2021 Online Annual Report

2021 Online Annual Report

From The Spring Center to Equine Assisted Therapy, check out all UCS did in 2020-21!

a group of people cut a large red ribbon with large scissors with the help of children using regular scissors.

Dear Friends,

We are continually learning, growing and adapting to serve our community and meet the growing need for our services. Our new online Annual Report gives a comprehensive view of our accomplishments and reflects the hard work and devotion of our staff, who have risen to the challenge of this year and who have been nothing short of heroic.

In times like this, with increased substance use, anxiety, stress, and depression, we are reminded of how interconnected we all are. While the future is unpredictable, one thing I know for sure: together we can get through anything.

Thank you for helping us build a stronger community.

—Lorna Mattern, Executive Director

Thank you to the community!  

This year, United Counseling Service and its dedicated staff met every challenge the pandemic threw at us. We were able to expand services and supports as the need and demand for services continued to grow. The power of community to benefit health is far greater than just our one organization. Ours encompasses UCS staff, families, partner organizations, board members, council members, clients and their families, and others too numerous to list.  

The Board is proud of the strength of our staff and this community, the hurdles that have been overcome, and the successes that have been achieved during this challenging year. 

—Bob Thompson, President of the Board of Directors

Our Stories

2020–21 was year of growth, change, and building stronger communities while adapting to the challenges of the ongoing public health crisis.

Vermont Care Partners is a network of sixteen agencies that provide mental health, substance use disorder, and developmental disability services and supports in every community in Vermont. VCP health care agencies are leaders in reshaping the ways that Vermonters stay well.  

A woman with blue hair sits on a grass feild and hands a baby a small peice of bread from a sandwich she is eating.

This year, UCS and three other VCP member agencies cooperated to implement the use of a new Electronic Medical Records system (EMR), using Netsmart’s myAvatarTM 

“Our collaboration with Netsmart was unique considering the individual agencies involved required different implementation approaches but wanted the network to achieve the same scalability as well as the ability to establish common workflows,” noted Lorna Mattern, UCS’s Executive Director and VCP Board Secretary. “With a unified approach, we were able to facilitate comprehensive training and support as the Netsmart team ensured our move to a common platform was a success. Our agencies are now more in sync than ever before—in fact, the new platform allows us to share contracted clinical services among agencies, a huge benefit in this time of tremendous need and ongoing staff shortages.” 

The new system helps UCS and its partners more easily access and produce quality data to improve the clinical operations of the agencies, by providing metrics that inform workflow processes. This data will be reported to the State, ensuring the agencies are meeting the needs of Vermonters in a timely manner and as required. The data-driven EMR system is also integral in providing clinical summaries that help agency leadership gain insight into behavioral trends and align services to evolving needs. 

In addition to the long-term community benefits arising from the increased data, the new platform now allows UCS and its partnering agencies to share contracted clinical services, a true boon in this time of tremendous need and ongoing staff shortages. 

The Bennington Community Center with the Spring Center. The sky. is blue and the grass is green. A beautiful summer day.

This year, our Early Childhood Services division opened the Spring Center, an 11,000 square foot addition to the Bennington Recreation Center. In addition to providing multi-use community space, this much-anticipated expansion increases access to Head Start and Early Head Start, and the lifelong benefits the programs help foster, for families throughout Bennington County. Partnering with the Town of Bennington and other local organizations, we were able to complete this innovative, multi-million-dollar project nearly on schedule, despite the ongoing health crisis. Together we are strengthening the community, one family at a time. 

Head Start is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 

Early Childhood Services page

Doris Russell, Assistant Director of Mental Health with UCS, has been providing individual therapy sessions to undocumented dairy farmworkers throughout Vermont, many of whom are experiencing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression. 

A woman smiling in front of window. We only see her face. Her glasses are on top of her head and she appears to be wearing a red scarf.

Through a contract with Vermont Care Partners and a University of Vermont Bridges to Health grant, Russell, who is bilingual, has been able to serve this cohort while reducing the language barrier to both getting and providing therapy.  

“We are providing a much-needed service to this community,” says Russell. “The farmworkers have come from Mexico, Guatemala and Uruguay, and are often isolated, living in fear of immigration authorities. 

