December 10, 2014

Vermont Candle Makers Fulfill Their Wish

Vermont Candle Makers Fulfill Their Wish

Self-made entrepreneurs themselves, Tom and Barbara Weakley innately understand how small loans help poor women build businesses to work their way out of poverty and better feed, clothe, house, and educate their children.

Tom and Barbara have been giving to FINCA for 15 years. And Tom, chair of the Tithing Circle of the Federated Church of East Arlington, Vermont, recently shepherded a $5,000 gift to FINCA from the church. The Weakleys also are members of our Legacy Society, having chosen to remember FINCA in their estate plans.

Perhaps what inspires Tom and Barbara to support FINCA is that they see it as a way to help poor families write their own success stories, much as they did. More than 50 years ago, they moved to Vermont to start a candle making business using antique tin molds. “We had no money; we started from scratch,” Tom said.

But they caught the folk craft revival wave and prospered. When The Candle Mill outgrew their kitchen and garage, they expanded into an old grist mill near a waterfall on a scenic river. A few years later, they bought out neighboring barns and buildings. Over time, their little business “turned into a big Vermont attraction,” known as Candle Mill Village, which at one point featured a variety of shops, restaurants, and other businesses.

Some years ago, Tom and Barbara sold the business and used the proceeds to set up a charitable remainder trust. The trust reduced their taxable income and provides them with a regular source of income. Once both of them have passed away, the trust will dissolve and the assets will go to FINCA and three other charitable organizations.

Tom volunteered in Nigeria 20 years ago, where he saw developing world poverty up close. He recalls being moved at the sight of women carrying heavy jugs of water and doing other punishing work, while their husbands played dominos. Tom also recalls that the children he met could not attend school, because the families couldn’t afford it.

He wished he could do something to help “these women start a business and make their own way, so they could buy what they need for their children to attend school.” Through their years of support for FINCA and their bequest, Tom and Barbara are fulfilling his wish, ensuring that generations of women are able to create a brighter future for themselves and their children.