2023 Online Annual Report

2023 Online Annual Report

A year of adaptation and ongoing partnerships to strengthen the communities we serve

Young man embracing another man in a hug
Closeup of a smiling middle aged white woman with short blond hair, wearing hoop earrings, a light blue open-collared blouse, and navy jacket


This year has been marked by changes and challenges, as our community continues to feel the impacts of COVID, and social shifts have created added stressors that Bennington County residents are as affected by as are their friends and families nationwide. Here in our home region, we have seen an increase in drug overdoses and suicides, local businesses have experienced an increase in crisis-driven impacts within their own organizations, and children and youth have not fully recovered from the losses they suffered by the pandemic and its restrictions. Social ills have affected our clients, our staff and the community and resulted in a greater demand for services, consultation, and interventions.  

UCS works hard to meet the ever-growing requests and needs of the community. As we celebrate our 65th year of serving our neighbors throughout the county, we reflect on our years of service and our continued commitment to addressing the very real struggles of each person who looks to us for support. With the help of community partners and our dedicated staff, we will continue to provide critical mental health care, substance use treatment, and developmental services and meet the changing needs of all who seek our services.

—Lorna Mattern, Executive Director

Closeup of a smiling middle aged white man with short-cropped light brown hair, wearing a white shirt, dark blue tie, and fleece jacket

Dear Friends,

With all the changes and challenges of the current times, our staff stayed on top of each new twist that came their way. They are a group of dedicated, hardworking individuals who strive to provide quality service to those who ask.  

This year in celebration of 65 years of service, we welcomed the Me2/ Orchestra to perform for the community. The teamwork and support apparent in their performance and the stories they shared reminded me of the team at UCS, working together and supporting each other to make great things happen. 

Thank you.

—Bob Thompson, President of the Board of Directors

UCS marks a milestone

In the decades since our founding in 1958, United Counseling Service has grown not only to serve increasing numbers of Bennington County’s residents, but to provide new and varied services to meet the evolving needs of the community. Much of what we do goes well beyond counseling, and we invite you to browse this annual report and visit our website for a more in-depth look at UCS programs and services. 

Our Stories

Photo of sign in front of a line of people, sign reads "Me2/Burlington Perfomance
You are entering a Stigma-Free Zone!

On Saturday, May 13, as part of UCS’s yearlong 65th anniversary celebration, Me2/Orchestra of Burlington performed Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 at Southern Vermont Arts Center’s (SVAC) Arkell Pavilion. Led by Music Director and Conductor Michael J. Colburn, Me2/ Burlington is an ensemble of Me2/, a Boston-based classical music organization created for people with mental illnesses and those who support them. Nearly 300 people attended the concert, which was Me2/ Burlington’s last one slated for the year.  

audience gathered around a stage of musician with various instruments
Me2/Burlington warming up at SVAC

The mission of Me2/ is to erase the stigma of mental illness, including addiction, through supportive classical music rehearsals and inspiring performances. Wherever Me2/ goes, you can find a sign close by that says, “you are now entering a stigma-free zone”.  

UCS Executive Director Lorna Mattern welcomed the audience and spoke about current challenges in Bennington County, including the significant increase in mental health crises affecting our communities. Other speakers throughout the evening included Conductor Michael Colburn, Me2/ Burlington Managing Director Phoenix Crockett, and clarinetist Melanie Brown. Brown shared her testimony about being diagnosed with a mental illness, joining Me2/ Orchestra, and the importance of talking about mental health in schools. The orchestra performed all five movements of Beethoven’s sixth symphony and was met with a standing ovation at the close of the concert. UCS looks forward to hosting Me2/ Burlington again in the future, in support of fighting the stigma often associated with mental illness.  

two women huddled close smiling
UCS staff and volunteer

More Community Events:

In addition to our signature events for our 65th anniversary (which spans two fiscal years), we hosted several community events this past year, including: 

  • UCS Presents: The Hungry Heart 
  • Suicide Prevention Awareness Vigil  
  • 5th Annual UCS Superhero 5K and Kids’ Dash  
  • UCS Presents: Untreated and Unheard: The Addiction Crisis in America 
  • Psychiatric Urgent Care for Kids Open House 
  • Bennington Youth Summit 



A person with long curly brunette hair and wearing a black shirt smiles against a background of green maple leaves.
Danielle Gallen, Director of Human Resources

Danielle Gallen, JD, PHR, SHRM C-P
Director of Human Resources 

Danielle has held HR leadership roles in both the public and private sectors, most recently running her own HR consulting firm. She specializes in conflict resolution, employee relations, and Diversity, Equity, Access, and Inclusion. Danielle earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Florida State University and her Juris Doctor (JD) from University of California, Hastings College of Law.  


A man with glasses wearing a black UCS vest, black tie, blue lanyard, and white shirt smiles.
Ryan Lane, Director of Children, Youth and Family Services

Ryan Lane, M.A. 
Director of Children, Youth and Family Services

Ryan brings 22 years of experience and passion for community mental health to the organization. Before joining UCS, he was a clinician at the Howard Center, a Vermont Care Partners Center of Excellence in Burlington. Prior to his clinical work, Ryan held leadership positions at the Vermont Department of Health, Alcohol, and Drug Abuse Programs as Director of Clinical Services, and taught psychology as a faculty member at Burlington College and Southern New Hampshire University.  

A middle-aged white woman with brown hair and glasses wearing a black dress and jacket and a middle-aged white man with gray hair and glasses wearing a tan jacket with an olive green sweater and brown slacks flank a floor-mounted presentation screen showing a variety of charts and text. They are in a large convention hall with crowds behind them.
Presenting FAST at the National Council for Mental Wellbeing’s annual convention in Los Angeles, May 2023.

Like many healthcare organizations, UCS saw a significant increase in the demand for our services across nearly every division. We are experiencing: 

An increase in the number of people needing help 

An increase in individuals in crisis going to the emergency room 

A growing waitlist 

Higher acuity of symptoms 

664 Clients Served through FAST
664 Clients Served through FAST

Find Access to Services and Treatment (FAST) was designed to help assess, triage, and respond efficiently and effectively to those who access our agency through our Same Day Access model of care. Any person seeking assistance can call or come in, meet with a Universal Access Coordinator for administrative intake, and immediately begin the screening and support process with the FAST team, which might include a Case Manager and Same Day Access Clinician. The team uses Collaborative Network Approach (CNA) methods, a best practice model, to create a culture of psychological safety and determine the best approach to support each client. 