This year, we partnered with Kanthaka of North Bennington, Inc. to provide equine-assisted therapy and learning opportunities to the community. 

UCS’s Equine Assisted Therapy program combines two well-regarded treatment protocols: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing Psychotherapy (EMDR) and Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP). 

A woman wearing big boots poses outside alongside a large white horse. She has cradled the horse's head in her right arm.

EMDR is an eight-phase program that helps children and adults address mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorders, post-traumatic stress (PTSD), substance abuse and addiction, and more. EAP is based on the precept that healthy relationships are the foundation of healing and recovery. Using EAP, individuals develop a rapport with horses, who are highly sensitive to human energy and actions. This relationship enhances building communication skills and bringing verbal and non-verbal communication into alignment for the individual. 

“I am calmer, I am not worrying a lot, I am leaving everything that bothers me behind … and I am right here with the horse.” —Equine Assisted Therapy client

People can benefit from the healing power of horses: Though horses are highly sensitive to human emotions, they do not process information the way humans do. Equine responses are based on the energy present in the moment. These qualities allow clients to work through their emotional struggles with direct immediate feedback and without being judged. 

Lori Vadakin, UCS’s Director of Outpatient and Substance Use Services, is certified as an EMDR EquiLateral™ Therapist. Down at the barn, she also provides clinical consultations to other clinicians who are learning EMDR. “The relationships that clients build with the horses are so meaningful and impactful,” says Vadakin. “To be able to offer this experience is invaluable. The horses provide the clients with a feeling of calm and a sense that they can cope with anything.” 

Watch UCS Presents: Not just horsing around

There has been an increased demand for higher-intensity treatment for many who are working through addiction and mental health related issues. Our Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) offers innovative, mindful-based sobriety for adults seeking help with substance use and co-occurring disorders that require more intense treatment than outpatient therapy but not the need for residential or inpatient care. The program is designed to address multiple factors concurrently, to help participants maintain and achieve sobriety and improve everyday functioning. The treatment includes evidence-based protocols such as Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP), Collaborative Network Approach (CNA), Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT), and several other healing modalities.   

UCS peer groups are designed to offer support among people who share similar life experiences. Before COVID-19 struck, the peer groups were held in person, but health department restrictions on gathering sizes changed the paradigm.  

A smiling woman in a bright orange floral shirt smiling in front of a window. She has light blue round glasses on, large black earings and short gray hair.

Annette and Greg, who are approved and funded by Vermont Psychiatric Survivors to lead peer groups, led a “Hot Topics” group from Annette’s living room, where the pair, socially distanced and equipped with several phones, had participants call in. Greg built the group’s roster of topics based on requests from the members, whom he calls the real group leaders. The popular “Sunshine Social Group” was relocated to Bennington’s Washington Elms, where the two led activities from the lawn for residents spaced across the porch. When winter saw a second surge of the virus, li-censing limits prevented nonresidents from entering the building. Instead, Annette encouraged a few of the residents to take charge of choosing movies, set up Bingo nights, and organize snacks.  

Jessie, a medical technician at the Elms, says, “Annette and Greg are absolutely wonderful, and all of the residents enjoy doing the crafts and games with them and look forward to the activities.”  

Washington Elms owner Melissa Greason, when asked about the peer support ef-forts, responded, “They’re wonderful!”  She shared that the residents—clients and non-clients alike—all struggle with the restrictions brought on by the public health crisis, commenting on how much UCS’s peer support groups have helped.  She cited Movie and Popcorn Night as a highlight, and said that all the residents enjoy the activities compiled by the peer facilitators. 

Other peer groups convene outside under the tent at our main office location. Nan-cy, who runs the “Living Well” group, provides peers with self-help education, presenting different topics weekly. One member reported that attending the group had renewed her sense of hopefulness and motivation. Meeting others who have lived through a debilitating experience with mental illness and made it to the other side is powerful.  

Peer leader Caroline offers “Friends and Fun,” a comforting gathering of peers that provides activities focused on helping members develop distraction and relaxation techniques. The National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) also provides support groups online. CRT Advisory Committee board member Andrea also sits on the NAMI board  and is active in their programs. Individually and as a group, our peer leaders bring a wealth of perspectives to fellow community members seeking support, as they share insights they have gained from their individual and collective experience with mental illness and mental health issues.

