[ Addison Independent subscribers can view the story at the newspaper’s website: https://www.addisonindependent.com/2024/02/15/elderly-services-gets-1-8m-grant-to-upgrade-midd-hq/ ]

ESI’s home base, and a home-away-from-home for participants, on Exchange Street in Middlebury.

From the Addison County Independent:

MIDDLEBURY — Elderly Services Inc. (ESI) has secured a $1,785,000 grant that will pay for major repairs and upgrades to its headquarters, aka the Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Center at 112 Exchange St. in Middlebury.

The $1.785M in project funding comes through the Vermont Agency of Human Services’ “Home and Community Based Services Grant Program.”

The “transformational” project, as ESI officials are calling it, is slated to begin later this year and will include improved building insulation, new mechanical systems, and installation of solar panels to generate greener and more cost-effective electricity.

Other major features of the project include replacing the roof and siding, and replacing the aging air conditioning unit and propane boilers with a geothermal heat pump.

“We want our building to reflect our values of energy-efficiency and environmental stewardship, while improving our internal environment for our elderly participants and reducing our operating expenses,” said ESI Executive Director Kristin Bolton.

“At the end of this work, participants at Project Independence will experience greater comfort in the air quality as well as the temperature in the building, which can be too hot or too cold due to the current insulation in our building,” Bolton added. “The frail people we serve are more sensitive to temperature fluctuations and air quality. This is an important factor in their quality of life and their health every day.” 

Project Independence is ESI’s popular and innovative senior daycare program that serves scores of elderly residents, some of whom might otherwise need more expensive and life-altering nursing home placements. Established more than 40 years ago, Project Independence helps people “age in place” in a home-like setting, with nursing and social work support, homecooked meals, strong social connections, and fun things to do.

“The 15-month pandemic closure really hit us hard, but we are growing surely and steadily. After 2.5 years, we have surpassed 50% of our pre-pandemic service levels,” Bolton said. “However, all our costs have increased: staffing, food, gasoline and repairs of aging infrastructure. This project will allow us to reach our pre-pandemic levels of service by reducing operating expenses for our facility and putting that money toward hiring more staff.”

Project Independence is the largest program of its kind in the state and continues to grow since reopening in June 2021 following the COVID pandemic.  ESI is currently having an impact on 100 Project Independence participants, 200 caregivers, and 250 other community members annually. The nonprofit also recently launched a new “Center for Positive Aging” program, which helps people face the issues of aging, caregiving and memory loss with counseling, education and other support.

“We are deeply grateful for this grant, which will cover a majority of the project costs. At the same time, we know this is an exciting project that we believe will appeal to our many friends and supporters, so we will be turning to our community for support over the next several months as part of our overall financial strategy,” Bolton added.