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  Free To Grow
  Mailman School
  of Public Health
  Columbia University
  722 West 168th Street,
  8th Floor
  New York, NY 10032

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NOTE: as of April 17, 2007, the Free to Grow program has closed.
Grantee Profiles

Central Vermont Community Action

Organization Name Central Vermont Community Action Council Free To Grow
State Vermont
Program Profile

Central Vermont Community Action Council (CVCAC) provides programs and services to low income Vermonters, primarily in Washington, Orange, and Lamoille counties.  CVCAC maintains a comprehensive human services network geared to help people to become self-sufficient. Since 1965, CVCAC has gained a reputation for leadership in education on poverty issues, advocacy on behalf of low-income families, and developing strategies to reduce poverty.  They provide training and technical assistance, as well as encouragement and support, so that people can begin to overcome personal and institutional barriers to their economic security and well-being.  As a community action council, CVCAC is governed by a uniquely structured, tripartite board of directors whose members come from three diverse segments of the community. Specifically, at least one-third of the board's members must be from the low-income community, up to one-third must be from the private sector, and exactly one-third must be public officials.

The target area for CVCAC's Head Start is the low-income housing complex of Highgate in the city of Barre, which is home to about 9,000 residents.  Because Barre is a small, tight knit community in a small, rural state, Free To Grow operates on a very "human scale" there.  CVCAC has firmly established working relationships with many of the community's organizations and agencies.  Barre and Highgate in particular -- struggle with alcohol and drug abuse; the isolation of the community and long winter months are certainly contributing factors.  Recently, Vermont has witnessed a significant influx of heroin.  Not only is it easily accessible to Barre residents, it is also cheap.

CVCAC provides more than one-fourth of its services to the children and families that live in Highgate's 120 housing units.  Close to 150 children live in Highgate and nearly half of them are under the age of four.  Over 75% of the households are headed by single women. 

Within Highgate and the larger Barre community, Free To Grow will emphasize the development of social networks.  Because Vermont is such a rural state with significant distances between neighbors, a limited public transportation system and rough winter weather that can make roads impassable social isolation is a problem.  Bringing parents together on Free To Grow committees and in special training sessions and support groups increases their sense of community engagement.  Free To Grow recently helped Highgate create a soccer league the Highgate Bulldogs that is bringing residents together around a healthy and fun activity.

CVCAC has already established a Family Service Center within the Highgate community that works with families on issues such as economic self-sufficiency, literacy, and substance abuse.  Free To Grow will use this structure, its linkages with the Welfare to Work initiative, and its relationships with other social service, political, educational, and community organizations to address substance abuse in Highgate and Barre.

For more information, contact Marianne Miller at (802) 479-1053 or via email at


copyright 2008 Free To Grow
Free To Grow is a national program supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation with direction and technical assistance provided by the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University.