Mentoring at UCS offers youth and their adult mentors opportunities to participate in new experiences and develop shared values. Research has long demonstrated that young people benefit from close, caring relationships with adults who serve as positive role models. At-risk youth with mentors have better attitudes toward school, increased social and emotional development, improved self-esteem, and are more likely to go to college than their non-mentored peers. 

Two masked women wearing coats smiling at the camera outside in winter

Over the past year, UCS mentors met with their mentees in virtual space. Since summer, they have been able to resume in-person activities, thanks in large part to longtime sponsor The Bank of Bennington, who continued to support the program throughout the year, even after the cancellation of the Bowlathon, its major fundraising event. 

UCS mentor Andrea Luchini says of her mentee, “The mentoring program has not only been a great way for Jailynn to experience new things and have time away from her younger siblings, but she has also loved the social aspect…making friends outside of school has definitely been a highlight. I’ve watched her self-confidence blossom as she interacts with new people. It’s also amazing to watch her continually challenge herself—her inner strength and bravery are an example for us all!” 

In this increasingly virtual world, we worked to reach our community with video-streamed education and resources. UCS presented films and video panel discussions with topics ranging from learning helpful interventions and tools for parents to help children who are stressed out, to learning mindfulness techniques to reduce stress—even a webinar on sleep. UCS’s experts worked to provide the platforms to reach the most people possible, so that the community could get needed help and grow in self-awareness. 

  • Angst: Raising Awareness about Anxiety, with panel discussion 
  • Practicing Mindfulness 
  • Our Kids Are More Stressed than Ever—What Can We Do About It? 
  • Wellness Moments self-help series 
  • Mental Health First Aid and Youth Mental Health First Aid 

UCS Presents on YouTube

Psychiatric Urgent Care for Kids (PUCK) is designed to meet the needs of children in crisis. UCS developed PUCK in collaboration with Southwestern Vermont Healthcare (SVHC) as a response to the increased use of the Emergency Room in dealing with kids in a mental health crisis. The program, the first of its kind in Vermont, diverts children experiencing serious behavioral or mental health crises away from the ER and into a child-oriented setting where they can receive appropriate care in a more conducive environment. 

UCS values wellness that includes work/life balance for staff, free community programming, and empowering resources for all.

Two woman leaning over a folding table outside in a the UCS parking lot plant small vegetable plants in pots

Among our initiatives: 

  • Mental Health First Aid and Youth Mental Health First Aid workshops: We offer free courses to staff and the community, introducing participants to risk factors and warning signs of mental health concerns and building understanding of their impact. The workshops teach how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illness and substance use disorders. 
  • Worksite Wellness – We value our employees, and we understand that they, too, can struggle with taking care of themselves. In 2021 our worksite wellness program was the proud recipient of the Governor’s Excellence in Worksite Wellness Award for the eighth consecutive year. Activities included: 
    •  Self-care week 
    •  Employee Garden 
    •  Container gardening workshops 
    •  Onsite CSA with true Love Farm  
    •  Virtual workshops  “Staying Well in Weird Times”, “You Can’t Pour from an Empty Cup”, and more 
  • Equine Therapy Workshops – UCS Clinicians are using this therapy to work successfully with clients, but anyone can benefit from the healing power of horses. UCS offered Equine Assisted Mental Health workshops to introduce the program all.  Community members experienced firsthand how people find solace in the heart of a horse.  
  • Support for Kinship Caregivers – Working with our community partners, EasterSealsTM of Vermont and Southwestern Vermont Health Care, we created a Kin Group designed to build the strength of the extended family and provide supports for kinship caregivers. 

In March, one of our Developmental Services group homes was featured in a story by Seven Days and Vermont Public Radio (VPR) about the all-too-human cost of the pandemic.  

A young masked woman stands in front of the living room of a group home. She is wearing a black top, gray plaid pants, and brown Chelsea boots

Suffering through a house-wide COVID-19 outbreak that began in December and hit residents and staff alike, house manager Tina Fede and her team worked countless hours caring for this tight-knit group of special-needs adults. They quarantined together when necessary, so that the clients in their care, many of whom are unable to fully comprehend the situation, could weather the crisis with as much care, comfort, and dignity as possible.  