97% of clients had a decrease in Subjective Unit of Disturbance from when they entered FAST to when they left the session
97% of clients had a decrease in Subjective Unit of Disturbance from when they entered FAST to when they left the session

The goal of FAST is to get people the help they need, when they need it, as quickly as possible. UCS launched its FAST process in January 2022 and has seen a steady increase in its usage ever since. Visit our YouTube channel for a short video about the FAST process. 

“This resource exhibited the power of a professional, listening ear – they did not just listen to words I spoke, but they Felt them, they saw my story within their imagination, and they truly heard me. I love this method of therapy because it emulates the power of unity, vulnerability, and courage.”

-Makayla, who entered UCS services through FAST

A smiling middle-aged white man in a gray polo shirt and khakis, with a fringe of gray hair and glasses perched on his head, stands in front of a desk that prominently displays a small green and white sign with the words “Vermont Strong”
Elwell on the job

As the number of people who experience behavioral crises grows, so does the demand on law enforcement officers, who are often among the first or only ones to respond to distress calls. Yet many of those officers lack the training to deal with these situations as effectively as trained social workers and mental health counselors. To better meet public needs, the past few years have seen criminal justice agencies partnering with mental health professionals on a range of training and crisis intervention programs. 

In 2021, UCS placed a mental health clinician in the Vermont State Troopers’ Shaftsbury barracks. UCS clinician Bill Elwell often responds with an officer to manage and deescalate calls for service, including screening the individual to determine an appropriate course of action. He is also there to support the officers. “Every call a trooper responds to has a high probability of having some sort of behavioral health element,” says Bill, who responds to around 20 calls per week and helps deescalate a variety of situations.  

This model has worked so well that we received funding to place a clinician within the Bennington Police Department (BPD) this coming year. We work closely with the BPD and look forward to deepening our connection. “The Bennington Police Department and United Counseling Service have an amazing working relationship,” says BPD Chief Paul Doucette. “We rely on UCS to provide assistance with mental health and crisis situations in our day-to-day operations. This not only includes calls for service, but assisting our employees after they have dealt with critical situations.” Mental health issues in law enforcement can significantly impact officers, their families, and those around them. Some of the most common challenges that police officers experience among their own ranks include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and substance use challenges.  

The new partnership aims to address both public and intra-department needs. A clinician within BPD will assist officers with their response to crisis calls. If a clinician is not available at the time of the incident, an officer will forward information to the clinician, so that the clinician can follow up with the community member who may be in need of services. 

“We can provide assistance in the field and after the incident,” says Doucette. “This allows us to better serve the Bennington community and provide critical resources for people in need.”

A smiling white woman with short gray hair, blue-framed glasses, and a black and white patterned shirt sits at a table with a tray of French fries in front of her.
“It has saved my life a great deal. When I came here I wouldn’t look at anyone, I wouldn’t speak to anyone. Look at me now.”—Caroline Gauthier, Peer Advocate

The Peer Support team at UCS uses the power of human connections through their lived experiences with a mental health condition to bridge gaps in healing through collaboration, creating relationships built on connection, empathy, supportive listening, and hope. The role of Peer Support Advocate gives people with lived experience of mental illness the chance to support clients going through their own mental health challenges, while providing a perspective that can’t be taught or learned.  

Kayla Stannard came to United Counseling Service (UCS) through the Finding Access to Services and Treatment (FAST) program with trauma and a deep fear of people. She was terrified of interaction with others—even close family members—and battling depression, anxiety, and sadness. She came to UCS for help, but she would soon be the one helping others find paths through mental health challenges and crises. Kayla now works as a Peer Support Advocate in UCS’ Community Rehabilitation and Treatment (CRT) program, which supports adults with long term mental illness. “Had I continued to lock myself in shame and depression and sadness, and kept the story to myself, I never would have had this opportunity,” she says.  

Stacy Barnett is also a Peer Support Advocate with UCS. She completed the Intensive Outpatient program and now uses what she has learned to help others. “There is a sort of emotional communion among people who have walked similar paths. Among peers there is a mutual understanding of a way of life that is familiar.” says Stacy. “My goal is to inspire and encourage others, to help them value and respect themselves just as was done for me.”  

A group of women and one man stand in an office smiling at the camera
Members of the Peer Supports team gather after WRAP training.

Peer Support Advocates participate in various trainings. Along with CPR, First Aid and Crisis Prevention Intervention (CPI), Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) and Motivational Interviewing. The team continues to search for ways to increase their knowledge and help their peers.  

The work of a Peer Support Advocate changes day to day and week to week, with opportunities to support clients in many different ways. Sometimes this means stopping by someone’s home and helping with laundry, sitting with someone and coloring, watching a movie, or making a few jokes and laughing together. From teaching self-compassion in UCS’ Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP), to providing direct service case management out in the community, there is diversity in every day.  

Emphasizing someone’s humanity, according to Kayla, is why peer support is uniquely effective in helping to heal.  

* Research shows that peer recovery support may result in: 

Increased engagement and activation in treatment 

Increased quality of life and satisfaction 

Decreased self-stigma 

Decreased costs to mental health system 

Decreased hospitalization 

*Source https://www.samhsa.gov/sites/default/files/programs_campaigns/brss_tacs/value-of-peers-2017.pdf 

An olive-skinned Asian woman with black hair pulled back and a dark blue turtleneck sweater is smiling at the camera while seated at a work table pricing wooden items in the middle of a store with shelves and displays full of kitchen supplies.
DS client Mia has worked at Vermont Kitchen Supply for almost three years.

On any given day, there is something good going on in UCS’ Developmental Services division. The Community Supports program has a full schedule of activities planned each week, from lawn games and a gardening club to art and cooking classes. The goal of the program, according to Community Supports Coordinator Christopher Burke, is to help clients reach their personal goals. “Sometimes a client’s goal is to make or save money, or to exercise and eat right,” says Burke. “Sometimes the goal is to learn independent living skills, or to have access to their community.” One client is working toward getting his learner’s permit. Another client uses her UCS client pass to the Bennington Recreation Center to focus on her fitness goals. She attends at least two to three times per week and tells others how much more energy she has and how great she feels. She has before and after photos showing her weight loss journey. “I’m swimming in it!” she says of her old clothes.  

The Community Supports program gives clients guidance and encouragement to achieve the things they want, while also providing rewarding experiences every day. Men’s Group on Fridays is a chance for clients to spend some time talking with peers, often outdoors at Willow Park in Bennington. Bowling is a favorite activity in Men’s Group, and they hope to find a new bowling alley to visit since Bennington Lanes recently closed its doors (the bowling alley’s owner cried when clients told her how much they loved bowling there).   

