College earns COTS Leahy Leadership Award for service to homeless Vermonters


"The students at Saint Michael's College are the change they want to see in the world,” said Rita Markley, COTS executive director, in presenting the Leahy Leadership Award to Saint Michael's College at the COTS Annual Meeting & Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast on February 8, 2012, at the first Congregational Church in Burlington.

“This year,” she said, COTS selected Saint Michael's College—and particularly their outstanding students—for this high honor.”

The award in honor of Senator Leahy recognizes work on behalf of Vermonters who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.  Accepting the award were Heidi St. Peter, director of Saint Michael’s College MOVE (Mobilization of Volunteer Efforts), and the following Saint Michael’s students, Olivia McCall, a junior sociology major from Bridgewater, Mass., coordinator of Family Friends at COTS family shelters; Kirsten Wilson, a sophomore English major from West Burke, Vt., of the SMC “Fix it with Five” committee; Sarah Ames, a sophomore psychology major from Moultonborough, N.H., coordinator of “COOK ‘n Food,” formerly, Temp Relief, serving dinners at St. John’s Hall and Canal St. Veterans Shelter; and Elizabeth Kendall, a sophomore journalism major from Concord, N.H., co-chair of “Fix it with Five.”

Ms. Markley singled out the following Saint Michael’s programs at COTS for recognition:

  • The “Fix it with Five” grant program which promotes social change by awarding $10,000 each year to a nonprofit that works to enhance human dignity. The grant is secured with a $5 gift from each of Saint Michael’s 2,000 students. COTS received the grant last year and used it to help fund a pilot program on transitional housing for homeless families.
  • The Saint Michael’s Family Friends program to bring care and activities to children living in COTS’ family shelters. An average of 10 SMC students volunteer each week, bringing support to children living with “unbelievable challenges.”
  • The 20+ year project of Saint Michael’s students serving dinner at St. John’s Hall, COTS’ permanent housing for the formerly homeless, and now also at Canal Street Veterans Housing.
  • Additional Saint Michael’s service projects at COTS, including Service Learning projects, “Baked Love” treats, meals at the Daystation, Book Buddy volunteers, volunteers at the Phonathon and the COTS Walk.

To close the awards program, Michael New, chair of the COTS board of directors, said, “COTS ensures there is somewhere to turn when there is nowhere to turn. And we can do that because we have dedicated supporters, dedicated staff and generous volunteers. . . . On Dec. 24, 2012, COTS will mark 30 years of service to our community . . . but, we are not looking back – we are looking forward. And, we are filled with hope. We will continue this journey with all of you. We will end homelessness – and we will do it with your help.”

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