Vermonter of the Month: Dan Fraser

This is a monthly series in which the Attorney General will feature a Vermonter doing exemplary work in their community. Have someone you think should be featured? Email AGO.CAP@vermont.gov.

Dan Fraser at Dan and Whits

Through helping raise over $1 million for local nonprofits and providing second chances at employment, our July Vermonter of the Month, Dan Fraser of Dan & Whit’s in Norwich, is proving that small businesses can have BIG impacts on their Vermont communities.

Dan D. Fraser is the Vice President and Treasurer of Dan & Whit’s, a family-owned general store which is fondly considered the unofficial community center of Norwich. Dan began working at Dan & Whit’s (named after his grandfather, Dan S. Fraser) afterschool for two hours a week while in the 4th grade. As an adult, Dan continued his dual responsibilities of school and store for many years while working as a special education teacher and continuing to work at the general store. For 14 years, Dan worked in the Hartford (Vermont) and Dresden (New Hampshire) school districts before leaving to focus solely on his work at Dan & Whit’s.

After meeting with Dan and hearing about the positive work he is doing in his community, it’s clear that the same passions and beliefs that informed his work as an educator have carried over to his business. If you haven’t had the pleasure of visiting Dan and Whit’s or meeting Dan, just look to the banner hanging outside of the store—”Hate Does Not Grow In the Rocky Soil of Norwich, Vermont”—for proof of this.

What sets Dan and Whit’s apart from other general stores? What is the mission?

Our motto is “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it”—produce, meat, grocery, gas, hunting/fishing, clothing, hardware, lawn/garden, beer/wine, etc.  We are the epicenter of town. Houses are sold locally in reference to us—“Just 2 miles from Dan & Whit’s.” We are the “community center” of Norwich. Our mission is to serve our customers. We set ourselves apart from other general stores in terms of size and product selection. We are open every day from 7am – 9pm, except for Thanksgiving and Christmas when we close at noon.

 What inspires your work, both at Dan and Whit’s and in the community?

What inspires me—well, giving back to our community, supporting the needs and organizations of our customers creates loyalty.  It’s a win-win.  We like to make things happen when people say that it is impossible. I love a challenge.  Helping others is so easy, and so rewarding. We support almost every sports team, religious organization, and non-profit in town and the Upper Valley. We do a monthly wine tasting, pairing with a different non-profit each month.  We began this in December 2010 and have raised over $50,000. We also have Milk and Egg Monday where customers can purchase milk/eggs that we deliver to the Upper Valley Haven homeless shelter.  Wednesdays are Pizza Wednesday and we donate $1 from each pizza sale to a non-profit.

In December 2013, I began “The 19 Days of Norwich, 1% for the Upper Valley Haven,” where we donated 1% of sales to local homeless shelter. Soon, all the businesses in town joined us. During the second year, many businesses in the Upper Valley joined us—over 100 businesses participated! In 2017, our fifth year, our cumulative total raised is over $1 MILLION!!!

 What have you learned from your work with Dismas of Vermont?

With my background in special education, we employ many individuals with special needs. In addition, we have paired with Dismas of Vermont for many years now to employ newly paroled persons. I have learned that with additional layers of support, this can be very successful. Everyone has something to offer and deserves a second chance.  We also employ homeless individuals who are guests at the Upper Valley Haven.

What advice do you have for other businesses looking to impact their community?

Think outside the box. Talk to nonprofits in your community and see how you can pair to solve issues and provide employment opportunities. Take the first step and get involved.

Dan and Whit's general storeTJ Donovan with Dan Fraser at Dan and Whit's

Dan and Whit's bottle redemption bell

TJ Donovan with George Fraser at Dan and Whit's

TJ Donovan, Dan Fraser and George Fraser standing outside of Dan and Whit's

 

Sun Protection Products and UV Exposure Risk

Enjoy the Sun, not the burnWe’ve had some nice days here in Vermont.  Though most people may not greet a sunshiny day with concern about ultraviolet (UV) protection, it is something we must be mindful about.  UV radiation comes from the sun and man-made sources like tanning beds.  The most common cancer in the United States, skin cancer, is primarily caused by too much UV exposure.  The most obvious way to avoid UV exposure is to seek shade, or cover up, but for the times that you must be in the sun, a good sunscreen is recommended.  There is no one sunscreen that will prohibit exposure to all types of UV rays.  Even sunscreen labeled with 100% SPF only protects against 99% of UV rays.

What to look for in a sunscreen:   Sunscreen

  • Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more
  • “Broad Spectrum” on the label
  • No waterproof claims (water resistant is okay)
  • Unexpired and ideally good for at least 2 years

The sun emits many kinds of UV rays.  SPF helps to protect against UVB, which primarily causes sunburn.  But, just because you don’t get a burn, doesn’t mean your skin hasn’t encountered risky sun exposure.  The Broad Spectrum label informs that the sunscreen has been shown to protect against both UVA and UVB rays.  Sunscreen waterproof claims have been debunked by science, so, products can no longer make that claim.  They can still say “water resistant,” and must state for how long the product would continue to work after swimming or sweating.

