MIDDLEBURY — Jayco wants to help the working poor throughout the Americas and has announced creation of an investment fund meant to provide micro loans to small businesses and farmers.
The aim “is to bring dignity and joy to the working poor throughout the Americas by helping them grow sustainable, locally owned businesses and farms that are not dependent on charity for survival,” Wilbur Bontrager, chairman of the board of the Middlebury-based recreational vehicle maker, said in a statement Tuesday, Oct. 15. “The difference between poverty and prosperity often hinges on the success of small businesses.”
The Lloyd and Bertha Bontrager Jayco Legacy Fund, as it has been dubbed, will initially total more than $1 million, according to the company. Company officials hope it grows with future infusions from the firm, Jayco employees and dealers.
The charitable fund will operate through Mennonite Economic Development Associates, or MEDA, a nonprofit organization formed to help fight poverty. As described by Jayco spokesman Sid Johnson, MEDA would make investments with legacy fund money in microfinance banks, companies and other funds that serve the poor, the ultimate intended beneficiaries.
The initial emphasis of the initiative will be in Central America, but Jayco hopes to spread the effort to South America and the Caribbean.
“We know that lack of capital and credit are among the biggest problems facing the farmers and small businesses in Latin America,” Wilbur Bontrager said. “The Lloyd and Bertha Bontrager Jayco Legacy Fund will help address these issues.”
Lloyd and Bertha Bontrager founded Jayco in 1968. Lloyd Bontrager died in 1986, and Bertha, his wife, lives in Middlebury.