Calling for Civil, Inclusive Communication & Interaction: Thoughts on January 6

As an organization that brings people together, bridging boundaries and engaging our whole community to create positive change, we were shocked and saddened by the images that came to us from Washington, DC, on Wednesday. Watching a violent mob overrunning the Capitol,  recognizing the contrasts in how these protestors were treated compared to those calling for racial justice in the summer, seeing the violation of two of our nation’s most important institutions: fair and free elections and the peaceful transfer of power—all were ugly reminders of the deep divisions and systemic racism in our country.  This is not the nation we want to be. 

How do we pull back from this brink? At Vital Communities, we are reminded of our founding by members of the Upper Valley League of Women Voters. Nationally and locally, the League strives to involve people in the electoral process, especially the disenfranchised. We value the work done by the League, Fairfight in Georgia, and others to make the electoral process more truly democratic. 

The local League members who founded Vital Communities in the early 1990s believed it wasn’t enough to increase people’s access to voting; voters needed to be informed about important issues and understand the region as a whole. They saw the need for conversations and problem-solving among people from a spectrum of experiences, identities, and political outlooks. 

Nearly three decades later, that sort of deep, civil, inclusive conversation remains one of our guiding ideals. We believe this kind of community interaction can be, in its way, an antidote to the cynicism, misinformation, divisive rhetoric, and racism that is harming our nation. This week’s events at the U.S. Capitol were a stark reminder of the work that remains to be done. We’re hopeful that others will join us as we work to bring people together and build true community. 

The Vital Communities Staff

2020 Volunteers of the Year: The Upper Valley’s Mutual Aid Groups

When the COVID-19 pandemic arrived in the Upper Valley, it brought an ever-lengthening list of questions and concerns. Would supplies of food and other essentials hold out? Where would those suddenly without income get help? Who would support those at greatest risk from the coronavirus so they could stay home and stay safe? Where could people get the best information about testing, public health measures, and social assistance programs?

Seemingly overnight, an answer sprang up: the “mutual aid groups,” an interconnected array of community-based volunteer groups that reached out to residents and shared information with each other. Those Upper Valley mutual aid groups, numbering close to two dozen, have been chosen as Vital Communities’ collective 2020 Volunteers of the Year.

“We usually choose an individual for this honor, but this year it seemed fitting to shine a light on the incredible network of people who stepped up for their neighbors with such ingenuity and resourcefulness,” said Sarah Jackson, Vital Communities Executive Director. “The mutual aid groups have been a great demonstration of how to be resilient in the face of challenges. They used online tools like surveys, meetings, spreadsheets and community listservs to reach those in need and to share information among other groups. The volunteers are people from within each community, who understand their town’s people and their needs.  The networks represent a true grassroots effort.”

Mutual aid groups constitute an ever-changing and not sharply defined list, but below is a representative list of some of the Upper Valley mutual aid groups, with contact information in the links:

Much help has also been provided by the Central Vt Council on Aging and local “aging in place” groups as well as through various communities’ boards of selectmen, town clerk’s offices, churches, village stores, schools, food shelves, and libraries.

Rehab Grants Create 68 Housing Units

Grants to landlords and property owners to help fix up vacant, unused rental properties have resulted in 68 new housing units in Windsor and Windham counties, according to recent figures from the Windham & Windsor Housing Trust and Downstreet Housing

Property owners could receive up to a $30,000 grant per rental unit from the Vermont Department of Housing and Community Development, which was utilizing CARES Act funding to improve the overall quality, availability, and affordability of rental housing throughout the state. The application deadline was November 1. Read more about the program here.

“A safe place to call home is an essential part of staying healthy, especially during this COVID pandemic,” said Mike Kiess, Vital Communities’ Workforce Housing Coordinator. “This program was a smart investment of public funds. The relatively small grants helped transform vacant properties into quality places to live. No new public infrastructure was required, and the additional residents provide more tax revenue for communities.”

