On October 12th, the Coach Barn at Shelburne Farms was filled with laughter, memories and a vision for a more equitable, prosperous, inclusive Vermont.
The party, marking the Vermont Community Loan Fund’s 30th anniversary, drew more than 200 supporters, borrowers, investors, partners and friends to celebrate three decades of achievement, and three honorees central to our success.
“30 years ago, a committed group of people decided to act.” remarked VCLF Executive Director Will Belongia. “To take a risk and start something without any assurance that it would work. It wasn’t people saying, ‘Someone should fix that.’ It was people saying, ‘I will fix that!’”
Since 1987, the Loan Fund has loaned almost $100 million to local businesses, affordable housing developers and community-based organizations that has created or preserved 5,600 jobs; built or rehabilitated 4,000 affordable homes; created or preserved quality care for over 3,850 children and their families; and supported community organizations providing vital services to hundreds of thousands of Vermonters.
“The Loan Fund is both old and young,” Belongia said, moving forward into the present day. “Old in that we’ve found our path, our pace. We know our values: innovation, integrity, honesty and creativity. But we’re still young at 30, too. We still have things to learn, new things to try and challenges to learn from.”
And looking ahead: “What about the next 30 years? I want us all to be inspired. I want to keep taking risks. I want to keep saying, ‘I will fix that!’”
Awarded for their vision and service to the Loan Fund were longtime partner and affordable housing developer Champlain Housing Trust; the Loan Fund’s second-ever investor and early Board member Rick Hausman; and founding Executive Director Nancy Wasserman.
Accepting the award for Champlain Housing Trust, Director of Real Estate Amy Demetrowitz said, “The Loan Fund’s lending has always been based on character, track record, and what’s right for the community. You’ve been the financer for all of our most innovative projects.”
Early investor and Board member Rick Hausman praised the Loan Fund for giving investors a vehicle to sustain and advance Vermont, “strengthening the social fabric through investing in both the nonprofit and for-profit business sector, adding a powerful financial dimension that straight charity can rarely address.”
“Buy into VCLF, and you know what values you’re getting in the bargain: the incalculable social benefits of a general store or a health center or a theater. For social investors like my wife Emmy and me, the Loan Fund is truly a no-brainer.”
Founding Executive Director Nancy Wasserman stepped up to the podium to receive her award, smiling through applause and cheers. “Working at the Loan Fund in its early years was an incredible privilege and honor, and one of the peak experiences of my life,” she said.
“I’ve loved seeing the Loan Fund go from being a revolution in the world of investments, a crazy idea, to becoming a part of the bedrock of any fixed-income portfolio – a no-risk, no-brainer asset,” she remarked. “It’s incredible to me that 30 years later, we now have this whole community that has embraced the concept of investing in justice, and it’s growing year after year.”
In closing, Will told the crowd, “It’s our job, all of us, to champion the idea that money and values can coexist, that together we can make a difference. We are a community loan fund, and that is the essence of community.”
CLICK HERE to see a gallery of photos from the party!