Group tackling AIDS/opioid issues wins grant

March 9, 2018
Mark Tarnacki
Staff Writer

Fix It Logo

Vermont CARES – a statewide group that “works for and with Vermonters affected by HIV/AIDS to promote well-being through a continuum of prevention, support, and advocacy services”– is the recipient of a $10,000 grant through the “Fix it With Five” program, funded and administered by Saint Michael’s students.

The Fix It With Five (FIWF) grant-program name derives from its process of extracting $5 from the tuition fees of each of Saint Michael’s College’s 2,000-plus students. Fix it With Five encourages non-profit organizations from the greater Burlington community to apply for grants

Vermont CARES’ application to the Saint Michael’s Student Association’s Fix it With Five Committee for the grant explains how they intend to use the funds – presenting a case that won out over two other finalists the committee considered, said Allison Campbell of FIWF Committee, a senior Spanish major from Wolfboro Falls, N.H., who announced the winner at the Student Association meeting on campus last week. Vermont CARES officials wrote in their application: “We are working with a software developer to create a mobile app to work alongside our mobile prevention program. The app is essentially an Uber service for HIV prevention and opioid harm reduction services. The specs include features to track where our mobile van is, request services in a particular community, and to share selective emergent push notifications, such as when a more deadly batch of heroin or fentanyl is in the area.”

Those other finalists – a community bicycle-repair program and a Burlington program to assist the homeless — also presented to the Student Association on February 22, along with Vermont CARES, prior to the student vote on the funds, Campbell said.

Here are the summaries of proposals submitted by the other Fix-It-With-Five grant finalists:

Old Spokes Home: “A bicycle, often combined with public transportation is the most affordable means of transportation for low-income Vermonters.  We aim to procure a mobile bicycle repair unit and send it to venues around Winooski throughout the summer of 2018 and to equip Winooski youth with the resources to staff the unit. Youth will learn to repair their own bikes and be given the opportunity to service bikes in communities throughout the city for others.”

ANEW Place: We provide a 4-Phase Continuum of Care for homeless adults, which addresses the root causes of homelessness.  We aim to create lasting change by providing a healthy, holistic community and by helping each guest develop an individualized road map forward addressing their unique barriers and goals. We provide more than charity, we provide a pathway towards long-term change for those who do not have a place to call home.

Campbell said the field of three finalists was narrowed from18 total applicants. “We had a voter turnout [among the student body] of 41 percent, which is significantly higher than previous years, which the committee was very excited about!” she said, adding that Peter Jacobsen, director of VT Cares, has invited the committee members to attend the VT Cares annual gala and auction this coming Saturday, March 10, and several will be attending and possibly announcing the group as the 2018 FIWF winner in front all their supporters, “which should be truly amazing,” Campbell said.

“I and the rest of the FIWF committee are so impressed by all of the amazing organizations that applied this year, and we are truly proud to be part of such a supportive and inclusive community,” she said. “We want to sincerely thank our three finalists for their time over the past few months for sharing their work and projects with us, and wish them all the best of luck.”

She said the committee was unanimously excited to announce Vermont CARES as this year’s grant recipient, “and we believe that they will be making a change in the lives of those they serve with their projected mobile prevention program. The St. Mike’s community can be on the lookout for the van on campus in the near future, as well as possible opportunities to collaborate with Vermont CARES and their supporters too.”

Fix It With Five’s website explicitly relates the program to the wider mission of Saint Michael’s College: “It is the mission of the … committee to promote systemic and permanent change through an annual grant to a local community-based organization demonstrating this same commitment. Following the Saint Michael’s College mission of social justice, this student-led and student-funded program aims to alleviate a condition leading to the degradation of human dignity. Through the grant process, Fix it with Five seeks to heighten awareness about pressing social problems which ultimately affect us all and to educate both the college and surrounding communities about organizations working in constructive ways to strengthen our community.  Fix It With Five began with the idea that college students could use five dollars often spent on pizza or movies and apply it towards a meaningful community contribution.”

The FIWF committee of student members, guided by staff advisers, is responsible for contacting local non-profit organizations, accepting and reading application letters and agreeing on finalist organizations before turning the final vote to the Saint Michael’s College student body.

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