We believe it is important to share this story, which is in equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming. We hope you will read more and listen to VPR’s excerpt below: 


Leadership & Financials

The Board of Directors oversees the operations of the community mental health and developmental services for Bennington County. 

  • Robert Thompson, President 
  • Charles Letourneau, Vice President 
  • Nathaniel Marcoux, Treasurer 
  • William Baldwin, Secretary 
  • Joseph O’Dea, Counsel to the Board 
  • David Ballou 
  • Kristi Cross 
  • Joanna Mintzer 
  • Stephanie Mulligan 
  • Lee Romano 

The Senior Leadership team is a group of talented individuals who are dedicated to community improvement and passionate about the work they do. 

  • Lorna Mattern, Executive Director 
  • Leslie Addison, Director of Human Resources 
  • Dawn Danner, Director of Developmental Services 
  • Jill Doyle, Director of Finance 
  • Amy Fela, Director of Operations 
  • Jason Fleming, Director of Children, Youth, and Family Services 
  • Heidi French, Director of Community Relations and Development 
  • Julie Pagliccia, Director of Northshire Services 
  • Betsy Rathbun-Gunn, Director of Early Childhood Services 
  • Alya Reeve, MD, Medical Director 
  • Lori Vadakin, Director of Outpatient Mental Health and Substance Use Services 

Category Amount
Psychiatric and Crisis Services 1050
Outpatient Mental Health 1150
Children, Youth & Family Services 748
Substance Use Disorders 334
Developmental Services 300
Community Rehabilitation & Treatment 181

Category Amount
Developmental Services 40%
Community Programs 32%
Children 10%
Rehabilitation & Treatment for Mentally Ill 8%
Adults 5%
Emergency 3%
Substance Abuse 2%


Category Amount
Salaries $10,071,391
Fringe Benefits $2,571,604
Other Personnel Costs $4,253,911
Operating Expenses $2,047,501
Travel & Transportation $336,142
Building Expenses $1,048,722
Total Expenses $20,329,271

Fees & 3rd Party Payments$459,555
Vt. Alcohol & Drug Abuse Division$490,819
Vt. Dept. of Mental Health$1,130,611
Vt. Dept. of Developmental Services$103,619
Other State Contracts$326,194
Local Revenue$1,320,018
Total Revenue$20,329,271

Annual Fund & Fundraising Events

Those we serve are at the heart of everything we do—helping people to grow, develop, recover and lead their best possible lives.  

We welcome your unrestricted donations to our General Fund or your contributions to one of our named funds. With your help we can continue to provide much-needed individual and group services and education, and reduce mental health stigma in our community.  

General Fund

Donations to our General Fund will be used to support services and programs in all areas, as determined by current needs. 

Charlie’s Fund

Charles “Charlie” Goodwin was hardworking, always holding down several jobs. His love of animals inspired him to volunteer at Second Chance Animal Shelter. Charlie’s Fund supports efforts to raise awareness of the importance of wellbeing by reducing the stigma often associated with seeking treatment. The fund assists with programming and education designed to fight stigma and support understanding. People with mental health conditions are not alone, and Charlie’s fund helps us get the word out.

Erin Skaar Memorial Fund

Erin cared deeply about both the two- and four-legged residents of Bennington County. Those who knew and loved her would say, “She would care for any critter that crossed her path in need of love and nurturing.” Erin extended her heart to others, and her memorial fund will carry out her wish to help alleviate suffering. Contributions will be used to facilitate a way out for those in violent relationships, improve advocacy for children, enable participation in equine-assisted psychotherapy, and conduct outreach to the greater Bennington community.

Gregory S. Hillman Fund

Gregory S. Hillman was a spirited young man who had attended Reed College. He was a highly accomplished musician and athlete, always there for friends in need. Hillman Fund supports youth suicide prevention initiatives, including providing Youth Mental Health First Aid training and additional youth suicide prevention programs at no cost to the community.

Together, we are building a stronger community. 

