Hartford Dollars Sell Out in Two Days!

Buyers gobbled up $18,000 worth of Hartford Dollars within just days of the new “currency” going on sale! And organizers hope it’s only the start of more and stronger trends and programs toward keeping dollars local.

Hartford Dollars give the bearer a 50 percent discount at more than 40 participating businesses throughout Hartford. Offered in $30 and $50 values sold for $15 and $25, respectively, they are a  COVID recovery project jointly coordinated by the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce, Vital Communities, the Town of Hartford, and Hartford Development Corporation and partially funded with federal funds through the State of Vermont. 

A total value of $18,000 Hartford dollars went on sale on Friday, October 16, and by end of Sunday had been purchased by approximately 200 people. Those buyers have until November 30 to use the dollars at any of the participating businesses. The dollars may not be used to purchase tobacco, cannabis, alcohol, lottery tickets, firearms, tax, or tips. No change will be given for Hartford Dollars. 

The program’s organizers hope to find funding to extend the program and perhaps help other communities launch similar programs, said Lori Hirschfield, director of planning and development for the Town of Hartford. “I know there are lots of people in the Upper Valley that want to support local businesses so keep doing that even if you don’t have local currency,” said Hirschfield.

We are thrilled at the response and already hearing lots of great stories about people using their Hartford Dollars,” she said. “We started this as novices, thinking it might take a week or so to get the word out.  The sell-out in less than 48 hours shows us how much this is needed and desired by consumers and businesses.”

At Vital Communities, the project is part of a network of initiatives aimed at encouraging Upper Valley residents to buy from locally owned businesses – a practice that contributes money to the local economy at a rate up to 4 times that of chains and online vendors, according to a recent study commissioned by Vital Communities.

“In addition to shining a light on Hartford businesses, we want to underscore the need for people to keep their dollars – Hartford Dollars and regular currency – in the Upper Valley, to support the businesses that we love and help them make it through the pandemic,” said Nancy LaRowe, manager of Vital Communities’ Vital Economy initiative. “They contribute to our unique downtowns, create stable jobs, give expert service, and give back to the community in many ways,  including generous donations of time, money, and products. And they have adapted in so many ways to help the community during the pandemic. This is a chance to help them hang in there.”

Many Upper Valley small businesses have been devastated by the economic disruption caused by the pandemic. Vital Communities, the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce, and other Hartford partners created the program to increase foot traffic and sales for struggling businesses, using a Restart Vermont Regional Marketing and Stimulus Grant from the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. 

Hartford Dollars can be spent at any of these participating businesses: BE Fit Physical Therapy, Cloverleaf Jewelers, Deirdre Donnelly Jewelry Art, Dynamic Natural Athletes, Elixir Restaurant, Fat Hat Clothing Co, Flourish, Beauty Lab, Jake’s Market & Deli, JUEL Modern Apothecary, Little Istanbul. Living the Dream Alpaca Farm, Long River Gallery, Massage Eminence, Northern Stage, Open Door Integrative Wellness, Piecemeal Pies (shown above), Pizza Chef, POST., Public House at Quechee Gorge., Public House Diner Quechee, Raq-On Dance, LLC, Revolution, Scavenger gallery, Scout Hair Design, Small Batch Design Company, LLC, Stern’s Quality Produce, Steven Thomas, Inc., Strafford Saddlery, Sugarbush Farm, Sunrise Farm, The Collection, The Skinny Pancake – Quechee, The Uncommon Home LLC, Thyme, Trail Break taps + tacos, Tuckerbox, Upper Valley Aquatic Center, Upper Valley Yoga, Valley Flower Company, Vermont Institute of Natural Science, Wicked Awesome BBQ, and Wolf Tree.

 

Downtown vs. Out-of-Town: Community Conversations

Which uses of our land provide the best economic returns to our towns? The answers might surprise you.

Developing big parcels of land on the fringes of town as malls, big-box stores, or suburban tracts? No.

Building up existing downtowns with mixed uses – residential, commercial, social services, and more? Yes. Acre for acre, this type of development raises more property tax revenue and requires less new infrastructure for taxpayers to pay for. In addition, mixed-use downtown development can have positive implications for climate change, public health, historic preservation and community architectural “character,” and social equity.

This broad issue is explored in a series of engaging, accessible, virtual presentations featuring renowned planner Joe Minicozzi of the North Carolina-based firm Urban3, which kicks off with the session From the Outskirts to Downtown: Taxes, Land Use & Land Value Analysis of 15 New Hampshire Communities, on Thursday, October 15, 10 am. Register now for this free event.

