VCRD held a Craftsbury Community Visit process in 2015. The article below shows how Sterling College built on the opportunities identified during that process into the idea of a community Wellness Center.


Craftsbury Common, VT – Sterling College has received a challenge grant from the Peter Alfond Foundation to make possible $1.34 million to establish the Peter Alfond Wellness Center. As a natural extension of growing and preparing the healthiest food in any collegiate kitchen in America, Sterling will strengthen its programming in areas related to individual health and wellness for both its students and the greater community. The facilities of the Peter Alfond Wellness Center will include a fitness center, meeting and classroom spaces, gathering spaces for mental health and physical therapy services, outdoor education equipment and resources, and a laundromat and post office facility that will also serve as a community food pantry.

“Peter Alfond was a remarkable person. He cared deeply about human welfare, about access to good food, and personal wellness. His ideas were revolutionary and they made the lives of so many people better,” said President Matthew Derr. “His passing was a great loss to his family and to the rural communities about which he cared so deeply. Through a new educational center that will bear his name, Sterling College will honor his closely held convictions about community health.”

Paul Costello, Executive Director for the Vermont Council on Rural Development and a member of the Sterling College Board of Advisors, said, “All of us at VCRD are excited by the leadership of Sterling College in advancing goals for the community process we managed for Craftsbury. The Peter Alfond Wellness Center connects so many community goals: building partnership with area schools, advancing a community food shelf, expanding learning opportunities and community space for local residents, and developing indoor recreation and wellness opportunities for the town. This capstone accomplishment will dramatically improve the connectivity and health of this already wonderful Vermont community.”

“The establishment of the Peter Alfond Wellness Center will allow our Outdoor Education programming to be more accessible and integrated within our campus and community,” said Anne Morse, Faculty in Outdoor Education and long-time Craftsbury resident. “Our Outdoor Education classes take place in a wide variety of educational settings, from local forests and rivers to the desert Southwest, and they require a gear inventory with facilities for cleaning, repair, instruction and storage, as well as spaces for trip preparation, hands-on training and skill development. Historically, lack of access to gear has been a barrier for many people’s participation in outdoor programming, and we are particularly excited to have the space to increase our inventory and further remove this barrier.”

Past grants from the Peter Alfond Foundation supported new agricultural facilities, including the Alfond Draft Horse Barn, and refurbishments of the Sterling Kitchen. “Now that Sterling has become a recognized national leader in agriculture and food, we are ready to take the next steps to strengthen our commitment to lifelong wellness as preventative health care for our students, faculty, staff and residents of the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont,” said Pete Chehayl, Chair of the Sterling College Board of Trustees.

The Peter Alfond Wellness Center will strengthen the College’s academic program and the experience of its students, as well as that of our extended community. A lack of opportunity for physical activity that promotes good individual health and wellness also exists on the regional level in the Northeast Kingdom. While the stereotype of Vermonters as healthy and active people holds true elsewhere in the state, it falls apart in our region. According to a Robert Wood Johnson study that examined health outcomes and their influencing factors in every county in America, residents of the Northeast Kingdom suffer the worst health outcomes in the state. The study also found that one of the factors that leads to these outcomes is a lack of access to health and fitness facilities.

A prominent philanthropist, Peter Alfond supported educational, healthcare and other charitable causes through the Peter Alfond Foundation. His passion for alternative healthcare practices led his foundation to award MaineGeneral Medical Center with funding to establish and endow the MaineGeneral Prevention and Healthy Living. The only program of its kind in the U.S., Prevention and Healthy Living focuses on healthy eating and cooking, physical movement, stress management and mind-body therapies. Sterling College is honored to have Peter’s name associated with is educational programs and is grateful for the leadership his daughter Deborah Alfond, Sterling College trustee and alumna, has taken in launching the Peter Alfond Wellness Center. Deborah also sits on the board of the Peter Alfond Foundation, which was established in 1993.

The grant and matching challenge come on the heels of a multiyear grant from the NoVo Foundation that will support the founding of the Wendell Berry Farming Program. Sterling has raised $17 million in gifts, grants, and pledges in the last five years.