Vermonter of the Month: Luke Stafford

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.

Luke Stafford owns Mondo Mediaworks, Inc., a digital marketing agency specializing in content development for the web. He earned a BA in Journalism at Saint Michael’s College. After landing in Brattleboro with his wife, an artist, he worked in the marketing department at Mount Snow until 2009. He then founded Mondo, and in the eight years since it has grown into a 17-person shop. The company’s Values Statement is to build its surrounding community through economic development. It is proudly a certified B Corporation (“B-Corp”), which are for-profit companies that meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency.

Luke also sits on the board of Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies (SeVEDS).

How did you learn about becoming a B-corp, and why was it a fit for Mondo?

I’d been hearing about B-Corps for years, mainly from exposure to certified Vermont brands like King Arthur and Ben and Jerry’s. Because they are such large, product-based companies, I never thought seriously about our small marketing agency being eligible. One day I was explaining Mondo’s mission and values to our accountant, who operates an impact-driven business herself, and she recommended I speak to a local person who is knowledgeable on the certification process. Around the same time, a few of Mondo’s employees were learning about B-Corps. All of a sudden, it seemed doable.

Joining the B Corp movement is a fit for Mondo because, like a lot of companies, we’re run by people. And most people — or, I could argue, all people —  want to contribute  to something bigger than monetary profit in their jobs.

What prompted you to make economic growth in Brattleboro and Vermont as a whole part of Mondo’s mission?

Since I started Mondo in 2010, there was a broad values statement to “give back to the community.” We donated to local organizations and supported local events, but it didn’t go much further than that. Then, in 2015, I got my first glimpse at the data coming out of the Vermont Futures Project, which clearly projected that the Vermont economy would be in big trouble if we didn’t solve some serious problems around workforce and population. I resolved that I couldn’t sit idly by and let the projections become reality.

What impact have you had, with Mondo and independently, on your community?

Last year we paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in salaries to Mondolians who live, shop and play in the Brattleboro area. Most of those jobs didn’t exist a few years earlier. Of course, we can’t attribute a thriving Main St. or a restaurant opening solely to new Mondo jobs, but it feels great to see new Mondolians investing in the community, whether it’s buying a house or just going to the movies in Brattleboro’s historic theatre. As for myself, I have the privilege of sitting on the boards of my local elementary school and Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies, where I advocate for programs and policies that make Vermont the best place to live for young families.

What inspires your work, both at Mondo and in the community?

You’re going to start thinking that I’m an overly obsessed fanboy, but really, it’s Vermont. Not just the lifestyle, but the landscape, the people, the… everything. I knew I was going to be a Vermonter immediately after my first snowboarding trip to Stratton when I was 14, and I can’t imagine myself living anywhere else. Specifically, my inspiration comes from my weekend hobbies: snowboarding, logging and processing firewood from our property, maple syrup making. Lately, my best ideas are surfacing during  pop-up camper trips with my family to Vermont State Parks. The four of us are working to join the “251 Club,” whereby we visit all 251 towns in the state. We’re only about 10% of the way through, but it’s been a great way to explore the state and make memories with our 2 daughters. Check with me in 10 years to see if we’ve hit all 251.

What have you learned from this community work?

Democracy is alive and well in Vermont. I was blown away when I attended my first Town Meeting Day. It’s a very beautiful thing that everyone in this state truly has a voice. But it’s also the frustrating thing, right? Because for everyone who wants to see change, there is someone who likes things the way they are, thank you very much. When I moved to Brattleboro 13 years ago, I got involved with a committee to build a skatepark in town, thinking we’d be able to accomplish the goal within a few years. But some townspeople did not want a skatepark in the downtown area. Their voices were heard loud and clear, which I very much respect. But it means that getting things done can take a long time. In the end, though, I trust the process.

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

I understand that big time commitments to boards or volunteerism is not always possible. But I would argue that little gestures, added up, have a much bigger impact. Picking up a piece of litter on the street makes for a cleaner downtown. And that clean, inviting sidewalk may be the small detail that reminds residents, “Hey, this really is a great town. I love it here.” That person will speak highly of the town to others, and the message continues to spread. Our everyday actions, and how we choose to speak about our communities, have huge consequences.

What advice do you have for businesses considering a B-corp certification?

First, it’s not easy to be certified. At least it wasn’t for us as a young company. But it spurred us to make a lot of “grown up company” decisions about our policies and standards. It took us about 9 months and we hired a consultant/project manager to get everything we needed in place. Today, we have an employee who maintains our B-Corp status as part of her job, which involves everything from monitoring our electricity usage to organizing our volunteer days. But it’s 100% worth it. Some of our best job applicants come through the B-Corp job board, and it’s a helpful distinction during the recruiting process. We regularly attend B-Corp-sponsored events, where we’ve met other B-Corps and shared ideas about sustainable ways to grow our companies. But the biggest piece of advice I could give is that your values at the company come first; if it aligns with B-Corp requirements, awesome. But stay true to your values, always.

