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Ottauquechee Health Foundation: Serving Communities In Need

Jun 13, 2023 12:45PM ● By Dian Parker Photography By Lynn Bohannon

Hali Robinson, executive director; Bruce Seely, grandson of Gertrude Mertens; Meg Seely, his wife; and Beth Robinson, grants coordinator

Many residents of Vermont are having a hard time getting their basic needs met. With the rising cost of food as well as rent increases, many people are barely able to live from paycheck to paycheck. Vermont has an aging population, with people 65 and older comprising 20 percent of the population. People with disabilities under the age of 65 is over 10 percent, and veterans comprise 5 percent of Vermont’s current population.

Thankfully there is Ottauquechee Health Foundation (OHF) to help these and other Vermonters in their catchment area who are in need. Through financial assistance, community partnerships, and wellness initiatives as well as education opportunities, OHF has assisted in health care needs for the last 27 years. The core towns they work with are Barnard, Bridgewater, Hartland, Killington, Plymouth, Pomfret, Quechee, Reading, and Woodstock. Providing Access  to Wellness Funding

OHF was created in 1996 seeded by the estate of Gertrude Mertens to carry out her wish to ensure that all community members continue to receive health care in the community. She was driven by a strong conviction that community matters, neighbors should look after one another, and those who have the means should share. Because of Mrs. Mertens and her family’s legacy, OHF has granted millions of dollars for health care in their catchment area.
Many service providers for these communities work alongside OHF to offer discounts to grant applicants. OHF grants of $225,000 enabled access to over $302,000 in health and wellness services in 2022. The health care providers and organizations offer help with obtaining hearing aids, new glasses, mental health support, prescription drugs, and dental work.

Around 70 percent of the population served by OHF is under 200 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). If a household of one is within 200 percent of FPL or $29,160 annual income, you can imagine how great an impact it would be if that individual receives a grant, for an example, to help pay for hearing aids that can cost $5,000 to $7,000. Grants from OHF can also help pay for dental work, optometry, and elder care. They have home-care grants for up to $3,000 that can help pay caregivers. (To understand the guidelines on the federal poverty level, visit

An Open-Door Policy

Beth assists a good neighbor grant applicant. OHF's welcoming reception area with posted office hours.

Hali Robinson has been the new director of OHF since February 2023. “We are a privately funded nonprofit organization and want to serve the needs of individuals in their catchment area,” Hali says. “OHF is involved in two different work groups that arose from the 2018 Community Health Needs Assessment performed by Mount Ascutney Hospital and Health Center. We are involved with the Food Security work group and the Strengthening Families work group. I act as representative for our community in these work groups.”

As a young mother with an eight-month-old son, Hali understands how difficult it might be for postpartum mothers. “OHF is here to help by providing community grants to doulas: one provides home visits and another facilitates a postpartum support group. We have provided community grants for midday snacks at a local elementary school to address food insecurity, we have provided a grant for an author to visit Thompson Senior Center, and many more. I grew up in Woodstock with a strong sense of community. I like helping people and love being a part of an organization that helps people in need.”

Beth Robinson (not related to Hali) has been OHF’s grants coordinator for the last seven years. Beth worked in a private dental practice for 25 years before coming to OHF. “I came to the foundation to see how they could help me navigate medical bills and the high cost of prescriptions after my husband was diagnosed with cancer. They were so wonderful, kind, helpful, and supportive during that time.” Soon after her husband passed away, Beth stopped by OHF to thank the foundation for all the support they had given. Ironically, that same day, the current grants coordinator was leaving the foundation and Beth was offered a job.

Both Hali and Beth are deeply committed to offering services to those in need. They want people to know OHF is here and that they have an open-door policy during office hours. People can come to the office for information and to get an application to apply for assistance. They will make time outside of office hours if need be.

Here for the Community

Folks are often greeted by Chance, Beth’s friendly office dog.

Through word of mouth from schools, nurses, social workers, senior centers, and food shelves, OHF strives to get the word out that they are here for the community. They are updating their website and will have a room in the Pleasant Street building for laptop use to sign up for resources and to fill out applications or attend telehealth appointments.

OHF has a grants committee that is made up of three to five of the ten board members. There are 500 members of OHF that act as advocates for the foundation. They are the voice of the community and vote on the bylaws, attend the annual meeting, and vote on new board members.
Hali and Beth’s energetic commitment and passion are evident in all they do at Ottauquechee Health Foundation. Hali says, “I want to thank all our donors, members, and the board for all the work they do. We are always looking for new members and volunteers and donors to help us keep OHF alive for another 27 years.”

Ottauquechee Health Foundation
30 Pleasant Street
Woodstock, VT
(802) 457-4188

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