Archive - July 2017

Help Me Grow
Activity Diversity
Why a Creative Economy Is Important to All of Us

Help Me Grow

By: Steve Ames

Here in the Lamoille Valley Region, we’ve been excited to assist with the rollout of the Help Me Grow call center and other components of the Help Me Grow project. Together with my council, the Maternal Child Health Team, and other partners, we’ve been spreading the word about the availability of anonymous early childhood support from the Vermont Department of Health.

Help Me Grow is a new part of the Vermont Department of Health’s effort to ensure all children in Vermont are screened for developmental delays and to ensure that all kids and young families have the resources they need to grow and thrive. It’s part of the State’s 2-1-1 information center.

Vermont 2-1-1 is the number to dial to find out about hundreds of important community resources, like emergency food and shelter, disability services, counseling, senior services, health care, child care, drug and alcohol programs, legal assistance, transportation agencies, educational and volunteer opportunities, and now early childhood development. It’s free and confidential for all callers to use.

There are many kids and families who would benefit from support, but who slip through the cracks. They don’t get the help that could benefit them during early childhood – when support is most effective.

Help Me Grow proactively addresses a family’s concerns about their child’s behavior and development by providing an early childhood specialist at the other end of an anonymous phone line (2-1-1 extension 6) and making connections when needed to existing community-based services and high quality parent education resources. For example, a young family looking for child care, a playgroup, or advice on how to handle a rambunctious two year old will find help and solutions with a call. By strengthening connections and providing resources for families in this way, Help Me Grow supports caregivers to promote their child’s social and emotional well-being.

When parents, caregivers or child care providers work with children, a screening tool helps kids learn and adapt very early in their lives, allowing them to develop appropriately and get the help they need, when they need it, early on.

The Help Me Grow project has added a Developmental Screening section to the State’s Immunization Registry so that a child’s physician can see results of a screen and review it without re-screening if the screen was conducted by a child care provider or educator. It’s a great example of making the system of supports more efficient and less duplicative.

Additionally, Help Me Grow now has two Child Development specialists at the 2-1-1 call center that can help anyone with child-related questions. Parents and caregivers can call 2-1-1 x6 anytime and get answers to challenging questions about their kids.

I’ve been psyched to help the Department of Health spread the word about Help Me Grow, and to help develop the website and various tools to measure how effective the 2-1-1 line is. In addition, at our Regional Council meetings, we’ve been sharing call center data to track the development of any gaps in the systems of support for kids and young families.

A team from the Vermont Department of Health and Building Bright Futures was fortunate to be able to attend the Help Me Grow National Conference as well, where we learned about successful aspects of implementation by regions and States from every corner of the Country.

One of the key components of Help Me Grow around the country and here in Vermont is the ability of the team to share anonymous call data with partners and others. For us in the Lamoille Valley, this data sharing allows the Regional Council to get a better sense of what young families are struggling with. We get quarterly reports from Help Me Grow about what areas of concerns folks are calling in about. That allows us to identify gaps in support and work with partners to address those gaps.

Each of these types of activities strengthens kids and families, and the fabric of support that we have all built for our neighbors and fellow citizens. It’s a wonderful time to be a kid in Vermont!

As the Regional Coordinator for Building Bright Futures, Steve staffs The Lamoille Valley Building Bright Futures Regional Council, a volunteer committee focused on the well being of young children and their families. There is one such Council in each of twelve regions of the State. Steve also works with the Playroom in Morrisville. He writes about early childhood, families, community, play, and equity.

Activity Diversity

By: Caleb Magoon

It’s summer! Time to get out and have a little fun. If you aspire to be more active, fit and healthy, what are the best activities to get you there? Turns out, it doesn’t matter much what you do to stay active. What’s far more important is being active consistently and doing a variety of activities.

We all have that one activity we love above all else. For me, it’s mountain biking. I’ve been doing it since I was a kid and love riding more than all other forms of summer fun. During the summer months, I consistently ride the trails in our area 3-4 times a week.

There is nothing wrong with riding a bike to stay fit and healthy. But only riding a bike and not participating in other activities limits fitness progression. Our bodies are built to adapt to different activities and get efficient at them. For me, biking only provides a minimal amount of fitness. My body has figured out how to be really efficient at it over the years.

