In summer 2012, a large and diverse group of citizens gathered to ask what could be done about the growing opioid crisis affecting our community. That group ultimately became known as Project VISION, an eclectic coalition of virtually every agency and organization dedicated to the welfare of the Rutland region. Our members include churches, schools, law enforcement, social service agencies and a diversity of citizens. The city of Rutland and Rutland Regional Medical Center play critical roles as well.

Working together, we have accomplished a great deal and we have much more to do. In recent years, our focus has expanded beyond opioid addiction to include the larger health and welfare issues affecting our community. What hasn’t changed is our basic values: collaboration for the greater good and an unshakable belief in our community and its future.

There are a number of reasons why we have lasted this long. One of the reasons is that we have remained steadfastly non-partisan. As a result, we have not supported or opposed any party, candidate or political issue and our doors have been open to everyone. As a result, during these divisive times, Project VISION has been a sea of relative calm. This has not always been easy.

Today, the events surrounding Tabitha Moore’s decision to leave her home because she and her family no longer felt safe presents another moral dilemma for us. Do we speak up or do we remain silent?

Moore is the Rutland Chapter of the NAACP executive director and an advocate for Black Lives Matter. The fact that she and her family felt forced to leave their home because of their point of view or the color of their skin, is simply unacceptable.

We have all taken great pride in Vermont’s reputation for tolerance and understanding. The truth of the matter is our reality falls far short of our reputation. I don’t know Tabitha or her family, but I do know all of us are diminished if we remain silent in the face of such intimidation and intolerance.

We have a choice, we can be the place where our love for each other transcends our differences, or we can be the place where a mother and her children feel forced to leave because of the color of their skin or their belief we should all be treated with equality and fairness. Project VISION has authorized me to say that we stand immovably for the former.

Joseph Kraus is Project VISION chairman and lives in Rutland.

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