View all Donors

Thanks to the support of our super sponsors, heroic planning and organization by UCS staff, and enthusiastic community participation, our virtual Superhero 5K was a success—participants trained for weeks ahead, ran outdoors or on their treadmills, and got a bit healthier and happier in the process! 

After a year’s hiatus, our 2021 event was warmly welcomed by bargain hunters from near and far. 

A large group of mostly women pose on stairs for picture. They are all wearing white shirts and blue jeans with name tags hanging around their necks.

Proceeds from the annual Barn Sale are earmarked for UCS’s Northshire programs, including substance abuse recovery, outpatient mental health counseling, youth and family services, psychiatry, and other individual and group services supporting mental health. 

Committee Chair: Craigin Salsgiver

Although our annual Bowlathon was canceled due to the pandemic, longtime Mentoring sponsor The Bank of Bennington stepped up with a contribution equal to its usual sponsorship, helping us keep our vital program in the pink.

Client Satisfaction Survey

We strive to provide the highest level of service and care, and it shows. According to an independently administered survey, our clients are overwhelmingly satisfied with UCS’s services and supports.

91% agreed/strongly agreed that services were right for us.

82% agreed/strongly agreed that my quality of life improved as a result of the services I/we received.

92% agreed/strongly agreed that I/we received services that we needed.

91% agreed/strongly agreed that the services I/we received made a difference. 

96% agreed/strongly agreed that staff treated me/us with respect.

91% would recommend UCS to a friend or family. 

“I simply wanted to say that through the years UCS has offered me quality mental health services. It has been through their efforts and commitment that I have been able to thrive in my life and be a productive member of society and my community through volunteer work. I have always been treated with dignity and respect at all times. I feel greatly appreciative to all at UCS and their never-ending commitment to quality services throughout Bennington county. 
UCS is a great asset to our wonderful community. Thanks so very much. I know that UCS will continue to provide these much-needed quality services.”  

—Nancy, Client and Peer Supports 


“The staff were very understanding of my situation and helped me take the steps that were needed.” 

—UCS Client 


It was welcoming here. Lots of caring and compassion.”

—UCS Client 

Staff & Community Recognition

The Scully Award is given annually to long-serving employees who exemplify the characteristics of Dr. Scully, a former UCS Medical Director, performing their work with compassion, skill, and distinction. This year, two outstanding staffers were recognized: 

Christine Ouellette – Substance Use Outreach and Emergency Specialist

Christine provides community outreach in response to the growing opioid epidemic, runs substance use groups, and works to reach people where they are and get them services quickly. She delivered computers to local agency partners so clients could access support online, dispersed harm reduction bags to area businesses and hotels serving the homeless, and worked with Vermont Helplink to bring awareness to UCS services on a national level.

Beth Wallace – Community and Family Support Manager

This past year, Beth advocated for diversity and equity in our Early Childhood Services division, created high-quality care and educational programs for the children and families of Bennington County, and supported staff in their own personal development. A consummate leader, Beth is also a strong advocate for the families we serve. She worked hard to keep the community informed while the Spring Center was being built. Beth exemplifies UCS’s collective drive to do the right thing for our clients, our community, and each other.

Tina Fede – Gatling House Group Home Manager

This year we celebrated Julie’s life by presenting the Julie Held Award to Tina Fede, Manager of our Gatling House group home. Tina exemplifies the UCS “I CARE” values. – Ideal Service, Culture of Caring, Accountability, Responsiveness, and Empowerment. 

Rebecca Bishop – Assistant Director of Early Childhood Services

This annual staff development award, in honor of our longtime Board President, is given to an individual who has demonstrated a commitment to continued learning and improvement. This year’s award was presented to Rebecca Bishop.

Bob Thompson – Chair, UCS Board of Directors

Each year the UCS Board selects a community member or organization whose support of UCS and its mission has been notable and significant. This year’s Cleveland and Phyllis Dodge Community Service award went to Bob Thompson, Chair of the UCS Board. With the agency facing an uncertain future due to the pandemic, Bob worked tirelessly to secure our organization a PPP Loan. He helped keep our workforce intact, our doors open to a community in need. 