Minicozzi will follow up with presentations focused on the communities that were studied, including a session focusing on Lebanon, Claremont (shown above), and Hanover, on Thursday, October 29, 11 am. Urban3’s research was contracted by the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority. Vital Communities is the Upper Valley event co-sponsor. Register for this free LOCAL event.

Urban3 derived its findings by analyzing the property tax revenues of Berlin, Claremont, Concord, Dover, Exeter, Hanover, Hudson, Keene, Laconia, Lebanon, Nashua, Pelham, Peterborough, Portsmouth, and Rochester. Minicozzi, the principal of Urban3, is an urban planner who utilizes new ways to think about and visualize land use, urban design, and economics.

By using these data to create 3D visualizations, Urban3’s analysis reveals the potential for improving the fiscal health of each of these 15 communities. The visuals show what types of development create the greatest tax return for communities, and create a clear and data-driven understanding of the economics of place. Communities can use these findings as a tool to make public policy adjustments, with the goal of creating long-term financial resiliency.

The Lebanon-Claremont-Hanover conversation will drill down from the statewide picture presented on October 15. Analysis, charts, and observations of data for each of the three towns will be presented. A panel with planning officials from each of the towns and the Upper Valley Lake Sunapee Regional Planning Commission will provide local context and answer questions in a facilitated discussion.

The series aims to give participants another way to look at how we use our land, and the implications for local health, prosperity, climate, and social equity. They should be able to use the information to make choices that enable and protect what they value in their local communities. Although the data was derived from studying particular New Hampshire communities, residents and officials of towns of all sizes can gain valuable insight from this discussion.
Questions to be explored include:
  • What are the financial implications of different land uses, and how can this knowledge help us make and implement good decisions for our homes, businesses, schools, and other needs?
  • Who really pays for infrastructure and its continued maintenance?
  • How can we preserve and replicate the homes and buildings we appreciate most, that give our communities character, and offer the greatest benefits to the public as a whole?

 

 

50% Off When You Shop in Hartford

Support the Hartford businesses you love and boost our local economy with “Hartford Dollars”—a special “currency” that gives you a 50 percent discount at more than 40 participating businesses throughout Hartford.

Hartford Dollars can be purchased in $30 and $50 values for $15 and $25, respectively. They can be obtained online at the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce website and at select days and times at the Quechee Gorge Visitors Center. If you purchase them online, you simply print out your Hartford Dollars (each with a unique QR code), and pay with your printed out Dollars at participating Hartford businesses.

Many Upper Valley small businesses have been devastated by the economic disruption caused by the pandemic. Vital Communities, the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce, and other Hartford partners created the program to increase foot traffic and sales for struggling businesses, using a Restart Vermont Regional Marketing and Stimulus Grant from the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development. 

Hartford Dollars can be spent at any of these participating businesses: BE Fit Physical Therapy, Cloverleaf Jewelers, Deirdre Donnelly Jewelry Art, Dynamic Natural Athletes, Elixir Restaurant, Fat Hat Clothing Co, Flourish, Beauty Lab, Jake’s Market & Deli, JUEL Modern Apothecary, Little Istanbul. Living the Dream Alpaca Farm, Long River Gallery, Massage Eminence, Northern Stage, Open Door Integrative Wellness, Piecemeal Pies, Pizza Chef, POST., Public House at Quechee Gorge., Public House Diner Quechee, Raq-On Dance, LLC, Revolution, Scavenger gallery, Scout Hair Design, Small Batch Design Company, LLC, Stern’s Quality Produce, Steven Thomas, Inc., Strafford Saddlery, Sugarbush Farm, Sunrise Farm, The Collection, The Skinny Pancake – Quechee, The Uncommon Home LLC, Thyme, Trail Break taps + tacos, Tuckerbox, Upper Valley Aquatic Center, Upper Valley Yoga, Valley Flower Company, Vermont Institute of Natural Science, Wicked Awesome BBQ, and Wolf Tree.

Hartford Dollars need to be spent by November 30 and may not be used to purchase tobacco, cannabis, alcohol, lottery tickets, firearms, tax, or tips. No change will be given for Hartford Dollars. 

