Thirty years ago a Mad River Valley resident suffering from a long-term illness was forced to admit to her friends that she was experiencing dire financial difficulty and in danger of losing her home. At the time, no public assistance program was available to address her needs.
A local fundraising effort was commenced and the response from the community was immediate and generous. It was 1989 and a fundraiser for the local woman was held at the Gate House at Sugarbush. The event was incredibly successful. Organizers hoped to raise $10,000 and raised $50,000.
Subsequent to that event, community members became aware that there were other community members who had similar needs and they set out to create the entity that would become the Mad River Valley Community Fund.
The Mad River Valley Community Fund (MRVCF) was founded and nonprofit status sought to provide interim relief and confidential assistance to those residents of the community who need help but whose needs are not covered by existing assistance programs.
The resident in need was Warren resident Louise Jennings, and a founding member of the MRVCF was her friend Arthur Williams. Both have since passed away and 30 years later the legacy of taking care of neighbors carries on with the current board chair, Jennings’ daughter, Ashley Woods, and the current board secretary, Williams’ son, John Williams. The other members on the eight-person board are Duane Pierson, Charlotte Robinson, Jim Caffry, Tom Mehuron, Jon Jamieson and Alison Hobart.
The MRVCF board meets the second Tuesday of each month to review applications and issue grant awards. Grants are often given for emergency situations that arise around transportation or health care issues.
“We have been able to use donor money to help temporarily stabilize families during times of financial hardship,” said Jon Jamieson, board member and past board chair. “That was especially true in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene in 2011,” added Jamieson.
Shortly after Tropical Storm Irene hit on August 29, 2011, the MRVCF became able to accept donations via PayPal, which made it easier for people to donate.
“Board members believe that donors trust them to use their money thoughtfully and with great impact, and they take this responsibility very seriously,” Woods said.
As the MRVCF turns 30 the board is looking into other areas of impact. Transportation, housing and child care are significant barriers for many in the community and the board is working on defining its role within this context, she explained.
“As a board we are doing some soul searching and revisiting our mission,” said Woods. “Providing individual grants will always be the priority, but now we are looking into having a larger impact within the community,” added Woods.
The all-volunteer MRVCF board has recently hired a program manager to help with this work. The program manager is Rebecca Baruzzi, a resident of Fayston.
To learn more about the Mad River Valley Community Fund, to apply for a grant or to donate, visit mrvcommunityfund.org.