Jack Byer – Lead Architect, Goldstone Architecture

UCS Director of Early Childhood Services Betsy Rathbun-Gunn had the pleasure of presenting the Harold C. “Archie” Warner Award to Jack Byer, lead architect at Goldstone Architecture, who provided the architectural design for our new Spring Center. The Archie Warner Award is given annually to individuals or organizations who have made a significant contribution to the agency’s children’s programs. Jack spent countless hours putting his expertise and creativity to good use, helping turn our “wish list” into reality and creating a beautiful learning and community space for the children and families we serve. 

40 years

  • Nadine Wisher

30 years

  • Lorna Mattern
  • Jean Henderson

25 years

  • Thomas Madison

20 years

  • Amie Niles
  • Victor Martini

15 years

  • Darlene Lockwood
  • Rich Jorgensen
  • Stacey Ray

10 years

  • Leslie Addison
  • Kathleen Longhi
  • Kim Lawlor-Batty
  • Cheryl Jolivette
  • Laurie Sallisky
  • Beth Wallace 

5 years

  • Tiffany Belville
  • Jacilyn Benkoski
  • Jean Cavaluzzi
  • Annah Coyne
  • Heidi French
  • Mary Gates
  • Alexandria Glasser-Brown
  • Catherine Hickey
  • Ashley Hutton
  • Amanda Mauri
  • Rose Mylott
  • Glenn Nesbitt
  • Tommy Parker
  • Courtney Randall
  • Chessica Sauvie
  • Ash Straub
  • Alex Tarnas-Raskin
  • Lynn Trefry
  • Catherine Williams
  • Jessica Woodward 

Programs & Services

1150 individuals served

  • Child, adult, family, and couples counseling 
  • Psychotherapy groups 
  • Mental health and developmental disabilities 
  • Evaluation and psychological testing 
  • Equine Assisted Therapy 
  • Community education and consultation services

334 individuals served

  • Alcohol and drug abuse counseling and education 
  • Substance abuse receiving center  
  • Assessment for and facilitation of detox or residential services  
  • Intensive Outpatient Program   
  • Consultation to agencies and schools  
  • Community outreach 

2273 emergency serves provided

  • Psychiatric evaluation 
  • Medication management 
  • Liaison to intensive hospital care 
  • 24-hour emergency service 
  • Battelle House crisis stabilization center 
  • Mobile crisis services

181 individuals served

  • Residential program 
  • Community support services 
  • Supported employment program 
  • Individual counseling 
  • Group counseling 
  • Programs for those with dual diagnoses

300 clients served

  • Residential services including group homes and shared living  
  • Community support services  
  • College Steps Program  
  • Case Management services  
  • Family support services  
  • Employment services  
  • Crisis services  
  • The Gathering Place at Camp Ondawa

748 youths and families served

  • Family Emergency Services (FES) 
  • Family outreach services 
  • Individual and group therapy 
  • Therapeutic case management 
  • Respite services 
  • School-based services 
  • Jump on Board for Success (JOBS) program 
  • Transitional Living Program 
  • Teens for Change Youth Group 
  • Camp Be A Kid 
  • Mentoring at UCS 
  • Psychiatric Urgent Care for Kids (PUCK)

165 families served

  • Bennington County Head Start 
  • Bennington County Early Head Start 
  • Parenting and family education 
  • Family outreach

 5 organizations use UCS for EAP

  • Employee Assistance Program (EAP) 
  • Management consultation 
  • Community partnerships 
  • Trainings/Webinars

United Children’s Services

Bennington County Head Start and Early Head Start provide essential services for children from birth to age 5. We partner with parents, teachers, and community members to create meaningful, measurable change.

The entrance to the new Spring Center. The overhang above the front door says "Spring Center" The support holding the overhang is made up of larger than life letter block toys that spell out "Spring Center"

In partnership with the Town of Bennington, UCS’s newest Head Start facility, the Spring Center, opened this year to great fanfare. The new building expands access to childcare and Head Start/Early Head Start programs. Visit the Our Stories section to read more about the Spring Center. 

Like other facilities, our North Bennington location welcomed children and families back for onsite, in-person learning and services. Families were offered a bagel to start their day, and a “hopes and dreams” card to complete and return to their child’s teacher. At the end of the year, families received their cards back with a portfolio of their child’s work. 

