THE PERMANENT FUND
A native of Newbury, Vermont, Richards formerly served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Shumlin and had leading roles in several of the Shumlin Administration’s efforts to support early childhood—including the federal Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge and Preschool Expansion grants. With experience in education dating back to a gubernatorial appointment to the State Board of Education when she was still in high school, Richards has also convened the coalition that helped to pass a set of education initiatives including free lunch for all low-income Vermonters and the Flexible Pathways bill, which creates a statewide program for expanding dual enrollment and early college. Prior to joining the Governor’s Office, Richards served on the 2008 Obama Campaign and worked as the Mid-Atlantic Deputy Finance Director at the Democratic National Committee. Richards currently serves on the Vermont State Colleges Board of Trustees. A graduate of Brown University, Richards lives in Montpelier.
Lucia brings several years of fundraising experience in the non-profit sector in Vermont, Pittsburgh, PA, and Charlottesville, VA to her role as Chief Development Officer. Prior to her fundraising work, Lucia was a management consultant with Public Consulting Group, Inc., where she worked with health, education and human services agencies nationwide designing and implementing programs that supported vulnerable populations.Lucia received a Master of Science in Public Affairs from the John W. McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies at University of Massachusetts Boston and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY. Lucia and her husband enjoy spending time outdoors with their two young daughters and can often be found at one of many Burlington playgrounds, on the bike path, or at Lake Monster games!
Starting as the “snake lady” at the Montshire Museum of Science, Molly has spent the last twenty years researching and designing learning experiences at some of the most innovative and impactful museums, science centers and universities across the country, including the Boston Museum of Science, San Francisco's Exploratorium and ECHO Leahy Center for Lake Champlain. A scholar of informal learning and organizational behavior, she has led organizational change efforts focused on cultural competency, organizational learning and community engagement. At the Permanent Fund, Molly fosters a climate of innovation and continuous learning, both inside and outside the organization. Molly attended Vermont public schools, Wesleyan University, and earned her MEd from Harvard and PhD from the University of California Santa Cruz. In her spare time, Molly enjoys toddling around town with her three young daughters and husband, cooking exciting things and adventuring in the garden.
LET’S GROW KIDS
Robyn’s life-long commitment to social change has driven her career toward issue-based campaigns. Currently, as the chief of strategy and communications, she oversees the Permanent Fund’s strategic marketing, communications and advocacy efforts. Prior to this, she dedicated 10 years to the marriage equality movement, beginning her career as education director for MassEquality in Massachusetts, where the landmark Goodridge decision made MA the first state in the nation to recognize marriage equality. Leading up to and following the decision, Robyn worked throughout the state to organize and mobilize MA Commonwealth citizens to advocate in support of marriage equality. Following this success in Massachusetts, Robyn relocated to Vermont in 2005 where she worked as the field director for the Vermont Freedom to Marry Task Force. She led the statewide communications and advocacy campaign that ultimately convinced the Vermont Legislature in 2009 to become the first state in the nation to pass legislation legalizing marriage for same-sex couples. After the Freedom to Marry victory, Robyn worked as the political organizer for the Vermont State Employees Association, supporting its membership in advocacy and electoral engagement. But after fostering several children in state custody and adopting her first child, Neko, Robyn’s heart was in early childhood advocacy. She joined the Vermont Early Childhood Alliance as the coordinator and quickly recognized the potential for change in Vermont with our Let’s Grow Kids (LGK) initiative. As LGK campaign director since 2013, Robyn has led the growth of the supporter base to more than 23,000 Vermonters, boosting investment in high-quality child care annually. LGK and the Permanent Fund continue to increase public demand—and investment in excellent child care—with a goal of statewide affordable access by 2025. Robyn and her wife of 13 years, Naomi, are parents through adoption to three amazing children, Neko (9) and twins, Luka and Aldin (6).
