New Partners and the Vermont Telecommuting Guide

One significant impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is the sheer number of people now working from home. Though telework is now normal for many, we are still trying to find the answers to many questions. How can collaboration occur without shared space? How can employers be sure their employees are actually working? What are the implications for health and wellness? If your office is your home, can you ever leave the office?

Vital Communities and the Chittenden Area Transportation Management Association (CATMA) are answering these questions with a statewide telecommuting guide. The guide, now in development, will provide resources for both employers and employees to make sure that a shift to working from home isn’t accompanied by a loss of structure and support. 

The collaboration is a new type of partnership between our organizations. We haven’t collaborated before on a project like this,” says Vital Communities Transportation Manager Bethany Fleishman, “but it’s something we both need. We thought, ‘This is so obvious. We should be doing this together.’ It’s nice to know that we’re producing something that will be useful, not just for the Upper Valley, but for people all over the state.”

On Tuesday, Twitter announced that its employees will be allowed to work from home “forever.” It’s a signal that telecommuting isn’t just relevant in a pandemic. There are permanent advantages, from reducing fossil fuels, to reducing barriers for those who live in rural areas as well as folks who have disabilities or illnesses that make it hard to leave the home. Hopefully this upcoming guide, as well as the new partnership formed in its creation, will have an impact that lasts beyond our current situation. Stay tuned!

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Image (“Working vs Chores”) by Charles Deluvio

Pandemic Small Business Navigator Available

Call Our Small Business Navigator!

In response to the extreme stress and economic disruption small businesses are experiencing, a new temporary service at Vital Communities to support small businesses is available. The Pandemic Small Business Navigator can answer questions and connect businesses with resources related to the impacts of the pandemic on their small business. Denise Anderson, an experienced business advisor with expertise in labor management, has joined Vital Communities until June 30 to provide free consultation and advising services.  Denise will work with business owners to assess the unique needs of your small business, provide assistance and connection to resources, and help you plan your next steps.

The Navigator can help you with:

● Navigating federal relief programs (Small Business Administration–PPP and EIDL)
● Crisis business planning
● Financial planning/ cash flow management
● Labor management/human resources
● Employee return to work offers and unemployment payments
● Seeking alternate market channels
● Shifting to online/retail sales
● Marketing & communications
● Connecting health & wellbeing resources in the work environment

All Upper Valley-based small businesses are eligible for this free service. Email Denise Anderson – with your questions or to set up a consultation.

Pandemic Small Business Navigator services are meant to help businesses navigate immediate
challenges, stabilize, and plan next steps to build a foundation for recovery.  Denise may make referrals
to other permanent programs or consultants for additional services depending on specific needs. Long-
term business advising is also available through the Grafton Regional Development Corporation,
Green Mountain Economic Development Corporation, and partners at the Small Business Development
Centers in both New Hampshire and Vermont.

Please visit our COVID-19 Resources page for links to guidance, tools, and additional resources.

 

 

Farmers Markets are Opening: What to Expect

Local as usual, and safe in new ways. Many farmers markets will be operating this summer, but it’s not business as usual! Vendors and market staff are required to follow state guidance to ensure the safest environment for shoppers and vendors alike. (See here for Vermont guidance and New Hampshire Emergency Order details). Please be patient with vendors and market staff. They are doing their best to comply with the guidance and still be able to offer local products to their communities. As the public health situation evolves over the season the rules markets must follow may change. Please be flexible as markets work to adapt.

Find an up-to-date list of open farmers markets at the Vital Communities Online Guide, and follow our Facebook and Instagram feeds for updates. Here is what you can expect at markets this season:

Everyone will be happy to see you! Despite all the changes and new rules, markets will still be the place to see smiling eyes, from a safe distance, and get fresh local products.

SNAP/EBT will still be accepted! Other forms of market currency will vary market to market.

There will be a way to pre-order products in advance, and pick them up at the market site. Check the market website/social media to learn how to order in advance. In some cases there will be a list of vendor contacts, in others an online ordering system.

Bring a face mask, and wash your hands when you get there. Vendors and market staff are required to wear protective equipment. You can help by bringing your own mask to wear while you shop. Markets will have hand washing stations or sanitizer available at the market entrance.

Vendor booths will not be self-serve. Only vendors are allowed to handle their products. You will verbally tell the vendor your choices and they will place it in a bag for you.

Most produce will be pre-bagged to limit the number of people who have handled your food. Vendors may also be packaging products and pricing them in such a way that they do not have to make change.

Prepared food, beverages, and yummy things will be sold, and may be made at the market, but will be packaged and must be consumed off-site. This includes coffee, ice cream, kettle corn, etc.

