MVAA seeks $1M to help fund new home

MIDDLEBURY — The Middlebury Volunteer Ambulance Association (MVAA) has spent the past 40 years delivering critical medical services to ailing county residents.
Now the MVAA is hoping the community will help it deliver on a new, state-of-the-art emergency response headquarters that is nearing completion on land just north of Porter Medical Center off South Street.
Cornwall residents Mickey and Carol Heinecken are leading the MVAA’s effort to raise $1 million to help pay down the $2.4 million cost of the 11,860-square-foot, two-story building. Construction started last fall and is expected to be completed soon, but planning for it has been a years-long process.
It will finally provide the organization with enough space to accommodate its growing cadre of paid staff, volunteers and a fleet of vehicles that respond to emergency calls from 10 Addison County towns. The organization members and its equipment have for many years been shoe-horned into a 2,100-square foot converted residence off Elm Street, a property the MVAA recently sold to pay off debt for the new building.
The Heineckens believe the new MVAA headquarters is a sound investment and are hoping to convince area residents to arrive at that same conclusion and back it with some cash.
“When we were asked to chair this campaign, we felt like, ‘How can you not support the ambulance association?’” Mickey Heinecken, the former longtime coach of the Middlebury College football team, said in an interview at the new headquarters while workers were making interior and exterior refinements to the new building. “(The MVAA) saves lives, and could save yours.”
The new structure includes a four-bay garage to accommodate up to eight emergency response vehicles, a conference room, a training room, multiple storage areas, administrative offices, changing rooms, sleeping quarters for up to eight workers, kitchen facilities and a future dispatching office.
The Heineckens and MVAA Executive Director Bill Edson explained the new building will not only provide a long-term space solution for the organization’s approximately 30 volunteers, 13 paid staff and equipment, but also ample room for regional, emergency response training sessions that organizations like the MVAA have had to travel long distances to attend. The new MVAA headquarters will also be deemed a “safe haven” for any member of the community who fears for their safety. The building features an unlocked foyer with telephone that will fetch someone from inside who can welcome them in and connect them with the services they need. Edson said there will be staff inside the building around-the-clock.
“It brings us that one extra level of providing aid to the community,” Edson said.
But the new project comes at a cost, and the MVAA wants to limit its loan exposure to $200,000. The nonprofit organization therefore plans to come up with the lion’s share of the project by raising $1 million; using $1 million of its savings, built throughout the decades; and applying the proceeds of the sale of its Elm Street building.
The past several months have seen the Heineckens and other volunteers engage in a “quiet phase” of the fund drive that has thus far netted $150,000. The group has to this point approached folks that have donated to the MVAA in the past and appeared likely to support the new building.
“We have only heard back from 6 percent of the people we have approached but have met 16 percent of the goal,” Mickey Heinecken said.
Middlebury College is supporting the project in several key ways. First, the college owns the land on which the structure is being built and has agreed to a 30-year lease, according to MVAA officials. Second, the college has pledged to donate $50,000 for every contribution of $150,000, up to a total of $250,000, according to Heinecken.
Residents in the 10 MVAA service towns of Middlebury, Bridport, Shoreham, Orwell, Ripton, Salisbury, Cornwall, Weybridge, Whiting, and New Haven can expect to receive an appeal for building funds.
“Our theme is ‘10 towns together,’” Carol Heinecken said.
Edson stressed the building campaign has nothing to do with a separate subscription drive the MVAA undertakes annually to help offset its operating expenses. That fund drive offers participants the option of paying $45 for an insurance waiver for any trips they might have to take in an MVAA ambulance during the year.
MVAA officials said ideally, it would have been best not to undertake the $1 million campaign and subscription drive simultaneously. But they noted the organization saved an estimated $400,000 on the project costs by beginning building early, at a time when contractors were hungry and offered very competitive prices.
Plans call for the MVAA to relocate to the headquarters as soon as next week.
Anyone interested in learning more about the project and/or how to contribute should call the MVAA at 388-3286.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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