34 years. $113 million. 7,000 jobs. 4,400 safe, affordable homes. 4,500 children & families served by quality early care & learning. None of it would be possible without our investors.

Our Investors' Stories

Katie Michels

Katie Michels

Next-Generation Investor


“My generation really cares about investing in companies we believe in...We want to put our money behind what we value and care for.”

Katie Michels wants you to know that you don’t need a lot of money to have a lot of impact. “You can be a person of modest means and have an impact through investing in the Loan Fund,” she says, one of a number of reasons she’s kept investment dollars with VCLF since 2016. Katie came to Vermont from Montana to study geography and environmental science at Middlebury College. Feeling a strong connection to Vermont’s natural and working landscape, community values and more, she stayed on after her 2015 graduation and today makes her home in Montpelier. “So many Vermonters are very connected to the land,” she notes. “Whether they’re working it, recreating in it, or appreciating nature, people here really care about the land.” Her affinity for Vermont’s small scale, its family farms and agricultural roots, brought her to the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, where she works for their Vermont Farm & Forest Viability Program. When a former co-worker told her about VCLF, “that it was possible for me to invest my money in a way that aligned with my values,” she researched the Loan Fund, then signed on to invest. Katie, among the younger generation of impact investors committing to the Loan Fund, feels that investing in VCLF offers a unique and meaningful opportunity to Vermonters like her. “My generation really cares about investing in companies we believe in, and not investing in companies we don’t believe in. We want to put our money behind what we value and care for,” she says. She likes that VCLF’s low investment minimum of one thousand dollars makes it affordable to invest, and knowing that her money is “safe and well stewarded” while she saves. “I like VCLF’s mission and social values, and that it makes capital available at a low cost to people who need it,” she emphasizes. And she appreciates VCLF’s “due diligence” in selecting meaningful programs and projects to finance. “Farms, affordable housing, early care & learning centers and working lands businesses,” she says, thoughtfully. “Vermonters have a responsibility to invest in those public goods”.
White River Investment Club

White River Investment Club

The Ripple Effect

White River Junction

“VCLF gave us the best deal in terms of interest rates...And we trust the Loan Fund to use our money to do the things we want it to do, to serve the same social mission we serve. ”

“We were just a group of like-minded, small-time investors who wanted to pool our money for social good and modest returns,” says Jerry Ward, recounting the beginnings of White River Investment Club (WRIC), where he serves as president. Today, the social and financial impacts of that ‘pool’ are rippling out across Vermont, thanks to the club’s investment in VCLF. WRIC, and much of its member base, emerged from another local group – BALE (Building a Local Economy) which seeks to strengthen local economies sustainably and collaboratively. “The White River Investment Club translated BALE’s ideas into something with practical and meaningful impact on our local communities.” says Stephen Aldrich, WRIC’s founding president and current treasurer. Across their first five years, WRIC members have made loans to local farms and agricultural enterprises, a fiber optics company, and the manufacturers of Burlington-based (VCLF borrower!) Mamava’s lactation suites. If you’ve noticed that WRIC’s principles and investments synch closely with those of the Loan Fund, you’re not alone. WRIC members, noting this alignment, didn’t take long to come to the conclusion that WRIC money would be well invested with the Loan Fund, too. “VCLF’s mission is very impressively compatible to ours,” Jerry observes. When they started up, WRIC lacked the systems to manage flows of capital into and out of their shared pool. Investing their idle capital in a VCLF Cash Account, which allows for unlimited deposits and periodic withdrawals, met their needs as they started to grow. “VCLF gave us the best deal in terms of interest rates, compared to anyone else we looked at. And we trust the Loan Fund to use our money to do the things we want it to do, to serve the same social mission we serve,” Stephen says. With WRIC’s investment in VCLF, members are seeing their impact investment dollars have an even greater impact, funding enterprises and spurring economic development throughout the state. “It’s a win-win,” says Jerry. “Both the Loan Fund and WRIC benefit from our partnership.” He also admires VCLF’s flexibility, openness to investor feedback and highly-efficient operations, which he describes as “social good without the bureaucracy and overhead.” Looking ahead, Stephen says he’d like to see more small investment clubs start up, throughout Vermont. “And,” he adds, “I’d advise them to park their money at VCLF.”
Laini Fondiller

Laini Fondiller

Lazy Lady's Dollars Work Hard for Vermont


“It's a safe place to put your retirement funds, and a good investment for anyone who loves Vermont. ”