Women’s Group meets at the Second Congregational Church on Wednesdays for different social activities each week. Recently, they took a trip to a local berry farm to pick blueberries. Next, they plan to visit the Lions Park to tour art in North Bennington. Other offerings for clients include Jobs Club, video gaming at Gamer’s Grotto on Main Street in Bennington, Visions Group where clients can focus on academics of their choice, and art and cooking classes. Staff member Stephanie Currie teaches a weekly American Sign Language (ASL) class, where clients learn ASL and about the hearing impaired community. “Stephanie spreads awareness about her disability while including other people with disabilities as well,” says Burke. Direct Support Professional Roxy Iskowitz leads an art class on Mondays, a gardening club at the Bennington Community Garden on Wednesdays, and supports a client-led cooking class. Clients in art class created dragons out of papier-mâché, and the cooking class made food for the annual three-day Lake Days event at Lake Shaftsbury this summer, where Roxy also facilitated dreamcatcher and tie-dyeing workshops for clients at the lake.  

21% increase in the number of companies hiring UCS clients through the Employment Connections program
21% increase in the number of companies hiring UCS clients through the Employment Connections program

“Community Supports is adventure time,” says Burke. “We like to do events out in the community where our clients can interact with community members from all walks of life.”  

One favorite event each year is the trip to see baby animals at Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, MA. It is a time when staff and clients get to spend a fun day together as they meet the first new animals of spring. Clients look forward to it every year. Another popular event is Dollar Day at the Schaghticoke Fair at the end of summer. Admission is just one dollar and clients have a great time enjoying the rides, playing games, and spending the day together.  

Developmental Services staff plan activities based on what clients are interested in doing each week. Burke recently sent out a survey to clients requesting feedback on activities. He hopes that data from surveys will help inform programming in the future. Staff take a client-centered approach to planning activities in community spaces. “We like to have groups out in the community where they are visible and can interact with their neighbors around town.” 

UCS also offers an Employment Connections program that connects clients to paid jobs that align with their goals and interests. Staff support clients during their workdays and guide them in training, job development, maintaining employment, and building skills for the workplace and beyond. Along with Community Supports and Employment Connections, UCS offers a Family Supports program for families with their adult children at home, as well as shared and supervised living programs, developmental services for children, and residential group homes.  

Notable Statistics: 

  • 12% of clients volunteer 
  • 22% participate in music therapy 
  • 66.7% engage in regular exercise 
  • 28% of working age clients are employed 
  • 11 have been at their jobs for over 5 years 
  • 10 have been at their jobs for over 10 years 
  • 35 DS clients live independently 

A tall smiling woman with short gray-blonde hair and eyeglasses, wearing a red flower-patterned dress and black cardigan stands outside on the porch of a building holding up a certificate.
Rudiakov proudly displays her VLS certificate.

Lisa Rudiakov is a Developmental Services client at UCS and an advocate for all. She is a graduate of the Vermont Leadership Series in Montpelier, a six-month course that trains adults with developmental disabilities and their family members to advocate for positive social change. The program prepares participants to advocate to legislators, promote positive attitudes about disabilities, and ultimately make Vermont a better place to live for people with disabilities. “I did this for me,” says Lisa of her graduation from the program. “I feel blessed to do this for myself. I’m just grateful.”  

Lisa is also the vice chair of the Vermont Developmental Disabilities Council and was recently named President of Green Mountain Self Advocates (GMSA), an organization that empowers people with developmental disabilities to make decisions and speak for themselves. Lisa is a powerful community advocate for all who need support, including local veterans. Through her advocacy work locally and beyond, Lisa challenges people to use their voices to lift others up and make a better home for everyone. 

A group of people, many wearing rainbow tie-dyed tshirts or wrapped in rainbow flags, walk behind a man in a pink sleeveless shirt and khaki shorts and a woman in a rainbow tie-dyed t-shirt who are are carrying a long banner between on a pole. The banner reads “Happy Pride” and displays the UCS logo.
UCS staff walk in pride and allyship at Bennington’s annual Pride Parade.

The UCS Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) Committee is working hard to create a workplace that feels inviting. The monthly meetings are open to all employees, and two new members joined the ranks this year. The committee implemented key initiatives such as including a DEIB question in the biannual staff engagement survey, providing Psychological Safety in the Workplace Training to staff, and participating in a community Juneteenth Celebration and several events held during Pride Month. The committee regularly contributes to the monthly staff newsletter and offers pronoun pins to all staff should they choose to wear them. This year staff were also encouraged to take a self-directed implicit bias test. 

“UCS Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Committee’s objective is to create a culture that allows all staff, clients, and groups to feel safe, respected, and valued for who they are, where they come from, and what they believe,” says Alex Figueroa, Assistant Director of Substance Use Services and Chair of the DEIB Committee. 

UCS embraces the National Culturally and Linguistical Appropriate Services (CLAS) Standards to advance health equity, improve quality, eliminate health disparities, and promote an informed culturally aware, and welcoming workplace. 

A deep blue nighttime scene of a lake with trees across the far end and the moon glowing above. On the lake are floating numerous cube-shaped paper lanterns, glowing with candlelight.
In September 2022 UCS held its first Candlelight Suicide Awareness Vigil as a way to remember those lost to suicide and to spread aware­ness of the toll suicide takes on those left behind. Families gathered to share stories and reflections, and then released memorial lanterns in Lake Paran.

This past year has seen a significant increase in suicides across the state. UCS has responded with trainings, consultations and counseling to several local organizations and businesses. Responding at a moment’s notice, our staff are there for the community where and when they are needed.  

Doris Russell, Assistant Director of Outpatient Mental Health and Substance Use Services, reported that clinicians are seeing more individuals presenting with suicidal ideations and a history of serious attempts than in years past. UCS Clinicians are available to meet with organizations in the event of a suicide, providing debriefing and support.  

In addition to bringing in UCS clinicians after a critical event, organizations can contract with UCS for an Employee Assistance Program (EAP), and it is becoming increasingly common for them to request that debriefing of staff in the event of a suicide be included in the contract. UCS tailors EAP services to each company or organization depending on their needs and budgets. 

