WILMINGTON -- When John and Patty Reagan saw the damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene last August, the couple thought their iconic diner, Dot's Restaurant, was finished.
But through "Vermont Strong" grit and determination and the help of thousands of volunteers, residents, second-homeowners and town and state officials, comfort food and John's famous chili could be back in Wilmington soon.
Thanks in large part to fundraising efforts of organizations such as the Wilmington Fund, John and Patty are going to rebuild the restaurant.
The total cost of the project is estimated at more than $600,000, but John and Patty are already nearly a third of the way to their goal.
"This town just keeps giving and we couldn't be more grateful," John said. "These people are truly amazing."
This Saturday, the Wilmington Fund is hosting a benefit concert to help rebuild Dot's with Jon Pousette-Dart and Aztec Two-Step at Memorial Hall.
A silent auction will be held prior to the concert and items up for grabs include green fees at Mount Snow Country Club, a weekend stay at the Grand Summit and a "Wedding Cake Table" donated by artist David Ganter.
The Wilmington Fund also committed up to $50,000 in matching funds to help the Reagans bring back Dot's.
Julie Lineberger, spokeswoman for the fund, said that there's been a "tremendous outpouring of support" for Dot's and tickets for the concerts were selling fast.
The day of the flood, John and Patty had opened the restaurant at 8 a.m. as usual but when they saw how quickly the Deerfield River was rising they sent staff home, grabbed what was irreplaceable and left.
John and Patty could only watch as propane tanks, uprooted trees, dumpsters and dead livestock swept up by the flood battered the sides of the building.
For months the Reagans were convinced the only option to reopen Dot's was as a seasonal, outdoor diner -- that was, until members of the Vermont Preservation Trust and the Wilmington Fund worked to help raise money so that contractors could salvage as much of the building as possible.
"It's going to take a lot to put us back together," John said. "But it's worth it, every single moment of it is."
Construction crews are getting ready to lift Dot's off its foundation and onto the nearby parking lot to rebuild and replace the historic building, John said.
The plan is to lift the building off its footing, rebuild then raise its foundation nearly two feet, then put the structure back.
Rebuilding also gives John and Patty the chance to change the diner's layout, moving the eating area out over the water that almost closed it forever.
For tickets or more information visit www.thewilmingtonfundvt.org.
Josh Stilts can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311 ext. 273.