The Friends of the Wardsboro Library is currently celebrating its 20th Anniversary. The 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation lists as its founding board members Wardsboro residents Cristel Holden, Marianne Furgalack, Janet Leblond, Peggy Matheson, and Jennifer Densmore.
For the past two decades, the organization has relied on a core group of dedicated volunteers from Wardsboro, and more recently from Stratton and Jamaica, too, to oversee and manage the library site as board members and committee chairs; to fundraise to pay for all the day-to-day expenses and improvements; and to fulfill its mission: supporting the town’s free public library.
Many people see the Friends and the Library as one and the same. In fact, the Town of Wardsboro’s appointed Library Trustees lease the building from the Friends for a nominal sum. “The Friends fully own the building, and pay the insurance bills, all the utility costs, all the maintenance expenses, and much more. It’s a big financial commitment and property management responsibility, and it would not be possible without a great many helping hands,” says Peggy Matheson, a member of the Board.
Just a little history—the Friends formally organized to raise funds to purchase the old farmhouse and barn at 170 Main Street from the Town in 1999, when the Town received it as a bequest from the estate of Ruth McMichael. The building is known as the Gloria Danforth Memorial Building because the greater part of the purchase price was donated to the Friends by the Danforth family. It is to this day one of the most generous and remarkable legacy gifts that the organization has ever received; however, each year, hundreds of people—locals and second-homeowners alike—contribute thousands of dollars toward the property costs.
The remainder of the funds needed annually come from events that the Friends run, including this month’s famous Gilfeather Turnip Festival. “And, that’s where the community really steps up!” says Mike Cooney, chair of the Board of Directors of the Friends. “Dozens of people volunteer every October during the event in the Turnip Café, in the Turnip Boutique, at the Turnip Soup kiosk, and as cashiers, runners, and photographers. Some assist for a couple of hours with parking, or unloading the vendors’ vans. Many more people volunteer before and after, helping us set up things, and then for the cleanup. Even the Boy Scouts lend a hand for this fundraiser. Really, it’s people of all ages coming together for the same great cause—their library.” Volunteers also take care of the flowerbeds at the library, and more volunteers run the Friends annual plant sale and Fourth of July raffle booth; others write cookbooks. Carpenters, crafters, quilters, and artists often donate spectacular handcrafted items for the Friends’ yearly “Best Raffle Ever!”
“The Friends have accomplished what few small nonprofits can—it has no debt, and it has always run in the black financially thanks to the generosity of many people, business, and the persistence of the volunteers,” says Mike. “Right now, the site has never looked better, with the completion of the barn rehab in 2013, and more recently the completion of work on the attached machine shed. No improvement projects were paid for by the taxpayers—it was all volunteer labor, grants, and outside fundraising. The people of Wardsboro can be rightfully proud of how much they’ve accomplished by working together for this many years.”
All nonprofit organizations have big dreams and long wish lists for the future, and for this 20th anniversary year and beyond, the Friends has committed to building its Endowment Fund so that eventually, revenues from the account can cover the annual costs. New legacy donations, such as the one made by the Danforth family long ago, will ensure that the community will always have a fabulous public library.
“So many people dedicate so many hours to the Friends, that it’s not easy to itemize exactly who does what when,” says Mike. “However, there is always room for more at the table. Most of our volunteer tasks are not time-consuming, and many of the things the Friends ask its volunteers to do are easy and fun. There’s a lot of esprit d’corps happening, especially at our events.”
The Friends is a nonmember, all volunteer organization, and no dues are collected.
The Friends is currently asking for volunteers for the 17th Annual Gilfeather Turnip Festival on Saturday, October 26th. Contact the Friends by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or drop in at a meeting. Meetings are the first Thursday of the month at 1 pm, at the Library, and all are welcome.