Sunglasses can provide great protection too.  UV radiation from the sun can damage the cornea, lens, and other parts of the eye.  Cataracts can also develop from too much sun exposure.

What to look for in sunglasses:

  • Full coverage of the entire eye, wraparound, or close-fitting frames to screen out 75 to 90 percent of visible light.  Choosing larger frames can help.
  • Glasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVB rays (may be
    labeled with UV protection of UV400 or more)

Parent and ChildWhether it’s under a tree, tarp, or behind some awesome shades and a hat, we hope you can get outside and enjoy the sunshine as much as possible this summer!

Sources: The American Cancer Society, Mayo Clinic

Vermonter of the Month: Claire Hancock

This is a monthly series in which the Attorney General will feature a Vermonter doing exemplary work in their community. Have someone you think should be featured? Email AGO.CAP@vermont.gov.

Claire Hancock is a licensed clinical social worker at Copley Hospital. Through 31 years of service, Claire has been a literal and tireless lifeline to people and families in a very challenged system, according to those who know her work.

We first met Claire during the Elder Protection Initiative listening tour—through which we sought to learn about the challenges facing older Vermonters. What we learned, in addition to these challenges, was the profound significance of Claire’s role as an advocate for the most vulnerable Vermonters. Claire, who has been quietly hailed in her local and professional community for decades of service helping patients and their families arrange for the care and services they need upon discharge from the hospital, prevents people from falling through the cracks.

Claire recently retired from full time-work at Copley Hospital, but continues to work a few hours each week as a clinical supervisor. She also recently began working part-time for Lamoille County Mental Health as the Elder Services Clinician, providing counseling and case management to older adults.

What is the greatest challenge you’ve experienced in working with vulnerable patients?

The greatest challenges of working with vulnerable adults are the inadequate resources available to them. While there are many agencies and programs that provide some assistance, it is a fragmented confusing system with complex eligibility criteria, so it is overwhelming and confusing to any person, not just vulnerable adults. Services are improving and expanding slowly but there are still big gaps, like inadequate transportation in the rural areas, lack of affordable housing, inadequate financing for hearing aids and dental issues, and not enough affordable quality care for those with dementia. On a personal level, I have been visually impaired since age 18 and do not drive so I experience the lack of transportation first hand.

What inspires your work, or is rewarding about this work?

What is rewarding for me in this work, is having the privilege of getting to know the unique, interesting lives and personalities of elders; hearing their stories of life as they share their most personal, heartbreaking, and sometimes wonderful experiences. Their wisdom and sweet spirit are so moving and inspiring.

What have you learned from your work?

I have learned that this work requires a great deal of empathy and patience as well as being a “detective” to get down to the facts as well as the emotions of a situation.  Whatever difficulties, conflicts and negative situations people are in, there is always fear and grief underneath. Our job is to access this fear and grief and help to relieve at least some of it. I believe that most people are well intentioned and want to do their best, but bad things do happen to good people.

I have learned that as a “helper,” I only know a small slice of a person’s life experience.  We must not judge. We must not make assumptions. Nothing is black and white; it is all gray, and the work is never done.

 What advice do you have for others looking to impact their community?

I believe that each town needs to develop (if they haven’t already) an organized, reliable volunteer program to help fill some of gaps in services, like transportation, food shopping, laundry and other household tasks and companionship. I know that there are many community members who would love to volunteer to help others with various tasks and care of elderly who are sick or have dementia, as this enriches the life of both the volunteer and the elder person.

 

Announcing: The Elder Protection Initiative

Last Friday, on World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, our office made an important announcement: we launched a new unit focused on protecting older Vermonters. It’s called the Elder Protection Initiative, or EPI.

Supporting and protecting Vermont's aging population


The EPI is team of attorneys, investigators and staff from across the VT Attorney General’s Office (from its Criminal, Public Protection and Human Services Divisions) who will act to address issues facing older Vermonters through collaboration with government and community partners, public education, legislation, and enforcement. To read more about EPI, visit its website here: http://ago.vermont.gov/epi


The Listening Tour

The EPI has roots in a listening tour the Attorney General’s Office just completed. Throughout April and May, to better understand the unique challenges that older Vermonters face, a team from our Office visited each Vermont county, listening to older Vermonters and organizations that serve them. We shared meals in tight-knit communities, went on Meals on Wheels delivery routes, and shared in the varieties of joys and anguish that our elders are experiencing. We listened. We learned. And after meeting with dozens of older Vermonters and over 230 representatives of 65 organizations, we want to help.

Through our listening tour, we heard older Vermonters and organizations that serve them repeat similar concerns, including:

  • Isolation and lack of transportation
  • Lack of affordable housing
  • Lack of access to healthcare
  • Food insecurity
  • Finding affordable and suitable care for loved ones with Dementia
  • Difficulty accessing available information and resources
  • Our systems are struggling to uphold older Vermonter’s safety, security, and dignity

To help older Vermonters and those who serve them, our office established the Elder Protection Initiative described above. As the EPI embarks on its work, it will continue to listen and stay informed about issues facing older Vermonters.

