The Hatch: Storytelling with a mission
It is rumored that the state of Vermont has more nonprofits per capita than any other state in the U.S. So why another one?
That question was answered over coffee in early 2012 while the four founders of The Hatch were hatching their nonprofit plan, before they realized it was happening. The players were four Dummerston residents: National Public Radio and Motel 6 TV ad personality “We’ll leave the light on for you,” Tom Bodett, Rita Ramirez (Bodett’s better half), Elizabeth Catlin and Rich Korson.
Collectively, they had the following life and career responsibilities: member of eight nonprofit boards, television producer, radio host, author, parent to six children, members of various fundraising committees, homeowners and a budding BBQ & pizza restaurant. During their visit, they lamented at how many times they have been approached for fundraisers in the area, and, as part of area organizations, they have asked the same people for funds for worthy causes.
“We keep hitting up the same people over and over for money and time,” said Catlin. “Isn’t there a way to consolidate efforts?”
“What if we put on two or three really big, fun events a year and focused the benefits on one or two efforts and organizations at a time?” said Bodett. “We could bring new people to the party and give them something for their money.”
“I know a lot of really funny people who live within four hours of here.” said Korson, who is a former Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report TV executive. “Let’s get four or five of them to come up and tell us funny stories.”
That conversation spawned The Hatch, the new fundraising machine that produces live events with the goal of broadening listeners’ minds and hearts while simultaneously generating funds to support the social and cultural infrastructure of the greater Brattleboro area. In short, The Hatch exists to raise money for our community and to have fun doing it.
The Hatch has focused on the popular movement of storytelling, which has become an urban sensation for years and is now leaking to smaller communities, like Brattleboro. The stories are real. Sometimes funny, sometimes raw, but always real. And that personal connection has taken with all ages.
There has been a resurgence in storytelling,” said Bodett in a recent radio interview. “My uninformed theory about this phenomenon is that it is a response to all the digital media in our lives that has no real human connection. It’s that ‘look me in the eye and tell me something about yourself.’ That’s how we learn to be human.”
The first Hatch event was held in April 2013 and entitled “Take a Seat: Storytellers on a Mission.” The first recipient was the historic Latchis Theatre, which was in the middle of their The Heavens and The Earth campaign to help restore the theatre with new seats. The inaugural event kicked off at the Latchis with five top storytellers including PJ O’Rourke, Adam Wade, Jim O’Grady, Peter Aguerro, Ed Gavagan and host Brooke Van Poppelen. The Hatch kept the storytelling theme on the funny side and the house sold out. The event raised $27,000. Vermont Public Radio, a popular venue for storytelling with shows like This American Life and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me signed on as a media partner and aired the show later in the spring with introductory commentary from Bodett.
“It’s addictive on both ends, the audience and the storyteller,’ continued Bodett. “Not only do we crave someone saying, ‘tell me something true that happened to you, but we crave someone listening to us doing that same thing.”
The model continued with the second Hatch event in November entitled “Storytellers on a Mission.” The recipient, New England Youth Theatre (NEYT), offers a comprehensive training program for young people in all aspects of theater arts, with a combination of classroom and performance work for beginning to advanced students. NEYT has been working towards paying off the mortgage on its property in downtown Brattleboro. The Storytellers event had a special opportunity where money it made from its event was matched by an anonymous donor. Another stacked lineup of storytellers was on tap including Brian Babylon, Adam Wade (who returned due to popular demand), Ophira Eisenberg, Dave Hill, SRSLY featuring Alexandra Fiber and Danielle Gibson and host Tom Shillue.
The event raised $XX, which was doubled by the anonymous donor, helping NEYT get that much closer to realizing their dream of owning their building.
While the current Hatch team includes the four founders, their goal is to recruit and form a grant advisory panel to assist in the awarding of funds raised. There has been discussion of expanding out of the southern Vermont region to other areas in the state. So far, the model has been successful, raising nearly $50,000 in one year for worthy area nonprofits. One thing is for sure, The Hatch will continue to make laughter its priority while it helps fellow nonprofits excel.
Who’s in The Hatch?
Tom Bodett – Seven year veteran of the Dummerston Selectboard, Vermont State E911 Board Member, Commissioner on Vermont Energy Siting Policy Commission, VP Brattleboro Hockey Assoc., Author/humorist.
Elizabeth Catlin – President, Green Mountain Camp, VP Latchis Corp., Vermont Clean Energy Development Fund board member, Girls on the Run Vermont, Coach and board member, Brattleboro Retreat Board Member, Principal at Bluestone Wealth Management.
Richard Korson – TV Producer and Media Executive. Credits include: Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report, TV Funhouse, Important Things with Demetri Martin and A Night of Too Many Stars.
Rita Ramirez – President and Coach, Girls on the Run Vermont, Hilltop Montessori Capital Campaign, Dummerston Social Services Committee member and Town Service Officer, and MSW, Windham County Court Guardian Ad Litem.