Are you ready to help improve home availability and affordability in our region?

For decades, we’ve known and talked about the fact that homes in the Upper Valley are too few and too expensive for people’s needs. The pandemic has worsened the problem. A recent VPR report cited research finding Vermont to have the least affordable housing market of any state in the country, and a WMUR report found New Hampshire to have experienced a 23% increase in the median sales price of single-family homes has risen nearly since January 2020. More and more people are experiencing homelessness, living in unsafe homes, paying too much of their income for their housing, or are forced to settle far from jobs and services.

What can be done, by whom, to address this? Answering that multi-pronged question is the focus of the Vital Communities Housing Solutions Breakfast, Friday, June 11, 7:30 to 9 am, on Zoom! At the breakfast, you will:

  • Join residents, employers, officials, and other leaders 
  • Highlight solutions in progress around us. 
  • Learn about Keystothevalley.com, an integrated framework of dozens of strategies and tools to help us meet this regional challenge.

Keys to the Valley is a joint project of three planning commissions with a framework for integrated action by all stakeholders. It includes goals and the tools to achieve them for residents, towns, legislators, non-profits, employers, and developers, woven together to meet individual and shared needs for home and community. The approach is not limited to a particular geography, town size, or politics, and can work all around our state, and for our neighbors.

Projects and presenters:

  • ADU partnership, Tyler Maas, VT State Housing Authority, and Mike Miller, Montpelier: Accessory Dwelling Units are a great way for residents to create more places to live. This pilot project provides help with pre-construction design and securing of finances, permitting and compliance, contractor procurement and project management, and finally, tenant selection and lease up procedures.
  • Homeshare, Deanna Jones, Thompson Senior Center, Woodstock, VT: Homesharing is two or more unrelated persons sharing a home. It can be that simple, and it can meet a lot of our individual needs.
  • Mixed-Use Zoning, Lori Hirshfield and Matt Osborn, Hartford, VT: Mixed-use will allow one- and two-family homes, commercial businesses and multi-unit homes in places that have been limited to parking and stores.
  • Capital for Affordability, Kathy Beyer, Evernorth: Our region has places with the water, sewer, and transportation for multi-unit buildings. With some additional “patient” capital from employers, builders are able to create places affordable to employees with lower incomes.
  • Rental Rehabilitation, Paul Martorano, Windham and Windsor Housing Trust: The Re-Housing Recovery Program offered grants up to $30,000 per unit for repairs needed to bring vacant rental units up to Vermont Rental Housing Health Code guidelines. More than 60 units were added in our communities in just a few months.

Register here; we will send a Zoom link to registrants a few weeks in advance. Please bring your own refreshments to this virtual “breakfast.” We look forward to the time when we can enjoy the smell of bacon together again!

More About Keys to the Valley

The Keys to the Valley homepage offers brief takeaways, from which you can dive deeply into particular strategies for home creation. The site’s toolbox predigests some of the site and gives you links, depending on who you are. One of our favorite parts is the buildout, where we try to show what some context-sensitive infill looks like, as in Chester, VT (below).

In-Person Films and Fun at First “Light River Junction”

Friday, May 7, the skies cleared after a week of rain – just in time for the first Light River Junction First Friday event! Throughout downtown White River Junction, musicians busked, store windows were lit with projections, and people hung out, later gravitating to the parking lot behind the Hotel Coolidge where a giant inflatable screen held court. Mark your calendars for the next events in this series on June 4, July 2, and August 6! The series is funded by a grant from The Vermont Community Foundation (VCF), the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD), and the Better Places partners obtained by a partnership centered on White River Indie Films (WRIF) and including the Town of Hartford, the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce, Vital Communities, CATV (Community Access Television), the Briggs Opera House, the Center for Cartoon Studies, and local businesses and film and media artists.