The program added units to the following communities:

South Royalton (4)
BellowsFalls (7)
Bradford (1)
Brattleboro (15)
Hartford (9)
Newbury (1)
Norwich (1)

Springfield (9)
Williamstown (6)
Wilmington (1)
Windsor (14)

The 2021 Climate Change Leadership Academy is Recruiting!

Combatting climate change depends not just on major national and global policy, but also on action within our local community.

Promoting citizen-driven, community-level action is the goal of the Climate Change Leadership Academy (2CLA), which is accepting applications from January 11 through February 14 for its 2021 session. The program from March to June.

2CLA is a program of the Upper Valley Adaptation Workgroup (UVAW), a group of leaders and partner organizations striving to make the region more resilient to climate change, coordinated by Vital Communities.

The organizers seek a diverse class of 25 participants from across different social groupings (age, town, socio-economic status, race/ethnicity, gender identity, etc.), with each participant bringing a unique perspective to the cohort. UVAW believes that a learning environment rich in diversity and full of opportunities to engage with unfamiliar ideas, perspectives, cultures, and people will prepare participants to become change agents in their communities. Prior knowledge of climate change is not required. Tuition is $30, and scholarships are available.

Those 25 participants will attend six sessions that will include expert presentations, group discussion, and collaborative work sessions on climate change, including what is happening globally and locally, and what can be done about it. The 2CLA curriculum will teach participants how to use a design-thinking approach to develop solutions to climate change problems. The program is based on the belief that climate solutions must be accessible to individuals who are most directly affected by climate change, so participants will learn how to seek and incorporate input from climate-vulnerable populations into project design. By the end of this program, participants will be expected to apply their learning and develop a community service project that promotes climate resiliency.

“The impacts of climate change have never been so clear and concerning; record-high wildfires, hurricanes, and temperatures, another summer drought here in New England, and rising sea levels,” said Erich Osterberg, UVAW vice chair and associate professor of earth sciences at Dartmouth. We need to empower citizen leaders to help our local communities reduce greenhouse gases while also becoming more resilient to the climate changes that are already happening.”

Sessions will take place every other Wednesday evening from 5:30 to 7:30 pm, starting March 24, 2021, with the graduation taking place June 16, 2021. The sessions will be held virtually via zoom until it is safe to meet in person. Any in-person meetings will follow COVID-19 safety precautions and participants can opt for remote participation. Attendance is expected at every meeting and a light dinner will be provided for any in-person session.

Session topics are as follows:

  • Wednesday, March 24 – Session 1: Understanding Climate Change
  • Wednesday, April 2 – Session 2: Mitigation
  • Wednesday, April 21 – Session 3: Adaptation
  • Wednesday, May 5 – Session 4: Opportunities for local action
  • Wednesday, May 19 – Session 5: Project Development
  • Wednesday, June 2 – Session 6: How to be a leader
  • Wednesday, June 16 – Graduation

Questions? Contact Ana Mejia, Vital Communities Climate Projects Coordinator, at ana@vitalcommunities.org or 802-291-9100 x114

The 2CLA program was previously offered from October 2019 through May 2019. This year’s Climate Change Leadership Academy is made possible in part by support from the New England Grassroots Fund, Vermont Communities Foundation, and The Cotyledon Fund.

Upper Valley Everyone Eats and Vermont Everyone Eats is Put on Pause

The following is a press release from Vermont Everyone Eats, for which Vital Communities is the Upper Valley hub, operating as Upper Valley Everyone Eats.

SPRINGFIELD, December 29, 2020 —The innovative Vermont Everyone Eats program that has provided free restaurant to-go meals to COVID-impacted Vermonters since August is being put on hold as of December 31. Everyone Eats has engaged over 170 Vermont farms and food producers, played a key role in keeping over 150 restaurants in business, and provided over 500,000 meals to members of communities in all 14 Vermont counties. This creative program was made possible in 2020 with CARES Act funding through a grant from VT Agency of Commerce and Community Development to Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA) and partnerships with 14 Community Hubs around Vermont. All program partners would like to continue and are working to identify new sources of funding to continue in 2021.  