In the late 1970’s, Laini Fondiller left her native Indiana to explore Europe. France, in particular, captivated her: its farms, culinary traditions and especially its cheese. There, she learned the art of making chevre, the tangy goat milk cheese. Fueled by her passion, and now in possession of the skills she’d need to create this specialty, she pondered how, if and where she might make a career of it… Back stateside, a visit to Vermont sparked an idea. Laini observed Vermont’s vibrant working landscape in action. “There were three to four thousand dairy farms in Vermont back then,” she says wistfully. Sheer determination and hard work landed Laini and her partner Barry Shaw at a picturesque Northeast Kingdom farm, christened Lazy Lady Farm, along with 40 goats and an assemblage of equipment. Her soon-to-be-celebrated chevre made it to market. But many challenges were still to come. Even working round-the-clock, seven days a week, Laini couldn’t deliver enough Lazy Lady Farm Cheese to sustain her business. She needed a pasteurizer and a cheese ‘house’ for aging and processing. But first, she needed capital. Which, in a roundabout way, is how Laini came to be a passionate endorser for investing in the Loan Fund. When Lazy Lady Farm received that critical loan from the Vermont Community Loan Fund way back in 2003, “that made all the difference.” Traditional banks wouldn’t lend to her, “but the Loan Fund did,” she explains. The loan brought about the expansion necessary to keep her business alive. “Lots of people are in that same situation; due to their credit history, or their business being a start-up, they just can’t get a loan from a bank.” Laini feels certain that Lazy Lady Farm wouldn’t exist today if not for the Loan Fund. She believes that the Loan Fund’s lending to working lands enterprises and agriculture is one of the very best ways to preserve the Vermont that sparked her passion way back when, the Vermont that so many of us cherish. To Laini, investing with VCLF is the way to preserve its lending programs for farmers and foodies. “In Vermont, we’re losing our farms and farmers. The Loan Fund’s financing is providing a way to hold onto the state’s rural nature, agriculture, and heritage,” she says. “It’s a safe place to put your retirement funds, and a good investment for anyone who loves Vermont, and loves Vermont agriculture and farms.”
Gloria Rapalee

Gloria Rapalee

The Cycle That Strengthens Communities


“Investing with VCLF allowed my money to have more value.”

Throughout her life and varied career, Gloria Rapalee has been fascinated by connections and cycles. As a forester, Christmas tree farmer, park ranger, and NASA research scientist, she’s studied the cycles and connectivity of soil health, boreal forests and climate science. As an investor with VCLF, too, she’s impressed with the connectivity of the Loan Fund’s investing and lending programs, and how they support and sustain one another. “I love that it’s a circle, a cycle,” she says. Gloria started out with a personal investment, preferring to put a small inheritance to work locally via the Loan Fund rather than park it in a traditional savings or investment account. “Investing with VCLF allowed my money to have more value,” she says, explaining that she could see her investment cycling back into her own Central Vermont community. “One of the Loan Fund’s borrowers is Zeb Towne (owner of Duxbury’s Sugar Towne maple products company) who I’ve known since he was in the fourth grade. My investment helps his business, then his success flows back into the community,” Gloria says. “We’re supporting one another.” She was also impressed with the assistance that VCLF’s impact investment staff provided, helping her set up a supplemental income stream from her investment that came in handy “before Social Security kicked in,” she recalls. Gloria was so pleased with the all-around performance of her personal VCLF investment that she recommended the Duxbury Cemetery Commission, where she serves as Treasurer, invest as well. “We opened a Term Account with VCLF for our Perpetual Care Account, which pays for the cemetery’s maintenance and taxes. Our investment yields more interest than we’d get from a bank, and, more importantly, it benefits the many VCLF borrowers and the community at large,” she says. “If you live in Vermont, somebody you know is a VCLF borrower. Whether you shop at their business or just know them from around town, you’re related to them, or you know someone who’s related to them. Investing lets you support one another,” she adds. “It’s a cycle.”
Mike Huffman

Mike Huffman

The Right Thing to Do


“It's how capital is used that determines how productive a society is. Investing in the Vermont Community Loan Fund is a great example of treating capital well. ”

Mike Huffman, founder and president of asset management firm Rock Point Advisors, has spent a lot of time thinking about how people put their money to work. “It’s how capital is used that determines how productive a society is,” he says. And investing in the Vermont Community Loan Fund, he maintains, is a great example of treating capital well. Mike started his financial career trading stocks and options on the floor of the Chicago Board Options Exchange. “Pit-style, a lot of yelling and screaming,” as he recalls it. Sixteen years in, he was ready for something a little different. “I wanted to be more connected and build relationships with clients,” he says. In 1996, he and his wife headed to her hometown of Burlington, where Mike joined Fraser Management Associates before starting Rock Point Advisors in 2004. At Rock Point, Mike’s team - and his website - are clear about their overarching goals and principles. Their home page reads: “…our financial planning and investment management efforts have been guided by our fiduciary duty to our clients and our belief that doing what’s right matters.” Mike believes it’s incumbent upon everyone who benefits from capitalism to be generous. “The capitalist system doesn’t work if we’re not.” Rock Point’s research team is particular about which stocks and bonds are chosen for client portfolios. Mike and the company have invested in VCLF’s Affordable Housing Lending Program for a few key reasons. “There’s a continuing need for affordable housing in our state,” he says. There’s also the Charitable Housing Tax Credit available to investors who direct their funds into that specific VCLF program. It’ a win-win, Mike believes – providing a good return at low risk, and supporting a critical need. “VCLF is a meeting place for investors with available funds, and an organization that’s meeting people’s needs,” he adds. “And it’s the right thing to do.”
Jose Aguayo

Jose Aguayo

Speaking of Impact


“You can invest with VCLF and see your money make a difference in your own community.”

