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Community Support at Local Mall: University Mall Shines

By Kelly Church

With more than 70 storefronts, University Mall in Burlington, VT is a holistic shopping experience for area residents and visitors. Shoppers have most major department stores to choose from in addition to smaller boutiques and an array of restaurants. The University Mall is also a major supporter of the local community, providing monetary and other types of support for local organizations, students and families.

University Mall has been owned and operated by the Finard family since the property's original development in 1979. The mall has been passed from generation to generation of Finards over the years, now resting in the hands of founder Murray Finard's son Bill Finard and grandson Todd and grandson-in-law Rob Hughes. General Manager of University Mall, Heather Tremblay, says the family is so grateful that they have received so much community support throughout the years that they are always eager to give back and they have plenty of programs in place to do so.

"Since 2001, University Mall has awarded local students $375,000 in scholarships," Tremblay says. "Each year, five area high school seniors receive $5,000 each toward their first year of college. University Mall's Scholarship of Excellence is designed to be awarded to students who embody excellence in academics, leadership and community service."

Another popular program hosted by University Mall is their daily "Walk the Mall" initiative. This program welcomes people of any age to get their daily exercise in everyday after 6 a.m. Two full laps around the inside perimeter of the property makes one mile. The purpose of this program is to encourage physical fitness in what Tremblay says is a "safe, climate-controlled environment."

"[It's] a great way for people of all ages to stay fit, socialize and window shop too," Tremblay says.

Weekends are busy for events at University Mall. Every Saturday, the mall welcomes non-profit organizations in the area to visit the mall free of charge to promote their organization's purpose and help spread the word. On the second Saturday of each month between January and October, you'll also find The American Red Cross set up outside of Sears. On Sundays, an average of 15 vendors show up to the Farmer's Market to sell local produce, poultry and art.

In effort to keep things family friendly, a free weekly concert series called Shake Your Sillys Out is offered on Monday mornings in September and October for family interaction with the kids in mind. During Christmas and Springtime, Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny can be found settled in at University Mall.

"Santa comes by train in the Santa Parade and the Easter Bunny is escorted by 15 to 20 area mascots," Tremblay says. "Kids can visit them and have their photos taken throughout each season."

Lastly, and one of the most simple community support measures, University Mall has a coin machine located next to customer service inside the mall. All of the proceeds of the coin machine go to the Vermont Children's Hospital at Fletcher Allen Health Care. Between June 2011, the installation date, and June 2013, the coin machine raised $2,512.27 for the children's hospital.

University Mall acts as a central hub for the community, not only providing essential storefronts for customers, but also providing community programs for residents of all ages and whole families to benefit themselves, the mall and even reaching those beyond the mall's boundaries.

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