Archive | October, 2012

Donors for Dot’s!

28 Oct

Note:  This post was to be published in July, but was lost in cyberspace!  Apologies for the delay.

Thank you to all who supported the Concert to ReBuild Dot’s.  We raised over $20,000 for the effort!  Thank you to all who purchased tickets making it a very full house on a very hot night.  Thank yous also to:


• Stephens & Associates – Brattleboro, VT

• Orvis – Manchester, VT

• The Haystack Club – Wilmington, VT

• SMR Contracting – Jacksonville, VT

• Mount Snow – West Dover, VT

Non Concert Going Donors:

Linda & Stephen Purdy – Harrison, NY & Wilmington, VT
Betty Emery – Enfield, CT & Wilmington, VT:  This is not for a concert ticket, but just a contribution to “Help Save Dot’s”.  We always loved Dot’s and look forward to it being reopened.  Thanks.
MaryLou & Doug LaPlante – Wilmington, VT:  Looking forward to having yoiu all back.  God’s Blessings, Pastor Doug & MaryLou
Lisa Coneeny & Leslie Fraser – Wilmington, VT: Enclosed please find a donation for the dinner and concert to rebuilt Dot’s.  We would have loved to attend the event but we are booked with other activities in the Valley this weekend (Tough Mudder & the Haystack Member Guest).          We hope it is a successful evening.
Beth & Kenneth Motschwiller – Rockville Center, NY & Wilmington, VT:  Good Luck with the Fundraiser
• Martha & Gordon Watson – Naples, FL & Wilmington VT:  We are unable to come to the Fundraiser on July14th.  What a wonderful effort has gone into re-building our lovely town.  And what a wonderful effort that continues.  Please let us know if we can be of help.
• LineSync Architecture Bar Tenders:  Leah Decker, Ryan Edwards, Sybil Idelkope, Will Su
• Salads & Serving:  CarolAnn Lobo Johnson, Peter Johnson, Deborah Emmet-Pike, Katy Little
• SMS Contracting Clean Up Crew

Help Us Find the Lemonade Stand Donor!

26 Oct

THANK YOU to our anonymous Lemonade Stand Donor!!!  In late summer a second homeowner dropped of an envelope of $131.00 CASH that her step-daughter raised with friends in a summertime Lemonade Stand.

The folks at the Wilmington Town Offices did not get a name or contact information for this generous young contributor for us to properly thank.

If you have any information, please let us know.


August – October Donor Thank Yous

26 Oct

• Mary Procter & Bill Matuszeski – Washington, DC & Whitingham, VT     We’re very grateful to this initiative to rebuild Wilmington and are happy to contribute this donation.          The project to rebuild Dot’s will delight locals & second homers & tourists.  I hope you can put the rebuilding of Ann Coleman’s Gallery next on your list.  She has made a real impact as an artist in the Deerfield Valley and encourages other artists.  And she is a poster child for the losses from Irene.          Sincerely, Mary Procter & Bill Matuszeski

Sophie Ackert delivers donations from her Charity Fashion Show to Benefit the People of the Deerfield Valley in Southern Vermont


• Sophie Ackert – Sandy Hook, CT

• Sandra Wavrick – Brooklyn, NY

• Patricia Frey-Gattinoni & Flavio Gattinoni – Newtown, CT

• Susan & Thomas Gomez – Oxford, CT

• Alan Linett – Sandy, UT

• Jacquelyn & Gregory Horkachuck – Sandy Hook, CT





• The Preservation Trust of Vermont:  Enclosed please find a $500 grant from our Robert Sincerbeaux Fund to assist you with the consultation you had with Debby Bergh Consulting.  I am glad that this worked out well for you.          Thank you for all The Wilmington Fund VT continues do do.  Sincerely, Paul Bruhn, Executive Director

• UBS Matching Gift Program: This is a grant of a restricted donation that arrived at our office.  It was a UBS matching gift for Amy Leff-Temple’s January contribution.         Thank you for all The Wilmington Fund VT continues to do.  Sincerely, Paul Bruhn, Executive Director

