Family Room Takes Steps to Become an Independent Nonprofit | Off Message

Family Room Takes Steps to Become an Independent Nonprofit


Community event at the Family Room in November 2015 - MATT THORSEN
  • Matt Thorsen
  • Community event at the Family Room in November 2015
The people who run the Janet S. Munt Family Room plan to make the Burlington parent-child center an independent nonprofit by July 1.

The Family Room has been part of the Visiting Nurse Association of Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties since 1988. The new entity will retain its name and will remain on its current premises at St. Joseph School in the Old North End.

"A steering committee of dedicated community members was formed to guide the establishment of a new governance structure and begin the search for an executive director to lead the new successor organization," the VNA announced in a statement on Tuesday.

Sophia Donforth, a steering committee member, said the group hopes to find someone to fill the position before July 1.

The news comes almost a year since the VNA announced in March that it would be involved in a "community-wide process to transition the Family Room" to a different organization, or to operate as a standalone entity.

"The Family Room is a vital and beloved resource in our community serving nearly 500 families," said Judy Peterson, VNA's president and CEO, in a news release. "We're thrilled the program will be stewarded in the future by people who have been intimately involved with its success over the years and who are deeply committed to the mission of building strong families."

The 10-member steering committee includes members of the Family Room Parent group, as well as those in the education, health care, legal and social work fields. The committee is already working to file for tax-exempt status for the new organization, as well as fundraising, applying for grants and making plans for budget, staffing and programming, Donforth said. The VNA has set aside transition funds to help with the Family Room's start-up expenditure, Donforth added.

According to Beverly Boget from the VNA, the main driver for the Family Room's separation is change in the health care system and medical care delivery. The organization wants to focus its energy and attention on being able provide its core service — home health care — as best as it could, Boget said.

"In doing so, we felt that some programs, like the Family Room, were no longer as strong a fit with what we could offer to the community," Boget added.

Donforth said that some Family Room parents had brought up the idea of parting ways with the VNA as early as in late 2015, when programming and jobs were cut after the VNA lost an important source of funding. Becoming its own entity would allow the Family Room to be more "nimble," Donforth said.