The ‘Full VerMonty’ Calendar

Iconic Communities, On the Road
on October 27, 2002

When towns need volunteers for community projects, most people are generous with both time and money, raising cash through bake sales, auctions, and potlucks. But when one Vermont town learned it would take $50,000 to fix its community center, they knew something new would be needed to get the job done. So what they did was publish and sell a “pin-up” calendar featuring the men of Maple Corner.

Life for the community’s 200 residents has long centered around the white-clapboard, two-story community center whose history goes back more than a century. The center is run by a local board and brings village folks together for all kinds of events: fall foliage festivals, Christmas wreath making, readings, and lively musicals staged by a local theater group.

A couple of years ago, however, they learned that the building was failing. Like many old structures, the former Grange Hall had become a sinkhole of costly repairs. State fire codes forced the closing of the upstairs where most of the activities were held, and the septic system turned out to need work. Even tireless Community Club board members such as Olivia Gay were daunted by the cost estimates.

Gay’s ties to the area date back to 1797 when her ancestors settled the town. Her grandmother, Louise Andrews Kent, together with Gay’s mother, wrote a series of well-known cookbooks under the name Mrs. Appleyard. She remembers going to the center as a child, and having it closed down or unused would have been like losing a family member. Over the years, she’d invested untold hours to keep the center going. “I sort of can’t help myself from doing this, because it’s important and that’s how I understand you live in a community. Other people feel this way too,” she says.

One is carpenter Steve Gallagher. His ancestors date back to original settlers, and he’s dedicated “an unbelievable amount of time” on fund raising and events at the center, doing a lot of the renovations himself. “The village center is where community is built and nurtured,” Gallagher says.

So Gay, Gallagher, and others in the village began brainstorming how to raise the money. “I learned from my mother that if you want things to happen, you make them happen,” Gay says simply.

Knowing bake sales and silent auctions weren’t going to do it, community members kept returning to an idea first floated as a joke: putting out a calendar dubbed the “Full VerMonty,” (a take-off on the movie The Full Monty). The 2002 calendar, so the joke went, would feature the men of Maple Corner at work or play in the buff, strategic parts tastefully covered, of course. Board Member Cornelia Emlen, who moved to Maple Corner from New Jersey in 1980 with a background in arts and education, took it upon herself to turn the joke into a sign-up sheet. Cornering every male who showed up at the annual summer village corn roast at the historic Robinson Sawmill, she asked if they would pose, sans clothing, for a fund-raising calendar.

“Some of them said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’” she laughs. But more than half said yes, agreeing to throw their reserve, and their clothing, to the wind.

“This was the first place I ever lived where there was a real sense of who your neighbors are and being able to do things with them and seeing them in different ways,” she says—such as in their birthday suits.

As it turned out, the idea of 12 men ages 39-78 baring all to save their community center was gobbled up by a media hungry for feel-good stories and humor following the World Trade Center tragedy. Thanks to extensive coverage on television and in print, more than 25,000 calendars were sold, at $15 each, raising nearly $400,000—enough for a permanent endowment to ensure that the community will always have a place to gather.

The men of Maple Corner gave the shirts off their backs to do just that.