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Newport Office Is Closed, But Services Remain

April 3, 2013

The following story is republished here courtesy of the Chronicle,

by Bethany M. Dunbar

NEWPORT — The Vermont Center for Independent Living (VCIL) has closed its Newport office, as of April 1.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that services will continue as they have, for the most part, except local meetings will have to be set up ahead of time. The Area Agency on Agency and Northeast Kingdom Community Action have both offered to provide office space for meetings when needed.

Rever Kennedy, who is the peer counselor for Orleans, Caledonia and Essex counties, will continue in that position. The phone numbers and e-mail addresses will be the same.

Ms. Kennedy will get the calls at her home and work from an office space set up in the corner of a room there.

The move will save VCIL money in rent. It’s also personally convenient for Ms. Kennedy, who is the primary caregiver for her 85-year-old mother who lives with her.

Ms. Kennedy’s mother does not need her to be at her side all the time, but she is more comfortable when her daughter is nearby.

Sarah Launderville, executive director of VCIL, said she is sad to make the announcement.

“I really wanted a real space in the Northeast Kingdom.”

But VCIL is having some budget issues and had to make the change. Ms. Launderville said if things go as expected right now with sequestration, VCIL stands to lose $100,000 starting October 1.

VCIL’s main office is in Montpelier, and it still has branch offices in Bennington, Brattleboro, Rutland, and Burlington.

Ms. Kennedy said she is confident she can make her home office work. In fact, she said, she rarely had people stopping in at her work office. Most of her work is done on the telephone or by visits that she makes to people’s homes.

VCIL’s mission is to help people with disabilities stay in their homes, find legal support, and provide practical help with finding grants for a ramp, for example.

Ms. Kennedy has been doing this work since 2009. Her work is 30 hours a week, and she currently has 15 or 20 clients. Often two or three take up most of her time as they get set up with what they need, and later they might not need as much time.

“People often come to VCIL because they want a specific thing,” she said. “I like to do a home visit,” she said. Sometimes it turns out she discovers other ways VCIL can help.

She said the work is interesting and can be quite challenging. The culture of the Northeast Kingdom is such that people are hardy, independent, and proud. Many don’t want to ask for any help from anyone but a family member or neighbor, especially if the one who needs help is an older person.

Others don’t even know VCIL exists or what it can do to help with some basic needs or home infrastructure.

Beyond the basics, VCIL is an advocate for individuals and for policy and law changes.

“VCIL is there to support you towards achieving independence — whether you want to move out of a nursing home and back into the community, manage attendant care, find a job, or advocate for your rights,” says a VCIL brochure.

Among other things, VCIL can help with training for deaf people, disabled farmers who need special equipment, and youth with disabilities who are graduating from high school and starting into life on their own.

For Ms. Kennedy this job is the latest stop on a career path that has led through the corporate world in the insurance business, modeling, gemology, and an internship as a paralegal in a public defender’s office. She has also worked with Sara Gregoire on a program called Choices, teaching basic job skills to adults trying to re-enter the workforce after a time out of it — such as how to present yourself in a job interview.

“I can coordinate anything,” Ms. Kennedy said with a laugh. Her father was in the military, which meant lots of travel as a child. She said she learned how to adapt to new situations at a young age. As an adult she traveled to Italy, where she worked for a year, and she has lived and worked in Los Angeles, Michigan and Connecticut before winding up in Vermont.

She came to Vermont with a close friend who needed to move to a place with fresher air for health reasons. Her father died in 1995. Her mother joined her in Vermont in 1997.

To contact VCIL for help or to make an appointment, call (802) 334-9000, or fax (802) 334-9043, or e-mail Ms. Kennedy at

contact Bethany M. Dunbar at