In the wake of the tragic July 2023 flood, the Vermont Community Foundation rises to the occasion, bringing hope and aid to communities all across Vermont.
STORY BY BENJAMIN LERNER
Established in 1986, The Vermont Community Foundation (VCF) has served as an invaluable source of support for Vermont and its people. As a family of diverse funds and foundations, it empowers organizations and fundholders from within and beyond Vermont’s borders to fulfill their charitable goals, providing guidance, philanthropic investment opportunities, and specialized support at every step of the giving journey.
In the wake of the tragic floods that struck Vermont in July 2023, the VCF sprang into action with unyielding resolve, establishing the Vermont Flood Response Fund to provide aid to impacted communities. Since its inception, the fund has become a beacon of hope for all Vermonters. As of early August 2023, it raised $4.4 million, supplying essential resources to communities throughout the state. The foundation’s commitment to helping Vermont’s most vulnerable residents beautifully exemplifies its dedication to the state’s well-being. It also serves as a poignant embodiment of the opening to their unifying mission statement, “Better Together.”
A Swift Response
Holly Morehouse, VCF’s Vice President for Grants and Community Impact, recalled the moment when they first realized the flooding’s impact on the communities that they serve: “We knew we had to act quickly and decisively,” she says. “The floods caused substantial damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure, leaving many Vermonters in need of immediate assistance.”
Over the weeks that followed, the VCF opened efficient pathways for fundholders and rganizations to contribute to the fund and make a profound difference in the lives of those affected. The response was incredibly heartwarming, and Vermonters and supporters across the nation rallied in solidarity. “Since the fund’s establishment in July, we’ve witnessed an incredible outpouring of support,” notes Morehouse. “We’ve received donations from people in 47 states. It’s truly inspiring to see how people came together to help Vermont.”
Grants were awarded to organizations offering food and shelter support, medical assistance, and emergency grants to families and businesses impacted by the disaster. Notable examples include the Vermont Food Bank and The Red Cross, whose efforts proved invaluable during the critical stage of the aid campaign. VCF’s vision extends far beyond short-term relief. As Vermont continues its journey of post-flood recovery, the Vermont Community Foundation is dedicated to helping in every possible way. “Our response to the floods is not a one-time event; it’s a persistent commitment to supporting the communities that are rebuilding,” says Morehouse.
Collaboration and Partnership
After aiding in initial relief efforts with diligent devotion, the VCF has recently started transitioning from immediate relief efforts to a thoughtfully-planned phase of recovery and rebuilding. Recognizing the multifaceted needs of Vermont’s flood-affected communities, the VCF is proceeding with a considerate and inclusive approach. They are collaborating with a broad range of organizations, ensuring that their grants and programs will address the vast continuum of specific challenges faced by different sectors of Vermont’s communities. Through a mix of phone calls, meetings, and outreach initiatives, they are working closely with partners in the field and cooperating with organizations that are equally committed to relief and response efforts. “We didn’t want to be outsiders coming in; we wanted to be genuine allies and partners to these communities,” says Morehouse. “Collaboration is key in times of crisis, and we’re thankful for the opportunity to work hand-in-hand with local organizations and leaders.”
To that end, one of the central strengths of the VCF’s Flood Response & Recovery Fund lies in its close partnerships with various community organizations. The VCF has joined forces with an extensive network of partners to address the most urgent needs of the affected communities. At the state level, the VCF is working intimately with the Governor’s Office, as well as State Government agencies such as the Agency of Agriculture, Food & Markets (VAAFM), and the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD). These collaborations have ensured a coordinated and impactful response, both in terms of relief and long-term recovery efforts.
The VCF has also extended its support to community action agencies like Capstone Community Action in Barre, among others.
Understanding that the flood’s impact reaches all generations, the VCF has been actively engaged with Senior Solutions and Area Agencies on Aging to provide assistance to seniors facing difficulties in the aftermath of the disaster. Furthermore, VCF’s commitment to rebuilding also encompasses support for Vermont’s cultural institutions. Libraries - like Kellogg-Hubbard Library in Montpelier - have received aid to rebuild and restore their facilities, while arts organizations such as Studio Place Arts in Barre and Weston Theater Company have received essential funding to revive their creative spaces.
