To be a volunteer means a lot of different things, and supporting your community can happen in many different ways.
Fred Pond was nominated as a Local Hero by Green Mountain United Way for his work on the CVT Family Connectivity Project, but also deserves recognition for his outstanding volunteer work with many different organizations in Central Vermont.
Fred’s history of volunteering dates back to when he was a child and would help his mother with Meals on Wheels during the holidays, delivering holiday meals to seniors in his community. However, it wasn’t until he retired from his job as a librarian that volunteering became a big part of Fred’s life again.
As a member of the Central Vermont Connectivity Project, Fred helps families connect to high-speed broadband internet like DSL, cable, even cellular internet. This work has become necessary for families around the region during the pandemic, where being able to have internet access is a staple not just for school, but to even stay in touch with community services, support systems, and those around you. Isolation can get incredibly lonely, and so Fred’s role in trying to help families make sure they do not lose that connection is vital. Along with that, he helps advise families about affordable internet options, better coverage, or devices that better serve their needs. Not only does he help individual families, but he and the CVT Connectivity Project have also helped public areas, such as hotels, get free wi-fi spots thanks to a program administered by the State of Vermont. This is beneficial because since the pandemic began last March, families experiencing homelessness have been staying in hotels. The connection to free Wi-Fi not only helps them to stay in touch with the world around them, it ensures they can get the services they need.
“Fred’s expertise, can-do attitude, and great people skills made him the perfect person for this role. We felt incredibly fortunate to have him. He even drove out to families in rural Washington or Orange County and talked them through all sorts of issues with their internet set up that we never could have diagnosed — let alone helped them with. He was truly the linchpin of the project, especially with the most difficult cases,” offered Gretchen Elias, Executive Direct of Good Beginnings of Central Vermont and partner in the Central VT Family Connectivity Project.
Fred’s volunteer work has ensured families have the internet resources they need to receive attention from care providers, virtually attend school, and stay in touch with other family members. These are all very important aspects of life; especially right now, when technology is being used more than ever. Fred has helped many families receive the broadband access they need, which is exceptional work not just as a volunteer in the community, but as a compassionate human being.
Aside from his work at the Central Vermont Connectivity project, he has done substantial volunteer work at the Vermont History Center in Barre. As a retired librarian, Fred has a great appreciation for history. His work at the history center includes digitizing old film that dates back to as far as 1916. He spoke about his interest and curiosity of finding answers within topics he is researching. Fred has found a way to incorporate his love of research into his volunteer work in other ways, too. He spends his free time salvaging old computers and rehoming them — along with educating people to learn the electronic disposal rules in Vermont so they do not put electronics in landfills.
Fred has also found other ways to give back to his community during the pandemic. Last March, he began delivering Meals on Wheels to seniors in a safe and distanced manner as a volunteer driver. He also helps feed his neighbors by volunteering with Central Vermont Community Harvest, where he gleaned produce from local farms, and harvested crops such as potatoes and cabbages, which he then helps to deliver to food shelves in Central Vermont.
The biggest thing I noticed about Fred’s life as a volunteer is that he enjoys staying busy. When asked about his volunteer work he said he is, “always looking for more to do and always willing to do more”. Volunteering is a wonderful way to use your time to help others, and it does not matter how big, or small the volunteer work you do might be. A little goes a long way. Fred shows that it is possible to volunteer, because not only it is good for your community, but it’s also an enjoyable and rewarding way to spend your time.
The Local Heroes is a monthly feature compiled by the Green Mountain United Way focusing on the contributions of local volunteers whose efforts benefit local nonprofit organizations in Green Mountain United Way’s service territory in Caledonia, Essex, Orange, Orleans and Washington counties. For more information, or to nominate a volunteer to be featured here, go to www.gmunitedway.org/local-heroes
Indira Dzano is a Green Mountain United Way volunteer writer and Spaulding High School senior.