Markets will not have entertainment, activities, music, or other things that might tempt people to linger and congregate. However, keep an eye out on social media for fun kids activities and other socially distant ways to connect with your market, as many markets are planning this type of activity.

Send one person to shop whenever possible. Please leave children and pets at home if you are able to. This will help ensure social distancing and allow vendors to serve more customers.

The layout of the market will be different. Each market has worked hard to arrange a new layout that ensures safe distance between booths and between vendors and shoppers. There will be one entrance, one exit, traffic will flow one-way through the market.

Stay home if you are unwell or may have been exposed to the virus. We must protect each other during these challenging times. Send someone to the market in your place.

 

Thank you to Molly Drummond for the beautiful photos.

Make Your Pitch to The Local Crowd UV!

We’re accepting proposals for the next round of The Local Crowd Upper Valley crowdfunding campaigns!


Do you have an incredible project just waiting to happen
—one that would strengthen your business, our community, and the local economy—if only you had the funds to make it happen?

Is your organization a “social enterprise” that addresses social and/or environmental issues and has a mission beyond the bottom line?

Will your project support community goals while keeping to a budget of $10,000 or less?

If you said yes to these questions… THANK YOU!  You are part of the emerging Fourth Sector economy—a sector that uses the power of business to do good things for people and the planet.

Vital Communities believes in people like you. That’s why we’re participating in The Local Crowd (TLC) Upper Valley, a new research project in conjunction with the National Science Foundation and The Local Crowd designed to uncover the best ways to support social enterprises. We are pleased to invite you to participate in this project.

Proposals are due Friday, February 14, 2020, at 5 p.m. Get the details and apply today.

Flavors of the Valley Vendor Registration is Open!

Registration is open for the 19th annual Flavors of the Valley, the Upper Valley’s premier local food tasting expo. With 50+ vendors and more than 800 attendees, Flavors is a valuable marketing opportunity for farms and food businesses looking to expand their sales base.

Flavors attendees come to the event because they want to support local farms and food businesses. Be part of a fun marketing event and connect to new customers and the community.

Register today! Early-bird discount rates apply through February 17, 2020. Apply for a mini-grant to reduce your vending costs!

Learn more about being a vendor at Flavors of the Valley here.

Registration deadline is March 15. We cannot guarantee table choice or inclusion in promotional outreach materials after this date.

Flavors of the Valley 2014 (48) Flavors-2015-

Get Involved With Workforce Housing In Your Town

The workforce housing shortage is a challenge that impacts everyone in the Upper Valley. Many communities are working toward solutions—and you can get involved.

Upcoming Opportunities to Get Involved

  • Royalton, Strafford, Sharon, and Tunbridge have joined together to form a housing group for their four-town region. They are working together for mixed senior-family-student living in South Royalton to serve all four towns and a volunteer-supported home rehabilitation program that would help transform existing buildings into homes for more people. Join the next meeting Thursday, February 13, at 7:00 pm at the Sharon Congregational Church.
  • Mount Ascutney Hospital and Health Center sponsors a housing group for the 13 towns in their service area. The group is starting to work with residents and towns to reduce barriers to long-term rental. Join the next meeting Thursday, February 6, at 12:30 pm in the Mt. Ascutney hospital board room.

Contact Vital Communities Workforce Housing Coordinator Mike Kiess for more information.

Canaan Keeps FarmRaisers Alive

Kale. Carrots. Beets. Potatoes. Powerkraut®!

These are just a few of the delightful local foods I’ve received from Root 5 Farm over the past few months as part of my fall FarmRaiser—a community-supported agriculture (CSA) fundraiser run by the Canaan Elementary School PTA that supports the school, the farm, and the idea of healthy, local eating in our community.

Vital Communities launched the FarmRaiser program in 2012 and coordinated it for several years before moving on to other projects. Canaan Elementary was among the first to adopt the program—and, according to Becka Warren at Vital Communities, who helped establish FarmRaisers in our region, it’s the very last school in the Upper Valley to keep the program going.

So why does Canaan bother?

It’s not a big fundraiser for the PTA—the school earned $600 for the 25 shares community members purchased this fall—but money isn’t the goal anyway, says PTA Secretary Hillary Gillies.

“The PTA loves it because it promotes local farms and foods and healthy eating,” says Canaan parent Kristen DeLeault, who for the past four years has coordinated the program. Kristen has worked hard to find partner farms—past partners Blue Ox Farm in Enfield and Autumn Harvest Farm in Grafton unfortunately went out of business. This year she coordinated a plan with Fairlee-based Root 5 Farm to personally pick up the FarmRaiser shares at their normal CSA pickup location in Lebanon and deliver them to Canaan Elementary. Her persistence and commitment have made the program possible.

