Commentary: Get to know Grace Cottage

By Rep. Kelly Pajala

The legislature meets Tuesday through Friday, so Mondays are often the one weekday during sessions when legislators have the opportunity to spend time back in their home districts.

Last Monday, in the midst of my brain being consumed by the battle over gun control and school safety, I literally went out to lunch. Except this was not your typical lunch date, nor was it a break from having my mind filled by the needs of our community.

I was invited by Andrea Seaton, executive director of the Grace Cottage Foundation, to visit Grace Cottage Family Health and Hospital in Townshend for lunch.

While I have known many people who have received excellent care there, this was my first visit to Grace Cottage.

After a tasty meal in the cafeteria, Seaton took me on a tour of this amazing critical access hospital and family health facility, which happens to be one of the largest employers in our region.

As Seaton explained, the “critical access” designation is not about providing care to patients in critical need (although Grace Cottage does that), but rather that access to this hospital is critical to the community it serves. After seeing all the types of care that are provided on this one campus and meeting many of their excellent staff members, I could see why Grace Cottage is such a gem in our community.

A variety of concerns were expressed by those I met during my visit.  The highlighted topics were funding challenges, substance use treatment and recovery, tax reform, gun safety and, finally, the loss of cell coverage in Townshend, Newfane and Jamaica  and the subsequent disruption to 911 services in the area. The buzz of activity at Grace Cottage encompasses all of the challenges that are pulling at our social fabric and yet there is a vibrant, welcoming, steadfast optimism permeating through the whole facility.

My visit put into focus the enormous effort that is required to support our rural health care facilities, which are anchor institutions in our communities. It gave me a renewed sense of purpose as I prepared to head back to Montpelier. There are so many pieces to the puzzle to work on and I am already involved with some of them through the work being done by the House Human Services Committee and the Rural Economic Development Working Group.

I encourage everyone in our community to visit Grace Cottage, not only for emergency or family health care needs but for wellness activities. Take a yoga class, or a dance class. Sign up to train for a 5k run. Please utilize their facilities to enhance your family’s health and well being and support this valuable resource in any way you can.

Kelly Pajala serves in the Vermont House representing the Towns of Jamaica, Londonderry, Stratton, Weston and Winhall. If you have questions or concerns please feel free to reach out anytime. Call  802 770 4987 or email

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