30 years. $100 million. 6,100 jobs. 4,000 safe, affordable homes. 4,000 children & families served by quality early care & education. ”‹The statistics are impressive, but it's the stories, and the people in them, that really count. Here are a few of them.

Borrowers

STONE'S THROW PIZZA

STONE'S THROW PIZZA

Pie in the Sky: Stone's Throw Pizza Launches with Loan Fund Financing

Fairfax

“The Loan Fund understands what we’re trying to do. They see that we want to create a restaurant that brings together a community of people. And that’s what the Loan Fund does: they invest in communities and bring people together. ”

Childhood best buds, Fairfax natives and culinary entrepreneurs Tyler Stratton and Silas Pollitt are serving much more than just pizza at their new localvore restaurant. They’re serving their community, with delicious food and a gathering place for neighbors, friends and family. Stone’s Throw Pizza in Fairfax had plenty to celebrate (and eat!) at their grand opening on November 11th. Tyler, Silas and their team fired up the pizza ovens to produce specialty pies including ‘The Farmer’ (house-made white sauce, braised short ribs, toasted hazelnuts) and ‘The Harvester’ (white sauce, roasted squash, dried cherries, ricotta), alongside classics like pepperoni and cheese. Per the restaurant’s web site (stonesthrowpizzavt.com), Stone’s Throw “started with a crazy idea” nearly two decades ago, when, as schoolmates, the duo dreamed of someday working together. Silas went on to enroll in the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, learning classical French cuisine from internationally renowned chefs. When he discovered his tastes ran more toward casual than classical, he opted for a career at New England pizza franchise Otto Pizza. Tyler studied medical biology. For extra cash, he’d pick up hours at a pizza shop near his college campus, a turn he credits with steering him from medicine to administrative roles at Whole Foods Market’s Texas headquarters and (coincidence?) Otto Pizza, then on to ownership in two Boston-based pizza shops. Across these experiences, Tyler learned the ins and outs of restaurant ownership, including “the importance of ambience, staff, aesthetics, what hospitality means,” and how the right atmosphere can foster community. “Periodically, Tyler would call to see if the time was right to start something up together,” Silas recalls. It wasn’t until reconnecting at a mutual friend’s wedding that they revisited their original ‘Plan A’ and set to work to make the dream happen: their own restaurant. With complementary strengths in culinary arts and business, the time had come. They met with a bank to discuss financing for equipment and renovations to the location they’d identified, Fairfax’s former general store. When the bank’s financing offer didn’t work for them, a friend suggested the Vermont Community Loan Fund. “At that point, we didn’t realize that our concept for a restaurant was so in-sync with the Loan Fund’s mission,” Silas notes. “The Loan Fund is all about bringing community together, and so are we.” In addition to financing, Tyler notes, the Loan Fund helped the Stone’s Throw team figure out where to source local ingredients. “We get as much as we can from local farmers and food processors,” he says, just as a delivery of fresh mushrooms are dropped off at the restaurant. “Our local mushroom forager is just another example of the community coming together here,” adds Silas, pointing out the many Fairfax community members at work in the kitchen. “Two BFA (the local regional high school) students, one current and one grad.” “And my sister Elizabeth,” adds Tyler, “and Silas’ parents.” “And Janet who lives upstairs, and my fiancée, Alison Duhamel, who did our logo, and brand work and does customer service,” Tyler continues. “All the work and contributions and effort this community has put into Stone’s Throw,” Silas adds, “They’ve helped us paint, helped us move. Our friend Joel Bryant created our poured concrete bar, and just told us he wanted to donate the work. It’s amazing.” Furthering their concept of a community-centric eatery, the two co-owners would like to link up with other local organizations, school groups and more to host events and foster alliances. “The Loan Fund understands what we’re trying to do,” says Tyler. “They see that we want to create a restaurant that brings together a community of people. And that’s what the Loan Fund does: they invest in communities and bring people together.” PHOTO: www.albiec.com
VERMONT CHEVON

VERMONT CHEVON

SPROUTing New Opportunities

Danville

“The Loan Fund is different, because it’s structured to provide opportunities for a small, early-stage business like mine. ”

It’s a culinary treat and mainstay known to Caribbean, African, Asian cultures for centuries… and one that Vermonters are about to discover. It’s a sumptuous meat, rich in flavor, a great source of protein, lower in fat, sodium and cholesterol than most beef, pork, and poultry. “It’s chevon,” says Shirley Richardson, founder and CEO of Danville-based of goat meat purveyor Vermont Chevon. “Goats are the animal. Chevon is the meat,” she explains. Shirley launched Vermont Chevon in 2011, helping supply the greater Boston area’s demand for chevon. While chevon is the most widely-consumed red meat worldwide, many Vermonters have yet to try it. “When I sample Vermont Chevon at markets and co-ops, people taste it and tell me it’s delicious. When I tell them it’s goat, they’re really surprised,” she says. “Everyone loves goat’s milk and cheese (known as chevre),” she states. “What they don’t realize is that once the female goats are past their peak milk-producing years, and male goats have served their purpose, farms have no use for them. They’re considered waste.” These “cull goats,” no longer useful on-farm, are eliminated and discarded. “All of that food and nutrition gone to waste,” Shirley laments. “I want to help feed this country.” Additional perks of choosing chevon include its low environmental impact, “because goats are browsers and not grazers. They forage on shrubs and weeds. They don’t pull up grasses from the roots like cows,” Shirley notes. Vermont Chevon sources cull goats from Vermont goat’s milk and cheese producers. They’re processed at a Royalton facility and distributed to wholesalers and other outlets. Shirley frequently hears from chevon fans that her product is better tasting and of higher quality than other chevon currently available. “Anywhere in the U.S. where you find chevon, it almost exclusively comes from Australia,” Shirley tells. “But the way they harvest there is problematic. They use helicopters to round up feral goats. There’s no quality control. Some animals may be too old, or some too young, to provide good meat. Some may even be diseased,” she adds. She also points out that the thousands of miles that chevon travels from Australia makes for a sizeable and damaging carbon footprint. Australia’s exportation owes partly to the fact that the U.S. chevon market is under-developed. “An industry doesn’t exist in this country for production of chevon,” Shirley explains. “There’s just no infrastructure for it – yet.” Which is why she connected with the Loan Fund. “I saw an unmet demand, and the Loan Fund got that,” she says, recalling an initial meeting to discuss financing through the SPROUT program, a deferred payment, lower-interest loan program specifically designed for start-up and early stage food and farms enterprises. Following advice from the Loan Fund’s Business Resource Center, which assists borrowers with strategies, resources and more, Shirley has continued building her support network including an advisory board, and forging connections to boost her business expansion plan. Now, with her website up and running, she’s developing a brochure and experiencing upticks in sales. She plans on hiring a farm-to-harvest coordinator in the near future. With more marketing clout, she’s been able to attract a new distributor to take sales in new directions, literally. “These opportunities would not have been available to me through a regular bank,” Shirley adds. “The Loan Fund is different, because it’s structured to provide opportunities for a small, early-stage business like mine. To have all of this – financing, coaching, business development – and at low- or no interest with the SPROUT program. It’s just outstanding.”
ANOTHER WAY

ANOTHER WAY

Finding a Way Home

Montpelier

“We’d sought funding elsewhere before, and people didn’t take the time to understand the nuances of what we do. But Paul and Barbara at the Loan Fund were incredibly supportive. They listened and understood. This project wouldn’t have happened without them.”

Elaine Toohey’s voice doesn’t waver as she tells of her bouts with homelessness, twice in her life, the second time as the young mother of two small children. The breakup of her domestic partnership was one of those life crises, she describes, like losing a job or a death in the family that, for some, can lead to an emergency situation. “I lived on a friend’s land. I had no job. I had no income. I couldn’t find the help I needed.” Having made her way back from such circumstances, you could argue that Elaine is uniquely qualified for her job as Executive Director of Another Way. The Montpelier nonprofit serves Central Vermonters experiencing homelessness, unemployment, those suffering with addiction or struggling with mental health issues, the transitioning and recovering, all moving toward a better place. If the status quo has been to view this population with certain assumptions and standardized procedures, Elaine and her staff are certain there is, in fact, Another Way. Another Way, founded in 1986 as an alternative to the services offered by local community mental health centers, focuses on advocacy and empowerment of voluntary residents through peer support. “Peer support means learning together, and taking personal responsibility,” Elaine explains. The organization helps residents access housing, meals, legal support, health insurance, educational and employment opportunities, and disability and other benefits where appropriate. Connections are also crucial. “Program participants grow and get support from one another,” she says. Community meals, prepared in their community kitchen and shared on site are an important point of connection, Elaine notes. Recent reports have shown the number of homeless Vermonters is on the rise, and the staff (five full-time and six shift workers) has seen a definite spike in need. Their data shows Another Way served 582 Vermonters last year versus 349 the year before – a 40% increase. “I think the bigger numbers also means we’re doing a better job of connecting with people who are experiencing homelessness,” Elaine notes. Last winter, they also served as the overflow site for a partner organization, the Good Samaritan Haven emergency shelter in Barre. Thus, the timing was right to address some serious issues with their Barre Street facility. Especially urgent was replacing the failed roof and porch, repairing a dilapidated staircase and bringing the fire system up to code. Another Way approached the Loan Fund for financing, noting a difference right away from other lenders. “We’d sought funding elsewhere before, and people didn’t take the time to understand the nuances of what we do,” says Elaine. “But Paul and Barbara at the Loan Fund were incredibly supportive. They listened and understood. This project wouldn’t have happened without them,” she adds. With the work now completed, Elaine is looking ahead to the final phase of renovations, including ADA accessibility. Grants and other fundraising are in the works, including sales of resident-made wooden garden beds (information at anotherwayvt.org/contributing-to-another-way). Elaine stresses, “These building upgrades send a message to our residents that they deserve a safe space that’s not falling apart, that’s nice looking. That feels good,” she says.
AQUAVITEA

AQUAVITEA

An Ancient Beverage, a Modern Success

Middlebury

“The Vermont Community Loan Fund understands the needs of mid-stage companies, and they specifically look at growing Vermont versus just a borrower’s bottom line.”

