VSECU, Vermont’s largest state-chartered credit union, has donated $80,000 to three Vermont organizations to help Vermonters who have suffered damage following Tropical Storm Irene. The Vermont Foodbank received $30,000, while the Vermont Farm Disaster Relief Fund and the VT Irene Flood Relief Fund each received $25,000.
“When flood waters hit Vermont communities in late August, we were all challenged to help our friends and neighbors recover from the damage done to homes and businesses as well as to the way of life so vital to Vermont,” said Steve Post, VSECU’s chief executive officer. “VSECU is working to help our credit union members affected by the flooding, but we also want to help other Vermonters across the state. We believe that the efforts of these three organizations are particularly important to Vermont’s recovery, though, of course, many people and organizations are mobilizing to help where it is needed.”
The $30,000 donation to the Vermont Foodbank is designated to benefit two areas of outreach—the Foodbank’s food distribution in southern Vermont and the Foodbank’s Kingsbury Farm along the Mad River.
Since 2008, the Vermont Foodbank has owned the Kingsbury Farm along the Mad River on Route 100 in Warren. Farmers Aaron Locker and Suzanne Slomin lease the 22-acre farm and pay rent to the Foodbank in produce—30,000 pounds annually—which the Foodbank distributes to food shelves and meal sites around the state.
When the Mad River overflowed its banks this summer, water washed away portions of the bank bordering the farm and carried away the topsoil. Working in conjunction with Sugarbush Ski Resort, which owns the nearby snowmaking pond also damaged by the flooding, the Vermont Foodbank has embarked on a riverbank restoration project. Of the $30,000, VSECU has designated $15,000 towards this effort to help rebuild the riverbank by spring 2012. Approved by the State Department of Environmental Conservation, the plan involves rebuilding the bank using fill such as gravel and riprap. The Foodbank will then construct a “brush mat” of live tree boughs. The boughs will eventually root into the bank and grow a stabilizing buffer to hold the bank, preventing further erosion.
“The Kingsbury Farm suffered extensive damage due to Tropical Storm Irene, leaving many of the crops in the field unsalable and soil full of silt,” said John Sayles, chief executive officer of the Vermont Foodbank. “We are thrilled to have the support of VSECU in getting the riverbank secured. The Kingsbury Farm is a valuable asset to the Vermont Foodbank and the thousands of Vermonters who receive produce from its fields.”
With the remaining $15,000 donation from VSECU, the Foodbank will purchase food for distribution to Vermonters in need in southern Vermont, particularly those areas hard hit by flooding. According to Christine Foster, the Foodbank’s Chief Development Officer, the Foodbank Distribution Center in Brattleboro allows the Foodbank to better serve the food needs of Vermont’s southern most counties. Vermont Foodbank has pledged to help its agencies to provide support in the long-term, knowing it may take years for many communities to rebuild. For more about the Vermont Foodbank, visit www.vtfoodbank.org.
VSECU has also donated $25,000 to the Vermont Farm Disaster Relief Fund, which was established by the Vermont Community Foundation and the Vermont Agency of Agriculture to aid Vermont farmers. To date, the fund has awarded 101 farmers grants totaling more than $540,000.
“As we all know, many of Vermont’s farms suffered devastating losses during Irene,” said Stuart Comstock-Gay, president and chief executive officer of the Vermont Community Foundation. “We are incredibly grateful for VSECU’s generous support of Vermont’s farming communities during this difficult time.”
According to the Vermont Agency of Agriculture, a rough estimate of farmland impacted by Irene exceeds 20,000 acres, while a conservative estimate of crop losses and repair costs to crop land exceeds $10 million dollars. Vermont Farm Disaster Relief grants, which fund up to $10,000 per farm, help farmers who have exhausted personal resources replace infrastructure, seed, feed, livestock, supplies and equipment lost as a result of the storm. The grants can also be used to help pay outstanding bills such as farm mortgage costs, land lease payments or animal feed bills. Those interested in learning more about the fund or making a contribution may visit www.vtfloodresponse.org.
The second recipient of a VSECU $25,000 donation, the VT Irene Flood Relief Fund, focuses on the needs of small business owners whose property and equipment were damaged by flood waters. The fund was created to grant money to eligible small businesses for clean-up, repair and replacement of equipment.
“Tropical storm Irene was devastating for Vermont’s small businesses. Some areas lost the backbone of their local economies which also often serve as a town’s community center,” said Todd Bailey of KSE Partners and VT Irene Flood Relief Fund founder. “It is a great honor to play even a small role in helping businesses throughout Vermont get back open and serving the important role they fill in their town. The contribution from VSECU goes a long way towards helping those businesses and their owners get back to doing what they love to do.”
The Central Vermont Community Action Council is the relief fund’s fiscal agent and is accepting donations and helping to process grant applications. Thus far, the fund has awarded $289,000 to 167 applicants in 10 of Vermont’s 14 counties, and fundraising efforts continue. For more information about how to donate to the VT Irene Flood Relief Fund or to apply for a grant, visit www.vtirenefund.org.
Pictured at Kingsbury Farm where restoration work has already begun are (left to right) Aaron Locker, who leases Kingsbury Farm and pays rent to the Vermont Foodbank in farm produce; John Sayles, the Foodbank’s chief executive officer; and Kate Paine, member of VSECU’s Board of Directors.