A Special Thank You to Sophie Ackert

26 Oct

A Fashionable Approach To Fundraising

By Nancy K. Crevier

Sophie Ackert, dressed in an outfit donated by Pac Sun, thanks supporters of her fashion show to benefit the town of Wilmington, Vt., still recovering from the August 2011 Tropical Storm Irene. —Katie Kent photosEnlarge image

Sophie Ackert, dressed in an outfit donated by Pac Sun, thanks supporters of her fashion show to benefit the town of Wilmington, Vt., still recovering from the August 2011 Tropical Storm Irene. —Katie Kent photos

Twelve-year-old Newtown resident Sophie Ackert put together her love of fashion and the love of her vacation hometown and came up with a highly successful fundraiser, held Sunday, September 9, at the Fraser Woods Montessori School on South Main Street.The fashion show was Sophie’s community project as she prepares for her Bat Mitzvah in October at B’Nai Israel Synagogue in Southbury, and the more than $3,000 dollars raised at the event — three times her goal — as well as four large boxes of clothing, will all benefit the community of Wilmington, Vt., where her parents, Eve and Dave Ackert, own a vacation home.

A year after Tropical Storm Irene swept through New England, Wilmington continues to recover from the devastating floods that knocked businesses and homes there off of foundations and battered other buildings. The loss of 40 businesses has contributed to the loss of jobs for nearly 200 residents of that town, said Eve Ackert.

Maya Neuhoff walks the runway at Fraser Woods School in an outfit assembled from Pac Sun donations.Enlarge image

Maya Neuhoff walks the runway at Fraser Woods School in an outfit assembled from Pac Sun donations.

The late August 2011 storm left Wilmington with contaminated soil, water, and air for many weeks, Ms Ackert said, and prevented the family from returning there until late December. Fortunately, their vacation home is situated on a hill and sustained no damage. But the ruins of the town that they have loved for the seven years they have been visiting were heartbreaking, she said.”I love Vermont,” Sophie said. “My memories of being there are so awesome. It’s so open, and my house there is really different from ours here,” she said. To see the ravaged town and favorite shops in such disrepair, and to see residents still waiting for help in repairing homes and businesses was hard, said Sophie. “They weren’t wealthy people to begin with,” she said.

The family wanted to help and discovered the Wilmington Fund, which is assisting in the rebuilding of businesses there. “Vermont needs the tourism, and counts on these small businesses,” Ms Ackert said, “and the Wilmington Fund is helping them to get loans and grants.”

The desire to aid Wilmington coincided with Sophie’s charge to come up with a Mitzvah project. She had had in mind hosting a fashion show to support charity ever since she started thinking about the project.

Sophie Ackert, far right, gathers with friends, from left, Michaela Stowell, Julia DiMartino, and Samantha Stanton to select outfits to model at the fashion benefit show she hosted Sunday, September 9, as her Bat Mitzvah project.Enlarge image

Sophie Ackert, far right, gathers with friends, from left, Michaela Stowell, Julia DiMartino, and Samantha Stanton to select outfits to model at the fashion benefit show she hosted Sunday, September 9, as her Bat Mitzvah project.

“I want to go into the fashion business,” Sophie said. “I’ve been sketching dresses for years and love it, and then I started sewing some of my own things at the South Norwalk Fashion School summer camps the past two summers,” she said.”She has always been a clotheshorse,” agreed her mother, who said that initially she did not support Sophie’s plan, believing it to be too complicated to undertake. But Sophie persisted and got her parents on board. Even so, said Ms Ackert, she did not anticipate that the project would get as large as it did.

Between 65 and 75 people attended the September 9 show to view and purchase clothing donated by dozens of top brand retailers.

“My dad helped me a lot to get going,” Sophie said. “He got a list of e-mails for top executives in merchandising from a list I made for him of brands I like, and I sent out lots of e-mails to different people at each company,” she said. She was thrilled to receive responses from nearly 90 percent of the companies she approached, and thinks that at least one-third of the companies were able to assist her with donations of clothing.