It’s said that Genghis Kahn and Japanese samurai sought kombucha for its energizing properties, and that an ancient Chinese emperor credited his longevity to the fermented tea-based beverage. Siberians scoured their native birch forests to source ingredients for it. In recent times, after the rationing of tea and other goods during World War II, it became ever more difficult to procure. Now, Middlebury-based AquaViTea is meeting the growing demand for kombucha with a great product, expanding distribution, fresh new flavor blends like Peachmint and Watermelon-Habanero, ‘adult beverage’ line extensions…and, of course, financing from the Vermont Community Loan Fund. AquaViTea CEO and founder Jeff Weaber started out in the beer industry “at the bottom of the ladder” of a Portland, Oregon micro-brewery. He started climbing, exploring and growing the business, “so I had some experience with fermenting,” he recalls. Weaber’s wife Katina had been attending naturopathic medical school in Portland, where she’d learned about the health benefits of kombucha. Sensing an opportunity, Weaber decided to tap in, and began trying out kombucha batches at the brewery. By 2005, the couple had relocated to Vermont, where Weaber started test-marketing his concoctions at the Middlebury Farmers Market . Met with an enthusiastic response and many raised glasses, Weaber launched AquaViTea in 2007. Kombucha is created when a SCOBY (an acronym for symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast, a dense cellulose ‘mat’) develops at the top of a brew tank of tea. The SCOBY feeds on sugars within the tea mix and ferments, yielding kombucha, said to aid digestion and boost immunities. (Weaber acknowledges that kombucha’s health benefits are not yet clinically proven, though devotees swear by it.) As sales rose, Weaber moved production from his Salisbury farm to a facility in Bristol, and began thinking beyond bottles. “Jeff was the pioneer of kombucha on tap,” says Laura Smith, AquaViTea’s Executive of Special Operations. The now-prevalent AquaViTea taps, a bar-top-like set-up, allow customers to reuse glass containers or growlers, in synch with the healthy, mindful stance of the company, she explains. “That had a lot to do with our getting more mainstream traction,” Smith notes, referring to the brand’s entrance into Hannaford supermarkets, larger health food outlets and even convenience stores. Continued growth propelled AquaViTea beyond the start-up stage, ultimately necessitating even bigger digs. In 2015 AquaViTea relocated from Bristol to still larger quarters in Middlebury. Soon, other mid-stage business needs and considerations came into play. The fermentation process of kombucha naturally leads to a certain percentage of alcohol in the product. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau regulates alcohol content within the beverage industry. If AquaViTea were to be marketed as a non-alcoholic beverage, per its business plan and distribution, the naturally-occurring alcohol would have to be extracted. That led to the inevitable question of what to do with all of that deliciously kombucha-kissed alcohol? The answer: kombucha vodka. The matter of how to extract that alcohol led Weaber to the Vermont Community Loan Fund. “We needed an alcohol spinner. It’s a stainless steel machine about 30 feet tall, 20 feet long and eight feet deep. It looks like a rocket ship. It’s a feat of engineering,” Weaber says, a hint of awe in his tone. “We’d taken on a lot of early investments on our own, so we were shopping for a lender who could look beyond the typical balance sheet,” he recalls. It was a match. The Loan Fund, many of whose borrowers have been declined by traditional lenders, considers potential for job creation and community impact for a strong local economy, rather than focusing on numbers alone. Granite State Development Corporation also contributed to the financing. “We saw AquaViTea as already having gained significant ground in a growing category segment,” says Loan Fund Executive Director Will Belongia. “We saw sustained growth, talented management, and a great product to boot,” he adds. Vodka production is underway, and kombucha distribution now flows in-store and at events throughout New England. A top-secret new category extension is in development. Anticipated new hires will allow Weaber to “focus more on innovation.” He’s liking this trajectory. Weaber credits the Loan Fund with providing great opportunities for mid-stage businesses like AquaViTea. “In Vermont, there’s a good network of investors for start-up businesses getting off the ground, and, if you’re a mature business, there are resources there, too. But there’s a big gap for mid-stage companies. The Vermont Community Loan Fund understands the needs of mid-stage companies, and they specifically look at growing Vermont versus just a borrower’s bottom line,” Weaber says.
MAMAVA

MAMAVA

Mothers of Invention

Burlington

““We’re growing so rapidly...if not for the Loan Fund, I'd had to have taken out another mortgage on my house.””

What, you might ask, are those pod-shaped kiosks adorned with adorable baby pics that keep popping up in airports, shopping malls and stadiums? You (particularly you new parents out there) will be interested to know they’re Mamava freestanding lactation suites. They’re making a case for nursing moms and babies on the go, and making a statement that can’t be ignored: nursing is a right, not a privilege. Mamava co-founders Sascha Mayer and Christine Dodson first met back in the 1990s, working at Burlington’s busy JDK design firm. “JDK was always a very supportive workplace, and our office was experiencing its own baby boom,” says Sascha. “So we knew a lot of nursing moms,” adds Christine. With healthcare professionals recommending breastfeeding for at least six months, a new generation of parents was becoming aware of its significant health benefits. Pumping breastmilk at the office became another new normal for working moms. Within a few years, their own children had arrived, and Sascha and Christine found themselves pumping breastmilk while working, en route to client meetings “at airports and in convention center bathrooms,” Sascha remembers. Not exactly the ideal, they admit, looking back on it now… Then came the day they read a piece in the New York Times about mothers who discovered breastfeeding to be impractical, if not impossible. “For (mothers) with autonomy in their jobs?—?generally, well-paid professionals?—?breastfeeding, and the pumping it requires, is a matter of choice…. But for lower-income mothers?, including many who work in restaurants, factories, call centers, and the military, ?pumping at work is close to impossible, causing many women to decline to breastfeed at all, and others to quit after a short time,” the article read. That got them thinking. Next, the Fair Labor Standards Act mandated that employers provide employees with break time as well as appropriate space for pumping, “other than a bathroom”. Sascha and Christine saw that nursing moms needed new options, and Mamava was ‘born’. They began their business plan and sought financing. “We learned about the Loan Fund through one of our business advisors,” recalls Sascha. She and Christine were particularly impressed with the Loan Fund’s quick response and flexibility. “We’re growing so rapidly, we’ve already tapped into a line of credit, paid it back, and now we need new resources,” Sascha explains. “If not for VCLF, I’d have taken out yet another mortgage on my house.” Sascha and Christine worked with JDK to design lactation suites that would provide a clean and private place free from noise and distractions for moms to pump or breastfeed. Suites include electrical outlets for breast pumps, seating for mom and another sibling, gentle lighting and a changing table. Advertising space is available on the interior and exterior; part of Mamava’s business plan to generate additional revenue. A free app enables moms to locate and gain access to Mamava suites at 250 sites across the country. Initially, Mamava encountered criticism from breastfeeding advocates who felt the suites effectively ‘hid’ breastfeeding from view, but such comments have abated of late. “It’s the pumping mothers themselves who have asserted their personal experiences,” says Sascha. Those moms have countered the criticisms with praise for the convenience, privacy and lack of distractions the lactation suites afford them while pumping and nursing. “After all, the complexities of modern living are all about choices,” Sascha adds. At this point, Mamava’s growth is in the double digits, and they’ve jumped from three to 16 full- and part-time employees in just two years. “Every year, 3,000,000 moms initiate breastfeeding,” Christine says. “We’re extending our mission with more education, with community, with useful content and curated commerce, so we can bring a lot more to moms.” Learn more at www.mamava.com
BARTON MAPLE COMPANY

BARTON MAPLE COMPANY

Sweet Synergies: Loan Fund Helps Finance Start-Up Barton Maple Company

Barton

“If not for the Loan Fund, we never could have gotten our inventory up in time for sugaring season. Now we have it. And if we don’t have it in stock, we can have it within a day.”

Synergy has characterized Art LaPlante and Mark Royer’s working partnership for decades. The two first met years ago when Art was managing a building materials store in Barton. Mark, a customer, was in timberwork, specializing in specialty lumber. “So Mark started buying logs from land owners for me,” Art recalls. Time went by and Art became manager of Colton’s Hardware in Orleans. Mark was firmly ensconced in his family’s financial planning firm. Then Barton landmark E.M. Brown Hardware came up for sale. All of Art’s friends told him to go for it. “I was the marketing, merchandizing and retail guy,” says Art. “But I didn’t have experience on the financial side. There was no one who could do the books.” Mark could. The two purchased E.M. Brown in the fall of 2007 and the rest is (very successful) Barton history. Ten years into it, Art describes his partnership with Mark as knowing instinctively who should handle what. “Something will come up, and I’ll say to Mark ‘Why don’t you take that?’ or he’ll say it to me,” Art notes with a laugh. In 2013, the old general store next door to E.M. Brown went on the market. Without knowing exactly how they’d end up using the space, the two purchased it, figuring they’d “figure it out.” Then in 2016, nearby sugaring equipment retailer Lapierre USA suddenly closed. Mark and Art immediately recognized the opportunity: E.M. Brown and Lapierre had a significant overlapping customer base (another synergy!). Opening their own sugaring equipment business made too much sense not to consider. Plans in hand, they approached the Vermont Community Loan Fund. “We met with Raymond and Dan at the Loan Fund, and talked about our goals, and how we could serve the community with a new sugaring equipment business,” Art recalls. With the closing of Lapierre, sugarers would have to drive at least 25 miles for supplies and service. With plenty of sugaring in their neck of the woods, Art and Mark saw it as a synergistic case of supply meeting demand. The Loan Fund saw it that way, too. Art and Mark used VCLF financing to purchase inventory, and the Barton Maple Company launched in time for the 2017 sugaring season. In the old general store location, former Lapierre’s employee Patrick Thompson manages the shop while Art and Mark keep E.M. Brown moving forward. Financing helped retain one part-time and three full-time jobs, with another job expected to be created this year. “Stainless steel tubing, storage tanks, pumps, evaporators. If not for the Loan Fund, we never could have gotten our inventory up in time for sugaring season,” Art reflects. “Now we have it. And if we don’t have it in stock, we can have it within a day.” www.bartonmaplecompany.com
NORTHERN RELIABILITY

NORTHERN RELIABILITY

Loan Fund Helps Power Up Northern Reliability

Waitsfield

“We had the opportunity to work with bigger banks, but we wanted to work with (the Loan Fund). With this financing in place, our focus is on the future. ”

When tens of thousands of families and businesses count on you every day to deliver their power - no interruptions and no exceptions - reliability is everything. Hence the name: Northern Reliability, the newest member of the Vermont Community Loan Fund’s (VCLF) family of borrowers. In December, VCLF, a nonprofit, mission-driven lender, provided financing to Northern Reliability (NR), the Waitsfield power storage company, to help them cover operating costs like product design and customization, installation and maintenance of power storage units on- and off-grid, and more. “Our civil, electrical and mechanical engineers work with customers to design systems that will revolutionize the grid” says Jay Bellows, NR’s President and CEO, via its reliable energy storage, technological innovations, and significant cost savings. As NR’s website describes, “Our products scale to meet any energy demand and are designed to operate under any condition around the world using power derived from sunlight, wind and conventional fuel sources.” Waitsfield area residents in particular may remember NR’s beginnings as Northern Power Systems (NPS). NPS started nearly 30 years ago, providing wind and other alternative energy and storage to some of the world’s most remote locations. When NPS decided to focus exclusively on wind energy generation in 2007, a group broke off to continue the energy storage side of the business under the new name of Northern Reliability. That group has spent the past decade building the business under a new model and developing a range of energy storage solutions. NR now has eighteen full- and part-time employees, with five to six new jobs anticipated to be added this year following nearly 300% business growth in 2016. NR projects range in scale and scan the globe. Current works include supplying continuous power for remote, off-grid tower sites in rural Maine, aircraft obstruction lighting for a transmission tower at Niagara Falls, and affordable, reliable power to residents on a remote island off the coast of Massachusetts - to name a few. As an example of the inherent ‘power’ behind the concept of energy storage, Jay explains how NR’s storage helps make solar more accessible. “Solar energy wouldn’t otherwise be available during peak usage hours of 4 – 9 p.m. after the sun has gone down.” Figuring out how to effectively store solar enables customers to use it more widely and affordably, he explains. “Our solutions will result in huge savings for customers. Our systems are built to last 20 years or more, and pay for themselves in a fraction of that amount of time.” Storing energy also provides a reliable back-up, in the instance of storms and outages, he adds. Additional financing was provided by the Flexible Capital Fund, an investment fund that offers near equity capital to growing Vermont companies. “Working with Janice (St. Onge, Flexible Capital Fund President) was a very big deal for us,” says Jay. “And then at Janice’s yearly meeting, we met Will (Belongia, VCLF’s Executive Director). We had the opportunity to work with bigger banks, but we wanted to work with them,” Jay explains, praising the organizations’ missions to build Vermont’s businesses, jobs and economy. With this financing in place, he says, “our focus is on the future”. http://northernreliability.com/
BRADLEY HOUSE

BRADLEY HOUSE

Loan Fund Borrower Meets Urgent Senior Needs with Historic Property

Brattleboro

“We’re so grateful and so proud that Vermont has organizations like VCLF that understand the care needs of our elders and are willing to invest in making their lives better.”

