Posted by Carrie Fenn on Aug 26, 2020

Nick Floersch is our speaker today, from Code for BTV.

Code for BTV brings together teams of volunteer citizens and technologists to create new tools for civic oriented and social justice, social safety net and economic development, with a focus on making government work better. 

August 26, 2020

Charlotte Shelburne Hinesburg Rotary via Zoom

Bob Sanders, Carrie Fenn, John Dupee, Susan Grimes, Chris Davis, Linda Gilbert, Richard Fox, Charlie Kofman, Nancy Danforth, Sam Feitelberg, Terry Kennaugh, Rosalyn Graham, John Hammer, Linda Barker, France LeBlanc, Denis Barton, Howard Seaver, Dan York, Joan Lenes, Ric Flood, Bill Deming, Jessica Brumsted, Carole Obuchowski, Erik Kolomaznik

President Chris Davis rang the bell at 7:30 to start us off. 

Linda Gilbert offered our invocation this morning.

By Arnold Grahi from Rotary International

“Your parents told you to be nice to people. Guess what? They were right. Here’s why: 

Doing good doesn’t only help other people. It helps us, too.

Studies show that helping others boosts serotonin, a neurotransmitter that makes us feel satisfied. Another benefit to feeling rewarded when we do good: it lowers our stress levels.

Facing the COVID-19 pandemic, people everywhere are feeling anxious about their health, their families, their jobs, and their futures.

When we are all feeling lower than we are used to feeling, we all need a boost.

There has been a lot of research that when we are helping others, or when we are doing something for someone else, our reward centers light up in the brain and our stress levels go down.

It feels good to do good.

Many studies have established a connection between volunteering and improved health. Rotary members may not realize the significant role they can play in changing how people think.

When we, as leaders in our community, adapt a way of thinking- that level of intentional gratitude and intentional kindness- we have a way of setting a really good example. I think it is a calming and stabilizing force. We can set that tone for our entire club and our communities.” 

Denis asked us to go around and talk about our kids- who has the oldest and youngest children? Oldest and youngest grandchildren?

Sam & Bill are the winners with the oldest daughter in her sixties, Richard Fox with the youngest daughter at 7, Roz has a soon to be great grandson who is 5 months.

France and Jessica have grandchildren on the way!

Food distribution program is wrapping up this week- we may have more opportunities to engage once the school year starts.

CCS garden project is wrapping up this week as well.

Next week is our club meeting- Chris will be circulating a budget to get us through the end of the year. 

Please consider making a contribution to our club in lieu of our breakfast and happy fines. $40-$50. Make checks payable to the CSH Rotary and send to PO Box 156, Shelburne VT 05482.

Primary focus for our winter clothing drive is elementary and middle school kids, but we could add adults and high school kids if CVU would like to be involved. We still need a point person to organize this.

Charlie has been working on contacts to help us stock the bike racks- they will arrive a little late for this bike season.

Nick Floersch is our speaker today, from Code for BTV.

Nick grew up in East Montpelier and lives in Richmond. He works at Stone Environmental.

Nick is a co-captain at Code for BTV. 

When Vermont legalized marijuana in 2018, Vermont Legal Aid set up clinics to help people who had criminal records from marijuana possession expunge their records. Even after people have done their time, the conviction can follow them their whole lives. 

Expungement clinics were great but they exposed challenges that VLA had not needed to deal with before. An attorney would use a paper form to both drive the conversation and find other convictions that could possibly be expunged. Each case would take an attorney 90 minutes, with the clinics running 3-4 hours with 2-8 attorneys, and lines out the door for people seeking help.

Code for BTV reached out to VLA after hearing a story on VPR to see if they could help. The initial vision was to automate expungement of all records which required a policy change and a lot of time. Code for BTV spent about 4 months to understand the problem and a solution then negotiating with the Vermont Judiciary to allow special access to the VT Courts Online system to they could build a tool that plugged it in.

The solution took about 3 months and then tested in spring of 2019. The solution automated the searching and filling out of the numerous petition forms. 

The solution brought the time with the client down to 30 minutes. All the clinics now use it. 

Code for BTV brings together teams of volunteer citizens and technologists to create new tools for civic oriented and social justice, social safety net and economic development, with a focus on making government work better. 

We exist to realize the Code for America’s values at the grass roots level. Code Brigades solutions are shared freely and CFA actively works to promote inter-brigade connectivity. 

It takes dozens of people to build good solutions. A lot of different skill sets are needed- coders and technologists, marketers and advocates, project managers and problems solvers, designers and artists, etc.  Professionals use their skills and volunteer to apply them to the civic need. 

Example is the “Hurricane Toolkit” which is free software that is shared with brigades that need it. Volunteers come to Code for BTV for lots of reasons- but they all come at it with a desire to use their skills to do good. 

“The government is us; we are the government, you and I.”  Theodore Roosevelt

The group meets every other Tuesday via Zoom- “Hack Nights” where they work through issues to find solutions.

For those interested in volunteering, the website is currently broken but check back soon. 

Brigades are set up to be grassroots in a particular municipality, and because Vermont is so small the two brigades work together to address issues statewide. 

Anna Weiner, Uncanny Valley will be donated to the Shelburne Library. 

Our parting words today are from Charlie Kofman:

If you want to be happy for an hour take a nap

If you want to be happy for a day, go fishing

If you want happiness for a year, inherit some money

If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.

Charlie nominates Terry to give our closing words next week. 

Have a great week!

Respectfully submitted,

Carrie Fenn