Photos by Rob Strong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two New Tuck Fellows to Serve with Vital Communities Board of Directors

With hopes of learning new skills and having a positive impact on the Upper Valley, two new MBA candidates from the Tuck School of Business have joined the Vital Communities Board of Directors as one-year Fellows.

Mary Catherine Guay and  Lo Si Min (Allyssa) will serve as Fellows until May 2022, attending Board meetings and conferring with Vital Communities Executive Director Sarah Jackson in order to both learn aboutVital Communities and contribute their expertise. They take the place of previous fellows David Kenney and Stuart Price. This is the 12th year that the Vital Communities Board has hosted Tuck Fellows.

Said Vital Communities Board Chair Ron Shaiko, “The Tuck Nonprofit Board Fellows program is a win-win for the Tuck MBA program and the nonprofit community of the Upper Valley.  TheFellows gain from the experience of nonprofit board governance while organizations like Vital Communities gain from the analytical skills that the Fellows bring to the board.  In the past, Fellows have assisted in our assessments of programs as well as board and staff evaluations of our mission and governance structures.  We thank  David and Stuart for their service to Vital Communities and welcome Allyssa and Mary Catherine to the board.”

Tuck students can apply for the fellowship in their second year and are placed on the boards of various Upper Valley nonprofits through the Center for Business, Government, and Society, which matches selected students with nonprofits in the Upper Valley based upon their interests and experiences.

Mary Catherine Guay, who is also a candidate for a Masters of Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School, came to Tuck after working four years for the Massachusetts House of Representatives, most recently as a fiscal analyst for the Committee on Ways and Means. She applied for the fellowship, she said, ”to use the tools I have learned at Tuck to make a positive impact in the Upper Valley. After spending four years in government, I chose to come to Tuck to develop skills that would enable me to have a greater impact on the public good. Vital Communities’ collaborative approach to solving regional challenges is a perfect opportunity to combine my professional experiences and Tuck education to support an area I am fortunate to call home. I hope to use this opportunity to learn more about how different sectors approach similar issues.” Guay hopes to apply her academic learning to interests in economic development and the future of work.

Allyssa Lo, a native of Singapore, has more than six years of experience in innovation and digital transformation specializing in data analytics,  first at the Agency for Science, Technology and Research, the national research agency in Singapore and more recently as an analyst at Accenture. Said Lo, “It is an honor to be selected to work with Vital Communities on advancing the important mission of creating a more equitable community, which is also a personal interest of mine and aligned to my long-term goal in social impact. I am excited to contribute to the board with my expertise and look forward to making a difference to the Upper Valley community in the year ahead.” 

Vermont Everyone Eats Serves Its One-Millionth Meal!

On Thursday, April 29, Vermont Everyone Eats, an innovative COVID-19 response program, is celebrating 1 million restaurant meals served to Vermonters experiencing food insecurity. The program was launched in August 2020 with an allocation of $5 million of the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund contracted by the Agency of Commerce and Community Development to Southeastern Vermont Community Action Agency. The program would have expired in December, but widespread community support and advocacy empowered program and state partners to secure additional funding through FEMA and the program has been extended through the state of emergency.

Of that 1 million meals, about 90,400 will have been served by Upper Valley Everyone Eats (UVEE), the Upper Valley hub for the program, coordinated by Vital Communities in partnership with numerous social service agencies. More recently, Vital Communities and partners obtained funding to create a pilot program modeled on UVEE in Claremont, NH, called Claremont Everyone Eats.

“Everyone Eats is an example of what we as a society can do when we think outside the box and use our resources in innovative ways,” said Vital Communities Executive Director Sarah Jackson. “It has helped restaurants survive by paying them to do make delicious, healthful food for those who need it most, and has strengthened relationships among social service agencies and the food community. It’s been a privilege for Vital Communities to coordinate Upper Valley Everyone Eats.”