Brattleboro’s Bradley family has been serving Vermonters for generations. Stephen Rowe Bradley was elected the state’s first U.S. Senator in 1791. His son William was a member of both the state Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Now, the stately Bradley House, built by Richards Bradley in 1858, will serve Brattleboro seniors as a residential care facility, with initial funding provided by the Vermont Community Loan Fund (VCLF). The Bradleys sold the home in 1940, after which it became a World War II veteran’s residence and, later, a licensed level III residential care home. In recent years, however, it has faced financial, maintenance and staffing challenges, leaving the town to wonder whether the once-grand mansion’s best years were behind it. That is, until its Board of Directors had an idea. They reached out to Holton Home, another level III residential care home in Brattleboro. In 2015, the two organizations merged. The next step: Bradley House’s renovation and expansion to add capacity and improve services. In June, VCLF financing was secured for pre-development assessments and plans to support the expansion and renovations, including architectural and engineering reports, safety upgrades and more. The pre-development process is a complicated and costly one, says Holton Home Executive Director Cindy Jerome, who expressed gratitude for VCLF’s assistance through it all. “Without the Loan Fund, we wouldn’t have been able to complete all the preliminary requirements necessary to move forward, and then later, to qualify for federal funding for the project,” she said. “We’re so grateful, and so proud that Vermont has organizations like VCLF that understand the care needs of our elders and are willing to invest in making their lives better,” she added. Commenting on the recent loan, VCLF Executive Director Will Belongia said “Given Vermont’s growing senior population, the need for high-quality senior services is becoming increasingly urgent. The Bradley House and Holton Home residences clearly are committed to providing excellent care and quality of life for Vermont’s seniors. It’s a commitment VCLF is proud to share, through our support for this important project.” Ultimately, the loan will result in the addition of services for eight new seniors, (bringing the total to 63), the preservation or creation of 20 jobs and nine construction jobs. www.holtonhome.org
VILLAGE CANNERY OF VERMONT

VILLAGE CANNERY OF VERMONT

Applesauce Artisans Grow with VCLF Loan

South Barre

“Before the VCLF funding, we couldn’t easily pursue new channels of distribution, buy raw materials economically or build seasonal inventories to meet increased demands for our products. The Loan Fund really has helped move Village Cannery forward. ”

What do you get when you combine a great but unharvested crop of wild, local apples, with a crop of determined Vermont localvores? That’s how the renowned artisanal applesauce makers of Village Cannery of Vermont got their start back in 1977, gathering apples they couldn’t let go to waste. With some great recipes for small batch, kettle-cooked applesauces and a growing number of fans, the South Barre group soon decided to open their own cannery. Now, more than three decades later, their Vermont Village applesauce is the leading brand of natural, organic apple sauce in the Northeast, with distribution in large supermarkets and co-ops alike. Their extended product line includes multiple flavors, jars and snack packs, plus apple butter and apple cider vinegars. With plans to further expand operations, they came to VCLF for funding. “The Vermont Community Loan Fund showed genuine interest in supporting our growth. They visited our facility and collaborated with the lender we’d been working with to create the best financing package for us," says owner and founder Jim Sheperd. Village Cannery is proud of their ‘old-fashioned’ methods of cooking in small batches, using whole apples including peel (superior nutritional and flavor results, Sheperd explains), skipping added sugars, and sourcing as many apples as possible from Vermont growers. In 1996, they were certified as an organic processor. “With these additional funds, we’ll be able to expand our business to add new products and new personnel,” Sheperd says. “Before the VCLF funding, we couldn’t easily pursue new channels of distribution, buy raw materials economically or build seasonal inventories to meet increased demands for our products. The Loan Fund really has helped move Village Cannery forward. And we expect to double sales in 2016 with their help!" The loan helps preserve 16 Vermont jobs, and is expected to lead to the creation of four new jobs. More at vermontvillageapplesauce.com
VERMONT WOOD PELLET COMPANY

VERMONT WOOD PELLET COMPANY

Heat Local!

North Clarendon

“We work on a community scale, and so does the Loan Fund. Their decisions are made for the benefit of the community. Ours too.”

“We hear a lot about eating local. At Vermont Wood Pellet, we want to heat local,” says Chris Brooks, co-owner (along with Katie Adams) of North Clarendon’s Vermont Wood Pellet Company.

A fifth generation lumberman, Brooks came to Vermont following timbering stints in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Georgia. Right from the beginning, they wanted to do things more sustainably, sourcing their wood from within a 30-mile radius. Their niche also included “being the best” according to Brooks: they came up with a pellet composition that was more energy- and cost-efficient, burning longer, warmer and with less waste.

In VCLF, they found a lender with a similar ethos. “We work on a community scale,” Brooks says, “and so does the Loan Fund. Their decisions are made for the benefit of the community. Ours too.”

Now in its third year, Vermont Wood Pellet has grown steadily, now employing 24 workers in its mill, “and for every one of them, there are four in the woods,” he says. Most tellingly, they’ve also completely sold out of last year’s pellets and are hard at work on getting ready for next winter.

“VCLF played a critical role in our success,” says Brooks. “VCLF sees value, where other lenders might not.”

VERMONT BEAN CRAFTERS

VERMONT BEAN CRAFTERS

Crafting a Better Business

Waitsfield & Warren

“The Loan Fund isn't just looking for ways to make a buck off business people. They're looking for what what's good for Vermont.”

Joe Bossen has a lot on his plate. He’s the founder, owner, chef, delivery man, marketing guy and more at Vermont Bean Crafters. “I wear a lot of hats,” he says, laughing.

Begun in 2011 and based in Waitsfield’s Mad River Food Hub, Vermont Bean Crafters makes bean burgers, bean balls, soups and even cookies. These bean-based products are distributed at grocers, coops, restaurants, hospitals and schools. Beans are sourced locally, as are additional ingredients such as sweet potatoes, onions, carrots and grains.

After graduating from Green Mountain College, Bossen worked at various jobs including a stint in at Boardman Hill Farm, where Vermont farmer Greg Cox mentored him in sustainable agriculture. “Our food system uses so much of our energy,” Bossen says. “Even local agriculture can require huge amounts of energy to grow. Beans are different.” Beans, he explains, are nutrient-dense, shelf-stable, and require less heat and water to grow than other crops.

Bossen was referred to VCLF by the Carrot Project, which helps smaller food producers find financing and technical assistance services.

“The Loan Fund isn’t just looking for ways to make a buck off business people. They’re looking for what’s good for Vermont,” he says.

COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS OF BURLINGTON

COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS OF BURLINGTON

Every Step of the Way

Burlington

“VCLF was committed to our mission. That was what mattered to them, and that made all the difference.”

At the Community Health Centers of Burlington (CHCB), Executive Director Jack Donnelly and Community Relations Director Alison Calderara are happily seated amidst a sea of half-unpacked boxes ”” thirty-six thousand square feet of half-unpacked boxes, to be exact.

CHCB has just relocated to its brand new home at 617 Riverside Drive, in Burlington. After three years of planning, fundraising, and construction, the new center is ready to serve a patient base that has soared to 14,000 ”” or 550 patient visits per day.

From its humble beginnings in a tiny storefront in Burlington’s Old North End four decades ago, CHCB’s progress is arguably one of the most impressive community health care success stories in the country.

The People’s Free Clinic, located on North Street, was founded in 1971 with a mission to serve patients regardless of their ability to pay. As groundbreaking as that concept was, perhaps even more remarkable was the fact that the original clinic was staffed entirely by volunteers. By the end of their second year, the clinic had become so busy that 50 patients per week were being seen and treated. As the patient base grew and grew, the clinic changed its name to the Community Health Centers of Burlington to reflect its expanded vision and mission to the larger community.

But a larger community required a larger space. Enter the Vermont Community Loan Fund, which believed in the Center's mission and in the vital importance of its health care services.

“The clinic had grown so quickly, it was bursting at its seams,” recalls Brian Pine, Housing Director for the City of Burlington. “They needed support, and the Loan Fund got involved to help with the expansion."

Calderara recalls the details of the loan. “The facility needed room for administrative space upstairs in the building,” she remembers. “VCLF was committed to our mission. That was what mattered to them, and that made all the difference.”

That expansion was only the first of many. In 1989, CHCB was awarded a federal Health Care for the Homeless grant. In 1993, CHCB was designated as Vermont’s second Federally Qualified Health Center, which ushered in a significant expansion of services including social work, a prescription assistance program, an obstetrical and prenatal program, the region’s first paid professional staff interpreter, and a new sliding-scale payment plan. By 2001, another expansion was in the offing, resulting in the construction of CHCB’s 10,000 square foot main facility on Riverside Avenue. Next followed the CHCB Pearl Street Clinic, offering primary and preventive health care, dental care, mental health and substance abuse counseling to homeless persons and at-risk youth, and Housing First, which provides housing for homeless patients with chronicmedical conditions. Next, a dental center was added to the Riverside location, and in 2002, behavioral treatment services were added.

The staff of 135 now provides an estimated 55,000 patient visits per year. Patients include refugees, for whom there is a special translation service that can translate from 22 languages. Medicaid patients, the uninsured, the underinsured, the low-income and homeless make up a significant portion of the patient base.

CHCB's Executive Director Jack Donnelly sums it up: “Once we had so little space. Now, we have the Safe Harbor Center which does dental and medical. We have the Pearl Street Youth Center for those aged 26 years and under. We do outreach to family shelters, onsite, and we have nurses going to homeless camps, and outreach at the Howard Center. With this new facility, it's a whole new phase.”

(2011)

CHAMPLAIN HOUSING TRUST

CHAMPLAIN HOUSING TRUST

It Takes A Village

Chittenden, Franklin & Grand Isle Counties

“This was a more complicated project than usual, but VCLF always flexes to help us come up with a workable solution.”

As the saying goes when raising children: “It takes a village”¦,” The same can be said of working to create affordable housing in Vermont. The Loan Fund has many partner organizations with whom we work; the Champlain Housing Trust in Burlington is one of our oldest and strongest partners.

CHT was born in 2006 as the result of a merger between the Burlington Community Land Trust and the Lake Champlain Housing Development Corporation which were both established in 1984. CHT, a membership-based, nonprofit organization committed to creating and preserving perpetually affordable housing and vital communities in northwest Vermont.

Most folks think that “affordable housing” only consists of creating multi-family residential developments or apartment buildings, but in Vermont, with our small towns and villages, it often also takes the form of rehabilitating older single-family homes for sale at an affordable price and in perpetuity. The Champlain Housing Trust is one of many regional housing organizations that specialize in putting families in safe and affordable homes.

Vermonters' need for affordable housing eclipses production annually, creating a persistent shortage of affordable homes. Median home cost in 2011 rose 3% from 2010 with a staggering 64% increase since 2000. To purchase that median-priced home (30-year mortgage with down payment and closing costs), a Vermont household would need an annual income of more than $58,000; 81% of the state's occupations have a median wage below that figure. Furthermore, a persistently high proportion of Vermonters devote too much of their income to housing costs, including heating: 63% of renters and 38% of owners with mortgages pay more than the recommended 30% of their income for housing costs, ranking Vermont the 17th worst state nationally. We also have the 4th-tightest rental housing market in the US. 33,000 renting households are cost burdened, or paying more than 30% of their income for housing costs. This is 48% of all renting Vermonters, ranking the state 7th worst in the nation.

In 2008, VCLF made a loan to CHT to purchase a couple of older single-family residences in Chittenden County. One, near Battery Park in downtown Burlington, has been recently renovated from its original status as a duplex into a roomier, energy efficient single-family home. The 100-year-old home had been through many additions and was not maintained well by its previous owners.

