VEC Community Fund Supports Rebirth of Albany General Store
Johnson, Vt – The Albany General Store will be getting a second chance six years after a devastating fire severely damaged the community landmark. Thanks in part to support from the Vermont Electric Co-op’s Community Fund, the Albany Community Trust has plans to have the store back on its feet before the end of the year.The general store offered everything from groceries, to a deli, to souvenirs, and according to Arthur Wolff, a member of the community trust, it was a place to bring the community together.It was, and will continue to be once renovations are finished, “a place for conversation, connections and where friendships are formed and strengthened,” said Wolff. He and the community hope that the revival of the store will bring some economic growth to the town of 940 people as well.After the 2013 fire, the owners had struggled to cover the damages, and eventually tried to sell it, to no avail. Eventually, the community took the store into their own hands.Wolff, who has 25 years of non-profit fundraising experience, said he has been astounded by the amount of local support.The Albany Store project has received an outpouring of support from both within Albany as well as from surrounding communities. Organizers have raised $410,000 in grants and donations, including VEC’s Community Fund donation of $1,000. The renovation, which is expected to be completed by the end of this construction season, will feature some exciting new additions to make the space even more inviting than before, Wolff said.Wolff said that the main part of the store will remain the same but that there will be an expanded community room made possible, in part, because the organization was able to buy an adjoining parcel of land. “Albany is a unique, very rural, Vermont town and I don’t know that people in Burlington could understand it – to have only one little retail store that is the heart of the community . . . . what we’re doing is trying to preserve what Albany has always been,” said Wolff.The VEC Community Fund is a program voluntarily funded by VEC members through rounding up of their electric bills to the next highest dollar, making one-time donations, or donating patronage capital dollars. Focus areas of the fund include economic security, energy education, emergency and disaster relief, and community development. Applications for the fund are on a rolling basis, and grants are issued quarterly. For more information, visit: https://www.vermontelectric.coop/community-resources/community-fund.