Keep your dollars where your heart is and support the more than 40 participating businesses in the many commerce areas of Hartford: Downtown White River Junction, Route 5 and Sykes Mountain Avenue, Quechee, West Hartford, Wilder, White River Junction, and Hartford. Look for the Hartford Dollars decal and posters!

Hartford Dollars is a  COVID recovery project jointly coordinated by the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce, Vital Communities, the Town of Hartford, and Hartford Development Corporation and partially funded with federal funds through the State of Vermont.

Meet Our New Executive Director!

An experienced international development professional who more recently has immersed herself in the Upper Valley will be the new Executive Director at the White River Junction-based nonprofit Vital Communities.

Sarah Jackson, of Randolph Center, VT, has decades of experience in nongovernmental organizations and initiatives in diverse places, including Oman, Egypt, Kenya, China, and the Indian subcontinent. Since 2017, she has worked with Montpelier-based Institute for Sustainable Communities, where she has worked with country teams in Bangladesh, China, and India to develop and secure funding for programs that advance climate solutions for cities, factories, and communities. Her career also has included directing projects focused on entrepreneurship, workforce development, agriculture, education, youth leadership, and women’s empowerment. She will officially take on her new role on October 26.

Since moving to Vermont to work for the Institute for Sustainable Communities (ISC), Jackson has complemented her international career with volunteer work dealing with some of the challenges and opportunities of the Upper Valley. Since 2018 she has volunteered for the Randolph Region Re-Energized Program, working on issues including economic development, affordable housing, and childcare. In May she completed Vital Communities’ 10-month Leadership Upper Valley program, which takes participants through a wide-ranging introduction to the region. Other local involvements include serving on the Capital Campaign and Grants Committees of the East Valley Community Group, East Randolph; and Randolph’s Climate Emergency Group. She belongs to the Montpelier-based ElevateHer Professional Networking Platform and Central Vermont Development Professionals Network.

“Fundamentally, the job of Executive Director of one of the Upper Valley’s leading nonprofits is a tough proposition,” said Ron Shaiko, chair of the Vital Communities Board. “The successful candidate needed to show us that he or she has a clear understanding of the full scope of programs Vital Communities leads and the vision that the organization has cultivated so far, and be able to offer us a personal vision that can take us forward. Sarah has the quiet confidence to lead us in those next steps and the deep listening that is required to form lasting partnerships.”

In Oman, for example, where Jackson worked from 2001 to 2017, she created and ran the Oman arm of AMIDEAST, an American non-profit organization engaged in workforce development and education in the Middle East. “The fact that she took an organization from an idea to a staff of 30, in a foreign country, says a lot about her and indicates more than enough experience to lead an Upper Valley NGO,” said Shaiko. “I’m thrilled and so is the rest of the board.”

“I am truly honored and excited to be joining Vital Communities and to work with the talented and dedicated Board and staff to advance its important mission,” said Jackson. “My participation in the Leadership Upper Valley Class of 2020 offered glimpses into the organization throughout the year, highlighting its clear commitment to the economic, environmental, and social well-being of the region, its tight connections with and strong reputation among a wide range of stakeholders, and its deep knowledge about the challenges and opportunities characterizing the Upper Valley. It was exactly the kind of organization that I sought as I envisioned shifting my career focus from international development to local issues, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to engage with the Vital Communities team and with stakeholders throughout the region in shaping the organization’s next chapter.” 

A native of New Hampshire, Jackson grew up in Laconia and Merrimack. She holds a masters degree from Princeton and began her career with NGOs in Kenya and Egypt. She spent six years with the US Embassy in Muscat, Oman, as director of initiatives that included the launch of a women’s leadership program and the first professional women’s networking organization in Oman. She moved on to the Muscat office of AMIDEAST, serving as the Country Director for Oman. There she built the operation from the ground up, establishing a physical field office, recruiting and managing a team of more than 30 employees and trainers, and developing a $2.3 million portfolio of education, entrepreneurship, and workforce development initiatives. 

After serving as the Executive Director of the Oman American Business Center, where she worked with a multicultural board of directors to promote Oman’s economic development, she joined ISC. There she has focused on international climate solutions—a challenge that required her to quickly gain command of environmental sustainability issues. This ability to pivot into new sectors will serve her well in overseeing the range of areas in which Vital Communities works. 

She and husband Robert Jackson (a writer and former high school history teacher) have two children, Daniel, 25, and Nora, 21. Beyond work, her hobbies include hiking, snowshoeing, gardening, cooking, playing the piano, reading, andmore recentlyplaying with their golden retriever puppy.

