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ReNew launches fundraising effort

Construction slump, and a drop in donations, leaves nonprofit in a financial jam

BRATTLEBORO—With its future hanging in the balance, ReNew Building Materials & Salvage has begun a major fundraising drive.

ReNew executive director Nancy Bern said that “sales and deconstruction jobs have dropped off, as often happens in the winter months, but things have been slowing for the past year and now we are working very hard to keep our staff together and meet operation expenses so our doors can stay open.”

Bern said the lingering effects of the current recession have taken a big toll on ReNew, a nonprofit organization which opened its doors in September 2005 with a mission of keeping construction waste out of landfill through recycling and reuse. ReNew also runs job training programs for workers with cognitive, social, or behavioral issues.

With new home construction at a near standstill, she said there are fewer contractors donating their leftover building materials.

There are also fewer homeowners that are remodeling their existing homes, so sales of salvaged building materials, appliances, and fixtures are down, too.

And increased energy and insurance costs have increased ReNew’s overhead.

Bern said ReNew has an annual budget of $500,000, and employs 10 people. It needs to raise at least $40,000 in the coming weeks to stay open.

ReNew would have done an annual fund drive last year, but Bern said the double whammy of the Brooks House fire and Tropical Storm Irene changed the fundraising landscape, and the organization decided to step back.

“It’s been a rough year for Brattleboro,” she said, adding that she was among the 50 tenants that were burned out of the Brooks House.

However, Bern said, the current needs of ReNew made it imperative to resume fundraising.

“It’s not just meeting our immediate needs,” she said. “We have a lot of new ideas for training programs and outreach, but we got caught in the downturn in a really big way.“

The first fundraising letters went out in mid-January, and Bern said she has seen a good initial response to the appeal. Donations may be sent to 16 Town Crier Drive, Brattleboro, VT 05301, or visit www.renewsalvage.org and click on the GuideStar button on the home page.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #137 (Wednesday, February 1, 2012).

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