Born in Mexico, and having lived in Canada, the U.S., Denmark and Spain, VCLF investor José Aguayo is conversant in multiple languages, including that of finance and investing. As a Committee Clerk at the Texas Legislature, he helped streamline the state budget, assisted governments and NGOs with funding proposals from his office at the U.N. At the American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico, he promoted international trade and investment. In the private sector, he’s analyzed energy commodity prices for Standard and Poor’s Platts, reported for Forbes Magazine, and, more. “It’s been an eye-opener, in terms of the impact money can have,” he says of his wide-ranging work. Today, Jose works as an international business consultant, serves on Montpelier’s Energy Advisory Committee, and was recently elected Chair of the Washington County Progressives. During a recent visit to VCLF’s offices, José explained how his career experiences have brought him to believe deeply in the positive impact of institutions like the Loan Fund, thanks to the opportunities it presents to both borrowers and investors. José learned of the Loan Fund in 2018, while serving as Council Treasurer at Montpelier’s Hunger Mountain Coop. The Council greenlighted an investment in VCLF after finding our focus on local economies and community development “clearly aligned with HMC’s mission,” he recalls. “If you look at the people the Loan Fund is lending to, it’s the local farmers and food producers, solar energy providers, early care & learning programs – all the things that we as a Coop community have agreed are important. So, we should support them!” he says enthusiastically. Another advantage to investing, Jose explains, is that “VCLF does all the work for you,” vetting borrowers, assessing risk, selecting out the most promising prospects and providing them with the tools they need to succeed, including free-to-the-borrower business coaching and advisory services. Ultimately, it’s the powerful combination of Return On Investment and social impact that impresses José most. “You can put your money in a CD and make very little money and impact, or you can invest with VCLF and see your money make a difference in your own community,” he says. “Investing with VCLF is a win-win.”
Vital Communities

Vital Communities

Vital Importance

White River Junction

“The Loan Fund is committed to helping foster healthy communities, like we help support the development and thriving of local communities. And we wanted to invest locally. I saw that VCLF was a good, low-risk investment. ”

Looking at the goals of White River Junction-based nonprofit Vital Communities alongside those of the Vermont Community Loan Fund, you’re immediately struck by the synergies and similarities. Vital Communities brings people together to “cultivate the civic, environmental, and economic vitality” of its Upper Valley service area. Programs focus on, among other things, economic development, housing, and local agriculture, all central to the Loan Fund’s mission and work as well. Then there’s the obvious emphasis on community; it’s part of both organization’s names, after all. So, it seemed a clear choice, as Vital Communities’ Executive Director Tom Roberts recounts, for the organization to invest in the Loan Fund, effectively furthering the goals of each. “The Loan Fund is committed to helping foster healthy communities, like we help support the development and thriving of local communities,” he notes. “And we wanted to invest locally. I saw that VCLF was a good, low-risk investment.” Vital Communities, whose service area straddles Vermont and New Hampshire, also has investments in the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, VCLF’s ‘sister’ CDFI across the Connecticut River. Now in its 20th year, Vital Communities emerged as Upper Valley stakeholders examined local issues, “and if there was a gap, we wanted to address it,” Tom explains. The process has sparked highly-successful efforts such as their recent solarization effort, resulting in 370 homes becoming solar-powered, “which led to $7 million in economic activity in the Upper Valley,” he adds. Tom sees the Loan Fund’s role in partnering with and bolstering Vermont’s nonprofits as unique, and critical: “Sometimes what a nonprofit needs is a loan, which is the core component of VCLF’s work,” he says. “It’s great to be able to support that with our investment.”
Hunger Mountain Coop

Hunger Mountain Coop

Borrower First, Investor Later


“We credit the Loan Fund with getting us up and running, helping us grow.”

In October 2018, Hunger Mountain Co-op, Montpelier’s community-owned natural food cooperative, announced it would invest $100,000 in the Vermont Community Loan Fund in support of the Loan Fund’s Food, Farms & Forests Fund.

The Co-op's Chief Financial Officer Tim Wingate made the announcement after the investment was approved by the Co-op’s Council.

The Loan Fund established its Food, Farms & Forests Fund (FFF) in 2015 to expand lending and business support services for Vermont’s small farms, food producers and working lands entrepreneurs. The growing portfolio of FFF borrowers includes farms and agricultural operations, food producers, business incubators, wholesalers and retailers including grocery stores, co-ops, CSAs and farmers markets, forestry and forest product enterprises, land stewardship and other natural resources organizations.

“The Hunger Mountain Co-op’s mission supports community and building healthy communities, especially around issues of food,” commented the Co-op's Chief Financial Officer Tim Wingate. “So our goals are closely aligned with those of the Vermont Community Loan Fund, and its Food, Farms & Forests Fund in particular,” he added.

The Co-op used VCLF financing in 1996 to expand their retail site from 2,000 to 10,000 square feet. Subsequent expansions have built out the facility to its current size of 20,000 square feet.

“We credit the Loan Fund with getting us up and running, helping us grow,” he added. “We now have 160 employees, 491 Vermont vendors, and 8,720 member-owners,” he added.

Wingate also noted that many growers and producers whose goods line the Co-op’s shelves are themselves Loan Fund borrowers: Butterfly Bakery of Vermont, Greenfield Highland Beef, Vermont Smoke & Cure, AquaViTea Kombucha, and Olivia’s Croutons to name a few.

