Society & Culture

Francois Clemmons in assisted living home, needs community support

By Guy Page

A group of friends of Francois Clemmons – known worldwide as the singing policeman on ‘Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood’ and to Vermonters as a performer and faculty member of Middlebury College – has established a GoFundMe page to help pay for his medical care and assisted living in a Middlebury residential retirement community.

The group includes Karl Lindholm, a Middlebury College professor and contributor to the local Addison Independent, and former Vermont Commissioner of Agriculture Paul Stone of Orwell.

Francois Clemmons sings National Anthem at the Vermont State House Jan. 5 this year.

“We’re a group of people who’ve known Dr. Francois Clemmons for years and decades — from high school and college, as a performing artist in New York and around the world, and as a faculty member / mentor at Middlebury College,” the page says.  “All of us – and millions of others nationwide – have also known him as Officer Clemmons, the Black singing policeman from Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. We watched him, our kids were inspired by him, and he became the first African American to have a leading role on national children’s television.”

The group is seeking to raise $100,000. As of this morning, more than $57,000 has been raised. 

Together, we are now “Friends of Officer Clemmons” raising funds for him to afford medical care and assisted living in a residential retirement community in Middlebury VT … near friends, extended family and his church congregation,” the page says. “The costs for this kind of retirement community are high for almost anyone. But they are simply not possible for a performing artist like Francois, an openly-gay Black man who — despite his leading role on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood — encountered discrimination, struggled financially, and never benefited from legacy privilege or generational wealth.”

The page describes how the funds will be handled:

  • All donations will be deposited into a special account to be used exclusively for Officer Clemmons’ medical and retirement care expenses.
  • GoFundMe deducts a 2.9% fee from your gift as a one-time transaction fee.
  • GoFundMe also suggests a voluntary tip of 15% – but tipping is optional. The tip amount can be changed to 0%.

The ‘Friends of Officer Clemmons’ include:

Adrian Benepe, Brooklyn NY

Andrew Lynch, Astoria NY

Carl Brown, Las Cruces NM

Chuck Dickinson, Watertown MA

Elizabeth Copps, Englewood CO

Jackie Fisher, New York City NY

Jane Beck, Middlebury VT

Jebb Norton, Santa Fe NM

Kathryn Schloff, Middlebury VT

Karl Lindholm, Middlebury VT

Mark Jaffee, Oberlin OH

Nat Carpenter, Beverly MA

Paul & Frances Stone, Orwell VT

W. Marichal Gentry, Durham NC.

Categories: Society & Culture

4 replies »

  1. Private charities are they way to go. Thank you for not taxing us for this. And lotsa luck to Francois. I sing and play guitar for free as a volunteer at several nursing and assisted living homes in Vermont. Maybe he can do a duet with me without pay. I’m also not privileged. We have some things in common. How ’bout that, eh?

  2. Hoping Francois gets help he needs. But this only raises the issue of all Vermonters who are aging and have no help they need to stay in their homes or money to enter assisted living when they do not really need that level of care or enough income from Social Security to hire household help. There is a severe shortage of home health employees so many elders and people with physical challenges are left without the help they desperately need to live with dignity in their homes. People on Choices for Care who are eligible and used to receive services have had their hours drastically cut or have been kicked off home health programs. Now they are forced out of their homes into much more expensive nursing homes and some have been transferred out of state because Vermont lacks nursing home beds. No one is doing anything to help seniors or people with disabilities to get the help they need and there are no plans going forward to restore the hours they used to get from home health. Several other programs that used to help seniors stay in their homes have been shut down, due to lack of finances or personnel to administer or provide the services. Volunteers are needed to help fill the gap but are not stepping up. So many are living in horrible dirty, unsafe, unhealthy conditions without the help they need, especially elders who have no family to help. Unfortunately everyday folks who are not famous like Francois have no one advocating for them and no one is donating money for them. The state officials and agencies are aware but have abandoned those folks and because they lack finances to afford to hire people they suffer alone. When they reach out and ask for help they are denied help and told there is nothing the agencies can do. Eventually some end up homeless and join that group of Vermonters trying to physically survive in horrific conditions without the support and help they need. The social services in Vermont are broken and there is no safety net to catch the elderly and people with disabilities who have been abandoned and neglected. No one is advocating for them! They are left to themselves to try and figure out how to get food, get any medical care , to physically survive. Living in your home, unable to walk more than a few steps with no home health or anyone to help except for someone who has about an hour and a half to go get some food, or living in a tent outdoors in a wheelchair with young children having to be cared for by others( because cannot find affordable housing) is the reality here in Vermont now. As a taxpayer are you okay having to pay for someone who needs minimal home help (6 hours a week paid for by Medicaid) to stay in their home to be forced into a nursing home because social systems are failing them and refusing them even 6 hours of home health, and they cannot afford assisted living? There is no assisted living in Vermont for lower income folks. You either get by with no help at home or get shipped out of state to a Medicaid nursing home, even if you do not need that level of personal care, or some end up homeless on the street. Is this acceptable to you? Does anyone care? The state officials and agencies do not care. They just give Home Health a waiver so they are not held accountable for refusing services. They turn a blind eye and do nothing to help anyone abandoned by Home Health. When home health cannot meet the hours needed why are the state and feds not moving the money from Medicaid to another program that would allow the individuals to hire someone themselves? I am so thankful that folks are doing something for Francois, but what about the rest of us who are desperate but not famous?

    • I thought boornie was in DC to fix all that? He had been doing nothing for 40 years but enriching himself it seems. Maybe ole boornie could send in 20-30 grand himself since he believes in sharing the wealth.

    • This is all very real and I agree that people should not be in desperate situations. Is it possible, though, to help Francois Clemons AND do what we can to address the problem across the board? Just because a person is famous doesn’t mean they might not not be in need.