The Haven Through 40 Years – Advocacy

Renee testimony Jan

More Than Service

The Haven is rightly known and highly regarded for our mission that focuses on providing services to people in need. From the Food Shelf to Shelters, Supportive Housing and Community Outreach, After School to Summer Camp for kids, the Haven provides essential services that help people in the moment and allow greater stability and relief from daily stresses. The Upper Valley community has responded with generous financial support that allows us to take on these service challenges.

Perhaps not as well known, but equally important, is the work done behind the scenes, in meeting rooms and the halls of State Capitols working with other organizations and people similarly committed to societal change to improve the lives of people impacted by poverty.

Haven staff take on leadership roles in coalitions of organizations that address hunger and food insecurity, homelessness and affordable housing and mobilizing volunteer leadership. We serve on the Boards of Directors of other nonprofits with related missions to share our expertise and strengthen organizational capacities to respond to critical needs. During the COVID-19 pandemic, this work was more important than ever.

Here are just a few examples —

Renee Weeks, the recent Director of Shelter & Clinical Services and now on the staff of the Secretary of Vermont’s Agency for Human Services, served on the Governor’s Council on Homelessness and was Co-Chair of the Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness among other assignments while she worked at the Haven. She recently shared, “I saw our work at the Haven as a continuum from tent outreach to advocacy in Montpelier and everything in between. Each part of the continuum impacts the other and all are interconnected. Our experience at the ground level provides us with a realistic view of what is possible when speaking with policy makers.”

Jennifer Fontaine, Director of Operations, is co-chair of the Hunger Council of the Upper Valley and also co-chaired committees of Upper Valley Strong during the pandemic. “It’s important for the Haven to have a voice at the table, to help influence the course of events, to ensure no one is left out and all needs are represented. From our work in the Food Shelf and community food programs, we have that lens available to share what we have learned from the people who come to our front door. Personally, I want to feel like there’s proactive work happening, that we’re not only providing services, but really trying to make a difference for those we serve.”

Amber Johnston, Director of Volunteer Services, founded the Volunteer Coordinators of the Upper Valley, a coalition with 20 volunteer coordinators, mostly with for-profit businesses. She also led Upper Valley Strong’s volunteer group during the pandemic. She’s current chair of the Leadership Upper Valley Advisory Board. Amber believes that it’s important for the Haven to be in leadership roles in the volunteer field. “Being integrated into community efforts is not only important for our growth as one of the largest users of volunteer services in this area, but also allows us to share the lessons we have learned. I deeply believe in partnership and collaboration.”

Renee concluded, “The Haven cannot solve poverty or hunger or homelessness on its own. It takes a community to tackle those issues.  But we can help to build that community of people concerned about these issues by talking about the breadth and root causes of poverty. From this education we hope will come changes to systems. Together, we can work as a community to bring about lasting change.”

Get involved

Give us a call or fill in the form below and we'll contact you. We endeavor to answer all inquiries within 24 hours on business days.