Diversification is the name of the game. You may love that one activity, but try and sprinkle in some others to raise your fitness level. You don’t have to go crazy. I drop in on an Ultimate Frisbee game once in a while. For me, an hour of that is better than several hours of biking. The fast cuts and sprints my body aren’t used to provide maximum fitness impact. On days where I feel like something low key, I’ll just shoot hoops at the local outdoor court or go for a quick hike. Everything helps!

The point isn’t to kill yourself, but to provide your body with different activities working different muscle groups. These will prevent it from getting too efficient at any one activity. Study after study shows that a variety of fitness activities lead to better calorie burn, all-around fitness and strength.

So get out and try lots of things. Throw a baseball or football or Frisbee in the yard. Join a volleyball or basketball pickup game when time permits. Hike, bike, walk or run. Keep doing those things you love too, but add some twists to your repertoire to keep yourself lean and mean. You will see the results. Plus, do you really need an excuse to enjoy all the different activities a summer in Vermont has to offer? I didn’t think so…

Caleb Magoon is a Hyde Park native who grew up hiking, hunting, biking and exploring Vermont’s Green Mountains. His passions for sports and recreation have fueled his career as the owner of Power Play Sports and Waterbury Sports. Caleb encourages outdoor activity and believes it is an essential element to a healthy lifestyle and the Vermont way of life. Caleb serves the Lamoille Valley by volunteering on numerous community boards such as the Lamoille County Planning Commission, The Morrisville Alliance for Commerce and Culture, Mellow Velo, and the state chapter of The Main Street Alliance. He lives, plays and works in Hyde Park with his wife Kerrie.

Why a Creative Economy Is Important to All of Us

By: Tricia Follert

Judith Wrend wrote an exceptional piece on the creative economy and I’d like to put it in perspective as it applies to Morristown. Investing in our community and especially in public art shows a commitment to our citizens and our future. Art and culture supports community engagement, increases the potential for people to understand themselves and each other, and changes how they see the world. Public art is also an economic driver.

The Morristown Alliance for Culture and Commerce (MACC) started the Chair-art-able project six years ago to add more public art and improving the walkability to our community. They purchased 25 folding Adirondack chairs and offered them to the community to be painted by the local citizens. Peoples Academy has painted five plus chairs each year as part of their curriculum. This year, I went to the open house at the school, and it was heartwarming to hear the students brag about the chairs they painted. (And they should brag about them, they are fantastic!) The students had sparkles in their eyes when they talked about their creative process and how the chairs would adorn the streets of Morrisville.  I’ve had friends from near and far come into town to see the “chairs”.

Last fall, the town installed the first of three permanent sculptural trees in the downtown area. The community selected artist Gordon Auchincloss for the project, as his work is beautiful, compelling and timeless. His stainless steel sculptures stimulate the imagination of local voters and will serve the community through public placement in the downtown area. This summer the second sculptural tree will be installed at Morristown Centennial Library.

These works create a “creative industry” which will create jobs, attract investments, generate additional tax revenues, and stimulate the local economy through tourism, consumer purchases, drawing and retaining a talented work force. An active cultural scene fosters social connectedness across cultures, ages, and other divides. It promotes well-being, fosters cooperation, and builds social and civic connections. Public art creates a common experience and helps to build a vibrant community. It starts a conversation, good or bad, but public art is always engaging. The very first discussion of bringing in public art creates a positive influence as residents begin to think about what they want their community to be.

I hope you enjoy reading Judith’s piece, below, as much as I did.

How the Creative Economy Boosts the Life of a Town

 By: Judith Wrend

How does the “creative economy” affect us and benefit our town?

The basic element of the creative economy is the so-called cultural workforce, which is composed of the many creative people who live among us: painters, craft artists, performers, writers and poets, filmmakers and photographers, designers, musicians,architects—and sculptors, like me. According to the U.S. Census Bureau Vermont ranks #3 in the nation for artists, is #2 for fine artists and writers, and is #8 for musicians and photographers as a percentage of the total workforce. We are what help give Vermont a high ranking in the national census.

