A nationally-designated historic landmark in Vermont’s Addison County is getting a big boost this holiday season, from construction firms donating their skilled labor.
Rokeby Museum, a nonprofit located in Ferrisburgh, said the gifts will help it advance its mission to be a part of vital social and racial justice conversations.
"I was just floored that they were willing to do it at no cost to the museum," said Lindsay Varner, the executive director of Rokeby Museum.
The Rokeby property was a stop on the Underground Railroad for freedom seekers fleeing slavery. It now educates visitors on the history of northern New England’s abolitionist movement.
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Varner said public interest in Rokeby’s offerings has spiked in recent years, amid national conversations on racial equity.
"People are receptive," Varner told NECN & NBC10 Boston. "They want us to be having these conversations."
The small nonprofit’s tight budget just couldn’t allow for expansions to let Rokeby better meet the moment, without added community support, Varner noted. Five firms specializing in design, site work, construction, and electrical are now donating in-kind services and materials.
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"It’s satisfying at the end of the day," Justin Wright, a project manager with PC Construction, said of the ongoing work to support the nonprofit organization.
PC Construction and longtime partners DuBois & King, Waterman Siteworks, SD Ireland, Omega Electric, and their subcontractors have teamed up to install handrails and gentler slopes to make the historic grounds easier to navigate. The team is now building a collections management facility to properly store items and give the museum more flexibility about what’s exhibited.
"This is really something that will change how we work at the museum, and how we can display a lot of the items in the future," Varner emphasized.
Nicole LaBrecque, the senior vice president of administration for PC Construction, said supporting the project was a perfect match for the firm’s goal to prioritize diversity, equity, and inclusion in its operations.
PC Construction, which operates from Maine to Florida, took the lead on the charitable building effort, calling it urgent that Rokeby be preserved and allowed to grow.
"It’s a resource, and now it’s going to be more accessible to the public," LaBrecque said of Rokeby Museum. "So we hope it draws much bigger crowds."
Varner said the gifts from the builders will also help it update exhibits to better put the wrongs of slavery in modern context. Rokeby hopes the project will cement it as a place working toward a more just future for everyone, Varner said.
"We also want it to be a place for self-reflection," the executive director said of her vision for Rokeby Museum. "To really look at ourselves and our place in the world and how we can be better advocates, better neighbors, better community members."
Construction is expected to wrap up in the coming weeks, PC Construction said. Varner indicated additional work to install a climate control system will follow.