The Broad Benefits of Buying Local

A study commissioned by Vital Communities finds that, for every dollar they earn, local retailers (like CourierWar of Randolph, above) and restaurants return a share to the local community that’s up to four times as big as that of chain businesses.

“This study really spells out just how important it is to support our local businesses that are rooted in and support our communities, said Nancy LaRowe, director of Vital Communities’ Vital Economy initiative. “Many local businesses are struggling to stay afloat right now. We need to be there for them now by buying locally, so they will be here for us in the future to create stable jobs, enhance community character, and invest in our communities.”

Vital Communities will use this data as the basis for “buy local” education and campaigns, and as a baseline measure as we work to increase local control and investment in the Upper Valley with projects to increase community resilience.

This is in addition to ongoing ways Vital Communities supports the local economy, including marketing technical support; community crowdfunding; encouraging business networking, collaboration, and resource sharing; and innovative projects like Upper Valley Everyone Eats.

Read the full report   

The study was conducted by Civic Economics, a renowned consultant group that has done similar “Indie Impact” studies in other regions of northern New England, as well as for Austin, Chicago, San Francisco, Phoenix, Grand Rapids, and New Orleans. Civic Economics has offices in Chicago and Tulsa, OK. The study was funded through a USDA Rural Development Rural Business Development Grant.

To aid the study, Vital Communities collected surveys from 20 independent, locally owned retailers and restaurants in Upper Valley communities on both sides of the Connecticut River. Each business was asked to answer detailed questions about its business practices. The survey questions focused on how much of each business’s revenue recirculates in the regional economy through profits paid out to local owners; wages paid to local workers; goods and services used by the business; local goods resold by the business; and charitable giving within the community.  

Collectively, the 20 retailers and restaurants return a total of 55.5% and 68.4% of their revenues, respectively, to the local economy. By comparison, Civic Economics found that four major national retail chain stores (Barnes & Noble, Home Depot, Office Depot, and Target) recirculate only an average of 13.6% of all revenue within the local markets that host its stores, while three major national restaurant chains (Brinker International, which owns Chili’s and others; Darden, which owns Olive Garden and others; and McDonald’s) return an average of 30.4% of all revenue to the local economy. Civic Economics derived those percentages by aggregating data made public in annual reports.

This means that local retailers were found to return to the local economy a percentage of their revenue that’s more than four times higher than that of the chain retailers, while local restaurants return a percentage that’s more than two times higher than that of chains.  

With the mammoth online retailer Amazon and its Whole Foods grocery chain, the outcomes are even more dramatic. Civic Economics estimates that the region generated more than $165 million of sales in 2019 for Amazon; as there are no Amazon warehouses or Whole Foods outlets in the region, virtually all  $165 million dollars left the Upper Valley instead of being reinvested in our people, communities, and economy.

The pandemic ratcheted up the “Amazon Effect,” LaRowe said. “Online retail sales increased more than $100 billion due to the pandemic at the expense of our local businesses and our communities. It’s more critical than ever to have data that shows how that trend is truly hurting our local economy. Each time we buy local, we are making a choice to invest in our community, instead of sending our dollars to remote entities.”

A Closer Look

Of the 55.5% of revenues that local retailers recirculate in the local economy, 28.2 percent is in profit and wages, 17.9 percent for local items for resale, 5.3 percent for local goods and services used by the business, and 4.1 percent is charitable giving. Of the 68.4 percent that local restaurants recirculate in the local economy, 40.7 percent is profit and labor, 13.8 percent is for local items for resale, 10.8 percent is for goods and services used by the business, and 3.1 percent is charitable giving.   

Analyzed by the square footage of the businesses footprints, chain employee 12.1 people per square foot while “indys” employ 16.1; and chains keep $199 local per square foot while indys keep $489.

Broken down by state, the study found the Vermont retailers return 56.3% of their revenue to the local economy and New Hampshire retailers return 51.0%; and the Vermont restaurants return 66.5% while those New Hampshire return 69.7%.

Participating Upper Valley Businesses

Claremont Spice & Dry Goods
Co-op Food Stores
CourierWare, Inc
Dan & Whit’s General Store
Enfield House of Pizza
King Arthur Baking Company
Kit ‘N Kaboodle Thrift
Left Bank Books
Long River Gallery
Peyton Place Restaurant at The Historic Mann Tavern
Cloudland Farm, LLC
Piecemeal Pies
Poor Thom’s Tavern
Post Pond Lodge LLC
Prince and the Pauper Restaurant
Revolution
Taverne on the Square, LLC
Time-Out Americana Grill
Trail Break Taps + Tacos
Valley Floors

This project was funded by a USDA Vermont Rural Development Rural Business Development Grant.

