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Not-for-Profit, Award-Winning Community News and Views for Windham County, Vermont • Since 2006

Chamber recognizes service to community

Reformer Christmas Stocking, WKVT honored at BACC annual meeting

BRATTLEBORO—This year’s Brattleboro Area Chamber of Commerce’s Person of the Year award went to not one person, but many.

Chamber members honored the many Reformer Christmas Stocking board members on Jan. 28 with the chamber’s Person (or in this case, Persons) of the Year award.

Over its 78-year history of providing winter clothing to children, the volunteers behind the Christmas Stocking collected $3 million in funds, connected with families, purchased clothing, and organized comments from donors that appeared in the Brattleboro Reformer.

All the money raised went to purchasing hats, scarves, jackets, boots, and other items of winter clothing for children in need.

According to comments from newly elected Chamber Board President Vickie Case, the fundraiser was launched in 1937. That first year, volunteers sought to raise $300 to support “destitute children” and to “lessen suffering” in southeast Vermont.

By 1967, the amount needed to support area children in need rose to $74,000, said Case. For almost the past decade, the Christmas Stocking has raised more than $90,000 each year.

Over the past 10 years, the Stocking has served 13,000 kids, Case said.

Current Stocking board chair Elly Majonen thanked the large audience for the chamber’s highest honor.

Majonen also thanked the stocking’s legion of volunteers, the Reformer, the RSVP knitters who knitted hats, scarves, and mittens, and the local referral services that helped identify the children in need.

She also thanked the steadfast donors — large and small — who made the hope of warm winter clothing a reality for local kids.

“I’m humbled and honored to work with such amazing folks,” Majonen said.

The chamber’s Person of the Year honor represents the last hurrah for the Reformer Christmas Stocking. The volunteer-run organization, as the community has known it, disbanded last year.

Another local organization, the United Way of Windham County, has stepped into the stocking’s role. The organization launched the Kids in Coats Fund late last year.

As with the previous iteration, 100 percent of the funds raised will go to purchasing winter clothing for area children from infancy through grade 6. Eligible families can apply through local referral services such as schools, health and human service organizations, and state offices.

Donations can be made by texting “toasty” to 41444, or by mailing a check made out to UWWC to P.O. Box 617, Brattleboro, VT 05302 with “coats” in the memo line.

The chamber’s members also honored their 2015 Corporate Citizen of the Year.

Radio station WKVT AM-FM took the award home based on its years of service to the community.

Chamber Executive Director Kate O’Connor said that WKVT has been a community partner for more than 50 years.

Established in 1959, the radio station’s staff has helped fill seats at the Latchis Theatre and Bellows Falls Opera House with food donations, said O’Connor. The station has hosted an on-air forum discussing opiate addiction in the area.

The Legislature has recognized the station for its work in 2011 keeping the community informed during Tropical Storm Irene, O’Connor continued.

Staff at WKVT also provided ideas and support for chamber events such as Bacon Fest and the Jingle-bell Jog (with local attorney Elizabeth Wohl), she said.

Operations Manager and morning host Peter “Fish” Case accepted the award on behalf of the WKVT staff, saying that it was an honor to receive this recognition from the community it calls home.

When he started at WKVT, Peter Case said, he wanted the station to do as much good and provide as much help to the local community that the station could.

From serving on the boards of local nonprofits, to announcing the countless pancake breakfasts and spaghetti dinners, the staff “pitch in where and when needed,” he said.

The chamber also recognized other local organizations’ milestones.

Windham Coach & Carriage celebrated 20 years in business. Howard Printing celebrated 25 years. Vermont Country Deli marked 30 years. Actors Theatre Playhouse, Brattleboro Community Television, and Oak Meadow were recognized for 40 years in business. Seventy years ago what started with a card table and a cigar box at the back of the Putney Food Co-op grew into the River Valley Credit Union. The Centre Congregational Church was recognized for its two centuries serving the pastoral needs of its congregation.

O’Connor told the audience that the chamber has operated for 110 years. The nature of doing business in Brattleboro has changed and the chamber will keep pace.

“We have put together a board with vision,” she said.

The organization worked with local media agency Mondo Media to build a new website at www.brattleborochamber.org, she said. The website also hosts a community calendar.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #342 (Wednesday, February 3, 2016). This story appeared on page A1.

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