Laura Hoopes: preserving Hinesburg’s community spirit

Laura Hoopes makes a difference leading Hinesburg’s Community Resource Center.
Laura Hoopes makes a difference leading Hinesburg’s Community Resource Center.

When Laura Hoopes took time off from work after giving birth to her son, she visited the Hinesburg Community Resource Center (HCRC) to volunteer. “I was a new mom and new to the community,” she said “so I wanted to connect and meet people and get involved in something that related to my current phase of life.” Hoopes began volunteering with the center’s long-running Friends of Families program and when the HCRC Coordinator decided to take a six-month sabbatical, she stepped in as interim coordinator. When the coordinator subsequently decided to open a restaurant with her husband rather than return to her post, Hoopes was asked to take over. Six years later, she remains at the helm.

The HCRC was started in 1986 by a group of neighbors who wanted to help community members in need by letting them know what resources were available and by providing emergency funds. Soon, the group started the Hinesburg Food Shelf and then the Friends of Families program.
These were followed by Hinesburg Rides and a medical equipment lending program, both of which were conceived by Karla Munson who currently serves as the Board Chair. This May, Board Member Kathleen Patten opened the Twice as Nice Thrift Shop in the building formerly occupied by Grateful Dog Grooming, which will help fund the center’s programs.

“I’ve been really fortunate to see a lot of wonderful growth and change in my tenure,” said Hoopes. One change has been the food shelf’s move from a small, damp basement to an NRG building which is spacious enough to let clients take shopping carts up and down the aisle. “That’s been an amazing gift to us,” Hoopes said. The food shelf used to have a table at the farmers’ market which allowed people to drop off produce for their clients, but the farmers’ market is no longer in operation, so Hoopes gave thanks to a generous donor who has allowed the center to purchase CSA shares at a local farm to give to those clients.

“This was not my original path,” said Hoopes whose background is in elementary education. “This work has certainly fed me in great ways. It’s very meaningful work and helps me serve people in need, and helps me build my community, and that feels really good.”

Hoopes’ job is a part-time one, which allows her to continue to focus on raising her son. She noted that the Hinesburg Community Resource Center couldn’t do the work it does without the help of roughly 40 volunteers. “They make my work really easy,” she said. “They have taken ownership of these programs and built them up to what they are. They have tremendous energy.”

Hoopes moved to Hinesburg in 2006. She and her husband briefly relocated to Middlebury while renting out their Hinesburg house, but Hoopes really missed the town so they returned. “There is a sense of community here that is unmatched,” she said. “There is an amazing amount of volunteerism and people who are interested in connecting and serving and it’s contagious. There is something here that inspires people and it’s really great.”