Serving students from Preschool through Grade 8 | Burlington, Vermont

Sisters of Mercy Honored with the ADVOCATE Award by the United Way of Chittenden County (9.5.14)

September 5, 2014

The United Way of Chittenden County presented this year’s ADVOCATE Award to the Sisters of Mercy. As Executive Director Martha Maksym presented the award, she acknowledged the Sisters of Mercy for their long-standing tradition of advocacy around social justice and poverty in our community.

SOM1“The Advocate award winner this year is a group of women who, for decades, in Chittenden County and Vermont have shown us all, through words and more importantly through deed of kindness, caring, generosity and faith how to speak up against poverty, homelessness and injustice. . . I would bet that there isn’t a person in this audience today who has not been touched by the work of the Sisters. They started Trinity College, Mater Christi School, Opportunities Credit Union, COTS, Mercy Connections, the Women’s Small Business project to name just a few. Sisters of Mercy have been the Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Human Services, Deputy Commissioner of Corrections, Executive Directors of our local non-profits, our teachers, our mentors, our volunteers, our friends, our role models. . . I think the Sisters of Mercy are walking sermons every minute of every day. There is a lot we can learn from this selfless and generous group of women if we all watch and listen. . . .”

At Mater Christi School, we are so profoundly inspired by the Sisters of Mercy who have lead, taught and volunteered at our school in the past and to this very day. Their spunk and conviction is unparalleled. Congratulations, Sisters, on receiving this award and thank you to the United Way for honoring these amazing women.

Martha Maksym’s full speech delivered at the United Way of Chittenden County’s LIVE UNITED breakfast on Thursday, September 4, 2014.

“Welcome everyone. I am so glad each of you could be here with us today. United Way of Chittenden County has come a long way in the past few years. The positive change within our organization and within the community as a result of our focus on Education, Income and Health has been a beautiful thing to witness.

This focus has allowed us to zero in on the root causes of problems and mobilize the community to find solutions – solutions that are sustainable and make a lasting impact.

In doing so we find opportunities to improve current efforts and programs, but all to often we also identify some critical gaps. Places where our systems and programs just aren’t enough to really bend the trend. We also see emerging challenges that need our attention.

I’m proud to lead a team of staff, volunteers and partners who have the foresight to recognize these challenges and be nimble and strategic in our collective response. I’m proud that we have such a powerful network of partners and an established set of successful programs at our funded agencies so that we can continue what works and still have resources to continually seek new solutions.

In the next year we will continue to mobilize the community to give, advocate and volunteer for Education, Income and Health and we will continue to support the programs and organizations that are making difference. We will also be addressing some key issues that cannot go unnoticed.

In the coming year, we have some specific issues we will be highlighting in our advocacy agenda. In our Education Impact area, we are having a big push to recruit volunteers to connect with kids in classrooms so we can ensure all children are reading at a 3rd grade level by 3rd grade. We also need volunteers to be mentors – caring adults who can help a child imagine a future that really does fulfill that child’s potential.

In our Income Impact area, we will expand our work to ensure that individuals and families are financially stable- getting people ready and able to get to work, stay at work and advance at
work.

SOM2In our Health Impact area, we will continue to educate the community about our heroin/opiate abuse crisis, as well as start deeper conversations about food insecurity and what we all can do about it. Stay tuned for lots more information from us on these issues.

In many cases, the best way to respond to an issue we care about is to raise our voice-which isn’t always easy. Right? We don’t want to offend, we’re not the experts, we might not have all the information.

But Advocacy is an integral part of developing a solution. It’s an act of boldness and bravery that builds the support and awareness necessary to fully understand a problem or challenge and let’s the world know that you care, and you want to be part of the solution.

So each year we honor the work and dedication of an individual or group with our ADVOCATE Award. Advocacy is standing up for what you believe in, championing a cause, speaking out, or taking a stand. It’s about understanding the complex issues that face our communities, our state, and our nation, and coming together to solve them.

Our advocates show us where we are needed most. They help us understand. Advocates orient us toward success by helping to build a roadmap that leads to a solution. The Advocate award winner this year is a group of women who, for decades, in Chittenden County and Vermont have shown us all, through words and more importantly through deed of kindness, caring, generosity and faith how to speak up against poverty, homelessness and injustice.

The Sisters of Mercy have been leading the way in this community for much longer than I’ve been here. I would bet that there isn’t a person in this audience today who has not been touched by the work of the Sisters. They started Trinity College, Mater Christi School, Opportunities Credit Union, COTS, Mercy Connections, the Women’s Small Business project to name just a few. Sisters of Mercy have been the Secretary of the Vermont Agency of Human Services, Deputy Commissioner of Corrections, Executive Directors of our local non-profits, our teachers, our mentors, our volunteers, our friends, our role models. Every single local table where poverty or injustice is discussed, you will find the Sisters of Mercy represented.

I heard a story about 1952 Nobel prize winner Dr. Albert Schweitzer being met in Chicago by a formal reception committee of dignitaries, when he excused himself from all the pomp and circumstance to assist an elderly African American women with getting herself and her bags on to a bus. As the reception committee looked on and waited for Dr. Schweitzer to return, one member remarked to a reporter standing nearby ‘That’s the first time I ever saw a sermon walking.’

I think the Sisters of Mercy are walking sermons every minute of every day. There is a lot we can learn from this selfless and generous group of women if we all watch and listen. And it is with great honor and affection that I present this years Advocate award to the Sisters of Mercy and Mercy Associates.”

Martha Maksym
Executive Director
United Way of Chittenden County