Craftsbury, News

Saplings to Grow with $1M Grant Award

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CRAFTSBURY — A $1 million grant has been awarded to Craftsbury Saplings toward construction of a new 7,000-square-foot childcare center. The Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) grant provides funding for a $5,262,642 project that will allow Saplings to grow its capacity, allowing it to serve 54 children.

courtesy drawing
Craftsbury Saplings’ proposal for a new building adjacent to the East Craftsbury Presbyterian Church is depicted in an artist’s rendering.

Saplings’ Board Chair Hannah Dreissigacker wrote, “Saplings is thrilled to accept the award from the NBRC. These funds support our vision to serve our community with increased access to critical high-quality childcare and early education.”

Saplings intends to grow its program in response to unmet community demand. It is only able to care for 19 children each day in its current facility, while its wait-list is 30 families long, says the program’s website, also noting the new facility will add an infant care option.

“It has taken a huge team effort to arrive at this phase in our organization’s life,” said Executive Director Melissa Jacobs. “Our community, dedicated board of directors, and caring staff have energized the development of Saplings and its expansion. I am excited to expand our impact and to say yes to all the families seeking care in the future.”

courtesy drawing
A preliminary design for the Craftsbury Saplings new facility shows five classrooms, each with its own water closet, a kitchen, office and conference room around a central hall, with three outdoor porches and several playground areas.

The grant award is part of $7.9 million in NBRC Catalyst Awards to seven Vermont towns announced on June 27 by Governor Phil Scott, Vermont’s Congressional delegation and the NBRC.

“From supporting working families by adding childcare capacity to creating more desperately needed housing to bring more economic opportunity to smaller towns that need it most, these projects will be transformative. These are the kind of investments essential to revitalizing communities across Vermont,” said Governor Scott.

The field adjacent to Saplings’ present location was selected in 2023 as the new facility’s future site. Black River Design of Montpelier is now developing a design for the new building.

photo by Emily Gletsos
Craftsbury Saplings preschool students Abel Porter (top right) and Fielda Calderwood (below) join Craftsbury Community Care Residents, including Yvonne Smith (top left) in a collaborative art project organized by Rural Arts.

Commenting on the award, Dreissigacker said on behalf of the organization, “We are so grateful for our community and especially our hosts at the East Craftsbury Presbyterian Church, for their vision to see the critical impact that childcare can make in our rural communities.”

“In these difficult times, it is imperative that the federal government deliver for Vermont communities in real, timely, and effective ways,” said Senator Sanders.”

“Starting with our founding in 2017, we have been energized by our community’s dedication to meet the needs of businesses and families in our rural towns. Through the construction of a new building, we will support more families, especially with additional classrooms for infants and toddlers,” noted Dreissigacker.

The larger program will be more financially viable, reducing reliance on fundraising and plans include increasing access to more low- and moderate-income families, they say.

“The NBRC helps Vermont communities and our local economy thrive,” said Senator Welch. “This is fantastic news for Vermont, and it’s thanks to the collaborative federal and state partnership of the Biden Administration, Governor Scott, and our Delegation – including former Senator Leahy who fought with us to increase funding for the NBRC, which supports the growth and success of Vermont.”

“We couldn’t be more excited,” Dreissigacker said about the award. “This is the result of over six years of tireless effort by Saplings’ founding board members, following iterations of board members and staff. Saplings has become such a special place and we look forward to being able to share it with even more families.”

“I’m grateful for the partnership with the NBRC and their deep knowledge of what Vermonters need and commitment to investing in our local communities,” said Congresswoman Balint of the awards.

Created in 2008, the NBRC is a federal-state partnership whose mission is to catalyze community vitality and economic prosperity in Maine, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont through flexible funding and strategic support.

Craftsbury Saplings offers programs for toddlers from the age of 15 months through five year old preschoolers, partnering with local organizations and having children work alongside teachers to grow and prepare nutritious meals from seasonal local ingredients.

Learn more about Saplings’ plans at craftsburysaplings.org/expansion

Paul Fixx is editor of The Hardwick Gazette and lives in Hardwick.

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