People & Places

5-year-old southern Vermont preschooler saves his family. Again.

Brattleboro Police Chief Norma Hardy joins Nolan Goodnow at a recent American Legion ceremony honoring the 5-year-old with a national Youth Hero Award. Photo by Kevin O’Connor/VTDigger

BRATTLEBORO — Shoppers at the local Hannaford supermarket stopped their carts last week upon seeing a blur flying about in a blue T-shirt with a single red “S.”

No, it wasn’t a bird or a plane, but instead a 5-year-old boy who, for his family, is a true Superman.

Nolan Goodnow had seen his picture on the front page of a checkout rack of newspapers reporting how he woke his sleeping household last Christmastime during Brattleboro’s largest fire of 2021, only to face homelessness this June 1 after just winning a national Youth Hero Award.

Nolan’s mother, Allison Gleason, is accustomed to explaining how her son was supposed to be in bed last Dec. 9 when he alerted everyone to the sound of a smoke alarm at 3:30 a.m., spurring them to jump out of a second-floor window minutes before the blaze incinerated everything else.

Gleason, talking with a reporter at Nolan’s American Legion award ceremony this May, was less eager to reveal how she and her son, his 3-year-old sister, their father and grandmother now had to vacate their current housing set for sale June 1 and, without any affordable options, camp outside.

A VTDigger story printed in The Commons of Windham County last Wednesday reported how the family’s plight was an example of an area housing shortage that’s forcing 70% of local workers — especially individuals and families making less than $50,000 a year — to live in other towns.

By the weekend, Gleason received an email from a Dummerston couple who, seeing the story, offered use of an empty mobile home in their backyard.

“We went up that next day to look at it,” Gleason said.

This Wednesday, everyone will move in.

Nolan’s family is protecting the privacy of their new landlords, although Gleason will say, “I quite literally consider these two angels. Not a lot of people would say, ‘You don’t know me, but I have a house for you.’”

Gleason also is thankful to several others who offered assistance (alas, in such places as Hoosick Falls, New York, more than an hour away), as well as Brattleboro Police Chief Norma Hardy, whose deputization of Nolan as an honorary junior officer alerted the press to the family’s story.

“I was hoping someone had something that wasn’t on the market or they weren’t sure other people would want it, and that’s exactly what happened,” Gleason said. “It’s definitely a huge sigh of relief.”

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Kevin O'Connor

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