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Zack’s Place Closer to Buying Home

Woodstock Nonprofit Gets Grant Toward Building

Woodstock — An enrichment center for people with special needs moved closer to purchasing its building Monday, when it accepted a $100,000 grant from Timken Co., to put toward its capital campaign.

Zack’s Place, which provides free programs regardless of participants’ age or ability, has now raised or secured pledges of $330,000 for its $442,000 goal, said Executive Director Dail Frates.

Buying the building gives Zack’s Place a “really strong future,” Frates said, as it will reduce the annual operating budget by $24,000 in rental fees while ensuring the organization has a permanent home.

“This is a really great move for the long-term,” she said.

Zack’s Place began renting the first floor of the Central Street building in downtown Woodstock three years ago, at which point the three-story building was already on the market for $560,000. Frates said landlord Chuck Buchheit approached the organization in June about buying the building for a discounted price of $375,000, and the board of directors unanimously voted to pursue the purchase.

In addition to the purchase price, the $442,000 fundraising goal includes closing costs and necessary improvements for the 5,600 square foot building, such as fixing the roof, putting insulated panes on the windows and adding a bathroom upstairs.

Once the building is purchased, Frates said the organization will use the third floor as storage space and rent out two suites on the second floor. One of them will continue to house Buchheit’s real estate business; the renter for the other is to be determined but could possibly be used as expansion space for Zack’s Place in the future.

“It’s possible we could use one part of the upstairs for ourselves, that’s something that we’ve talked about. The problem is getting in there with wheelchairs is going to be a challenge,” said Frates, who noted the cost of installing an elevator is upwards of $14,000. “Right now we just want to secure the building.”

The organization has already outgrown a smaller space elsewhere in town since its founding by Frates and her husband in 2006, naming it after their then-16-year-old son Zack, who had cerebral palsy and would not be able to attend college.

“We wanted him to have the same type of stimulation that he would have had in school, a social atmosphere but still doing valuable things and learning,” Frates said.

Since Zack died in 2011 the organization has continued to grow. The central location of the current building has been advantageous, Frates said, because it allows participants “to walk to everything that Woodstock has to offer” while being “a central part of the community.” The building is “perfect,” she said: it’s handicap accessible, volunteers have installed a kitchen, the rooms are light and bright and there are garden and terrace areas where people often eat lunch. The suite includes two large rooms: one is used for yoga, dancing and watching movies, and the other serves as an art studio.

More than 50 people attend programs on a monthly basis, Frates said, and more than 400 volunteers pitch in every year. A range of programs — from arts and theater to horseback riding and kayaking — run on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The organization must raise the funds in full by August 2014, but Frates said officials are trying to close the $112,000 gap as soon as possible so they can end their rental payments.

“The sooner, the better,” she said. “We just want to get it done.”

Frates said she is thrilled that Timken, a defense contractor, awarded the grant to Zack’s Place, which submitted an application for consideration for its capital campaign in July.

“We’ve had several generous donors that have helped us with this capital campaign,” she said, “but the Timken corporation is a large, well respected corporation in our area, and for them to pick Zack’s Place out of all the other nonprofits that applied for this grant is just so exciting to us that they believe in us and our mission, I’m just overwhelmed with it.”

Donations to the campaign may be made online at www.zacksplacevt.org.

Maggie Cassidy can be reached at mcassidy@vnews.com or 603-727-3220.