Sarah grew up in a log home in the woods of Essex, Vermont. She went to St. Michael's College and then earned an MA from the University of Hawaii. On her return to Vermont she worked for then-Congressman Bernie Sanders before joining the movement to end domestic and sexual violence, working first at the Women’s Rape Crisis Center in Burlington and then doing statewide public policy regarding violence against women. She is a 2002 graduate of the Vermont Leadership Institute at the Snelling Center for Government. Sarah has served on a number of nonprofit boards and is active in local political campaigns, and just completed ten years of service on the Burlington Police Commission, the last two as chair. She lives in the Old North End of Burlington with her partner David and tries to keep up with their nine-year-old son.
VERMONT BIRTH TO FIVE
Janet been working for a more equitable society for nearly two decades in nonprofit programming and philanthropy. She joined VB5 from the Vermont Community Foundation, where she headed its Food and Farm Initiative, an effort to connect more Vermonters with healthy local foods. Previously, she spent 9 years at the DC-based Share Our Strength, where she was the national director of Cooking Matters, its food skills education program for low-income families. She is also the treasurer of the board at Pine Forest Children’s Center.
Sherry is an integral voice and advocate for young children. With an “advocacy by doing” philosophy, she has been an effective driver of universal prekindergarten, school/community partnerships, and early childhood workforce initiatives. She has leveraged her consulting roles with VB5, the Early Learning Partnership of Chittenden County, and the Northern Lights Career Development Center for Early Childhood Professionals to facilitate change. She joined the VB5 team full-time in the fall of 2017 and leads the Quality Program Expansion and Workforce Development Initiatives for VB5. Before beginning her consulting career in 2008, She spent over 20 years as the director of the Greater Burlington (VT) YMCA Early Childhood and Family Programs.
Bio coming soon.
Kate grew up in Braintree, Vermont and graduated from Johnson State College in 2018 where she studied Educational Studies, Psychology, and Political Science. During her time at Johnson she wore many hats as a student leader through Student Government Association, an athlete, and a volunteer through the Community Service Department. During her senior year Kate interned at the Permanent Fund and has been a part of the team since then. Kate still lives in Braintree and enjoys cats, coffee, and running.
A resident of Burlington, a world traveler and an avid Green Mountains fan, Elizabeth (Beth) calls Vermont her tried-and-true home. She graduated from the University of Vermont in 2004 with a BA in English and received her MS in environmental education at Lesley University in 2009. Her professional roles have ranged from teaching environmental science courses at the Community College of Vermont to recruiting, engaging and coordinating volunteers as the VT Yankee volunteer manager with the American Red Cross. In her spare time, Elizabeth reads, travels, journals, takes pictures, hikes and gets crafty.
Helen joined The Permanent Fund Operations Team in 2017 and in her role, she creates a welcoming office environment, coordinates volunteers, and keeps our office running smoothly. Helen moved to Vermont 25 years ago and has prior experience managing front offices at Gardener’s Supply Company and Penny Cluse Café. Helen serves on several boards in Burlington, enjoys reading short stories, and loves cooking and sharing meals with her farmer husband and two boys.
STRATEGIC INITIATIVE LEADS
Breena Welch Holmes, MD is the Director of Maternal and Child Health for Vermont. After finishing her pediatric residency at Seattle Children’s Hospital and a chief resident year at University of Massachusetts Medical School, she had a pediatric practice in Middlebury, Vermont, focusing on adolescent health from 1997-2008. In 2008, Breena left her clinical practice to teach Health Literacy and Decision Making at Middlebury Union High School. In 2010, Breena became director of the Maternal and Child Health division which includes the statewide WIC program, School Health, Child Development Clinic, Children with Special Health Needs as well as Family Planning, Domestic and Sexual Violence Prevention, Injury Prevention and Early Childhood systems work including federally funded nurse home visiting and Help Me Grow Vermont.
Dr. Holmes is the immediate past chair of the Council on School Health for the American Academy of Pediatrics, on the pediatric faculty at University of Vermont College of Medicine and a school physician for several Middlebury area schools.