 

 

The COVID Challenge: Making Our Food Go the Distance

Reprinted from the Summer 2020 Sustainable Hanover newsletter, this article addresses how to reduce food waste and its considerable climate impact. Author Nancy Serrell is a graduate of Vital Communities’ 2019-20 Climate Change Leadership Academy (2CLA).

By Nancy Serrell

Food is always on my mind. And now that we’re in throes of the coronavirus pandemic, I have plenty of company. Most of us these days are thinking about food – how to get it, how to prepare it, and how to avoid becoming ill with COVID-19 while we’re trying to feed ourselves. 

The virus also has changed our behaviors around food. We’re at home more, cooking most of our meals at home, trying to space out trips to the grocery store, and too many of us are struggling to accommodate household budgets decimated by furloughs and layoffs. While those inclined toward culinary pursuits are baking sourdough bread and re-growing scallions, the rest of us just wish it were easier, faster, and less expensive to put all those meals on the table.

The good news: by making small changes in the way we plan, shop, store and prepare food we can stretch our food budget, save time, and extend the life of the food we buy. A step-by-step strategy for making those changes, along with tips and tools, has been developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through a campaign designed to cut down on the amount of food we bring home from the market but never eat. When food scraps go to the landfill, they create methane, a potent greenhouse gas. That wasted food is a vastly overlooked driver of climate change, contributing an estimated 8 percent of annual greenhouse gas emissions. We throw out more edible food than you think: each year, one third of the food purchased by U.S consumers is tossed out. But food waste is about more than what goes into the trash. Getting food from farm to fork takes an enormous amount of resources—energy, land, and water — and conserving those resources for future generations will require collective action. But right now, during lockdown, there are things each of us can do.

The EPA’s Food Too Good to Waste campaign presents a “wasted food challenge” along with steps we can take to better manage the food in our kitchens. The program has been implemented in dozens of states, and people who have participated have been able to cut the amount of food they toss as much as 50 percent. They also reported saving both money and time, and most found the steps rather easy.

The strategies for the challenge lend themselves well to managing food during COVID, and you may already be doing some of them (or know you should). First: to cut down on how often you shop, make a shopping list with weekly meals in mind. Even more important: do a household inventory before you head to the store. Research has shown that you can save money and reduce food waste by taking stock of what is in your fridge, freezer, and pantry, then planning meals around what you have on hand. This is the way our grandmothers cooked, and the food cultures of the world have always featured well-loved dishes use repurposed foods — leftover rice became fried rice; hard, stale bread became pappa al pomodoro

As we try to shop less often, we are bringing home more food than we’re used to. To make our food will last until the next shopping trip, it helps to pick up a few tips about food storage, and the EPA campaign has plenty to offer. For example, the fridge door is warmer than interior shelves, so milk shouldn’t go there. Apples and bananas naturally emit the fruit-ripening hormone ethylene, so don’t store them together unless you want them to ripen rapidly. Nor should apples or bananas be stored near ethylene-sensitive veggies or fruits like avocados, grapes, lemons, or limes. Another storage tip: Befriend your freezer. Parsley stems, the ends of the onion you’re slicing, peels and trimmings from carrots can be tossed into a freezer container to be used for soup stock. There are cooking tips too: Chopping half an onion for a recipe? Chop the whole thing, and store the prepped remainder in the fridge or freezer, ready for a stir fry or sauce. 

More tips, tools, and strategies to help you toss less, eat well, and save money are available in a simple online toolkit, the 10-Minute Fridge Reality Check, produced by StopFoodWaste.org.  It includes a downloadable Shopping List with Meals in Mind, a Fruit and Veggie Storage Guide, and an Eat This First sign to designate an area in your fridge for food that is likely to spoil first. 

When it comes to food, the pandemic has in many ways created this generation’s Depression moment. A recent survey found that 56 percent of consumers say they are avoiding food waste and saving leftovers for future use. One of the drivers of this food planning strategy is COVID-19 unemployment. But the specter of dairy farmers dumping milk and plowing crops back into the soil, eggs being destroyed, and chickens being euthanized as the loss of retail markets forced producers to discard tons of food worldwide has made us reassess the value of food. Like our grandparents, we may well come out of COVID with a new culture of responsibility around food. It’s some comfort to know there’s a lot we can do from our own kitchens.

