Working across faiths and communities to keep our neighbors warm


It is with gratitude that I write this letter, appreciating all of the ways that our great community is stepping up to make sure that the frigid temperatures do not negatively affect the least among us. I am particularly grateful to Saint John’s in the Mountains Episcopal Church for opening a Winter Shelter over the past couple of weeks.

Each of us woke up a couple of weeks ago to the forecast that the weather was dipping into negative numbers. I, for one, shored up my own home and didn’t do anything else about it. Father Rick Swanson, however, woke up to this reality, and said to himself: “I simply cannot leave any family or individual to sleep outside, or in their cars, for even one night in this weather.” The parishioners of Saint John’s followed his lead with passion. And the greater community stepped up too.

Up to 10 people have stayed overnight at Saint John’s (or the church in Hyde Park where the pop-up shelter moved over the weekend); cots and amenities were provided by the Red Cross; home-made breakfasts and dinners were provided by community members; volunteers showed up for morning and evening shifts and overnight stays. The Stowe Police have visited the pop-up shelter each night to offer their support. Safety for all has been a top priority in the day-to-day operations of the winter shelter.

Two stories that simply touched me to the core from these past days. A young family has stayed several nights at the shelter, their youngest child 18 months old. I simply cannot fathom what it would be like to stay in a car overnight as a family rather than in a warm building with access to a bathroom and warm blankets. Another story: One individual staying overnight to stay out of the cold, moved by the generosity of the community and the spirit in the building, took it upon himself to go out early one morning and use their own EBT card to buy some eggs and bacon for all those who stayed the night. Food was prepared and all ate a delicious meal!

This is a community affair. There is a need for volunteers, particularly overnight volunteers. If you can’t volunteer, consider making a meal. It’s as simple as signing up here for meals and volunteer shifts: And the winter shelter continues to accept donations: Please send checks to St. John’s in the Mountains Episcopal Church (Memo: Winter Shelter), PO Box 1175, Stowe, VT 05672 or drop it off at the church at 1994 Mountain Road.

To those who see a need in our community and make good works happen, thank you. The Jewish tradition imagines us as co-creators with G-d, doing good works and bringing G-d’s presence more fully into our community. May G-d bless us with safety and warmth. And may we in turn bless G-d by keeping all of G-d’s creations safe.

Rabbi David Fainsilber
Jewish Community of Greater Stowe