“There aren’t many big farms nearby in New Hampshire that can sustain what we were hoping for,” Kristen says. “It’s not as local as we’d like, but it’s still in the Upper Valley.”

For Root 5 Farm, co-owner Danielle Allen says, the program just broke even financially. But it still made good business sense. “It was a great way to move product, especially in the fall when we have big harvests,” she said. “And we got exposure to a whole new set of customers without the farm having to do a lot of legwork.”

“It’s a lovely collaboration. It brings an awareness of farms and healthy food in our communities,” Danielle says. “It has all the good feels.”

“Canaan Elementary School continues to inspire us with its creative thinking about fundraising that is delicious, healthy, and local,” says Becka. “We love seeing the FarmRaiser continue all these years, and we hope other area schools consider whether it might work for their communities. It shows that eating local can take root at the earliest age (pun intended)!”

As a parent and FarmRaiser participant, I love that I can support my PTA and a local farm business all while getting something healthy and delicious for my family in exchange. My kids always look forward to FarmRaiser pickup day—and while they enjoy their fresh, local Kale Chips, I get to indulge in some delicious and simple Curried Carrot and Coconut Soup!

Want to start a FarmRaiser in your school? Get started with our online resources.

Celebrating our Volunteer of the Year

Ed. note: Vital Communities Executive Director Tom Roberts made the following remarks to honor 2019 Volunteer of the Year Bill Geraghty at our Open House on December 6.

We are delighted to celebrate Bill Geraghty as our Volunteer of the Year.

It is fitting that we honor Bill as we are celebrating our 25th.  As with many of the previous volunteers we’ve honored, their service to Vital Communities and the Upper Valley spans many years.

Bill has served on our board of directors for 11 of the last 13 years, coming back to serve again after his carefully laid out leadership succession plan fell apart due to a job change out across the country.

Bill has served twice as chair of the board, running prompt, efficient meetings and ably standing as our volunteer leader in the Upper Valley.

Jenny Levy, our outgoing board chair and VP of People, Community and the Environment at Hypertherm, said of Bill:

Bill’s calm, insightful, witty and wise character is a bedrock for the Vital Communities board. Like any real bedrock, it sticks around and allows others to grow around it – that’s Bill. He knows the history, knows the trials and errors and the successes, yet is eager for new ideas and to work with everyone. Like bedrock, you can always trust and count on Bill. He always does what he says he’s going to do, and signs up for way more than his fair share of work on behalf of our community.

Bill first got involved with Vital Communities 18 years ago when he was serving as the Vice President of Human Resources at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and joined our Upper Valley Transportation Management Association (TMA) as D-H’s representative. He was active in looking at alternatives to building more parking garages by improving transportation and housing options for D-H employees.

Over the years, Bill has served on nearly every committee we have here – with substantial service on our finance and nominating committees.

Because of his HR expertise, he was a key part of the search committee that hired both me and my predecessor, Mary Margaret Sloan; he was called upon for invaluable HR advice by both of us and has presented a set of trainings for the staff on HR matters.

Mary Margaret had this to say about Bill:

Bill was a lifeline for me. Often executive directors are isolated, but Bill wasn’t just the board chair, he was a true partner. If I needed advice — he was there. If I needed someone to share worries with — he was there. He is brilliant and kind, but my favorite thing about Bill is his sense of humor. We’d talk about something serious, and then he’d get a twinkle, and make me laugh. … Vital Communities… has been extraordinarily lucky to enjoy his leadership.

And Bill was on and chaired the Leadership Upper Valley Board of Governors and a key member of the Heroes & Leaders dinner planning committee, including serving as master of ceremonies for the event. Stacey Glazer, who ran LUV for many years used these words to describe Bill: “direct, super-helpful, wise, honest, caring, civic-minded, supportive and steady presence.” She summed it up well: “Bill was always there for Vital Communities when we needed him.”

And Bill did all this for Vital Communities while also serving as a member of the Hanover Selectboard, as well as being on other nonprofit boards.

I can echo Jenny’s, Mary Margaret’s, and Stacey’s sentiments and express my personal deep appreciation for Bill’s thoughtful, caring, and patient approach.

I am delighted to present Bill Geraghty our Volunteer of the Year Award for 2019.

Support TLC Campaigns Now!

Invest in your community and contribute to campaigns today!

Visit the TLC Upper Valley campaign page

The Local Crowd (TLC) Upper Valley is a community-based crowdfunding platform that empowers individuals to support the businesses, organizations, and initiatives that build community and economy. Learn about and contribute to one or more of the  exciting project below! Campaigns will be running through December 20.