This week, UVEE welcomes three new restaurants into its fold, according to UVEE Coordinator Lauren Griswold: The Newbury Village Store & Thistle Cafe (Newbury), The Little Grille (Bradford), and Tacocat (Randolph). It says farewell and thanks to Simon Pearce (Quechee) and Piecemeal Pies (WRJ). Other participating businesses are Maple Street Catering (Hartford), Global Village Food (Windsor), Lake Morey Resort (Fairlee), Moon and Stars (Vershire), and the Windsor Diner (Windsor).

Vermont Everyone Eats program design draws on many of Vermont’s strengths. It puts Vermont’s independent restaurants and robust local food system at the center of feeding their communities. Over 200 Vermont restaurants have contributed to the one million meals, which have contained nearly $1 million of Vermont ingredients.

UVEE is “beyond phenomenal,” said Mel Hall, co-owner of Global Village Foods “I was shocked at how fast it came together, how comprehensive it was, and how it brought in a steady revenue stream for those of us in production.”

The program was created and has developed through powerful, cross-sector, public-private partnerships. Fourteen community “hubs” execute the programming on the ground in all 14 Vermont counties. These hubs represent hundreds of community organizations who are working together to contract meals from participating restaurants, manage delivery logistics, promote the program, and ensure the meals are delivered safely to meal recipients. Jean Hamilton, Vermont Everyone Eats Statewide Coordinator acknowledges the important role of the community hubs, “Vermont is well-known for its community organizations and thank goodness for them. In less than 9 months, our program was launched from a concept to this moment, 1 million local meals delivered to neighbors all across our state. We were able to do this because of the community organizations that stepped up and got right to work. They are the backbone of our community resilience.”

Hamilton sees this moment to celebrate the collective action of the program: “It is the people behind VEE that we are really celebrating today. Starting with the individuals who were courageous enough to step forward and ask for help, the meal recipients and the restauranteurs, to the farmers and food producers, the lawmakers and agency staff, the members of our statewide taskforce, and especially the hub organizers and volunteers – Vermont Everyone Eats is a model of how our communities can rise up together holding our shared vulnerability as an inspiration for progress. Who is your Everyone Eats hero? Please join us in celebrating them today.”

“Light River Junction” Kicks Off May 7 with “Toons and Tones”

The celebratory summer series Light River Junction First Fridays with WRIF kicks off May 7 with a fantastic line-up called “Toons and Tones.” Throughout downtown White River, there will FREE outdoor arts to inspire and amuse, with an emphasis on young local artists: a filmmaking workshop, live music, selected footage from the creative minds of CATV, projected short films (such as Formation of a River, above), and even an audio-visual beat set to get us moving after a long pandemic year of isolation.

In the words of the organizers, “We are celebrating the bright, colorful days ahead with a vibrant showcase of music and movies by local artists. Downtown White River Junction is set to become a canvas for light and sound! Throughout the night, on every corner in WRJ, there will be space for discovery. Local musicians, including Jakob Breitbach and Rob Oxford, will be playing acoustic sidewalk sets. Projections and movie screens of every size will be showing myriad images from CATV’s extensive local archives, curated by Chico Eastridge. In shop windows, on walls, you can revel in the little delights of curated short films, hand-picked to color the sonic canvas of the night. Swap the digital for the physical and get hands-on in a “cameraless filmmaking” workshop with local analog filmmaker Quinn Thomashow. After handling the real substance of film we’ll watch a program of shorts made on 16mm and Super 8 film, with live accompaniment. Plainfield’s Rah Zen will perform a swirling beat set while Lana Real transforms the historic Bell Building into a fantasy of ‘Electric Dreams.’ It will be a journey in sound and color from start to finish.”

As always, be sure to follow the latest COVID-19 protocols!