As we continue to live with this health pandemic and economic crisis, the need in Vermont is significant. From one recipient: “Everyone Eats has been a lifeline. In addition to providing us with amazing food, it has also given us a much-needed break. We are living in difficult times and every little bit of connection with our community is invaluable.” From another: “The quality, time, and care that has been put into these meals is nothing short of outstanding. Finding a way to be resourceful and still feeding us as if we were eating in a restaurant means so much.”

Vermont Everyone Eats is on pause starting December 31st while the partners work tirelessly to explore funding options through various channels. Given the ongoing nature of the pandemic and its impact upon our local economies, there is effort and great hope that funding will be available to restart the program.  As Jean Hamilton, Everyone Eats Statewide Coordinator, says: “This program was born through a collaboration of lawmakers, state agencies, non-profits, and grassroots organizers. Our partnerships continue to be strong and we are optimistic about relaunching Everyone Eats with a new funding source ASAP.” 

Hamilton adds, “It has been an honor to work on Everyone Eats with so many caring partners across the state and heartening to see our community weave closer together, supporting one another through this difficult time. We will do everything we can to keep supporting Vermont restaurants, farms, and our vulnerable neighbors. If you need help right now, please dial 2-1-1 to learn about numerous programs that are available to support you. And if you have help to give, please support your neighbors in need, including local restaurants. Remember, if you want them to be here tomorrow, please buy local today.”  

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Vermont Everyone Eats provides nutritious meals to Vermonters in need of food assistance as well as a stabilizing source of income for Vermont restaurants, farmers, and food producers. Vermont Everyone Eats is funded by the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund and made possible through a grant provided by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development to Southeastern Vermont Community Action 

For more information visit www.vteveryoneeats.org or email vee@sevca.org 

Climate Change Resources

Upper Valley Adaptation Workgroup and Vital Communities present:

Upper Valley Climate Change Leadership Academy

RESOURCES

Session Goals:

Our shared question for this session: What role can we play, as Climate Change Leaders, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

We have three goals for Session 2:

  1. Develop common language, framing, and context around the topic of “climate mitigation” in the Upper Valley. Where do our emissions come from and what will it take to reduce them?
  2. Compile a library of what works to reduce emissions, especially examples where Climate Change Leaders (like you!) can take action and make a difference.
  3. Discuss what we can do as Climate Change Leaders in the Upper Valley to make an impact with respect to greenhouse gas emissions. Together you will begin to capture ideas for possible Leadership Academy projects.
Session Materials:
Resources:

State Climate and Energy Goals/Plans

Vermont:

New Hampshire:

Carbon Calculators & At Home Tips

Carbon Offsets

Best Practices for Sustainable Development (International)

Carbon Sequestration

Food / Agriculture

Transportation

Adaptation Session

AGENDA:

  • Climate Change Adaptation Presentation Sherry Godlewski, Resilience and Adaptation Manager, NH Department of Environmental Services
  • Stakeholder Activity 1- (Notes)
    • Objective: From your stakeholder group’s perspective, discuss the climate impacts that we are/will be experiencing, and adaptation opportunities to become more resilient.
  • Climate Scenario Roleplay Activity 2-(Notes)
    • Objective: Gain an understanding of what’s important to other stakeholders, and how you might address a climate impact in your community.
  • Wrap Up
    • Evaluations
    • Community Projects
    • Next session preview

HOMEWORK Due January 3rd:

 

 

LINKS:

AGENDA

Welcome & Introductions 

Dartmouth Student Project Announcement

Project Idea Pitch 

  • Fill out project idea template
  • Anyone who has an idea will give a 1 minute pitch
  • If you don’t have a project idea in mind, listen to other ideas and see if there is interest in partnering with other 2CLA leaders on their project

Project Pitch Discussion/Convergence 

  • Participants self-select into groups around the room
  • Opportunity to find potential partners and form project teams, ask questions about project ideas

Project Charter: Specifics on action plan (2CLA Project Charter Template)          

  • Instruction on how to fill out charter
  • Workshop time
  • Takeways

Wrap up

  • Evaluations
  • Preview of next session: Leadership & Skills development
  • Post session HW: Complete project template, give feedback to another group

2019 Leadership Academy Meeting Dates

October 9, 2019
November 13, 2019
January 8, 2020
February 12, 2020
March 11, 2020
April 8, 2020

Participants are expected to attend all meetings, and must attend at least five meetings to graduate.

