Seventy years and millions of dollars: The Vermont Retired Educators Association presented Gov. Phil Scott with its most recent facsimile check for more than $1 million worth of volunteer service hours completed by members during the past year.
“As you know, educators have always had a history of doing way beyond what they’re asked to do,” said director and VREA member Linda Moxley.
Collectively throughout the state, VREA members completed 41,830 hours of community and youth volunteer service at a rate of the national average of $25.42 cents per hour this past year, according to their figures.
Whether it was coaching sports, volunteering at local school systems, providing transportation or helping out at local food shelves, the many members of the VREA completed each hour without compensation as a constant workforce and presence.
Assuming the podium, Scott credited the teachers for helping to further stabilize the budget with their good works and recalled how his childhood mentors had inspired him — especially at a very difficult time in his life when his family suffered the tragedy of his father’s passing. Scott recalled the sense of comfort when one teacher took him under his wing.
“He brought me to a place where he inspired me so much that I wanted to be just like him,” Scott said.
Scott said he was later inspired to attend UVM to pursue a career in education, and if not for his career in politics, he might have also endeavored to become a member of the VREA.
“You’re role models for many,” Scott said. “(You’ve helped to give) so many kids a strong foundation to build on as adults, myself included ... and even in your retirement, you continue to remain engaged.”
After the passing of one of his other role models, Sen. John McCain, Scott said he was struck with the civility of leaders who attended his services —most notably President Barack Obama and President George W. Bush, both of whom previously ran against the senator and won.
But it was those two leaders — one Republican and one Democrat — whom McCain asked to speak at his funeral, calling forth the spirits of unity and civility so needed today in a time of sharp political opposition.
After a performance by the Mill River Union High School Choir conducted by music teacher Kristen Cimonetti, and heralded by Scott and members of their audience, awards were given for outstanding efforts in volunteer community service: Paula Dolan, who completed over 800 service hours for her community and her family, received the first Volunteer Service Award, while retired Tinmouth educator Nelson Jaquay received the second, completing 586 hours for his community.
The Caledonia Retired Teacher’s Association recruited four new members this year, the most in the state, earning the Holland “Dutch” Smith award, and CRTA director Kathy Joslin urged her fellow members to keep reaching out to their co-workers reaching retirement.
As the VREA continues its good work, Scott encouraged the educators to preach a culture of openness and connection, and work to re-instill and strengthen good values and kindness in difficult times to inspire the country’s future generations and ensure a bright, collective future, as constant mentors and pillars of the community.
“We have to set a better example for the next generation,” Scott said. “You know that probably better than most ... As Sen. McCain said, ‘We should always believe in the promise and greatness of America, because nothing is inevitable here.’