Vermonter of the Month: Darcie McCann

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.Darcie McCann has served as the Director of the Northeast Kingdom Chamber for 23 years. She is a native of the Northeast Kingdom, and supports her community in myriad ways.

Darcie is an avid sports fan, known for her chocolate chip cookies, writes a biweekly column for the Caledonian-Record and has been involved in many local community groups and organizations. This includes: mentoring local students, serving on the boards of the Northeastern Vermont Regional Hospital and Burklyn Arts Council, participating in the Regional Tourism Council and her local church, and supporting Vermont chambers across the state as President of Chamber Benefits, Inc.

Darcie tirelessly promotes the NEK as a place to visit, or live and start a business. She travels to Eastern states and Canada, and plans the Colors of the Kingdom and Business Celebration events through her role at the Chamber. She also spearheaded the creation of an Online Business Resource Guide — an exceptional effort to bring vibrancy back to the Kingdom.

Darcie returned to the Kingdom after a career in journalism, after serving as the executive editor of the Wellesley Townsman in Massachusetts and a reporter and section editor at a San Diego paper. She worked in college public relations at Merrimack College and Lyndon State College before taking the Northeast Kingdom Chamber post. Married for 29 years, the recently widowed mother of two adult children is looking forward to her daughter getting married in May 2018.

How did you get involved with the Chamber?

I got persuaded to try for the Northeast Kingdom Chamber position by the previous director, a good friend, who was leaving the post for another job.  I figured I would stay at the chamber job, tops, for 10 years … and here I am, celebrating my 23rd year at the chamber. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t still love it and it wasn’t a challenge. I never know what the next day will bring.

How have you supported the community through your work with the Chamber?

Working at a chamber in the Northeast Kingdom means that you not only have to look at the economic climate of the region but also its socioeconomic variables. I have tried to not only get involved with regionwide and statewide organizations that strengthen the economic landscape but look at the reasons why we have historically had the weakest economy in the state and work to solve those problems as well.

How does supporting the NEK business community support the community at large?

The Northeast Kingdom business community is, in fact, your neighbors. What we strive to do at the chamber is to remove some of the roadblocks that businesses face to help our fellow residents succeed. We not only help bring in additional business through aggressive marketing but also save them money through our many discount benefit programs. I am a native of the Kingdom. I think that is one of the reasons I am still here at the chamber after 20 years; when you love a place so much, you want to see it not only flourish but thrive.

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

My advice for anyone thinking of helping out in their community or region is that it is not a burden but a privilege. I have gotten far more from being involved in the Kingdom than I have given, I can tell you that. I have gained a legion of friends, satisfaction from helping the Kingdom and a really broad and diverse support system. If you love what you are doing, it is never a chore.

Vermonter of the Month: Jimmy Cochran

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.

Born in Burlington, Jimmy Cochran is the son of Bob Cochran, one of the “Skiing Cochrans” family of Richmond. Jimmy was on the U.S. Ski team from 2005-2009. He represented the U.S. in the Winter Olympics in 2006 and 2010, and in the World Championships in 2005, 2007, and 2009. Jimmy is now at the helm of Cochran’s, the nation’s first IRS 501 (c)(3) tax-exempt ski area, as general manager.

Cochran’s ski area was started by Mickey and Ginny Cochran in 1961 in the backyard of their property in Richmond. It hosts weekly races and training for eight local high schools, shares the hill with 800 kids from elementary school programs, facilitates races and training for the next generation of Olympic hopefuls in the Cochran Ski Club, and provides an approachable and accessible place for youngsters to learn to ski. As it says on their website, “No child will be denied the opportunity to ski or ride.”

What sets Cochran’s apart from other ski areas? What is the mission?

Cochran’s is unique as a non-profit ski area. Our mission is to provide affordable skiing and race training to local kids and families. This means that Cochran’s is directly supported by the community we serve. Pretty much everyone that skis or snowboards here has in some way given time or money. In this way we are really more of a co-op.

Many wonderful people have found little (and big) ways over the last 57 years to make this ski area go. My favorite thing about this place is how many different people are willing to get emotionally invested. Every day people show up look around, create and act on a vision that could be something like improving hiking and mountain bike trails, making snow, teaching kids to ski, fixing equipment, helping to run races, or making dinner for our Friday community ski night.

This support even comes from the bigger ski areas. They recognize that by helping Cochran’s introduce new folks to the sport, many of those families will graduate to a bigger mountain in a season or two. When we need a part for a broken snow-cat or a snowmaking pump dies (knock on wood), we have a huge network to call on.

The community impact primarily consists of kids and families being given the opportunity to be included in a predominantly exclusive sport.

What goes into a “Friday Community Ski Night”? 

“Friday Night Lights” is our community ski night. $5 ticket, $12 dinner (kids $6), a dual slalom course and laps on the famously fast rope-tow. Dinner is made by a volunteer family/s. I’m always amazed at the culinary alchemy that occurs in our little snack bar.

How many kids/families have skied at Cochran’s for low or no cost? 

Effectively everyone that skis at Cochran’s is skiing at low cost. 1/3rd of our yearly operating budget comes from donations and ALL capital improvements have been paid for with fundraising dollars. We also aim each year to provide at least 10% of passes, tickets, lessons, training fees to be free for deserving families.