620% increase in staff and community members trained in Mental Health First Aid FY22 (21) to FY23 (130)
620% increase in staff and community members trained in Mental Health First Aid FY22 (21) to FY23 (130)

As part of its role in providing community training and resources, UCS regularly offers Mental Health First Aid and Youth Mental Health First Aid both for staff and the community at large. Additionally, we provide suicide prevention and postvention resources here on our website 

UCS will be rolling out the Zero Suicide initiative this coming year. The foundational belief of Zero Suicide is that suicide deaths for individuals under the care of health and behavioral systems are preventable. 

A group of six women and one man stand in front of a white portico between two planters filled with pink flowers outside a blue clapboard building.
UCS’ MAT team (L to R): Crickett Polis, Keili Trottier, Patricia Johnson, Alex Figueroa, Taylor Ganier, Wendy Sergeant, Taija LaFountain

It’s no secret that a skyrocketing rate of substance use is having a devastating impact on individuals, families, and organizations across our community. This year alone, there was a 65% increase in clients served by our Intensive Outpatient Program. As part of UCS’ commitment to expanding access to treatment and recovery services, we launched a Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT) program, which involves administering buprenorphine to help individuals detoxify from illicit opiates, reduce overdose risks, and maintain long-term recovery from opioid misuse. 

“The goal of the MAT program at UCS is to meet a critical need as we see mental health and substance use challenges increasing by the day,” says Executive Director Lorna Mattern. “This is a significant step toward filling a gap in substance use disorder (SUD) treatment that is felt throughout Bennington County.”  

The MAT program is used alongside other therapeutic tools to mitigate overdose risk and help clients achieve both near-term and long-term recovery. One such tool comes from our partnership with the CHESS Health platform: UCS clients now have access to the Connections smartphone app, providing 24/7 peer support to help reduce isolation, gain motivation, build confidence, and adhere to their treatment and recovery plans. The application is highly focused on relapse prevention and gives participants an opportunity to connect with a larger community that includes other people with shared or similar lived experiences.  

“With the integration of the eRecovery Connections app into our substance use services, we can ensure that the people we serve have access to valuable life-saving resources,” says Alex Figueroa, Assistant Director of Substance Use Services with UCS, “Partnering with CHESS enables us to support individuals throughout their journey, day or night, no matter where they live.”

Chess Health Logo

Vermont Blueprint for Health Logo

Two women sit next to each other facing opposite directions while patting their own shoulder with one hand. The woman on the left is wearing a light green shawl and has short brown hair, and the woman on the right is wearing a bright pink button down shirt with her tied in a bun. Both are wearing masks.
A UCS clinician and client during an EMDR therapy session.

A traumatic experience or prolonged exposure to trauma can have a profoundly damaging influence on the human mind, with devastating long-term consequences, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Since the 1980s, many therapists treating PTSD have used a method known as Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) to help their clients achieve peace of mind and retrain their stress responses. EMDR is a client-centered clinical approach that focuses on processing distressing memories, incidents, or emotions using carefully directed stimuli.  

UCS offers EMDR and currently has nine certified EMDR clinicians. Prospective clients meet with a licensed clinician through the Finding Access to Services and Treatments (FAST) process and are provided with information about the program and review process. They participate in a review of their mental health concerns, history of treatment, current life situation and supports, and a discussion of their hopes and goals for treatment. Screenings for anxiety, depression, domestic violence, PTSD, dissociation, or social thinking are also undertaken. 

100% Kaiser Permanente sponsored research that reported 100% of single-trauma sufferers and 77% of people impacted by multiple traumas show no diagnosable PTSD following six EMDR sessions
100% Kaiser Permanente sponsored research that reported 100% of single-trauma sufferers and 77% of people impacted by multiple traumas show no diagnosable PTSD following six EMDR sessions

Following her sessions, Lori M. shared that “most of my life I did not feel like I belonged, and I was no good. Now I know I do belong, I am loved…and most of all I am a survivor and will continue to get better. I have learned to open my mouth, ask questions, to let others know if I have a problem, instead of stuffing those problems deep down inside of me.”  

“Everyone has the capacity to heal,” says Keili Trottier, an EMDR Certified Clinician at UCS, “and we are here to help.” 

Read the entire story 

a young white boy in a mint green t-shirt, dark blue shorts, white knee-socks and sneakers is seen standing under a tree at the edge of a lake with his back to camera. He is holding a fishing rod and appears to be preparing to cast his line.
A camper enjoys some quality fishing time at Camp Be a Kid.

Staff at UCS’ division of Children, Youth and Family Services (CYFS) are busier than ever supporting kids and families in crisis and providing supportive care for those who need it. This summer, CYFS again hosted Camp Be a Kid at Lake Shaftsbury, a five-week program that provides a classic summer-camp experience for kids with trauma backgrounds and mental health diagnoses. Therapeutic elements are woven into the daily camp schedule, which includes activities like swimming, fishing, yoga classes, and special performances like magic shows. Camp gives kids opportunities to practice self-care, learn how to decode their emotions, and gain experience managing behavior. No child is sent away from camp due to behavioral issues, thanks to CYFS’ team of trained staff. “This camp allows children to have a normal, fun camp experience, while continuing their therapeutic programming through the summer,” says Ryan Lane, Director of CYFS. 

On the other end of the care spectrum, CYFS also runs a Psychiatric Urgent Care for Kids (PUCK) at its 314 Dewey Street location, providing a safe and welcoming alternative to the emergency department for kids in crisis. PUCK was created in response to a growing number of kids visiting the emergency department with mental health challenges. Many of these instances involve a police officer transporting a child from school directly to the hospital, which can be traumatic and anxiety-inducing experience. Family Emergency Services clinicians from UCS can conduct mental health screenings in schools, and if PUCK is a good fit, they request parent permission to bring a child to UCS. Instead of possible sensory overload from sounds, sights, and people at the emergency department, UCS provides a quiet and safe space with sensory tools like noise-cancelling headphones, a “hug pillow,” and more. PUCK staff are trained to support kids and safely get them through times of crisis. UCS hosted an open house for its PUCK program in May, and welcomed Bennington police officers and state troopers, local educators, hospital staff from Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, and other community partners. 

a heavyset young white woman with long brown hair wearing a white t-shirt with black polka dots and blue jeans, is seen with her back to the camera. Before her are three men; at left, a white man with a shaved head and eyeglasses, wearing a blue fleece vest and white dress shirt, who is in conversation with the two uniformed police officers, both white men with short cropped hair, standing opposite him and the woman.
At its PUCK open house in May, UCS welcomed Bennington police officers, state troopers, local educators, staff from Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, and other community partners.