“I asked for sizes for 11- to 14-year-olds, because I knew that I and my friends would be modeling,” Sophie said. Bass and Tommy Hilfiger also sent men’s clothing, after ascertaining with Sophie that those items would work for her show. “I figured my dad and maybe some of his friends could model those, so it worked out,” she said.

It was the beginning of August when Sophie began soliciting donations. By mid-August the merchandise started arriving at the Ackert home, and by the time September arrived, a 200-square-foot space in their attic was packed with clothing for the fashion show and sale, as well as silent auction and drawing items, jewelry, and gift cards. It was not just national merchandisers supporting Sophie’s efforts, though.

“Almost every area business was willing to help out, with money or food or with things for the auction,” Sophie said. The buffet brunch served Sunday was also thanks to food and beverage donations from area businesses, such as Panera Bread, Dunkin’ Donuts, and Whole Foods, Ms Ackert said.

Entry to the fashion show and brunch was $15. Any clothing that Sophie and her friends had not selected to model for the fashion show were set up on tables for purchase. “One table had things for $10, and another one had clothes for $20,” Sophie said, bargain prices for the top-end merchandise. The silent auction items, such as a basket of Willa Skincare products ($150 value), a Hurley backpack filled with Hurley brand clothing ($300), a Michael Kors bag ($300), and select outfits ($75–$250) created great interest.

A slide show of information and photographs of the Tropical Storm Irene devastation provided by Craig Brandon, author of Goodnight Irene, as well as photographs of the Wilmington damage by Dave Ackert, was shown as guests enjoyed the breakfast buffet and settled in for the show. Thanks to the efforts of Fraser Woods custodians, a fashion runway was assembled in the school’s common room, allowing the models to properly show off the trendy outfits they had created.

Clothing that did not sell will be donated to Twice Blessed, a nonprofit consignment shop in Wilmington, when the Ackerts visit in late September. The consignment shop will try to match people in need with clothing, Ms Ackert said, at no cost to the resident. All of the money raised at Twice Blessed goes back into the community in some form, she added, which meshes nicely with Sophie’s Mitzvah.

Gift cards for food items and some of the cash will go to the Deerfield Valley Food Pantry, as well.

The generosity of companies that included Lee Jeans, Nike, Nautica, Pac Sun, Michael Kors, EMS, Anthropologie, Macy’s, Jensen Automotive, LL Bean, and many more was amazing, Sophie said. “To have executives of these huge companies e-mail me back and thank me for what I was doing was crazy,” She said.

“I never thought I would make as much as I did; I never even thought I would make the $1,000,” Sophie said. “It was fun, but more stressful than I anticipated, and a lot more fulfilling than I expected,” she said. “I’m really glad I went through with this project. Raising this much money for it was great. I feel really good that we found a place to give the clothes and that they will go to people who need them, or the money will go back into the community. It was awesome.”




Two Thank Yous from Beyond Imagination

10 Oct
When waters run deep. . .hearts open wide!  May the memories of Irene renew your faith in humanity.  (Card and artwork by Melinda Coombs)
We could not have done this without your generosity of time and money.  Thank-you from the bottom of our hearts.  Bill & Melinda Coombs
10.4.12 Deerfield Valley News
Words cannot express thanks
To the Editor:Words cannot express how filled with gratitude I am for all the support in the opening of my new boutique Beyond Imagintation. The success is due to so many people,

The Wilmington Fund VT, without whom this would not have come to fruition. Ed Erhard for the renovations to his building, Bob Hall and his crew for all their hard work, Bill for his long hours of everything, Suzanne and Sara for all they did in help making the opening happen so quickly, Gretchen Havreluk for the help with the business plan and support, Manyu for teaching me so well, Meg Streeter for planting the seed, and friends and family for your help and support.

I feel blessed to be in such a supportive community and to be part of the rebirth of Wilmington. I look forward to seeing you all at Beyond Imagination.