“We’re honored that our long time neighbor (and borrower success story!) Hunger Mountain Co-op has made this commitment to our innovative Food, Farms & Forests Fund," said the Loan Fund's Executive Director Will Belongia. “The missions and goals of the Co-op and VCLF overlap significantly. We both work to sustain, grow and strengthen Vermont’s agricultural economy. This investment represents a true joint effort, putting local assets and energy to use improving our shared community. We're grateful to all of our hundreds of investors - individuals, organizations, businesses and more - who activate their idle assets for the greater good by investing in the Loan Fund. We welcome Hunger Mountain Co-op to our community."" Belongia added.

Wingate noted that beyond the financial returns yielded by the investment, “the social returns are tremendously important,” he said. “This investment capital is there to help some potential food producers whose products will be on our shelves in the future. And, we’re keeping money in the community.”


A Permanent Investor

A Town in Vermont

“I want the Loan Fund to exist in perpetuity, because I love Vermont.”

Kathy* loves Vermont. A transplant who relocated to the Green Mountain State more than a decade ago, she expresses that sentiment often, in a variety of ways, adding reasons to a list of why’s.

“I came to Vermont for peace,” she says, speaking of her great appreciation of the quiet and the landscape. “And to get away after all that time on the highway,” referencing a period of long commutes to work, back and forth to Baltimore. “Vermont is so special,” she says, her three rescue dogs now sounding their agreement in the background.

It’s because she loves Vermont, she explains, that she’s invested in the Vermont Community Loan Fund. “I give to national organizations, but I also want to contribute here where I live, because this is such a special place, and there’s so much need here in Vermont.”

Kathy experienced financial struggles herself when, following her husband’s death, she became a single mom of three, living in subsidized housing. “Luckily, my parents were able to help me out and give me a leg up. Now that I have more than I need, I want to give a leg up to other Vermonters, too” she says.

“My parents always gave to worthy causes,” she recalls, among them, the Champlain Housing Trust and the Intervale Center, both longtime Loan Fund partner organizations and borrowers. Upon the recent final disbursement of her father’s will, Kathy contacted his advisors to discuss impact investing. “My father’s financial advisor told me about the Loan Fund, that it was a good place to invest. And then dad’s attorney, Sarah Gentry Tischler at Langrock, Sperry and Wool, who’s terrific and very knowledgeable and philanthropic herself, gave the Loan Fund really high marks,” she recalls.

Kathy’s passion for affordable housing, child care, social and economic justice, the environment, and of course, Vermont, all found a nexus in the work and mission of the Loan Fund.

“The Loan Fund provides struggling Vermonters with loans for start-ups and growing businesses, creating jobs. There are a lot of new Americans here in Vermont, who are so willing and so grateful to have those jobs,” she says. “And the work the Loan Fund is doing providing housing and services for our seniors is so important.”

“Investing in VCLF has only positive pay-offs,” she says, noting both the financial and social returns of her investments. “I recommend it wholeheartedly, and you don’t have to have a huge amount of money to invest.”

After decades of hard work in various careers - editorial assistant, college admissions, public health interviewer, and tour guide, Kathy now volunteers extensively for children’s literacy, environmental groups and more. She spends as much time as possible with her children, grandchildren, and her beloved dogs (“I’ve gone to the dogs,” she says, laughing).

After considering her full financial goals, Kathy decided to become a Legacy Investor, meaning that her investment ultimately will be gifted to the Loan Fund’s Permanent Capital Fund, to be loaned and re-loaned in perpetuity.

“It's imperative that bequests I make be an ongoing legacy to those who can be helped with financial assistance that they otherwise would not have available to them,” she says.

“I want the Loan Fund to exist in perpetuity, because I love Vermont. It’s my home. And there’s always need, and it’s always growing,” she adds, the dogs chiming in again.

*Kathy wishes to remain anonymous, and therefore is providing only her first name.



Past Performance, Future Savings


“I needed something to do with my money that pleased my conscience as well as fulfilling my financial goals. It’s the best of both worlds.”

Michelle Barber is an avid hiker, cyclist, outdoorsperson and recently even tried skydiving and hang gliding. As adventurous as she may be in some aspects of her life, Michelle is quick to note she’s “the most conservative kind of investor the Loan Fund could possibly have.”

Michelle ventured far from her Detroit roots to head to Vermont 11 years ago, taking on marketing and communications jobs at the Green Mountain Club and Goddard College. At her current post as digital marketing specialist at the Vermont Foodbank, she trawls the digital frontiers to promote their progressive, collaborative approach to systems change. Her forward-thinking ethos also requires her to commute by bicycle to minimize her carbon footprint.

And then there’s Michelle’s dream of living off the grid, in a cabin of her own design. Believe it or not, that’s how she came to be a VCLF investor: Michelle is saving for her dream home using VCLF’s Graduating Investment, rather than going to a traditional lender for a mortgage. “I wanted to do this outside of the traditional debt system,” she says, explaining that it allows her to strengthen Vermont and build her dream home, all at the same time.

As for the “conservative” part? “VCLF has a great track record for managing money and keeping it secure.” After extensive research on the Loan Fund’s history, lending and approach to fiscal responsibility, Michelle says she felt completely confident that putting her money with the Loan Fund was far more responsible choice than Wall Street, which she describes as “much too shaky.”
She also likes the idea that she’s contributing to Vermont by sharing her assets with the community facilities and small businesses she believes are the foundation of the state’s future. “I needed something to do with my money that pleased my conscience as well as fulfilling my financial goals,” Barber says. “It’s the best of both worlds.”



