Mapping The Money: Foundation Reflects On Lessons Learned From Irene

Jul 11, 2013

Interactive Map of VCF Irene Funds

The morning after Irene, the phones at the Vermont Community Foundation didn’t stop ringing.

“We sat down as a whole staff,” recalled VCF President and CEO Stuart Comstock-Gay, “and said, ‘ Look, set aside all the other projects you’re working on right now. We’re focused on this for as long as we need to.’”

VCF is an umbrella organization for 600 mini foundations.

After Irene, it set up five new funds to meet some of the unique needs following the flood including helping mobile home owners and the Red Cross in Vermont, along with distributing the more than $1 million raised by a benefit concert by Phish.

The VCF funds were donated to groups that were already set up to do social service work or to new groups established after Irene.

They went to arts and recreational groups, food pantries, churches , a hospice, a boys and girls club,  a school, and even a state agency, the Agency of Agriculture.

“There were so many organizations touched in one way or another and both needing help to keep going,” said Comstock-Gay, “but also looking for help to help others.”

Comstock-Gay said Irene showed the Vermont Community Foundation how nimble it can be.

“This is the first instance where we’ve moved the entire organization toward one issue for half a year plus and it taught us that it’s something we can do,” said Comstock-Gay.  “That we’re mature enough as an organization now.  That we can move ourselves to issues and move resources.  And I think it’s opened up our eyes to the role we can play going forward.”

Comstock–Gay says VCF did not use any of the funds it raised for Irene to support itself. He says all of the funds raised went to the community because that seemed the right thing to do.

Mapping the Money: Vermont Community Foundation Gave to Farmers and Nonprofits after Irene.

The Vermont Community Foundation provided more than $4.1 million  in grants to 229 individual farmers and 144 non-profit organizations to help recover from Tropical Storm Irene.

The VCF set up five funds to meet some of the unique needs after Irene:

• The Vermont Farm Disaster Relief Fund

• The WaterWheel Fund for Vermont Flood Recovery (to distribute $1.2 million raised by a Phish benefit concert)

• The Mobile Home Program Fund

• The Special and Urgent Needs Irene Recovery Fund

• The Vermont Red Cross Response

More than half of the VCF funding, $2.4 million went to farmers. Nearly $1.7 million went to nonprofits including arts organizations food pantries, and churches.  Grants were also given to individual towns hit hard by the flood, including Wilmington, Stockbridge and Hartford.

VCF donated to nonprofits involved in Irene recovery work including several Long Term Recovery Committees, community action agencies, as well as the Mad River Valley Community Fund and Sustainable Woodstock.

Most of the grants to nonprofits were $5000 each. $150,000 went to the Central Vermont Community Action Council, which has served as a fiscal agent for some of the recovery work.

$178,461 went to the Mobile Home Project at the Champlain Valley Office of Economic Opportunity to pay for the demolition of damaged mobile homes.

The fund also gave $50,000 to a state agency, the Vermont  Agency of Agriculture, to pay for a case worker to coordinate requests for help from farms after the disaster.

And it gave $3,000 to Vermont Public Television to broadcast a Grace Potter benefit concert, which brought in additional donations.

You can read more about the Vermont Community Foudnation’s Irene recovery work here: http://www.vtfloodresponse.org/