story and photo by Doug McClure
WOLCOTT – The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) officially announced the winners of its 2021 Community Challenge Grant last week. For 2021, the AARP gave grants to 244 communities. Wolcott is one of a half-dozen Vermont towns and cities that received grants this year.
The AARP describes the program as one that provides “quick-action grants” for “ready-to-go types of projects” that focus on three major categories: “Permanent physical improvements in the community, Temporary demonstrations that lead to long-term change, and New, innovative programming or services.”
For its grant application, Wolcott focused on its new community garden. The $11,795 figure is what the town estimated its “deliverables” would cost. Lister Deborah Klein is active in the community garden project, and said the AARP expects Wolcott to acquire the following “deliverables:” “‘solar motion lights; metal fire ring; metal in-ground game table; 8-foot in-ground, ADA compliant, bench with back, arms on ends, and middle; outdoor propane heater; children’s ice rink.”
Klein said another requirement of the AARP was that the town purchase eight raised cedar beds for the garden. She said “The beds were prepurchased so we could take advantage of Vermont’s short growing season! The garden is doing great! It has already produced a lot of summer squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. We have several varieties of tomatoes that will ripen soon. Cabbage, eggplant, and pumpkins are coming!”
One further stipulation of the grant is that a volunteer organization be involved. For Wolcott, that group is the Women of Wolcott (WOW) which, Klein said, “has as one of its focal points keeping the garden viable.” The town owns the garden.
Wolcott’s town librarian for decades, Sally Gardner, and lister Deb Klein had the idea for developing a community garden. They got the community and town got involved. The Wolcott Community Garden officially got started this past spring with an injection of $500 from a Healthy Lamoille Valley mini-grant and donation of compost from the Lamoille Regional Solid Waste Management District (LRSWMD). The organization donated its maximum (one yard). WOW was working on the garden from the very beginning, with over two dozen women from the Wolcott area involved, headed by Linda Brady, a Wolcott resident for over four decades.
Brady said back in April “We will help with the community garden, and now that the [Lamoille Valley] Rail Trail is coming in, we could just go on from there.” The group includes Klein and select board chair Linda Martin.
Tonight’s select board meeting will be the first opportunity for the board to discuss details since the grant’s official announcement on July 28. Back in April, Martin said ” [Wolcott] is rich in people with diverse interests and experiences. But I sense in them a longing for a community which has been lacking. They are eager for events to bring us together. Bringing our town library down to our new village center was the first step. It was the vision of Deb Klein and Sally Gardner to begin creating this public space for all of us to enjoy. This community project has brought together many community members eager to make this a success by their volunteerism. It’s just the beginning. New ideas are being developed to further this community space in the surrounding area into a social environment for all of us to enjoy.”The Wolcott Select Board meets tonight at 6 p.m., in-person or via Zoom. For details, go to wolcottvt.org.