The Vermont State Employees Association has established a fund to support the children of a slain Department for Children and Families worker.
The fund will support the children of Lara Sobel, who police said was shot and killed in August outside her workplace in Barre by Jody Herring, who, according to court documents, was angry over the removal of her child from her home.
The killing drew national attention and highlighted the hostility faced by DCF workers, but also resulted in an outpouring of community support, including the recently established fund to benefit Sobel’s daughters, Julia and Elahna.
Sheila Manchester Coniff, treasurer of the VSEA and an employee with the Agency of Education, worked in the same building as Sobel and was there the day Sobel was killed. Coniff discussed the motivation behind the fund.
“This was unprecedented. This has never happened to a state employee who isn’t a state trooper,” Coniff said. “State employees feel so helpless, but this is something we can do. It won’t bring those girls’ mother back, but it might make their lives a little bit easier.”
Sobel’s father, Alex Sobel, expressed his gratitude to the VSEA for establishing the fund, which, according to the online donation page, will support the “health, welfare and educational needs of Lara’s girls.”
“The VSEA has done a remarkable job in the setup and administration of this fund for the benefit of Lara’s children,” Sobel said. “The desire of so many people to do something for Julia and Elahna in the creation and the donations to this fund is a true indicator of how an entire community comes together.”
Coniff said the VSEA plans to pay for the construction of a memorial to Sobel at Barre City Place where she worked, but noted “that doesn’t help the girls.” At the recent annual meeting of the VSEA, the idea of establishing a fund for Sobel’s daughters took off and $1,000 was collected on the spot, Coniff said.
Several thousand dollars more has been raised from VSEA workers who have donated money from their mileage reimbursements, and the union is opening up the fund and seeking solicitations from the public at large.
“My hope is we could raise a significant amount of money if we keep this website up and other unions get involved,” Coniff said.
Anyone who contributes to the fund will receive a purple band emblazoned with the words “Lara Sobel Strong.”
Alex Sobel said the fund is the latest sign of the way his daughter’s death has brought the community closer together.
“This sense of oneness, strength, and mutual sharing of grief has been evident to all of us from the very onset of this tragedy,” he said. “On behalf of myself, my wife and the entire family I would like to express how grateful and appreciative we all are for this outpouring of love and support from everyone.”