Since 1987, the Vermont Community Loan Fund (VCLF) has loaned more $125 million to finance thousands of jobs, homes, child care and essential services for hundreds of thousands of Vermonters. A special event on September 7 celebrated the fund’s 35th anniversary and honored the Sisters of Mercy and Mercy Partnership Fund for their longtime support of the fund.
Mercy’s support of VCLF began in 1993 with the Regional Community of Vermont, of which Sister Lindora Cabral served as president and Sister Mary Boiselle served as treasurer. They attended the celebration with Sister Laura Della Santa and Sarah Smith, director of Mercy Partnership Fund, the community investing program of Mercy Investment Services. During the celebration, Jake Ide, VCLF’s director of investment & philanthropy, called the Sisters “instrumental in VCLF’s early days.”
“You have the long vision that comes with faith. You believed in VCLF then, and you still do today,” Jake said, noting that Mercy remains the fund’s largest non-governmental investor. “The Sisters of Mercy are the mothers of today’s values-led, community-focused impact investing.”
As treasurer, Sister Mary brought the investment to the Regional Leadership Team as a way to “use our money to speak our values and to help support people that were in the business of trying to support others.”
With leadership’s support, the regional community made its first investment in VCLF, a partnership that has continued for 30 years. Sister Lindora, who serves on Mercy Investment Services’ board of directors, has attended several VCLF events over the years and has met many of the loan fund’s beneficiaries.
“As we’ve moved along from regional community to Northeast Community and then into the Institute and Mercy Investments, we continue to be able to support these wonderful entities, so it’s a win for everybody,” Sister Lindora says.
Mercy Partnership Fund recently expanded its commitment to VCLF with an investment that will help support its new Justice Forward Fund, which directs capital to Black Vermonters, Indigenous Vermonters, Vermonters of Color, and Immigrant Vermonters – those traditionally and generationally excluded from conventional financial markets and services.
“People that the banks look at and say ‘I don’t think so’, the loan fund has been willing to help them,” Sister Mary says. “There are so many little farms, young entrepreneurs that didn’t have two nickels, and they really had the idea and the desire, and the loan fund helped them, and they’ve done well.”
The Sisters of Mercy and other women religious were early investors in community development financial institutions, such as VCLF, that were creating economic opportunity for people and places underserved by traditional finance. Mercy Partnership Fund continues to build on that legacy and currently invests in 37 CDFIs nationwide, as part of its commitment to 65 mission-focused organizations across 73 countries and all 50 states.