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

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, recognize that there is a ton of background work required for a volunteer to be productive, let things develop, change, and be imperfect as the situation merits, and most importantly… say thank-you thank-you thank-you thank-you thank-you.

Vermonter of the Month: Tim Mathewson

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.

Tim has been running Little City Cycles in Vergennes since 2009. Two years ago, he started Green Mountain Foster Bikes with Tanya Bashaw to help save bikes and give the recycled bikes to kids in need.

After getting a technical degree in auto diesel in Florida, Tim decided to stay working with bikes. After having a bicycle shop in Tampa, he moved back to Vermont in the 80s.
While in Burlington he worked at several shops as a mechanic, service manager, bike buyer and parts buyer.

Tim also had a shop in Shelburne, as well as helped with the Chicago Bike Company.
He helped get Bike Recycle Vermont going with Ron Manganiello, and worked with Robert Coles on an all-terrain wheel chair for a non-profit in India.

Why bikes?

When I was 12 years old, I started fixing and racing bicycles. This led to a passionate career over the next 45 years in every area of the bike industry. I am a rider myself and use my bike for most of my transportation. All of this has helped me realize how magical the bicycle is in the way that it can transform lives and communities. I can’t solve the problems I see in the world, but I can help one bike at a time. When people feel better, they tend to be nicer and make better decisions for themselves and the people around them. People always feel better when they ride a bike.

How many bicycles have you given away through your various community projects?

I have always given away bicycles here and there over the years. This included fixing kids’ bikes up for Christmas for Toys for Tots every year. Total bikes was 32. The first real venture was Bike Recycle Vermont. I believe to date they have put close to 3000 bikes out there helping people get around. Green Mountain Foster Bikes has given away 35 bikes with helmets and will hit 100 by next year.

What impact has this had on your Vermont community? What have you learned?

While it’s hard to say exactly, I do know that the more bikes that there are the more issues around bikes and cars and general traffic patterns arise and those issues get resolved, making it better for everyone. I have had a lot of smiles and a lot of happy people because they can get around on a bike they might not otherwise have.

If people are happy because they have a bike, will it impact their community? I believe so, but I don’t know how to measure it. The biggest thing I have learned is how generous the community is in support. So much help from so many people, all you have to do is ask.

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

Be clear on what to want to do. The more you map this out the easier it will be to make it happen. Asking yourself why you want to do something often helps. Remember that if there is a problem, there isn’t something to fix, there is something to learn.

Vermonter of the Month: Mohamed Basha

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.

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Mohamed Basha is the President, CEO and IT Person of TLC Homecare & Nursing. After moving from Chennai, India as a young child, he lived in New York City and New Orleans for a year. He finally settled in Vermont, where he grew up in Burlington.

Mohamed founded TLC in 2006 because he saw a need for a homecare provider who took a holistic approach in providing care and there was no other organization that offered supportive staffing services to local healthcare providers.

After numerous side jobs (such as working in the IT department of two small businesses, driving a taxi on weekends, and waiting/catering during the summer) Mohamed decided to pursue a Nursing Degree from Castleton State College. He also holds a B.A. in Health Science from Castleton and an Associate Degree in Liberal Studies from Community College of Vermont.

When Mohamed is not hard at work running TLC, he can be found spending time with his wife, Allyson, and two children, Nina and Zane. He also enjoys long walks in the summer and riding his motorcycle while enjoying the beauty that Vermont has to offer. He graciously took the time from his busy schedule to answer a few of our questions:

What inspires your work with TLC?

After graduating from nursing school, and working in various healthcare setting, I saw a dire need for home care providers to help seniors age in place.  I further saw a need for flexible staffing providers to help healthcare facilities staff their needs without burning out their own staff.


What impact has TLC had on your community? 

Currently we serve over 200 older adults throughout Vermont and in Upper Valley area.  Out of which, and I am proud to say this, we serve over 70 Veterans in this region.  Furthermore, we are quite active nationally and locally in helping the causes that affect majority of our seniors.  For over four years, we have sent TLC staff to Washington DC and Montpelier to advocate for the Alzheimer’s Association and raise awareness of its impact in our community.  We help raise money, through Golfing 4 Life and other activities, for Cancer Patient Support Services.  We assist with delivering Meals on Wheels at least once a month.  We also partake in various walks, runs, and fundraising events to give back to our community.

What have you learned from your work at TLC?

No two days are ever alike.  Every day brings a set of new challenges and I am always learning something new each day from my staff and the people that we serve.  Nevertheless, it is the stories from seniors who survived the Great Depression and World War II that comes to mind whenever I am asked this question.  Their ability to face adversity and overcome severe obstacles serves as a reminder that we can achieve anything we want if we are persistent and willing to work hard.

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

Giving back to the community can be as little as picking up the trash around your neighborhood to spending countless hours volunteering for other organizations.  However, it is the intention and the willingness to want something better for others is what counts at the end of the day.  So do not be afraid to do even a small part, they all add up to making a bigger impact in our community.