Grant Funds Help Renovate a Gallery at Adirondack Art Association

Gallery at Adirondack Art Association

Essex Community Fund- How a committed group of residents has helped to revitalize this beautiful lakeside town

Nestled between the Adirondacks and Lake Champlain, Essex is surrounded by farms and forests, water and hedgerows. While this scenic village gives the appearance of a quiet, sleepy place, talking with residents about the Essex Community Fund suggests signs of renewed determination and civic pride.

Although reminders of the shipbuilding and farming heritage of 150 years ago are evident, a closer look reveals that in recent years the village had seen a decline. National and regional trends away from rural towns have diminished the community's vitality. The churches and small arts and civic organizations that had always been a vibrant part of community life suffered from the decreasing population. Less seemed to be happening and a sense of community was missing.

And then Suzanne Perley, a year round resident and civic leader, decided something needed to be done. With the help of Adirondack Community Trust, she set up the Essex Community Fund to receive gifts from "individuals wanting to express their gratitude for and perpetuate and build on what Essex has meant to them."   She assembled a team of community residents, an Advisory Council, determined to see the village revitalized.  Frisky Irwin and Nick Muller led the volunteer effort and, with financial management and technical support from the Adirondack Community Trust, the Essex Community Fund has quickly raised in excess of $170,000.

Fundraising succeed in part because the Board included seasonal and year round residents. Creative and focused campaigns have yielded good results. Councilor Norma Goff, a lifelong resident, says, "The Essex Community Fund gained trust from the outset because of the Advisory Council's communication around town. A news release helped spread the word about funding and people wanted to help."

Many good ideas backed by motivated individuals have received grants from the Fund. The list includes building restorations, a collaborative business, a playground, a film society, an animal shelter, and a library. These projects often link the future to the past and they help local organizations build capacity. For instance, the Lakeshore Preschool used a grant from the Essex Community Fund for a teacher's salary and parent education. Echoing the heritage of the farm where the preschool is located, children sat around a table recently, eating bread they made, discussing the difference between eating and milking cow.

One project in particular has touched the hearts--and hearths--of many. When the cost of fuel oil skyrocketed, a caring and concerned group worried about members of the community who would not be able to pay their fuel bills. A small group of donors to the Essex Community Fund took action by establishing a "heating" fund.  Through a partnership with ACT and the Essex County Heating Assistance Program, households in need have received funding to help pay fuel bills.

In addition to outright gifts to the Fund, a few sad farewells have brought memorial gifts.  Several important friends of Essex have been honored in this way.  Three in particular have been remembered with designated funds:  The Charlie Goff Memorial Fund allocates money for improvements such as town beautification; the Colin Fink Historic Preservation Fund supports historic restoration projects.

The Essex Community Fund has become a welcomed addition because its mission affects all members of the community.  Councilors are so committed to the success of this undertaking that they are paying for operating expenses, such as printing and mailing, so that every donated dollar goes toward helping the community.  The Essex Community Fund strives to improve the quality of life for the residents of Essex, through grants helping to restore vitality and beauty to the village from the street corner up to the church steeples.  For further information, contact Nick Muller at 518-963-8188.