Friday, December 19, 2014

Community Lunch Program served 2,168 meals in 2014

     The Johnson Community Lunch enjoyed another successful year in 2014.  The photo above features Tom Fondakowski of Sodexo Food Services and Rick Aupperlee of Laraway's School to Work Program presenting Marion Taylor a check for $1,067.90 for the Johnson Food Shelf.  The lunch program, hosted at the United  Church of Johnson, served 2,168 meals during 2014.
     With food donated by Sodexo, which holds a food service contract at Johnson State College,and an army of volunteers, the program continues to grow in numbers served.  Among the volunteers are Laraway youth who gain valuable work skills by carting, prepping and serving the meals. Fondakowski, spotting the particular culinary enthusiasm of a Laraway youth, actually hired him to work part-time at the college.  That youth is now dual enrolled at NECI and his high school's culinary arts program.
     Local residents enjoy food---and fellowship---while eating delicious meals served every other Wednesday.  Donations from diners formed the basis of the check presented to the Johnson Food Shelf.  This qualifies as a win:win endeavor with good food, good company, and a great cause!  Thank you to all who support this initiative.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Laraway seeks service projects for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

     Laraway Youth & Family Services celebrates the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday with a day of service at area nonprofits.  The holiday honoring the civil rights leader falls on Monday, January 19, 2015.
     For the past five years, Laraway’s staff has focused on volunteer projects in surrounding communities.  Past projects include cleaning and organizing, working on a painting or light construction project, stacking wood or visiting with seniors.
     “Coming together and giving back to those in our community who have given so much is the focus of our efforts on the holiday,” said Rhonda Stuart, Laraway’s Human Resources Director.
     Laraway is actively seeking proposals from local groups who may have a task for a few---or many---hands.  Interested parties are invited to contact Rhonda Stuart at or (802) 635-2805 x 105 by Friday, December 12th.  Staff would be available from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Got Warmth? Maurice's selects Laraway for its Hometown Pride donation drive

     Snowflakes will fall soon.  Keeping Laraway youth warm and bundled up for winter activities is an important priority, especially since many of our therapeutic and educational activities involve the outdoors.
     Maurice's clothing and accessory store in Derby, Vermont, graciously chose Laraway as the beneficiary of its Hometown Pride donation drive.  The store will be collecting gently-used winter coats and new hats and mittens from now until November 15th.  Folks making donations will receive 20% off coupons.
     Maurice's is located at Shaw's Plaza in Derby.  Their hours are Monday to Saturday, 9:30-8:30 and Sunday, 11:00-3:00.  Thank you to Maurice's staff for their generous spirit.  Now, a question for you, dear readers:  Winter camping anyone?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Goblins, ghouls, witches and trolls...

     Goblins, ghouls, witches  and trolls...Laraway staff waited with candy-filled bowls.  In what has become an agency tradition, students from Laraway School paraded through our administrative offices in full Halloween regalia uttering "Trick or Treat" while offering polite thank you's.
     Tootsie Rolls, M&Ms, and sugary Nerds were among the sweet stuff offered during our annual Halloween Parade. Even some of our high schoolers showed up for handfuls of the crunchy, chewy, fruity and sometimes chocolaty treats.
     If you happen to stop by in a sheet of white, you TOO, may also get your very own Charleston Chew.  Happy  Halloween!

Laraway celebrates Harvest Week with sack races and a guest speaker

     "What we need to figure out is what kind of world we want to have," observed Keith Morris at the opening of Harvest Week.  Morris, a grower, builder, and farm designer from Jeffersonville, Vermont, delivered the keynote address to students and staff at the start of Harvest Week, a celebration of all things harvest at Laraway School.
     Morris told of the transformation of the once-wooded area he grew up in in New Jersey to a place of quick marts and traffic lights.  He challenged listeners to consider the importance of our relationships with plants, animals and people.  He invited listeners to think of stewardship of our environments.
     Laraway teacher Jess McCoy partnered with colleagues across our agency to plan a week of fun and learning for students attending Laraway's K-12 independent school.  Students ran a relay, crafted tie dye shirts, participated in a sack race, and carved pumpkins between activities to prepare our farm for winter.  Trees were mulched and garlic bulbs were planted.  There was even an old-time square dance!
     "A lot of our students have missed out on opportunities to simply play," McCoy said.  "Harvest Week makes their learning environment enticing and inviting."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Community members turn out for Laraway Art Reception


