Fund resets mission
by Mike Eldred
Jul 17, 2014 | 1467 views | 0 0 comments | 50 50 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WILMINGTON- The buzz of saws and the sound of hammers hammering has echoed through Wilmington Village this summer, sweet music to the people and organizations that have spent nearly three years working to revitalize the village after it was flooded by Tropical Storm Irene.

For one group that has been instrumental in the recovery effort, the Wilmington Fund VT, the activity signals the success of their mission. “It’s exciting,” says Wilmington Fund VT founder Dan Kilmurray. “I’ve never seen a time when this much work was going on downtown all at the same time.”

Through private donations, including a hefty $250,000 donation from Kilmurray and his wife Tamara Kilmurray, and several fundraising events, the fund has raised about $600,000. Most of the money has been disbursed through grants to support work in the village, such as the renovation of Dot’s Restaurant, work on the municipal parking lot on West Main Street, and renovations at the Norton House and 1836 Country Store.

The grants the fund has issued have leveraged far larger investments in the village, and this summer the fund’s efforts have taken off in a big way. The Wilmington Fund’s grants have supported work on the extensive renovations at the future Zoar Outdoor building owned by Cliff Duncan, as well as renovation projects at the Vermont House, the former Cane’s Tavern, the former O.O. Ware building, and the professional building.

“We’ve played a big role in a lot of the work that’s going on downtown,” says Kilmurray. “We’re seeing the fruits of all the prior fundraising now.”

Kilmurray says the recovery is winding down, and while some might see that as an opportunity to sit back and rest on their laurels, Kilmurray and the Wilmington Fund board plan to continue fundraising and refocus their efforts. “I think it’s fair to say the original mandate of the fund is winding down,” Kilmurray says. “We’ll be moving away from buildings and structures toward more traditionally philanthropic activities and business development.”

The Wilmington Fund already has a hand in economic development in the village, partnering with and providing some initial funding to Wilmington Works, the nonprofit organization created to administer the Wilmington Downtown Designation program. Kilmurray says the Wilmington Fund will refocus on projects that will support the businesses in the village, increase economic activity, and make the village more attractive to residents and visitors. “I believe Memorial Hall is an underutilized asset,” Kilmurray offers as an example. “It’s a great asset to the town that doesn’t see much activity during some times of the year.”

Although the town’s trail system has blossomed over the last few years, Kilmurray says there’s still more work to do on the trail system to which the Wilmington Fund can contribute. “There’s s lot that can be done to develop the trail system,” he says. “Things to make the trails more customer-friendly. We’d like to continue to get the Valley Trail going.”

With most of the money the fund has previously raised already expended or committed to current projects, the Wilmington Fund is holding a concert fundraiser with Steve Forbert at Memorial Hall at 8 pm on Saturday, July 26. General admission tickets are on sale now at www.wilmington-fund-concert.eventbrite.com for $25 each, or can be purchased at the door for $30. For $150, “premium seating” is available, which includes dinner with Forbert and complementary drinks.

Forbert is a singer-songwriter whose 1978 debut album “Alive on Arrival” propelled him onto the charts with the hit song “Romeo’s Tune.” Although his work hasn’t topped the charts since then, he has built a following of dedicated fans who follow his work. Kilmurray calls Forbert an iconic folk and blues performer. “He’s a fantastic performer. It was a great win for us to get him to come up here during his tour.”

The funds raised will go to support the Wilmington Fund’s ongoing activities in the village. “I can’t remember when the town has had this kind of opportunity in place,” Kilmurray says of the current work in the village. “If the efforts are successful, and we’re all hopeful it’s going to be, it will help every business in town. During peak tourist season there will be 20 rooms booked right in the village.”

For more information about the Wilmington Fund VT or next week’s concert visit www.thewilmingtonfundvt.org.
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