Hillary Gombar’s passion to help others started when she was a teenager. She volunteered at the Family Room in Burlington to help new American families. Since then, she has traveled the world helping refugees resettle and cooking meals for those in need.
In 2012, Hillary moved back to Vermont and after the birth of her first child, she and her husband bought a house in Winooski. It wasn’t long before she immersed herself in the community.
“I remember the first year we moved here we had the sprinkler going and within like five minutes there were like five kids at my gate pounding to come in and we didn’t know anyone at the time, but we were like come in,” said Gombar. “It’s really important for kids to have a safe space to be. On any given summer day, a typical one , pre pandemic, there would be like 10-20 kids playing in the hammocks or eating popsicles.”
Hillary quickly became a friend, a second mom, and a mentor to many in the Winooski community
When the pandemic hit, Gombar knew she needed to find a way to stay connected and keep the community together. After brainstorming with some friends and neighbors, Hillary co-founded Winooski Mutual aid. Winooski Mutual Aid is an organization to make sure everyone in Winooski has the resources they need to live.
“So since June, we’ve been delivering weekly, a box of fresh produce to 25 family’s homes, as well as a full month’s supply of diapers to 25 family’s homes. So, that’s for about 40 kids,” said Gombar.
Winooski Mutual Aid seeks to fill any gaps in the community. In November the Winooski School District had to cancel its annual clothing drive. So, Winooski Mutual Aid stepped in. They ended up having truck loads full of winter clothes and were able to give about 200 people bags full of winter clothes.
Since June, Winooski Mutual Aid has raised and donated more $10,000 worth of food, clothes and essential items for families including helping with rent and bills. The group has also held pop-up events where families can go and get the things they need. However, Hillary says it’s not charity work, but rather solidarity work!
“There’s no differentiation between the giver and the receiver. It’s kind of we all can help each other,” said Gombar.
And that’s what makes Hillary Gombar a Remarkable woman!