MIDDLEBURY, Vt.-Congressman Bernie Sanders will be the keynote speaker when representatives from state government, volunteer organizations, local employers and the general public gather at a community summit on poverty in Addison County Friday, March 4. The event will take place from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. at the American Legion Post 27 at 10 Boardman Street in Middlebury. The summit is free and open to the public but registration is necessary.

The Middlebury College Alliance for Civic Engagement, United Way of Addison County, and the People of Addison County Together are the sponsors of the event.

According to Sarah Johnson of the Middlebury College Alliance for Civic Engagement, representatives of the three organizations view this summit as an opportunity to gather diverse members of the community for a discussion about the state of poverty in the county. “It’s an opportunity to review what is currently being done, and look forward to what could happen in the future. This summit is intended to be a starting point for a sustained communitywide conversation,” said Johnson. It also precedes a weeklong symposium at Middlebury College on March 5-12 titled “The Many Faces of Poverty: Local, National and Global Perspectives.”

At 9:30 a.m., following registration and welcoming remarks, the first event of the summit’s morning session will take place when a panel of local residents who struggle with poverty and the issues related to it everyday will discuss such topics as childcare, health insurance, transportation, heating costs and education. The panel is titled “Local Voices.”

At 10:15 a.m., Rep. Bernie Sanders will deliver the keynote address, which is titled “Working Toward a World Without Poverty.”

Following Sanders’ talk, those attending the summit may participate in one of two breakout sessions. Richard Moffi, human resources director of the Vermont Agency of Human Services, will lead one session on “Breaking Down Cultural Myths.” Moffi will provide information, pose questions to the audience, and encourage a discussion. Doug Hoffer, independent policy analyst, will lead another session titled “Livable Wages, Economic Development and Tax Policy: Debunking Myths.”

The afternoon session will start with a complementary buffet lunch at 12:15 p.m.

At 12:45 p.m., Ken Perine, president of the National Bank of Middlebury and the Addison County Chamber of Commerce, will discuss steps that the business community has taken to address poverty issues and what more it can do in a talk titled “Working Together in Addison County.”

From 1:15-2:15 p.m., the audience will have the opportunity to participate in one of two afternoon breakout sessions, each of which offers a panel discussion. One panel titled “How Employers Can Make a Difference” will consist of Perine; Katherine Long, director of public policy for the Vermont Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations (VANPO); Ellen Usilton, compensation manager at Middlebury College; and a local representative of the agricultural community.

The second panel, titled “The Citizen’s Response,” will include panelists Cheryl Mitchell, executive director of People of Addison County Together; Len Rowell, executive director of the Vermont Ecumenical Council; Harold Giard of Bridport, Vermont State representative; and Karen Lafayette, a Vermont lobbyist.

Brainstorming and wrap-up sessions will conclude the summit.

To register or for more information, contact Sarah Johnson of the Middlebury College Alliance for Civic Engagement at 802-443-5652 or sj@middlebury.edu.

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