  "Amazing work!  Really thoughtful and creative.  Thank you!"
     "Love the work.  Absolutely spectacular!  The Starry Night frames were superb."
     "Very creative work."
     "Thank you for the creative art.  I get to see it every day because I work here.  Your art makes my days much better."
     These are comments by community members and friends who attended Laraway's Art Reception at the Lamoille County Court House on October 10th.  This is Laraway's second show at the historic structure in Hyde Park.
     Laraway youth in attendance mingled with visitors and answered their questions.  It was a great opportunity for young people in our programs to share their creative talents while talking about art.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Art Show and Reception on Friday, October 10th, 5:00-7:00 p.m. at Lamoille County Court House

The walls of the Lamoille County Court House are adorned with art conceived and created by young people at Laraway Youth & Family Services.  The show has been organized by Kristen Murphy, an art teacher at Laraway School.
            Members of the community are invited to attend an Art Reception at the Lamoille County Court House at 154 Main Street in Hyde Park on Friday, October 10th, 5:00-7:00 p.m.  Light refreshments will be served.
 “We are delighted to have been invited to present youth art in this grand old building,” said Katherine Stamper, Laraway’s Development Director. “It’s a great opportunity for the kids we serve to share their talents with the community.”
For more information, contact Katherine Stamper at or (802) 635-2805 x 106.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Open House: It's about Connection!

      Is ice cream your thing?  Do you like to make jewelry?  Maybe you enjoy pressing cider or eating vegetables fresh from the garden?  Perhaps you favor strolling around gardens, fields and flowers---that's what we call a Larawalk.  Maybe catching an art show or a photography exhibit catches YOUR fancy?
     These activities and more were offered at Laraway's highly successful Open House Celebration on Thursday, September 18th on our campus in Johnson, Vermont.  Old friends and new, present clients and alumni of our school as well as folks from partner agencies came, learned and connected.
     Foods from Laraway's Kitchen Garden were showcased in a colorful vegetable crudite with homemade dips, seasoned with herbs grown on site.
     Radiant autumn hues provided a multicolor backdrop to our community event.  We are grateful to guests who attended and hope to see you again soon.  If you missed the event and wish take a tour, please contact Katherine Stamper at or (802) 635-2805 x 106.  We'll be happy to show you around!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Summer Program Recognition Event

     Students, families and staff converged on Laraway's front lawn to celebrate the conclusion of Laraway's summer program session.  Teams with names like Valley Dream, Fresh Food, and Looney Hobby Fish Avengers received certificates for volunteering, academics and even learning to prepare foods grown in Laraway's vegetable garden.
     Some students are transitioning back to public schools while others will return after summer vacation.  It's our hope that all will return to school ready to learn, with enhanced social and learning skills!

Monday, July 21, 2014

Free Write: What one child says about Laraway's Summer Program


     Today was actually pretty great.  At first I was on a bad note.  After I got to take a break I played kickball. I hurt my ankle but unfortunately I had to sit out.  It was my choice to either sit out or play.  I made the right choice.  Today, Jack drove us all the way to Lake Caspian.  Me and Sarah swam for about 15 or 20 minutes then we ate.  Yum, yum.  Yeah today was pretty great.

Names changed to protect confidentiality. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Leadership Lamoille releases findings of their "Start Here, Go Anywhere" report on Laraway

Employee recruitment and retention can be a challenge for many employers. As Laraway grows, we've had to cast our net more broadly to attract, retain and develop employees. When the Lamoille Region Chamber of Commerce invited project proposals for their Leadership Lamoille Class of 2014, Laraway threw its hat in the ring and was one of two proposals accepted.