Clean Energy, Clean Conscience

Essex Junction

“I'll get some return on investment while promoting values-led endeavors. What could be better?”

SunCommon co-founder and VCLF borrower and investor Duane Peterson clearly believes in making the most of vital resources…energy and dollars being key among them.

Duane first arrived in Vermont via Los Angeles in 1996 at the behest of Ben & Jerry themselves, who recruited him to take on the role of their "Chief of Stuff," the company’s internal agent for social change.

When the company sold in 2000, Duane found a channel for his energies working with various for- and nonprofits including the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, the state’s largest consumer and environmental advocacy organization. At VPIRG, he served as Board President, immersing himself in research and advocacy around clean energy. Together with VPIRG staffer James Moore, Duane "imagined a market solution to climate change," he recalls.

Solar energy is that solution, he says, "because everyone has the right to a healthy environment that starts with clean energy." They launched SunCommon to make solar energy more affordable through group net metering, whereby a community of homes can draw their electricity from a group-owned solar array. When SunCommon needed financing for their first array project in early 2014, VCLF stepped in, proving once again to Duane the alignment of his values with the Loan Fund’s.

Recently, Duane became the first VCLF investor to invest through his self-directed IRA account, which he sees as allowing him to invest in alternative ways and diversify his portfolio.

"VCLF is in my safe investment pool," he says, underscoring the security he feels he can count on with the Loan Fund. "They have a great track record of supporting what I want to support, while also being successful and paying the money back. But I also want to invest in ways that reflect my values. I'll get some return on investment while promoting values-led endeavors. What could be better?"



A New Chapter for Libraries' Endowments

Greensboro & Chester

“I saw that the Loan Fund had been around for a long time. I saw that they knew what they were doing, and didn’t lend out money they couldn’t cover.”

When it comes to carefully stewarding their important funds, at least two Vermont public libraries are ‘on the same page’ as to what makes for a sound investment. Recently, both the Greensboro Free Library and the Whiting Library in Chester became investors with VCLF.

When the Greensboro Free Library (GFL) in Caledonia County was looking for an investment that was low-risk as well as compatible with their broader goals for benefitting Vermonters, they put their research skills to work. Stephanie Herrick, who is both Treasurer of the library’s Board of Trustees and Chair of its Finance Committee, saw numerous pluses to investing with VCLF.

While the GFL board didn’t want to take on much risk, they also hoped for a reasonable rate of return on their investment dollars.

“I felt the Loan Fund was really the best of both worlds,” says Herrick. “It’s socially responsible and you get good returns, compared to CDs.”

Herrick would know: she is also a retired CPA, founder and president of her own accounting firm. Upon reading further about VCLF in newsletters and on the website, it was clear to the entire Finance Committee that they’d found the right place for the library’s money. “We were impressed with VCLF,” says Herrick. “We looked at the management. We read everything. (VCLF) has a very good record.”

Thus, she can report back happily and confidently to the many, many stakeholders of the library she serves.

“We’re a very active community,” Herrick says. “We have a devoted following of over 500 supporters. And, during our three year renovation campaign of the library’s Cuthbertson House, more than 400 people contributed to that effort. In the winter time, Greensboro has about 700 - 800 residents, but in the summer that goes up to 3,000,” says Herrick.

Like their counterparts in Greensboro, the board of the Whiting Library in Chester also takes its fiscal responsibilities most seriously. So when Bruce Parks, Chair of Whiting’s Board of Trustees, opened a piece of mail recently to discover an unexpected donation toward the Library’s endowment, (“A good-sized amount!” he emphasizes. “I almost fainted!”) he went in search of the best possible investment options.

Coincidentally, also in the mail that very same day, Parks received a copy of the Vermont Community Loan Fund’s newsletter. He paged through it, and was impressed that the State of Vermont was a VCLF investor, among other high-profile and financially savvy names he found on the roster. “I looked at their history; I saw that the Loan Fund had been around for a long time. I saw that they knew what they were doing, and didn’t lend out money they couldn’t cover.”

Doing his due diligence with the rest of the library’s trustees, Parks investigated traditional bank CDs, rates and returns, across a variety of investment options. “The rates weren’t great. And I’ve become soured on some traditional banks.”

The library’s board was impressed enough to invest the majority of their windfall with VCLF. Parks also says the trustees really liked VCLF’s mission, “helping farmers and small businesses all around the state.” It meant the library could feel good about its investment, while it earned a financial return for its endowment fund at the same time.

Parks even has some words of advice for other Vermont public libraries. “In Vermont, the trustees control the finances of the public libraries,” he says. He thinks they “could really do well” to look into investing with the Loan Fund, too.



Local Access, Local Control


“VCLF is a good model for addressing social problems and the issues we all face. I see it in so many places, in such a concrete way.”

You could say that Jane Knodell has always been invested in the work of VCLF – even before the organization was founded.

As an undergraduate at Stanford, she immersed herself in study of economic theory, banking history and monetary policy, which she pursued all the way through to a Ph.D.

Not long after, the University of Vermont learned of Jane’s growing reputation, and in 1986 hired her on to the department of economics. At that time, explains Jane, big changes were brewing in banking policy. “That was when interstate banking came to Vermont,” she recalls. “Until then, most banks in Vermont were smaller, in-state institutions,” she says, explaining that local bank ownership meant lending decisions were based partly on a borrower’s character and community standing, rather than a series of scores and numbers alone.