CYFS’ Teens4Change (T4C) program is a peer-led group in which at-risk young people plan activities in their community and make friends and connections. Youth in T4C stay engaged in activities all year long, from ice-skating in nearby North Adams, Massachusetts, to taking cooking classes and volunteering at local organizations. This year, T4C volunteered at the Turning Point Center of Bennington for Martin Luther King Day of Community Service, founded an LGBTQIA+ hiking club, and represented at UCS’ fifth annual Superhero 5K and Kids’ Dash, as well as Bennington’s Mayfest. The youth of T4C are constantly coming up with new ways to get involved in their community. “At T4C, we learn how to express ourselves and how to be truthful to ourselves and to others,” says Tori, member of T4C.  

CYFS at UCS creates new pathways to reach children, youth and families in the community who need support. School-based clinicians help to ensure kids can access help during the school day, and behavior interventionists are also available to provide one-on-one mental health support. The goal of CYFS is to reach people wherever they need us, whether in school or in their homes, to help them achieve their best outcomes. 

Woman in black shirt smiling and holding the reigns of a brown horse.
Equine Assisted Therapy client at Rhythm Hollow Stables

Tucked away on a gravel road in North Bennington, VT, is Rhythm Hollow Stables, home of a unique partnership of mental health professionals, horses, and trained equine specialists. Kanthaka is a non-profit organization offering equine-assisted therapies and learning experiences for children and adults. It was founded by Clinical Director, Dr. Alya Reeve of United Counseling Service (UCS), and Tara Lowary, Executive Director of Kanthaka and owner of Rhythm Hollow Stables, to bring the healing power of horses to individuals seeking mental health counseling and therapy. The partnership started with one client in 2017 and now serves 33 clients, who make up four groups, ranging in age from young children to teens to adults. UCS mental health clinicians regularly conduct sessions with clients at Kanthaka, and the impact is immeasurable.  

“I was offered a chance to do Equine Therapy—it was my last shot before I quit life,” says one client. “For me, Equine Therapy has gotten me to a place of relief. I can breathe again; I am allowing myself to go further in my healing process. I am taking back my life in ways that I could not imagine.”  

73% increase in clients receiving equine services over the past year
73% increase in clients receiving equine services over the past year

Learning new ways to communicate 

One of the reasons that horses are such effective therapeutic partners is that they are expertly tuned in to nonverbal communication. Horses pick up on things that we are not aware of, for example, tenseness, nervousness, anxiety, or fear. As herd animals, they rely on nonverbal cues to communicate, in order to stay alive in the presence of predators. This allows them to communicate with people without the barrier of verbal communication. Coral, Crisis Recovery Specialist for UCS’ Children, Youth, and Family Services division, can attest to the amazing changes she has seen in the young people she works with at Kanthaka. Before diving into Equine Assisted Therapy through her position at UCS, she was not much of a horse person. She did not know what to make of the program at first. She is now a firm believer in the healing abilities that horses naturally possess. 

“I knew that animals could have a therapeutic quality, but I had no idea how wonderful the horses would be,” says Coral. “When kids and teens are around the horses, they’re in a total state of awe. These horses can sense what the kids are feeling, and they reflect the kids’ feelings.” 

Kids and teens participating in an Equine Assisted Therapy session complete a number of tasks and exercises, including brushing their horses, herd observation, and often, group therapy. Kids learn that when they are tense, their horse might present tense behaviors too, such as flattening their ears back. If a kid acts jumpy or scared, the horse will respond in kind.  

Discovering empathy 

Recently, Coral worked with a child experiencing social anxiety who had a hard time making friends. According to trends seen by UCS staff, many children struggle with socializing appropriately in the wake of the pandemic. Coral introduced this child to one of the horses at Kanthaka and he began to make huge strides in developing social skills. This same child who struggled to interact with his peers now excels in making friends and realizes when they are struggling. This child’s horse helped him to discover empathy.  

Though his story is significant, he is just one story of so many local young people who have been positively affected by the horses at Kanthaka.  

According to Coral, there are a lot of children engaging in mental health services at UCS with significant past and present trauma as well as anxiety and difficulties managing emotions. I’ve “I’ve noticed the kids are very closed off,” says Coral. “They don’t want to share. The pandemic really affected how kids interact socially and emotionally. A lot of these kids almost need to be taught how to be in a group.” Working with horses and their peers helps them to learn teamwork, opening up to others, and setting goals for the future.  

“Working with equine therapy helps them to be more present,” says Coral. “I’ve seen a decrease in anxiety and depression in the kids who work with horses, and a significant decrease in all the effects of trauma.”  

One important part of Equine Assisted Therapy is herd observation. Watching what the horses do and how they communicate can help individuals in therapy learn how a family should interact, and even to recognize their own challenges. One of Coral’s clients realized that the way horses interact with each other was so different from his own family, which he likened to a wolf pack—always at each other’s throats. He decided he wanted to be more like a herd of peaceful horses. That behavior that he learned from the horses became one he wanted to model in his own life.  

Authentic and relational 

Anne Rogers, Universal Access Coordinator at UCS, leads regular group sessions at Kanthaka for women. She focuses on different themes and hands-on activities each week to teach group members tools that they can apply to challenges in their own lives. One important lesson is that it is always better to join together with others, rather than isolating. “Horses model life well,” says Anne. “Because they are herd animals, they desire to be in the company of other horses. They are very tuned in to one another.” Horses also take time to evaluate threats before reacting—another important lesson for healing. “Being authentic and relational are the two biggest, best benefits we can learn from horses.” 

Simply being around horses makes a big difference for clients at Kanthaka. “They are nonjudgmental, gentle giants,” says a client. “When I am around horses, my entire body relaxes, and my blood pressure and anxiety go down. Horses help with my emotional regulation and create a sense of calm for me.” The physical aspects of Equine Assisted Therapy are just as important as the mental and emotional elements. The smell of the horse, brushing the horse, touching the horse—these all provide opportunities for learning how to be present. Horses offer humans a means to trust another living being, even if trusting a person is still far off. Equine Assisted Therapy is more than just a complement to other therapy methods—it can be an effective starting point for healing in people of all ages and backgrounds.  

blue outlined badge graphic that reads: 2023 worksite wellness award winner for more information visit vermontfitness.org. 2023 has a green graphic of the outline of Vermont and there is a darker green star graphic at the bottom of the whole image.United Counseling Service (UCS) is a winner of the 2023 Vermont Governor’s Excellence in Worksite Wellness Gold Level Award, presented by the Vermont Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports in partnership with the Vermont Department of Health. This award is presented each year to organizations across the state that make employee wellness a priority. The award “creates a standard of excellence for worksite wellness initiatives and recognizes Vermont employer’s efforts to enhance productivity, bolster a healthy environment and improve employee wellbeing,” says Mark Levine, Vermont Department of Health Commissioner.  