Our Leadership Lamoille team members included: Melissa Greene, Union Bank; Tommy Smith, Smugglers' Notch Resort; Jane Paine, Lamoille Home Health & Hospice; Erica Bent, Green Mountain Technology & Career Center; and Savannah Droney, Mansfield Orthopedics.

Ten Lamoille County businesses participated in the "Start here, go anywhere" employee satisfaction survey. There was a 60/40 split between non-profit and for-profit organizations.
Laraway-specific results revealed Laraway staff satisfaction as either the same or more positive than the overall business community with 99% of employees reporting that they enjoyed going to work. Client-related issues emerged as the most stressful aspect for Laraway employees while helping clients and witnessing their successes brought the most satisfaction. For a summary of findings, please visit News & Events at our website at
. The report offered interesting findings on millennials and concrete suggestions to enhance recruitment and retention.

"The employment survey gave great insight to many areas but, for me, the two categories that stood out the most were, 'Does your input matter?' and 'Do you have a sense of commitment to your organization?'" observed Melissa Greene. "The percentages for these categories were very high for Laraway and show that employees feel valued by their employer. As a supervisor, the overall findings will help me connect better to my staff."

We appreciate the efforts of our team and their suggestions for how we can become an even better employer. We also offer special congratulations to Rhonda Stuart, Laraway's Human Resources Director, who was also a member of the Leadership Lamoille Class of 2014. Her team researched and recommended strategies for expanding safe and affordable house for all in the Lamoille region.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer Program in Full Swing at Laraway

     Sixty-four children and youth, from elementary school through high school, are participating in Laraway's five-week summer program.  Fun, games, community service, outdoor physical activity and a little bit of learning help to keep kids engaged.
     Volunteer sites include Meals on Wheels, the Morristown Library, Hope Grows and the Farm Between.  Kids and staff also spending time in Laraway's garden, tending food and flowers.  Our cafeteria serves up fresh meals from the garden throughout the growing season.  Giving back to one's community promotes a sense of connection and empathy.
     Field trips offer kids the opportunity to explore new venues while developing and reinforcing positive behavior skills.  Visits to the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center and Ben & Jerry's teach program participants about Lake Champlain and the art and craft of making premium ice cream.  Samples of the sweet stuff enhance the ice cream factory tour!
     Classroom time includes reading, journaling and nifty math games that sharpen kids' thinking skills---just in time to go for a swim at Crystal Lake or one of our other local swimming spots.
     Breakfast, lunch and a healthy snack are served every day, keeping kids fueled for adventure.  Laraway's Summer Program runs through August 5th.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Laraway staff featured on WLVB Radio

     Laraway's Backpack Program is gearing up for another successful summer jam packed with  fun activities.  Greg Stefanski appeared with Adria Dube, Backpack Operations Coordinator, on Roland Lajoie's radio show at WLVB.
     Twenty-seven local children and youth will swim, play, read, write, play math games and volunteer at local community organizations during our five-week program.  Field trips encompass the educational and the fun with trips to the ECHO Center, Circus Smirkus and the Pump House Water Park at Jay Peak.  A Small and Inspiring Grant from the Vermont Community Foundation will allow artists from River Arts to deliver art workshops on our campus. Volunteer sites include Meals on Wheels, Out and About, the Farm Between, Agape and Hope Grows.
     Backpack's summer program is carefully crafted to keep kids who experience behavioral challenges engaged in learning over the summer so that their academic skills stay fresh.  Volunteering with seniors and in other community settings enhances kids' social skills while deepening their sense of empathy.  Breakfast, lunch and nutritious snacks are provided to kids who arrive at 8:00 a.m. on each weekday and depart at 2:45 p.m.
     "It's great for Laraway to bring awareness of summer activities on the radio," Dube said.
     Thank you to Roland Lajoie and WLVB for shining a spotlight on----actually, for bringing a microphone to---the work we do with children, youth and families.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Got Talent? Laraway School's Annual Talent Show