CHT did something they don’t often do with such a property: they bought it outright, made the appropriate renovations and hope to sell it this spring or summer. “Normally we find a buyer first,” explains Rob Leuchs, CHT’s Shared Equity Programs Manager, “but this time we took the risk and bought the property first, thanks to the Loan Fund.” CHT needed capital to make the necessary repairs while keeping the property affordable when it came time to put it on the market.

“The easiest part was working with the VCLF because they are very flexible,” Leuchs says. “This was a more complicated project than usual, but VCLF always flexes to help us come up with a workable solution.”

Typically, CHT will take the time to find an eligible family for a home or affordable housing community that already exists. “VCLF also helps us buy time so we can find eligible families,” says Community Relations Director Chris Donnelly. “We have literally found hundreds of low- to moderate-income Vermonters directly because of the help we receive from VCLF.”

This partnership impacts families and communities in all corners of our state. “VCLF’s thorough understanding of our work, commitment to our mission and appreciation of our track record makes them a valued partner to us,” says CHT Executive Director Brenda Torpy. “And because of that, people have places to live that are safe, secure and affordable.

MUD CITY KIDS CHILD CARE CENTER

MUD CITY KIDS CHILD CARE CENTER

Committed to Care

Morrisville

“Providing quality care for Vermont’s kids is among the most important work to be done in ourstate. Thanks to the Loan Fund, I’m able to do just that.”

Tracy Patnoe knows about the need for quality childcare. “There are children on the waiting list that haven’t even been born yet! Almost every day I get calls from parents.”

“After my second child, I visited daycares, but I couldn’t find any I really liked.” So Tracystarted Mud City Kids Child Care in 1999. The plan was to run the child care program out of her family home until her own child was ready for school. “But by then, I had taken a lot of classes, and had a bunch of credits towards a degree. And I liked it!”

After a couple years, recognizing the need in the community, Tracy and her husband Ernie decided to move the program into a larger space. The challenge was financing the expansion. “Our bank was hesitant. Early care and education is not a big moneymaker. We looked around, but I don’t think I would have found a bank to make the loan.”

The Patnoes received a loan from VCLF for the purchase and renovation of a single-family home”¦and what a renovation it was! “It was affordable because we did nearly all the work ourselves,” says Tracy. “I bet I’ve spent at least 600 hours on this place.” laughs Ernie. “We were here Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve that year too!”

Their commitment shows. Today, Mud City Kids Child Care Center provides high-quality early care and education to 60 children from infants to age 6. The expansion also created 16 full-time jobs. “The kids really benefit from the bigger space.” says Tracy. “The (age) groups have their own separate spaces. The parents have been very happy.”

“With financing from VCLF, I’ve been able to expand my program, increase the number of kids and families I serve. I’ve been able to make quality improvements, increase my STARS rating and pay a higher wage. They’ve helped me to run a business that is sustainable.”

“I believe that providing quality care for Vermont’s kids is among the most important work to be done in our state. Thanks to the Loan Fund, I’m able to do just that.”

Outdoor Gear Exchange

Outdoor Gear Exchange

Geared Up!

Burlington

“VCLF looked forward. They saw what we could become.”

In 1993, Outdoor Gear Exchange was a small start-up business with a big idea - owner March Sherman would sell high-quality new, used and discounted technical outdoor equipment, accessories and clothing, reaching out to the sizeable and growing number of outdoor sports enthusiasts in the Burlington area and beyond. Customers could even trade or consign their used gear.

The big idea grew. Customers responded, sales jumped, and OGE decided to focus on the demand for new rather than used merchandise. Increased sales led to increased inventory; within its first five years, OGE had expanded its retail square footage by 500%. With the level of growth now clearly indicating a need for additional working capital, Sherman set out to find financing.

“I met Will (Belongia, VCLF executive director) at a Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility training session on small business funding,” Sherman recalls. While traditional banks were wary of the relatively new business, Sherman remembers Belongia’s strong interest in OGE.

“VCLF sees value in socially and environmentally responsible businesses,” Sherman says. “Will focused on our strengths more than our challenges.”

Indeed, as a socially responsible employer, OGE offers an employee-funded retirement plan, medical and dental benefits, career training, profit-sharing and more. OGE jobs offer a livable wage and other pluses that linked directly to the Loan Fund’s quality job creation and transforming Vermonters’ lives.

“Marc’s commitment to his employees, to creating quality jobs has been a huge success,” Belongia says.

The first loan from VCLF helped with inventory at a critical juncture. By 2005, both sales and staff had jumped again.

Over the next six years, additional loans would follow, each helping expand OGE, step by step, ultimately bringing the retailer to larger and larger retail spaces and opportunities.

“At the beginning, we had two and a half employees; now we have 90. And since 2003, sales have increased between 500% and 600%” Sherman notes. Those numbers, he says, correlate exactly with the infusions of support from the Loan Fund. “The number of jobs we have created absolutely links to the support from VCLF,” he adds.

Today, the new Church Street location attracts hundreds of shoppers per week. Employee retention, perhaps the best indicator of a valued employer, is remarkable. The average length of employment for staffers is 6 years ”“ nearly unheard of in the retail world.

“Traditional banks looked backward,” Sherman says, recalling his first attempts to find financing. “They looked at the challenges we had faced. But VCLF looked forward. They saw what we could become.”

LATCHIS ARTS

LATCHIS ARTS

FOR ART’S SAKE

Brattleboro

“VCLF was our knight in shining armor. The Loan Fund made the purchase of our building possible.”

An elaborate palace, replete with columns, constellations, and images of gods and goddesses, Brattleboro’s beloved Latchis Theater opened in 1938, an art deco movie palace with hotel, eateries, retail establishments and more. The Latchis family owned and operated the business for over six decades. In 2003, the Brattleboro Arts Initiative (now Latchis Arts) was looking for a home, and was steered by Paul Bruhn of the Preservation Trust of Vermont, to meet with the Latchises, who were ready to sell. When discussions turned to financing, Bruhn suggested the Vermont Community Loan Fund.

Latchis Arts’ former Managing Director Gail Nunziata recalls the excitement of finding the landmark future home - and the Loan Fund. “VCLF was our knight in shining armor,” recalls Nunziata. “The Loan Fund made the purchase of our building possible. It was an amazing collaborative effort.”
In 2011, Tropical Storm Irene caused $650,000 worth of flood damage. The screen went dark and the hotel was shuttered temporarily, but Latchis made it through, reopening in just two months after an intensive clean-up and restoration. For 2013, their 75th anniversary year, a capital campaign is underway to replace aging seats and restore the beautiful zodiac-themed ceiling in the main hall.

Latchis now employs 20 full or part-time staff, and leases 14 separate spaces in the main building and annex, providing storefronts and homes for a jeweler, boutique, a hair salon, an attorney, and a handful of artists who rent studio space.

Nunziata also notes the vital part that the Latchis plays in supporting the local economy, arts and otherwise. “At Latchis, we host a number of local cultural and arts festivals and events for other local organizations. Whenever possible, we purchase local goods and services. And we bring in all those tourists who eat shop and celebrate the arts in Brattleboro. Thanks to VCLF, Latchis is a wonderful community resource.”

HUDAK FARM

HUDAK FARM

Farm Team

St. Albans

“Making a farm financially viable is so challenging. But that's where VCLF comes in.”

“Making a farm financially viable so challenging. What our population spends on food doesn’t relate to the cost of producing it,” says Marie Frey of Hudak Farm. “But that’s where VCLF comes in,” she adds.

When Marie and her husband Richard Hudak met up with VCLF, they were happily surprised to discover the various skills, tools and methods that could help them with those aspects of the farming business that they could control.

Hudak Farm was a dairy operation when Richard and Marie took over from his parents in the 1970’s. The new couple switched to farming vegetables and fruits. Years later, wanting to keep diversifying their operations, they came upon two answers: compost, and the Vermont Community Loan Fund.

“VCLF helped us put together a plan for our compost production,” Frey says.“It’s critical to have lenders like VCLF in support of Vermont farms, whether they’re diversifying like we were, or brand new. That’s what the Loan Fund does so well,” she adds.

THE GRAY BUILDING

THE GRAY BUILDING

Shelter From the Storm

Northfield

“The Vermont Community Loan Fund helped us to restore a beloved community building and return it to service for the people of Northfield.”

The Gray Building in Northfield has had many ‘lives,’ serving many purposes and people over the course of its 130-year-plus history. Today, that legacy continues on as the Gray Building assists community members hurt by 2011’s Hurricane Irene. It’s a special story for Northfield, a town that has come together to support each other in the face of a devastating crisis. It’s also a special story for VCLF too, an opportunity for our borrowers and investors to, quite literally, work together to make their community stronger.

The Many Lives of the Gray Building

Constructed in 1877 as a multiple classroom schoolhouse, the Gray Building operated continuously as the Northfield Graded and High School building until 1994. But after closing its doors as a public school, the building fell into disrepair. That is - until a team of dedicated volunteers and donors came together to restore the landmark as a community center and home for local businesses and organizations. The nonprofit Gray Building Coalition was founded and purchased the building in 2003.

Not surprisingly, a nearly 130-year-old building that had been vacant for the better part of a decade, and was being re-imagined with a completely new purpose in mind, needed some help to begin this new life. Planning for preservation, remediation and renovation would involve developers, engineers, architects and contractors, so a capital campaign to support the Gray Building’s rebirth was launched.

That’s when VCLF got involved. Our first loan to the Gray Building Coalition helped them fund early planning and construction costs, meaning that the project could move forward well before the campaign reached its fundraising goal. With restoration completed in 2004, the historic structure was made handicapped accessible along with a host of other retrofits, structural repairs and more.

Since the building’s restoration, long-term tenants have included the Northfield Boys & Girls Club and the Women’s Health & Fitness Center ”“ both still tenants. Additionally, the local HeadStart child development and family services program used the space, as did an alternative middle school and a youth dance studio among others.

“We’re a long-term rental space, but it has always been our goal to serve the local community whenever we can,” said Annie Gould, Treasurer and board member of the Gray Building Coalition.

It’s that philosophy that has continued to create another new life for the Gray Building in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene.

Irene and Beyond

When Irene pounded much of downtown Northfield in August and various businesses and community organizations were suddenly left homeless in the aftermath, the Gray Building Coalition again extended themselves to local community businesses and organizations, large and small.

When corporate furniture manufacturer (and past VCLF investor) WallGoldfinger needed temporary space for its 20-plus office staff, the Gray Building was there for them. Moving right into available space, WallGoldfinger was fully operational again within 48 hours after the storm. Amazingly, they didn’t miss a single production or delivery deadline, and, thanks in part to the Gray Building, continue to manufacture the highest-quality product.

Because of Irene, Northfield-based quilters group Vermont Quiltsearch was displaced from the space they were to use for their important annual quilt appraisals. Gould and her team made room for them at the Gray Building.

“The Gray Building was restored so it could be a community space,” says Gould, which is precisely how it has functioned in the wake of Irene. “The Gray Building has turned into a great place for the community to come together,” she adds. “But none of this could have happened without VCLF. VCLF helped us to restore a beloved community building and return it to service for the people of Northfield.”

RUTLAND COUNTY PARENT CHILD CENTER

RUTLAND COUNTY PARENT CHILD CENTER

Family Matters

Rutland

“If VCLF hadn't stepped in to help us out, we'd be talking about closing instead of where we want to be in three years”

As Executive Director of the Rutland County Parent Child Center (RCPCC), Caprice Hover is focused on improving quality of life for families in her region of the state. She also chairs the Vermont State Housing Authority Board of Commissioners and is Vice-Chair at the Agency of Human Services’ Children and Family Council for Prevention Programs.

