Local charitable organizations get creative with fund-raising during Covid-19

Pat Budnick of Motel in the Meadow decided to postpone her annual Music in the Meadow fund-raiser for Susan B. Komen More than Pink Walk to fight breast cancer. She is planning a comeback for the weekend concert in 2021. Photo by Shawn Cunningham

By Bruce Frauman and
Cynthia Prairie

©2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

Some of the high notes of the year for many communities are the events held by charitable and nonprofit organizations that attract hundreds — sometimes thousands — of attendees and help support everything from food and heating programs to college scholarships to medical needs.

But the Covid-19 pandemic has canceled all of those in-person gatherings and volunteers and employees have had to scramble to find new ways to make up for the lost dollars.

While some organizations like the Food Pantry in Londonderry, Just Neighbors in Weston and the Andover Community Fund have found that generous donations have kept them going, others have been retooling their fund-raising programs to meet the situation.

In early June, the Chester-Andover Family Center held its annual Empty Bowls fund-raiser, but instead of a large gathering at Green Mountain High, it held a drive-thru soup pickup with the support of the Country Girl Diner. The event netted about $4,000 to aid its Food Shelf and Financial Assistance Program.

Board member Nena Nanfeldt said the transition from a large gathering to a drive-thru “was extremely easy because the Chester Helping Hands and produce box pickup had already pioneered great protocols.” But, she added, the Family Center prefers the community event, citing “lots of involvement from the schools, the kids and the community.”

Bringing people together, funding community needs

‘God willing we will have Music in the Meadow next year,’ Budnick said.

Pat Budnick, owner of Motel in the Meadow in Chester, is the organizer of Music in the Meadow, a music showcase that is usually held in June to support the Susan G. Komen More than Pink Vermont Walk to fight breast cancer.

While she’s postponed this year’s Music in the Meadow, she said she is helping to organize and encourage participation in Komen’s planned virtual Walk Where You Are fund-raiser set for late October.

Her music event, held in the fields at Motel in the Meadow, on Route 11 in Chester for the past 18 years, raised more than $17,000 last year for Komen. 

“God willing, we will have Music in the Meadow next year,” said Budnick. If you’d like to participate in the Walk Where You Are event, click here.

The Springfield Rotary, which, director Bob Flint says, hands out two $3,000 scholarships to Springfield High seniors and donates to a variety of community organizations and projects and supports Rotary International initiatives, is also exploring virtual fund-raising events to make up for the postponement of live fund-raisers.

As it now stands, Flint said, “proceeds of the Springfield Community Raffle, which was held up for a few months, are likely to be down more than 50 percent from the previous year.” Flint is hoping to hold its annual Penny Sale in the spring to bring in needed funds.  Click here for more information about the Springfield Rotary.

The Chester Rotary‘s annual Chester Fall Festival, held over an entire September weekend, attracts thousands of people from all over the northeast to shop at the tents of more than 60 art, craft and food vendors on the Green. The cancellation meant more than $4,000 lost in proceeds that would be distributed to various local service programs, including about $800 raised by advertising in the special Chester Telegraph Fall Festival page.

Said Rotary Club President Ian Montgomery: “We’re going to keep giving (but it will be) out of reserve funds.”

An endowment fund, said Treasurer Ron Theissen, keeps the high school scholarships going. To donate to the Chester Rotary, checks can be sent to PO Box 304, Chester, VT 05143. 

The Cavendish Fund, which has dual goals of supporting education and the arts while also supporting community building, has not conducted a fundraiser since March, said its director, Doug McBride.

He said as long as they “stay on mission” there won’t be a problem with fundraising, which is done primarily through an annual dinner at Sam’s Steakhouse that was canceled and an annual appeal letter. For the first time, this year’s letter will include a raffle of local art work. McBride said he doesn’t anticipate that the fund will have to cut back on giving.  The Cavendish Community Fund recently set up a Facebook page and a donation tab should be added in the next few weeks, McBride said.

Dinners, races and arts events re-invented

Neighborhood Connections, a social services agency based in Londonderry, is also using a raffle to help raise funds. Business Manager Jackie Borella said its biggest fundraiser  — the annual Chocolate, Cheese and Chili Fest  — has been “reimagined” this year as a raffle with tickets selling for $25 each or four for $100. Ten baskets, each with variety of  Vermont cheeses and chocolates will be raffled off on Sept. 16. To learn more and purchase tickets, click here. Instead of burdening businesses who are already financially stressed because of shutdowns, Neighborhood Connections has purchased raffle items. Some businesses, however, still were able to donate goods, printing and postage.

Jackie Borella has worked for both Neighborhood Connections and the Collaborative to continue to bring funding in during the pandemic.

Earlier this year, Neighborhood Connections re-invented its Spring Dinner, its second biggest fundraiser of the year, turning it into a sale of gift certificates. While the event didn’t bring in as much as the original event, Borella said Neighborhood Connections was  “very happy with the results.”

And a second homeowner wrote an appeal letter to other second-homeowners in Londonderry urging them to support the organization. Borella called he response “phenomenal.”

The Collaborative, which promotes healthy communities and substance-free youth, has for many years hosted a West River Run with the entrance fee supporting its many programs. This year the run went virtual, according to Borella, who is also the Collaborative’s finance director.  Participants were able to run the 11 miles wherever they were and still receive a goodie bag. Runs were also time, so winners were still declared in every age bracket, she said. And while the fund-raiser didn’t bring in what it has in a typical year, there were also fewer expenses, such as providing food for 150 runners.  Those wanting to donate to the Collaborative can click here.

The Collaborative’s signature program — Refuse to Use — will kick off on Sept. 26 with a different look, although details have yet been firmed up.

The Grace Cottage Hospital’s signature event has been the Hospital Fair Day on the Green in Townshend, a family friendly, fun-filled fund-raiser. This year, said Grace Cottage Foundation director Andrea Seaton, this event went virtual with an online auction of 155 items that netted about $25,000 as opposed to the $56,000 made last year.

The Kronley family participated in the Tour de Grace for Grace Cottage this year.

Another fundraising event this year was a 5K run that, like the Collaborative’s run, went virtual with people running wherever they were. About 114 runners, one horse and many dogs participated with people being sent bibs and taking pictures of themselves that were posted on Facebook. And its Tour de Grace Bicycle Rally, usually held from Stratton to Grace Cottage Hospital, attracted 93 people this year, ranging in age from 3 to 90. They rode a 15-mile loop, with family groups staying 6 feet apart.  Organizers said this raised more money than in past years.  To donate to Grace Cottage, click here.

The Londonderry Arts and Historical Society last year created a Dine Around fundraising event to help fund its $20,000 annual cost of operation, which includes paying for electricity, repairs, and insurance plus a part time archivist.

This year instead of going to private homes for dinner, local chefs prepared a meal that was picked up at the Society’s Custer Sharp house by those who paid for the $75 ticket. Just over 100 dinners were sold, board member Elsie Smith said. A raffle brought in about $2,500, so with “random” donations, more than $12,500 was raised and more than $10,000 netted. Last year, close to $15,000 was raised.

To donate to the Londonderry Arts and Historical Society, click here.


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