And the Winners Are…

Caption: Paul Coats, director of Recreation and Parks for the City of Lebanon, discusses the Mascoma River Greenway at the TMA 13th Annual Meeting.

Dartmouth-Hitchcock, Resource Systems Group, Advance Transit, and a Hartland bicycle commuter were honored at the 13th annual meeting of the Upper Valley Transportation Management Association (TMA), a program of Vital Communities. The annual awards recognize organizations and individuals making it easier to bike, walk, carpool, and ride the bus in the Upper Valley.

“This year’s award winners demonstrate our region’s commitment to healthy, affordable, and sustainable transportation options,” said Aaron Brown, Vital Communities’ transportation program manager. “Though we live in a rural region, the Upper Valley serves as a model for providing access to good transportation in small-town America.”

The TMA honored one individual and three organizations:

  • Commuter of the Year: Bicycle commuter Jesse Hills of Hartland was honored for his commitment to biking year-round to his job at Mt. Ascutney Hospital.
  • Large Workplace of the Year: Dartmouth-Hitchcock was recognized for its years of support for public transit and its new sustainability council, which features a transportation team.
  • Small Workplace of the Year: Resource Systems Group was honored for innovative programs including co-locating near transit and offering subsidies to employees who purchase homes close to the workplace.
  • Project of the Year: Advance Transit’s Green Route expansion, which improved service to every 30 minutes and increased the route’s ridership 50 percent.

Keynote speaker Paul Coats, director of Recreation and Parks for the City of Lebanon, discussed the unique fundraising success that will make the Mascoma River Greenway a reality in the coming years.

The Upper Valley TMA is a program of Vital Communities that works to reduce reliance on driving alone. The TMA’s members include local municipalities, transit agencies, major employers, and three regional planning commissions.

21 Local Leaders Graduate from Leadership Upper Valley

Twenty-one leaders from around the region graduated in June from Leadership Upper Valley, a program of Vital Communities that inspires, educates, and engages citizens to better serve their communities. The graduation was held Wednesday, June 10, at Harpoon Brewery in Windsor.

“In contemplating the extent of all we have learned, I am left with one overarching word that describes this year: empowerment,” said Havah Armstrong Walther, the class speaker for the ceremony. “Yes, we have met a hundred new and amazing leaders in our community, learned things we never knew before, and traveled to new places. However, we have also grown as citizens and as leaders ourselves.”

This year’s graduates include:

Alijah Swasey, Kendal at Hanover
Bill Blaiklock, Mascoma Savings Bank
Brandy Blackinton, Claremont Savings Bank
Deborah Mozden, Turning Points Network
Havah Armstrong Walther, Hartford Area Career and Technology Center
Heather W. Prebish, Recover Together
Duncan McCutchan, Jarvis Hill Farm
Jim Larrick, Mascoma Savings Bank
Jed Putney, Mascoma Savings Bank
Karen Ganey, Henderson Tree Service and Creative Lives
Kathy Labbe, Harvest Hill Assisted Living
Laurie Sepulveda, Opera North
Miranda Pizinger, Dartmouth-Hitchcock
Nik Fiore, Engineering Ventures
Paula Maville, City of Lebanon
Robert Starkey, Hypertherm
Samantha Estes, Co-op Food Stores
Shanon Hounshell, Green Mountain  Economic Development Corporation
Shawn Courtemanche, Kendal at  Hanover
Teresa Thurston, The Lyme School
Theresa Minelli, Lake Sunapee Bank

Including this year’s graduating class, there are now more than 175 Leadership Upper Valley alumni.

Solarize Install

120 New Solar Homes!

Solarize Upper Valley Proves Effectiveness of Residential Solar Campaign in Rural New England

The results are in, and they’re pretty exciting: 120 homeowners across the rural Upper Valley region of Vermont and New Hampshire are going solar this season thanks to Solarize Upper Valley, an initiative led by Vital Communities to increase the rate of residential solar adoption in the Upper Valley. These results help prove the effectiveness of the Solarize model, which has been successfully deployed in Massachusetts and Connecticut in recent years.

Homeowners in Thetford and Strafford, Vt., and Cornish, Plainfield, and Lyme, N.H., are adding 638 new kilowatts of renewable energy capacity to the region – resulting in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to taking 116 cars off the road. These five towns may be small, with only 9,406 residents combined, but together they convinced 11 percent of households to get a solar site visit and three percent of households to go solar in just 15 weeks.

“The exciting results from Vital Communities’ Solarize campaign continue to prove that the ‘Solarize’ community model is perhaps the most effective approach for expanding residential solar,” said Brian F. Keane, president of SmartPower, a leading organization in the broader effort to expand and share the Solarize model in New England and beyond. “This model works – whether in Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, or anywhere across the nation.”

With generous funding support from the John Merck Fund and an individual donor to Vital Communities, Solarize Upper Valley teams up community volunteers with competitively selected solar photovoltaic (PV) installers for 15 weeks of outreach around small-scale solar energy, offering competitive prices, accessible resources, and a simplified process for solar PV installations. “I know solar would have remained a ‘someday’ for us without all the work provided by [Solarize Upper Valley],” said one Solarize Cornish-Plainfield customer. “You made it possible for our someday to be today.”

“The results of the first round of Solarize Upper Valley surpassed our expectations – not only in the number of households going solar, but also in the commitment of the community volunteers who made the program a success,” said Vital Communities Energy Program Manager Sarah Simonds. “We’re now recruiting communities to participate in new Solarize campaigns for the fall and are excited to help them achieve similar results.”

Upper Valley Farm to School joins Vital Communities!

We joyously welcome the Upper Valley Farm to School Network to Vital Communities. UVFTS has joined our Valley Food & Farm program, bringing a big boost of community, cafeteria, and classroom to our farm work. We are excited to work with all the wonderful farm to school projects across the Upper Valley!

The Network is all the schools, parents, staff, community members and farmers working together to connect our children to our farms, healthy foods, and amazing educational opportunities.  Led by founder Peter Allison since 2008, the Network has been a regional and national model for community-based Farm to School initiatives. Many thanks and congratulations to Peter, who has created a wonderful, collaborative and effective program for our region. Peter will advise us through the transition and beyond, while he focuses on his work coordinating Farm to Institution New England.

Now housed in Vital Communities’ Valley Food & Farm program, the Network will continue to serve farm to school programs around our Valley. Valley Food & Farm staff will lead the project, including our new Farm to School Coordinator, Beth Roy. Beth has spent the last 15 years working in the environmental and place-based education fields in various positions around New England including the Vermont Institute of Natural Science and most recently as the Director of Education at The Nature Museum in Grafton, Vermont.  Beth is also a certified classroom teacher.  Beth’s heart lies in education, but her roots are planted firmly in the homesteading skills and ethics that she learned from her family while growing up in New Hampshire.  Ms. Roy is very excited to be joining the Vital Communities family and start on this new Farm to School adventure with us.

Stay tuned for a merger celebration at the start of the school year and until then, keep in touch and enjoy summer! You can reach us at, or visit our website to sign up for the Farm To School newsletter!

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