Vermonter of the Month: Bonnie Evans

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.

Bonnie Evans, a native of St. Albans, has been quietly but tirelessly supporting her community in ways big and small. We are thrilled to honor her as Vermonter of the Month, and her friends and neighbors were eager to express their support. CAP spoke with several folks in Franklin County that described Bonnie as thoughtful and reliable, who warms the area – literally and figuratively – with her beautiful quilts!

Bonnie was born and raised in St. Albans. She has lived in Swanton since she and her husband Mike, her high school sweetheart, built a house there 40 years ago. They have two terrific daughters and seven wonderful grandchildren.

Bonnie graduated from college in New York with an Associates degree in dental hygiene. Before she retired six years ago, she worked at the same dental practice for nearly 43 years, taking care of three generations of Vermonters.

Bonnie primarily supports her community through quilting! She volunteers at Northwestern Medical Center (NMC), donates quilts to myriad local organizations, and is part of the Franklin County Quilters Guild. Read more about Bonnie below.

Which community effort makes you the proudest?

My biggest contribution personally and the one I am most proud of is the work I do making about 100 quilts per year for the Northwestern Medical Center (NMC). I make quilts for Palliative Care patients and their families, Breast Cancer Comfort Quilts for patients undergoing surgery, as well as quilts to be given out to little ones coming through the Emergency Department.  You would only need to read a few of the thank you notes I get that would melt your heart…at least it sure does mine.

How did you get started with this effort?

It was ten years ago that I was approached by one of the nurses whose family member had won one of the quilts I had donated to a local charity raffle; and she asked if I had any interest in making quilts for the hospital. It blossomed from about 12 quilts the first year to 101 last year.  The Palliative Care/Comfort Care program at NMC is phenomenal and I only play a small part with the quilts that the patients and their families receive. I am only a small part of the great things in this community and our hospital.

What other members of the community do you support with your quilts?

Several years ago I got a group of friends together, and we made Veterans Quilts for the local Veterans, and even sent some to the White River Junction VA Hospital.  My husband is a Vietnam Veteran.  I most recently made a quilt that my husband and I presented in a ceremony honoring William Busier from Essex, a WWII POW who just turned 100 years old.  It has been my goal to get as many quilts to those veterans as I can.

I have over the years made quilts for the Fletcher Allen Children’s Clinic (now UVM), the Ronald McDonald House, Make-A-Wish Foundation, our local veterinarian’s “Needy Pet Fund,” Chester’s Promise Horse Rescue, local schools for playground equipment, and just last week made a quilt for the St. Albans Rotary Expo fundraiser.

We heard a rumor that you do additional volunteer work!

Right now I volunteer at the Northwestern Medical Center one day a week, helping patients navigate our new wonderful surroundings.  I am also the Hospitality Chair for the Hospital Auxiliary and coordinate our meetings throughout the year.

I have also been actively involved with the Franklin County Quilters Guild (a local non-profit) for 20 years. I think I was president 4 times and have held every office!! Our guild supports many local charities throughout the year and I am involved in pretty much all facets of that. As a group we provide quilts to Home Health, Laurie’s House, local disaster victims (to mention a few) and support our local food shelves. Quilters are a very generous group of people.

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

I think if you don’t get involved in something in your community, you never know what you can achieve. I get such satisfaction from volunteering and making and donating these quilts, I can’t imagine not doing it. I often wonder how I had time to work!

Credit reports and debt collection – What are your rights?

From jobs and housing, to loans and utilities, taking control of your credit is more important than ever. And, with the looming threat of identity theft, knowing how to monitor your credit is essential to protecting yourself from fraud. For National Consumer Protection Week, here is some information on your credit and collection rights under Vermont law, as well as tips and resources for monitoring your credit.

Know Your Credit File

Knowing what is in your credit report is important, not only for getting a loan, but also for protecting yourself from fraud. Identity thieves can use your personal information to take out credit cards and loans they will never pay back, and ruin your credit. You can monitor your credit a number of ways. Some of them are free, some carry costs. It’s up to you to determine the best choice for you. Here are some options:

  • Free annual credit reports – As a Vermont consumer, you are entitled to TWO free credit reports from EACH of the credit bureaus every year. You can get these online, or write to the credit bureau to request your report. If you have been denied credit, you are entitled to a free credit report as well.
  • Credit monitoring services – These services are generally NOT free, unless offered as a result of a data breach. When choosing a service, look for features that work for you, and research user reviews and ratings.
  • Credit cards and banks – Some credit cards and banks offer credit monitoring as part of their services for your account. Searching for a new card or bank? Ask them if they offer this service, and at what (if any) cost.