“So a group of us became concerned about local access to credit from some of these big, out-of-state banks,” she says. That group included Nancy Wasserman, the Loan Fund’s first Executive Director.

“I admired the way VCLF leveraged banks to step up to the plate where banks were absent,” she says. She was particularly eager to promote VCLF’s programs serving small business owners and affordable housing developers, both issue areas close to her heart. (Jane has served on the boards of the Vermont Reinvestment Association and the Burlington Housing Authority; her partner, Ted Wimpey, is Director of the Fair Housing Program atthe Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity.)

Thus – a VCLF investor was born. “I know that VCLF is very effective and efficient, and that my money will go into expanding access to credit to Vermont’s small businesses, affordable housing and community services,” she says.

Not only did Jane and Ted become investors, they made VCLF a part of their annual giving. Jane also chose to give her time and energy to VCLF; she served on our Board of Directors from 1993 to 1996.

Jane went on to become the first female Provost in UVM's history and entered Burlington city politics, winning a seat on the Burlington City Council, where she advocates for low-income Vermonters in her Old North End community, and supports small businesses and affordable housing developments. In 2013 she was re-elected to her fifth term.Jane is fully aware of the many ways her work has intersected with VCLF – which brings her back to her reasons for investing. “VCLF is a good model for addressing social problems and the issues we all face. I see it in so many places, in such a concrete way. VCLF is doing great work and making a real difference.”



(Vermont) Family Values


“I know my money will be there when I need it. But for now, the Loan Fund is allowing me to share opportunities, to turn my assets into opportunities for more Vermonters.”

For mother and son Dawn Andrews and Jonah Bourne, investing with VCLF was a natural outgrowth of their outlook on sharing resources, spreading the wealth and helping provide access to opportunity.

Andrews, herself a native Vermonter, raised her two sons Jonah and Levi Bourne in the state, moving them to a rental farm property in Morrisville after her divorce. It was there that she and Jonah both cultivated – along with garden-variety veggies, flowers, chickens and sheep – a passion for agriculture and the land.As the years progressed, Levi joined his father's business – Bourne's Energy - while Jonah ventured out to California to work the land and gain experience in farming and food entrepreneurship. In 2008 he was ready to return and bring it all back home. "It felt healthy and it felt good for the world to be farming and raising healthy food," Bourne says.

Passion, dedication and hard work became Bourne's first venture – Woodbelly Pizza in 2008. Bourne and his Woodbelly business partner Jeremiah Church grew organic crops from which they made artisanal, wood-fired pizzas, while mom Andrews did the books and kept an eye on the bottom line.

In 2010, Andrews found – via Craigslist – the farm property she and her son had been dreaming of. In 2014, Bourne sold his interest in Woodbelly to a cooperative and mother and son went full steam ahead with Provender Farm in Cabot, a 160-acre parcel dating back to the early 1800s, with original 19th century farmhouse, a Gothic style cottage, yurt, organic gardens, orchards, topiary gardens, sugar bush, shitake mushroom operation, and various animals that provide labor, fertilizer, eggs and meat.

Provender sells to organic wholesaler Deeproot Farms, which retails to local coops, markets and CSA share operations. Friends of Bourne's who were also interested in Vermont farming and food entrepreneurship came on board to form a cooperative farm incubator of sorts, raising their own crops (one of them raises over 300 geese for eggs and meat) and living communally in the large farmhouse while Andrews occupies the cottage and manages the finance and books.

In that thriving and fertile place, mother and son's enthusiasm for investing in Vermont and its local communities began to grow. And grow. "Jonah he couldn't borrow money because he didn't have a credit rating," Andrews says. "His assets came from hard work and dedication." And, mother and son now both in possession of those valuable assets, began to think further.

"I wasn't interested into something that didn't do good in the world. In something that did damage," added Bourne. "And I knew I wanted my money to stay in Vermont."

Ideas really took root when Andrews began to learn more about VCLF. Noting the need for lending capital among Vermont farmers, other entrepreneurs, nonprofits and more, coupled with a growing interest in "doing something morally comfortable with our money", "we thought – how do we manage our assets so they do good in the world?"

The mutually agreed upon answer: "We wanted to reinvest in our community because it's good for all of us," says Andrews.

Now, both mother and son have investments in the Loan Fund.

"We're not in it to get the biggest return, but to make a difference," Andrews says.

"The Loan Fund is so good at helping folks with capital in Vermont," Bourne says. "I know my money will be there when I need it. But for now, the Loan Fund is allowing me to share opportunities, to turn my assets into opportunities for more Vermonters," he says.



Doing Well By Doing Good


“It is extremely important that my money not do things I’m morally unwilling to do myself.”

Before becoming ordained as an Episcopal priest almost 20 years ago, the Reverend Sister Laurian Seeber worked for a company that researched, developed and manufactured high-tech projects. At one point, she was assigned to a project that involved working on bombers. Though she remembers feeling nervous about it, she talked to her supervisor, explaining that as a pacifist, she couldn’t work on projects involving implements of war. Happily, she was assigned to a different project - and kept her job.

That would not be the last time Sister Laurian would take a firm moral stand. Years later, when she became the custodian of her father’s trust, she wanted to invest with the Vermont Community Loan Fund because, she explains, “It is extremely important that my money not do things I’m morally unwilling to do myself.”

