BRATTLEBORO -- Until a recent paint job covered it over, the front of the Boys and Girls Club on Brattleboro's Flat Street had borne a message written in mud: "Show us some love."
Those words, scrawled in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Irene's devastating floods, had remained for nearly a year because no one had been able to scrub them away. Even pressure washing didn't do the job.
But it may have been appropriate that the message lasted so long, as administrators say an outpouring of support -- both local and from across the nation -- allowed the club to rebound from Irene one donation at a time.
"People were just really, really good to us," said Beth Baldwin, the club's executive director.
The sprawling club was a noisy beehive of activity on a recent afternoon. Kids shot baskets, rode skateboards and sprawled on chairs and couches throughout a 10,000-square-foot building that once was a parking garage and car dealership.
The local club serves more than 1,200 members at three locations, but Flat Street is the epicenter.
"At this site alone, we serve over 800," said Ricky Davidson, Flat Street's unit director.
All of that activity stopped on Aug. 28, 2011. When Irene dumped torrential rains on the area, Flat Street businesses took a beating from a swollen Whetstone Brook.
The Boys and Girls Club was no exception.
"We got nailed. This whole building
Baldwin points out that the spot where she is standing, at the bottom of a ramp descending from the club's main floor, was under 3 feet of water.
The building's kitchen was swamped, ruining appliances. Opening a door to a subbasement, Baldwin notes that the storage room had been filled.
"Everything in here, we lost," she said.
The club was shut for 12 days. But recovery started immediately, and administrators soon realized they wouldn't be working alone.
"A ton of people came in off the street and asked what they could do to help," Baldwin said.
Local companies and organizations responded quickly. Baldwin cites a long list that includes SIT/World Learning, Brattleboro Rotary and Vermont Yankee.
"Our refrigerators are brand-new, courtesy of Vermont Yankee," she said.
The club was featured on the Weather Channel, and that spurred a nationwide response including notes from Florida and California.
One envelope contained a $5 bill and a message:
"I heard about your club and the recent flooding on national news. I realize this donation is not much help. However, if many others across the country could do the same, the difference that could be made in your world would be quite significant. All the best to your club and to the entire state of Vermont."
That note and others like it still are stashed in Baldwin's desk. She said such contributions helped the club to invest heavily in post-Irene renovation.
"We spent a ton of money," she said. "And a lot of that money came in small donations."
The organization still is recovering and restocking when money is available: A recent purchase included plastic drink-storage containers to replace those lost in the flood.
"We don't have the money to just go out and replace everything we lost," Baldwin said.
But she is grateful for the support the club has received during a trying year. And she is thankful that the club's two other local facilities -- in West Brattleboro and Bellows Falls -- were untouched by Irene.
"This was the only building, thank God, that was hit," Baldwin said. "I don't think I could have handled more than one."
Mike Faher can be reached at email@example.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 275.