Emily grew up in Brattleboro, Vermont and earned her BA in Women’s Studies from Brown University. She returned to Vermont to attend Vermont Law School and has worked as an attorney, advocate, and policy advisor on behalf of low income families and survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
In 2010, Emily opened Clementine, a store on Main Street in Middlebury featuring the products of small makers and artists. She was featured in American Express’ national Small Business Saturday Campaign and she worked closely with Etsy to support their wholesale engagement, and developed her own consulting practice to support creative product designers as they worked to grow their wholesale businesses. Her son was born during her first year of business ownership, and the next six years involved endless conversations with customers, peers, and friends about how to successfully grow a career and a child. She was eager to make the leap back into the advocacy world to ensure all Vermont children and families receive the care they deserve.
She lives in Middlebury, Vermont in a house with many boys and dogs.
Barbara was the Founding Director of Vermont Birth to Three – now Vermont Birth to Five. Currently she works with the various projects and initiatives of the Permanent Fund. She formerly served as Legislative Advocate and Policy Coordinator at Voices for Vermont’s Children and Kids Are Priority One Coalition, and in the Vermont House of Representatives, where she chaired the Joint House/Senate Committee for Livable Income. She has owned a series of small businesses and worked in consulting, facilitation and training for business and non-profit organizations. She has three adult children and lives with her husband in their empty nest in Brownington. Hobbies include cooking, yoga and hanging out with grandchildren when possible.
Bio coming soon!
Throughout her career, LouAnn has focused on advocacy, consulting, and teaching with a goal toward workforce development for the child care profession. She most recently worked as a STARS coordinator and prior to that she was the director of Robin’s Nest Children’s Center in Burlington. She supports VB5 projects and initiatives in her role as regional manager in the St. Albans, Morrisville, and Middlebury regions.
POLICY & RESEARCH
Jen has lived and worked in Vermont off and on throughout her life. Prior to joining Let’s Grow Kids, Jen worked in the public policy and advocacy field, most recently serving as director of public policy & advocacy with WOMEN’S WAY in Philadelphia. Jen has also worked with organizations including Amnesty International USA, The ALS Association of Western Pennsylvania and the American Cancer Society. Jen received her MS in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University and her BA in Government and Legal Studies from Bowdoin College. Jen lives in Essex Junction with her husband, Chris, and dog, Princess Muffin, and enjoys skiing, mountain biking, going on adventures and curling up with a good book.
Anna grew up in Essex, Vermont and has lived in the state for most of her life. In 2017, she graduated from St. Lawrence University with a BA in Government. During college she engaged with various political and education oriented initiatives including internships with Democracy for America, the National Association for Federally Impacted Schools and Let’s Grow Kids. Anna has also held various leadership roles including President of her university’s political science honor society and Student Delegate to the St. Lawrence Alumni Executive Council. She lives in Burlington, Vermont and her favorite pastimes include cooking, waterskiing and taking her little sister to brunch.
Megan manages the communications team for the Permanent Fund and its two branches—Let’s Grow Kids and Vermont Birth to Five—developing, coordinating and overseeing the organizations' owned, earned and paid media strategies in collaboration with her stellar team. In her day to day work, Megan develops advertising campaigns, produces TV ads and videos, manages the organizations’ websites and works with a national vendor to conduct annual market research. Megan holds a BA from the University of Virginia and completed a two-year conservatory program in film and television acting at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. Megan moved to Vermont in 2010 and landed at the Humane Society of Chittenden County, ultimately serving as their director of development & communications. She joined Let's Grow Kids in 2014 as the communications director, helping to launch the initiative. Outside of the office, Megan freelances as a fine artist, dancer, actor and graphic designer, and is a graduate of the Women's Small Business Program (2015) and Leadership Champlain (2013).
