When VCRD brought a Community Visit process to Guilford in 2013, it quickly became apparent that there was an abundance of excitement and energy to build upon the town’s assets and set trajectory for the future. Through the Community Visit process, residents of Guilford discussed the town’s identity and opportunities for the future, and then selected priority projects to help their vision come to life. The top priority chosen was the redevelopment of the Broad Brook Grange as a community center, and at the conclusion of our Visit process they formed a local Task Force to get to work.
The Broad Brook Grange #151 is a historic building in the center of Guilford built in 1896 that has served as a meeting place for residents in the local chapter of the Grange for the last century. However, as the building aged, Grange members had to dedicate more time towards maintenance, detracting time and energy from their mission to encourage agricultural, civic, and cultural events. A desire to preserve this important building and the work of the Grange, and a need for a local gathering space pushed the redevelopment of the grange hall to the top of the community’s list of priorities.
The Task Force that formed to tackle this project decided to form a nonprofit organization, the Broad Brook Community Center Inc., consisting of both Task Force and Grange members to oversee fundraising and renovations for the building. Grange members and BBCC built a partnership, signed an MOU, and the Grange sold the building to BBCC to initiate the necessary renovations. Once the nonprofit was formed, the Task Force conducted both a fundraising feasibility study and a building needs assessment to determine the extent and scope of the renovation plans. The estimated cost of the renovations totaled about $1.2 million, and as of October 2019, they had raised $895,000 of the needed funds through anonymous gifts, and an award of tax credits from Vermont’s Downtown and Village Center Tax Credit Program through the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development.
By November 2018, Broad Brook had completed the first phase of renovations, which included an improved ADA accessibility, new exterior stairs to the second floor, and the first phase of kitchen improvements. The second phase of building renovations, slated to begin in 2020, will add an elevator to the second floor; septic, plumbing, heating, efficiency, electrical and safety improvements, adding a commercial-grade kitchen, refinishing the floors and giving the interior a fresh coat of paint, and finally, landscaping outside and improving the parking area. We’re excited to see the end result!
The Broad Brook Community Center is already serving as a catalyst for community events and strengthening Guilford social fabric. The BBCC, with its community partners, have hosted a number of events including a Sugar on Snow, Thanksgiving Dinner, Apple Pie Social, a fundraiser to rebuild a community member’s barn, and many more! The community center is also building partnerships with other community organizations – they’ve held a play put on by Guilford Center Stage, and they host the Guilford Food Pantry in partnership with Guilford Cares, a local social services agency.
The Community Visit process was the catalyst for gathering the community support for building a shared vision and resources to revitalize our beloved grange hall into a vibrant community center that is accessible to all.
– Sara Coffey, Broad Brook Community Center Board President and Grange Task Force Chair
Guildford was already a thriving community full of energy and potential; but VCRD’s Community Visit process helped residents identify the many things that made their community great and prioritize where they want for their future. The collective action, strength, and dedication of the people of Guilford did the rest. We applaud this town’s successful efforts to renew Broad Brook Grange as an irreplaceable community resource and can’t wait to see what they do next!
Many thanks to Sara Coffey for providing additional information, and photo credit to Michelle Frehsee for the wonderful picture of the Apple Pie Social.