Small Town with Big Heart Receives Grant

Town Hall in Stannard, Vermont
Stannard Town Hall, former one-room Schoolhouse, where town’s people can come on Wednesday mornings to register their dogs, pay their taxes, and catch up on local gossip with the Town Clerk and Treasurer. Pictured, (L to R): top row, Warren Nott, Constable; Connie Withers, Town Clerk; bottom row, Jan Lewandoski, Select Board member; Regina Troiano, Town Treasurer; and, Johanna Polsenberg, EMT.

When the grant committee is reading through the submissions for our AED Grant award, every now and then we find something that stands out to us. This time around, that is especially true. Stannard, VT is a small town. Well, let’s be honest, it’s a REALLY small town, with only 216 residents and no paved roads. Towns like this are often faced with challenges and Stannard is no different. One of the challenges was that their closest emergency help could be up to 45 minutes away. An AED would certainly go a long way toward protecting those residents. That’s why we are pleased to announce we have awarded this round’s $2000 AED grant to the town of Stannard. I’ll let Johanna Polsenberg, the town’s EMT, tell you more:

An Introduction to Stannard, Vermont

“Greensboro Bend lies rather bleakly on the unshaded flats where the Lamoille River, the highway and the railroad make wide sweeping bends. Crude lumberstacks at the north end of the village indicate one of the main industries, and piles of milk cans on the station platform reveal the other.

“Left from the south end of Greensboro Bend on a narrow dirt road winding beside a rocky stream and climbing through a wild wooded country is STANNARD (alt. 1700 feet, pop. 154), 3.3m., named in honor of Civil War General George Stannard who turned the tide at Gettysburg. In this scattered rural settlement buried in a mountain wilderness farmers struggle to wrest a living from agricultural pursuits under adverse conditions. A white schoolhouse, and the tan and red Methodist Church, and a farmstead are all that mark the center of this farming community. The region is wild and primitive in the extreme, vast forested uplands stretching away on all sides. Many of the farmhouses are unacquainted with electric lights and other conveniences, and life here is in a crude stage.”

– from, “Vermont: A Guide to the Green Mt. State”, by the WPA Writers*, 1937

The Old Church in Stannard, Vermont
The old Stannard Church, where the kerosene chandelier is lit once a year near the winter Solstice, when the town’s residents gather to showcase their own musical talents and later participate together in a holiday sing-along, accompanied by a foot-pedal operated organ. Pictured (L to R): Connie Withers, Town Clerk; Jan Lewandoski, Select Board member; Johanna Polsenberg, EMT; Lauren Arcuri, mom of a special needs’ adult child; and, Warren Nott, Constable, w/ Cheyenne, local sleddog!

“Like many small towns in Vermont, Stannard is collectively run by its own residents, now with a population of 216. Local people serve on the Select Board, the “executive” arm of our town, and changes to policies and budgets are voted on by the residents who gather in our Town Hall (formerly the schoolhouse referenced in the WPA piece above) each year for Town Meeting Day. There is little actual commerce in Stannard – no convenience store or gas station, although Smith’s Grocery in the neighboring village of Greensboro Bend, the multi-generational convenience store where one can buy homemade dinners as well as have their deer weighed and registered, successfully fills that void. Black Dirt Farm employs a bunch of eager farm

The Black Dirt Farm in Stannard, Vermont
The Black Dirt Farm, the “largest” employer in Stannard, is a diversified family farm. They collect food scraps from all over the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, forage hens, and make compost and worm castings to close the loop and enrich soils and crops all over Vermont and beyond.

workers who work hard to turn food waste from all over the region into healthy, fertile compost.

Some of the residents of Stannard and Greensboro Bend can be responded to by our local volunteer EMS, Hardwick Rescue Squad (HRS), in, at best, ~25 minutes. However, even in the mildest of weather conditions, which you cannot reliably hope for in any month of the year, the homes of others are considered, at least, a 45-minute response time by HRS. That response time becomes much longer if ice and snow coats the dirt roads – there is not a paved road in Stannard and winter weather often extends from October through early May – or if a wicked summer rainstorm has washed away necessary bits of a road or overflowed any of the many fragile culverts, a seemingly regular summer occurrence.

As such, some of the members of the community decided we needed to take matters further into our own hands and build up our little town’s First Response capability. Many of our residents are older and a few of the younger ones have some extensive special needs – we all know each other, we all know who needs what, but until winning a grant from the AED Superstore, we were limited in the tools we had to provide leading-edge First Response. Working together with Hardwick RS and the AED Superstore, we have chosen an AED that is compatible with those on HRS’s ambulances. Additionally, trainers from HRS will come into the community to teach many of the residents, including the parents and caregivers of our special needs residents and the spouses and children of some of our older residents, high-quality CPR and how to use the AED. The AED will reside most of the time in the home of the Town’s Constable, who is also a volunteer driver for HRS, and his partner, who is both a volunteer on HRS and a full-time EMT, soon AEMT, on CALEX Ambulance. Town residents will be provided their home number and the Lamoille Dispatch, who dispatches for HRS, will be asked to call or tone for them whenever there is a 911 from either town.”

Congratulations, Stannard, VT! We hope you never have to use the AED.

*(The Works Progress Administration [WPA], a New Deal agency, included the Federal Writers’ Project to provide jobs for out-of-work writers during the Great Depression).

One Response to “Small Town with Big Heart Receives Grant”

March 12, 2021 at 6:28 pm, Patricia Ward said:

Congratulations to your town’s receiving the AED grant! What a wonderful group working together to help keep neighbors, families and friends safe. Best wishes to all.


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