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Sara Holbrook Community Center

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A discussion with Leisa Pollander, Executive Director of the Sara Holbrook Community Center in Burlington.

Produced with facilities provided by Vermont Community Access Media (VCAM).

About the Sara Holbrook Community Center:
Founded in 1937 by UVM professor Sara M Holbrook, an old Burlington storefront at 116
Cherry Street was transformed into the (formerly named) Burlington Community Center. Irish,
Italian, and French-Canadian immigrants learned English, studied for citizenship tests, and
immersed themselves in classes while a nursery provided childcare. During the ensuing years,
the Center initiated many responsive services to assist families with limited financial means. The
agency was the original location of the Burlington Boys Club (now known as the Boys and Girls
Club of Burlington); and the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS) was founded at the Sara
Holbrook Center. In 1985, the Center partnered with the Burlington Police Department and a
local radio station to provide a telephone check-in service for children home alone after school.
Also, in response to a tragic community fire in 1983, the Sara Holbrook Center coordinated the
installation of 3,000 smoke detectors into area homes. The New Arrivals Program, initiated in
1989, was developed to provide academic instruction in the summertime for refugee and
immigrant children. Collaboration with other local organizations and a longstanding support
from community members has sustained the Agency since its beginning.
The Center serves over 1,300 individuals annually. Programs include a 5-STAR preschool and
elementary afterschool program, a teen drop-in center for students in grades 6-12, and a course-
based enrichment program housed at Hunt Middle School. In addition to the school year
schedule, the Center offers full-day summer programming for elementary and middle school
students. The New Arrivals summer academic program serves 80 preschool through middle
school children who are learning English. Sara Holbrook Center partners with the Vermont Adult
Learning Center to provide English language classes to our newest neighbors. It also maintains a
emergency food shelf which offers assistance to community members in need, annually serving
about 250 individuals and families.
For more information about the Sara Holbrook Community Center and how you can help, please
contact Executive Director Leisa Pollander, at 802.862.0080 or via email at

Episode Number: 
Original Airdate: 
Monday, September 2, 2019

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