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HOPE exceeds its goal for building repairs

MIDDLEBURY — Helping Overcome Poverty’s Effects (HOPE) has exceeded — by almost $100,000 — its original goal of raising $600,000 to make a series of improvements to its Community Services building at 282 Boardman St. in Middlebury. The building is a place where low-income Addison County families go to get food, housing, clothing and other critical services.
HOPE Executive Director Jeanne Montross on Monday reported contributions totaling $691,607, fueled in large part by foundation grants and gifts from some of the nonprofit’s most ardent supporters. In all, more than 200 individuals, foundations and businesses have given to the “Building HOPE” campaign, ranging from a few dollars to a $250,000 challenge grant through the Hoehl Family Foundation.
“We are delighted,” a smiling Montross said of the campaign harvest, which could eventually exceed $700,000 as additional gifts trickle in before the drive officially closes out on June 30.
This was HOPE’s first major capital campaign since the organization built its Community Services building 19 years ago. The structure hosts a food shelf, the annual holiday gift store, the RetroWorks retail store, and several non-profit social services agencies that are tenants.
While the HOPE building has abundant space, it isn’t ideally configured for the ever-changing way in which human services are provided. HOPE now serves around 3,000 low-income individuals each year. The average number of people served each month at the HOPE food shelf has soared from 150 back in 1999 to more than 650 in 2018.
“We do a lot, and we do it well; we could do it even better if our facilities allowed,” HOPE officials wrote in a fundraising pitch this past winter. “Our offices, food shelf, entrances, and waiting room are crowded and cramped. Fortunately, there is a significant amount of underutilized space in our building. The time has come to put this space to use serving low-income families. Our plans will add 442 square feet to our food shelf, and will increase the amount of usable office space in our building by 10 percent.”
The new construction project, expected to get under way next month, will, among other things, result in some knocked-down walls and a re-design of existing space. This will create a more efficient area for the very busy food shelf and ensure more privacy for clients, according to Montross.
Specifically, the construction project will provide:
•  More food shelf space for storage, shelving, refrigeration and work areas, allowing HOPE to manage inventory in a more accessible and cost?effective manner.
•  A dedicated food shelf waiting area to reduce crowding and stress at reception.
•  Improved, safer access for bulk deliveries to warehouse receiving areas.
•  A shower room where homeless people can bathe in privacy.
Workers have already completed some related upgrades.
The Addison County Transit Resources bus stop has been moved from the HOPE lot to Boardman Street, thus freeing up several parking spots. The Middlebury Rotary Club has built a bus shelter at the stop.
A loading dock equipped with a wider ramp leading to the outside food shelf door is now in place. More sidewalk has been added to the property to make it more pedestrian friendly.
HOPE officials estimate the project will take four months to complete. This means construction would end in early November, a time when HOPE will be setting up its holiday gift store. Plans call for a temporary food shelf to be established in the agency’s large conference room while work is under way.
Montross gave major kudos to HOPE’s capital campaign committee and Heather Potter, the organization’s development director.
Potter called the capital committee “an all-star team. From day one, they rolled up their sleeves and pitched right in. Without their enthusiasm, dedication and guidance, we would not have been as successful.”
Potter estimated foundations came through with 60 percent of the total raised by HOPE.
“Early and generous support from numerous foundations sent a message that ‘Building HOPE’ is a sound project with a strong base of support,” Potter said. “We simply would not be where we are today without the generosity of the foundation community and the responsiveness of local supporters.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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