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After Flooding Destroyed Her Home, Philanthropy Helped Southern Vermont Woman Start Over

Bonnie Wardsboro

images courtesy of Bonnie Oliphint

Twenty minutes after Bonnie Oliphint evacuated from her house on July 10, floodwaters and downed trees smashed against the 1,500-square foot structure and pushed it into the swollen Wardsboro Brook.

“The home was completely washed away,” said Oliphint, a retired nurse. “It was unbelievable.”

With the help of the Wardsboro Fire Department, she got out safely with her dog Duncan, his leash, and her purse, but nothing else. “That was it. I lost everything.”

Now, two months after the flooding that destroyed her home and wreaked havoc in many Vermont communities, Oliphint is putting her life back together. She feels grateful for the support of her community, volunteers who stepped up to help, and philanthropic organizations.

This includes support from the Stratton Foundation, which in turn was helped by the VT Flood Response & Recovery Fund 2023 at the Vermont Community Foundation.

Since the Flood Fund was announced July 11, it has received more than $8 million in generous gifts and pledges and awarded more than $2 million to nonprofits around the state that are working on flood relief efforts. This includes $20,000 in grants to the Stratton Foundation, a community-based nonprofit in Southern Vermont. It has been on the ground assisting flood-walloped residents and business owners in Londonderry, Wardsboro, Ludlow, and other towns in the region. Grants from the Flood Fund allow partner nonprofits to leverage this money with other funding and expand their impact.  

For Oliphint, the help has played a critical role. Immediately after the flood, the Red Cross, which also received funds from the VT Flood Response & Recovery Fund, provided temporary lodging for Oliphint. Then the Stratton Foundation stepped in to locate and pay for her lodging, first at an inn, and then in a temporary ski house rental.

“It’s been a tremendous relief to be here for a whole month,” Oliphint said at the end of August. “I’m very, very, grateful.”

She also expressed thanks to the Wardsboro Fire Department, friends, neighbors, Wardsboro town officials and members of the Wardsboro Yoked Parish churches who after learning of her situation reached out with friendship, snacks, clothes, and household items.

The support helped Oliphint move forward relatively quickly to find permanent housing–no easy task in Vermont, which had a housing shortage before the flood damaged or destroyed many properties. She is also going through the FEMA home buyout process, another complication.

But after combing the listings to find something she could afford, Oliphint recently found a tiny home and was preparing to move into the property in Jamaica, VT, just a few miles away from her former home in Wardsboro. The Stratton Foundation helped cover the cost of a ramp at the new home to make it more accessible for Oliphint, who uses a cane due to a hip issue.

She loved the house that washed into the brook–with its hanging baskets of geraniums, cheerful red exterior, and bright white trim–but is now ready to start over in a new home. She offered thanks to all who have helped her move forward.         

“It’s been a huge community effort and I’m extremely grateful,” Oliphint said. “And I’ve never felt alone, that’s the amazing part. Everybody just showed up, you know?”