Coronavirus and person wearing maskBy Trina Bianchi

Even though Governor Scott and his team continue to move us forward through the COVID-19 piece, slowly, one step at a time, life still remains very uncertain and incredibly stressful for many. As fortunate as we are, living in Vermont where we have access to the out-of-doors and leadership that has taken the necessary steps to keep us all safe and well informed, we each need to look around and check in with neighbors and friends to make sure that they really are doing okay.

All of us react to stress differently and someone you know may be saying that all is okay, but perhaps it really is not; emotional and mental health, unlike physical health, is not something people are likely to talk about as, unfortunately, there is a stigma attached to having to say, “I’m having a difficult time emotionally with this,” or “I’m not sure I’m doing okay mentally.” This week’s Charlotte COVID Assistance Team meeting focused on the myriad of ways the pandemic has affected the emotional and mental health of folks and resources available to combat the stress that is going to continue for the foreseeable future.

Unemployment benefits and other State news
If you are still waiting for your unemployment benefits to arrive in your mailbox or checking account, call Representative Mike Yantachka at (802) 233-5238 or send him an email and he will do what he can to expedite the process for you.

Mike also reported that the Legislature is working diligently to expand broadband coverage in those areas of our state where internet usage is sketchy. They are also working on legislation to help folks with utility bills and discussing the possibility of grants for businesses.

 Looking for food assistance?
Between the Charlotte Food Shelf and the USDA Summer Meals Lunch Program, lunches for any child under age 18 will be available this summer.  Starting the week of June 29, the food shelf will have grab-and-go, non-perishable lunches available at Spear’s Store and Charlotte Library, daily Monday-Friday. To register, call (802) 425-3252.

Normal lunches will again be available at CCS on Monday, Wednesday and Friday starting July 6.  Pick-up times are between 10:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.  Register through the CVSD website; the procedure will be the same as during the school year.

The Food Shelf will continue to be open on Wednesdays from 5:00 – 7:00 p.m. at the Charlotte Congregational Church. The Food Shelf will also have kids’ lunches available at this time and the pickup will include a week’s supply of lunches. Tenney’s Snack Bar has added a creemee voucher to the summer lunch bags. Thank you to Tenney’s! Please call (802) 425-3252 to register.

For additional information, please contact Rev. Kevin at (802) 425-3176 or via email.

Emotional and mental health
Krista Reincke, a clinical psychologist with Networks, joined our meeting on Monday and shared that COVID-19 has affected everyone in some way that can lead to chronic stress, which can lead to long-term health issues not just mentally, but also physically. In some cases, the stress can be relieved with education: how to deal with telehealth, how to find food assistance, how to access benefits, how to deal with insurance issues. If you or anyone you know is challenged emotionally or mentally, please reach out to one of the resources listed below. No one is immune from stress, and everyone needs to be aware that this pandemic has pushed people beyond their limits to deal. Don’t be afraid to reach out yourself or encourage someone else to reach out.

 Vermont 2-1-1 is available for referrals and questions.

  • Pathways Vermont, (833) 888-2557, is free and available 24/7 to call or text. Can talk with a peer who has been challenged with issues in the past and will be non-judgmental, and you can talk about anything. Lonely, depressed, unable to find something you need: you can ask and talk about anything that is challenging you and your family. If no one is available, leave a message with your number and they will call you back.
  • Northeastern Family Institute, VT (NFI) is a private, nonprofit agency that serves Vermont families whose children struggle with severe emotional, behavioral and mental health challenges. The majority of children who come to NFI have a history of not functioning well at home, in school and in the community.
  • First Call, (802) 488-7777, is for crisis situations. Also available 24/7.

Financial assistance
Emergency financial assistance is available through the Charlotte Food Shelf, Charlotte Congregational Church and Our Lady of Mt. Carmel.  Requests can be made by calling (802) 425-3252 or (802) 425-3130.

 Vermont Department of Health (DOH)
Stay abreast of coronavirus news in Vermont by going to the DOH website.  Check on what is opening, new regulations for traveling into our state, where to get a test if you need one, how to remain safe and well.

Together we march on. As we see Vermont beginning to emerge and businesses starting to come back, we all need to continue to be diligent and respect and take care of each other and ourselves. We have been given an opportunity to slow down and reassess the priorities in our lives and in our families and we now can make individual choices on how to move forward.

What do we want our lives to look like down the road? Are we focusing on those things that are important to us? Are we spending time doing those activities that we love and are important to us? How can we best support each other, our local businesses, our local farms?

It is a fine time as Vermonters, if possible, to support the tourism industry in our own state. Those businesses and their employees are reeling from the effects of COVID-19 and the steps that have been taken to protect our residents. Out-of-staters may not be able to support our tourism industry, but Vermonters can.

Did you know that Vermont has 251 towns?  The 251 Club, which has been around for years, is a very fun and easy way to see all of Vermont. It’s very affordable to join and can be an educational and fun adventure for the entire family to drive around and visit a new area of our state. I embarked on this adventure, making it a five-year plan, and am not only seeing parts of our state that I’ve never seen, but it is reaffirming my humble opinion that we live in the most glorious state in our country. I’ve seen vistas this spring that I’ve noted and will return to see this fall as they have to be incredibly beautiful during foliage season. And each town has little hidden gems to find.

Stay well, stay safe, until next time.