     Got talent?  Can you sing, tell a joke or walk on your hands?  Maybe you play the drums, keyboard or guitar?  Is acting your thing?  Can you walk on your hands or twist your body like a skilled contortionist?  Can you scat like Dizzy Gillespie?
     Laraway School's Annual Talent Show took place on campus today under a warm and sunny sky.  Performers took to our creatively designed, moveable stage, built by kids and staff.  A blue-haired emcee (aka Sarah the Teacher) introduced performers, offering a joke or two between acts---including a little quip about a mushroom seeking to be served in a fancy restaurant..."But I'm a fun-gi!"  Audience members cheered staff and kids as they took turns sharing their talents.
      There were even tasty treats for attendees.  Spanakopita (spinach and feta wrapped in phyllo dough) and bacon-wrapped hot dog bites provided a delicious snack.  These were prepared by one of our students who works part-time for a local food service company.
     Laraway is about teaching and healing.  Laraway is also about sharing what makes us sparkle and shine.  Kudos to our students and staff for a wonderful talent show!

Rick Isabelle joins Board of Trustees

     Rick Isabelle, a Notheast Kingdom native, joined Laraway's Board and serves as Treasurer.  He brings many years of experience in banking and finance.
     Rick owns and operates the Isabelle Insurance Agency in Newport.  His long list of civic involvements includes serving on the boards of the Vermont Community Loan Fund, the Northern Community Investment Corporation and the St. Johnsbury Development Fund, among others.
     "One of the reasons I was interested in Laraway was the commitment of management and staff to meeting the needs of the community," Isabelle said.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Laraway's "Rock" Garden

     Strawberries are planted.  Mesclun greens, beans and peas grow steadily under sunny skies.  Basil sprouts in anticipation of a late summer date with garlic, parmesan, pine nuts and olive oil to be transformed into pesto.  Wheat springs up, in preparation for fall bread-baking.
     Summer weather has arrived and you can find Laraway kids, staff and a smattering of volunteers tending our gardens.  Teaching youth about how to plan, plant, cultivate and harvest homegrown, natural foods promotes healthful living and independence.
     A new initiative this year is a Word Garden in which kids and staff are encouraged to write words on brightly painted stones which are them placed in our garden.  Oh the sentences, poems and proverbs waiting to be arranged!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Laraway Photography Exhibit: Opening Reception today May 14th, 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

    Thirty-nine images, from youth and staff across Laraway's Programs, are featured in our first-ever, photography exhibit.  The event was conceived by Finding Our Voices, a group of teens in our therapeutic foster care program.
     "The Laraway Photographers have done an outstanding job," said Mickey Myers, Executive Director of the Bryant Gallery, and one the judges.  "It is difficult to realize this is the first time you have offered such a contest because of the quality of the entries and what appears to me to be the strength of the photographers' intentions.  Congratulations to all of them, and I hope this is just the first of many exhibits of their work."
     Staff, kids and community friends are invited to attend our Opening Reception on Wednesday, May 14th, from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Laraway.  To visit the exhibit another time, please contact Katherine Stamper at 635-2805 x 106 or

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Kids and Staff create an artistically-inspired donation box for local food shelf

     It started with an idea.  The Johnson Food Shelf needed donations.  Sterling Market agreed to be a drop-off point for donations.  But, a collection box or bin was needed.  Swirling conversation and interactions inspired Laraway staff and kids to design, build and paint a beautiful donation bin depicting Vermont scenes.
     Cal Stanton built the sturdy wooden bin with kids in his Laraway workshop.  Staff members Kristen Murphy and Sue Lenel worked with kids to decorate with mountain and river landscapes.  Staff delivered the donation receptacle to Sterling Market and voila, donations are coming in!

