RUTLAND—On March 30, a group of community leaders formally kicked off “I Love Rutland”—a campaign to celebrate and engender love for the city and region.
“As a third-generation Rutland resident who has married, raised a family and run a small business here, I love my community and want to declare it to the world,” said Mike Napolitano, owner of Awesome Graphics, who developed the campaign with Green Mountain Power’s Steve Costello. “This is a great community, filled with people powered by determination and compassion, surrounded by some of the most beautiful mountains, lakes and rivers in the world. I think we need to express that at every opportunity.”
The campaign will include a Facebook page, “I Love Rutland, Vermont,” bumper stickers, T-shirts, banners and window decals. Local residents and businesses can post any kind of positive news on the Facebook site, but negativity will simply not exist.
The campaign will also include “The Heart of Rutland,” a regular web and Facebook feature, similar to “Humans of New York,” produced by Donna GoodHale, owner of Expressions by Donna. GoodHale, a well-known local portrait photographer, will shoot portraits of everyday Rutland County residents and, with her husband, Brad, write up short stories about them and what they love about Rutland.
“We love this community and jumped at the opportunity to be part of I Love Rutland,” Donna GoodHale said. “Just planning ‘The Heart of Rutland’ makes me love Rutland even more!”
The website (www.iloverutlandvt.com) will feature GoodHale’s portraits along with the Facebook page, and will offer T-shirts and bumper stickers. T-shirt sales will benefit Wonderfeet Children’s Museum.
“There are plenty of places to address problems, debate politics or air concerns,” Costello said. “I Love Rutland won’t be one of them. Everyone involved in this is intimately connected to problem-solving across Rutland County, but this one effort will focus exclusively on why we love to live, work and play here.
“It will be a celebration of Rutland and the people, places, events and things people love about Rutland,” Costello said. “It will be a way to promote the positives we all enjoy, from great schools and colleges to amazing architecture, crystal-clear lakes, wildlife and the spirit of the community at large.”
Besides donations from Awesome Graphics and GMP, “I Love Rutland” is funded by Carpenter & Costin, Casella Resource Solutions, Castleton University, College of St. Joseph, Heritage Family Credit Union, Kathy Harm, Magic Brush Painting, Mark Foley Jr., Roots–The Restaurant, the Rutland Herald, Rutland Regional Medical Center and Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce.
“I Love Rutland” was born out of a negative comment Napolitano heard about Rutland from a concertgoer in Burlington. Napolitano and Costello began talking about their frustration over such negativity, and quickly developed ideas for a campaign. The sponsors swiftly offered financial support, and Awesome Graphics will produce related materials at cost.
“We both share a love for this community and frustration with the fact that Rutland residents are often the community’s harshest critics,” Napolitano said. “There is plenty of work to do to continue Rutland’s rebirth, but we believe positivity can be a big part of it. That includes responding to inaccurate negativity when it pops up.”
At Wednesday’s kickoff event, attended by dozens of community leaders, organizers slapped “I Love RutlandVT” stickers on cars, passed out T-shirts and encouraged the community to rally around itself. Castleton University President Dave Wolk, a proud Rutland native, said the campaign struck a chord with him immediately.
“Rutland has made enormous strides in recent years, and is making progress on virtually every measure possible, from housing and retail to community development and crime,” Wolk said. “As a community, we need to talk about that progress and stand up for our community. The people are what make Rutland special, and when we ignore negativity or even add to it, we’re ultimately hurting ourselves.”
“As a community we still have much to do, but it would be a terrible mistake not to celebrate the positives and the successes we are currently enjoying–simply because it is the right thing to do and to fortify ourselves for challenges still to come,” said William Notte, president of the Rutland Board of Aldermen. “I see the ‘I Love Rutland’ movement as another arrow in our quiver to show everyone, most importantly ourselves, what a wonderful place this is to live, work, and raise a family. I am delighted to celebrate its launch.”
Mayor Chris Louras said the creation of I Love Rutland was symbolic of the city itself and recent successes in the region. “Rutland’s best work and greatest accomplishments have come through collaboration and a can-do attitude,” Louras said. “We are at our best when we identify an issue, set our sights on solving it, and pull together people from all walks of life to overcome it. That’s exactly what’s happening here.”