Spring 2022 Newsletter
All of us at RTI are thankful for surviving, growing and meeting all the challenges that 2021 sent our way!
I remain humbled that RTI’s farm program, hatched around a kitchen table, has brought donkeys and people together for 10 years. In that time, we added Aurora Bakery, now four years old. As with all growth, program expansion means cost increase to keep these needed services going. In addition to running the programs we continually look for funding sources to augment the income we receive from bakery sales and donkey farm program fees. We are funded by Sullivan County United Way, Sullivan County Commissioners, the Newport Service Organization, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation and Newport Fund, St. Thomas Church in Hanover, NH and have supporters, both local and distant, who offer their time and their donations, most recently through a GoFundMe appeal to help cover vet bills for the 7 donkeys who were diagnosed with Lyme disease. Online supporters met and exceeded our goal!
Along with our successes, 2021 saw its share of heartbreak. Our founding member, farm and donkey owner and program mentor, Penny de Peyer passed away in June 2021 from cancer. We are proud that we could respect her wishes and care for her at her farm, surrounded by her donkeys. She was always so proud to see participants working with and around the donkeys. Without Penny’s knowledge, expertise and encouragement of all things donkey, we would not have tried so many donkey adventures. In Memoriam | Road To Independence (rti-aurora.org) Her passing has resulted in relocating our farm program to continue our mission.
The year was not kind to our donkey herd either. We lost Kemo (19 yo), Mattie (30 yo) and Checkers (30 yo). Lyme Disease, colic, and old age were our adversaries. Our smaller herd of five remains strong and is meeting the challenge of all the adventures on our schedule!!
Since our last newsletter, Aurora Bakery had a “now or never” opportunity to almost double the available space in our current Main Street location. This has enabled Megan Walker, our Baker/Baking Program Manager Program Managers | Road To Independence (rti-aurora.org), to increase production and work with more than one participant at a time in the larger setting. It has also given us the chance to employ three participants on a part time basis to meet increased demands. Monies raised through the NH Gives Campaign last spring helped to support structural changes onsite, etc., as we move toward our goal of having inside and seasonal outside seating and an expanded menu.
Likewise, participating in the first year of the Sunapee Farmer's Market on Saturday mornings and continuing Newport Farmer’s Market involvement on Friday afternoons has opened new doors. The increase in sales over the past two years, despite the pandemic, is a great accomplishment. This is due to the hard work of Megan, the participants, and the support of volunteers. And, of course, the excellent quality of our products! Our loyal and growing customer base is truly a testament.
Despite the complexity of some of her recipes, Megan can break down tasks using color coding, pictures, and empowering supervision suited to everyone’s skill level, so that all contribute to the success of the bakery. We are so fortunate to have Megan’s vision, her skill set, and her unending commitment!
Pictured on left, workspace before the expansion and on the right is our current workspace.
We are honored to receive a 3-year, $30,000 grant ($10,000 a year for 3 years) from the New Hampshire Charitable Fund to assist with bakery growth, board and organizational development. This grant is made possible by gifts from the following fund(s): an anonymous fund, Daisy Hale Fund, Delphinium Fund, Kineo Fund, and Rosebud Fund.
The New Hampshire Charitable Foundation is New Hampshire’s statewide community foundation, founded in 1962 by and for the people of New Hampshire. They manage a growing collection of more than 2,000 funds created by generous individuals, families, and
businesses, and award more the $50 million in grants and scholarships every year. The Charitable Foundation works with generous and visionary citizens to maximize the power of their giving, support great work happening in our communities and lead and collaborate on high-impact initiatives. For more information, please visit www.nhcf.org or call 603-225-6641.
Farm Program Update
Under the direction of Margaret Coulter, Program Managers | Road To Independence (rti-aurora.org), the program was awarded a $4,000 grant from the Sullivan County Commissioners for a Reading with the Donkeys program and an expansion of our visiting program. Donkeys and handlers visited libraries in Charlestown, Claremont, Goshen and Newport with books, coloring pages and donkey information as part of the grant. The donkeys enjoyed stories from young and old readers. In addition, Wilmot and Newbury libraries invited and funded us to provide programs in their towns. Library programs will continue this spring.
The donkeys were also kept busy with activities and visits to Hilltop Place, Hay Days at the Fells, Woodlawn, Summercrest, Sunapee Cove, Harvest Hill, donkey bingo on the Newport Common, and a new parade venue, the Sunapee 4th of July parade. We were able to collaborate with Full Circle Farm (FCF) Therapeutic Horsemanship Program to offer both non-riding and driving lessons to some of their clients. We also were able to host two classes for our donkey handlers as part of the FCF Fun Show. Everyone always has fun showing off their handling skills. Two donkeys, Pepper and Pimpernel, were even part of a September wedding in New London. Our donkeys have also kept up with their school programs with Sunapee and Kearsarge High School and added in weekly spring visits to Simonds Elementary School in Warner and New London Elementary School.
We had a great turnout for the 106th Annual Newport Winter Carnival Parade. Participants and volunteers joined Pepper, Cameo and Pimpernel decked out for the “Out of the Woods” theme.
New Fundraising Opportunity! The Local Crowdfunding Campaign.
The Covid cancellation of our 2021 Spring Fundraiser resulted in the transition to a successful two-day Yard Sale Fundraiser in June 2021. We were thrilled with the outpouring of generosity from old and new friends.
We have chosen to again cancel our traditional 2022 Annual Fundraising Dinner Dance and Silent Auction. We are pleased to say that RTI and Aurora Bakery applied and were chosen to be part of the Upper Valley, NH “The Local Crowd Campaign” platform. You may be receiving this newsletter as part of the Crowdfunding campaign to raise $15,000 to assist with Aurora Bakery expansion. While we will miss seeing everyone in person, we feel fortunate to have another means to raise the funds we need to continue our mission! Here’s the link to the fundraiser, https://uppervalley.thelocalcrowd.coop/campaign/aurora-bakery-expansion/
We also owe a huge debt of gratitude to all who have volunteered their time and energy over the past year! Some showed up to do whatever was needed at the bakery or the farm, scooped poop in the coldest winter temps, and showed up with trailers and good humor when it came time to physically move donkey sheds to their new location. While there are many of you not able to join us in person, please know that your FB support, photo likes and comments have kept us going through some of the hardest parts of our transitions.
The start of 2022 has kept us busy despite the variety of weather conditions Mother Nature has sent our way. We participated in the 106th Newport Winter Carnival parade again this year. We had 11 participants and 11 volunteers and our donkeys, Pepper, Nutmeg and Pimpernel turned out in costumes in keeping with the parade’s theme “Out of the Woods”. We have had participants come to our new farm location and work with the donkeys as well when the weather has cooperated. We have three school locations in the works for our weekly donkey program, a few “Reading to The Donkey” programs dates are already in the books and both Newport and Sunapee Farmer’s Market on the calendar!
Megan has been busy with Valentines Day, new participants and a wonderful increase in special orders!!
I hope you enjoy this much delayed update and are able to assist with our Local Crowd Fundraiser. If you are not able to make a monetary donation at this time, sharing our newsletter is equally as important.
All the Best-