When first she mentioned the Loan Fund to the then-manager of her father’s trust (who worked at one of the large investment firms that would ultimately collapse in the current economic upheaval) he was skeptical. He urged her to keep the funds in traditional investment vehicles.

However, Sister Laurian realized that the priority of such large investment firms is profit rather than social impact, and that the morality of the companies in which the funds are invested does not play a role in decision making. By investing with VCLF, Sister Laurian was able to keep her money local as well as have it do the good in the community.

Sister Laurian is most passionate about VCLF’s affordable housing loan program. Besides supporting affordable housing by investing with the Loan Fund, she became personally involved early on in a VCLF-financed housing project. In 1992, as the coordinator of a group from Christ Episcopal Church in Montpelier, she personally raised $40,000 toward Montpelier’s North Street housing project by asking many individuals to donate at least one dollar and to sign a petition indicating that the community welcomed such a development. She is happy that, as she gets older and perhaps less able to take such an active role in the community, the funds she has invested in VCLF will continue to do good on her behalf.

In addition to knowing that funds invested in VCLF are benefiting the community, Sister Laurian also values the security of investing with the Loan Fund, something that has become more important as she plans her retirement and beyond. VCLF is playing a crucial role in Sister Laurian’s estate planning. In her will, she states that she “has faith in two entities, the Episcopal Church and the State of Vermont”. By making arrangements to leave her investment with VCLF after her death, with the interest on these investments benefiting the Diocese, she is able to ensure the continued support of the two things that mean so much to her.



Buy Local, Eat Local...Invest Local!


“The more we can help each other out as neighbors, the better off we'll all be. The Loan Fund helps others like you would expect a neighbor to help you.”

"Buy Local" is a philosophy many Vermonters live by, whenever we choose to spend our hard-earned dollars here at home, to buy products and services made, produced or sold in Vermont. Buying locally supports our neighbors, our community and our state. It strengthens our local economy and enhances social and economic connections within the community. Many of the Loan Fund's investors apply that same principle when they choose to invest with us.

Ezekiel "Zeke" Goodband decided he wanted to do just that: invest locally. A fruit tree orchardist in southeastern Vermont for some 30 years, Zeke cares for both his own small, four-acre apple tree nursery and also works as the orchard manager at the Scott Farm, a 40-acre orchard near Brattleboro. He is well-known and highly regarded in the apple community both for his knowledge of apples - especially heirloom varieties - as well as his dedication to environmentally sensitive orchard management.

Zeke's respect for the land that provides him his living parallels his belief in social responsibility. In 2008, he suffered an injury on the farm which resulted in torn cartilage in his knee, requiring surgery and recovery time. He received an insurance reimbursement, but once the check was in-hand, he wasn't sure what he wanted to do with the money. While it wasn't a huge settlement, it was enough that Zeke wanted the funds "to stay safe and do good." When asked about the specific amount of money - dollars and change - he chuckles, "I guess that's what insurance companies think a little piece of cartilage is worth these days!" Zeke heard about the Vermont Community Loan Fund through some friends and decided he'd found his answer.

"I wanted the money somewhere where it would do some good, earn interest, and eventually come back to me when I needed it," he explains. "I could have put it in a local bank but the interest rates were too low - and I wanted to put it away somewhere where I knew it would definitely stay in the community."

Zeke feels very strongly about buying goods and services from his neighbors whenever possible. It's a way of life for him, his friends and the farming community of which he is a part.

"I refuse to set foot in a place like Home Depot," he laughs. "I buy what I need at my local hardware store, which has been in our town for years. The store owner buys apples at our place, so I want to patronize his business, too." Zeke likes the reciprocity of keeping local dollars and building relationships with his neighbors - both those in his own back yard and those around the state. "Vermont's a small state, a small community, but even witha population of 600,000, I can still pretty much get to know people. I know of other farmers, not necessarily personally, but by their good reputation in and around the state. We're sort of a big community on our own."

Although Zeke is not a native Vermonter (he was raised in Massachusetts), he has a genuine love for the state, its agricultural heritage and rural culture. It's what brought him here in the first place: Zeke came to Vermont in 1970 to study at Goddard College in Plainfield, graduating with a degree in ecology and agriculture.

"I look at it this way," explains Zeke as he looks fondly over his sheep and lambs grazing near his orchard. "The more we can help each other out as neighbors, the better off we'll all be. The Loan Fund helps others like you would expect a neighbor to help you."



"Do You Know Where the Money Is Going?"


“It was very powerful, deciding that we would look into some life-giving, socially responsible investing as our priority. We could have made more money somewhere else, but we couldn’t have gotten what we really wanted from our investment anywhere other than VCLF.”

Residents of Vermont’s Dismas houses know the meaning of community. They live it every day. “Dismas is family,” says Rita McCaffrey, former executive director of Dismas of Vermont. “It is created by and for the community.”

An evening meal together, casual conversation, and a supportive home are things that many people take for granted. At the Dismas houses, these simple acts help to ease the difficult transition from prison to the community.