Students participate in art exhibit at Vermont Studio Center

     Students from Laraway School are participating in the Art Shines Art Show at the Vermont Studio Center.  This annual event draws participants from schools across Lamoille County.
     The opening reception is Tuesday, May 6th, 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Wolf Kahn Studio located at 80 Pearl Street in Johnson.  Other participating schools include Hyde Park Elementary, Waterville Elementary, Cambridge Elementary, Green Mountain Technical and Career Center, Lamoille Union Middle School, Lamoille Union High School, Eden Central School and Johnson Elementary.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Laraway Staffers Rich Farrell and Greg Stefanski to appear on WLVB Radio on Friday, May 2nd

     Rich Farrell, Assistant Director of Laraway's Substitute Care Program, and Greg Stefanski will appear as guests on Roland Lajoie's radio program on Friday, May 2nd.  May is designated as Family Support and Mental Health Awareness Month.  Farrell and Stefanski will speak to strategies for supporting families struggling with these issues.
     We invite you to tune in to 93.9 at 8:20 in the morning on Friday to give a listen!


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Greg Stefanski to speak at Stowe Rotary on April 17th

Greg Stefanski is the Executive Director of Laraway Youth & Family Services.  He is a leader in developing sustainable programs, financial management and strategic planning for nonprofit organizations.  Greg’s commitment to enhancing services for at-risk children and youth is inspired by a deep personal commitment to social justice and building community.
            Since joining Laraway in 1999, Greg led the organization through an extensive strategic planning process, coordinated a $3 million project to build a new treatment facility, and developed and strengthened funding sources for programs at a fast-growing, dynamic organization.  Under Greg’s leadership, Laraway added an elementary division to its school; fostered an acclaimed public-school-based, behavioral intervention program; and launched a successful $900,000 capital campaign.  Greg consistently encourages his staff to bring their best thinking, passion and creativity to the work they do on behalf of children and families.
Greg’s role as a community leader further enhances his work on behalf of Laraway Youth & Family Services.  He served on the Johnson School Board, Lamoille North Supervisory Union School Board, and was President of the Vermont Coalition of Residential Providers.  He coaches basketball, baseball and soccer and serves as emcee for Tuesday Night Live, Johnson’s annual summer music series.  Greg is also an active member of the United Church of Johnson.
Greg is a graduate of the Vermont Leadership Institute at the Snelling Center for Government.  He earned a Master’s of Education at Johnson State College and a Bachelor’s of Arts in Theological Languages at Concordia University.  He lives in Johnson with his wife Jennifer and three children, Declan, Cecilia and Ronan.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Join us May 1st for an Open House at Laraway's Hardwick Office

     Laraway is hosting an Open House at our Hardwick Backpack Office on Thursday, May 1, 2014 from 3:00-6:00 p.m.  Area educators, families we serve, local businesses and community members interested in our work with children and families are all welcome to attend. 
     The event will be hosted by Greg Stefanski, Executive Director and Sarah Squirrell, Backpack Director at 64 North Main Street in Hardwick.  Join us for light refreshments and fun activities.  Please RSVP by Thursday, April 25th to Adria at 802-585-9251 or

Monday, April 7, 2014

It's Maple Syrup time at Laraway

     Tap the trees.  Boil the sap.  It's maple time at Laraway.  Maple season starts in Vermont in spring when days grow warmer while nights remain below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.  This temperature pattern triggers the flow of sap.  Laraway tapped several of its sugar maples, releasing a steady flow of sweet, sticky sap.
     Wandering downstairs to Laraway School, one encountered a large pot of sap starting to heat up on a boiling station outside one of our science classrooms.  Hours of boiling removes excess water content, thus resulting in sweet, concentrated syrup.  Care must be taken to maintain the boiling point while guarding against burning the sap. 
     Teaching kids about the maple syrup process is one way in which Laraway integrates hands on activities while exposing students to science and ecology.  What's the best part of this process?  Students get to enjoy the fruit of their labor, enjoying the sweet flavor of freshly boiled syrup!