Questions?

Contact Ana Mejia
ana@vitalcommunities.org
802-291-9100 x114

What is the Climate Change Leadership Academy (2CLA)?

2CLA, a new project of the Upper Valley Adaptation Workgroup (UVAW) and Vital Communities, will educate, inspire, and prepare 25 Upper Valley participants to take meaningful action on climate change mitigation and adaptation in their communities. Participants will:

  • Learn what is happening globally and locally and what can be done about it.
  • Participate in presentations, group discussions, and collaborative work sessions.
  • Design and launch a project as a climate leader to make a difference in their own community.
  • Graduate ready to inspire, motivate, and encourage others to take action.

Each participant will develop a project individually or as part of a small team. Each project will have support and input from the rest of the class. These projects may take any form and might involve art, public education, community work days, or any other activity that generates positive community impact related to climate change. Projects will be shared at a public celebration at the end of the program.

Special Thanks

The 2019 Climate Change Leadership Academy is made possible in part by support from the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences at Dartmouth.

About the Upper Valley Adaptation Workgroup

The Upper Valley Adaptation Workgroup (UVAW) is a bi-state, multi-stakeholder working group of leaders and partner organizations. Started in December 2011, the workgroup meets monthly to focus on building climate resilient communities in the Upper Valley.

Our Working Definition of Climate Resiliency

Climate Resiliency is the ability of a community to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from climate impacts in a way that minimizes significant disruption to our lives and impacts on our shared resources. This includes our health, safety, built environment, food availability, natural resources, wildlife, and financial strength.

Climate change is not some distant problem – it is happening here and now in the Upper Valley. In recent years, we have seen climate disruptions affect our communities in the form of droughts, deluges, ice and hail storms, intense cold snaps, and sudden heat waves. We must recognize these increasingly frequent extreme weather events for what they are: our new normal. 

Stay up to date for our upcoming forums & events and connect with adaptation resources and experts.

UVAW Members

Sherry Godlewski
NH Department of Environmental Services, Co-Chair UVAW
sgodlewski@des.state.nh.us

Alice Ely
Public Health Council of the Upper Valley
alice.ely@uvpublichealth.org

Michael Simpson
Antioch University New England
msimpson@antioch.edu

Gregory Norman
Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center
gregory.a.norman@hitchcock.org

Alex Jaccaci
Hypertherm, Co-Chair UVAW
alex.jaccaci@hypertherm.com

Kevin Geiger
Two Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission
kgeiger@trorc.org

Julia Griffin
Town of Hanover
julia.griffin@hanovernh.org

Lizann Peyton
Nonprofit Consultant
lizann.peyton@gmail.com

Ana Mejia
Vital Communities
ana@vitalcommunities.org

Sarah Brock
Vital Communities
sarah@vitalcommunities.org

Meghan Butts
Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission
mbutts@uvlsrpc.org

Mark Goodwin
City of Lebanon
mark.goodwin@lebcity.com

Rosi Kerr
Dartmouth College
rosalie.e.kerr@dartmouth.edu

Beth Sawin
Climate Interactive
esawin@climateinteractive.org

Lisa Wise
UNH Extension and NH Sea Grant
lisa.wise@unh.edu

Erich Osterberg
Dartmouth College
erich.c.osterberg@dartmouth.edu

Jenny Levy
Hypertherm
jenny.levy@hypertherm.com

Cameron Wake
University of NH, Carbon Solutions New England
cameron.wake@unh.edu

Need to Contact Us?

