Groundworks celebrates its new facilities
Groundworks executive director Josh Davis, right, greets Lee and Byron Stookey of Brattleboro during an Oct. 13 grand opening event at the organization’s new shelter and offices.

Groundworks celebrates its new facilities

Despite the year-plus delay in making it official, the completion of a centralized campus in 2021 is an ‘achievement worth celebrating,’ the agency says

BRATTLEBORO — It's sort of unusual for an institution to have a grand opening ceremony more than a year after opening a new facility, but not much has been usual about the four-year process of Groundworks Collaborative to create a new social service infrastructure for the area.

“It doesn't seem like a standard practice to be formally opening the campus after it's been operational and so heavily used for so many months,” said Josh Davis, executive director of the nonprofit, “but between COVID-19 and supply chain delays, we haven't been able to bring everyone in to see the place until now, and this achievement is worth celebrating.”

Groundworks Collaborative, which addresses hunger and homelessness in the community, marked the culmination of four years of planning, fundraising, and construction of its new campus on South Main Street on Oct. 13 with a cookout and open house to show off the spacious, year-round overnight shelter and new administrative offices.

The process started in 2018, when the nonprofit was trying to find a permanent home for what was then known as the Seasonal Overflow Shelter.

Open from November to April, it started and operated for years in the First Baptist Church before the congregation sold its building. The shelter then moved temporarily to the Winston Prouty Center campus.

At the same time, Groundworks was also looking for more space for its day shelter, which was sharing space with administrative offices and food pantry in the old Brattleboro Area Drop-in Center. The Foodworks food shelf eventually moved to a new location on Canal Street.

The immediate need for an overflow shelter was temporarily eased by the state's emergency motel program created during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Groundworks pressed ahead with building plans, and the 5,000-square-foot shelter on 54 South Main St. was completed and opened in August 2021. Davis said it has operated at 99% capacity ever since.

The new facility accommodates between 40 and 60 guests each day and offers bathrooms with showers, a laundry room, a full kitchen and emergency food pantry, phone and internet access, and lockers. At night, the space converts into an overnight shelter with beds for 34 people.

Phase two of the project - a two-story administrative building constructed on the footprint of the former Drop-In Center - opened this summer. It consolidates a number of Groundworks' programs and administrative offices with the Representative Payee Program, which provides services and counseling to help keep clients in good financial standing, as well as case management to help people find services, employment, and medical resources.

Two rooms in the new space are also home to the Healthworks program, a collaboration seven years in the making with Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, the Brattleboro Retreat, and Health Care & Rehabilitation Services (HCRS). Groundworks is preparing to launch Healthworks ACT - a system of on-site providers with round-the-clock staffing to deliver health care services.

Public funding for this $3.6 million project came through the Vermont Community Development Program, the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board, the Town of Brattleboro, and the USDA's Rural Development Community Facilities Grant Program.

Private funding included grants from the Thomas Thompson Trust, Jane's Trust, Green Mountain Power, and Efficiency Vermont, as well as nearly $1.6 million from individual donors through a capital campaign.

Thanks to the support, Davis said Groundworks is closer to achieving their ultimate goal of ensuring “everyone in our community has enough - food, shelter, housing, meaningful work, adequate health care, transportation, and connection to community.”

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