82% agreed or strongly agreed UCS provides a health, supportive work culture.
82% agreed or strongly agreed UCS provides a health, supportive work culture.

The UCS Worksite Wellness Committee engaged staff in several worksite wellness initiatives this year that focused on environmental, social, financial, emotional, and physical health. The committee hosted a Fall Family Hike in October at Equinox Preserve, prepared and served a salad-bar lunch during the workday with fresh local produce, conducted ergonomic assessments of employee workstations, and secured free summer passes to Lake Paran for staff and their families. The committee held a random monthly drawing for staff to receive a gift card to a local business as part of a Healthy You in ’23 campaign. These included gift cards for healthy food options, bookstores, sporting goods, and farmers markets.  

The health and wellbeing of our staff and their families is a high priority, and we never stop thinking of new ways to engage them with opportunities to make time for wellness. 

Leadership & Financials

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

  • Robert W. Thompson, President 
  • Charles Letourneau, Vice President 
  • Nathaniel Marcoux, Treasurer 
  • William Baldwin, Secretary 
  • 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 
  • Dawn Danner, Director of Developmental Services 
  • Jill Doyle, Director of Finance 
  • Amy Fela, Director of Operations 
  • Heidi French, Director of Community Relations and Development 
  • Danielle Gallen, Director of Human Services
  • Ryan Lane, Director of Children, Youth and Family Services
  • 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 

Our advisory boards provide valuable feedback about agency services and initiatives. Membership includes people receiving services, family members, community members, board members, and agency staff.  

Children, Youth and Family Services Advisory Board

  • Bill Baldwin
  • Erin Blest
  • Ryan Lane
  • Julie Pagliccia
  • Amanda Scott
  • Kendy Skidmore 
  • Keili Trottier 

Developmental Services Advisory Board

  • Dave Ballou, Chair
  • Celine Blair
  • Lisa Guare
  • Deborah Munoz
  • Lisa Rudiakov
  • Eric Webster

Peer Advisory Group

  • Barbara Baker
  • Nancy Balconis
  • Stacy Barnett
  • Caroline Gauthier
  • Jo-Anne Larsen
  • Joanna Mintzer
  • Heather Tuller
  • Lori Vadakin


Category Amount
Psychiatric and Crisis Services 5757
Outpatient Mental Health 1043
Children, Youth & Family Services 631
Early Childhood Services 173
Developmental Services 218
Community Rehabilitation & Treatment 153

Pie Chart of Use of Funds by Program

Category Amount
Developmental Services 42%
Community Programs 29%
Children 10%
Rehabilitation & Treatment for Mentally Ill 7%
Adults 6%
Emergency 3%
Substance Abuse 2%


Category Amount
Salaries $11,950,624
Fringe Benefits $2,729,839
Other Personnel Costs $5,073,836
Operating Expenses $2,548,572
Travel & Transportation $374,172
Building Expenses $1,074,305
Total Expenses $23,751,348

Category Amount
Medicaid $18,750,836
Fees & 3rd Party Payments $532,474
Vt. Division of Substance Use Programs $523,284
Vt. Dept. of Mental Health $1,137,356
Vt. Dept. of Developmental Services $104,644
Other State Contracts $921,581
Local Revenue $1,403,928
Miscellaneous $377,245
Total Revenue $23,751,348

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

Logo in the shape of a diamond outlined in navy blue. Inside the diamond in all caps small text is “UNITED COUNSELING SERVICE” in navy blue above large 3-D all-caps cartoon-style lettering in red with navy dimensions, “SUPERHERO 5K”. The text is set over a graphic of a pale gray stylized tree knocked out of the mid-tone gray background. Across the bottom of the diamond is a rectangular banner with a navy blue border, with the words “5th Annual” in white on a red background.Hundreds of people gathered at the Bennington Community Center on Saturday, November 5, 2022 to participate in the 5th Annual Superhero 5K and Kids’ Dash in support of UCS’ Equine Assisted Therapy program. All funds raised directly benefit the program, a therapeutic partnership between Kanthaka Equine of North Bennington and UCS that gives participants the opportunity to address mental health challenges through healing interactions with horses.  

2022 Sponsors: 

Bennington Banner LogoCigna LogoHeritage Family Credit Union LogoThe Richards Group LogoGVH Studio Logo

Caped Crusaders:

Bennington Banner Logo  Manchester Journal LogoCigna LogoHeritage Family Credit Union Logo


Aquaman Water Stop Sponsors

The Richards Group LogoGVH Studio Logo


Better Bennington Corporation  •  r.k. Miles  •  MSK Engineers 

Northeast Delta Dental  •  Southwestern Vermont Health Care  •  VNA & Hospice of the Southwest Region   


Casella Waste Systems, Inc.  •  Hill & Thompson, PC 


Group of women wearing white shirts stand together in a group smiling
The 2023 Barn Sale Committee

The Barn Sale is an annual tag sale that takes place at Riley Rink at the Northshire Civic Center. Volunteers of The Barn Sale Committee, chaired by Craigin Salsgiver, work year-round to collect, sort and price and then store and transport the tens of thousands of items donated for the two-day sale. This wonderful group of volunteers spends countless hours to make a difference in our community. All proceeds from the sale support UCS’s Northshire Services, including outpatient mental health and counseling, psychiatry, substance use treatment, youth and family services, and Head Start. The 2023 Barn Sale raised over $75,000. 

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.

Client Satisfaction Survey

Results from our Client Satisfaction Survey conducted Winter 2022

92% agreed or strongly agreed I/We received the services that were right for us 

89% agreed or strongly agreed I/We received services that we needed 

97% agreed or strongly agreed staff treated me/us with respect 

88% agreed or strongly agreed the services I/We received made a difference 

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

89% would recommend UCS to a friend or family member 

97% feel like your personal identity/culture was/is valued 


“Fantastic counselors, warm and welcoming staff, clean and pleasant rooms.” 

“We needed services that met our child’s developmental and emotional needs, including parental support and advocacy.” 

“Our child was matched with a fantastic therapist. He has enjoyed UCS and expresses interest in things he used to hate.” 

