MANCHESTER - The Vermont Country Store has announced that it has committed $100,000 to Bennington Area Habitat for Humanity to support the development of its project on Jennifer Lane in Manchester. The commitment will be made over a five-year period, which provides $20,000 per year for each of the next five homes that will be built as part of a 22-home affordable housing development already under way.

Bennington Area Habitat dedicated its second Jennifer Lane home at a ceremony on Feb. 24. Because of the need for capital to complete the development, The Vermont Country Store is challenging other businesses and organizations in the greater Manchester area to become involved and invest in this project.

Eliot Orton, Proprietor of The Vermont Country Store, said, "This project isn't just about building houses -- it's about providing real opportunities for hardworking families in our community to have a home of their own that is safe, healthy and affordable. That's what we all want for our own families, so I hope businesses and people in our community will come on board with The Vermont Country Store and work side by side with our neighbors to make their dreams possible."

In addition to financial support, employees of The Vermont Country Store have volunteered on the construction of Bennington Area Habitat for Humanity's second house, which will be ready for a local family in March.

"From interns to senior management, we are giving our employees the opportunity to swing hammers and break a sweat helping to build these homes," said Chris Vickers, President and CEO of The Vermont Country Store. "I hope that the Manchester community will put its full support behind this neighborhood, so we can help improve our community in a way that will last for generations."

"We are inspired by the tremendous commitment that The Vermont Country Store has made to our community, and deeply moved by their generous gift to this affordable housing project," said Richard Malley, Executive Director for Bennington Area for Habitat for Humanity. "Building a Habitat home is all about people from different backgrounds working together to extend a hand up, not a hand out. As awareness of this project spreads, we hope that more people will be inspired to become involved helping to make a dream come true for another member of our community."

Bennington Area Habitat for Humanity is actively seeking applicants for houses slated for construction in the next 18 months. To be selected, applicants must meet Habitat's four basic requirements: have a definite need for better housing, be willing to work with Habitat as a partner to help build their home and to contribute in other ways, have worked or lived in Bennington County for at least the past twelve months, and meet Habitat's "ability to pay" criteria, which include minimum and maximum income guidelines and other evidence of handling financial obligations responsibly. To find out more, contact Bennington Area Habitat for Humanity at (802) 362-1000 or visit www.benningtonareahabitat.com.