 

 

Fresh Food Sources: An Update

For an increasing number of families, the cost of putting food on the table is becoming more and more of a burden. If you or someone you know could use a hand, know there are many local resources here to help. They change frequently, which is why we put together this update.

  • Check out Upper Valley Strong’s town-by-town list of food resources and UNH Cooperative Extension’s interactive New Hampshire Food Access map to find your nearest food pantry, nutrition assistance, and more.
  • The websites vt211.org and 211nh.org offer up to date info on food and other resources, listed by town.
  • Find your nearest summer meal site, either in this Vermont spreadsheet from Hunger Free Vermont, or this New Hampshire map from UNH Cooperative Extension.
  • The USDA’s Farmers to Families Food Box program is distributing free family-sized boxes of fresh (often local) produce, meat, and dairy to those in need. Slots are filling up fast — don’t put off registering here for this month’s distribution events in Bethel, Bradford, Hartford, and Springfield.
  • Veggie VanGo is distributing fresh food to multiple Upper Valley locations.
  • There is always ample funding for SNAP benefits (called 3Squares in Vermont) for those who could use the financial assistance — never worry that participation would pull funding from families who “need it more” — and some guidelines have been relaxed due to the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Vermont families may also be eligible for WIC’s Farm to Family coupons towards fresh produce at farmers’ markets and farm stands.
  • We always love to promote Vermont’s Crop Cash and New Hampshire’s Granite State Market Match programs — both double SNAP EBT benefits towards produce at farmers’ markets and farm stands. Anyone with SNAP benefits can utilize these incentives at their nearest participating farmers’ market or farm stand.

Theater + Pandemic: Four Upper Valley Theaters’ Stories

Remember when performances looked like this? (That’s Opera North performing at Blow-Me-Down Farm in summer 2019.) Needless to say, times have changed.

How do you do your work when its usual nature involves bringing people into close proximity in indoor locations — a nonstarter in these pandemic times? Four Upper Valley professional theaters offer examples. And while you’re reading this, consider donating to your favorite arts organizations and artists to help them get through these tough times. Arts in the US generally operate with narrow margins and bargain budgets; if we want them to be around to lift our hearts and tell our stories, we need to support them.

Opera North

Opera North, active mainly in the summer, usually stages two full productions in the Lebanon Opera House. In the past two summers, it has also offered shows at the magnificent Blow-Me-Down Farm venue the company has been creating on the banks of the Connecticut River in Cornish NH in partnership with the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Park — two summers of collaboration among circus artists, singers, and orchestra in a mash-up of performance and music drew in people who might not have expected to enjoy opera.

This summer is different: no LOH shows, but three performances at the Cornish site:  “Bluegrass and Broadway” on Saturday, August 1, featuring Klea Bankhurst, an actress, singer and comedienne, and Plainfield legends Pooh Sprague and the Four Hoarsemen; and Mozart’s The Magic Flute on Thursday, August 6, and Saturday, August 8, sung in English by a cast of 10 singers with a 24-piece orchestra. What’s more, tickets are free, thanks to some generous donors. Click here to obtain those free tickets.

Opera North is a member of Vital Communities’ Vital Economy network (formerly known as Local First Alliance.)

Northern Stage

This White River Junction theater company has held no live events since the shutdown began but has been using digital platforms in varied and engaging ways. Play Date, a play reading class with online discussions and performances curated and led by Northern Stage and its family of artists, takes place every other Friday through September 25 (next one: July 17). Online performances include an engaging production of the only play we know of based on a Vital Communities program: Elisabeth Gordon’s  Small Town Trilogy, based on actual exchanges on the Norwich Community Discussion List. It’s still available for viewing. A July 1 online discussion on the Robin D’Angelo book White Fragility, facilitated by Brittany Bellizeare, a nationally known actor, teaching artists, and diversity and inclusion consultant, is available for viewing; email boxoffice@northernstage.org and you’ll be sent the link. So many people expressed a desire to continue the conversation that Northern plans to hold additional sessions in the coming weeks (details to come).

All these online events are offered for free, although donations are needed from those who can afford them. Writes the company: “Even the most vibrant not-for-profit theater companies operate with a narrow margin between success and failure, and a challenge like this is unprecedented in our lifetime. We hope those who are able will make a donation.”

