Follow me through this idea – a general store that sells information, not items.  In the old “Little House” books, Pa Ingalls was always headed off to Walnut Grove or Mankato, or some other big city to bring back that special item that the family needed. Well, at North Country Sustainability Center’s Hearth, people will visit to bring back ideas to make their lives better.  In the “old days,” every town had a mercantile that sold every day items, but the General Stores in the larger towns were for larger purchases, worth traveling for.

Wouldn’t it be worth traveling to learn how to make a cheese that you could sell? or to learn how to can peaches? or to purchase that unique artisan print?  How far would you travel to see a concert? a puppet show? a dog show?  If you had a child with autism and discovered that fresh milk and interaction with animals helped your child, how far would be too far?   What if all those destinations were in one place?  On their own, the cheesemake, the teaching lab, the art gallery, stage, theater, show ring and therapy center could be in as many different directions, and their environmental cost would be exorbitant.  But at the NCSC Hearth, they would all be under one roof – a vacant antique mill with 100,000 square feet.

But just as important as the environmental footprint of the Hearth is critical so is the potential energy savings.  This old mill was originally built in the 1860’s and powered by water power. That mill pond, dam and canal are still in place, but in danger of being lost to time.  We can combine solar and micro-hydropower to save electricity and lower the carbon footprint of every user.  We can save carbon by avoiding new construction as much as possible and preserve 55 acres of already developed property, and just bring it up to necessary standards.  More importantly we can show the doubtful that it’s possible to reshape our society to a more civil, wiser one.

We need your help though, and anyone that you think can share our vision. We continue to try conventional funding, but our idea is so unconventional in modern fundraising that we haven’t been very successful.  We need to raise at least $400,000 to purchase the building and land, and have a start on renovation and utility costs. The dam needs major repairs, so any money that we raise in addition to that $400,000 will go toward the dam repair and updates in this wonderful building.  We aren’t looking to create every opportunity at one time, nor do we plan to operate every aspect of the Hearth.  Our mission is to provide facilities, opportunity and facilities, not develop business plans for all the user groups.  I believe, as the founder of NCSC and its Executive Director, that like the bricks in our old mill, it’s going to be built with the dollars of individuals who put in what they can.  I promise that our successes, and struggles, will be shared with those who want to follow our model, to make your struggles easier to surmount.  I see this as a model for the country. I hope you will too.

This is a unique approach to a sharing economy, and it presents in a cost effective way. But we are not in urban America, which tends to get all the funding. We are in rural New England, but have more than 30 communities in 3 states that will be served by us.  It’s hard to get people to see the region, since it crosses state borders. But farmer’s needs are the same, regardless of state laws. We’re willing to take on the “state line” issues to make it possible for farmers to meet the hungry urban markets.  We’re eager to bring services to needy populations, from families who struggle with autism to returning veterans who are looking for a fresh start.

Please visit www.northcountrysustain.org or www.ncschearth.org and see what we’re working on it. It’s ambitious, but it’s totally doable.  We have several different ways to give, from our checklist, to our “Revivor” campaign to a straight donation.  Spread the word, share us with your friends, and be part of the success of this “General Store of Knowledge and Potential,” at the North Country Sustainability Center  Hearth.  Thank you.

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