“Vermont Strong” License Plates Now For Sale

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(Host) "I am Vermont Strong" license plates are now for sale. Governor Peter Shumlin signed legislation today allowing Vermonters to use the plates on the front of their cars and trucks.

And as VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports, people behind the project are hoping to raise more than $1 million for the people who suffered damages from Tropical Storm Irene.

(Kinzel) With the stroke of a pen, the Governor made it legal for Vermonters to use these plates. After signing the bill, Shumlin bought the first plate and presented it to the Corliss family of Berlin who were flooded out of their mobile home when tropical storm Irene hit the state on August 28th.

The plates cost $25, $18 of which will be given to the Vermont Long Term Disaster Relief Fund. Two dollars will be donated to the Vermont Foodbank and five dollars will be used to cover administrative costs.

The plates will be available at over 130 grocery stores, many ski areas and a number of other businesses. Sue Minter is the state’s new chief recovery officer for Irene relief programs. She says the plates send an important message.

(Minter) "To let our neighbors know that recovery is still a long road ahead and that we are there for them into the future and until there needs are met. Vermont is a little state with a big heart. This is the symbol of the Vermont strong spirit."

(Kinzel) Eric Mallette of Rutland is a co-founder of the "I am Vermont Strong" project – an effort that has sold more than 7,000 tee shirts bearing the special logo that’s also used on the license plates.

(Mallette) "This was borne out of devastation but it will have a life a long, long time from now. That speaks to positive things — things about Vermont that are great. I don’t care how much time we spend in this room this morning, we can’t talk about all those things so let the plate do the talking. Put one on the front of your rig and tell the rest of the world how proud you are to be Vermont."

(Kinzel) Backers of the plan hope to sell at least 50,000 plates. This would raise $1 million dollars for the state’s Disaster Relief Fund.

David Coates is the chairman of the Fund. He says the money will go a long way to help his group reach its goal of $10 million.

(Coates) "If we can get this million dollars in from the sale of these plates this will bring us to about a four million plus level. Now is that enough to take care of the needs out there? Unfortunately it’s about almost half way. We feel based on what we get from the field, and based of what we think the unmet need is that we need to raise 10 million dollars but this gets us nicely up to that level."

(Kinzel) Coates says the Fund is planning a major fund raising effort this spring and summer as the state approaches the first anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene.

For VPR News, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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