HOPE closes in on $600K to repair its Boardman St. building

MIDDLEBURY — For 53 years Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects has built HOPE for residents through a variety of housing, clothing and other critical services.
Now the Middlebury-based nonprofit is seeking help from residents to fortify its Community Services building at 282 Boardman St.
The $600,000 “Building HOPE” capital campaign is more than three-quarters of the way to the finish line, thanks in large part to a $250,000 challenge grant through the Hoehl Family Foundation and other big gifts harvested during a silent phase of a fund drive that began this past November. HOPE officials are counting on area residents to push the campaign across the finish line so that construction work can begin this summer.
That work will, among other things, produce a substantial redesign of existing spaces, add 442 square feet of space to the agency’s perennially busy food shelf, and put current unused space into service.
“What made me want to help with this campaign is the fact that it will increase the safety, privacy, and dignity of service delivery to HOPE’s clients,” said capital campaign Co-chair Sue Byers. “I firmly believe that if we are to help people get to a better place, we must do it in a way that allows them to feel respected. The improvements to HOPE’s offices and food shelf, which include reclaiming a large amount of unused space, will do just that. “
Project results, according to HOPE Executive Director Jeanne Montross, will allow for a more streamlined delivery of the nonprofit’s many services for Addison County residents needing shelter, groceries, fuel, or help with their utility bills.
“These improvements are badly needed,” said HOPE board Chairman Steve Reigle. “Our building was constructed nearly 20 years ago. While it met our needs at that time, the growth of the organization’s services, the number of people in need of assistance, and the need to replace aging components of the facility have caused us to determine that now is the time to do this work.”
HOPE officials about 18 months ago began thinking seriously about repairs and reconfigurations to its building, which hosts a food shelf, the annual holiday gift store, the RetroWorks retail store, and several nonprofit social-services agencies that are tenants. The building is big enough, but it has wasted space, according to HOPE officials. The upcoming project will knock down some walls to increase food storage capacity and privacy for clients.
“When I started work here in 2000, the food shelf was serving around 150 people per month,” Montross recalled. “We’re now serving around 700 per month.”
Once completed, the construction will produce a distinct area for food shelf clients to wait for their turn to walk through. The current HOPE reception area will be pulled out closer to the main entrance of the building, thus allowing more privacy for clients having confidential talks with HOPE workers.
“It’s going to make things a lot more efficient and dignified for people,” Montross said of the project.
Two parts of the project have almost been completed.
Until recently, the Addison County Transit Resources bus stop took up six parking spaces in the HOPE parking lot. Some of HOPE’s frailest clients were worried about walking close to a large, moving bus. Now the bus stop has been moved to Boardman Street. The Middlebury-area Rotary Club has offered to build a complementary bus shelter this April, according to Montross.
Workers have poured a loading dock equipped with a wider ramp leading to the outside food shelf door, and more sidewalk has been laid on the property.
“The improvements to HOPE’s sidewalks, bus stop, loading dock, and warehouse will vastly increase the safety of the many people who come to the building, and will allow us to much more efficiently manage the stream of food, clothing, furniture, and other items that move into and out of the building in large quantities,” said capital campaign committee Co-chair John Betz.
As of Tuesday, HOPE was $81,000 short of its $600,000 goal. In addition to the Hoehl Family Foundation, contributors have included the Amy E. Tarrant Foundation, the Hannaford Charitable Foundation, the Windham Foundation, the Agnes M. Lindsay Trust, and local individuals who have made generous anonymous donations.
In a related development, Montross noted a donor has put up $50,000 in seed money for a HOPE endowment fund that will be managed by the Vermont Community Foundation. That donor, according to Montross, recognized HOPE’s potential need for emergency funds to plug a shortfall or pay for a special piece of equipment. The aim, Montross stressed, is to preserve (and add to) the principal and only spend the fund’s dividends when needed.
HOPE officials want to cap the $600,000 campaign by the end of June and begin construction this summer. Montross believes the project will take four months and will hopefully conclude before client services — including the holiday gift shop — get under way late this fall.
Those who would like to contribute to the campaign may visit www.hope-vt.orgor mail a contribution payable to “HOPE” to: HOPE, Building HOPE Campaign, 282 Boardman Street, Suite 1A, Middlebury, Vt., 05753. 
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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