BRATTLEBORO — Celebrating changemakers and cultivating change was the main theme of the annual meeting between the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. and Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies, held in person Sept. 15 for the first time since 2019.
Speaking at the future site of Grateful Greens in the Brattleboro Development Credit Corp. building in Brattleboro, agency President Bob Stevens and Executive Director Adam Grinold spoke to members and invited guests about the accomplishments of the past year, and the many partnerships that make this work possible.
Grinold introduced keynote speaker Richard Berkfield from Vermont Food Connects. Berkfield reflected on the evening’s theme of cultivating change and profound changes that have occurred in his family and his endeavor, Vermont Food Connects, since the pandemic. Berkfield noted that the event coincided with the one-year anniversary of the loss of his wife, Angela, a beloved mother and community member and that Food Connects grew to a New England scale during the pandemic, doubling the size of its physical footprint in Vermont.
Six awards were given out during the evening program. Southeastern Vermont Economic Development Strategies Chairwoman Wendy Harrison presented Chloe Leary, executive director of the Winston Prouty Center, with the 2022 SeVEDS Leadership Award for excellence in economic development leadership. Leary’s community development work with the Winston Prouty Center includes redevelopment of the former Austine Campus, state level advocacy to develop, sustain and support child care workers and child care centers, and ongoing master planning work to develop 300 units of mixed-income, mixed-generation housing at the campus.
Longtime civil rights leader Curtiss Reed and former Brattleboro Town Manager Peter Elwell were jointly presented the 2021 SeVEDS Leadership Award by SeVEDS Vice Chairwoman Meg Streeter, for their work promoting community and organizational conversations on diversity and inclusion. Reed was the executive director of the Vermont Partnership for Fairness and Diversity for over 20 years, the CEO of the CRJ Consulting Group, and has engaged in diversity training for thousands beginning with a request from the Vermont State Police.
Elwell retired as town manager of Brattleboro in 2021 after serving since 2015. He left a lasting legacy not only in Brattleboro but across Southern Vermont, as he helped lead and encourage roundtable conversations on race and diversity. His work as part of the Equity Collaborative was paired with efforts to increase diversity amongst the town’s department leaders, correcting civil war plaques and helping the town acknowledge the ongoing harmful effects that racism had on residents’ lives.
Outgoing Brattleboro Downtown Alliance Director Stephanie Bonin was presented the 2020 SeVEDS Leadership Award for her work to lead development of the Everyone Eats Program locally and across the state. The program benefited Vermonters who became food insecure, restaurants whose operations were deeply disrupted and Vermont food producers.
Mark Tarmy, was presented with the BDCC Founders Award by BDCC board member Mark Richards. Tarmy was heralded for creating value added jobs and promoting a climate that enhances the economic vitality of the region. Richards pointed to Tarmy’s recent involvement in the ongoing refugee resettlement efforts, including providing space where the newly arrived refugee relocation agency is housed as evidence of his repeated investment in community efforts.
The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Dan Yates, outgoing president and CEO of Brattleboro Savings & Loan, by Bob Stevens. Yates’ previous service on the Downtown Alliance Board, SeVEDS, the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust, the Latchis Theater, the Brattleboro Museum and Arts Center, and the Ecovation Hub, as well as decades as a community banker was cited during the event. Stevens also recalled that, during a period of significant problems in the region, it was Yates’ challenge to others to step forward to meet community difficulties head on.