Light River Junction First Fridays with WRIF aims to revitalize White River Junction’s “First Friday” celebrations, disrupted by COVID, by attracting people of all ages back to the village through film and media arts. On White River Junction First Fridays (May 7, June 4, July 2, and August 6), WRIF will transform downtown parking lots into an attractive forum for safe dining and cinema viewing. Film, including work by local filmmakers, will be projected in novel ways in spaces enhanced by local visual artists. The project is expected to revive social interaction and economic activity through the arts in reimagined and ongoing ways that can offer inspiration to other Vermont communities. The project is made possible by an $18,000 grant from The Vermont Community Foundation (VCF), the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD), and the Better Places partners.

The grant was obtained by a partnership centered on White River Indie Films (WRIF) and including the Town of Hartford, the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce, Vital Communities, CATV (Community Access Television), the Briggs Opera House, the Center for Cartoon Studies, and local businesses and film and media artists.

Time Location Activity Descriptions
5-7 pm Behind Revolution 16mm Cameraless Filmmaking Workshop With Quinn Thomashow
5-6 Out on the sidewalks Music Performances Acoustic street performances by local musicians including Jakob Breitbach and Rob Oxford
8-11 pm Town Crier CATV Playlist 8 hours of Local Archives curated by Chico Eastridge
5-9 pm Revolution & Scavenger Window Movies Selected visual music films, Here in the Valley highlights
8-9 pm Lamphouse Micro-cinema Short films Curated short films
8-9 pm Main Stage at Coolidge Parking Lot Short film program

Visual Music Short Films 

Scream Tone – (Joe Dery)

Glistening Thrills  (Jodie Mack)

Films by Rich Fedorchak 

With live accompaniment 

by Amy Garapic et al…

Brief Glimpses on the Way to Joy, Part 1 (Rich Fedorchak, 19 mins, color, sound)

8-9 pm Bell Building Projections

Aged in Wood (Bruce Posner)

Strafford/Tunbridge One Planet Cameraless Film

Formation of a River (JE Crawford)

Vacationland (Matt McWilliams)

9-10 Bell Building Projections Electric Dreams – A projection mapping performance by Lana Real
9-10 Main Stage at Coolidge Parking Lot Performance Audio-visual beat set by Rah Zen

 

Putting Your Money to Work Locally

More Free “Local Investment” Events starting April 8!

“Market forces” got you down? Does it seem like Big Finance keeps putting resources toward things that create more environmental damage and human inequality?

Maybe it’s time you took the reins of your own financial resources and made them work for positive change where you can see it: right here in your community. Why fund Wall Street when you can direct your money toward Main Street?

Vital Communities and its partners (including The Local Crowd Monadnock) have added four more free events in our series entitled “Put Your Money Where Your Life Is”: Reclaiming Our Local Economy“:
  • Investing for Home Creation, Thursday, April 8, 5:30 pm: Your savings can help create more lower cost homes. Learn how even small amounts can bring financial, social, and environmental rewards.

  • Put Your Money to Work Locally: Investment Clubs 101, Thursday, April 15, 5:30 pm: Interested in investing locally but don’t want to do it alone? Investment clubs pool money to collectively invest in local businesses and bring a social aspect to the process – they make investment fun! Join Matt Cropp from the Vermont Solidarity Investment Club to learn the ins and outs of starting your own investment club, as well as some ideas about what to look for if you want to join an established club and increase your power to do good by investing as a group.

  • Seeding Change: The Power of Conscious Commerce (2021), viewable on demand April 22-24: a documentary on how consumers can help save the world “one purchase at a time” and “triple bottom line” businesses that consider the social, environmental and financial impacts of their companies and address some of today’s most challenging issues. This award-winning documentary empowers viewers to be part of the solution by voting with their dollars and supporting the brands and products that align with their environmentally conscious values.
    Part of the Monadnock Region Earth Day Film Festival.
  • Put Your Money to Work Locally: Community Loan Funds 101, Tuesday, April 27, 5:30 pm: Community loan funds are a home grown solution for investing in our communities, energy independence, and working lands. Join us for a deep dive into impact investing with Vermont and New Hampshire community loan funds.

