BENNINGTON — A group of concerned business owners and operators in Bennington and the Bennington Regional Chamber of Commerce on Monday announced a multi-effort project to provide financial support for staff and faculty of Southern Vermont College, which is to close at the end of the current school year.
The group will be launching various initiatives to raise funds for a "SVC Staff Support Fund," a fund that will go towards only the staff and faculty of Southern Vermont College, according to a media release from the chamber.
"We understand that the college is making every effort to ensure that its employees all receive the full compensation they are due," Matt Harrington, executive director of the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce, said when contacted Monday.
"At the same time, we know that the college's finances are extremely limited and that it still has numerous obligations to meet. Therefore, we are hoping to help by providing support that ensures the college can support its employees and meet its other obligations in a timely fashion."
The first project the group is undertaking is an "SVC Appreciation Day," scheduled for Saturday, May 18. Participating stores and businesses will donate 10 percent of sales to the SVC Staff Support Fund. Anonymous donors have pledged to match up to $22,500 of the funds raised.
All funds raised on this day will be given to a local trustee at the college, who will designate the gift to provide the college a way to meet staff financial obligations.
Ramunto's Pizza, Bennington Potters, Bennington Pizza House, Bringing You Vermont, Hawkins House, The Four Chimneys Inn, The Grille at Mount Anthony Country Club, The Village Chocolate Shoppe, The Tap House at Catamount Glass, The Bennington Bookshop, King's Shoes, Powers Market and Jay's Art Shop & Frame Gallery have signed up so far, Harrington said.
While other institutions have stepped in to support some of SVC's high-demand degree programs, and students are being helped with their transition to new schools, "the one `nut' that's been perhaps the hardest is how to make staff whole by the time the school closes," Harrington said. "As certain parties became aware of this challenge, the chamber was asked to work with those business parties to see what we, the business community, could do to help."
Many of the group's efforts will focus on what the local businesses can do to generate revenue to assist the college and staff. There will also be opportunities for individual residents to give back as well, Harrington said.
"We have financial goals to meet based on conversations with the SVC leadership that will ensure a 'wholeness' transition for staff," he said. "Bennington and the surrounding communities have been thinking and talking about the recent closing of Southern Vermont College for weeks now. The closing of this institution is devastating, both culturally and economically to many of us. The best possible way to channel our emotions and concern is by pulling together as a community and making the closure of the college and departure of the staff as seamless and caring as a possible.""The faculty and staff are our friends and neighbors; they are our customers; they have been through a terrible ordeal; coming to their aid is the right thing to do," Harrington said. "It is the Vermont thing to do. It is the Bennington thing to do."
Many of the group's efforts will focus on what the local businesses can do to generate revenue to assist the college and staff, he said. There will also be opportunities for individual residents to give back.
"In a way, this is also a thank you to SVC. As much as it's a goodbye, it's also a celebration of the many, many students that came through the college and made a big impact on this town," Harrington said. "We want to show our appreciation to the school for many years of shopping local and being a part of our community."
Stores and businesses that would like to participate in this effort can contact the chamber's offices at 802-447-3311 or email Harrington directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information on the project and to keep up to date with funds raised visit https://www.bennington.com/the-remember-svc-project
— Banner staff