New England Youth Theater, Windham Regional Commission get $400,000 each from feds
By MIKE FAHER / Reformer Staff
Posted: 05/09/2013 03:00:00 AM EDT
Thursday May 9, 2013
BRATTLEBORO -- For years, New England Youth Theater administrators have been developing plans to clean up and redevelop two properties behind their Flat Street headquarters.
There have been changing partners and a few setbacks. But on Wednesday, those efforts received a boost when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded $400,000 in cleanup grants to the theater.
It's only part of the funding necessary to complete those projects, but it was nonetheless a big day for the Brattleboro organization.
"We're really excited to get these funds," said Bo Foard, the theater's board president. "And we're really excited to get this going."
The grants were announced by Vermont's congressional delegation -- Democratic U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, Independent U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and Democratic U.S. Rep. Peter Welch. The money comes from EPA "brownfield" programs.
Also included in the announcement was another $400,000 in EPA grants for Windham Regional Commission, where administrators will use the money to continue their successful brownfield-cleanup program.
Brownfields are properties -- often former industrial sites -- that may contain contaminants that impede redevelopment.
"Vermont communities have hundreds of former industrial sites that remain unused because of development obstacles such as pollution," the lawmakers said in a joint statement. "These grants help these communities turn lemons into lemonade,
turning underused industrial wastelands into community assets where people can work, live and play."
That's what youth-theater administrators have in mind for an Elm Street building.
The former Tri-State Automotive property at 64 Elm has been the subject of multiple redevelopment proposals. But contamination found within the 13,000-square-foot brick building has been a major impediment.
Officials on Wednesday announced two $200,000 brownfield grants for the theater to use at two sites -- Elm Street and 100 Flat St.
Foard said that money will be put toward demolishing both a "livery" building behind the theater and the Tri-State Automotive building. All told, the theater needs $1.5 million for the demolition and cleanup projects.
"This is just the first piece of funding we need," Foard said. "We're pursuing other sources."
Foard also said theater administrators are developing new, still-undisclosed plans for the properties.
"We have partnered with different nonprofits in town to help us develop that site," he said. "We're currently of the mindset that New England Youth Theater is going to take this on ourselves."
He added that "we are in the midst of our own development project there."
Foard thanked Bari Shamas, former president of the youth theater board, for her role in guiding the project and procuring the federal funds. He also thanked the congressional delegation, Susan McMahon of Windham Regional Commission and Joe Ferrari of EPA New England.
"We're feeling really optimistic about this project," Foard said. "We hope to move forward within a year."
Windham Regional Commission has extensive experience in dealing with brownfields, having received more than $3 million in funding when Wednesday's announcement is factored in, said McMahon, the commission's associate director.
The commission received two $200,000 grants from the EPA. McMahon said that money will go toward a mix of existing and future assessment and cleanup projects.
"Our regional plan highlights the importance of redeveloping downtowns and villages," McMahon said. "And there was industry in a lot of downtowns and villages. We wanted to make it easier to redevelop these sites."
The latest grants, she added, "are meant to continue our program."
That program -- with more information available at windhamregional.org/brownfields -- can help both public and private entities. A few examples of local brownfield redevelopment include Brattleboro Transportation Center, Waypoint Visitors Center in Bellows Falls and Commonwealth Dairy in Brattleboro.
"We've been successful in this region," McMahon said.
Other Vermont recipients of EPA grants on Wednesday were the city of Burlington, Northwest Regional Planning Commission in St. Albans, Southern Windsor County Regional Planning Commission and the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.
NEYT's Stephen Stearns brings the Bully Show to Kurn Hattin School for Diversity Week
Kurn Hattin Homes for Children Celebrates Second Annual Diversity Week
WESTMINSTER, VT--Last week Kurn Hattin Homes for Children celebrated its 2nd annual Diversity Week, a 4-day event on Kurn Hattin's campus in Westminster. Featured activities include lectures, presentations, performances, discussions, and workshops focused on diversity-related themes such as the impacts of stereotypes, prejudice, racism, discrimination, class and gender bias, the use of inclusive language, and restorative justice, as well as diversity in art, music, and poetry.
