Foliage in Waitsfield. Photo: Jeff Knight

On Tuesday, September 29, the Mad River Valley Community Fund (MRVCF) hosted a COVID-appropriate, socially distanced gathering at American Flatbread for board members and community partners. 

“Maintaining relationships that are more than transactional has been really difficult during COVID,” said Rebecca Baruzzi, program director for the community fund.



“Usually, we accidently connect at Mehuron’s, Three Mountain Cafe, The Sweet Spot or any number of places.  We took this opportunity to have a COVID-safe outdoor event before the weather turned. It was really good to see faces, well, people’s eyes anyway,” Baruzzi said,

“The Mad River Valley Community Fund is a dynamic organization and as such, must evolve right along with those it serves. As such, the community fund is looking beyond short-term assistance alone, to the root causes of the financial emergencies it encounters most frequently. Instead of providing financial assistance to help people with costly utilities and high rent, the fund is supporting the housing coalition to address the larger problem in our area, which is a serious lack of affordable housing. Other important initiatives, each of which perfectly embodies the sense of community for which the MRVCF was originally created, nearly three decades ago,” she said.


This week’s speed dating-style engagement was a perfect opportunity for the community fund board members to better connect with the people who do some of the important work needed for The Valley’s safety net.

In attendance at last week’s introduction were community partners:

  • Michael Bransfield, president of Free Wheelin’ which provides free transportation for seniors and others in need who cannot access transportation.
  • Kaziah Haviland, Karl Klein and Mac Rood, Mad River Valley Housing Coalition -- which was created to support affordable housing in The Valley by channeling resources for loan programs and subsidies for developers, towns and community residents.
  • Lorien Worten, founder and director of MRV Eats -- Wroten’s idea, this program distributes meal vouchers for local restaurants to residents. The program simultaneously helps the food insecure and local restaurants, particularly as they struggle during this pandemic.
  • Susan Bauchner, president of Mad River Valley Interfaith Council -- which manages the food shelf and is the council’s most significant project.
  • Chrissy Rivers, executive director of Hannah's House -- which is dedicated to improving access to mental health services in The Valley (and with a new office in Waterbury), Hannah’s House partners with therapists to ensure that nobody is refused care due to lack of insurance or funds.
  • Moie Moulton, executive director of Neck of the Woods -- a. new child care facility that has responded to changing education and recreation needs through the implementation of infant and preschool programs, school hubs, summer camps and a growing offering of educational and recreational activities.
  • Ned Kelley, MRVCF firewood program -- who handles the community fund’s firewood program which ensures that no Valley residents who need wood are without it.
  • Baruzzi was present, wearing her other hat as manager of The Village, a virtual community center that makes it easy for residents to peruse different kinds of activities available.


“The community fund is more than a financial assistance program; it represents the spirit of generosity and fellowship that exists in the Mad River Valley. Its success isn’t a result of corporate partnerships or government grants or political lobbying. It comes from a connection between the local community, Valley alumni from far and wide, as well as the second-home owners, many of whom consider The Valley their home away from home. It is these individual donors and our relationships with community partners, that is the lifeblood of the community fund,” said MRVCF board chair Ashley Woods.

Over the next few weeks, the MRVCF will be introducing The Valley Reporter readers to its community partners and how they are working together to provide emergency assistance and long-term solutions for the betterment of the community. Each of these initiatives seeks to create a safer, healthier, more affordable and more inclusive community. In the meantime, those who are experiencing a financial hardship or know someone who is, contact the Mad River Valley Community Fund by visiting their website or calling them at 496-3638 today.