Private sector businesses are stepping up to help the homeless this year, and Vermonters are more in need than ever due to coronavirus regulations put in place by Republican Gov. Phil Scott.
Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel is one of many local businesses participating in efforts to help people displaced by hardship amid the state’s economic crisis. The company is working with the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity to donate 145 pairs of warm winter boots to the cause.
“We are currently running the largest homeless shelter in the state right now at the Holiday Inn, and there are 148 people there that are homeless,” CVOEO spokesperson Joan White told True North in a recent phone interview.
“We’ve recently received donations from Mutual of America and the Vermont Gas Company, and it was a lot of money. We were able to buy new winter jackets and new winter gloves for everybody at the Holiday Inn,” she said.
Lenny’s came through with the boots, and the Redducs Foundation and the 14th Star Brewery in Saint Albans collaborated together donating winter hats.
The CVOEO has three food shelves with locations in Middlebury, Burlington and St. Albans. White said her organization is grateful for all of the community support.
“We really benefit from strong community partners at CVOEO,” she said. ” … It’s over $10,000 of clothing that we were able to get and get people warm. The other thing is they didn’t get used, they get new clothing. That’s really special. They got new jackets and new gloves and new hats.”
Amanda Cashin, marketing director for Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel, told True North that they work with CVOEO and also the Vermont Food Bank, to which the company donated more than $2,200.
“We are part of the community and this is part of what we’ve always done,” Cashin said.
She described the store’s clientele as blue-collar workers who are out every day dealing with all the mandates and concerns of 2020.
“They are doing the job that needs to get done to keep the state and the communities running,” Cashin said. “Whenever we are able to give back to the community, the owners with money are extremely generous and willing to give back when they can.”
Adam Hall, CVOEO Holiday Inn Housing advocate and resource manager, told True North that “Lenny’s has brought warmth and kindness to people experiencing homelessness during this winter season.”
Vermont Foodbank CEO John Sayles said his organization is thankful for all the assistance it is getting — the organization has nearly doubled the amount of food it is distributing to meet the need.
“We are in the midst of a hunger crisis unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes, and it is going to take all of us working together to ensure that everyone in Vermont has enough food,” he said. “We are deeply grateful for the generosity of partners like Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel in helping ensure that our neighbors have access to the food they need to thrive during these challenging times.”
Dave Gundersen, program director for the CVOEO Homeless Housing Assistance, oversees the homeless population at the Holiday Inn. He said the program has community partners that include South Burlington Police, Community Health Centers of Burlington, VT Cares, and many others to ensure the safety of everyone and to facilitate the goal of finding long-term housing.