Monday, March 31, 2014

Highfield Center for Composting presents a workshop at Laraway

            Maia Hansen, AmeriCorps VISTA at Highfields Center for Composting, facilitated an engaging workshop on composting for students and staff at Laraway School.  Imagine worms and dirt and food scraps, just the kinds of things environmentally-minded students like to dig into.
            Laraway School already has a compost program.  This workshop inspired participants to think about incorporating compost culture even deeper into educational activities with students.
            Hansen introduced participants to the practice of composting via hands-on activities, demonstrations and questions that encouraged students to think of why composting matters.  She stressed the importance of closing the loop on food waste.  Instead of simply burying it, why not transform food waste for a whole new purpose, to fertilize gardens?
            “A number of students are excited to build compost bins on site as a next step,” said Cornelius Murphy, Laraway’s Farm Steward.
             Hansen presented a tailor-made wagon to Laraway, soon to be debuted on the Johnson campus.  

Photo Caption:  Maia Hansen, AmeriCorp VISTA at Highfields Center for Composting

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Hungry Heart Screened at Laraway with Partner Agencies

     "It was powerful."  "The film broadened my perspective on what addiction is and who is impacted by addiction."  "I realize addiction is a culture, a culture I'm not familiar with."  "People need to understand the danger of leaving medications out." 
     These were some of the comments shared following a recent screening of Bess O'Brien's new film, The Hungry Heart,  at Laraway.  The screening, attended by about 40 individuals, was organized by the Lamoille Family Center, Lamoille County Court Diversion Restorative Justice Program and Laraway.  We brought staff together from across agencies to learn about the struggles associated with prescription drug abuse and addiction.
     Representatives from the Community Health Service of Lamoille Valley and The Recovery Center joined up after the screening to share information on supports available for individuals struggling with their addictions, and their family member.

Photo Caption:  Brianna Hart of the Community Health Service of Lamoille Valley

John Connell Joins Laraway Board of Trustees

             John Connell is a farmer, boatbuilder, recanter, sailor and adventuresome wanderer.  He considers himself a teacher at heart.
            “I believe deeply in the potential of the human spirit and the exciting capacity of all youth,” Connell says.
             Connell works for the Northeast Organic Farming Association while managing a youth hostel on his small farm in Underhill Center.  He also teaches small boat and canoe building and restoration.
            “I’m very happy to be back with the Laraway community as a board member,” Connell says.  “I came to know Laraway as School Director in the 1990s.  Laraway reaches out to all kids in a genuine caring manner.  This nurturing center is a place where kids can stretch, learn and grow.  This holding of Laraway is not soft.  It is firm, trusting and steady.”

Anne Smith Joins Laraway Board of Trustees

            Anne Smith has advocated for victims of crime in Vermont for over 10 years with particular interest in the prevention of, and coordinated community response to, sexual and domestic violence.
            Her interests include social justice, ethics, and holistic health and wellness. She earned a M.Ed. from the University of Vermont.
            “I am so grateful for the presence of the quality services Laraway provides to youth and families in our community,” Smith said. “The services that Laraway provides are critical to the success of our community at large.  I have found Laraway’s staff to be outstanding, committed folks who want to see every child thrive.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Mary Moulton joins Laraway's Board of Trustees

     Mary Moulton, Executive Director of Washington County Mental Health Services, joined Laraway's Board of Directors.  She has worked for WCMH for over twenty years, serving as an emergency services clinician on the mobile crisis team before moving to administrative roles.
     "Everything we did, of course, was based on a sense of urgency," Moulton said.  "The work exposed me to the depth of human pain that people can experience and I came to deeply respect individuals who were struggling with life's challenges.  As Executive Director of WCMH I still have the same sense of urgency---wanting to get so much done in a short time period.  I love the work and I have an incredible staff.  I also love to teach and still do trainings related to emergency services response whenever I can."
     "It's clear to me that the programs offered by Laraway have integrity," Moulton said.  "I feel fortunate to arrive at such a beautiful setting after travelling up the road and am impressed by what Laraway has done to grow and thrive on behalf of youth."
     Moulton lives on a small farm with her husband where she enjoys tending her gardens and fruit trees.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Laraway co-sponsors screening of The Hungry Heart at Johnson State College