“I always wanted to work with kids, to be involved in work that had long-term and true impact,” says Hover. To that end, she now oversees 15 RCPCC educational and support programs, services and workshops including child care services, mentoring, budgeting, health and nutrition classes, parenting classes, high school equivalency, career readiness and more. RCPCC’s 42 employees serve over 3,000 Rutland County residents, sixty percent of whom meet the federal low-income standards.

Among the RCPCC success stories Hover likes to tell is that of the “Learning Together” Program that focuses on pregnant and parenting mothers up to age 21, who are working toward their GED. “The curriculum includes life skills, parenting, health, job readiness, and emotional wellness along with state-required high school courses,” Hover describes. Classes run year-round, with housing and child care available to students. Currently, 20 young women and teens are enrolled.

MICHAEL'S TOYS

MICHAEL'S TOYS

A Little Showmanship, A LOT of Craftsmanship

Rutland

“I'm just an old-fashioned toymaker preparing for the future of my craft”

Downtown Rutland hasn’t looked the same since Michael’s Toys set up shop on Merchant’s Row, the city’s staid, traditional business district. What’s the difference? Proprietor Michael Divoll calls it his P.T. Barnum act.

“I’ve got [wooden] animals hanging on my building, rocking horses and cows on the sidewalk. It creates an ambience that draws customers into the shop. I’ve got to do more than just hanging up a sign because that doesn’t provide people a frame of reference. So I engage in a little P.T. Barnum, but without the phony glitz and glamour.”

The sidewalk experience is just the beginning. Michael’s Toys elicits spontaneous comparisons to Santa’s North Pole workshop, and Divoll himself, with his pipe, apron and graying beard, surrounded by the materials and tools of his trade, makes a convincing elf. Except that he does this year round, and he adds other elements to his work: Divoll is a gifted carver who produces artistic Vermont tableaux in relief, as well as custom wooden signs for homes and businesses. These also are on display in his shop.

“When people walk in and see the horses and cows and deer and moose and planes and trains the way I build them, it’s like stepping back in time. My workshop is in back of the showroom, which is key. If people say ‘Did you build this?’ and you can say ‘Yes,’ it’s a way of connecting to the customer; you’re doing something for them personally, other than just taking their money.”

A little showmanship, a studied approach to identifying and marketing to his customer demographic, and the exposure that comes with his new digs on Merchant’s Row have provided immediate results for Divoll. Since taking occupancy of the two-story building last May, with the support of a business loan by the Vermont Community Loan Fund, he could already report in November that 2005 would be by far his best year since he went into toy making in 1985.

That comparison is mitigated by the fact that Michael’s Toys had been pretty much of a shoestring operation for a number of reasons, location certainly among them.

Most recently the former canoe maker had worked out of a second-story apartment on nearby Center Street. In 2004 the Rutland Community Land Trust purchased and renovated that property to create affordable housing, with retail space on the first floor. Obligated to relocate the displaced tenants, the Land Trust and Divoll together identified the vacant building just around the corner on Merchant’s Row, which had once housed a Chinese restaurant. The Land Trust put up money for renovations, and in return the owner gave Divoll a 15-month option to purchase the building at a favorable cost.

However, Divoll needed a loan for the purchase, and as a 61-year-old self-employed craftsman with a limited credit history he was not the ideal candidate for traditional lenders. The Land Trust referred him to the Vermont Community Loan Fund, where Director of Business Lending Sam Buckley saw in Michael’s Toys a golden opportunity.

“To me, this epitomizes the kinds of loans we like to make,” says Buckley. “It meets our mission in a number of ways: It provides someone with employment, it makes the downtown more vibrant and contributes to its revitalization, and it provides Michael a home as well, on the second floor.”

The stability of owning his highly visible business location and his residence enables Divoll to invest his energies not only in making new toys, carvings and signs, but in honing his marketing strategy, which he does with enthusiasm. Specifically, he strives to capitalize on Rutland’s proximity to Killington and other southern Vermont ski areas.

“The ski experience has changed,” Divoll says. “It’s vacation more than recreation. It attracts family contingents, but not all of them ski; the elders and adults go shopping.”

When they enter his store, he says, the toys they see ring familiar. They’re not the plastic “interactive” toys that dominate today’s commercial market, but wooden animals, vehicles and riding toys like the ones they played with in their youth. Nostalgia, craftsmanship and the uniquely Vermont character of his toys (rocking cows) are his stock in trade.

Interestingly, Michael Divoll sees the future in these reminders of the past.

“My industry ”“ the industry of people making objects with their hands from natural materials ”“ has been in the closets, basements and garages for 40 years,” he says. “Now is the time for it to bud, like a flowering rose.”

SUZY'S LITTLE PEANUTS PRESCHOOL

SUZY'S LITTLE PEANUTS PRESCHOOL

Do More, Do Better, Serve More

Springfield

“Hope went through everything with me, helping me figure out funding, budgeting, the remodeling process, getting licensed, all of it.”

To chat with Susan Coutermarsh on the phone is to get just a glimpse of her active, high-energy days. Children laugh excitedly in the background and she rushes to the phone, catching her breath as she answers. The founder and director of Suzy’s Little Peanuts Preschool in Springfield, Coutermarsh is not one to slow down.

Since 1999, when she opened her first home daycare, she quickly realized that to make the business stand on its own, she’d need to expand into a licensed center with increased capacity. She met with the Loan Fund’s Director of Child Care Programs Hope Campbell. “Hope went through everything with me, helping me figure out funding, budgeting, the remodeling process, getting licensed, all of it,” Coutermarsh recalls.

That first VCLF loan bolstered Suzy’s Little Peanuts in many ways. “I’ve always been committed to serving our community,” she says. Early on, the center enrolled in the state's STARS quality recognition program. “Hope helped me out with that, too,” she recalls, “and we got up to a four-STAR rating! “As soon as we expanded, we had a big waiting list of families wanting to bring their kids here,” she adds.

Fortunately, Coutermarsh is not the kind to back off a challenge, especially where the needs of kids and community are concerned. After twelve years in her original space, after much planning, she was ready to take it to the next level. She called VCLF, and spoke again with Hope.

“We weren’t in the best location in order to serve the full Springfield area community. We wanted more access and we wanted to do more collaborative partnerships with other school districts’ publicly-funded programs,” Coutermarsh says.In 2011, a second loan from VCLF was made to purchase a building in a more accessible location, with additional space to serve more kids and more families. The new center is licensed to serve up to 45 kids. They have a garden where fresh foods are grown and picked and then brought to the kitchen where all meals are cooked. “We have an infant room, a separate toddler room, two preschool rooms and 12 staff,” Coutermarsh says proudly. “And now we have five stars.”

And it doesn’t end there, because Coutermarsh is already thinking ahead to how she can do more, do better, serve more families. The list goes on, and the children beckon, and Coutermarsh is off and running, again.

CATAMOUNT ARTS

CATAMOUNT ARTS

Keeping the Community in Art

St. Johnsbury

“Everybody’s willing to do something. That’s how we’re going to do this”

A community’s character, its history, and identity often reside in its older buildings. If they are left to deteriorate and become eyesores, they reflect negatively on the community’s character and sense of itself. But if they can be restored and renewed, even for a wholly different purpose, they help to revitalize a town. Often, that’s one of the great benefits of a facilities loan from VCLF: it strengthens a vital local organization, while also preserving an historic community landmark.

An excellent example of the dual impact of our program is VCLF’s loan to St. Johnsbury’s Catamount Arts. Added to generous contributions from local financial and community institutions and an outpouring of citizen commitment, the loan will ensure that St. Johnsbury’s grand Masonic Temple will remain intact and alive for generations to come.

“The Masonic Temple was one of the central buildings in St. Johnsbury,” remembers longtime resident and Catamount Arts Artistic Director Jerry Aldredge. “They held proms, weddings, funerals there”¦ all kinds of community events.”

Sadly, though, as membership in the Masonic Association began to decline, so did the remarkable building. “The Masons were no longer able to keep up the building, and began looking for another organization that could use it. We were right next door and bursting at the seams,” says Aldredge.

Catamount Arts was started in 1978 by Reg Ainsworth and Jay Craven as a rotating film series. Since launching its first performing arts showcase in 1980, Catamount Arts has presented over 1,000 world-class performing arts events. It is estimated that more than 30,000 people annually are reached by the organization’s films, concerts and educational events.

“Catamount is the only full-service arts organization in the state,” says Aldredge. “It’s the only one that does everything: films, concerts and live performances of all shapes and sizes, programs in and after school and in the community. “It takes all of that to stay in business.”

In 1985, the organization moved to the old post office building.

“Our problem was that we didn’t own the building,” Aldredge explains. “There were a lot of things we couldn’t do. To apply for a lot of arts grants, we needed to own the property we occupied.

“In the fall of 2005, the St. Johnsbury Masons offered us the building free of charge, with the stipulation that they would have lease-in-perpetuity of the third floor. We jumped at the chance and had public forums to see what people wanted to space to look like.” While the building was in excellent structural condition, there would be significant expense to rehabilitate the building and make the space useful for Catamount.

“We approached Jerry Rowe, the president of Passumpsic Savings Bank, and told him we needed at least $1 million. He didn’t yell and scream,” laughs Aldredge. “He had faith in us.”

Recognizing Catamount as an invaluable part of the community, Rowe organized a meeting of banks serving the community, with the goal of each taking on $200,000 of the debt.

“Four local banks agreed to come in,” says Aldredge, “but we needed five. Jerry Rowe called Paul Hill (VCLF Director of Housing & Community Facilities Programs) to see if the Community Loan Fund could help.”

“The rehabilitation of the old Masonic Lodge is a win-win for the St. Johnsbury community,” remarks Hill. “It’s preserving a historic gem of a building while expanding the capacity of Catamount Arts and its venue for accessible, affordable arts in the Northeast Kingdom. VCLF is proud to be one the five local lenders supporting this project.”

“We tried to be as cost- and community-conscious as we could be,” Aldredge says of the Masonic Temple's renovation. “The St. Johnsbury Academy Building Trades Program agreed to be in charge of construction, and they’ did an outstanding job. Because of this, we were only charged for materials.”

Upon moving to the Masonic Temple, the organization’s offerings were greatly expanded: two movie theaters presenting foreign-language and independent films, two classrooms for art and music education, a 125-seat performance space, a video library, an art gallery, and even a small museum of contemporary Northeast Kingdom memorabilia.

Catamount’s programs not only enrich the area’s cultural life, they also offer unique services for people seeking education and instruction in the arts. “Almost every day we get a call from someone who needs cultural lessons ”“ dance, piano, theater” explains Aldredge. “The public school’s music programs were cut recently, and there’s a real need.”

At the heart of the effort is tremendous community support. Fundraising programs have been met with unprecedented enthusiasm and involvement. “Some people give $5," Aldredge says. “Everybody’s willing to do something. That’s how we’re going to do this."

“St. Johnsbury is at a critical time,” he adds. “It’s making economic progress and can be reinvigorated through the creative economy.”

Catamount Arts at the Masonic Temple will truly be a showcase of community arts ”“ created for and supported by a dedicated public in one of the crown jewels of St. Johnsbury’s historical district. The Temple, which is listed in the federal historic register, will be revitalized and play an important new role in the life of this Northeast Kingdom community.

"If VCLF hadn't stepped in to help us out, we'd be talking about closing instead of where we want to be in three years." ”“ Caprice Hover, Rutland County Parent/Child Center

Borrowers

MAMAVA

MAMAVA

Mothers of Invention

Burlington

“We’re growing so rapidly...if not for the Loan Fund, I'd had to have taken out another mortgage on my house. ”

“We hear a lot about eating local. At Vermont Wood Pellet, we want to heat local,” says Chris Brooks, co-owner (along with Katie Adams) of North Clarendon’s Vermont Wood Pellet Company.