Sign up here to receive lively weekly email companion pieces to these events, starting March 30!

These events and material are educational in nature and should not be construed as specific legal, accounting, or investment recommendations.

Check out resources on our new “Invest Local page!

Don’t miss these great opportunities to increase your financial IQ!

Our Vital Economy

The series is part of Vital Communities’ ongoing “Vital Economy” program—initiatives that teach people the importance of buying and investing locally and offer how-tos and incentives. One step was sponsoring the Upper Valley Indie Impact Study (2020), which found that businesses rooted in the Upper Valley keep up to 4 times more money circulating in the region’s economy than do national chain stores, and that remote online retailers suck hundreds of millions of dollars from our economy each year.

Local businesses create stable jobs, enhance community character, and support our communities with donations of time and money, and have proven to be especially critical during the pandemic. Now, after a year of COVID shutdowns, bankruptcies, deaths, and economic despair, it’s all the more important to channel our resources to the local businesses and organizations that sustain us. In fact, it’s an opportunity to relocalize our economy—catalyzing innovation and shifting capital to where we live to fuel the entrepreneurs, businesses, and projects our communities need to be more sustainable, vibrant, and resilient in the face of future disruptions and challenges.

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.

Selected Route 11 Corridor proposals will receive a $500 stipend to produce a crowdfunding campaign video. Studies show that crowdfunding campaigns with videos raise four times more funds than campaigns without videos.

All crowdfunding campaign teams receive hands-on technical assistance to help them launch a successful crowdfunding campaign. Campaign teams also receive a free crowdfunding assessment to ensure that they receive the coaching and training that best fits each team’s needs.

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 May 7, 2021

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.
The Local Crowd Upper Valley FAQ 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

Questions? Contact 

nancy@vitalcommunities.org

Community. Connection. Capital.

Everyone Eats Comes to Claremont!

Thanks to a grant from the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, the Upper Valley Everyone Eats model is crossing the Connecticut River: Vital Communities is working with Claremont, NH, partners to pilot a program in that city that will provide restaurant-made meals to people in need.

Beginning March 25, three participating restaurants (The Hitchin’ Post, Sunshine Cookshop, and The Common Man) will each prepare 65 meals per week for the Claremont Soup Kitchen, for a total of 195 meals per week. The restaurants will receive $10.90 per meal ($10 plus a 9% New Hampshire rooms and meals tax) and are asked to allocate at least 10 percent of their ingredient budget to New Hampshire farms and food processors. These nutritionally balanced meals are intended for anyone experiencing food insecurity or whose food insecurity has been impacted by the pandemic. The program is currently slated to run for 10 weeks. Partners hope this pilot will inspire enthusiasm for a larger-scale adoption of this model in New Hampshire.

“The Claremont Soup Kitchen is truly blessed to be chosen to participate in Everyone Eats,” said Cindy Stevens, the kitchen’s executive director. “This program is one more example of how amazing our community is and their willingness to look out for their neighbor. It is heartwarming to know that not only can we provide for those needing food assistance but also those who are struggling to keep their staff working.”

The Claremont program is modeled on Vermont Everyone Eats, for which Upper Valley Everyone Eats (UVEE) is the Upper Valley hub, administered by Vital Communities. Begun in August 2020 and slated to continue through June 2021, Vermont Everyone Eats is funded by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development and made possible through a grant provided by the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development to Southeastern Vermont Community Action (SEVCA). UVEE is a partnership of Vital Communities, LISTEN, the Upper Valley Haven, Willing Hands, and numerous Upper Valley restaurants and social service providers.

The Claremont program is also inspired by other programs around New Hampshire that connect restaurants to people facing food insecurity due to COVID, such as Community Kitchen of Keene, Community Meals to Go in Portsmouth, and the Monadnock Restaurant Project.