First Collaborations

Already, the EPI has worked with Vermont 2-1-1 to address one of the most common concerns heard on the listening tour—difficulty accessing information and resources on programs and services that are available to older Vermonters (and their caretakers) where they live, from transportation to food delivery services (like Meals on Wheels). Vermont 2-1-1 maintains a 24/7 hotline and a website that provides just this information. To access this free information, dial 2-1-1 or visit vermont211.org.

EPI-Learn what we're doing

The Executive Director of 2-1-1, MaryEllen Mendl explains, “The 2-1-1 statewide system has been built over the course of the last 13 years for a public-private partnership between United Ways of Vermont and state government.  Allowing for a quality-driven platform for the delivery of professional information and referral, and a database containing thousands of community resources.” 2-1-1 is also committed to enhancing its capacity to assist callers with concerns specific to elder abuse and exploitation.

Thank you, Vermont 2-1-1, for this outstanding commitment to Vermont’s elders!  We look forward to seeing this collaboration flourish and many more develop as we work to support the needs of Vermont’s aging population.  The initiative has just started its efforts in support of Vermonters.  There are more developments and solutions that will come out of this group’s work. To stay connected, check in regularly on the Elder Protection Initiative page on the Vermont Attorney General’s Office website.

Vermonter of the Month: The Mercy Connections “Justice League”

This is a monthly series in which the Attorney General features Vermonters doing exemplary work in their community. Have someone you think should be featured? Email AGO.CAP@vermont.gov.

This month we are honoring a team of people as our “Vermonters of the Month.” The Mercy Connections “Justice League” team works on the Justice and Mentoring program. The team is comprised of Joanne nelson, Director of Justice & Mentoring, Kelly Moran, Justice and Mentoring Coordinator for incarcerated or formerly incarcerated women, Mary Beth Barritt, Justice Liaison and Heather Gilbert, Program Facilitator.

Mercy Connections is an educational values-driven non-profit organization living the legacy of the Sisters of Mercy with an enduring concern for women. By compassionately nurturing self-sufficiency through education, mentoring, entrepreneurship and community, people are empowered to make significant life changes

Mercy Connections has 3 program areas that serve 300 participants: Education & Transition Programs (for adults who have faced adversity in meeting their personal, professional, and academic goals), Justice & Mentoring Programs (for people involved in the criminal justice system), and the Women’s Small Business Program (for aspiring female entrepreneurs).

Joanne, Kelly, Mary Beth and Heather have all dedicated themselves to lifting those around them who need help. The “Justice League” is doing essential work for Vermont women and we are honored to have them as our May Vermonters of the Month.

How has the team’s work impacted the community?

The Justice & Mentoring Program team alternates presence in the Treatment Court Docket to be able to receive referrals to the programs at Mercy Connections. In that action, we invite the women to a meeting with the director to become acquainted and to discover whether there is a desire to enroll in a class or program. Sometimes the referred woman is also interested in becoming a mentee in the Vermont Women’s Mentoring Program. The real impact on the woman is potentially multi-faceted. It is sometimes confidence-building to just get to Mercy Connections and enter a place that is not familiar. It is also clear that women feel and learn about a community here that is non-judgmental, educative, safe and brave and in that discovery, a potential participant may grow, relax and learn. There is something connective when the participant understands that Mercy Connections can become a supportive place, connected to the clinical and legal teams in the court docket, but that Mercy Connections is different. It is not mandatory, it is chosen freely…that ability to make a choice freely, well, that is often something that leaves a referred person empowered.

Executive Director, Dolly Fleming, has said that Mercy Connections “…weaves the social fabric of community and one’s [life]” and I believe that means that the (potential) impact on community is that Mercy Connections kind of weaves some of the very difficult, mandated parts of a recovering person’s life in with some of the softer, kinder, happier threads that every human being possesses. We think that holistic approach reflects something very positive on each person and on the community as a whole.

What is the biggest challenge?

We receive referrals to Mercy Connections which are not realized. They are not chosen by prospective participants.

On a challenging day, it may be hard to look at each individual accomplishment and realize joy against a very dismal system, (criminal justice, economy, racial and gender discrimination…), one that just doesn’t work for human beings.

In general, the challenges lie within the participant population and while we strategize and work hard, sometimes the biggest challenge is accepting that we can’t do more than we do.

What is rewarding about this work?

Our programs offer education to people. Education opens up doors. Open doors and access to more people means a more diverse, just world/community.

Knowing that we are working to offer possibilities for a more successful reentry process through the Vermont Women’s Mentoring Program and hence, a lower recidivism rate.

Working with participants who are rejected in many ways by society and learning how wonderful they are. How resilient they are. And how much they have to offer. Seeing a mentee’s face when she realizes we treat her and her mentor in the same respectful manner. That we don’t judge her based on the worst mistakes she has made. Being able to support mentors, some of whom have made serious mistakes, in a way that allows them to grow and give back.

What advice do you have for others looking to impact their community?

Become a volunteer for a worthy cause- one which speaks to the values you hold most dear. The action will allow you to realize greater purpose and meaning in your life.