A fifth generation lumberman, Brooks came to Vermont following timbering stints in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Georgia. Right from the beginning, they wanted to do things more sustainably, sourcing their wood from within a 30-mile radius. Their niche also included “being the best” according to Brooks: they came up with a pellet composition that was more energy- and cost-efficient, burning longer, warmer and with less waste.

In VCLF, they found a lender with a similar ethos. “We work on a community scale,” Brooks says, “and so does the Loan Fund. Their decisions are made for the benefit of the community. Ours too.”

Now in its third year, Vermont Wood Pellet has grown steadily, now employing 24 workers in its mill, “and for every one of them, there are four in the woods,” he says. Most tellingly, they’ve also completely sold out of last year’s pellets and are hard at work on getting ready for next winter.

“VCLF played a critical role in our success,” says Brooks. “VCLF sees value, where other lenders might not.”

VERMONT WOOD PELLET COMPANY

VERMONT WOOD PELLET COMPANY

Heat Local!

North Clarendon

“We work on a community scale, and so does the Loan Fund. Their decisions are made for the benefit of the community. Ours too.”

“We hear a lot about eating local. At Vermont Wood Pellet, we want to heat local,” says Chris Brooks, co-owner (along with Katie Adams) of North Clarendon’s Vermont Wood Pellet Company.

A fifth generation lumberman, Brooks came to Vermont following timbering stints in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Georgia. Right from the beginning, they wanted to do things more sustainably, sourcing their wood from within a 30-mile radius. Their niche also included “being the best” according to Brooks: they came up with a pellet composition that was more energy- and cost-efficient, burning longer, warmer and with less waste.

In VCLF, they found a lender with a similar ethos. “We work on a community scale,” Brooks says, “and so does the Loan Fund. Their decisions are made for the benefit of the community. Ours too.”

Now in its third year, Vermont Wood Pellet has grown steadily, now employing 24 workers in its mill, “and for every one of them, there are four in the woods,” he says. Most tellingly, they’ve also completely sold out of last year’s pellets and are hard at work on getting ready for next winter.

“VCLF played a critical role in our success,” says Brooks. “VCLF sees value, where other lenders might not.”

VERMONT BEAN CRAFTERS

VERMONT BEAN CRAFTERS

Crafting a Better Business

Waitsfield & Warren

“The Loan Fund isn't just looking for ways to make a buck off business people. They're looking for what what's good for Vermont.”

Joe Bossen has a lot on his plate. He’s the founder, owner, chef, delivery man, marketing guy and more at Vermont Bean Crafters. “I wear a lot of hats,” he says, laughing.

Begun in 2011 and based in Waitsfield’s Mad River Food Hub, Vermont Bean Crafters makes bean burgers, bean balls, soups and even cookies. These bean-based products are distributed at grocers, coops, restaurants, hospitals and schools. Beans are sourced locally, as are additional ingredients such as sweet potatoes, onions, carrots and grains.

After graduating from Green Mountain College, Bossen worked at various jobs including a stint in at Boardman Hill Farm, where Vermont farmer Greg Cox mentored him in sustainable agriculture. “Our food system uses so much of our energy,” Bossen says. “Even local agriculture can require huge amounts of energy to grow. Beans are different.” Beans, he explains, are nutrient-dense, shelf-stable, and require less heat and water to grow than other crops.

Bossen was referred to VCLF by the Carrot Project, which helps smaller food producers find financing and technical assistance services.

“The Loan Fund isn’t just looking for ways to make a buck off business people. They’re looking for what’s good for Vermont,” he says.

COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS OF BURLINGTON

COMMUNITY HEALTH CENTERS OF BURLINGTON

Every Step of the Way

Burlington

“VCLF was committed to our mission. That was what mattered to them, and that made all the difference.”

At the Community Health Centers of Burlington (CHCB), Executive Director Jack Donnelly and Community Relations Director Alison Calderara are happily seated amidst a sea of half-unpacked boxes ”” thirty-six thousand square feet of half-unpacked boxes, to be exact.

CHCB has just relocated to its brand new home at 617 Riverside Drive, in Burlington. After three years of planning, fundraising, and construction, the new center is ready to serve a patient base that has soared to 14,000 ”” or 550 patient visits per day.

From its humble beginnings in a tiny storefront in Burlington’s Old North End four decades ago, CHCB’s progress is arguably one of the most impressive community health care success stories in the country.

The People’s Free Clinic, located on North Street, was founded in 1971 with a mission to serve patients regardless of their ability to pay. As groundbreaking as that concept was, perhaps even more remarkable was the fact that the original clinic was staffed entirely by volunteers. By the end of their second year, the clinic had become so busy that 50 patients per week were being seen and treated. As the patient base grew and grew, the clinic changed its name to the Community Health Centers of Burlington to reflect its expanded vision and mission to the larger community.

But a larger community required a larger space. Enter the Vermont Community Loan Fund, which believed in the Center's mission and in the vital importance of its health care services.

“The clinic had grown so quickly, it was bursting at its seams,” recalls Brian Pine, Housing Director for the City of Burlington. “They needed support, and the Loan Fund got involved to help with the expansion."

Calderara recalls the details of the loan. “The facility needed room for administrative space upstairs in the building,” she remembers. “VCLF was committed to our mission. That was what mattered to them, and that made all the difference.”

That expansion was only the first of many. In 1989, CHCB was awarded a federal Health Care for the Homeless grant. In 1993, CHCB was designated as Vermont’s second Federally Qualified Health Center, which ushered in a significant expansion of services including social work, a prescription assistance program, an obstetrical and prenatal program, the region’s first paid professional staff interpreter, and a new sliding-scale payment plan. By 2001, another expansion was in the offing, resulting in the construction of CHCB’s 10,000 square foot main facility on Riverside Avenue. Next followed the CHCB Pearl Street Clinic, offering primary and preventive health care, dental care, mental health and substance abuse counseling to homeless persons and at-risk youth, and Housing First, which provides housing for homeless patients with chronicmedical conditions. Next, a dental center was added to the Riverside location, and in 2002, behavioral treatment services were added.

The staff of 135 now provides an estimated 55,000 patient visits per year. Patients include refugees, for whom there is a special translation service that can translate from 22 languages. Medicaid patients, the uninsured, the underinsured, the low-income and homeless make up a significant portion of the patient base.

CHCB's Executive Director Jack Donnelly sums it up: “Once we had so little space. Now, we have the Safe Harbor Center which does dental and medical. We have the Pearl Street Youth Center for those aged 26 years and under. We do outreach to family shelters, onsite, and we have nurses going to homeless camps, and outreach at the Howard Center. With this new facility, it's a whole new phase.”

(2011)

CHAMPLAIN HOUSING TRUST

CHAMPLAIN HOUSING TRUST

It Takes A Village

Chittenden, Franklin & Grand Isle Counties

“This was a more complicated project than usual, but VCLF always flexes to help us come up with a workable solution.”

As the saying goes when raising children: “It takes a village”¦,” The same can be said of working to create affordable housing in Vermont. The Loan Fund has many partner organizations with whom we work; the Champlain Housing Trust in Burlington is one of our oldest and strongest partners.

CHT was born in 2006 as the result of a merger between the Burlington Community Land Trust and the Lake Champlain Housing Development Corporation which were both established in 1984. CHT, a membership-based, nonprofit organization committed to creating and preserving perpetually affordable housing and vital communities in northwest Vermont.

Most folks think that “affordable housing” only consists of creating multi-family residential developments or apartment buildings, but in Vermont, with our small towns and villages, it often also takes the form of rehabilitating older single-family homes for sale at an affordable price and in perpetuity. The Champlain Housing Trust is one of many regional housing organizations that specialize in putting families in safe and affordable homes.

Vermonters' need for affordable housing eclipses production annually, creating a persistent shortage of affordable homes. Median home cost in 2011 rose 3% from 2010 with a staggering 64% increase since 2000. To purchase that median-priced home (30-year mortgage with down payment and closing costs), a Vermont household would need an annual income of more than $58,000; 81% of the state's occupations have a median wage below that figure. Furthermore, a persistently high proportion of Vermonters devote too much of their income to housing costs, including heating: 63% of renters and 38% of owners with mortgages pay more than the recommended 30% of their income for housing costs, ranking Vermont the 17th worst state nationally. We also have the 4th-tightest rental housing market in the US. 33,000 renting households are cost burdened, or paying more than 30% of their income for housing costs. This is 48% of all renting Vermonters, ranking the state 7th worst in the nation.

In 2008, VCLF made a loan to CHT to purchase a couple of older single-family residences in Chittenden County. One, near Battery Park in downtown Burlington, has been recently renovated from its original status as a duplex into a roomier, energy efficient single-family home. The 100-year-old home had been through many additions and was not maintained well by its previous owners.

CHT did something they don’t often do with such a property: they bought it outright, made the appropriate renovations and hope to sell it this spring or summer. “Normally we find a buyer first,” explains Rob Leuchs, CHT’s Shared Equity Programs Manager, “but this time we took the risk and bought the property first, thanks to the Loan Fund.” CHT needed capital to make the necessary repairs while keeping the property affordable when it came time to put it on the market.

“The easiest part was working with the VCLF because they are very flexible,” Leuchs says. “This was a more complicated project than usual, but VCLF always flexes to help us come up with a workable solution.”

Typically, CHT will take the time to find an eligible family for a home or affordable housing community that already exists. “VCLF also helps us buy time so we can find eligible families,” says Community Relations Director Chris Donnelly. “We have literally found hundreds of low- to moderate-income Vermonters directly because of the help we receive from VCLF.”

This partnership impacts families and communities in all corners of our state. “VCLF’s thorough understanding of our work, commitment to our mission and appreciation of our track record makes them a valued partner to us,” says CHT Executive Director Brenda Torpy. “And because of that, people have places to live that are safe, secure and affordable.

MUD CITY KIDS CHILD CARE CENTER

MUD CITY KIDS CHILD CARE CENTER

Committed to Care

Morrisville

“Providing quality care for Vermont’s kids is among the most important work to be done in ourstate. Thanks to the Loan Fund, I’m able to do just that.”

Tracy Patnoe knows about the need for quality childcare. “There are children on the waiting list that haven’t even been born yet! Almost every day I get calls from parents.”

“After my second child, I visited daycares, but I couldn’t find any I really liked.” So Tracystarted Mud City Kids Child Care in 1999. The plan was to run the child care program out of her family home until her own child was ready for school. “But by then, I had taken a lot of classes, and had a bunch of credits towards a degree. And I liked it!”

After a couple years, recognizing the need in the community, Tracy and her husband Ernie decided to move the program into a larger space. The challenge was financing the expansion. “Our bank was hesitant. Early care and education is not a big moneymaker. We looked around, but I don’t think I would have found a bank to make the loan.”

The Patnoes received a loan from VCLF for the purchase and renovation of a single-family home”¦and what a renovation it was! “It was affordable because we did nearly all the work ourselves,” says Tracy. “I bet I’ve spent at least 600 hours on this place.” laughs Ernie. “We were here Christmas Eve, New Year’s Eve that year too!”

Their commitment shows. Today, Mud City Kids Child Care Center provides high-quality early care and education to 60 children from infants to age 6. The expansion also created 16 full-time jobs. “The kids really benefit from the bigger space.” says Tracy. “The (age) groups have their own separate spaces. The parents have been very happy.”

“With financing from VCLF, I’ve been able to expand my program, increase the number of kids and families I serve. I’ve been able to make quality improvements, increase my STARS rating and pay a higher wage. They’ve helped me to run a business that is sustainable.”

“I believe that providing quality care for Vermont’s kids is among the most important work to be done in our state. Thanks to the Loan Fund, I’m able to do just that.”

