One Part of Irene’s Economic Aftermath: The Wilmington Fund VT
Two months ago Hurricane Sandy slammed through the Northeast. Those of us in the Deerfield Valley had a true understanding of damage that can be left behind. Our thoughts and prayers were with everyone harmed by the climactic event.
Nearly a year and a half ago (28 August 2011), Tropical Storm Irene ravaged many Vermont towns, including Wilmington. By January, The Wilmington Fund VT was established and hard at work.
Tamara and Dan Kilmurray, longtime Wimington second homeowners felt the losses and destruction of Wilmington’s village viscerally. Throughout the clean up process in which they physically contributed, they discussed what could be done on a long term basis. Dan communicated with Deborah Emmet Pike, another second home owner who had introduced him to the valley over three decades ago. Deborah put Dan in touch with local business owner Julie Lineberger as someone who could assist him in gathering a group of people to create a long term difference.
By February 2012 the full Board was established including Dan as President, State House Representative Ann Manwaring as Vice President, financial planner Bruce Mullen as Treasurer and Julie as Secretary of the Board. Rounding out the group were Tamara Kilmurray, Deborah Emmet Pike, attorney Robert Fisher, business owner John Gannon and innkeeper John Pilcher who, reluctantly, resigned from the Board in November.
Recently the Board created an Advisory Council to assist in with the mission through brainstorming fundraising ideas, acting as ambassadors to The Wilmington Fund VT. This group includes Mount Snow Partner Dick Deutsch, West Dover second homeowner Bob Kaufman, Halifax second homeowner Walter Jones, local active volunteer Alice Greenspan, and Wilmington second homeowner Sophie Ackert who raised a significant amount of money for The Wilmington Fund VT through her Bat Mitzvah project.
The primary mission of The Wilmington Fund VT is to contribute to the the economic vitality in the area by encouraging established pre-Irene businesses to reopen, help new businesses launch and create jobs in Wilmington’s historic village center. This includes shrinking the number of empty storefronts in the village. Steadily, albeit slowly, we are advancing towards these goals.
In order to accomplish the above goals, The Wilmington Fund VT established parameters and protocols for grant applications and approval. Each project is evaluated on its own particular set of circumstances by our general requirements that include submission of a complete business plan to establish, or reestablish, a business in the Village. Part of the requirement is that any submission must include a substantial financial investment on the part of the applicant business owner.
Once a letter requesting funds accompanied by a completed business plan is submitted, a small group of our Board vets the project through interview and other due diligence measures. When approved by the small group, the project is brought to the full Board of Directors for discussion.
So far, the Wilmington Fund VT invested $145,000 in the approval and distribution of and distribution six grants. The recipient business owners are on target to invest in excess of $1 million in their respective projects. This multiplier effect is a key requirement for any grant application and approval of The Wilmington Fund VT.
The grants distributed include five businesses and an infrastructural project to support all village businesses. The businesses that either opened, or are in the process of reopening, are well funded and have solid articulated business plans. The Wilmington Fund VT is highly confident of their success and believe that a total of 30 local jobs will be created.
North Star Bowl – REOPENED. The center for local activity offering both bowling and informal food is owned by Steve Butler and Bev Lemaire. Over 75% of this structure was destroyed in the storm. Although not technically in Wilmington’s Village Center, we felt this business to be a significant contributor to the economic vitality of the area.
• Dot’s Restaurant – REOPENING SOON. The iconic breakfast to dinner restaurant is owned by Patty and John Reagan. http://www.rebuilddots.com
Note: Funding and elbow grease from many individuals and many groups, most notably the Friends of the Valley, is what enabled both North Star and Dot’s to even think of reopening. The Wilmington Fund VT was but one aspect of the reestablishment of these businesses.
Beyond Imagination – OPENED. A beautifully designed women’s clothing and household furnishings boutique is owned by Melinda and Bill Coombs. http://www.beyondimagination.com
Chapman’s InTown Antiques – OPENED. Diane and Len Chapman have been running an antique business on their Medburyville property just outside of town for many years. Along with neighbors JoAnn and David Manning, they decided to open a store in the village. With assistance from The Wilmington Fund VT, the team of four renovated a storm ravaged building and are offering both antiques and local Vermont crafts.
Restaurant in the historic Parmelee & Howe Building – OPENING SOON. The Wilmington Fund VT purchased and began renovating this anchor building on the corner of Routes 9 & 100. Mid-way through we were approached by a local individual with a vision and an interest in purchasing the property. Acknowledging the ample investment and undertaking by the purchaser, as a demonstration of support the accepted negotiated price was less than our investment. The Wilmington Fund VT is pleased to have accomplished its goal with the sale of the Historic Parmelee & Howe building and look forward to its success.
• Village Walkway – PARTIALLY COMPLETED. Led by the Long Term Recovery Parking and Green space Committee of Carolyn Palmer, Lilias Hart and Sue Spengler, the project links a new parking lot with Main Street with a soon to be lit walkway.
Because of these early successes, morale in the village is recovering and the ambiance greatly improved. The robust Village Stroll Committee is working diligently to create various events to entice people downtown. In addition, the increase in tourist traffic this fall was very encouraging.
However, there remain numerous damaged and empty buildings requiring a great deal of work. The scope of these future projects is larger than our accomplishments to date, and 80 or so jobs still need to be restored. The Board is exploring various options, including the establishment of a revolving loan fund, to stimulate economic growth in the village.
The Wilmington Fund VT has been prudent stewards of donated capital. Close to 100% of fund donations go to economic vitality efforts with a minimal amount used for insurance and accounting fees. All Board Members work voluntarily, truly a tireless effort by a talented group of individuals.
To continue our work, The Wilmington Fund VT is in a constant mode of fundraising. We are also establishing two annual fundraisers. The Summer Event of 2012 was extremely successful. This included an art show curated by Mary Wright of Gallery Wright, a Pig Roast Dinner at the home of the Kilmurrays, and a Memorial Hall concert produced with great support of Dale Doucette. Plans for the 13 July 2013 Summer Event are in currently in the works.
The Wilmington Fund VT is also in the midst of working with Mount Snow to create an annual Winter Event.
The long term success of our cause will ultimately be determined by continued strong governance, solid decision making and, of course, successful fundraising. All are invited to keep on top of our progress through http://www.TheWilmingtonFundVT.org