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Rutland Herald – VISION helps connect families on Christmas Eve

Written by Patrick McArdle and originally posted on the Rutland Herald.

It’s not exactly the traditional song to declare, “There’s no place like Zoom for the holidays,” but it’s a position Project VISION is taking up as one way for people to connect with friends and family on Christmas Eve.

“Zoom for the Holidays” is intended to help people who want to connect with the people in their lives on Thursday. The pandemic might prevent an in-person visit and some people might not have the technology or the experience to set up a video conference.

However, those who can visit the Evergreen Center at 45 Union St., on Christmas Eve between 3 and 8 p.m., can work with volunteers who will help them set up the video call, in a space that has been cleaned to prevent the spread of COVID-19 before leaving so families can speak privately.

There is no charge.

Clay Gilbert, director of Evergreen Substance Abuse Services, which will host the event, said this year and the pandemic are so unusual, organizers don’t know what kind of response they’ll get. But they’re asking people to schedule an appointment in advance so they can accommodate everyone’s schedule as much as possible for the sessions, which will run up to about 30 minutes.

Gilbert said one of the health goals is to help people feel less isolated during holidays.

“We don’t know what the demand will be. We may get one family, we may get more families than we can even handle on that day,” Gilbert said.

The calls will be set up and onsite support will be handled by volunteers. According to Gilbert, volunteers have already discussed the possibility, if the demand is great, of providing some time on Saturday, as well.

Jamie Bentley, one of the co-chairwomen of Project VISION’s health subcommittee and community impact coordinator for Rutland Regional Medical Center, noted the most recent community health needs assessment identified the importance of mental health.

“With COVID and the increase in isolation that people are feeling because they can’t visit with friends and family who aren’t in their households, we just thought, ‘There might be some people who don’t have access to smartphones or don’t have a computer in their house that still want see their families. We felt that, really, it’s all about the connection. We know in so many different realms that connection is so important for people’s mental well being which really translates into their physical well being because it’s all connected,” she said.

Gilbert was quick to share credit for “Zoom for the Holidays” with the Community Care Network, which Evergreen is part of along with Rutland Mental Health and Project VISION.

“It’s being hosted at Evergreen, but it’s really just our small piece of helping the community be as healthy as it can be,” he said.

Bentley pointed out that the Zoom event was created through one of the VISION health committees outside those that focus on opiate addiction. VISION was created as a positive response to the opioid crisis in Rutland but its members have worked to expand its goals.

“We really in these meetings have the conversation, ‘Who is missing from the table? Who isn’t getting the support that they need?’ A lot of it just came back to folks who don’t have technology,” she said.

Bentley said the meeting programs are a way to bring people together, but there are people who don’t have experience with those programs or who haven’t had to set up a meeting on their own.

“It’s a way that we can fulfill, and I’m sure you’ve heard (Rutland City Police Department commander and leader of Project VISION) Matt Prouty say it, ‘See a need, meet a need,’” she said.

The rooms will be cleaned between uses. Gilbert said the plan is to use four rooms for the calls so two can be in use for Zoom calls and two be be getting disinfected during the event.

Participants will go through a health screening for COVID symptoms before being admitted.

Appointments can be made by calling Patty Luther at 747-3588. Participants are asked to mention while making the appointment whether transportation will need to be arranged as a van is expected to be available to help people get to Union Street on Thursday. If there are spots available on Thursday, some walk-ins will be accepted.

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