When the Vermont Humanities Council (VHC) decided to move its headquarters from the modest central Vermont town of Morrisville to Montpelier, the state’s capital, the nonprofit organization’s goal was to be closer both to its partners in state government and to the Interstate 89 corridor, where it would be easier to recruit and retain experienced staff. But it didn’t hurt that council staff and visitors would also no longer have to drive the twenty-nine-mile stretch of state road known to be prime moose habitat. As Vermont Humanities Council Executive Director Peter Gilbert put it, “while charming, moose are a very serious—often deadly—driving hazard” between Morrisville and I-89.
An offer from NEH of $200,000 in federal funds, matched on a three-to-one basis by $600,000 in nonfederal gifts, enabled VHC to purchase and refurbish an attractive home only blocks away from the state capitol building. In addition to being much more accessible to the wider Vermont public than VHC’s Morrisville location, the building provides ample programming and meeting space. VHC is now able to host evening humanities talks, poetry discussions, and other events in downtown Montpelier for legislators, educators, students, and the general public; naturally, with these events has come increased visibility for the council.
“The expression ‘transformational gift’ is an over-used phrase,” comments Gilbert, “not every generous gift to a nonprofit organization will, in fact, be ‘transformational.’ But financial support for moving the Vermont Humanities Council to its own space in Montpelier has been—and will continue to be—truly transformational for this statewide organization. It literally—and figuratively—positions the council for the next chapter of its history, and enables it to serve communities across the state more effectively.”