The Vermont Community Foundation awarded Jan Demers the 2019 Con Hogan Award for Creative, Entrepreneurial Community Leadership. Demers is the executive director of the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity (CVOEO) which serves Addison, Chittenden, Franklin and Grand Isle counties.
The Con Hogan Award selection committee noted that they chose Demers for her effectiveness in making a difference by working in coalitions, being transparent, willing to have tough conversations and understanding and applying data to achieve targeted results.
“Demers has a vision and the compassion and character as a leader to inspire others to work together to achieve it,” said committee chair Scott Johnson.
At the Oct. 2 award ceremony held in Montpelier, Demers said she was humbled and honored by the award.
“Thank you for this opportunity and for all the many amazing people who made this possible, Joan White, Meg MacAuslan, Chris Brzvoic, Ricky Padgett, a CVOEO Board Member and Sarah Phillips from the State Office of Economic Opportunity who put this nomination forward without my knowing,” Demers said. “I really consider it a love letter from home and as such am humbled and most honored.”
Noting that Vermont was the first state in the nation to create an office of economic opportunity, in 1965 by then-Gov. Phillip Hoff, Demers said, “Today, CVOEO employs approximately 195 people. We have 10 programs in four counties. Programs that address crisis: three food shelves including Feeding Chittenden, Housing Assistance, Crisis Fuel distribution and Warmth, The Volunteer Tax Assistance Program and Voices Against Violence. Programs that address life stability: Head Start, Weatherization, Fair Housing, Vermont Tenants and the Mobile Home Program. And programs that are the avenues out of poverty: our Financial Futures Program and Community Kitchen Academy.”
Demers, who has been with CVOEO for 10 years, said that that the organization completes a comprehensive needs assessment every three years.
“The highest number of households served by CVOEO is the category of households whose income is 50 percent of the Federal Poverty level,” reported Demers. “That, with the number of households who had no reported income – 669 households – emphasize the continued need for crisis services of housing, food and fuel.”
“Jan’s leadership is nothing short of inspiring for all of us,” said Joan White, CVOEO development director. “It makes doing challenging work nothing short of gratifying.”
The Con Hogan Award includes a $15,000 cash prize to be used however the recipient chooses. Demer’s plans are to give it to the CVOEO program working with New Americans.
“The work that I do at CVOEO is good work with good people addressing life sustaining issues,” said Demers after receiving her award. “It is challenging, but it is worth doing and worth doing in the best way possible.”