VHCB Celebrates 35th Anniversary

On Thursday, June 15th, the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board (VHCB) celebrated 35 years of community development, land conservation, and historic preservation initiatives with more than 250 partner organizations and community members in attendance.

“This is a celebration of all the work our partner organizations and communities have done to improve quality of life for Vermonters while upholding the values we all share,” said VHCB Executive Director Gus Seelig. “It has been my great pleasure to support that work over the last 35 years.”

Since 1987, VHCB’s working partners throughout the state have created 15,000 permanently affordable homes, conserved 447,000 acres of land and 789 farms, and restored 81 historic buildings for community use. To finance those projects, VHCB community partners leveraged $400 million of the State’s investment to raise an additional $2.2 billion from other funding sources.

Senator Patrick Leahy and his wife Marcelle at VHCB's 35th anniversary celebration.

The evening’s program included a moving tribute honoring Senator Patrick Leahy and his wife Marcelle for their exemplary contributions to housing and conservation efforts throughout the Senator’s years of service.

“I cannot tell you how much it means to Marcelle and me, as two native Vermonters, to come back home and see what you’ve accomplished,” Senator Leahy said. “Vermont and VHCB are lucky to have each other. And we’re all lucky that this state has always reached above itself to set an example.”

The event was held at Shelburne Farms where the Board presented awards to individuals and organizations for exemplary service, for partnership and policy initiatives, and for innovative programs throughout Vermont.

The Mollie Beattie Award, named for the founding VHCB board member and Commissioner of Forests, Parks and Recreation and subsequently Deputy Director of the Agency of Natural Resources. She served as Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The award is presented to an individual or organization who has demonstrated outstanding leadership.

2023 Mollie Beattie Award Recipient:

Michael Monte (Chittenden County), President and CEO of the Champlain Housing Trust (CHT) for outstanding leadership, resulting in a rapid response by CHT to purchase six hotels for conversion to emergency housing during the pandemic, including shelter for those experiencing homelessness, a new domestic violence shelter, and permanent affordable housing. CHT’s policy and program changes have improved access to housing by diverse and marginalized citizens, and their steadfast commitment to social justice, equity, diversity, and belonging have resulted in programs to improve farm worker housing and to enhance BIPOC homeownership in Vermont.

The John Nutting Community Catalyst Award is given to Vermont citizens who have invested significant time and effort and demonstrated great determination to improve the lives of Vermonters. The award is named for founding VHCB Board member John Nutting, who was appointed in 1987 to represent the interests of low-income Vermonters.

2023 John Nutting Community Catalyst Award Recipients:

Louise Bonvechio (Northeast Kingdom), Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer of Community National Bank and past Vice-President and Treasurer of RuralEdge, for her leadership and advocacy in the Northeast Kingdom that helped to develop RuralEdge into a strong and vibrant community housing development organization;

Marita Canedo (statewide), Program Coordinator for Milk With Dignity and Migrant Justice, and Buster Caswell (statewide), a farm worker and activist, were recognized for their advocacy on behalf of Vermont farm workers, helping to improve their quality of life and to address their need for safe and decent housing. Their efforts helped lead to the establishment of a new loan program for farmers to rehabilitate and replace farmworker housing in need of repair

The Community Stewardship Award is presented in recognition of Vermonters whose work to steward community assets serves as an inspiration and benefits generations to come.

2023 Community Stewardship Award Recipients:

Clemmons Family Farm (Chittenden County) for outstanding stewardship of cultural, educational, and historic resources relating to Vermont’s African-American farming and land ownership, for nurturing opportunities for Black Vermont artists and culture bearers, and for building a strong and compassionate multi-cultural community centered on African-American and African diaspora history, arts, and culture;

The Trust for Public Land, Ascutney Outdoors, Ascutney Trails Association, and Jim Lyall (Windsor County) in recognition of their vision, leadership and coalition building to conserve 470 acres with permanent public access for recreation as part of the West Windsor State Forest.

Outstanding Partnership Awards are given in recognition of two or more organizations whose partnership has resulted in an innovative project, program, or initiative.

2023 Outstanding Partnership Award Recipients:

Downstreet Housing and Community Development (Washington County) for their innovative development of Foundation House in Barre, where women in recovery from substance use disorder can live in a sober and supportive recovery environment without being separated from their children;

Vermont Land Trust and the Prospect Mountain Association (Bennington County) for their collaboration to conserve and transition Prospect Mountain Ski Area into nonprofit ownership, ensuring permanent public access to recreational opportunities for community members, and strengthening the region’s economic vitality.

The Welcome to the Neighborhood Award recognizes the developers, service providers and municipal officials in town where the need is great, or where challenges were overcome to complete a housing development.

2023 Welcome to the Neighborhood Award Recipients:

Cathedral Square, Champlain Islanders Developing Essential Resources (CIDER), and the Town of South Hero (Grand Isle County) for their collaboration to develop Bayview Crossing, which provides new, energy efficient housing for older adults in a prime location that strengthens the village center of South Hero.