Hannah is a seventh-generation Vermonter and the daughter of an elementary school teacher who instilled in her a passion for education, and an entrepreneur who taught her the art of thinking big. Hannah graduated from Middlebury College in 2004 with a BA in Architectural Design and spent 6 years working for nonprofit organizations in Sub-Saharan Africa and San Francisco before moving back home to Vermont in 2011. Prior to joining Let’s Grow Kids in 2017, Hannah honed her communications and design skills at the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets, and at her family’s specialty food company, Fat Toad Farm. In her (nearly nonexistent) spare time Hannah enjoys gardening, reading, running, eating sushi, and watching episodes of West Wing over and over and over again. Hannah lives in Montpelier with her husband, two sons (both in child care) and an extra-friendly chocolate lab.
While studying journalism at Northeastern University in Boston, Nicole wrote feature obituaries for the Boston Globe and interviewed celebrities like John Malkovich and Tori Amos for feature stories in the university paper. Nicole worked as a newspaper reporter for weekly and daily papers before translating her love of storytelling into the world of nonprofit communications at Perkins School for the Blind, Helen Keller’s alma mater. After moving to Vermont in 2012, Nicole worked as an editor at the Burlington Free Press where she oversaw the Arts and Weekend sections of the paper before returning to nonprofit work at the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Chittenden and Grand Isle Counties. Through her fundraising and communications work at the VNA, Nicole worked closely with the VNA Family Room Parent Child Center and developed a passion for the importance of quality early experiences for all children. Joining the LGK team in April of 2016 allowed Nicole to combine her interests in communications, storytelling and early childhood issues. Outside of LGK, Nicole loves to experiment with combining textures and colors through collage art and fashion. She also enjoys hula hoop dancing.
Gail was born and raised in central California, where she completed a BA in political science at UCLA and a PhD in political science at UC Davis. After 7 years of teaching at the university level, Gail transitioned to the world of government affairs and advocacy, where she has honed her skills in social media marketing since 2014—most notably for Leonine Public Affairs (then KSE Partners) and the Vermont Coalition for Universal Reform. Gail moved to Vermont in 2012 and currently lives here with her husband, their son Wyatt and their dog Scout.
When Seth was in 4th grade, he impressed his Voorheesville, New York elementary school classmates by writing a short story that spanned eight sheets of paper. From that moment on, it was clear his life and career would revolve around the written word. He graduated with a BA in English and an emphasis on creative writing from the University of Hartford in 1999 and has since been firmly entrenched in the Vermont publishing world as an editor for Dartmouth Journal Services and Ashgate Publishing. With his young son serving as his inspiration, and feeling the pull to put his writing skills to good use, he answered the call from Let’s Grow Kids and Vermont Birth to Five in 2015. When he’s not in the office, you’ll find Seth exploring antique and salvage shops with his wife, in the yard with his dogs, losing graciously on the volleyball and dodgeball courts or giving his son a raspberry.
Maerwydd McFarland coordinates the Speakers Bureau for the Permanent Fund for Vermont’s Children. A recent émigré to Vermont, Maerwydd worked in theater, was an Emmy award-winning broadcast journalist, newspaper magazine editor and feature writer, speechwriter to a governor and a US senator, IABC award-winning deputy communications director for a global advertising company, communications director for the NYC comptroller, press secretary and speechwriter for several high-profile political campaigns, national PR director for the League of Women Voters, and proprietor of her own communications consulting firm for corporations, major arts organizations and national nonprofits. She is a certified Montessori teacher with a lifelong interest in early childhood development and a serious jones for sailing. In her spare time, Maerwydd is a voracious reader, and mom to a brilliant UVM student and an extremely fluffy alpha bunny who lives in a dollhouse.
