Chocolate Fest to benefit non-profit

LONDONDERRY - It's not just a fundraising event, it's a chocolate and cheese festival. The fourth annual event, affectionately known as "chocolate fest" and benefiting Neighborhood Connections, a non-profit based in Londonderry, will be held August 4 at The Landgrove Inn.

Susie Wyman, Neighborhood Connections board member and event organizer said this event helps fund all Neighborhood Connections programs, not one specifically.

"The money raised will help us help people in need," she said. The non-profit organization, which serves the communities of Londonderrry, Weston, Andover, Windham, Winhall, Jamaica, Landgrove, Peru and Bondville has programs from providing fuel assistance in the winter, to senior citizen events and a children's lunch program in the summer.

Gloria Dawson, director and social worker at Neighborhood Connections said the organization was opened because the communities it serves are on the periphery of three social services districts.

"People in this area would have to travel 30 to 50 miles to get public services benefits ... in Bennington, Springfield and Brattleboro," she said. "What we try to do is get them those services from here [their location in Londonderry]."

Along with area partners, Neighborhood Connections is able to asses what services individuals need and connect them to the resources they are eligible for. First, Dawson said they asses if an individual or family is eligible for state or federal benefits. If not, the next place to look are the large non-profits, like Health Care and Rehabilitation Services of Vermont in Springfield or Southeastern Vermont Community Action. If the services needed are not provided by the larger non-profits, Dawson said what is needed will be gathered from the smaller groups in the area, the non-profits with fewer resources and available services.

"We use the local resources for those people who fell through the cracks," she said.

Along with their work in helping to get public service benefits, Neighborhood Connections also opened The Meeting Place, what Dawson described as a community center. She said it is used for everything from senior citizen coffee hours to a location for counselors and therapists to see clients locally. She said she wants it to become a community center, a place for everyone in the area to utilize.

Dawson said her organization doesn't just work with state and larger non-profits, but many of the smaller non-profits in the areas they serve. Problem solving, she said, is their main mission.

"We don't just get people phone numbers. We make sure it happens," she said.

Last year, the Chocolate Fest raised $22,000 and Wyman said she hopes to make that again.

The event will feature 30 food vendors, serving both appetizers and chocolate desserts. There is also a silent auction and a raffle. The auction, Wyman said, has everything from meals at local restaurants to a trip to Nova Scotia. Live music will be provided by Bob Ray and Tom Logan, she said.

Recently, Neighborhood Connections acquired Sabbath House, a donation from the Benedictine Monks of the Weston Priory. This house, she said, will be a place people can stay while they search for housing or get back on their feet. It does not some updating and is a new, large expense for the non-profit, Wyman said.

Tickets for the event can be purchased before the event for $15 at Green Mountain Pharmacy and Neighborhood Connection in Londonderry or for $20 at the door at the Landgrove Inn. The event will run from 5 to 8 p.m. on Aug. 4 with all the proceeds going to support Neighborhood Connections programs.

"It's a fun event, with a great auction, wonderful food and a great way to support Neighborhood Connections," Wyman said.


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