Outdoor Gear Exchange

Outdoor Gear Exchange

Geared Up!

Burlington

“VCLF looked forward. They saw what we could become.”

In 1993, Outdoor Gear Exchange was a small start-up business with a big idea - owner March Sherman would sell high-quality new, used and discounted technical outdoor equipment, accessories and clothing, reaching out to the sizeable and growing number of outdoor sports enthusiasts in the Burlington area and beyond. Customers could even trade or consign their used gear.

The big idea grew. Customers responded, sales jumped, and OGE decided to focus on the demand for new rather than used merchandise. Increased sales led to increased inventory; within its first five years, OGE had expanded its retail square footage by 500%. With the level of growth now clearly indicating a need for additional working capital, Sherman set out to find financing.

“I met Will (Belongia, VCLF executive director) at a Vermont Businesses for Social Responsibility training session on small business funding,” Sherman recalls. While traditional banks were wary of the relatively new business, Sherman remembers Belongia’s strong interest in OGE.

“VCLF sees value in socially and environmentally responsible businesses,” Sherman says. “Will focused on our strengths more than our challenges.”

Indeed, as a socially responsible employer, OGE offers an employee-funded retirement plan, medical and dental benefits, career training, profit-sharing and more. OGE jobs offer a livable wage and other pluses that linked directly to the Loan Fund’s quality job creation and transforming Vermonters’ lives.

“Marc’s commitment to his employees, to creating quality jobs has been a huge success,” Belongia says.

The first loan from VCLF helped with inventory at a critical juncture. By 2005, both sales and staff had jumped again.

Over the next six years, additional loans would follow, each helping expand OGE, step by step, ultimately bringing the retailer to larger and larger retail spaces and opportunities.

“At the beginning, we had two and a half employees; now we have 90. And since 2003, sales have increased between 500% and 600%” Sherman notes. Those numbers, he says, correlate exactly with the infusions of support from the Loan Fund. “The number of jobs we have created absolutely links to the support from VCLF,” he adds.

Today, the new Church Street location attracts hundreds of shoppers per week. Employee retention, perhaps the best indicator of a valued employer, is remarkable. The average length of employment for staffers is 6 years ”“ nearly unheard of in the retail world.

“Traditional banks looked backward,” Sherman says, recalling his first attempts to find financing. “They looked at the challenges we had faced. But VCLF looked forward. They saw what we could become.”

LATCHIS ARTS

LATCHIS ARTS

FOR ART’S SAKE

Brattleboro

“VCLF was our knight in shining armor. The Loan Fund made the purchase of our building possible.”

An elaborate palace, replete with columns, constellations, and images of gods and goddesses, Brattleboro’s beloved Latchis Theater opened in 1938, an art deco movie palace with hotel, eateries, retail establishments and more. The Latchis family owned and operated the business for over six decades. In 2003, the Brattleboro Arts Initiative (now Latchis Arts) was looking for a home, and was steered by Paul Bruhn of the Preservation Trust of Vermont, to meet with the Latchises, who were ready to sell. When discussions turned to financing, Bruhn suggested the Vermont Community Loan Fund.

Latchis Arts’ former Managing Director Gail Nunziata recalls the excitement of finding the landmark future home - and the Loan Fund. “VCLF was our knight in shining armor,” recalls Nunziata. “The Loan Fund made the purchase of our building possible. It was an amazing collaborative effort.”
In 2011, Tropical Storm Irene caused $650,000 worth of flood damage. The screen went dark and the hotel was shuttered temporarily, but Latchis made it through, reopening in just two months after an intensive clean-up and restoration. For 2013, their 75th anniversary year, a capital campaign is underway to replace aging seats and restore the beautiful zodiac-themed ceiling in the main hall.

Latchis now employs 20 full or part-time staff, and leases 14 separate spaces in the main building and annex, providing storefronts and homes for a jeweler, boutique, a hair salon, an attorney, and a handful of artists who rent studio space.

Nunziata also notes the vital part that the Latchis plays in supporting the local economy, arts and otherwise. “At Latchis, we host a number of local cultural and arts festivals and events for other local organizations. Whenever possible, we purchase local goods and services. And we bring in all those tourists who eat shop and celebrate the arts in Brattleboro. Thanks to VCLF, Latchis is a wonderful community resource.”

HUDAK FARM

HUDAK FARM

Farm Team

St. Albans

“Making a farm financially viable is so challenging. But that's where VCLF comes in.”

“Making a farm financially viable so challenging. What our population spends on food doesn’t relate to the cost of producing it,” says Marie Frey of Hudak Farm. “But that’s where VCLF comes in,” she adds.

When Marie and her husband Richard Hudak met up with VCLF, they were happily surprised to discover the various skills, tools and methods that could help them with those aspects of the farming business that they could control.

Hudak Farm was a dairy operation when Richard and Marie took over from his parents in the 1970’s. The new couple switched to farming vegetables and fruits. Years later, wanting to keep diversifying their operations, they came upon two answers: compost, and the Vermont Community Loan Fund.

“VCLF helped us put together a plan for our compost production,” Frey says.“It’s critical to have lenders like VCLF in support of Vermont farms, whether they’re diversifying like we were, or brand new. That’s what the Loan Fund does so well,” she adds.

THE GRAY BUILDING

THE GRAY BUILDING

Shelter From the Storm

Northfield

“The Vermont Community Loan Fund helped us to restore a beloved community building and return it to service for the people of Northfield.”

The Gray Building in Northfield has had many ‘lives,’ serving many purposes and people over the course of its 130-year-plus history. Today, that legacy continues on as the Gray Building assists community members hurt by 2011’s Hurricane Irene. It’s a special story for Northfield, a town that has come together to support each other in the face of a devastating crisis. It’s also a special story for VCLF too, an opportunity for our borrowers and investors to, quite literally, work together to make their community stronger.

The Many Lives of the Gray Building

Constructed in 1877 as a multiple classroom schoolhouse, the Gray Building operated continuously as the Northfield Graded and High School building until 1994. But after closing its doors as a public school, the building fell into disrepair. That is - until a team of dedicated volunteers and donors came together to restore the landmark as a community center and home for local businesses and organizations. The nonprofit Gray Building Coalition was founded and purchased the building in 2003.

Not surprisingly, a nearly 130-year-old building that had been vacant for the better part of a decade, and was being re-imagined with a completely new purpose in mind, needed some help to begin this new life. Planning for preservation, remediation and renovation would involve developers, engineers, architects and contractors, so a capital campaign to support the Gray Building’s rebirth was launched.

That’s when VCLF got involved. Our first loan to the Gray Building Coalition helped them fund early planning and construction costs, meaning that the project could move forward well before the campaign reached its fundraising goal. With restoration completed in 2004, the historic structure was made handicapped accessible along with a host of other retrofits, structural repairs and more.

Since the building’s restoration, long-term tenants have included the Northfield Boys & Girls Club and the Women’s Health & Fitness Center ”“ both still tenants. Additionally, the local HeadStart child development and family services program used the space, as did an alternative middle school and a youth dance studio among others.

“We’re a long-term rental space, but it has always been our goal to serve the local community whenever we can,” said Annie Gould, Treasurer and board member of the Gray Building Coalition.

It’s that philosophy that has continued to create another new life for the Gray Building in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene.

Irene and Beyond

When Irene pounded much of downtown Northfield in August and various businesses and community organizations were suddenly left homeless in the aftermath, the Gray Building Coalition again extended themselves to local community businesses and organizations, large and small.

When corporate furniture manufacturer (and past VCLF investor) WallGoldfinger needed temporary space for its 20-plus office staff, the Gray Building was there for them. Moving right into available space, WallGoldfinger was fully operational again within 48 hours after the storm. Amazingly, they didn’t miss a single production or delivery deadline, and, thanks in part to the Gray Building, continue to manufacture the highest-quality product.

Because of Irene, Northfield-based quilters group Vermont Quiltsearch was displaced from the space they were to use for their important annual quilt appraisals. Gould and her team made room for them at the Gray Building.

“The Gray Building was restored so it could be a community space,” says Gould, which is precisely how it has functioned in the wake of Irene. “The Gray Building has turned into a great place for the community to come together,” she adds. “But none of this could have happened without VCLF. VCLF helped us to restore a beloved community building and return it to service for the people of Northfield.”

RUTLAND COUNTY PARENT CHILD CENTER

RUTLAND COUNTY PARENT CHILD CENTER

Family Matters

Rutland

“If VCLF hadn't stepped in to help us out, we'd be talking about closing instead of where we want to be in three years”

As Executive Director of the Rutland County Parent Child Center (RCPCC), Caprice Hover is focused on improving quality of life for families in her region of the state. She also chairs the Vermont State Housing Authority Board of Commissioners and is Vice-Chair at the Agency of Human Services’ Children and Family Council for Prevention Programs.

“I always wanted to work with kids, to be involved in work that had long-term and true impact,” says Hover. To that end, she now oversees 15 RCPCC educational and support programs, services and workshops including child care services, mentoring, budgeting, health and nutrition classes, parenting classes, high school equivalency, career readiness and more. RCPCC’s 42 employees serve over 3,000 Rutland County residents, sixty percent of whom meet the federal low-income standards.

Among the RCPCC success stories Hover likes to tell is that of the “Learning Together” Program that focuses on pregnant and parenting mothers up to age 21, who are working toward their GED. “The curriculum includes life skills, parenting, health, job readiness, and emotional wellness along with state-required high school courses,” Hover describes. Classes run year-round, with housing and child care available to students. Currently, 20 young women and teens are enrolled.

MICHAEL'S TOYS

MICHAEL'S TOYS

A Little Showmanship, A LOT of Craftsmanship

Rutland

“I'm just an old-fashioned toymaker preparing for the future of my craft”

Downtown Rutland hasn’t looked the same since Michael’s Toys set up shop on Merchant’s Row, the city’s staid, traditional business district. What’s the difference? Proprietor Michael Divoll calls it his P.T. Barnum act.

“I’ve got [wooden] animals hanging on my building, rocking horses and cows on the sidewalk. It creates an ambience that draws customers into the shop. I’ve got to do more than just hanging up a sign because that doesn’t provide people a frame of reference. So I engage in a little P.T. Barnum, but without the phony glitz and glamour.”

The sidewalk experience is just the beginning. Michael’s Toys elicits spontaneous comparisons to Santa’s North Pole workshop, and Divoll himself, with his pipe, apron and graying beard, surrounded by the materials and tools of his trade, makes a convincing elf. Except that he does this year round, and he adds other elements to his work: Divoll is a gifted carver who produces artistic Vermont tableaux in relief, as well as custom wooden signs for homes and businesses. These also are on display in his shop.

“When people walk in and see the horses and cows and deer and moose and planes and trains the way I build them, it’s like stepping back in time. My workshop is in back of the showroom, which is key. If people say ‘Did you build this?’ and you can say ‘Yes,’ it’s a way of connecting to the customer; you’re doing something for them personally, other than just taking their money.”

A little showmanship, a studied approach to identifying and marketing to his customer demographic, and the exposure that comes with his new digs on Merchant’s Row have provided immediate results for Divoll. Since taking occupancy of the two-story building last May, with the support of a business loan by the Vermont Community Loan Fund, he could already report in November that 2005 would be by far his best year since he went into toy making in 1985.

That comparison is mitigated by the fact that Michael’s Toys had been pretty much of a shoestring operation for a number of reasons, location certainly among them.

Most recently the former canoe maker had worked out of a second-story apartment on nearby Center Street. In 2004 the Rutland Community Land Trust purchased and renovated that property to create affordable housing, with retail space on the first floor. Obligated to relocate the displaced tenants, the Land Trust and Divoll together identified the vacant building just around the corner on Merchant’s Row, which had once housed a Chinese restaurant. The Land Trust put up money for renovations, and in return the owner gave Divoll a 15-month option to purchase the building at a favorable cost.

