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The Phase III Cardiac Rehabilitation group at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center gathered over 700 for Nancy Livingston, who is a former occupant of 108 Grant St. She was unable to return home after a fire broke out on March 12.

BENNINGTON >> Nancy Livingston, who lived with her grandson at 108 Grant St. and is unable to return to her apartment after a fire broke out earlier in March, received a monetary surprise this past week from her friends in the cardiac rehabilitation group at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center.

Livingston participates in the Phase III Cardiac Rehabilitation program and was presented with a donation box recently, filled with over $700. When one of the group members heard about the apartment building fire, Registered Nurse Patricia Ryan helped the group gather donations.

"Right now I live with my son," Livingston said. "I got mostly water damage. I really needed this after the fire. Right now the money is sitting in the bank."

Robin LaFountain, Livingston's daughter, works at the hospital and said the money will help her mother find a new apartment and serve as a security deposit and first month's rent payment. She has also arranged a fundraising dinner at the Bennington Fire Department on River Street for May 7 at 4 p.m. There will be various homemade dishes and snacks, a Chinese auction and a raffle to benefit all families who experienced the fire.

Ryan and another member of the rehab group kept silent about the donation box until one day Livingston came in for a session and saw the box full of money and a card sitting on the table.

"I'm kind of the clown of the group," she explained. "I guess I didn't think that I was that well liked! You don't realize who your friends are until something like this happens."


Livingston occupied a second floor apartment on Grant Street and reflects back on fellow tenant Ricky Pratt, whom she said is her hero for notifying her of the fire.

The fire broke out on March 12 around midnight; Pratt smelled smoke and alerted the rest of the residents to exit the building. About 13 individuals were affected. Livingston said there are plans to rebuild the apartment building.

Ryan said Livingston's friends in the Cardiac group were eager to help out.

"They really get to know each other and look out for each other. They noticed Nancy was upset and said 'Hey can we do something for her?'" Ryan said if one person is out of sync in the group, others will notify her. "They all have something common, heart disease. They really support each other."

— Makayla-Courtney McGeeney can be reached at (802)-447-7567, ext. 118.