Many thanks,

Melinda Coombs


Read more: Deerfield Valley News – Words cannot express thanks

BEYOND IMAGINATION • 10.4.12 Deerfield Valley News

10 Oct
New boutique owner says experience, support reasons behind venture     by Rachel Olstein Kaplan
Melinda Coombs is ready to welcome customers to her new business venture, Beyond Imagination.

Melinda Coombs is ready to welcome customers to her new business venture, Beyond Imagination.

WILMINGTON- On Friday, September 21, the streets of Wilmington came alive for the Vermont Wine and Harvest Festival Village Stroll. Residents and visitors strolled among the shops, tasting soup, wine and cheese, and enjoying the warm September evening. One of the main attractions of the evening was the grand opening of Beyond Imagination – the new clothing and home boutique that held its unofficial opening on the eve of the Village Stroll.

The boutique, at 6 North Main Street, was again bustling Friday for its official grand opening event. The store sells women’s clothing and jewelry as well as paintings and interior design services. Owner Melinda Coombs, of Whitingham, is an artist, designer, and seamstress who brings with her years of retail experience from working at Manyu’s Boutique as well as expertise in running a successful interior design business from her home. Coombs was inspired to open Beyond Imagination after witnessing the outpouring of support after Tropical Storm Irene; she hopes that the boutique will play a key role in revitalizing the community.

Explaining her motivation, Coombs said, “I’m doing this to help the town. The more shops, the more alive we are, the more people will come. I’m doing this for everybody; I really believe it will help all the businesses in town. I believe that the town of Wilmington can be even better than it was before.”

Until last summer, Coombs had worked for 16 years at Manyu’s, the well-known boutique in Wilmington, which stood in the Parmelee & Howe building before closing last year in the aftermath of the hurricane. Beyond Imagination will help fill the absence that many felt when Manyu’s closed, but the new store has a particular flare inspired by Coombs’ personal touch. In addition to clothing and accessories, for sale and on display at the shop are many of Coombs’ handmade jewelry and paintings.

Wilmington resident Julie Lineberger had frequently shopped at Manyu’s. She’s very excited about the opening of the new store. “It’s a little bit different and that’s good. (Coombs) offers home design services and has skill with making slipcovers, shades, and drapery. She has an entire homegoods section and original art work that Manyu didn’t have. It’s Melinda’s own shop.”

Suzanne Strattner, of Jacksonville, works full time at the boutique. When she heard that Melinda was opening the store, she called immediately to inquire about a position. Strattner describes Beyond Imagination as beautiful, spacious, and welcoming to all. “We even provide cushy chairs for gentlemen so they can relax while the ladies are shopping.”

According to Strattner, “There is not another store like this in town. There aren’t other stores that have such a wide range of clothing and fashion. From cozy sweaters to comfy jeans to the little black dress that every girl needs. We have it all, and in a wide range of sizes with price points for everyone.”

Coombs first thought of opening the store when she was approached by members of the Wilmington Fund VT in the spring of 2012. While hesitant at first, she quickly realized that her experience had prepared her for the venture. “I realized it was something that I definitely could do. That the town would benefit and I would benefit in the end. I missed Manyu’s as much as everybody else.”

The journey since spring has been challenging and Coombs has had to persevere to make the store a reality. The Parmelee & Howe building, where Coombs originally planned to open, was sold in mid-June. Coombs was forced to return merchandise she had purchased and scrambled to find a new location for the boutique. She eventually found retail space on North Main Street right next door to Manyu’s’ original location. While the owner renovated the building which had suffered major damages in Tropical Storm Irene, Coombs worked on her business plan and putting together finances for the endeavor.

Finding the resources to support the new business was a challenge. In addition to investing personally in Beyond Imagination, Coombs received a low-interest loan from Vermont Economic Development Authority and a generous grant from the Wilmington Fund VT.

The Wilmington Fund was set up in the fall of 2011 to help support Wilmington’s recovery and promote commerce and business activity. The board of directors is confident in Coombs’ abilities. According to Dan Kilmurray, the fund president, “She had been a manager at Manyu’s. She is a real talent and I am highly confident that she is going to be very, very successful.”

