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Turning Point’s USDA grant will let it return to downtown

Commons reporter Olga Peters contributed to this report.

BRATTLEBORO—During a news conference in Chester on Monday, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) officials announced eight organizations across the state will share $430,326 in USDA Rural Development Community Facility grants, loans, and loan guarantees to purchase, improve, or construct essential community assets.

Turning Point of Windham County in Brattleboro received a portion of the funding. They will get a $162,126 guaranteed loan in collaboration with Brattleboro Savings & Loan to purchase and renovate a 15-room, single-family building downtown at the intersection of Elm, Frost, and Elliot streets.

Turning Point offers multiple services to people in recovery and those affected by addiction. The center offers peer support, education, meeting space, and resource options, as well as opportunities to socialize and volunteer.

Susan Walker, executive director of Turning Point, told The Commons last fall that while their current location on Putney Road is fine, a downtown center would serve its client base better.

The center started its life on Elm Street, and moved to a location off Putney Road in August 2011, a day before Tropical Storm Irene hit Brattleboro with flash flooding.

The building that Turning Point is buying was damaged by the storm, and has stood empty since then. Walker said it needs about $65,000 in repairs.

Turning Point hoped to get a loan from USDA Rural Development last fall, but the loan was a casualty of the government shutdown and a long fight in Congress over the 2014 Farm Bill.

During the news conference in front of Chester’s Whiting Library, one of the grant recipients, USDA Rural Development Vermont and New Hampshire State Director Ted Brady presented certificates to the eight grantees.

“Small rural towns and the non-profit organizations that serve them depend upon Rural Development for grants, loans and loan guarantees to help provide essential community services that would otherwise be cost-prohibitive or place an increased burden on already cash-strapped Vermonters,” said Brady.

“Living in a rural state like Vermont is not something we do because it’s easy. It’s something we do because we love this land and the way of life that comes with it,” said Lt. Gov. Phil Scott. “That way of life isn’t always easy, and these eight loan grants reinforce the vital role that rural communities like ours play in shaping our national landscape.”

In a joint statement, U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy and Sanders and U.S. Rep. Peter Welch said: “The USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Program has a proven track record of making quality investments in the infrastructure of the community. We believe that should be a high priority. These investments improve the quality of life for Vermonters, and this is a program that works and one we fought for in the 2014 Farm Bill.”

USDA, through its Rural Development mission area, administers and manages housing, business and community infrastructure programs through a national network of state and local offices. It has an active portfolio of more than $197 billion in loans and loan guarantees.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #260 (Wednesday, June 25, 2014). This story appeared on page A3.

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