Posted by: endyvendy | December 15, 2009

Giving Locally: Scrooge Did It and So Can You!

This time of year most of us find ourselves besieged by mass mailings, envelopes stuffed with address labels, calendars, weird stickers, and even nickels (what’s that about?!? are they donating to me now?). But you don’t have to look far for opportunities to give back, and in fact your hard-earned cash may go further used locally. If you don’t have cash to give, you might consider giving a little time or even blood. The following guide is by no means comprehensive, but it’s a place to start if you’re hoping to help a neighbor out this year.

Helping Neighbors

Cornerstone Community Foundation – Cornerstone hosts a soup kitchen, a shelter, a community center where youth and families enjoy a variety of activities, a clothing bank, and more. The website offers helpful donation info.

Hockanum Valley Community Council – this multi-faceted organization helps the community in a variety of ways, assisting elders, providing food to the hungry, childcare, and other support to many Vernon families. Their webpage includes an easy-to-use donation page and information about volunteering.

Big Brothers Big Sisters – BBBS always collects winter coats this time of year to distribute to their “littles,” but more than anything what BBBS can use is your time. Whether you can commit to a full big brother/big sister relationship or would rather offer time tutoring and mentoring, you’ll find your time well-spent volunteering with BBBS. On a personal note, I had a great time in this program as a Big Sister to a local little sis, and although she’s since graduated high school and moved, we stay in touch.

Vernon Social Services – offers assistance to families all year round, but during the holidays clothes, toys, meals, and energy assistance are all big needs.

Tri-Town Shelter – this family-oriented shelter serves clients from Vernon, Tolland, and Ellington – tri-town in function, if not always in funding. Donations of clothing and food are always needed, and money is of course welcome as well.

Red Cross – give time or blood, the choice is yours. It’s always needed!

Eastern Connecticut Health Network – the hospital and other ECHN locations do a lot in our community. The website offers a secure donation page. ECHN also offers a range of volunteer activities accomodating almost any skill or set of interests. For more on volunteering, click here.

Helping the Town

Rockville Downtown Association – this non-profit organization dedicates its time to enhancing and preserving historic downtown Rockville. Time and money are always needed. For other organizations that can use your assistance around town, check out the Civil War Museum and the Historical Society.

Helping the Environment

Vernon Greenways – this group does important work clearing invasive plants and maintaining trails in the extensive Vernon trail system.

Friends of Valley Falls – between the pond, the trails, and the historic farm, Valley Falls Park contributes greatly to the quality of life in Vernon. Maintaining these facilities is no small task – time and money are always needed!

Parks and Recreation – you can donate to help Parks and Rec with their work maintaining the parks or even donate to help subsidize scholarships for low income families to participate in Parks and Recreation’s many year-round programs.

Shopping Locally

And don’t forget – as you’re finishing up that holiday shopping, you might try shopping locally to help area businesses. A gift certificate to a favorite local restaurant like Utsav, Cafe Lafayette, Lotus (409 Hartford Turnpike), or the ever-popular Rein’s Deli might be just the thing for that friend who has everything. Local shops like Magic Intent, Kevin’s Coffee Roasters (78 Windsor Ave.), and the Garden Barn are just a few examples of places that offer unique gifts you won’t find just anywhere. Or you might give a gift that keeps on giving like lessons at Hidden Dragon, DanceNation, or Tri-town Gymnastics.

Happy Holidays!

Posted by: endyvendy | December 4, 2009

Dickens Day is Here

Dickens Day is on this weekend in downtown Rockville – don’t miss it! The festivities kick off this evening with the Gingerbread House Contest for grades K-12. Contestants meet 4-8pm at the Rockville Downtown Association office. More festivities follow all weekend including free food, Santa Claus, trolley rides, a production of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” a craft fair, a Victorian tea, crafts for kids to make, the tree lighting, carol singing, and more! For info, check out the webpage here.

Posted by: endyvendy | November 3, 2009

Vote for Vernon!

Today’s Election Day! Get out and vote, Vernon. If you’re not sure where your polling station is, check here.

What are the issues? Well, we’re conducting a search for a new permanent Superintendent this year – what kind of leadership do we want to see in the schools? How will this person guide us toward making “adequate yearly process” as we try to improve our district’s current status? Are our schools successfully meeting the needs of all students – students with special needs, gifted students, Project Choice students?

Other issues include clean energy for Vernon – how can we efficiently and effectively implement greener energy practices in Vernon? Are current efforts (like the mayor’s Clean Energy Task Force) moving forward in directions we want?

What progress would we like to see in developing our town’s business climate? Could we do a better job of maintaining sidewalks?

The issues go on and on… At the national level politics can be overwhelming and so multi-faceted that it’s hard to position yourself on the issues (or at least find politicians who represent your views adequately!), but at the local level, it’s much easier to effect change and understand exactly what’s going on. Get out and vote, Vernon. It matters!


