Warm Hearts Deep Pockets

Include your employees; follow your interests

by Virginia Lindauer Simmon

outright_vt_fi1218Fifteen teams competed at Outright Vermont’s Fire Truck Pull to raise funds for its statewide programs for LGBTQ youths. Sponsors were Dealer.com, Community Bank, and Heritage Automotive, plus Comcast, Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Vermont, Chroma Optics, and Dobrá Tea.

It’s that time of year when we gather up the releases we’ve received over the past 12 months detailing the creative ways Vermont business people give back to the community. Vermont businesses are generous, and it’s always rewarding to see the spark behind not only planning fund-raising events, but also finding clever ways to participate.

For example, armed forces veterans Steve Gagner and Matt Kehaya, the founders of 14th Star Brewing Co. in Killington, created Penny a Pour, a program featuring the company’s Recruit Golden Ale. For every pour (tap, can, keg, etc.), the 14th Star donates a penny to Vermont Adaptive Ski and Sports for its mission and programs. This could translate to so many kinds of business.

For folks who prefer wheels to skis, it doesn’t get much better than VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations’ annual Kelly Brush Ride, which this year raised $600,000 for adaptive sports and ski racing safety. More than 900 cyclists and 25 adaptive athletes participated, making it the Kelly Brush Foundation’s largest fund-raiser to date. This year’s event also featured a golf scramble — a tournament with two or more players on a team where each player hits a tee shot, but everybody plays from the spot of the best shot.

We loved the idea of Wheels for Warmth, an annual sale of contributed, safe, DMV-inspected tires. Over its 14 years, this annual event has collected over 45,000 tires, recycling 28,000 and selling 17,000, and raised more than $400,000 to help those hardest hit by winter temperatures. Tire collections are held at various locations around the state, and, this year, were sold at DuBois Construction in Middlesex and Casella Construction in Mendon.

Wheels for Warmth creates a dual benefit: safe tires at affordable prices for those who need them, and income for emergency heating assistance programs at Capstone Community Action, CVOEO, and BROC Community Action. Gov. Phil Scott, who knows a thing or two about tires, founded the program in 2005, and its sponsors are Casella Waste Management, Casella Construction, VSECU, AT&T, People’s United Bank, Bourne’s Energy, and VIANOR Tire & Auto Service.

Like most financial institutions, VSECU has many giving programs each year. The one that caught our attention was We Care 2, its member-directed charitable giving program. More than 4,600 VSECU members directed the allocation of $23,000 in earmarked funds by casting votes for one of five charitable organizations that impact issues of food, shelter, heat, environment, or financial education for Vermonters. Funds were distributed based on each charity’s percentage of votes. Beneficiaries were Blue Star Mothers of Vermont, Charter House Coalition, Community Harvest of Central Vermont, Mercy Connections, and Prevent Child Abuse Vermont.

Likewise, KeyBank’s Neighbors Make the Difference Day in May found more than 60 of its Vermont employees joining colleagues across the country volunteering for local organizations, projects, and causes. Branches closed at noon on that Wednesday, and employees headed out to build playgrounds, paint houses, weed gardens, and clean up community parks. Beneficiaries included the Chittenden Emergency Food Shelf, ReSOURCE, the Rutland County Humane Society, Age Well, Elderly Services Inc., McClure Miller VNA Respite House, Boys & Girls Club of Brattleboro, Samaritan House, and the Vermont Food Bank.

howard_center1218Howard Center’s Curling Challenge “founders,” Bob and Mary McKearin, Howard Center; Gail Rosenberg, Howard Center; and Rolf Kielman, TruexCullins, pose at this year’s event.

Among New England Federal Credit Union’s numerous charitable programs was teaming up with the Vermont Lake Monsters last December to spread holiday cheer to kids at the Boys & Girls Club of Burlington and families at Lund with gifts and a visit from Champ, the Lake Monsters’ mascot.

How about a two-fer? For years, the proceeds from City Market’s annual Christmas tree sale have gone to the Committee on Temporary Shelter (COTS), but this year, there’s a bonus: For every tree purchased, the Intervale Center will plant a tree somewhere in Vermont in the spring of next year.

Food can be an attraction to donors or an end in itself, and hunger continues to plague Vermont families. According to Hunger Free Vermont, 59,882 Vermonters (10 percent), 17,726 Vermont children under 18 (15 percent), and 9,746 Vermont adults over 60 (6 percent) live in food-insecure households (without regular access to nutritious food).

take_a_book_op1218The Berlin Mall provided free space to the Kellogg-Hubbard Library for its Give-a-Book/Take-a-Book outreach program. And library cards are not required.

Many organizations address this issue with events throughout the year. For example, Restaurant Week, a nine-years-and-counting event organized by Seven Days and presented by Vermont Federal Credit Union, raised $23,165 for the Vermont Foodbank in May. That’s nearly four times as much as the event raised in 2012.

This year, North End Studios and Sherpa Foods hosted a Nepalese dinner to benefit underprivileged families in Nepal. Included was a performance by the Vermont Nepalese Cultural Heritage Dance Group and a presentation about collaborative projects of nonprofits Empower1 and Peace for People. The Vermont Association of Insurance Professionals held a food drive and bake sale at the Berlin Mall to benefit the Vermont Foodbank.

sheldon_museum1218Support the Sheldon Museum: Take your kids to its annual Holiday Open House to see the elaborate model train layout, hear the carols played on Sheldon’s 1831 piano, and partake in the Miniature Christmas Tree Raffle.

What better place than Vermont to launch a beard contest? For the second year, Make-A-Wish Vermont has held the Vermont Beardies competition. This year, though, Make-A-Wish Montana’s CEO challenged Vermont that Montanans could grow better beards, and put a case of bison steaks on the line. He recruited the mayor of Missoula to deliver the message.

Vermont accepted the challenge with a videotaped message from Jonathan Goldsmith, a Vermont resident who played Dos Equis’s original Most Interesting Man in the World. Vermont bet a case of maple syrup. The winner? Dillon Mears of Barre Town. The contests raised over $50,000 for the two Make-A-Wish organizations. No word, though, of the location of that case of bison steaks.

mad_for_plaid1218Staffers Melissa Disorda (left), Emily DeLong, Nikitta Seagren, and Pam Favreau support their boss, Elisabeth Kulas, executive director of the Housing Trust of Rutland County at the organization’s Raise the Roof: Flannel Formal. The “Mad for Plaid” event featured a karaoke contest, a mac ’n’ cheese bar, sliders, a pie bar, and plenty of music from DJ Greg.

If your interests include music, you might have attended National Life Group Foundation’s Do Good Fest, presented on its lawn in concert with The Point FMSeven Days, Harpoon Brewery, and Montpelier Alive. This year’s fest featured Phillip Phillips, an American Idol TV winner. National Life supports many Vermont endeavors, including the Champlain Housing Trust’s revitalization of the Old North End Community Center and the Vermont Foodbank’s youth food programs.

By the way, The Point FM also worked with VSECU and Capstone on Fuel Your Neighbors, a project to help combat food and heating challenges for vulnerable central Vermont households. VSECU matched up to $10,000 donated to the campaign.

But whatever your resources, whatever your interests, we encourage you to share them. We’re all in this together. •