BUILDING A MOVEMENT
Anna moved to Vermont in 1997 to pursue a degree in early childhood education at Champlain College. After graduating she worked at several child care centers throughout Vermont and eventually opened a small preschool in her home in Burlington’s Old North End. Her family made the tough decision to move out of the state in 2007 and she became the director of a small Montessori preschool in Arizona. Their love of Vermont quickly brought them back to Burlington at which point Anna knew she had to get involved in making a bigger difference in the lives of children. Her experience working in a variety of child care settings made her passionate about the problems facing Vermont’s families. She has been working to bring more attention to the challenges facing parents with young children for the last 8 years, so joining the Let’s Grow Kids team was a natural fit. Anna is often found enjoying the beauty of Vermont with her son (17), daughter (10) and amazing husband.
Stephanie was born and raised in Chicago and enjoyed many great things about the city. As a child, she attended a sleep-away camp in Wisconsin where she realized how much she loved to be outdoors and to play with other kids. Stephanie loved the camp so much she stayed there to be a counselor, even while attending college at UVM. After taking education classes in hopes of becoming a better camp counselor, Stephanie earned her degree in early childhood education from UVM and has since taught preschool in Vermont and San Francisco. She is thrilled to be back in Vermont and to share her passion of how powerful and meaningful early education can be to an individual, family and community. Outside of LGK, Stephanie loves to travel, listen to music, watch cooking TV shows and try to make what she sees on those cooking TV shows.
Jessica grew up in New Jersey, the daughter of an in-home child care provider. She earned a BA in psychology from Bard College at Simon’s Rock in 2007 and then graduated with an MA in clinical psychology from Columbia University in 2010. Her graduate work focused on child development and school psychology. After graduating, Jessica relocated from New York City to Vermont with her husband, Evan, and worked with children in various mental health settings. Jessica joined Let's Grow Kids in 2015 to advocate for all children to have the best start in life. She lives in Colchester with her husband, her dog and her three children, Ethan, Madeline and Isabella.
Maroni was born and grew up in Gabon, a small francophone country on the west coast of Africa. He moved to Vermont in 2004 and graduated from Johnson State College in 2012 with a BA in political science. Maroni’s career in politics was launched that same year with an internship for Senator Bill Doyle during the Vermont legislative session. After graduating from college, Maroni worked as an organizer and canvasser for Vermont Public Interest Research Group (VPIRG). He met with extraordinary success as a canvasser, raising the most money for VPIRG in the organization’s history, and ranking among the nation’s top canvassers. VPIRG subsequently invited Maroni to work in their Montpelier office on major donor activities. Maroni’s position with Let’s Grow Kids as a field manager is a perfect fit for his love of meeting new people and learning from them. He also enjoys snowboarding, being outdoors in the summer and, most of all, spending time with his family.
A native Vermonter, Natalie graduated from the University of Vermont in 2001 with a BA in English. Before joining the team at Let’s Grow Kids, she worked as a production coordinator, studio manager, and event photographer in New York City. She also volunteered as an ESL tutor with Literacy Volunteers of America, and spent time abroad as a documentary photographer for Citta in their partner schools across western Nepal. She returned to Vermont in 2015, excited to start a family among the same green mountains and farmlands of her childhood. She now lives in Williston with her husband Patrick, daughter Scarlett, and dog Tank. She is grateful for the opportunity to advocate on behalf of all Vermont kids, ensuring them the strong start that they deserve.
Shayla grew up in Saranac Lake, New York in the Adirondack Mountains. She graduated from St. Lawrence University with a BS in psychology in 2004, and then moved to Vermont to start working in the field of autism. Prior to working with Let’s Grow Kids, she served as the volunteer and community outreach manager for the Humane Society of Chittenden County, where she managed a highly-active volunteer program of more than 200 people. She has also worked as a health service administrator for an outpatient drug treatment facility. Shayla lives in Colchester with her husband, their super adorable new baby, Nolan, and Ludo the Loveable Wonder Dog. She enjoys any outdoor activity spent with her family and loves spending time with her horse.
BUILDING PROGRAM QUALITY, CAPACITY & VIABILITY
Sharron is the regional manager for the Bennington, Brattleboro and Rutland regions. Most recently she was the resource development and referral specialist for Bennington County’s Community Based Child Care Support Services housed at BCCCA / Sunrise Family Resource Center. She has been an active member of the Quality Task Force Committee of the Bennington Building Bright Futures Council and the statewide Professional Preparation and Development committee. Prior to this work, she was a toddler and preschool teacher, advertising sales director and professional photographer.
