Burlington Nonprofit Offers Food, Supplies and Company at Pop-Up Shop

Burlington Pop-Up Shop providing those in need with essentials.


Curbside Connected in action on South Champlain Street in Burlington, VT.

In March of 2020 the COVID-19 outbreak changed the gravity of the situation for New England. The state of Vermont had serious plans to defend its residents and the communities within it to help prevent the possibility of a severe spread. 

The state of Vermont quickly decided it would release non-violent inmates from prison to limit the possibility of an outbreak within this community. Joanne Nelson, director of the justice and mentoring programs at Mercy Connections in Vermont, is in charge of clients that have returned to Burlington. This quick decision was prompted by the overall concern — the large elderly population in Vermont, leaving them no choice but to take every precaution seriously. 

Governor Phil Scott took immediate action, considering the pandemic an emergency in the state of Vermont at an early stage of the coronavirus outbreak in the Northeast. Scott demanded to shut down businesses and schools, release inmates, and restrict traffic within assisted living homes. He took the shut down very seriously. Because of this Vermont has managed to keep the number of COVID-19 cases low. 

Once business began to reopen, Joanne was able to gather help from a local non-profit in Burlington to open a bodega for the released inmates. Every Wednesday, the windows of the organization’s location on South Champlain Street open for those in need. They began by handing out free food, hand sanitizer, masks, deodorant, toothbrushes, prepaid cell phones, fresh flowers and art kits. Nelson feels relief when she says “When they come, they feel more human; they feel engaged.” 

Not all, but some released inmates were provided a shelter in either a  motel or a camper and were asked to follow the state guidelines. The Wednesday bodega is better known as ‘Curbside Connected’ and Nelson says that  “…the organization is expecting to secure about $49,000 in federal CARES Act dollars that it can use for the bodega and a weekly food-share program for about a dozen former inmates.” If they receive this aid, Nelson will have enough funding to be able to carry out her big plans to aid her clients throughout the next year.

While many Vermont residents were concerned about the decision to release inmates, Joanne Nelson is providing great care of the situation and helping the City of Burlington with Curbside Connection by providing to these people’s needs and overall limiting the risk of crime in the area.