A Rutland Regional Medical Center fundraiser, created with a goal of reaching $150,000 to help with a Rutland Housing Authority project, beat its goal and collected more than $275,000 for the Rutland Area Bridge housing project on Woodstock Avenue.
Traci Moore, senior director of development and community relations, said the Housing for Health campaign got an “overwhelming response” from the community.
“We have just been so incredibly grateful for the support, the response and really quick turnaround support that we received from the community,” Moore said.
Kevin Loso, executive director of the Rutland Housing Authority said the project had been funded by some of the about $33 million of the CARES Act money received by Vermont from the federal government and channeled it through the Vermont Housing Conservation Board. However, Loso said the funding could not be used for certain development costs which was one of the benefits of the Rutland hospital’s fund drive.
The campaign had some unusual challenges. The Bridge housing project was developed using CARES Act money, which had to be spent by the end of the year. And while fundraisers are not unusual for RRMC, this year because of the pandemic, many of the kinds of event that would bring people together for a charitable cause were not possible.
Also Housing for Health got started in early October, which Moore said was later than the organizers intended.
“We couldn’t do a lot of what we typically do when we kick off a campaign, which is to bring people together and create some educational opportunities, create an atmosphere where people understand what the need is and help to rally in support of that need,” Moore said.
Moore said hospital staff created a grass-roots fundraising plan and worked with the RHA to create a volunteer campaign committee that met every week. Moore said the members reached out to people and businesses in the Rutland County area.
According to Moore, many of them “stepped up immediately with very generous donations.”
Housing for Health was the subject of RRMC’s fall appeal, Moore said.
The committee’s efforts and the mailings were the two primary methods used to meet the goal.
The Bridges project, has been built at the former Hendy Brothers John Deere dealership on Route 4 East, mostly, Loso said, because there was an opportunity that had to be seized quickly, and there weren’t many other sites that would meet the needs in the area.
“I think everyone agrees that this was the most ambitious undertaking of any of the projects that are being constructed or developed around the state. Many areas converted motels into housing. But really, no one essentially started from scratch. We had an empty shell,” he said.
Working with the design team, NBF Architects of Rutland, the contractor, Naylor & Breen Builders of Brandon and several sub-contractors, a plan was developed “very quickly” to convert the building into nine units.
Loso said many who work to create affordable housing know it can be a lengthy process.
“Everyone acknowledged that ... was more like a two-year project, and we got it done in five months,” he said.
The first families are expected to move in early next week. Those families are currently living in motels as part of the emergency voucher program.
Loso said because of the challenges of living in motels, which include cooking and, during the pandemic, access to remote learning for families with school-age children.
“We’re really pleased to get those families into an environment that’s much more conducive to all of those things,” he said.
Case management will be available to help the families get into permanent, affordable housing and “ideally financial self-sufficiency.”
The Bridges housing creates an ongoing partnership with RRMC And RHA.
Loso said two units are dedicated to the hospital’s needs and will be used when a patient no longer needs to be treated at Rutland Regional but can’t be discharged because he or she doesn’t have housing.
“You can’t ethically or legally discharge a patient into homelessness,” Loso said.
Loso said the project therefore helps families hoping to transition out of homelessness and the hospital, which can free up space for patients who need direct care.