Dismas of Vermont was founded almost 20 years ago, after McCaffrey, longtime coordinator of Vermont’s Thresholds/ Decisions prison-volunteer program, and her husband Frank, a Vermont District Court judge, visited the original Dismas house in Nashville, Tennessee. A nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, Dismas of Vermont consists of four houses, two in the Burlington area, one in Rutland and one in Hartford.

Residents are a combination of former prisoners, college students and staff. “It’s a very rich experience for all of us.” says McCaffrey. “Students, prisoners and volunteers…they have really made the Dismas houses what they are.”

With an unwavering commitment to the power of community relationships, it is only natural that the Rutland Dismas House extends its support to other Vermont communities through an investment at VCLF.

“The Rutland Dismas house had a board meeting and lamented the low return on the money that we’ve worked so hard to earn,” says McCaffrey. But after discussing higher-yielding options, the discussion changed. “One of the members said, ‘Do you know where the money is going?’ It was very powerful, deciding that we would look into some life-giving, socially responsible investing as our priority. We could have made more money somewhere else, but we couldn’t have gotten what we really wanted from our investment anywhere other than VCLF.”

Through the Rutland Dismas House’s investment with VCLF, the organization makes a difference in Vermont communities in even more ways. It’s a wonderful reminder that with help from our neighbors, we’ll all have brighter futures.

Charlie Hunter

Charlie Hunter

Second Generation Investor

Bellows Falls

“VCLF lets you put your money where your mouth is, or put your money where your heart is.”

“To whom much is given, much is expected.” Those are the words Charlie Hunter fondly remembers his mom Edith telling him over the years. You might recognize her name: Edith Hunter was a well-known author, historian, Weathersfield resident and Vermont Public Radio commentator. And before she passed away earlier this year, Edith was also a longtime investor in and supporter of the Vermont Community Loan Fund. Settled in Bellows Falls, just down the Connecticut River from where he grew up, Charlie himself is a new VCLF investor. He’s one of a growing number of secondgeneration investors inspired by their parents’ commitment to a stronger, more prosperous Vermont through VCLF. “For my mom, giving back to the community was important. That spirit was community. Keeping her money in the community through the Loan Fund was an important way to do that.” Though he’s had many jobs over the years — newspaper layout, graphic design, professional music manager, concert promoter and poster and album cover artist — these days Charlie makes his living as an oil painter, working out of his studio in an old mill building on Bridge Street. As we talk, he cleans paint brushes, reflecting on his recent success. “I’ve had a good summer. These things have been good to me,” he laughs, waving a paint brush. “So, I’m in the position of having a little money to invest. I’m more comfortable having it do something good through the Loan Fund while it waits for me to need it.” “A CD, even if it’s from a local bank, is mostly just trying to maximize the financial return. That money might get back out to do some good in the community, but not necessarily. I’d rather be sure. I’d rather know for sure that that money is getting back out there to help folks rebuild from Irene. I’d rather help try to keep Vermont Vermont.” The images in Charlie’s paintings are instantly familiar to anyone who loves the contrasts of “modern” Vermont: old barns, once-thriving small towns fallen into disrepair, natural landscapes that evoke nostalgia and the weight of age, a love for the real beauty in scenes decades past their prime. As he says, he likes to paint “what nature does to what man creates.” “I think there’s real tragedy in the love of the aesthetic of the old farm. You go for a bike ride down some back road and you see the small farm that’s just barely hanging on. It’s a remarkable image…but mostly you wonder what you can do to help. For me, that’s what the Vermont Community Loan Fund does: VCLF lets you put your money where your mouth is, or put your money where your heart is.”
Tristan Cunningham

Tristan Cunningham

Investments in Keeping With Her Values

San Francisco

“I love the people and places VCLF helps. I support that one hundred percent.”

Tristan Cunningham of San Francisco is a professional actress and circus acrobat. But when it comes to her investments, she doesn’t believe in taking unnecessary risks. Cunningham is among a new breed of investors at the Vermont Community Loan Fund. Growing up in Vermont, she attended and then worked for Vermont’s celebrated Circus Smirkus youth circus. There, and at the Addison Repertory Theatre, she honed the skills that led to a B.F.A. in theater arts and film. Recently, she inherited a house, and when it sold, she found herself in an unexpected position. “Suddenly, I had a large sum of money for someone so young,” she says, “so I wanted to make sure I did the right thing with it.” Cunningham set about searching for investment opportunities that were in keeping with her own values. “I was very unsure about what to do with my money. I went to a bank to talk about investing with them, and it just didn’t feel right,” she remembers. She found it interesting she said, that at a time when Wall Street investments have proven very risky, VCLF investments have been steadier. Cunningham found herself increasingly interested in socially responsible investments. And, she kept coming back to Vermont — in more ways than one. “I love Vermont. I still have a lot of family in Vermont. And I’ll always return to Vermont,” she says. Thus, when her friend, Stephanie Panas, who worked with the investment team at VCLF, suggested Cunningham consider investing with the Loan Fund, she was immediately intrigued. “I read on the website about how VCLF puts money back into Vermont. I loved their lending programs, like affordable housing, child care lending and others.” Cunningham’s desire to continue to be a part of Vermont life, as well as the strong community values that VCLF supports persuaded her to invest with the Loan Fund. “I love the people and places VCLF helps,” she said. “I support that one hundred percent.”


Learn more about Borrowing with VCLF or contact us today to get started!



Learn more about Investing with VCLF or contact us today to get started!

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