     

Whaleback Base Lodge Energy Efficiency Updates, Enfield

You might not know this, but Whaleback is run by The Upper Valley Snow Sports Foundation (UVSSF), a nonprofit entity, with the mission to support and enhance an affordable, healthy, and sustainable snow sports experience in the Upper Valley of New Hampshire and Vermont. UVSSF members first came together in the spring of 2013 on the heels of Whaleback Mountain LLC shuttering operations. Like our fellow residents, we recognize the importance of Whaleback as a community asset.

Whaleback needs to perform repairs on the base lodge and want to invest in energy conservation practices. Our energy efficiency goals will help us become more environmentally friendly, improve comfort within the lodge, and to save money!

Support Whaleback Here!

 

Closing the Food Waste Loop with Willow Tree Community Compost, White River Junction

Our mission is to build community while creating compost. Similar to how a willow branch, when stuck in the ground, will grow into a tree, I’m hoping that each Willow Tree Community Compost member will become more strongly rooted in the community and share in a more sustainable lifestyle. The positive environmental impact of diverting waste from the landfill, reducing CO2 emissions and creating a nutrient-rich soil amendment for gardens, will go hand in hand with creating connections in the community. I envision gatherings and events that will bring members together and building business partnerships that benefit all parties. As we grow, we will also be creating local, green jobs.

To expand our operation and be able to serve more of our community, we need to grow! We need buckets, infrastructure, and a trailer to deliver the food waste to Sunrise Farm!

Support Willow Tree Here!

Close the Loop with Compost at Sunrise Farm, White River Junction

Sunrise Farm in White River Junction is creating an on-farm compost system that will take in food waste from the community and transform it into compost that will be incorporated into the farm’s soil to grow more vegetables that further nourish the community. Sunrise is working to build the physical infrastructure needed to compost food scraps from the community to build healthy soil on the farm, divert food waste from the landfill, and strengthen the connections between the farm and community.

Support Sunrise Farm Here!

Food for Thought: The Growing Peace Project, Topsham

We are a peacemaking, social justice, and youth activism educational nonprofit in Topsham, Vermont. Our youth collaborate in cross school teams to develop and implement action plans that address community issues they care about including food insecurity. We have a free food teaching garden that has been serving our food insecure neighbors for the past nine years.

We’re raising funds to support our Food For Thought free food teaching garden and youth activism programs. Funds raised will allow us to purchase equipment, hire help, add more workshops, and partner with local farms.

Support The Growing Peace Project Here!

Mascoma Friends Feeding Friends Expansion, Canaan

The Friends of Mascoma Foundation is committed to combatting food insecurity in the Mascoma Valley Regional School District (MVRSD) through the Friends Feeding Friends program. The program operates two food pantries in Canaan and in Enfield, plus is the primary source of food and personal hygiene items for the pantry located inside Mascoma Valley Regional High School. Pantry shoppers can come once a week for a three-day supply of food. We have refrigeration, so we focus on fresh produce, meats and dairy products as well as non-perishables. We also supply food for snacks, backpacks, family food boxes as needed and other pantry items to the elementary and middle schools. 

For the past several years a generous private donor has allowed us to use their vehicles, including a van and trailer, for food distribution. Use of these vehicles is essential to our Friends Feeding Friends program and it’s time for us to get our own wheels!

Support Friends Feeding Foodie Here!

 

Puppy Junction, White River Junction


The Student Rescue Project, Inc. is a Vermont 501(c)(3) that focuses on providing hands-on experiences in dog rescue for students. We believe that, if we’re able to nurture the empathy that young people have for animals, we can to develop a life-long dedication to animal welfare. At this time, we’re in the process of creating an adoption, volunteer and education center in White River Junction called Puppy Junction. This will serve as a new home-base for our organization and be a community space for dog-lovers. 

This funding campaign will be launching soon—please check back!

 

Join Us: Open House December 6!

Our annual Open House is one of our favorite events of the year—a chance to catch up with old friends of Vital Communities, make welcome new connections, and celebrate positive change in the Upper Valley over the past year. It’s also part of the biggest First Friday in White River Junction, so there’s lots to see and do all evening! Join us:

Vital Communities Open House
Friday, December 6, 2019
5:30-7:30 pm
The Engine Room
188 South Main St., White River Junction

Followed by a dance party with livemixkings’ DjSean at 7:30
—FREE if you’ve attended Open House, or $5 at the door!

We’ll have remarks at 6 pm, our Volunteer of the Year and Super Quest Grand Prize awards, and wine, beer, and abundant refreshments from great local businesses.

Plus, come for the open house and stay for the music! livemixkings’ DjSean will spin dance tunes from 7:30–11 pm, so bring your dancing shoes! The show is free to Open House attendees or $5 at the door if you come at 7:30 or after.

PRE-REGISTER TODAY to save time at the door!

We hope to see you there!

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