MIDDLEBURY — One of Middlebury’s most active volunteers for child and teen causes is reducing that role in order to take on a leadership position within the legal community.
Emily Joselson, a local attorney, is stepping down from the boards of both the Addison County Parent-Child Center and Addison Central Teens (ACT) after a combined total of more than 35 years of service that saw seismic growth and change within those organizations.
Joselson said she is paring back on her local volunteer duties in order to take on the presidency of the Vermont Association for Justice, a Burlington-based organization that helps protect Vermonters’ civil rights and their access to justice.
“It’s good as organizations move into new stages in their development to have new blood and new leadership,” Joselson said.
Joselson’s colleagues at ACT and the Parent-Child Center agree that her leadership will be missed.
She was among 12 community members who in 2005 reignited discussion on what had been a perennial effort to site, staff and fund a Middlebury-area teen center. Previous efforts had faltered after short runs due to a lack of funds and the absence of a permanent headquarters.
With colleagues like Jutta Miska and a cadre of teen and parent stakeholders, Joselson lobbied before the Middlebury selectboard and officials in other Addison Central Supervisory Union towns for regular funding contributions toward a teen center. That center at 94 Main St. is now flourishing in the lower level of the Middlebury municipal building.
Co-directed by Miska and Colby Benjamin, 94 Main is open weekday afternoons, providing a youth-friendly refuge for teens seeking space to recreate, chill out or do homework. Teens also have a say in the governance of the center, which provides an organizational structure for other special events, such as dances, concerts and movie nights.
The center has an annual budget of around $75,000, of which $30,000 is provided by the town of Middlebury and an additional $10,000 through the combined contributions of the six other ACSU towns.
Joselson’s oldest son, now 18, was an avid participant in 94 Main activities. She has another son, about to enter high school, who is another potential visitor.
Now seven years removed from that initial, organizational meeting, Joselson said the Middlebury teen center has exceeded her expectations.
“It is exciting to see how strongly enmeshed the teen center has become,” Joselson said.
“We have a wonderful panel of board members who are very committed to the organization.”
Among those board members is Alice Berninghausen, president of the organization. She said Joselson’s presence on the board will be missed.
“She has made a huge contribution to the lives of teens in the county,” Berninghausen said. “She has been a mainstay of our community.”
Parent-Child Center officials are also disappointed to see Joselson leave their board after a 28-year run. The Middlebury center — considered a model for other parent-child centers throughout the state — has grown physically and programmatically during Joselson’s very productive tenure on the board.
“She has committed her time, energy, heart and money over the years to our agency,” Parent-Child Center Co-director Donna Bailey said. “She has been invaluable to our center. Her legal support has helped our center operate, but more importantly, Emily has supported families we work with in issues of divorce, child custody, etc. She has spent countless unpaid hours giving a voice to a battered woman. She has held babies while giving advice to parents and helped young women to be empowered and to feel supported.”
Bailey added that Joselson helped Parent-Child Center officials stay organized and focused.
“If you know Emily, you know she does not do anything half way,” Bailey said. “She goes for it. To sit in a meeting with Emily means that we will stay on task and everyone will have assignments to get things done.”
Several individuals and Joselson’s employer, Langrock, Sperry & Wool, have made contributions to the Parent-Child Center in Joselson’s name.
Joselson stressed that while she will be ceasing board duties at both organizations, she will remain involved in special projects. For example, the Parent-Child Center is establishing what it is calling a “Circle of Friends,” a group of volunteers willing to take on periodic tasks to keep the center and its clients strong. Those tasks will include calling state and federal legislators to support certain bills, occasionally providing household supplies and food for clients in need, weeding the center’s vegetable or flower gardens, and helping at the center’s Elm Street House.
Joselson said she will miss her time on the ACT and Parent-Child Center boards, but is also looking forward to her new role with the Vermont Association for Justice.
“It’s very exciting,” Joselson said.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]