The VCF has also partnered with farmers in the Intervale and other communities to help them overcome the devastation of lost fields and crops. Moreover, the VCF has recognized the importance of preserving Vermont’s natural resources and ecological systems. Grants have been awarded to groups like the Black River Action Team, who are engaged in vital watershed and river cleanup initiatives. Local organizations have also been at the forefront of VCF’s support initiatives. Efforts by groups like Neighbors Helping Neighbors and Northeast Kingdom Organizing (NEKO) have been instrumental in helping affected communities through door-to-door outreach, where they identify needs and provide assistance.
The VCF has showcased its steadfast commitment to businesses affected by the floods through collaborations with Capstone Community Action’s Main Street Business Relief Fund, Montpelier Strong Recovery Fund, and Barre Community Relief Fund. The VCF has gone above and beyond to ensure that financial assistance reaches businesses that play a crucial role in Vermont’s economic ecosystem. The Foundation’s support extends broadly, fostering a resilient and vibrant business community on the path to recovery.
The VCF’s recovery efforts are also focused on community revitalization in every sense. Understanding the essential role that housing and shelter play in restoring statewide stability, the VCF is actively working to address the most pressing needs of those displaced and affected by the floods. They remain dedicated to working with nonprofits and partners on providing secure housing for all Vermonters, including those who reside in mobile and manufactured homes. In addition, parks and public areas are receiving attention and funding to ensure that the heart of Vermont’s towns remain vibrant.
In the pursuit of holistic recovery, the VCF also acknowledges the importance of mental health, prevention, and substance use disorder treatment, as evidenced through their ongoing support of
recovery-focused organizations such as Jenna’s Promise in Johnson, among others. As communities come together to rebuild, the mental and emotional support of their members is critical. The VCF is committed to building back not just structures, but also offering essential support to the people and families who call Vermont home.
Looking beyond the immediate recovery phase, the VCF is working towards enhancing community and watershed resilience. Drawing from its extensive experience overseeing relief and rebuilding efforts in the wake of Hurricane Irene in 2011, the VCF aims to rebuild, using thoughtful and sustainability-oriented methods. Through partnerships with organizations like Watersheds United, the VCF is doubling down on its commitment to conscientious ecological stewardship.
The VCF’s vision of community betterment is manifested in its actions and commitment to Vermont and its people. The lessons learned from previous disasters have guided them towards taking effective, decisive steps toward relief and recovery. Drawing on the collective strength of community and institutional partnership, the VCF embraces the multifaceted challenges of disaster recovery with thoughtful compassion. The VCF continues to act as a committed partner and advocate in the quest of rebuilding a thriving, resilient Vermont, and they remain dedicated to ensuring that all Vermonters receive the help and support that they need.
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A Cause for Applause!
Grace Potter and Noah Kahan give back in the aftermath of the tragic Vermont floods by raising funds through their live-streamed performances
Amidst the relief efforts, the Vermont Community Foundation (VCF) found support from two renowned musicians: Grace Potter and Noah Kahan. Both artists recognized the significance of the floods’ impact and utilized their platforms to raise awareness and funds for the recovery efforts. Grace Potter’s live-streamed relief benefit concert held a special place in the hearts of Vermonters. Her powerful advocacy and heartfelt performance during the livestream event prompted a notable spike in donations to the VT Flood Response & Recovery Fund.
“Noah Kahan has also been an instrumental supporter of our efforts,” says Holly Morehouse, the VCF’s Vice President for Grants and Community Impact. “His commitment to Vermont’s well-being resonates deeply with the challenges faced by many Vermonters in the wake of the floods.” A rising star in the music industry, Kahan has used his influence to raise funds for flood relief. He donated the proceeds from a recent livestream of his concert at Red Rocks in Colorado to the fund, strengthening the relief and rebuilding efforts. As the Vermont Community Foundation looks towards the future, they remain open to exploring more fundraising events. “We’re incredibly thankful for the support from Vermont’s music community,” adds Morehouse “As we continue on the path of recovery, we’ll be here, shoulder to shoulder with Vermonters, every step of the way.”