$250K block grant to benefit wellness center at Arlington Common – Bennington Banner

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Partly cloudy skies. A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. Low 63F. Winds light and variable.
Updated: August 1, 2022 @ 5:06 pm
An architect’s rendering of a fitness center proposed for the Arlington Common, expanding the former parish hall of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church. A $250,000 community development block grant has been awarded to help complete the project

An architect’s rendering of a fitness center proposed for the Arlington Common, expanding the former parish hall of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church. A $250,000 community development block grant has been awarded to help complete the project
ARLINGTON — A federal community development block grant will go a long way toward helping The Arlington Common expand and equip its fitness and wellness space – and help make Arlington a healthier place to live.
The $250,000 award, announced by Gov. Phil Scott’s office last week, will help the Common reach its $2 million goal for the wellness center project, the organization’s vice president, Bebe Bullock, said Thursday. The nonprofit is awaiting word on additional grant requests, and a capital campaign will begin soon, Bullock said.
“We’re excited and honored to have gotten that grant,” Bullock said. “This is a high price tag for Arlington … we really needed this grant money to make it more feasible.”
The project includes a renovation of the former St Margaret Mary Catholic Church parish hall as a fitness and community center, complete with exercise equipment like weights, rowing machines, spin cycles and treadmills. It also includes construction of a wheelchair-accessible indoor pickleball court that can also be used for pickup basketball.
That’s separate from the outdoor pickleball court the organization is building with $20,000 in local donations and a $40,000 two-for-one match from the state’s “Better Places” program.
“One thing we noticed after COVID is that Arlington needs a place where everyone is welcome to go, where there is activity and programming that enhances social engagement,” Bullock said.
Arlington Common is a community center located on the former campus of St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church in downtown Arlington. The Arlington Arts Enrichment Program, which purchased the property from the Archdiocese of Burlington, is using the former church, parish hall and rectory for community health, wellness and arts programming. It hosted the first-ever Battenkill Fly Fishing Festival in April.
This summer, the fitness center is hosting classes that include Zumba, Pilates, yoga and tai chi. The renovations and additions will allow for more fitness classes, as well as after-school programs for local students, Bullock said.
The Arlington-based Battenkill Valley Health Center is not financially involved in the project. But the health center has supported the effort from the start, said Kate Bryan, the health center’s director of development and community relations.
She said the health center sees the project as a way to promote socialization and physical activity for residents – especially older folks who might be isolated and don’t have a place to get active once winter arrives.
“We’re definitely a proponent and supporter of any grant writing they do, knowing the ultimate goal of having pickleball courts, or even just beginning with chair yoga, are things that can benefit our patients in such healthy ways,” Bryan said.
The health center is always looking for ways to improve the health of patients, she said – whether it’s bringing the Vermont Foodbank’s VeggieVanGo mobile produce delivery service to town, or setting up a walking group that meets at the Arlington Rec Park in summer and at Arlington Memorial High School in winter.
But those activities, and the expanded offerings the addition will make possible at the Common, also help address the isolation experienced by many seniors during the winter.
“We have definitely found for our patients, transportation is an issue – quite simply, it’s a product of living in Vermont in the winter months,” Bryan said. “Being able to offer something right in the center of Arlington to our elder population as well as to our youth can only serve as a benefit to creating a healthy community.”
“When COVID hit we found a lot of times our triage nurses responding to calls might have been the only conversation those patients were having.”
Bullock said the program’s target populations is seniors 62 and older, and school-age children. The expansion would serve children who need after-school care, as well as seniors who have no place in town to get a cardiovascular workout when there’s winter weather, she said.
“A lot of clients who could benefit from exercise would have somewhere to go,” she said, noting that Manchester has only private health club options, and the Bennington Rec Center is a 15-mile drive.
“Not only is pickleball a great workout but its a very social sport,” she said.
Town Administrator Nick Zaiac is optimistic that Arlington Common will meet its fundraising goal.
“The Arts and Enrichment Program has proven to punch above their weight in fundraising projects like this,” he said. “We certainly expect that they will achieve this goal and bring this project to fruition.”
Greg Sukiennik covers government and politics for Vermont News & Media. Reach him at [email protected].
Greg Sukiennik has worked at all three Vermont News & Media newspapers and was their managing editor from 2017-19. He previously worked for ESPN.com, for the AP in Boston, and at The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, Mass.
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