“This model, this pandemic response, has cropped up around the state, around New England, and the country because it’s so efficient and impactful,” said Lauren Griswold, Vital Communities’ coordinator of UVEE and the Claremont program. “With one source of funding it supports an economic sector and boosts community food security.”

As of March 14, UVEE had accomplished the following:

  • Meals served: 70,000
  • Individuals served: 68,300
  • Seniors served: 15,000
  • Revenue for restaurants: $700,000
  • Revenue for farms and food businesses: $46,500

For information about UVEE and Claremont Everyone Eats, check out the UVEE web page or email uvee@vitalcommunities.org.

The hottest spot in White River Junction this summer? A parking lot!

An underutilized parking lot behind the Hotel Coolidge in downtown White River Junction will become a vibrant, pandemic-safe place to eat, visit, and watch films and projection art this summer, thanks to an $18,000 grant from The Vermont Community Foundation (VCF), the Agency of Commerce and Community Development (ACCD), and the Better Places partners.

The project also helps re-start the downtown’s First Friday celebrations, suspended due to the pandemic, with community arts projects and light and sound installations to re-animate the entire downtown and celebrate the arts community centered there.

The grant was obtained by a partnership centered on White River Indie Films (WRIF) and including the Town of Hartford, the Hartford Area Chamber of Commerce, Vital Communities, CATV (Community Access Television), the Briggs Opera House, the Center for Cartoon Studies, and local businesses and film and media artists.

Light River Junction First Fridays with WRIF” aims to revitalize White River Junction’s “First Friday” celebrations, disrupted by COVID, by attracting people of all ages back to the village through film and media arts. From May to August, WRIF will transform downtown parking lots into an attractive forum for safe dining and cinema viewing. Film, including work by local filmmakers, will be projected in novel ways in spaces enhanced by local visual artists. The project is expected to revive social interaction and economic activity through the arts in reimagined and ongoing ways that can offer inspiration to other Vermont communities.

“The vision originated in WRIF’s experimental ‘Light River Junction Festival of Cinema Light,’ a weekend of outdoor projection in downtown White River Junction,” explained WRIF Board Member Samantha Davidson Green. “In December 2020, we shouted out to local filmmakers, who shared their work freely for the public to enjoy safely—whether by car or through snow on foot—projected on buildings and in shop windows. Its success revealed how much the community craves the shared experience of art and the potential for re-imagining cinema and media arts events to draw people back to our hurting downtown businesses. The Better Places grant enables WRIF to partner with an amazing team of local organizations and the Town of Hartford, many of whom pioneered the First Friday celebrations years ago, in our efforts to revitalize our local economy and heal our community fabric through the arts.”

The project’s main site is the parking area at 40-50 Currier Street, behind the Hotel Coolidge and Gates-Briggs building, which owns the lot and supports the project. The lot is bordered on several sides by white-sided buildings that will serve as projection surfaces for cinema and moving image installation art. In addition, a portable screen will be erected in one end of the lot for screening high-resolution feature film content after dark. The site is adjacent to the Wolf Tree Bar and in walking distance from a half-dozen restaurants, making it convenient for outdoor dining.

The project also involves a number of other aspects, including community art projects and smaller film and video projections and sound installations at spots throughout downtown, with changing content by local filmmakers and sound artists.

These activities will be part of White River Junction First Fridays, which are scheduled for May 7, June 4, July 2, and August 6.

The project’s organizers see its impact as three-fold:

  • Boosting the local economy by stimulating downtown shopping and dining;
  • Helping our recovery from the social isolation of COVID with programming that is welcoming to all and accessible by public transportation; and
  • Supporting the creative economy—which has been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic shutdowns—by drawing people back to arts-rich White River Junction and showcasing works by local and emerging film and media artists, including participants in the Vermont- and New Hampshire-wide Freedom & Unity Young Filmmakers’ Contest and a CATV-sponsored Film Slam/festival.

