By Stephanie Choate
A Williston business park marks the site of the largest gift ever given to Fletcher Allen Health Care.
On May 2, Burlington philanthropists Bob and Holly Miller announced that they would give 15-acre commercial site Holly Court, valued at $13 million, to the hospital.
“The stars all aligned in a positive direction,” Miller told the Observer Monday.
Hospital leaders had approached the Millers in the winter to ask about the possibility of expanding, and whether the Millers would be interested in selling Holly Court to Fletcher Allen.
“As time went on we thought a little bit about it … we as a family decided ‘why don’t we make it as a gift, which is basically like helping a million people?’” Miller said. “When we think about Fletcher Allen and all of its partners, we thought it would be the right thing to do and a great thing to do. It was a no brainer.”
Miller said Fletcher Allen President and CEO John Brumsted took the news well.
“He was quite dumbfounded, to tell you the truth,” he said with a chuckle.
Brumsted described his response similarly.
“It’s not a thing I ever expected to hear,” he said. “I was very surprised and very grateful.”
“It is a tremendous gift and what it really does for Fletcher Allen is give us a great deal of flexibility in our facilities planning now and into the future,” he said.
Fletcher Allen can begin reinvesting the approximately $750,000 a year it paid in rent for the facility.
“It’s also a gift that right from day one yields real returns, because the dollars we have spent on leasing that space can now come right back in and be used to support clinical programs,” Brumsted said.
Fletcher Allen has been a tenant in Holly Court since 2006. Approximately 35 staff members are located there, mostly involved in managing and delivering supplies and equipment.
Brumsted said the hospital will continue to use the facility as a distribution center for now, but is evaluating the best use of the space.
“We’re a complex organization and the last thing we want to do is not think through thoroughly what the best use of the space is,” he said. “We’re trying to understand how we can use the space to the best advantage.”
Brumsted said Fletcher Allen will honor the leases of the two other tenants, but it is too early to tell whether they will renew the leases.
The Millers have supported the hospital since the early 1980s. The have made significant donations to various facilities projects and Holly Miller is a founding member of the Fletcher Allen Foundation Board. The Millers also established the Holly and Robert Miller “Caring for Nurses Initiative at the University of Vermont, created Fletcher Allen’s Rural Palliative Care Network and instituted a new fellowship in hospice and palliative care.
“They really have been very magnanimous benefactors over the years,” Brumsted said.
Holly Miller is also an original member of the Vermont Respite House board, among other organizations the Millers support.