A Seedling To A Tree: A Decade of Amazing Growth

July 8, 2024 0 Comments

July 6, 2024

Dear CVRAN Community,

Big News: Strategic planning sessions lead CVRAN to look for an executive director, more strong leaders and board members, and plans to launch a fundraising campaign to help it happen!

Drawing of silver maple seedling and seeds. Asa Gray's 1887 "Elements of Botany".
Silver maple seedling and seeds. Asa Gray’s 1887 “Elements of Botany”. Public Domain.

How did a little CVRAN seedling, based solely on volunteers and dedication, grow into such a robust tree? How did we reach this stage of needing more structure and a professional at the top? Today our beloved CVRAN is on the cusp of being 10 years old. We began as a little seedling in 2015, as a dream and a discussion in church basements, and we have been growing ever since. Some of those early founders are still around and still contributing their heart and any spare hour of time, but the effort has gone beyond what can be provided even by prodigious volunteer commitment. Read on for highlights of this decade of growth and marvel at what has been created, or even think where you might fit in! One full-time professional will not begin to fill the many slots of our organization. Eager volunteers are essential to our mission of service.

In 2016 CVRAN incorporated, but ran into presidential politics. With no new refugees being allowed into the country, our services were limited to giving tours of the state capitol to refugees already settled elsewhere or tutoring migrant workers. We were a small group without much structure and without many funds. While there was a lot of enthusiasm, we wished we could do more. Our growth felt a bit stymied and our roots “pot-bound” with no room to grow.

By 2018, though, we had established strong roots. The infrastructure was growing. We had our first brochure, a Facebook page, a website, a banner, as well as an active board and an executive team. We worked on educating the community with a panel “Borders and Walls” and a play reading “Que Noche Buena”.

Not until 2019 could we celebrate the arrival of our first family of 4 asylum-seekers. During a growth spurt, we hosted more panels, joined in advocacy for Montpelier as a sanctuary city and for fair and impartial policing. We became one of the founders of a Vermont/New Hampshire network of eight asylum assistance organizations.

In 2021, our little sapling again shot up. We formally took on one Afghan family of 9, and assisted five other Afghan families that came to Montpelier. We welcomed 4 new asylum seekers. The March Marathon was created as our major fundraiser. Even with the pandemic restrictions of this period, we got a lot of work done using Zoom meetings and e-votes. The number of active committees grew.

Tree rings. Image: Marek Studzinski, Unsplash.com.
Image: Marek Studzinski, Unsplash.com.

Activity in 2023 put down an amazingly wide tree ring. Money was raised for the purchase of a house for refugees or asylum seekers in Montpelier. The neighborhood and an angel investor were among those pitching in. An informational meeting about CVRAN pulled in 72 people. The website was updated and re-launched. We hired our first part-time employee, created 3 new committees, purchased a van, and participated in a state employment support grant. Those getting direct wrap-around supports hit a high of 29, plus many others were getting lesser help. A “second-wave” of Afghan families has arrived on their own, friends and family of the first Afghans who heard how wonderful it is to live in this city. The first families and other community members have helped these new people along.

How is our CVRAN tree growing this year in 2024? Amazing gains have been made in housing: 2 more buildings will allow affordable housing for CVRAN folk in collaboration with Downstreet and supported in part by funding from the Vermont Housing Conservation Board. One space is for a large family and soon another building will be ready with 4 smaller units for individuals or families. Meanwhile more new neighbors have arrived, including a new Afghan family receiving wrap-around services and a total of 24 asylum seekers being served through volunteer teams, assisted by 2 part-time employees. Our first former asylum-seeker has joined the CVRAN board. 165 migrant workers were served at the Mobile Mexican Consulate, and the idea of a New American Symposium bore fruit at the Vermont Law School in June, with over 400 attending in person or on line. And so far, we are only halfway through this year!

Group of maple trees in a Central Vermont forest community, Image: Angela Shambaugh
Group of maple trees in a Central Vermont forest community, Image: Angela Shambaugh

What will be happening next? The CVRAN board and an array of community members have been meeting to work on strategic planning for the future. How will our now robust CVRAN tree continue to adapt and thrive? How will we best serve our mission of welcoming others to Central Vermont? You see the prescription at the top of this page! Join us to keep the tree healthy and strong, spreading its shade, so we can welcome newcomers, partner with them, and help them weave the future they choose. As national politics continue to make immigration policy unpredictable, we need to be especially focused and resolute in helping those looking for a new home free from persecution and danger.

Rachel Walker Cogbill