The Dartmouth community has a strong history of giving back to the Upper Valley, especially through its annual United Way giving campaign, which kicks off Oct. 17.
To celebrate the launch of the campaign, Dartmouth News is sharing the stories of staff members who volunteer their time at a few of the many Upper Valley organizations that depend on the United Way for funding each year.
These volunteers do all sorts of things: They serve home-cooked meals at the Hixon House adult shelter; counsel domestic violence victims at WISE, an advocacy organization that works to end gender-based violence; repair homes for Cover Home Repair; and more.
These are some of the ways they have chosen to help their neighbors, and you can help, too, by participating in this year’s giving campaign.
James Alberghini, manager of Conferences and Events
Alberghini coordinates and cooks a monthly gourmet feast at the Upper Valley Haven’s Hixon House.
“Adults experiencing homelessness have long been a silent population in the Upper Valley. Hixon House not only shines a light on the need, but also offers some solutions. They don’t just offer a bed and food, they help build skills and solve problems to get people back on their feet. I want to show the guests at Hixon House that someone in our community cares enough about them to make time to prepare the best meal possible, to let them know they matter.”Mark Bowman, left, and James Alberghini put the finishing touches on a gourmet meal they cooked for the residents at Hixon House. (Photo by Herb Swanson)
Mark Bowman, a senior consultant with Human Resources
Bowman cooks and serves gourmet meals at Hixon House.
“Sometimes, through no fault of their own, people find themselves in dire straits—temporarily unemployed, temporarily homeless. Hixon House provides a space where they can regroup, reorganize, rebuild, on their way back to where they want to be. I’ll see a resident there for two, maybe three dinners, then the next time I’ll notice that she or he is gone. That’s good; it means they’ve moved out, and they’re hopefully back on track.”
Lisa Sharp Grady, administrative assistant at Preference Laboratory at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy & Clinical Practice
Grady cooks and serves monthly meals at Hixon House.
“I volunteer because I know I am fortunate to have a roof over my head and food on my plate. I am also aware of how easily that could change. Providing a healthy, warm meal for the residents of the Hixon House gives them one less thing to worry about during a tough time in their lives. Every time we volunteer, I am rewarded with smiles and gratitude and with good conversations with people who have lives, jobs, and families that they care deeply about. Each time I walk away, I feel a bit of wonder at how resilient people are. I am proud that the Dartmouth community helps support the efforts of the Upper Valley Haven. It’s a legitimate need in our part of the world.”
Alexandra Stein ’06, special gifts officer for leadership giving
Stein volunteers as a cook at Hixon House.
“It’s a great feeling to prepare a meal for 25 people in one hour, and then have the chance to sit down and enjoy it with them. My most rewarding experiences have been during my conversations with the residents during dinner, learning their stories, finding where our lives overlap, and just having fun banter. We are very privileged at Dartmouth, and there are so many in our own community who can benefit from our time, talent, and treasures. It is very cool to see how that adds up through the volunteer hours and donations that we collectively make throughout the Upper Valley.”
Nicole Westervelt, senior designer for Advancement Communications
Westervelt cooks and serves meals at Hixon House.
“When I started, it was just an opportunity to volunteer with a group of my friends from work, but you don’t just make dinner when you go there; you sit with everyone who’s staying at the Haven and have dinner and talk. You learn about the different circumstances under which people have come to be there and how unique everyone’s situation is.”
Josiah Proietti, assistant director of residential education for East Wheelock House
Prioetti serves on the board of trustees for COVER Home Repair.
“It is sometimes easy to forget the surrounding area when caught in the demands of the Dartmouth schedule for both students and staff. I volunteer for COVER to not only contribute to a worthy cause, but to help promote the value of local nonprofit work to the students I serve. We are in a position of great resource and great power, which means we are the ones responsible for redistributing resources to those that need it the most. It means we are fulfilling our obligations to do what we can to rebalance a system that does not support all of its citizens.”
Carissa Dowd, office manager at the Student Wellness Center
Dowd volunteers as a counselor at WISE.
“I volunteer for WISE because it’s a way for me to let people affected by domestic and sexual violence know they aren’t alone. I feel like the most rewarding experiences are when you can convince someone that they are worth more, that they deserve to be treated with decency and respect, especially women who are in the throes of abuse. They’ve had every ounce of self-worth taken from them by the very people who claim to love them. Sometimes it just takes hearing positivity from one person to make them remember that they used to love themselves. When you see someone come to terms with what the abuse has done to them as a person, a light comes on. You can see their whole face light up with hope for their future.”
John Steidl, director of the Project Management Office
Steidl volunteers as a counselor at WISE.
“WISE is an amazing organization doing terrific work. It’s easy to feel comfortable in the Upper Valley and assume that we’re fortunate to be untouched by the world’s troubles. But domestic violence and sexual assault are as real here as anywhere, and life for the victims often feels anything but comfortable or safe. These victims are usually unknown, even to their friends, and often have nowhere else to turn for support.”
Tracy Dustin-Eichler, interim director of the Dartmouth Center for Service
Dustin-Eichler is president of the board of trustees for Dismas of Vermont.
“I volunteer for Dismas because our community is important to me, and I want to be part of making it a strong, healthy, vibrant place for all of us. Those coming out of incarceration have unique challenges that make it difficult for them to tap into the strengths of the Upper Valley. Dismas changes that by building community, and I love being engaged in that. The Dartmouth United Way Campaign reminds me that I live in a place where people deeply care about their neighbors and community, and that is a gift.”
Jonathan Sylvia, assistant director of operations for the Frank J. Guarini Institute for International Education
Sylvia serves on the board of trustees for Dismas of Vermont.
“I am sensitive to the needs to those who are marginalized in society, whether they be repressed ethnic groups on the other side of the world or people in our own society. Dismas of Vermont provides a home to prisoners transitioning back to society. The family dinner is the most critical element, when volunteers from the community cook dinner for our residents. This interaction encourages our residents and community members and, in many cases, provides normalization in the lives of men or women who may have never experienced this act.”
Learn more about this year’s United Way giving campaign and make a secure donation online at the Dartmouth United Way website.