     Approximately 150 students and community members turned out on a cold Monday night to watch a screening of The Hungry Heart, Bess O'Brien's new documentary about prescription drug addiction and recovery.  The film focuses on the northern Vermont town of St. Albans and a perceptive pediatrician named Dr. Fred Holmes who lifted the lid on the problem and engaged the community in helping its children who are addicted to opiates.
     O'Brien is a well-respected documentary filmmaker whose earlier works include Journey into Courage, Shout it Out and Ask Us Who We Are.  She's adept at tackling social matters such as domestic violence, substance abuse and challenges faced by youth in the foster care system with a eye for revealing the depth and humanity of the people behind the issues.  The screening was followed by a discussion with the director and several of the individuals featured in the film, including the now-retired Dr. Holmes.  Information on resources for individuals experiencing opiate addiction was also made available.
     "I was thrilled to see so many students, community members and community partners in attendance," said Emily Neilsen, the college's Coordinator of First-Year Events.  "It was incredibly inspiring to hear from Dr. Holmes as well as from folks whose lives have been so greatly impacted by addiction.  Their words, along with the film, humanized addiction and re-affirmed the idea that we need to approach this illness from a medical perspective, not a criminal perspective."
     The event, hosted by Johnson State College, was co-sponsored by Laraway, the Lamoille Family Center and  the Lamoille County Court Diversion Restorative Justice Programs, Inc.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Laralympics: Let the games begin!

     It's been far colder in Johnson than Sochi, Russia, host of the 2014 Winter Olympics.  Laraway's own celebration of the Olympics---Laralympics---is a 4-day extravaganza at Laraway School complete with inspirational speeches, classroom learning, athletic events and special internationally-themed lunches in our cafeteria.
     Marc Gilbertson, a cross country skier who was a member of the United States Olympic Team in Nagano, Japan in 1998, served as guest speaker at our opening ceremony on a chilly Monday morning.  Gilbertson challenged students to follow their bliss, strive to minimize regrets, and find the courage to take the first step towards their goals. 
     Students formed four teams representing nations at the Olympics: Russia, Norway, Germany and China.  They learned about the geography and history of their respective nations and made flags and t-shirts.  We started with a relay race which included stops along the way for tasty chicken wings and chocolates.  Snow events include snowman building and creating snow angels.  Our new ice rink will host curling and skating competitions.
     Interesting ethnic aromas emanate for Laraway's cafeteria.  From egg rolls to potato pancakes to bratwurst to pierogies...our kids and staff are eating like international Olympians!


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Seeking aspiring Janes of All Trades

                                             VERMONT WORKS FOR WOMEN
                                                     JANES OF ALL TRADES

Janes of All Trades is a FREE program where young women, ages 15-22, will build confidence through the exploration of skilled trades in a safe, fun, woman-centered, supportive environment.

WHO?  Any interested young women, ages 15-22

WHAT?  Learn carpentry and welding skills, use power tools, and explore two other skilled
 trades as well. We will also have time for some arts, team building games, and media literacy work.
Throughout our time together, we will focus on supporting one another and building confidence as women.

