BENNINGTON, Vt. — The Grateful Bennington Fund raised over $566,000 to help support Southwestern Vermont Health Care's repurposing of the former Southern Vermont College campus.
"The Grateful Bennington Fund is a tremendous testimony of the level of support that our community has," Southwestern Vermont Health Care's (SVHC) President and CEO Tom Dee said during a virtual press conference Thursday. "Not only for our health system, but it also highlights the importance of the former SVC property and how people feel about it."
Southern Vermont College (SVC) closed in 2019 after years of struggling with declining enrollment and financial pressure. SVHC purchased the campus two years later.
"It was a very difficult decision for us and the community," David Newell, fundraiser organizer, former SVHC Foundation Board Member, and former SVC Board Member said. "...Certainly there was the risk that the campus would not be available to the community."
Funds were needed for the reimagination and reinvigoration of the campus so Newell and fellow SVHC Foundation Board Member Michael McKenna conceptualized the Grateful Bennington Fund Drive. The fundraising effort ran through the month of February. The goal was $500,000.
McKenna said Grateful Bennington raised over $566,000 from 450 donors. He said 80 percent of the donors were from Bennington, but people donated from as far as Hawaii.
"We have exceeded that goal," Newell said. "...We are extremely encouraged and humbled by the outstanding community support."
McKenna said the average donation was $1,200 with an anonymous $200,000 donation towards the end of the campaign.
"Thank you very much for everyone's support," McKenna said. "It is really tremendous and a real momentum builder."
Dee said SVHC envisions a multi-use community facility. He said the exact details have yet to be worked out, and they plan to engage Bennington County Regional Commission to develop a masterplan.
"We will look at those needs and the needs of the community to see how we can best use it," Dee said. "We know that it is a tremendous community asset...We have a lot of good ideas but those thoughts are not a plan yet."
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