WESTMINSTER -- Southeastern Vermont Community Action will celebrate its 49th anniversary on Monday, April 28, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the American Legion Post #67 in Chester. This annual celebration recognizes the efforts of SEVCA's staff, volunteers, community activists and partner agencies, and the individuals and families we serve in Windham and Windsor counties. It also kicks off May as "National Community Action Month," which was established to focus attention on the complex problems low-income households face and how Community Action Agencies across the country help low-income people change their lives for the better.

This is a very special year in the history of SEVCA, and of CAAs nationally: It marks the 50th anniversary of the initial declaration of the War on Poverty by President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964, as well as the passage and signing into law of the Economic Opportunity Act, which created Community Action and other War on Poverty programs. To commemorate that milestone, the theme of this year's Annual Celebration will focus on that history, the achievements of anti-poverty programs, and the work that needs to be done over the next 50 years to sustain and expand the progress made to date.

Highlighting that theme will be the evening's keynote speaker: Dr. Mary Childers, author of "Welfare Brat: A Memoir," a compelling coming-of-age story of her childhood in the decaying Bronx of the 1950s and 1960s, and her determination to claw her way out poverty.


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In addition to telling her own moving story, she will weave in observations related to the 50th anniversary theme -- about all the successes of the War on Poverty, why that effort is now attacked, what poverty looks like in America today, and the most effective ways of addressing what is happening now and in the future. Her eloquence and unique perspective will make this special occasion even more exceptional.

In addition, a number of awards recognizing the accomplishments of various individuals and organizations will be presented at the event. They include: The "Going Beyond the Call of Duty" award to staff who have gone the extra mile to achieve excellence in serving SEVCA's clients. This year's honoree is Amanda Sabo, Working Bridges Resource Coordinator and Navigator for Vermont Health Connect; the "Community Catalyst" award to those who have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to alleviating the causes and hardships of poverty and improving the quality of life in our communities. This year's award goes to Dorinne Dorfman, Principal of Leland & Gray Union High & Middle School, for her efforts to connect her students and their families with health & dental care, financial literacy education, and other needed resources; and the "Personal Achievement" awards to individuals who have improved their quality of life and made notable strides toward self-sufficiency. This year to Jodie Peebles of SEVCA's Head Start program, and Lindsay DeCell of our Family Services program, both of whom were SEVCA clients, both mothers with 3 children who struggled to meet their basic needs, and are now SEVCA employees, in good jobs that are enabling them to "pay it forward" by making a career of helping other families in need.

The public is welcome and encouraged to attend. A tasty and healthful dinner will be provided, with a small donation requested but not required. For more information, call 800-464-9951 or e-mail lbrooks@sevca.org.