Hinesburg Community Resource Center celebrates facility, gives tours

SCOOTER MACMILLAN
Staff Writer

About 75 people attended the Hinesburg Community Resource Center’s open house to celebrate Jan Blomstrann’s donation of the building and to give people a chance to tour the space.

The original January date for the open house had to be postponed because of snow. Then, as the date for the rescheduled open house approached and the new building needed some last-minute electrical work, Executive Director Rachel Kring found herself wondering, “what else could happen?”

But the weather was beautiful, the new building gleamed and an enthusiastic group of volunteers and donors attended to celebrate the new space and honor Blomstrann for deciding that the nonprofit would be owners instead of tenants.

Blomstrann started NRG Systems, the wind and solar technology company on Route 116 just north of downtown Hinesburg, with her ex-husband. She said they acquired the building thinking they would use it for a small expansion that never happened, so the building sat empty.

“I’m a big believer that buildings shouldn’t sit idle,” said Blomstrann, and was very receptive when she was approached about letting the Community Resource Center use the space.

Since 2012, the Hinesburg Community Resource Center has had a $1 lease for the building, but now even that fee has been waived.

The Resource Center’s Food Shelf program was the key driver for the move. It was housed in the basement of the United Church, but it outgrew that space, particularly as they began to distribute more fresh vegetables to food insecure families.

The Food Shelf is one of the many programs sponsored by the Resource Center, including Friends of Families, the Twice as Nice Consignment Store, Hinesburg Rides, Emergency Funds, online senior citizen’s calendar, vacation food bag for lunches for children during school vacations who get free or reduced lunches and a medical equipment lending program.

Touching so many lives

“It’s amazing how many people the organization touches without them even knowing,” board member Amy Sayre said. 

The idea of seeing if the Resource Center could use the NRG building came about as volunteers with Hinesburg Rides were trying to get bus service to Hinesburg, said Karla Munson, who is the board chair and a longtime volunteer.

The effort to get bus service got a lot of support from Blomstrann and NRG, who wanted bus service for their employees to Hinesburg from Burlington and Middlebury.

“Oh, the struggles we had,” Munson said in her dedication to Blomstrann. “It was a big no-no to have a bus cross county lines.”

Blomstrann’s generosity with the Hinesburg Community Resource Center is evidenced in this struggle as well because NRG donated the money to buy the first bus. Now, there are two buses, one coming from Middlebury and one from Burlington in the morning and heading back in the evening.

Food shelf in new quarters

Jeff Glover said that he started volunteering with the Resource Center through the Food Shelf, and he came to the Food Shelf through his wife. She was volunteering with the Food Shelf when it was still operating out of the United Church.

“My wife was helping out and I came to help her,” said Glover, who’s now co-director of the Food Shelf program. “And then she decided not to come and so I sort of took over.”

He and Hank White are co-directors of the Food Shelf, so it fell to them seven years ago to make the move to the new facility on 51 Ballards Corner Road, next to Hinesburg’s Carpenter-Carse Library.

“We closed on the new building on a Friday and we were supposed to open on Tuesday. We came by here and there were no shelves and we didn’t know what to do. And Hank said, ‘Let’s just go do it, and if they don’t like it, they can fire us.’”

By Tuesday, the Food Shelf was set up in its new space, and the co-directors still had their unpaid jobs.

As people toured the building and noshed on a variety of soups that members of the board of directors had brought, Glover was asked what he thought of the turnout.

He said it was a good crowd, but an interesting one.

“They apparently don’t like brownies,” he said.

While soups were a hit, the table laden with a variety of brownies looked completely untouched.

Joe Dauscher was enthusiastic about the building. He is network relations manager of Vermont Foodbank in Barre. He works as a liaison between the foodbanks and 215 partners statewide – those partners are food shelves, community meal sites, shelters and after school programs. He is familiar with facilities like the Hinesburg Community Resource Center’s building.

“This is a wonderful place,” he said. “First, the building is centrally located but it’s private, so people can come in here and still maintain their privacy,” he said. “It’s clean and look at the variety of food they have. This almost looks like a farmers market.”

Future of Resource Center

Kring said she hopes everyone in town will fill out the survey on the Resource Center’s website (www.hinesburgresource.org) or the Carpenter-Carse Library site (www.carpentercarse.org).

She and library director Sara Armstrong Donegan were talking about what their organizations were doing and what the community wants to do next. They spearheaded the survey questionnaire, and the results of the survey are intended to help other Hinesburg nonprofit organizations like the recreation department or CVU Access gauge what the community wants.

“What are people doing and what would they like to see us do that they have to hop in the car to go to Burlington for?” Kring said. “We have some ideas about the programs and services for the future, but we want to hear what the community’s priorities are before we make any decision.”

For example, she said some people might say that they would like help with tax preparation.

“The Resource Center might not be able to provide those services ourselves, but our mission has always been to connect people with services so we work to partner with other agencies to see if we can help make that happen,” she said.

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