Broad Brook Grange enters a new era
The Broad Brook Grange in Guilford Center.

Broad Brook Grange enters a new era

New nonprofit plans to purchase historic building and transform it into a new town community center

GUILFORD — On a recent Sunday afternoon, about 60 people gathered to snack on homemade apple pie and ice cream at the Broad Brook Grange.

While that's not an unusual occurrence at the grange hall, the reason for the apple pie social was for grange officials to make a special announcement: the Broad Brook Grange building will soon be sold to a new nonprofit, the Broad Brook Community Center, Inc.

“The stage is set for our hall to get a new lease on life,” said Bobbie Fitch Haumann, Master of the Broad Brook Grange.

Haumann - who also serves on the Community Center's Board of Directors - was joined by other members of the grange to introduce the Center, let the community know how the two will work together, and drum up support.

On the walls of the downstairs hall, the Center's board members put up large pieces of paper asking attendees to write their answers to questions such as “What would you like to see at the Grange?” and “How would you like to be involved in the Broad Brook Community Center?”

Sara Coffey, who is a member of both the Broad Brook Grange and president of the Broad Brook Community Center, gave attendees the history behind the transfer, and what community members can expect from the change.

“Many of us are here because we love Guilford, right?” Coffey said. In response, attendees put down their plates of pie long enough to applaud and cheer.

In 2013, the Vermont Council for Rural Development conducted a series of community visits in Guilford to help residents identify some priorities for the town. “Many people at this meeting were there,” Coffey noted.

Evolution of an idea

One goal that came from the visits was to create a handicapped-accessible community center. About 25 people joined a task force to address this need. That evolved into the formation of the Broad Brook Community Center, a 501(c)3 organization with a mission to renovate, extend the life, and expand accessibility and use of the grange hall.

During the past two years, the Broad Brook Grange and BBCC have worked together to strategize how the new nonprofit can purchase the building so it can raise funds for the rehabilitation and restoration of the historic hall, while ensuring the Grangers continue to have a permanent home.

Broad Brook Community Center members conducted a fundraising campaign feasibility study and a building needs assessment, developed renovation plans, and bolstered partnerships with other groups for future programming and activities.

In late-September, members of Broad Brook Grange held a meeting and voted unanimously to approve a memorandum of understanding to sell the building to the BBCC for $1,500.

Haumann explained the reason for the low selling price: Grange members want the BBCC to spend its money on improving the hall.

The final hurdle - getting approval of the sale from the Vermont State Grange organization - was cleared over the weekend of Oct. 21 - one day before the Apple Pie Social. “So, we're all set,” Haumann said.

The BBCC “will guide this building into the next century,” said Broad Brook Grange and BBCC member Laura Lawson Tucker. “We're building on partnerships” between a variety of nonprofit, private, and governmental organizations that actively use the hall for agriculture, entertainment, education, and civic purposes, she said.

Next up: fundraising

The next step is fundraising. The BBCC set a target date of May 2018 to raise $300,000. This will pay for a few immediate needs, including improving the entryway with new steps and an ADA-compliant ramp, installing ADA-accessible bathrooms, making fire safety upgrades, and completing the first phase of kitchen renovations.

In a news release, Coffey announced “heartening progress to date."

“We received a $250,000 challenge from an anonymous donor,” she said.

“In addition, we recently received news of an award of tax credits from Vermont's Downtown and Village Center Tax Credit Program. Receiving a competitive award and large gift have brought real momentum to our campaign. We hope they will motivate the community to help us match this with a $400,000 challenge, taking us to 80% of our goal,” Coffey said.

By May 2019, the BBCC hopes to raise $700,000 to install an elevator to the second floor, add another bathroom, dig a new well and put in a new septic system, complete the fire safety upgrades, update the building's infrastructure and utilities, finish the commercial-grade kitchen, and improve the outdoor areas.

Andy Loughney, farmer, grange member, and a member of the BBCC's board of directors, said he was interested in what a new commercial kitchen will bring to the community.

“It's a tremendous opportunity for people who are farming and gardening to have things like canning workshops,” especially for the clients of the town's food pantry, Loughney said. He noted this project could help attract young families and help keep them here.

“I'm really excited to be a part of it,” Loughney said.

Haumann noted the Broad Brook Grange has been a part of her life since childhood. “I joined when I was 14 because my parents made me,” she noted.

“I'm a Fitch,” she said, “and the Grange was really important to my dad, Bill Fitch. Many people wouldn't have joined if it wasn't for my dad, who knocked on people's doors and insisted they join.”

In the news release, Haumann said her father “would be so pleased about this agreement with the BBCC. This partnership between the Grange and the Broad Brook Community Center ensures a strong community center for now and for generations to come.”

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