By Patrick McArdle, as seen in the Times Argus:

Several organizations have come together to create a community response coordinating team to help the community-based response teams and mutual aid networks that have risen in response to Vermont’s effort to “flatten the curve” of the spread of the novel coronavirus and COVID-19.

A news release described the coordinating team as having formed “to facilitate communication between community response and mutual aid groups, to share tools and best practices, and to compile and connect to regional and statewide resources.”

The team includes staff from the Vermont Council on Rural Development; the NEK Collaborative; the Community Resilience Organizations in the South Royalton area; the Community Workshop in White River Valley); Space on Main, in Bradford and the Northern Upper Valley; and Montpelier Mutual Aid.

Jenna Koloski, community and policy manager at the Vermont Council on Rural Development, or VCRD, said that while the local groups involved are not VCRD owned or controlled, the work she and other at VCRD matched their usual role of being a facilitator and a “convenor of public processes.”

“As soon as this (COVID response) really started to ramp up in Vermont and people were paying more attention, we saw community organizers stepping up to mostly form new coalitions of people to connect volunteers in the community to people who need help and support. We saw these groups kind of organically coming together but were hearing a need for helping to connect them with resources, helping to connect them with each other. So VCRD and our partners are playing that convening role,” she said.

People and community groups in Vermont can work with the team and receive access to resources such as a “Toolkit and Resource List for Establishing Local COVID-19 Mutual Aid Efforts,” a dynamic directory of community organizers across the state, information on regular online gatherings for these leaders to foster collaboration and share information and a short form they or others can use to request technical support or add to the team’s email list specifically for COVID-19 community resources and gatherings.

On Friday, Koloski said she had just finished an online meeting that included about 55 organizers around the state.

“We were taking the chance to share success stories from different communities. It’s nothing that we’re instructing them to do. It’s more about putting their fellow organizers in front of them to share what’s working,” she said. Resource providers were also sharing “how to plug in,” Koloski added.

Mary Feldman, executive director of the Rutland County Parent-Child Resource Center, said she’s been working with the team for about two weeks.

“We’re finding all sorts of ways to continue to do all of our programming and maintain the integrity of our programming under really difficult circumstances. To know that we are part of a network that is responding to the intensive needs of the community makes it feel a whole lot less oppressive and daunting of a task,” she said.

The team can provide direct technical assistance for those initiating and supporting efforts in their community.

Eric Bachman, representing Barre Mutual Aid, said they’ve already taken steps by posting a tool to their website, at, that connects people in need with resources or volunteers with people who are sharing needs.

“Almost as soon as we got it up there, we had some volunteers coming in. We have a team of maybe eight people who are watching the site regularly. If someone writes a need, we try and match that with a volunteer,” he said.

Bachman said his group works with the community response coordinating team and the Washington and Northern Orange County Regional Response Command Center.

Koloski said she noticed how rapidly volunteer groups like the one in Barre came together to help their neighbors.

“It was amazing how quickly Vermonters mobilized and started to think about, ‘Gosh, how are people, especially vulnerable and marginalized populations in our communities, how are they going to get through this thing?’ This is hard for everyone but especially some folks who need some help connecting to the things they’ll need over the next few months,” she said.

The coordinating team can be contacted online at