Ana Mejia, Climate Projects Coordinator at Vital Communities | ana@vitalcommunities.org, 802-291-9100 x114

Alex Jaccaci & Sherry Godlewski, UVAW Co-Chairs | alex.jaccaci@hypertherm.com and sherry.godlewski@des.nh.gov

Video Excerpts: “Buy Local to Feed Local: Upper Valley Everyone Eats,” Nov. 24

At a virtual gathering on November 24, people from social service agencies and restaurants across the Upper Valley gave powerful testimony about the beneficial impact Upper Valley Everyone Eats has had on local farms, restaurants, and people in need.

Upper Valley Everyone Eats is the local hub of Vermont Everyone Eats, which pays hard-hit Vermont restaurants $10/meal to prepare free, nutritious meals for Vermonters in need. Vermont Everyone Eats is funded by the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund and made possible through a grant provided by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development to Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA). Upper Valley Everyone Eats will provide ~40,000 meals to patrons across 17 meal sites between September 8 and December 31.

Here are video excerpts from the event.

Jump into Climate Action In Hartford!

In December 2019 the Town of Hartford and the Hartford School District adopted the historic Joint Resolution Declaring a Climate Emergency, setting in motion an urgently needed positive first step to addressing climate change at the local level. Hartford’s Climate Advisory Committee (CAC) was formed to put the Resolution into action. Now, the time has come to once again engage the entire community in shaping the future of Hartford for the betterment of all residents.

Volunteers are needed to help the Town of Hartford create a Climate Action Plan. Working with paleBLUEdot, a climate action-planning consultancy, we must gather together to build a plan that ensures that Hartford thrives even as it works to mitigate the impacts of climate change on all and to adapt to the changing climate.

Creative solutions and a wide array of perspectives are essential to our success. Hartford residents, as well as residents of Lebanon, Hanover, Norwich and the surrounding area are all welcome. 

Representatives from local government, public agencies, local colleges/universities, the business community, environmental groups, social equity groups, and the general community are needed.

Eight general working groups are envisioned; individuals with experience or interest in any of these areas are encouraged to identify one or more areas of interest as part of their contribution to the planning team.

✔ transportation and land use

✔ waste management

✔ local food and agriculture

✔ energy and the built environment

✔ health and safety

✔ water, wastewater management, flood control

✔ greenspaces

✔ economic development and the climate economy

 

The Commitment:

Climate Action Team volunteers will participate in four workshops over the course of several months to explore, review, prioritize, and refine elements of the Climate Action Plan. The expected time commitment is in the range of 20-30 hours.

Interested? Contact Hartford’s Climate Advisory Committee to sign up for the Climate Action Team.

Hartford’s Climate Advisory Committee

Erik Krauss (ekrauss@bluevertex.com)

Ana Mejia (ana@vitalcommunities.org)

Jack Spicer (jacktspicer@gmail.com)

Crowdfunding Available for NH Projects

New Hampshire businesses, farmers, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, community initiatives: Do you have an incredible project just waiting to happen? Want to grow your organization, our community, and the local economy, but don’t have access to capital?

The Local Crowd Upper Valley is a rewards-based local crowdfunding platform that helps communities invest in local businesses, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and initiatives that are mission-driven social enterprises. If your organization contributes to the community and could use a lift, apply to be part of a Route 11 Corridor cohort of campaigns.
Vital Communities is partnering with TLC Monadnock to bring local investment and capital access to the Route 11 Corridor of New Hampshire thanks to funding from USDA Rural Development.

Submit a proposal for 2021 crowdfunding campaigns if:

  • Your organization is based in Claremont, Newport, Kearsarge Region
  • Your project is budgeted for under $10,000 .
  • Your project is simple, achievable, and will generate excitement in your community (and, if part of a bigger project, has stand-alone value.)
  • Your project will create an economic and/or social benefit to your business and the community
  • You are able to invest time to build a successful fundraising campaign

Sample project ideas: Farm infrastructure, renewable energy installation, community garden or art project, vehicle to expand nonprofit service, capital to launch a new rural enterprise, food business equipment

Submit your project proposal by December 18, 2020

The Local Crowd Upper Valley will select up to eight projects to participate in this crowdfunding cohort, based on the potential of each project to positively impact their local economy and community. Selected proposals will launch their campaigns in 2021, with support and guidance from The Local Crowd Advisors.
Campaign guidelines here.
 