Kurn Hattin's School Principal, Scott Tabachnik, who oversees the Diversity Week coordination, is the former Diversity Coordinator of Brattleboro Union High School and is a recipient of the WORLD OF DIFFERENCE® Institute Teacher Recognition Award, given by the Anti-defamation League New England Region. Tabachnik explains the guiding principles of the event. "Diversity Week gives us an opportunity to consider and discuss the positive aspects of human individuality, as well as to highlight examples of it both here at school and around our country.The overarching aims for our students are heightened self-awareness, empathy for others, and problem-solving skills. Skills they can apply here on campus and beyond."
This year's event kicked off on Martin Luther King Day with an assembly devoted to Dr King’s legacy. Throughout the week, local talent shared their time and expertise. Guest presenters and performers included award-winning New England Youth Theater co-founder Stephen Stearns, who worked with students to write and perform an anti-bullying play. Dr. Robert Fay, photographer, poetry teacher, and professor emeritus at Landmark College, presented a lecture and discussion on the Harlem Renaissance. Mike Szostak, Brattleboro School District's Restorative Justice Coordinator, guided students through an introductory restorative justice training, and representatives from the Women's Freedom Center led workshops on healthy relationships. The week culminated with interactive multicultural-themed performances from musical artists Moonlight and Morning Star with Vermont Jazz Center founder Eugene Uman, and percussionist Todd Roach.
Stearns said of his experience working with the children, "Rehearsing the 'Bully Show' with Kurn Hattin students was more than a pleasure for me. I became very attached to my fourteen actors. One student, D'Leanne Solvei, wrote a scene for the play about body image. She had been teased about her weight, as had I. We commiserated about that, then tag-teamed a scene to explore that kind of teasing. It was a release for her and, I believe, exorcised some bullying demons for both of us, and for the audience too. The students fought off fears of doing very personal material about bullying in public and performed fearlessly for an audience of about two hundred. They received a full auditorium standing ovation, and it was well deserved." Eighth grader, Solovei cited the value of the peer-to-peer approach. "Rather than being told by teachers that bullying is wrong, the play gave us a chance to teach our classmates an important lesson about bullying."
A place of hope since 1894, Kurn Hattin Homes for Children provides a safe home and quality education for boys and girls, ages 6-15, whose families are experiencing a time of personal or financial need. Its mission: Kurn Hattin transforms the lives of children and their families forever. www.kurnhattin.org
Little Orphan Annie Fundraising Dinner
Saturday December 8th, 5:30-6:45pm
NEYT is hosting an elegant fundraising dinner for our Angels in the Wings Scholarship Fund.
"Pairing this dinner with Annie is such a fun idea - Annie is all about finding a home for a girl without a family and NEYT is a home, or a second home, for so many kids in our community!" says Bari Shamas.
Food will be catered by Elizabeth Warner of Elizabethan Fare. Dinner tickets are $50 for adults, $35 for students.
The dinner will be served at 5:30-6:45 pm on Saturday December 8th. This puts it right between the afternoon and evening shows of Annie! so, don't forget to get tickets to the show as well.
"This is a terrific way to celebrate the holidays: a nice dinner, a special show, and giving to a worthy charity that benefits our community's children." says Elizabeth Warner. "I'm so glad we're doing this!"
Daddy Warbucks has a golden ticket for you!
New England Youth Theatre is selling “Tomorrow Bars,” as the holiday production of Annie approaches, and there are 10 Golden Tickets to be found inside them. Nine winners will receive $50 in cash, but the tenth will receive $500!
What do you do if you’ve found a golden ticket? Call the NEYT office, email us or just come in, and tell us your name and phone number. When all 10 golden tickets have been found, we will have a drawing – the first nine names drawn will receive $50 in cash, on the spot! The final name drawn will receive the $500 cash prize.
So, come on in and try your luck. We’ve only bought 2500 delicious Belgian chocolate “Tomorrow Bars” and they’re selling fast! If you don’t win, you’ll at least get to enjoy some high quality milk chocolate.
Tomorrow Bars are $2.50 and may only be purchased at NEYT, on 100 Flat St. in Brattleboro.
NEYT wants to thank the generous Tomorrow Bar sponsors, Trust Company of Vermont and the NEYT mentors, who are making the cash prizes possible.
The first golden ticket winners.