by Nat Frothingham; photos by Linda Hogan
MONTPELIER — Two public-spirited citizens — Ed Flanagan and Jake Brown — both members of the board of The Montpelier Foundation (and Flanagan is board chair) met with The Bridge as part of a current Foundation campaign to deepen public awareness of the foundation and elevate its profile.
The Montpelier Foundation was created in 1994 by City Council, both to accept tax-deductible charitable gifts and to contribute needed dollars to long-term, bricks-and-mortar projects.
To be more specific, in the words of a new illustrated report of “Recent Projects,” The Foundation described its charitable dynamic in these words: “The Montpelier Foundation accepts contributions of money, securities, property and bequests to support ‘bricks and mortar’ projects that provide long-term public benefits.” The logic of the foundation is not to put more expense on the city’s taxpayers. Instead, the foundation aims to encourage people who want to make a contribution to projects that will be of long-term benefit to the city and to do so through the foundation.
“There’s a structure in place if people want to donate money for community betterment.” The aim is to support projects that are of long-term public benefit. “We are not going to fill potholes. That doesn’t last for years,” he said, laughing.
Expanding on just how the foundation works, he said, “We’re not the first dollar in.” Typically, the foundation comes along with help to get an already-initiated project moving toward completion. “It lets you get over the finish line,” Flanagan added.
There are at least two, possibly three, sides to the Foundation’s work. First, it seeks and accepts gifts and contributions. Second, it manages the contributed money; currently The Foundation has available funds that amount to about $150,000. Third, the foundation evaluates proposals and makes modest but critical project grants.
One recent example of a contribution came just days ago, in the form of a $35,000 bequest from the estate of Alan Weiss, who died in February 2016. Weiss was a respected and generous public figure with an impressive professional career in education, and an equally impressive record of community service. His career in education included high school principal, school superintendent and deputy commissioner of education, among many others. His service to the community included the Village of Northfield, the State of Vermont and three terms on the Montpelier City Council.
Speaking on behalf of the board of directors as part of the current outreach effort, Flanagan put out the welcome mat to anyone in Montpelier who is interested in The Foundation. He noted that foundation meetings are open to the public and held once a month. Meeting times are listed on the City of Montpelier’s website.
Flanagan also had this message to anyone considering a gift to the foundation, or anyone seeking Foundation help with a long-term project: “We will meet with anyone. And anyone can contact a board member.”
In its recently released report of “Recent Projects” The Montpelier Foundation showcases nine of its Montpelier brick-and-mortar projects.
Montpelier Bike Path ($10,000). As part of a larger effort, a grant helped complete the Montpelier Bike Path, which links the Dog River Recreation Field to the Taylor Street Bridge. The bike path is used daily by hundreds of runners, cyclists and walkers.
Montpelier Tennis Courts Makeover ($2,000). A grant added to a community fundraising effort to completely renovate four tennis courts located next to Montpelier High School. This makeover included new surfaces, fencing, nets, landscaping and shaded seating.
City Hall War Memorial (3,000). A grant helped construct a Montpelier War Memorial to honor Montpelier residents who died serving their country from the Civil War to the present.
City Hall Plaza Makeover ($2,500). A grant from the foundation helped pay for six commemorative granite benches in the newly created City Hall Plaza space.
Montpelier Senior Activity Center Reconstruction ($5,000). In 2009 a fire damaged the Montpelier Senior Activity Center. After the fire a number of non-profit groups gathered community support for a reconstruction project, one that essentially created a new Senior Activity Center. The Foundation supported that reconstruction effort.
Barre Street Community Playground ($10,000). A grant helped create a modern, child-safe community playground behind the Montpelier Senior Activity Center. This playground is used by hundreds of families year-round.
Norm Hudson Tree Nursery Project ($2,500). The foundation paid for the purchase of many small trees that eventually are planted along Montpelier’s streets.
Footbridge across the North Branch ($1,000). A grant helped pay to construct a steel bridge connecting the North Branch Nature Center across the river to acres of conserved land, ponds and walking paths.
Expanded Press Box at the Montpelier Rec Field ($7,200). With the arrival of the highly successful Vermont Mountaineers baseball team, there was a need for broadcasting and an expanded press box. A grant helped make this project possible.
The Montpelier Foundation Board Members:
(as of January)
Ed Flanagan, Chair, Flanagan@pointfm.com
Karen Freeman, Secretary, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jean Olson, Treasurer, Jolson25@comcast.net
William Cody, email@example.com
J. Paul Giuliani, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jim Higgins, email@example.com
Jake Brown, Jakebrown2301@gmail.com