The White River Junction project was one of only eight chosen from among 63 applications representing 54 communities across the state from Canaan to Pownal and Alburgh to Brattleboro. A total of $129,275 was awarded.

These grants will help communities reimagine and reopen public spaces for safe dining, shopping, and recreation, while showcasing the state’s unique sense of place. The community-driven projects ranged from village green and park improvements, to public art installations, alley activations, community arts centers, music and performing arts series, as well as other grassroots projects that bring people together safely in public spaces.

“Better Places grants are an important tool in our toolbox to help revitalize our communities as we recover from the pandemic,” said Governor Phil Scott. “I want to thank the Vermont Community Foundation, the National Life Foundation, the Vermont Arts Council, the Preservation Trust of Vermont, and the Vermont Department of Health for their work on this program as we support improvements in towns and villages across the state.”

“Public spaces can tell a story about our communities—they bring us together when accessible or leave us isolated when they aren’t,” says Vermont Community Foundation President and CEO Dan Smith. “The Community Foundation is committed to working with other state leaders to support projects that bring people together safely and contribute to the recovery and resilience of our economy, culture, and sense of connection.”

“First Fridays” started more than ten years ago through the collaboration of local businesses such as Revolution with the Center for Cartoon Studies, Main Street Museum, and others to celebrate downtown, becoming a community ritual gathering around the arts and local commerce.

With the exception of the past year, WRIF has presented an annual film festival and special screenings since its 2004 founding, in various downtown locations, at times in conjunction with First Fridays. WRIF and CATV have also partnered for film slams and screenings.

Climate Partners Summit Resources

Climate Partners Summit Resources

On February 25, 2021, over 70 interested partners and citizens joined the Upper Valley Adaptation Workgroup (UVAW) for a virtual Climate Partners Summit, featuring brief presentation from a variety of organizations working to address the effects of climate change in our community.

Click here for a video recording of this 90 minute event, or look for the “video clip” links in the text below to skip directly to a specific presenter.

UVAW co-chair Erich Osterberg, Associate Professor of Earth Sciences at Dartmouth College kicked off the afternoon event with an update on the latest climate science (slides | video clip). Another UVAW member, and host of the Summit, Kevin Geiger from Two Rivers Ottauquechee Regional Commission, then provided a helpful explanation of what we mean when we talk about “Climate Adaptation” versus “Climate Mitigation” (slides | video clip)

The highlight of the event was a series of presentations from partner organizations, each presenting for roughly four minutes, aided by four slides. Their contact information, along with slides and video clips, are linked below.

Michael Caduto, Director – Sustainable Woodstock (slides | video clip)
Matt Cahillane, Program Manager – NH Department of Public Health Services (slides | video clip)
Kate McCarthy, AICP, Sustainable Communities Program Director – Vermont Natural Resources Council (slides | video clip)
Peg Merrens, Vice President, Conservation – Upper Valley Land Trust (slides | video clip)
Ron Rhodes, Director of Restoration Programs – Connecticut River Conservancy (slides | video clip)
Jack Spicer, Clerk, Climate Advisory Committee for the Town of Hartford (slides | video clip)
Graham Turk, Innovation Strategist – Green Mountain Power (slides | video clip)

Attendees were encouraged to subscribe to the Upper Valley Climate Action discussion list, an email-based service allowing anyone in the Upper Valley to share and discuss opportunities related to local climate action. Upper Valley Adaptation Workgroup, the host of the Summit, encouraged organizations in attendance to consider joining the workgroup, which meets monthly to discuss and coordinate climate adaptation activities throughout the Upper Valley.

A follow up event will be held at Noon on March 24, 2021. This virtual Climate Connections lunch will feature casual, small group discussions on what we’re all doing to address climate change in the Upper Valley. Following an “Open Space” facilitation format, participants will propose topics at the start of the hour, then break out into small groups to discuss and make connections. This event is free an open to the public. Click here to register.

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