BURLINGTON – It isn’t often that you see a 6’5” person standing in the parlor of Ruggles House, much less several people that height or over. But on December 6th, as five players from the Vermont Frost Heaves walked in the front door Public Relations and Outreach Coordinator Jennifer St. Peter was thankful the ornate ceilings were high.
The Frost Heaves joined Cathedral Square Corporation for the Annual Ruggles House Holiday Fundraiser as special guests. Cathedral Square Corporation was looking for a group that would draw the community to the event. What they got was a chance to meet a group dedicated to and taking pride in giving back to the community that supports them.
Ruggles House, located at 262 South Prospect Street in Burlington, is a shared affordable senior housing community owned and managed by Cathedral Square Corporation. The nonprofit has partnered in the development of over 40 affordable housing communities throughout Vermont and manages 22 housing communities.
Ruggles House was originally built in the 1800’s and later expanded by a lumber baron to be his family home. Through the years it has been home to Horace Brookes, founder of the Vermont Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and to Dr. Carl Robinson who served a term as Mayor of Burlington and began the development of Robinson Parkway. In 1932 the house was purchased by The Lucy Ruggles Foundation and converted into a home for retired single female teachers. Cathedral Square Corporation purchased the property and renovated it into the home it is today for 14 seniors. Cathedral Square Corporation raises funds to help provide services to these residents.
“I was certainly excited about the team attending Cathedral Square’s event. But I was still a little apprehensive about combining the different worlds of basketball and senior citizens” says Michael Castelli, property manager.
He shouldn’t have worried.
As the players filed in the door – along with Head Coach Will Voigt, Assistant Coach Marvin Safford and President/General Manager Alex Wolff – they immediately put everyone at ease and wondered aloud about the beauty of the house. They had arrived directly from practice and were directed toward the dining room for refreshments. Power forward John Bryant thanked them then made a sharp right into the south parlor where he promptly settled between two Ruggles House residents. “How’re you doing?” He asked the two seniors, both of whom came to heights well below him. “I’m John.”
And so it began. The Frost Heaves players – Johann Collins, Antonio Burks, Lester Strong, Dana Martin and John Bryant – showed interest in the non profit’s mission, the work they do and their residents. They conversed and interacted easily with people throughout the building. The interest was reciprocated. At one point, Antonio Burks and CSC’s Director of Operations, Kim Fitzgerald, hunched over a cell phone. Turns out Burks was showing her video of his daughter, who is still back home in Arkansas, first attempting to crawl.
CEO Nancy Eldridge began her comments with “People keep asking me what senior housing and basketball have to do with each other?” Her reply? They both need the support of the community to do what they do. Alex Wolf added “I started the Frost Heaves to bring new life to two beautiful old buildings (Barre’s Aud and Burlington’s Memorial Auditorium). That’s just what you’ve done here.” Then the crowd sang Happy Birthday to Bryant who celebrated his 24th that evening.
By the time the evening was over, the Heaves had won several new fans and CSC raised much needed funds. “Ruggles is such a beautiful home, but it will always need the support of the community, not just monetarily, to succeed” remarked Amy Hamlin, a Cathedral Square Board member.
Cathedral Square Corporation is a non-profit, state wide developer of affordable housing, a property manager specializing in resident service coordination, a licensed long term care provider, and a technical assistance resource. CSC was created in 1977 by the Cathedral Church of St. Paul. CSC is proud to be an American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging (AAHSA) Quality First participant and an equal opportunity employer and housing provider.