What do a Middlebury graduate, an artisan chocolate maker and a migratory songbird have in common? They all represent a Vermont tie to the Peace Corps.
"Everywhere I travel I find returned Peace Corps volunteers doing incredible things. And Vermont is no different," said Aaron Williams, the national director of the Peace Corps.
On Thursday, Williams thanked one Vermonter for his service.
"So this, guys, is a Peace Corps blue blood," he said.
Seventeen days after graduating from Middlebury College, John William Meyer was on a plane bound for Peru. The Shelburne native spent the last two years there working on various health initiatives with Peruvian kids. Meyer credits his Peace Corps dad for pushing him to make a difference.
"Just very proud to have served other people in that way and just really made lifelong friends," he said.
Charles Kerchner returned from his Peace Corps service more than a decade ago, but says he still remembers the day he got his site assignment.
"And I saw the words chocolate, Caribbean and village, and needless to say they didn't have to twist my arm," Kerchner said.
Kerchner helped cocoa farmers in the Dominican Republic improve their harvesting techniques and become organically certified. It was a mission that changed his life. He now runs Kerchner Artisan Chocolate. The Vermont business formed an alliance with Dominican farmers. They provide the beans and he blends the chocolate. The company's mascot is a migratory songbird. The Bicknell's thrush splits its time between Vermont and the Dominican Republic, but it may soon become an endangered species. So Kerchner's company partnered with scientists in both countries to protect the bird's habitat.
"So while the project is about conserving a protected species, it's really about building business partnerships and connecting U.S. and Dominican communities," Kerchner said.
"That is a symbiotic relationship we ought to all admire," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont.
Leahy praised the work of all of Vermont's volunteers. In the organization's 51 year history, 1,422 Vermonters have volunteers with the Peace Corps. Currently, 47 are serving.
"If there's anybody here who wants to join the Peace Corps, we're all set to sign you up. So we're not just here to smile, we're here to sign you up," Williams said.
Tuesday, May 21 2013 12:36 PM EDT2013-05-21 16:36:47 GMT
A former animal control officer charged with two counts of prohibited acts was arraigned Tuesday morning. Gary Francis is accused of asking two women to show him their breasts for money. Francis pleadedMore >>
A former animal control officer charged with asking women to show him their breasts for money was arraigned Tuesday.More >>
Tuesday, May 21 2013 10:03 AM EDT2013-05-21 14:03:49 GMT
A Middlebury man has pleaded not guilty to federal arson charges stemming from a fire at a Pittsford car dealership back in July 2011. Police said they found 29-year-old Steven Browne behind the wheelMore >>
A Middlebury man has pleaded not guilty to federal arson charges stemming from a fire at a Pittsford car dealership back in July 2011.More >>
Tuesday, May 21 2013 10:06 AM EDT2013-05-21 14:06:59 GMT
A historic building in North Bennington will have new owners and a new purpose. Merchant's Bank donated the building to the Fund for North Bennington and the Preservation Trust of Vermont. That buildingMore >>
A historic building in North Bennington will have new owners and a new purpose.More >>
Tuesday, May 21 2013 10:09 AM EDT2013-05-21 14:09:03 GMT
Work on a chain reaction road project is in full swing starting in Northfield. Crews are working on the final coat of pavement on Route 12 and 12A, and hope to wrap up shortly. The next phase in RandolphMore >>
Work on a chain reaction road project is in full swing starting in Northfield.More >>