CONWAY — Thursday’s groundbreaking for the soon-to-be-built Vaughan Community Services’ food pantry and clothing depot in North Conway Village was made possible only by the generosity of local donors and foundations.
So said Dot Seybold, president of the Vaughan board of directors, in remarks delivered at the lot between the First Church of Christ, Congregational and Bavarian Chocolate Haus that until last week was the site of the old Clothing Depot Building and is where the new edifice will go up.
But the giving wasn’t over yet. Mark Butterfield of the Gibson-Woodbury Foundation made a surprise, very large donation on the spot.
“The Gibsons were always associated with the church or the Vaughan,” said Butterfield, who is Evelyn Smith Woodbury’s nephew and Harvey Gibson’s great-nephew. In fact, he said, “Helen Gibson (Harvey’s wife) helped bring the Vaughan into existence.
“The food pantry is such an important mechanism for people in need,” Butterfield continued. “That’s why today, I’d like to pledge $100,000 to the capital campaign from the Gibson Woodbury Foundation — and it may go up.”
The announcement was greeted by a burst of applause from the 30 or so local leaders assembled for the ground breaking, and the usually composed Seybold appeared lost for words.
“I’m speechless,” she said. When she could speak again, Seybold said in a voice filled with emotion: “We’re digging ground right now ... we couldn’t wait another moment. So thank you, Mark. Thank you very much!”
Butterfield responded: “More than happy to do it. This is a wonderful opportunity for the community. With this building, you’re going to serve generations to come.”
Finally, it was time to get down to the business at hand. Golden shovels and colorful hard hats were distributed, and donors, board members, foundation members and volunteers all got a turn at moving some earth.
The crowd included major donors such as Joy and Dick Check, owners of Country Cabinets etc.; Nate and Michael Infinger of Infinger Insurance, who donated to honor their mother, Jane (for whom the new Learning Center’s library will be named); Marc Poyant of Northway Bank; Jim Tuttle and Dick Brunelle from the Connie Davis Watson Foundation (which gave $100,000); Gail Payne, representing the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative Foundation (which gave $25,000); and Bob Murphy from the Ham Foundation (which gave $85,000 in the form of a challenge grant).
Then there was Kevin Drew of L.A. Drew, the contractor selected for the project; Peter Magg, treasurer of the Vaughan board; and Bob Seaman, head of the Vaughan Building Committee, who was instrumental in conceptualizing the food pantry building.
Other entities that have made donations are the Goldberg Foundation ($10,000 times three years), the Pequawket Foundation ($3,000 times three years) and Cogswell Benevolent Trust ($10,000).
In prepared remarks, Seybold said, that the more than 50-year-old Vaughan has been “a very quiet presence in the community doing very important work. We have a partnership with the town of Conway. Thank you, Tom Holmes,” she said, giving a nod to Conway’s town manager.
She also introduced the Vaughan’s Dan Jones, capital chair and board vice-chair; Selectman John Colbath, recently made a voting member of the board; the Rev. Ruth Shaver, interim pastor for the First Church of Christ; board member David Shedd; Magg; Seaman; new Vaughan Administrator Jennifer Perkins; Learning Center Director Heather Willette (accompanied by several toddlers); and Gerry Tilton, board member and lay minister, who provided a blessing prior to the ground breaking. Shaver also offered a prayer “to hallow this ground.”
Also present were former state Rep. Karen Umberger and husband Jim Umberger; state Rep. Steve Woodcock (and dog Brady); trustees’ chair Mark Porter; church bookkeeper Bonnie Tryder; grant consultant Nancy Devine; Dr. Charles Taylor, who wrote the history of the Vaughan available at its website, firstchurchnc.com; retired Vaughan administrators Denise Leighton and Sarah Bechtel; and representatives from Hannaford, which gave $50,000 early this year (“just when we needed it,” Seybold said).
Tim French, assistant store manager, who was there, said: “We’re honored to partner with the Vaughan. It’s part of Hannaford’s commitment to nourishing the community.”
Jones said the Vaughan recently received CDFA (Community Development Finance Authority) grant status, through which businesses, instead of directing tax money to the state can instead redirect it to the local charity.
In fact, Seybold said, “Poyant and Northway is giving $100,000 in the form of CDFA tax credits, they were the first to step up, and we are so grateful!”
Construction on the new building is slated to begin within the next few weeks. After that, a new addition to the Learning Center, which is located in the church’s Reverence for Life Building next-door, is planned, Seybold said. Both projects are envisioned to be completed by summer 2020.
The new donation from Gibson-Woodbury brings total fundraising to $1 million — not bad considering the capital campaign started only a year ago.
According to Magg, $400,000 still needs to be raised. But, as Jones put it, “We are an incredibly giving community. We are funded with donations ranging from $50 to over $100,000, and every single gift helps.”
If you would like to contribute to the capital campaign of Vaughan Community Services Inc., which is a 501(c)(3) mission organization, call Dan Jones at (603) 986-6099 or Dot Seybold at (603) 356-7031.
You can also send a check to Vaughan Community Services, P.O. Box 401, North Conway, NH 03860.