“I would recommend UCS. There is so much CRT can offer and they help you in what needs to be done. If there is something they don’t they find a way to help you.” 

“They are helpful and supportive. They helped me with my emotions and were very kind and respectful. They listen to me all the time. They are like family to me.” 

“Thank you UCS for all of the work you do in the community.” 

Staff rated UCS benchmarks on a scale of 1–5  

4.55 I have a good relationship with my supervisor 

4.48 My work makes a meaningful difference to clients 

4.42 My job gives me a sense of accomplishment 

4.37 I feel driven to help the organization succeed 

4.36 I am encouraged to take action when I see a problem 

Staff & Community Recognition

Sarah Bowen 

Sarah Church 

Mariah Coley 

Kirk Dennison 

Bill Elwell 

Mary Gates 

Ian Hulbert 

Taija LaFountain 

Tori Matteson 

Carol McLenithan 

Rachel Munoz 

Rachel Olmstead-Miri 

Cindy Randall 

Anne Rogers 

Rebecca Shuler 

Mike Webb 



Dr. Scully worked as the UCS Medical Director from 1977 to 1984 and was an inspiration to all who knew him. The Peter D. Scully Memorial Award is chosen by senior leadership and presented to employees who embody the highest qualities of professionalism, dedication, and sincerity in dealing with clients and colleagues.

Victor Martini

Nadine Wisher

Photo: (left to right): Victor Martini, Nadine Wisher

Older man with gray cropped hair standing and waving at the camera with a big bag in handMiddle-aged women with short brown hair, standing while holding a big bag smiling

This year has been marked by a dramatically increased volume and acuity of need for crisis services, both in volume and acuity. Our Crisis Service teams (Crisis Services, Emergency Services and Family Emergency Services) have responded with creativity, flexibility and a willingness to do what was necessary for those we serve. 

Group of people standing outside, holding awards and smiling

The UCS Crisis Service teams:
Dave Clark
Pam Clark
William Elwell
Emily Hakkinen
Rose Hall
Taylor Hayes
Emily Held
Jean Henderson
Coral Hunt
Lindsay Johnson 
Steve Lecce
Rachel Munoz
Desiree Pechtel 
Chesssica Sauvie
Rebecca Shuler
Jamie Spear 
Ethan Therrian
Hope Therrian
Kimberly Warren


The agency presents an annual award in memory of Julie Haynes Held, a recruiter in HR who dedicated her final years to UCS and those we serve. Her optimism and passion were evident in every interaction as she promoted a culture of caring.

Jaci Brillon

Women holding an award outside smiling at camera


This award is given in memory of our longtime board president and devoted staff advocate to employees who have demonstrated a commitment to continued learning and professional development.

Eva Leonetti
Erin Shulman

Two women smiling while holding awards outside.
L: Erin Shulman, R: Eva Leonetti

25 Years 

Rebecca Bishop 
Nancy Lively 

20 Years 

Alicia Acevedo 
Grace Winslow 

15 Years 

Deborah Amadon 
Kathy Galusha 

10 Years 

Ashley Hebert 
Alison Clausnitzer-Lane 
Jenna Langlois 
Ajay Martucci  

5 years 

Connor Andrews 
Emily Croft 
Lisa Dale 
Olivia Drzewiecki 
Michelle Ennis 
Jenifer Haskins 
Victoria Hill 
Taija LaFountain 
Cynthia Leonard 
Eva Leonetti 
Corinne Lyons 
Stephen Mattison 
Amanda Mentiply 
Gayle Rogers 
Marie Shutts 
Stacie Sullivan 
Molly Thompson 
Taylor Zimmermann 

group of people smiling outside, holding awards in frames
5 Year Anniversaries Employees

I CARE Champions put excellence and care into action by demonstrating all five of the I CARE core values:

Ideal Service, Culture of Caring, Accountability, Responsiveness, and Empowerment.

Deb Amadon 
Corrine Bakaitis 
Jaci Brillon 
Cassandra Buell 
Courtney Button 
Mariah Coley 
Dawn Danner 
Michelle Ennis 
Olivia Fox 
Sophia Garder 
Allyson Gerity 
Taylor Hayes 
Lyndsey Johnson 
Sandy Matteson 
Stephen Mattison 
Julie Oakes 
Ben Prandini 
Betsy Rathbun-Gunn 
Alya Reeve 
Mike Sass 
LaShea Stewart 
Noreen Stratton 
Keili Trottier 

Group of people smiling outside holding cards
ICARE Champions


The Harold C. “Archie” Warner Memorial Award

The 2023 Harold C. “Archie” Warner Memorial Award, honoring Archie’s memory and long­standing commitment to our children’s programs, was presented to Jennie Moon and the Early Intervention Services team. Part of the Vermont Division of Children’s Services, this group works tirelessly to advocate for families of children with special needs, pursuing funding sources to provide assistive technology, working with state agencies to bring resources to our corner of the state, and partnering with childcare providers such as our own Bennington County Head Start. Jennie and her team have worked with us this past year to provide specialized training for staff working with unique conditions and to make accommodations in the classroom. 

three women smiling and posing with award

Cleveland and Phyllis Dodge Community Service Award

This award is presented to a community member or organization whose support of UCS and its mission has been notable and significant. Jessica McCrae-Massey, R.N. works with the Vermont Chronic Care Initiative and also participates in the State Housing Project. Working closely with UCS’ Community Rehabilitation and Treatment Program, Jessica identifies individuals who have significant needs and connects them with UCS, helping numerous people find their way to our doors to ensure the best possible outcomes. 

Young women with red hair and white shirt smiling while holding an award

Following a multi-year wage compensation project, UCS increased compensation for most of the agency’s staff this year. In 2022, UCS, along with other Designated Agencies across the state, received an 8% boost to their funding. UCS gave a 3% increase to staff and used some of the capital to offset employee insurance and other administrative cost increases, but held most of the new funds in anticipation of implementing its compensation plan. “The work we do is so essential to our community and the need for our services continues to grow,” said Executive Director Lorna Mattern. “It’s been a hard reality that staff, despite loving their work at UCS, end up leaving for higher paying jobs. We know that creating and implementing a competitive wage structure is critical to both attracting and retaining great staff.”  

63% reduction in staff vacancies from June-Dec. 2022(60) to Jan.-June 2023 (22)UCS invested more than $1.5 million to advance its goal of a more competitive salary structure. Direct Support Professionals’ (DSPs) starting rate increased 25%, and 90% of all positions within the agency experienced an increase. 