Rachel has been an advocate for young children in Vermont for nearly 20 years. She has been the owner and teacher of a Registered Family Child Care program as well as a Leader with Starting Points groups. She has sat on many committees and advisory boards including the Blue Ribbon Commission on Financing High Quality Affordable Child Care. She has successfully supported many programs as an Early Childhood Mentor and is the President of the Springfield Booster Club supporting children’s athletics. Rachel also has a background in Business Management and Marketing.
Bio coming soon!
Didi is a strong advocate for enhancing professional opportunities for child care providers and increasing high-quality care for Vermont’s young children. As a regional manager, her support and leadership will focus on the Burlington, Hartford and Springfield regions. She has 30 years of experience in the early childhood field having held teaching and administrative positions in a variety of settings including 20 years at the Greater Burlington (VT) YMCA.
Tanya joined VB5 in 2016 to mentor center based programs. For Tanya, mentoring was a vital extension of her work supporting strong business practices and early childhood professionals. For many years she served as a teacher and director at Robin’s Nest Children’s Center. She also worked in the public-school settings, for Head Start and is a member of the Building Bright Futures Council of Chittenden County. She joined the VB5 team as a community and program support specialist eager to impact the capacity for quality programming across the state.
Jen has worked in the early childhood field for more than 20 years as a teacher, director, mentor and, most recently, as a STARS assessor. She has been active in the early childhood community, working with the Peer Review Project as a mentor and as an adjunct instructor for CCV. She joined Vermont Birth to Five to continue her work advocating for increasing access to high-quality early childhood programs.
Lorraine’s considerable experience in the child care profession has positioned her well for her role as a regional manager in the Newport, Barre and St. Johnsbury regions. Previously, she served as the resource development specialist for the Lamoille Family Center (2000–2013), the Lamoille Starting Points coordinator, and was a member of the Lamoille Building Bright Futures Council. Earlier on and for over two decades, she was a center director, a preschool teacher and a toddler teacher.
Brenda has been actively engaged in Early Childhood Education for almost 30 years—as a classroom teacher of children from birth through Kindergarten, as a Program Director, and as a Program Mentor. In addition to supporting young children as they grow, learn and develop through play and discovery in nurturing and stimulating environments, Brenda also thoroughly enjoys supporting other Early Childhood Educators through mentoring, technical assistance and formal instruction.
Brenda has a Bachelor of Science in Education from Millersville University of Pennsylvania and a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Dartmouth College.
Erin joined VB5 in 2017 to develop and implement systems to transform VB5 to a data driven organization. She brought with her expertise from 9 years of community-based research and evaluation at the Center for Rural Studies at the University of Vermont. She has published widely in areas of child health (especially childhood obesity), rural economic development, and quality of life. She was a Peace Corps Fellow and Transportation Research Fellow while completing an MS in Community Development and Applied Economics at the University of Vermont. Before moving to Vermont in 2006, she provided go-to-market strategies for technology companies and spent 3 years traveling, primarily with the US Peace Corps in the South Pacific.
Cathy tracks and disseminates financial and programmatic information to track performance, identifies challenges and outcomes, and provides support to ensure effective use of technology by VB5 staff. Her contributions to the team allow VB5 programs to ensure positive results for Vermont’s youngest children. Over the past 15 years, she has worked with Bloomberg Financial Markets in the role of database management and with organizations such as PrO Unlimited and Vermont Community Foundation in roles of financial operations support. She has also held volunteer board positions including at Evergreen Preschool in Vergennes. Her experience helps us ensure that the data we follow is timely and accurate and the service related to data and technology for our team is a top priority. She is a graduate of the Snelling Center Early Childhood Leadership Institute Class of 2016.