Although Sophie Ackert, daughter of Wilmington second-home owners Eve and Dave Ackert, lives in Sandy Hook, CT, when she was looking for a community service project for her bat mitzvah, it was the flood devastation in Wilmington that came to mind first.
“When I was thinking about charities, I thought flood relief would be perfect,” she says. “I wanted to help the people in Wilmington. It really meant a lot to me.”
With an interest in fashion and design, Ackert planned a back-to-school-themed fashion show and silent auction at her school, Fraser Woods Montessori School in Newtown, CT.
Ackert says her family spends a lot of time in Wilmington, and she has grown up with a close connection to Wilmington and the Deerfield Valley. “I love it up there, and I know a lot of people there,” she says. “It feels like home.”
After the flood, Ackert says, she and her family didn’t venture north to their Vermont home for a couple of months. At the time, roads were unsafe and Wilmington officials had put the word out to visitors and second-home owners to limit nonessential visits to Wilmington to avoid taxing the weakened municipal infrastructure. Ackert says her father came up alone to bring some donations, and brought back photos of flood damage in the town.
“It was devastating to see the businesses that I went to when I went up there destroyed,” Ackert recalls.
When the family was finally able to come to Wilmington a couple of months later, Ackert says she was shocked. “It was still awful. I couldn’t imagine what it was like when I heard what happened, and I didn’t imagine all the boarded-up windows, and the covered bridges and roadways ruined. It was amazing to see all that damage.”
Although her parents may have thought her goal of raising $1,000 was a little ambitious, they pitched in and helped. Ackert’s father helped her contact major clothing companies for donations.
“I wrote them nice letters, telling them what I was doing and what happened in Wilmington,” she says. “Most of them sent something. I got a lot of donations.”
Ackert organized the fashion show with the help of her mother, using classmates and parents as models.
Although she had never organized a fashion event before, she said it went off without a hitch. “We kind of winged it,” she laughs, “but I’ve read how a fashion show works, and been to a fashion show.”
The fundraiser far exceeded Ackert’s goal, more than tripling it. Through the sale of the donated clothing, silent auction items, and the $15 entry donation to the show (with brunch), she raised more than $3,000.
Ackert will donate the proceeds to The Wilmington Fund VT and the Deerfield Valley Food Pantry. Clothing that was left over from the evening will be donated to Twice Blessed. Ackert says they’ll try to match the clothes with people who were impacted by the flood. “But even if they can’t, all the proceeds from Twice Blessed go back to the community, so if they sell the clothes, it still helps.”