Collections? Know your rights!

You have the right to be treated fairly by debt collectors. Under federal or state law, generally a debt collector CANNOT:

  • Threaten you with harm or legal action they cannot actually pursue
  • Call you in a harassing manner, or after 9pm at night
  • Call you at work if you have asked them not to
  • Tell other people about your debt (other than a spouse)

You have other rights as well. If you have having difficulty with a debt collector, we can help! Contact us at 800-649-2424 or file a complaint online.

Sales calls, charity calls and scams

The phone rings, you pick it up and the caller launches into a well-rehearsed pitch. How do you know if this call is worth hanging on for? What happens if you agree to something over the phone and later change your mind? Under Vermont law, you have options!

Phone calls

The Sales Pitch: First, you have a right not to receive sales calls if you don’t want them. You can register your number with the National Do Not Call Registry to block future sales calls. This doesn’t prevent charity calls, surveys or scams, but it does prohibit other sales calls. Already registered? You only need to do it once, so if you are still getting actual sales calls, hang up and report the calls.

Did you agree to purchase something over the phone? For telephone and home solicitations in Vermont, consumers generally have the right to cancel for a full refund within three business days. If you need help with a phone or in-home sale, contact us!

The Charity Call: Many charities hire paid fundraising companies to help them solicit donations. In Vermont, any charity using a paid fundraiser must register with our office, and report how much of the donations received go to the fundraiser. You can find this information on our website under “Charities”, or give us a call at 800-649-2424.

Watch Out for Scams!: Phone scams affect thousands of Vermonters each year, and some victims lose a lot of money. Scammers are good at what they do, and target everyone. If you get a call and someone asks you to verify personal information, give a credit, debit card number or banking information over the phone, or wants you to wire money or send a gift card, it’s likely a scam! Hang up, and contact us before you give out any information or send money.

If you have questions about a phone call, or need help with a consumer issue, contact us today!

Your consumer rights in Vermont: buying retail and rent-to-own

We all get them in our mailboxes and on our doorsteps – those colorful flyers advertising the “Biggest Sale Ever!” or the “Lowest Prices of the Year”. We may see signs for a big “Going out of business – Everything Must Go!” sale in the window of a local store.

Sometimes the deals are real. Sometimes, though, the deals really are “too good to be true.”

As a Vermonter, you have certain rights in the retail and rent-to-own marketplace. Vermont’s Consumer Protection Rules prohibit certain kinds of deceptive advertising, pricing and sales tactics that are only designed to trick consumers into something they don’t want to do. Here are some examples:

  • The “Bait and Switch”: Ads feature a popular item at a great price, but when you get the store, all of those items are mysteriously sold out, and only a more expensive or inferior product is available.
  • The “Un-sell”: Ads draw you in for a great deal on a product you want, but when you get there, the sales person only wants to show you something else… for a worse deal.
  • The “Huge Discount!!”: Unbelievable discounts that turn out to be… unbelievable. Stores inflate the “former price” by huge margins to claim big discounts, when the real market price discount is actually much smaller.
  • The “Renting is your best value”: Rent-to-own ads that claim you can save money by renting instead of buying out right. Compare the interest and total costs to buying with cash, or even on a credit card.
  • The “You Won!” Contest: Shiny, official-looking ads that appear like lottery tickets, claiming you won a big prize, but when you go to the business to claim your winnings, all you get is a bum deal.

Don’t get caught un-prepared, know your consumer rights and, if you have questions or concerns, call us at 800-649-2424!

Welcome to National Consumer Protection Week!

Do you know your consumer rights? National Consumer Protection Week is a collaboration among state, federal and non-government organizations and agencies to raise awareness about consumer rights in the marketplace.

In addition to federal consumer protections, like the Do Not Call registry and the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act that puts limits on how third-party collection agencies can contact you or collect a debt, Vermont law has some important, and sometimes unique, consumer protections.

Each day this week we will be posting information about important rights you have as a Vermont consumer. check back here, on Facebook or on Twitter to learn more each day about these important protections!