Village Improvement Association officers, dignitaries, members and guests gathered May 31 for the groundbreaking ceremony marking the beginning of the expansion and renovation of the VIA Clubhouse at Grenoble Place and the Boardwalk.
VIA Building and Planning Committee Chair and President Carolyn Billingsley and Rehoboth Beach Mayor Sam Cooper, sank their shovels into the ground amid the cheering crowd while the crew of Schell Bros. Builders stood in the wings waiting to get started on the actual excavation and expansion of the little building.
Billingsley said, “It is a very poignant time...so many memories of the talented and dedicated ladies and their work of the past 103 years and so much excitement about the things yet to be accomplished in our time and in our new building."
Sussex County Councilwoman Joan Deaver said, “I am very supportive of this group because of all the things they do for the town. This is a proud moment. I am happy to participate in the VIA's historic groundbreaking ceremony." The councilwoman and Sussex County Councilman George Cole each granted funds to help with the VIA Capital Campaign.
The ladies of the Village Improvement Association have the delightful dilemma of growing pains. Their little clubhouse was built in 1926 at the cost of $2,644.88. At that time, VIA membership was small, the women fit comfortably in their new surroundings and held meetings, art classes, art shows and fundraising parties there.
Theda Blackwelder, the VIA's Capital Campaign chair, who has been charged with raising the funds necessary to support the project, looked upon this as a banner day. She said, “I am so grateful to our membership who have diligently and untiringly worked to raise the funds to go forward with this expansion. We still have work to do and look to the continued support of the community and our Village Improvement Association women to complete this project."
Today VIA has an active membership of over 200 and that number is steadily increasing month by month. Although it was expanded after the devastating Storm of 1962, today, the cubhouse is limited in its seating and not all of the members are able to attend programs. Many fundraising efforts are severely curtailed by the lack of space.
While the VIA Capital Campaign Committee has worked diligently for the needed funds, there is still a considerable amount left to be raised. Many successful events have provided needed money for this critical cause. DNREC has provided a generous grant for environmentally friendly use. However, the VIA ladies just cannot bake enough cookies to raise the balance of the money needed. They are seeking funds from foundations, corporations, members, city, county and state officials and the generous donations of individuals. The Village Improvement Association is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization and all donations are tax deductible.
To help, donate, or get more information, contact Theda Blackwelder 302-945-2775 or go towww.rehobothbeachvia.org.