Bouquets of flowers left at the foot of the driveway at Morningside House in Brattleboro in the aftermath of the brutal killing of Leah Rosin-Pritchard, the coordinator of the shelter.
Randolph T. Holhut/Commons file photo
Bouquets of flowers left at the foot of the driveway at Morningside House in Brattleboro in the aftermath of the brutal killing of Leah Rosin-Pritchard, the coordinator of the shelter.

One year later, solidarity as a community

The only way to address enormous challenges is to come together as we did after the death of Leah Pritchard-Rosin

Leo Schiff is a social worker and activist who has lived in Brattleboro for the past 40 years.


April 3 marks the first heartwrenching anniversary of the tragic killing of Leah Rosin-Pritchard by one of her clients at Morningside Shelter.

This event hit me particularly hard for a few reasons.

I worked at the shelter for five years prior to my present job. I had met Leah on several occasions, and we collaborated actively to support a shared client. And I saw her as a rising star among the younger human services workers who will continue to serve the community for many years.

However, out of this tragedy, I saw something beautiful enough to cancel out some of the pain.

Groundworks paused all operations for a month so their staff could begin to process the sudden and violent loss of their colleague. And the broader human services community stepped up as volunteers to continue their work as needed.

Volunteers staffed the permanent supportive housing sites of the Chalet and Great River Terrace to serve those residents.

Volunteers conceived and staffed a pop-up Drop-In Center at the Transportation Center. Vouchers were provided for food, and meals were prepared and delivered to newly homeless and vulnerable individuals.

Brooks Memorial Library became a post office for close to a hundred homeless people. Showers were offered at the Gibson Aiken Center.

Human service workers from other agencies, church people, and unaffiliated community members pitched in variously in many ways I'm sure I'm not even mentioning.

And folks came together for two vigils to gather, mourn and see our way forward, including moving speeches by Jenney Samuelson, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Human Services, and U.S. Rep. Becca Balint.

* * *

Brattleboro and the surrounding communities practiced solidarity, something we see so little and need much more of.

We supported our vulnerable populations that face homelessness as well as income and housing insecurity. We supported our sisters and brothers who work for Groundworks every day, taking risks to demonstrate compassion and love-in-action. And we supported one another in our pathway to process, grieve, and grow from this tragedy.

As a community and as a society, we face enormous challenges. Poverty, want, and inequality surround us. Worldwide crises, many bearing the fingerprints of the United States, challenge us to support and show solidarity with our fellow beings on the planet. Environmental degradation robs us of much of our hope for the long-term future.

And yet the only possible way to address these issues is to come together as we did after Leah's murder.

We need to "see no stranger." We need to support each other, the most vulnerable, and our families and friends.

When we show solidarity with each other, we build the world in which we hope to live.

This Voices Viewpoint was submitted to The Commons.

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