The Local Crowd details:
You (project/campaign creator) will need to:

  • Form a Campaign Team to actively promote your fundraising project
  • Work closely with the The Local Crowd team to leverage training, marketing, and community outreach tools
  • Adhere to the keys of success promoted by The Local Crowd platform:  YOU share with your personal network. YOU make it happen.

You will receive:

  • Support from The Local Crowd team to run a successful funding campaign
  • Access to business development support from project partners including NH SBDC and SBA
  • Marketing and outreach support to spread the word about your project
  • Free Crowdfunding Readiness Assessment ($85 value)
  • Funds raised via the crowdfunding campaign for the designated project (less platform and credit card fees)
  • Opportunity to reduce platform fees if you meet campaign milestones

Community. Connection. Capital.

Special Sessions for VT & NH Legislators

Vital Communities is hosting four virtual meetings for legislators in the Upper Valley region, from both New Hampshire and Vermont, connecting them with key voices and resource people on critical issues.

Home Availability in Our Region
Wed, Nov 18 & Tues, Dec 1, 9 – 10 am
Via Zoom; email Mike Kiess (mike@vitalcommunities.org) to RSVP and receive link.

Upper Valley legislators are invited to attend either of these discussions about opportunities to meet our collective housing needs, with members of Vital Communities’ Corporate Council. The Council is a volunteer group of this region’s largest and best-known institutions, businesses, and nonprofits that collectively employ more than 16,000 people and reach well over half the households in the region. Council members are deeply committed to working across boundaries to meet shared challenges.

Each session includes:

  • Update on housing-related legislative actions and opportunities in Montpelier and Concord (brief presentations);
  • Update on Upper Valley actions and opportunities, including new homes data from 2019 and in pipeline (brief presentations);
  • Identification of collaboration opportunities (breakout group discussion followed by report to the large group).

 

Buy Local to Feed Locals: Upper Valley Everyone Eats
Tues, Nov 24 , 1-2 pm

Register here for the Zoom event.

Join us  at a virtual panel and discussion about Upper Valley Everyone Eats, our local hub of the statewide coronavirus relief program Vermont Everyone Eats. We’ll hear directly from participating restaurants, meal sites, farms, and project coordinators, as they share their experiences with Upper Valley Everyone Eats, and discuss its impacts. We’ll save plenty of time for questions, too.

Vermont Everyone Eats pays hard hit Vermont restaurants $10/meal to prepare free, nutritious meals for Vermonters in need. Upper Valley Everyone Eats will provide ~35,000 meals to patrons across 17 meal sites between September 8 and December 18. We also may continue to the end of December, and we may be able to freeze meals for later distribution.

Vermont Everyone Eats is funded by the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund and made possible through a grant provided by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development to Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA).

Our Vermont legislators were a part of making this program possible, so thank you! We particularly invite you to attend, to gain a clearer picture of UVEE’s impacts. However, we welcome all officials to attend to hear about the innovative program. We are also inviting members of the Upper Valley Hunger Council, and Upper Valley Strong, and interested members of the public.

 

From the State House to the Farm House
Wednesday, December 16, 10 am to noon
Via Zoom.  RSVP (required) here  

Farmers and legislators are invited to this third annual event, hosted by farms across Vermont and focusing on citizen advocacy at the intersection of the working lands, community members, and policymakers. This virtual event is about building relationships among farmers/farmworkers and the (recently!) elected legislators who represent them, through dialogue about how policy can support the transition to a resilient and equitable agriculture that benefits all of our people, communities, and landscapes. In the midst of a year where so much has changed on farms and within our greater food web, and so many structural inequities have been exacerbated, there is much to discuss.  We look forward to this conversation.

The event will include regional breakouts with dialogue between farmers/farmworkers and legislators. Luna Bleu Farm will “host” the Windsor County session and Orange County will be “hosted” by Cedar Circle Farm & Education Center.

Details here.

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