects for the kids to take on.
Under the leadership of a Barstow Memorial School staff member who has since taken a job elsewhere, Barstow Helping Hands previously sold handmade crafts to support the Rutland Humane Society and collected donations of winter clothing on behalf of Rutland’s Open Door Mission, a homeless shelter.
Vachon Hanlon, a parent, took over after moving to Chittenden with her husband, the area’s new fish hatchery manager for the U.S. Fish and WildlifeService.
“We’re both really involved in environmental education and awareness,” Vachon Hanlon explained. “My slant is more service projects that give, [the children] more ownership and connection to the earth, but I’m really open to a lot of other things as well.”
Students meet twice a month. In October, Vachon Hanlon has helped them clean up the Barstow Memorial garden and collect seeds from its sunflowers and other plants, which will they’ll store and replant in the future. Next month, the kids will be making cookies and cards for local seniors, facilitating “inter-gen relationship building,” as Vachon Hanlon put it.
The group also has plans for an “adopt-a-spot” program, where students will beautify various places around town.
They’ll take photos of their progress until spring, when they’ll present posters highlighting the fruits of their labor. Responding to a reported childcare shortage in town, Vachon Hanlon also hopes to offer a babysitting training and safety course in November or December.
Barstow Helping Hands would like to find even more ways to help.
Vachon Hanlon recommended passing on proposals to David St. Germain, the principal at Barstow Memorial School. The school’s phone number is 802-773-3763.