WHEN? Thursdays, March 6-June 5, 3:15-5:45

WHERE?  Green Mountain Tech and Career Center (GMTCC), Hyde Park

HOW?  To register, contact Julia Chafets at or call 802-622-0400 x157


Note:  Laraway Youth & Family Services, Lamoille Family Center and Lamoille County Court Diversion Restorative Justice Programs, Inc. have provided are delighted to partner with Vermont Works for Women in this endeavor.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Laraway hires Behavior Consultant

            Laraway hired Melissa Deppisch as a Behavior Consultant. Deppisch possesses a Master’s Degree in Psychology and Applied Behavioral Analysis. She will work with the agency’s Backpack Program which provides public school based behavioral intervention supports.  Deppisch, whose areas of expertise include autism, will assess individual student needs and design interventions to build skills and promote independence.
“I’m really excited by the potential that exists here at Laraway,” Deppisch says. “Laraway is not only filled with people who know about that they do. They really care about what they do.”
Laraway responds to the needs of at-risk kids and their families by offering innovative, strength-based services through alternative education, therapeutic foster care, and public school based support programs.


Laraway Honors Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy with a day or service

             Johnson-based Laraway Youth & Family Services’ staff fanned out across Lamoille County on January 20th, volunteering at numerous non-profits. Staff members delivered meals, painted, cleaned and organized materials, and visited with young children and seniors. 
“Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is synonymous with service at Laraway. This is our way to give back to a community that supports our work with at-risk children and youth,” said Katherine Stamper, Laraway Development Director. “It also allows staff members to get to know each other across program areas, strengthening our connections as colleagues.”
 Agencies Laraway partnered with include:  Lamoille Family Center, Meals on Wheels, RSVP, The Manor, Johnson Historical Society, Morrisville Food Bank and Lamoille County Court Diversion Restorative Justice Program, Inc.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Laraway Receives Green Mountain Fund Grant

     According to the National Institute of Outdoor Leadership, "the goal of therapeutic recreation is to create adaptations so that people with disabilities have access to activities that they wouldn't otherwise have---and to reap the social, mental, emotional and physical benefits of those activities along the way."
     Laraway is very grateful to the Green Mountain Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation for a grant to enhance recreational offerings for children and youth in our programs.  Funds received will underwrite the cost of activities including a ropes course, theater activities, and crafting supplies to allow our clients to tell their personal narrative in creative ways. 
     "We so genuinely appreciate the generosity of the Green Mountain Fund," said Katherine Stamper, Laraway Development Director.  "These funds translate into activities that age fun, engaging and therapeutic."

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Laraway Selected for Leadership Lamoille Project

     Laraway submitted a successful proposal to the Lamoille Area Chamber of Commerce and was subsequently selected as a project site for the 2014 Leadership Lamoille Class.  The leadership program is for business professionals who are emerging leaders within their organizations.  The intensive, ten-month program introduces participants to major facets of the greater Lamoille Region and the state of Vermont.  They also work on a service project for a designated non-profit.
     Laraway's submission--"Start Here, Go Anywhere"--is designed to answer fundamental questions regarding how an employer can attract, retain, and develop employees, interns and volunteers.  As one of Lamoille County's largest employers, Laraway is committed to recruiting and retaining quality personnel. 
     "I look forward to working with Leadership Lamoille representatives on this project," said Development Director Katherine Stamper.  "We've experienced significant growth in staffing to meet a burgeoning demand for services.  We are grateful to Leadership Lamoille for sharing their expertise!"

Rotary Club of Stowe donates to Laraway

The president of the Rotary Club of Stowe visited Laraway Youth & Family Services to present a  generous donation check of $500. The club is comprised of community leaders who partner for the purpose of service to the Lamoille County Region.  Chartered in 1935, the Rotary Club of Stowe has a distinguished record of community support and philanthropy.
“We are honored to maintain our supportive relationship with Laraway,” says George Lewis, President of the Rotary Club of Stowe. Laraway provides critical services for so many families in Lamoille County and beyond.”
            “This donation will support Laraway’s internal youth grant program, allowing kids in our care to experience a recreational opportunity that might not otherwise be available to them,” says Greg Stefanski, Laraway’s Executive Director.
Laraway responds to the needs of at-risk kids and their families by offering innovative, strength-based services through alternative education, therapeutic foster care, and public school based support programs.