As for the 2020-21 season set to begin this fall, BOLD Associate Artistic Director, Jess Chayes writes: “Northern Stage is currently on the cusp of announcing an exciting fall line-up of brand new virtual programming while remaining open to the possibility of live performance if circumstances allow. Beyond the fall and winter, we are remaining flexible and imaginative so we can best respond to changing health and safety guidelines due to COVID-19.”

Opera North is a member of Vital Communities’ Vital Economy network (formerly known as Local First Alliance.)

JAG Productions 

This White River Junction-based theater was poised to hit a new peak this spring when Esai’s Table by Nathan Yungerberg, a play it helped develop (and shared with the Upper Valley), was to open in New York’s Cherry Lane Theatre. Days before opening, COVID shut down all New York theater. (Hear about the play’s history here.) A mystical, heartbreaking exploration of Black Lives Matter themes, it was a great example of the classic and contemporary African American theater it is JAG’s mission to develop and present.

Bouncing back from that setback, Founder and Producing Artistic Director Jarvis Green (one of Vital Communities’ 2019 “Heroes & Leaders”) has used JAG as a platform for powerful online programming on racism, holding a series of interactive digital conversations with Black artists across genres discussing “Black theatre, Black art, Black organizing, Black joy, Black critical thought, Black fantasy, Black history, and more during a time of death, betrayal, and a global pandemic.” Participants have so far included award-winning playwrights Keelay Gipson and Stacey Rose, poet Major Jackson, choreographer Felicia Swoope, writer Desmond Peeples, and cartoonist Lillie Harris. Videos of past conversations are archived on the JAG website. (Consider a donation to help pay the artists who contribute to these online gatherings.)

Shaker Bridge Theatre

To counter the blues from having to cancel its final two plays of the 2019-20 season, this Enfield theater, located above the town offices and library, decided to hold a contest for short plays set amidst this pandemic, featuring two or three characters. The 14 winners (see the list) will be given staged readings in the theater in the 2020-21 season, and some may be performed via Zoom in the near future.

Newly Increased Rebates for Home Weatherization

Newly Increased Rebates for Home Weatherization

Now’s the best time to think about weatherizing your home as both New Hampshire and Vermont state weatherization programs have announced a temporary increase to weatherization rebates.  NH Saves rebates have increased to 90%, funding up to $8,000 per household, for projects completed before November 15 — compared to previous caps of 50% and $4,000.  Efficiency VT rebates have increased to 75%, up to $5,5000 per household, for projects enrolled by August 31 — compared to 50% and $4,000 previously. In addition, Efficiency VT will make the first six months of payments (up to $900) on Home Energy Loan for anyone who applies before October 31.

Not sure where to start? Here are some useful Vital Communities “cheat sheets” that take you through the process. Note that these documents still quotes old, lower rebate percentages and caps, and that to access some of the links, you will need to paste the URLs into your web browser rather than just clicking on them.

New Hampshire residents: NHSaves Rebate Guide

Vermont residents: Home Performance with Energy Star/Efficiency Vermont

Making Solar Energy Accessible for All

Making Solar Energy Accessible for All

The best-kept secret about solar energy is how affordable it can be. Thanks to changes in the market and technology as well as rebates and other financial assistance, people at any income level can reap free power from the sun that pays back its investment and is kinder to the environment.

Want to know more? On Saturday, July 18, from 10 to 11 am, Sustainable Woodstock and Vital Communities will host an informational meeting on Zoom about creating affordable solar opportunities for all Upper Valley residents, including those with low to moderate incomes. Norwich Solar Technologies, Twin Pines Housing Trust, and Norman Sun LLC will be leading a discussion about how private individuals and companies can collaborate with the nonprofit sector to develop solar energy designed for low- to moderate-income households. 

We will explore how partnerships between the private and public sectors can help income-sensitive Upper Valley residents add solar energy to their homes. We will also explain how these same benefits can apply to nonprofits, municipalities, and other entities without a tax burden! Case studies will highlight how this has been done in Vermont, but the model can work in New Hampshire as well. 

This event is ideal for: non-profit managers, representatives of financial institutions, city/town planners & planning board members, local energy committee members, select board members, town managers, city mayors, regional planning commission staff, regulators, legislators, solar developers, and any resident interested in affordable solar! 

Register for the meeting through Eventbrite, and you’ll receive Zoom instructions by email.

 

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