Lineberger, the fund secretary, described Coombs as a fantastic choice, adding, “I knew that she was Manyu’s right-hand person for so long. She has a very good design sense and I knew she would carry on the quality and caliber of Manyu’s, which is what we need. To draw people from surrounding areas, you need to have that same caliber of shop. She is doing something a little different but is striving for that same level of excellence.”

Customers, employees, and investors alike are excited about the business and many see it as a symbol of hope and revival in Wilmington. Strattner says, “When I first moved here, Wilmington was a real destination place. A walking town with cute little shops. People would come here and spend their whole day here, have lunch. It’s really great to be part of the rebirth of Wilmington. It needs to come back after the devastation from the flood.”

Coombs, who was nervous before embarking on the endeavor, added, “After being open for only three days, I am feeling a lot more confident. Most people are walking out of the store with a bag.”

By all indications, Beyond Imagination is on track to be a success. As Carol Grant, a longtime customer of Coombs’ interior design business assures, “Melinda always succeeds ‘Beyond MY Imagination!’.​​​​​​​​​​”

Visit Beyond Imagination at 6 North Main Street in Wilmington or online at

Read more: Deerfield Valley News – New boutique owner says experience support reasons behind venture

Fashionable Fundraising for The Wilmington Fund VT

6 Oct

WILMINGTON- A 12-year-old Connecticut girl has raised more than $3,000 for flood relief in her “second hometown.”

Although Sophie Ackert, daughter of Wilmington second-home owners Eve and Dave Ackert, lives in Sandy Hook, CT, when she was looking for a community service project for her bat mitzvah, it was the flood devastation in Wilmington that came to mind first.

“When I was thinking about charities, I thought flood relief would be perfect,” she says. “I wanted to help the people in Wilmington. It really meant a lot to me.”

With an interest in fashion and design, Ackert planned a back-to-school-themed fashion show and silent auction at her school, Fraser Woods Montessori School in Newtown, CT.

Ackert says her family spends a lot of time in Wilmington, and she has grown up with a close connection to Wilmington and the Deerfield Valley. “I love it up there, and I know a lot of people there,” she says. “It feels like home.”

After the flood, Ackert says, she and her family didn’t venture north to their Vermont home for a couple of months. At the time, roads were unsafe and Wilmington officials had put the word out to visitors and second-home owners to limit nonessential visits to Wilmington to avoid taxing the weakened municipal infrastructure. Ackert says her father came up alone to bring some donations, and brought back photos of flood damage in the town.

“It was devastating to see the businesses that I went to when I went up there destroyed,” Ackert recalls.

When the family was finally able to come to Wilmington a couple of months later, Ackert says she was shocked. “It was still awful. I couldn’t imagine what it was like when I heard what happened, and I didn’t imagine all the boarded-up windows, and the covered bridges and roadways ruined. It was amazing to see all that damage.”

Although her parents may have thought her goal of raising $1,000 was a little ambitious, they pitched in and helped. Ackert’s father helped her contact major clothing companies for donations.

“I wrote them nice letters, telling them what I was doing and what happened in Wilmington,” she says. “Most of them sent something. I got a lot of donations.”

Ackert organized the fashion show with the help of her mother, using classmates and parents as models.

Although she had never organized a fashion event before, she said it went off without a hitch. “We kind of winged it,” she laughs, “but I’ve read how a fashion show works, and been to a fashion show.”

The fundraiser far exceeded Ackert’s goal, more than tripling it. Through the sale of the donated clothing, silent auction items, and the $15 entry donation to the show (with brunch), she raised more than $3,000.

Ackert will donate the proceeds to The Wilmington Fund VT and the Deerfield Valley Food Pantry. Clothing that was left over from the evening will be donated to Twice Blessed. Ackert says they’ll try to match the clothes with people who were impacted by the flood. “But even if they can’t, all the proceeds from Twice Blessed go back to the community, so if they sell the clothes, it still helps.”