GUILFORD—The nonprofit Community Collaborative for Guilford needs a new home.
But, even without a facility, since November they’ve begun offering programs and support to the town’s residents.
Formally established in 2015, CC4G’s mission is “to provide support for the creation and sustainability of a community center that will house and work with other nonprofit programs to help meet the physical, social, and emotional needs of families, children, and adults in our community.”
The organization was inspired by the Vermont Council of Rural Development’s workshops with Guilford in 2014. The Council's Community Visit team asked residents to identify the most pressing needs to make the town “a better and more dynamic place to live,” according to their Report and Action Plan (which can be viewed at guilfordvt.net).
Residents identified three priorities for the town. One of them was, “support the development of the church as a community and early education center.”
This inspired the formation of CC4G and of their plans for the center.
Church parcel is a no-go
CC4G proposed placing the community center on an undeveloped parcel of land owned by the Guilford Community Church.
But, co-founder and CC4G Board President Elly Majonen told the Guilford Selectboard at the March 26 regular meeting, the site at the church “will not work for us.”
Last February, CC4G won a $30,000 grant from the Vermont Community Development Program to conduct a feasibility study.
“With the feasibility study, we learned a great deal about wetlands, storm drainage, permeable surfaces, building design, and footprint,” Majonen said. These topics, plus, “the projected income per square foot of the building we’re proposing led us to the conclusion that the original site we were working on” won’t meet CC4G’s needs, she said.
CC4G’s long-term mission, Majonen said, is to “acquire land in Guilford, either donated or purchased, upon which to build.” In the short-term, she added, CC4G must rent a building or home “to meet an immediate need” for a childcare program.
“High-quality and consistent childcare,” especially for very young children, “is an essential ingredient” for keeping young families in Guilford, Majonen said.
When Selectboard member Verandah Porche asked about the building’s requirements, Majonen said the CC4G Board was working on a letter with details, and they will release it soon.
Meanwhile, even without a facility, CC4G has begun offering programming.
Last November, CC4G received a $150,000 grant from the Promise Communities Initiative.
The Board hired Ragan Beebe as outreach and program coordinator, and CC4G opened an office in Algiers. They also hired a bookkeeper, are working with a doula, and have begun building partnerships with area social-service organizations.
Workshops and events
At the Selectboard meeting, Beebe talked about some of the workshops and events CC4G has presented in the past three months.
Those include a parent-baby playgroup, a parent support group, an open gym for parents (with childcare provided by CC4G), workshops on safety, health, music, and building natural outdoor play-spaces.
Majonen told the Selectboard CC4G has also worked with administrators at the Guilford Center School to purchase outdoor play equipment for the new pre-Kindergarten class, and the organization has begun to amass equipment and supplies for its eventual facility.
To help families in need, CC4G recently established an emergency assistance fund, and organized a committee — including school counselors, representatives from other community groups such as the Food Pantry and the Guilford Church, and the town’s health officer, Richard Davis — to oversee the program.
This money is “set aside for Guilford families in financial need during emergency situations,” said Majonen, who added, “there’s no expectation of repayment.”
Porche asked how families can apply for the fund. Majonen said the committee had just finished creating the form and will begin distributing it to other social service organizations in and around Guilford that serve Guilford residents.
Another goal, Majonen said, is to add members to CC4G’s Board, “both in skills and diversity.”
“There’s a lot of work to do,” she said.
CC4G also is seeking more funding sources, Majonen said, “to carry out our goals and to become more sustainable.”