However, Divoll needed a loan for the purchase, and as a 61-year-old self-employed craftsman with a limited credit history he was not the ideal candidate for traditional lenders. The Land Trust referred him to the Vermont Community Loan Fund, where Director of Business Lending Sam Buckley saw in Michael’s Toys a golden opportunity.

“To me, this epitomizes the kinds of loans we like to make,” says Buckley. “It meets our mission in a number of ways: It provides someone with employment, it makes the downtown more vibrant and contributes to its revitalization, and it provides Michael a home as well, on the second floor.”

The stability of owning his highly visible business location and his residence enables Divoll to invest his energies not only in making new toys, carvings and signs, but in honing his marketing strategy, which he does with enthusiasm. Specifically, he strives to capitalize on Rutland’s proximity to Killington and other southern Vermont ski areas.

“The ski experience has changed,” Divoll says. “It’s vacation more than recreation. It attracts family contingents, but not all of them ski; the elders and adults go shopping.”

When they enter his store, he says, the toys they see ring familiar. They’re not the plastic “interactive” toys that dominate today’s commercial market, but wooden animals, vehicles and riding toys like the ones they played with in their youth. Nostalgia, craftsmanship and the uniquely Vermont character of his toys (rocking cows) are his stock in trade.

Interestingly, Michael Divoll sees the future in these reminders of the past.

“My industry ”“ the industry of people making objects with their hands from natural materials ”“ has been in the closets, basements and garages for 40 years,” he says. “Now is the time for it to bud, like a flowering rose.”

SUZY'S LITTLE PEANUTS PRESCHOOL

SUZY'S LITTLE PEANUTS PRESCHOOL

Do More, Do Better, Serve More

Springfield

“Hope went through everything with me, helping me figure out funding, budgeting, the remodeling process, getting licensed, all of it.”

To chat with Susan Coutermarsh on the phone is to get just a glimpse of her active, high-energy days. Children laugh excitedly in the background and she rushes to the phone, catching her breath as she answers. The founder and director of Suzy’s Little Peanuts Preschool in Springfield, Coutermarsh is not one to slow down.

Since 1999, when she opened her first home daycare, she quickly realized that to make the business stand on its own, she’d need to expand into a licensed center with increased capacity. She met with the Loan Fund’s Director of Child Care Programs Hope Campbell. “Hope went through everything with me, helping me figure out funding, budgeting, the remodeling process, getting licensed, all of it,” Coutermarsh recalls.

That first VCLF loan bolstered Suzy’s Little Peanuts in many ways. “I’ve always been committed to serving our community,” she says. Early on, the center enrolled in the state's STARS quality recognition program. “Hope helped me out with that, too,” she recalls, “and we got up to a four-STAR rating! “As soon as we expanded, we had a big waiting list of families wanting to bring their kids here,” she adds.

Fortunately, Coutermarsh is not the kind to back off a challenge, especially where the needs of kids and community are concerned. After twelve years in her original space, after much planning, she was ready to take it to the next level. She called VCLF, and spoke again with Hope.

“We weren’t in the best location in order to serve the full Springfield area community. We wanted more access and we wanted to do more collaborative partnerships with other school districts’ publicly-funded programs,” Coutermarsh says.In 2011, a second loan from VCLF was made to purchase a building in a more accessible location, with additional space to serve more kids and more families. The new center is licensed to serve up to 45 kids. They have a garden where fresh foods are grown and picked and then brought to the kitchen where all meals are cooked. “We have an infant room, a separate toddler room, two preschool rooms and 12 staff,” Coutermarsh says proudly. “And now we have five stars.”

And it doesn’t end there, because Coutermarsh is already thinking ahead to how she can do more, do better, serve more families. The list goes on, and the children beckon, and Coutermarsh is off and running, again.

CATAMOUNT ARTS

CATAMOUNT ARTS

Keeping the Community in Art

St. Johnsbury

“Everybody’s willing to do something. That’s how we’re going to do this”

A community’s character, its history, and identity often reside in its older buildings. If they are left to deteriorate and become eyesores, they reflect negatively on the community’s character and sense of itself. But if they can be restored and renewed, even for a wholly different purpose, they help to revitalize a town. Often, that’s one of the great benefits of a facilities loan from VCLF: it strengthens a vital local organization, while also preserving an historic community landmark.

An excellent example of the dual impact of our program is VCLF’s loan to St. Johnsbury’s Catamount Arts. Added to generous contributions from local financial and community institutions and an outpouring of citizen commitment, the loan will ensure that St. Johnsbury’s grand Masonic Temple will remain intact and alive for generations to come.

“The Masonic Temple was one of the central buildings in St. Johnsbury,” remembers longtime resident and Catamount Arts Artistic Director Jerry Aldredge. “They held proms, weddings, funerals there”¦ all kinds of community events.”

Sadly, though, as membership in the Masonic Association began to decline, so did the remarkable building. “The Masons were no longer able to keep up the building, and began looking for another organization that could use it. We were right next door and bursting at the seams,” says Aldredge.

Catamount Arts was started in 1978 by Reg Ainsworth and Jay Craven as a rotating film series. Since launching its first performing arts showcase in 1980, Catamount Arts has presented over 1,000 world-class performing arts events. It is estimated that more than 30,000 people annually are reached by the organization’s films, concerts and educational events.

“Catamount is the only full-service arts organization in the state,” says Aldredge. “It’s the only one that does everything: films, concerts and live performances of all shapes and sizes, programs in and after school and in the community. “It takes all of that to stay in business.”

In 1985, the organization moved to the old post office building.

“Our problem was that we didn’t own the building,” Aldredge explains. “There were a lot of things we couldn’t do. To apply for a lot of arts grants, we needed to own the property we occupied.

“In the fall of 2005, the St. Johnsbury Masons offered us the building free of charge, with the stipulation that they would have lease-in-perpetuity of the third floor. We jumped at the chance and had public forums to see what people wanted to space to look like.” While the building was in excellent structural condition, there would be significant expense to rehabilitate the building and make the space useful for Catamount.

“We approached Jerry Rowe, the president of Passumpsic Savings Bank, and told him we needed at least $1 million. He didn’t yell and scream,” laughs Aldredge. “He had faith in us.”

Recognizing Catamount as an invaluable part of the community, Rowe organized a meeting of banks serving the community, with the goal of each taking on $200,000 of the debt.

“Four local banks agreed to come in,” says Aldredge, “but we needed five. Jerry Rowe called Paul Hill (VCLF Director of Housing & Community Facilities Programs) to see if the Community Loan Fund could help.”

“The rehabilitation of the old Masonic Lodge is a win-win for the St. Johnsbury community,” remarks Hill. “It’s preserving a historic gem of a building while expanding the capacity of Catamount Arts and its venue for accessible, affordable arts in the Northeast Kingdom. VCLF is proud to be one the five local lenders supporting this project.”

“We tried to be as cost- and community-conscious as we could be,” Aldredge says of the Masonic Temple's renovation. “The St. Johnsbury Academy Building Trades Program agreed to be in charge of construction, and they’ did an outstanding job. Because of this, we were only charged for materials.”

Upon moving to the Masonic Temple, the organization’s offerings were greatly expanded: two movie theaters presenting foreign-language and independent films, two classrooms for art and music education, a 125-seat performance space, a video library, an art gallery, and even a small museum of contemporary Northeast Kingdom memorabilia.

Catamount’s programs not only enrich the area’s cultural life, they also offer unique services for people seeking education and instruction in the arts. “Almost every day we get a call from someone who needs cultural lessons ”“ dance, piano, theater” explains Aldredge. “The public school’s music programs were cut recently, and there’s a real need.”

At the heart of the effort is tremendous community support. Fundraising programs have been met with unprecedented enthusiasm and involvement. “Some people give $5," Aldredge says. “Everybody’s willing to do something. That’s how we’re going to do this."

“St. Johnsbury is at a critical time,” he adds. “It’s making economic progress and can be reinvigorated through the creative economy.”

Catamount Arts at the Masonic Temple will truly be a showcase of community arts ”“ created for and supported by a dedicated public in one of the crown jewels of St. Johnsbury’s historical district. The Temple, which is listed in the federal historic register, will be revitalized and play an important new role in the life of this Northeast Kingdom community.

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MAMAVA

MAMAVA

Mothers of Invention

Burlington

““We’re growing so rapidly...if not for the Loan Fund, I'd had to have taken out another mortgage on my house.””

What, you might ask, are those pod-shaped kiosks adorned with adorable baby pics that keep popping up in airports, shopping malls and stadiums? You (particularly you new parents out there) will be interested to know they’re Mamava freestanding lactation suites. They’re making a case for nursing moms and babies on the go, and making a statement that can’t be ignored: nursing is a right, not a privilege. Mamava co-founders Sascha Mayer and Christine Dodson first met back in the 1990s, working at Burlington’s busy JDK design firm. “JDK was always a very supportive workplace, and our office was experiencing its own baby boom,” says Sascha. “So we knew a lot of nursing moms,” adds Christine. With healthcare professionals recommending breastfeeding for at least six months, a new generation of parents was becoming aware of its significant health benefits. Pumping breastmilk at the office became another new normal for working moms. Within a few years, their own children had arrived, and Sascha and Christine found themselves pumping breastmilk while working, en route to client meetings “at airports and in convention center bathrooms,” Sascha remembers. Not exactly the ideal, they admit, looking back on it now… Then came the day they read a piece in the New York Times about mothers who discovered breastfeeding to be impractical, if not impossible. “For (mothers) with autonomy in their jobs?—?generally, well-paid professionals?—?breastfeeding, and the pumping it requires, is a matter of choice…. But for lower-income mothers?, including many who work in restaurants, factories, call centers, and the military, ?pumping at work is close to impossible, causing many women to decline to breastfeed at all, and others to quit after a short time,” the article read. That got them thinking. Next, the Fair Labor Standards Act mandated that employers provide employees with break time as well as appropriate space for pumping, “other than a bathroom”. Sascha and Christine saw that nursing moms needed new options, and Mamava was ‘born’. They began their business plan and sought financing. “We learned about the Loan Fund through one of our business advisors,” recalls Sascha. She and Christine were particularly impressed with the Loan Fund’s quick response and flexibility. “We’re growing so rapidly, we’ve already tapped into a line of credit, paid it back, and now we need new resources,” Sascha explains. “If not for VCLF, I’d have taken out yet another mortgage on my house.” Sascha and Christine worked with JDK to design lactation suites that would provide a clean and private place free from noise and distractions for moms to pump or breastfeed. Suites include electrical outlets for breast pumps, seating for mom and another sibling, gentle lighting and a changing table. Advertising space is available on the interior and exterior; part of Mamava’s business plan to generate additional revenue. A free app enables moms to locate and gain access to Mamava suites at 250 sites across the country. Initially, Mamava encountered criticism from breastfeeding advocates who felt the suites effectively ‘hid’ breastfeeding from view, but such comments have abated of late. “It’s the pumping mothers themselves who have asserted their personal experiences,” says Sascha. Those moms have countered the criticisms with praise for the convenience, privacy and lack of distractions the lactation suites afford them while pumping and nursing. “After all, the complexities of modern living are all about choices,” Sascha adds. At this point, Mamava’s growth is in the double digits, and they’ve jumped from three to 16 full- and part-time employees in just two years. “Every year, 3,000,000 moms initiate breastfeeding,” Christine says. “We’re extending our mission with more education, with community, with useful content and curated commerce, so we can bring a lot more to moms.” Learn more at www.mamava.com