Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sue Minter joined Project VISION’s monthly meeting Thursday in Rutland calling the initiative, a collaboration between law enforcement and community leaders, a possible model for communities around the state.
The meeting ran for an hour and a half. It was started with an introduction by Joe Kraus, the executive director for Project VISION. Various first time attendees introduced themselves, including Minter. The meeting had a smaller attendance than it did two months ago, possibly because of the summer vacations that people have.
Minter thanked the attendees for their work and praised them for their efforts. She participated in one of the break-out groups on substance abuse, a considerable problem for Rutland, and more broadly Vermont, which is coping with an opioid and heroin crisis.
The meeting addressed the refugee resettlement process. Said Kraus, “Most of the heavy lifting (in resettling refugees) will be done by people in this community: private citizens private organizations. As you’re probably aware there’s a group called Rutland Welcomes that has been formed to spearhead this effort, and I’m very pleased that Pat Hunter and some others will be here now to talk briefly about the organization, about what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, and how we can be of assistance.”
Hunter and two other ladies from Rutland Welcomes took the stage and began speaking about the growth of the movement to welcome refugees in Rutland. She said they launched a Facebook Page called Rutland welcomes and within a number of weeks over a thousand people had liked the page. “We thought we might have 35 people to start out with,” Hunter said, “and 175 people showed up one month ago. And there’s more people than that who have since been involved.”
Hunter held up a lawn sign that had a heart with an arrow through it and said that people will soon start seeing these on lawns, that it was the logo for the movement. She ticked off some of the initiatives that people were pursuing for the refugees: a welcome wagon, teaching and tutoring, office support, clerical work, transportation, employment assistance. She stressed that the group was helping not only refugees but also people who are native Rutlanders, and that the community was coming together in a spirit of love.