Programs & Services

 6 organizations use UCS for EAP

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

631 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 
  • Teens4Change peer-led program
  • Camp Be A Kid 
  • Psychiatric Urgent Care for Kids (PUCK)

153 individuals served

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

218 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  

173 families served

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

2383 Services provided

  • 24-hour emergency service
  • Battelle House crisis stabilization center 
  • Mobile crisis service

1043 individuals served

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

3374 psychiatric services provided

  • Psychiatric evaluation 
  • Medication management 
  • Liaison to intensive hospital care 

125 individuals served

  • Alcohol and drug abuse counseling and education 
  • Substance use receiving center  
  • Assessment for and facilitation of detox or residential services  
  • Intensive Outpatient Program   
  • Consultation to agencies and schools  
  • Community outreach 
  • Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT)

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.

Two blonde women stand smiling and holding framed diplomas. The woman on the left is in a black top, sweater, and slacks, and the woman on the right is in a navy blue knee-length dress
Amy Fela (L) and Rebecca Bishop Ware

UCS Operations Director Amy Fela and Associate Director of Early Childhood Services Rebecca Bishop Ware graduated from the Head Start Management Fellows Program at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) this past year. The fellowship is a two-week intensive training tailored to managers and directors of federally funded Head Start and Early Head Start programs across the country. The curriculum focused on strategic planning, finance, marketing, communication, data analysis, and effective and inclusive leadership. Fellowships are highly competitive and granted for one year to professionals working in Head Start, early childhood, or children and family services.  

“The UCLA Head Start Management Fellows Program provided us with a wonderful opportunity to further develop our entrepreneurial competencies, through a curriculum that was taught by UCLA Anderson faculty and other universities,” says Fela. “The competencies of focus including strategy development and implementation, organizational design, and management effectiveness are crucial in the ever-changing, fast-paced landscape of our work.” 

Fela and Bishop Ware represented the only Region 1 (New England) Head Start team chosen to take part in Management Fellows program this year. Around 1700 people have graduated from the program in total over the last 20 years. 

“We were able to network with other Head Start leaders from around the United States and its territories about the topics of focus, as well as share and learn from each other,” says Bishop Ware. “As a result of attending the program, we developed Management Improvement Plans of focus to improve specific systems and services provided by the agency, as well as to share the management tools that we learned with other agency leaders and supervisors to increase the quality and efficiency of all our work.” 


A closeup of a preschool age blond boy holding up a green sign that says “My first day of school” and the Head Start logo of red and blue stacked blocks. He is standing on the grass with trees and mountains in the backgroundAs in previous years, all enrolled children were assessed at the Fall Baseline, Winter Midpoint, and Spring Final Progress checkpoints. Our teachers’ curricula focused heavily on lessons and experiences in Social and Emotional Development, Language and Literacy, and Approaches to Learning, as part of the School Readiness goals, and it is no surprise that these are the areas where children made the greatest growth this year. We continue to work with individualized plans for children and families well above the 10 percent required by the Office of Head Start: 24 percent of enrolled preschoolers had an active Individualized Education Plan (IEP), and 60 percent of enrolled infants and toddlers had an active Individualized Family Support Plan/Vermont One Plan for 2021–22.  53 children will transition to the public schools for kindergarten this fall. Final progress in June 2022 showed: 

A closeup of a blonde toddler in a blue smock and red glasses sitting at a kid-size table and holding up a fork and paper plate on which she has “painted” with what appears to be chocolate Seated on a stool next to her is a smiling young blonde woman with a beige cardigan, white t-shirt, and blue jeansPercentage of children meeting or exceeding age-level expectation: 

Social and Emotional Development   
• 88% of infants and toddlers 
• 88% of three-year-olds (increased 28% from fall) 
• 79% of four-year-olds (increased 55% from fall) 

Language Development 
• 75% of infants and toddlers 
• 85% of three-year-olds (increased 37% from fall) 
• 87% of four-year-olds (increased 27% from fall) 

Literacy Development 
85% of infants and toddlers 
• 66% of three-year-olds (increased 24% from fall) 
• 78% of four-year-olds (increased 29% from fall) 

• 74% of infants and toddlers 
• 79% of three-year-olds (increased 32% from fall) 
• 66% of four-year-olds (increased 29% from fall) 

Approaches to Learning 
• 95% of infants and toddlers 
• 86% of three-year-olds (increased 28% from fall) 
•  87% of four-year-olds (increased 42% from fall) 

Physical Development 
• 89% of infants and toddlers 
• 95% of three-year-olds (increased 20% from fall) 
• 85% of four-year-olds (increased 24% from fall) 

Scientific Reasoning 
• 100% of preschoolers emerging or meets program expectation 

Percentage of enrolled children that received medical and dental exams 

  • Medical Exams Head Start: 100% 
  • Medical Exams Early Head Start: 100% 
  • Dental Exams Head Start: 52% 
  • Dental Exams Early Head Start: 33% 

The auditor’s report on compliance for the major federal award programs for United Children’s Services of Bennington County, Inc. expresses an unqualified opinion on all major federal programs. 

A group of preschool children and toddlers play in a fenced in yard, climbing through a kid-sized fabric tube with hand-painted pictures of animals on it and a picture book propped up against it.Throughout the year, we offer numerous opportunities for parents and caregivers to participate in activities with or in support of their enrolled children. In 2022–23, family programs included: 

  • Ready Rosie Parenting Curriculum 
  • Off to Kindergarten workshop 
  • Managing Challenging Behaviors workshop 
  • Spring Bash 
  • Parent committees at each center 
  • Explorer’s Club  
  • Virtual Cooking Club (pizza!) 
  • Pumpkin painting  
  • Seed planting and Harvest of the Month activity 
  • Kindergarten playground meet-ups (this year open to the community) 

Bennington County Head Start and Early Head Start experienced a late-night fire on December 21, 2022 at our Head Start West location. Seven fire departments responded, and support poured in from the local early-childhood community. With this support and some extra flexibility, Head Start West staff and families whose work and services were displaced were relocated within a month of the fire.  

Thanks to our community, the West location reopened in the fall of 2023. 

Category Amount
US Department of Health & Human Services  $2,996,545
State/Local Contracts $1,925,113
Fee for Service $356,475
Miscellaneous $128,780
Total Revenue $5,406,913

Category Amount
Salaries $2,872,795
Fringe Benefits $692,167
Other Personnel Costs $404,633
Operating Expenses $791,009
Travel & Transportation $113,942
Building Expenses $526,369
Total Expenses $5,406,913