The UCS Infant/Toddler Center had a well-attended end-of-school-year car parade, with each child having at least one car to cheer them on. This was a wonderful opportunity to celebrate accomplishments and allow for family involvement while keeping public health and safety guidelines at the forefront.  

This year Bennington County Head Start worked to increase family and community access to literacy opportunities. With a grant from Sunrise Family Resource Center, we partnered with Bennington Area Makers (BAM), Alliance for Community Transformation (ACT), and Head Start families to design and construct Little Free Libraries, which we installed around Bennington County.  

A group of kids and parents outside posing in front of a partially constructed little library. It looks like a large empty wooden box.

Little Free Library is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to be a catalyst for building community, inspiring readers, and expanding book access for all through a global network of volunteer-led Little Free Libraries. Little Free Libraries have already been installed at Pownal School, the Spring Center (Bennington), Shires Housing Development (North Bennington), and Arlington Recreation Park. 

As our Little Free Library project continues to gain traction and interest, more libraries are popping up in the communities we serve. The public is invited to take—or leave!—a book. 

Two masked women holding paper bags of food. One is in a light blue shirt and the other is in a black floral shirt. The seem to be on a porch of a white house

Over 600 Everyone Eats vouchers and meals were distributed to Head Start families, staff and United Counseling Service staff. The Vermont Department of Health and Dutchman’s Tavern in Bennington helped make sure meals were delivered safely and securely to the UCS staff and clients who were quarantining together inside group homes at the time. 

Last year, we reported on changes in how we delivered services and impacts on School Readiness Goals data resulting from the interruption to learning caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This year we continue to see the effects of the public health crisis on children’s learning and development, though in different ways from last year. 

In 2020–21, almost all children were enrolled in our onsite programs, with only a couple of children enrolled fully virtual for the entire school year. The program used a hybrid learning schedule, with four onsite full days and one virtual learning day each week. 

All children enrolled were assessed at the Fall Baseline, Winter Midpoint, and Spring Final Progress checkpoints this year. Teachers’ curriculum heavily emphasized lessons and experiences in Social and Emotional Development, Language and Literacy, and Approaches to Learning, as part of the School Readiness goals. In general, this year’s enrolled children showed the lowest incoming baseline data that we have ever seen at the program level. 

Overall, the children made good progress. However, for most domain areas of learning, we would like to see additional progress before school transition for the four-year-olds in our program: as the children most impacted by the pandemic, it is yet to be determined how long it will take for them to make up the loss of learning. There is also a significantly higher percentage of enrolled children receiving disabilities services than in previous years. This year, 25% of enrolled preschoolers have an active Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and 55% of enrolled infants and toddlers have an active Individualized Family Support Plan/Vermont One Plan. 

Social and Emotional Development

96% of infants and toddlers  •  87% of three-year-olds  •  62% of four-year-olds (increased 30% from fall) 

Language Development

75% of infants and toddlers  • 88% of three-year-olds  •  77% of four-year-olds (increased 24% from fall) 

Literacy Development

95% of infants and toddlers  •  73% of three-year-olds  •  71% of four-year-olds (increased 42% from fall) 


87% of infants and toddlers  •  78% of three-year-olds  •  57% of four-year-olds (increased 32% from fall) 

Approaches to Learning

95% of infants and toddlers  •  82% of three-year-olds  •  57% of four-year-olds (increased 14% from fall) 

Physical Development

98% of infants and toddlers  •  89% of three-year-olds  •  93% of four-year-olds (increased 68% from fall) 

Scientific Reasoning

99% of preschoolers emerging or meets program expectation 

US Department of Health & Human Services 

$ 2,895,772 

State/Local Contracts 

$ 1,545,174 


$  128,780 

Total Revenue 

$ 4,569,726 


$ 2,328,196 


$ 636,005 

Other Personnel Costs 

$ 415,453 

Operating Expenses 

$ 638,847 

Travel & Transportation 

$ 133,828 

Building Expenses 

$ 404,574 

Miscellaneous Expenses 

$   12,823 

Total Expenses 

$ 4,569,726