Members of this creative workforce directly contribute to the economy of the region. Many of them are self-employed. They pay income tax and sales tax, and they purchase supplies and services, thus supporting other local businesses. They buy paints and canvas, steel and aluminum, craft materials, equipment and other supplies. They use the services of tax preparers, welders, auto painters, art framers, movers, photographers and many others. Arts and cultural enterprises total nearly 5 percent of all businesses in Vermont, according to the Agency of Commerce and Community Development. These businesses employ more than 7000 Green Mountain State residents.

A second element of the creative economy is the non-profit sector: community organizations that provide cultural opportunities and services for all ages in the area. The Morrisville Centennial Library links the public to the literary arts. River Arts brings opportunities in the visual arts, offering exhibitions and classes for adults and children. These centers are focal points in the community where the public can access the arts and, very importantly, have contact with other people who share their interests. Connecting community members to each other through the arts is a vital function of these non-profit centers.

A third element of the creative economy is the for-profit sector: businesses that sell or exhibit creative products. A restaurant or a gallery that exhibits the works of local artists would be in this category. A shop that sells crafts, photography and handmade gifts, such as Haymaker Press, is a part of the creative economy.

Individuals who offer music lessons can also be included here. A commercial designer who helps create presentation materials for a local company is in this sector.

State and local governments have realized how important a vibrant creative sector is to the overall wellbeing of a region. The New England Foundation for the Arts collects data supporting the idea that a state or town with a relatively higher concentration of creative enterprises and creative workers gives that area a competitive edge by raising its quality of life and ability to attract economic activity. In 2016 the Vermont Legislature established the Vermont Creative Network, in partnership with the Vermont Arts Council, the Vermont Downtown Program, Common Good Vermont, the Emergent Media Center of Champlain College, the Regional Development Corporation, and the Vermont Department of Libraries. The Network divides the state into six organizational zones. The zone that includes Morrisville is called the Four-County Creative Zone, encompassing Franklin, Grand Isle, Washington and Lamoille Counties. Morrisville’s representative for this Network is Tricia Follert, who will help to connect our town into the statewide creative initiative. As they coordinate with other sectors of the Vermont economy, such as tourism and skiing, both locally and statewide, they will help the creative enterprises here to flourish and to be an asset to our town. Having a thriving creative economy is one of the ways we make a community as attractive as possible. A town with a healthy creative community is likely to also have good schools and profitable businesses. Realtors report that their buyers are drawn to communities that have these features. People want to live in such towns. As the arts community grows, tourists are attracted to these towns and come to visit. A creative town also draws in people from surrounding communities. The town becomes a destination.

Many of the economic benefits of the creative economy are quantifiable. We can measure them and print out reports, but there are other benefits that are not so easily measurable. What can we look for? There may be a group of elders who make art together and as a result feel connected and energized. There could be a business that gives a new look to its façade and makes the downtown more attractive and lively looking. A new sculpture installed in the town may provoke opinions and conversation and a desire to take a closer look. Signs that educate about the history of the town and link with a walking pathway enhance the sense of place. Children in an arts-focused class gain confidence in their own ideas and creative ability in a place that is safe for their explorations. People who gather for a regular book club discuss ideas and feel connected to each other and to the town. An exhibit of poetry written by a local group of poets graces a wall of the post office. People come in to pick up their mail and then stop to read a poem or two. The town gets a new logo emblem, designed by a local artist. We see it on the town website, town trucks and t-shirts worn by town workers. All of these, and more, give the impression that things are happening here, that people care about their town, and that people are engaged with the life of the town. All of these make the town inviting and indicate a high quality of life.

Judith is a sculptor who maintains her studio in Morrisville. She was a member of the founding board of River Arts and continues to support River Arts programs.

Tricia Follert is the Community Development Coordinator for the Town of Morristown, where she coordinates and implements activities for the town. She currently sits on three local boards, River Arts, Lamoille County Planning Commission and the Morristown Alliance for Commerce and Culture, and works closely with many local nonprofits on community projects. She is also actively involved in the community gardens, the rail trail and the arts.