Volunteer of the Month: Stephanie Solt

By Miranda Jonswold, United Way of Northwest Vermont Volunteer Columnist

Like the stage crew assisting a major theatre production, or kitchen staff preparing meals for restaurant patrons, those “behind the scenes” are often a driver of success. For the Peace & Justice Center in Burlington, that behind-the-scenes person is Stephanie Solt, the non-profit’s administrative volunteer.

The Peace & Justice Center is a non-profit, membership organization that has been a leader in social justice activism in Vermont since 1979. In its mission to create a just and peaceful world, the Peace & Justice Center focuses on issues of economic and racial justice, peace, and human rights through education, advocacy, training, nonviolent activism, and community organizing. The Peace & Justice Center has a social justice library and community meeting space that is open to the public. It also has a Fair Trade Program, which is largely driven by the Peace & Justice Store, where Solt volunteers.

Solt encountered Rachel Siegel, executive director of the Peace & Justice Center, one day staffing a table in downtown Burlington where she expressed her interest in volunteering. This wasn’t Solt’s first interaction with Siegel; Siegel was previously a flute student of Solt’s during Siegel’s junior high and early high school years.

For a few years now, Solt has been volunteering once a week doing essential administrative work, such as ordering and receiving products for the retail shop, assisting during the center’s bi-annual inventory days, and filing important paperwork.

These tasks “are absolutely essential to ensuring our small, six-person run non-profit works and can continue to meet the needs of the community,” Seigel states.

“Stephanie also jumps in and helps with special events like the annual Vermont International Festival at the Champlain Valley Expo,” she continues. “Whether it’s for a last minute event like this or Stephanie’s weekly shift, she is reliable, energetic, and a great friend in our Peace & Justice community.”

A self-described “busy bee” and “fly on the wall,” in balancing her tasks, Solt takes time to appreciate the work being done by Peace & Justice Center and conversations being had across the generations, including the young interns.

“It’s been a learning experience on many levels,” she says. “I really enjoy it. It’s very thought-provoking with the work that they do.”

Solt also volunteers at the Chittenden County Food Self twice a week stocking the shelves. As her history with Siegel reveals, she has a musical past. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and went on to become a professional musician. Now in retirement, she still plays in the Burlington Concert Band in Burlington, which her husband conducts, and she sings in the Burlington Choral Society. Solt received her master’s degree in Horticulture at UVM and was the horticulturist at the Inn at Essex for 17 years, as well. Additionally, with a green thumb and a set of wings, Solt can be found either in her garden or traveling with her husband.

Alison DeFisher