Posted by: endyvendy | October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween, Vernon!

wen's pics 022

Posted by: endyvendy | October 7, 2009

What if… An Idea from Downtown Hartford

awesomest art thingI’ve heard something like this idea floated in Vernon before, though never as more than a “what if…” But really – what a great way to make unused storefronts a more attractive part of a downtown area and at the same time make them more appealing to potential businesses! Perhaps we can’t afford anything too fancy – maybe even we just start with the work of some art students. But almost anything’s better than a blank space.

Posted by: endyvendy | October 4, 2009

Thompsonville Gets Some Good Press

An article in the Courant looks at efforts to revitalize Thompsonville with a multi-pronged approach to improving public transit, rehabilitating housing, addressing crime effectively, and publicizing successes. An inspiration for us in Vernon involved in similar efforts!

Posted by: endyvendy | September 25, 2009

Moving Forward

The Rockville Community Alliance’s presentation to the Town Council has already born fruit. The Town has begun work to fix up the Citizen’s Building (next to the Senior Center in Rockville) and plans are in the works to add Roosevelt Mills updates to the town website. Thank you to Jim Sendrak who put together the actual presentation and all the folks involved in the collaboration with the RCA who continue to put their effort and vision into making this town a better and better place. And hurray for responsive government!

Coming up – the Rockville Downtown Association’s Craft Show next Saturday, Oct. 3rd from 9-3. Don’t miss the opportunity to enjoy the work of local craftspeople, food, and fun!

Posted by: endyvendy | September 25, 2009

‘Tis the Season

Election season! That season when we cringe and hide our heads under the rugs we squint at the signs stuck in people’s front yards as we speed by and tune into local news with a vigorous interest. So if you’re interested in electing officials based on their positions rather than their hairstyles or their YouTube videos, check out the local party slates and learn more about them! For the Republicans click here, and you can also check out this local blog for Republican-related news; for the Democrats’ brand new easy-to-navigate website click here; and to have a look at the third parties who sometimes run candidates in our district, take a look here for Working Families, here for the Green Party, and here for the Concerned Citizens or Constitution Party. The mayoral candidates are incumbent Jason McCoy for the Republicans and Michele Arn for the Democrats.

To get a better sense of the personalities of the incumbents and the issues at hand, try attending a Town Council meeting.

Posted by: endyvendy | August 29, 2009

The New Suburban Dream Community, Built 100 Years Ago…

An inspiring slideshow essay by Witold Rybczynski about a walkable, architecturally interesting, planned community, Forest Hills Gardens in Queens, built 100 years ago. As more communities hope to move toward more eco-friendly, walker and transit-oriented values, it’s worth taking a look at successes of the past like this one.

Posted by: endyvendy | August 28, 2009

Top Ten Priorities for Rockville

An Imagining of Revitalized Rockville

An Imagining of Revitalized Rockville

The Town Council meeting on Tuesday the 18th was a real rip-snorter. I can’t adequately capture it all here, but if you want to hear why the Public Works Department turned out en masse for the meeting, click on the Courant’s report here. The Friends of Valley Falls were also there to request the council’s support for a grant for Parks and Rec to renovate the Valley Falls Barn which is already used to support learning and recreation in the area. Alan Slobodien from the Vernon Community Network presented an update on VCN’s ambitious community planning process for ensuring that every child is “safe, healthy, and productive” in Vernon. The Rockville Downtown Association also presented an update on their activities and progress this year.

But I’m writing to offer an overview of the Rockville Community Alliance‘s presentation: Top Ten Priorities for Rockville. Presenter Jim Sendrak emphasized the collaborative nature of the process from which these priorities emerged and the facilitative role played by the RCA. The Top Ten Priorities listed in the presentation (in no particular order) were as follows:

1. Community – identifying needs and available support in the community, expanding recreational facilities particularly for children and young adults.

2. Education – closer partnership and better communication between schools and the community so that we get the word out about what’s going well and work together in areas that need improvement.

3. Identify and develop existing resources – Rockville has a lot going for it including the Civil War Museum, both architectural and natural beauty, and the Gene Pitney legacy (why not have Gene Pitney Theater and Museum?). We need to invest in what we already have and promote it.

4. Downtown revitalization and redevelopment – we need a comprehensive, long-term plan and a strong, unique identity to guide this vision.

5. Communications – a centralized town calendar of events, continued work on the town’s web presence, and open and regular meetings between town officials and representatives of interested organizations to keep the plan on track. Sendrak observed that improvements to the town website and the recent town newsletter are great examples of improved communication in the town.

6. Opportunity – the affordability and beauty of the homes in this area can be very attractive to young families and new homeowners. The town and those involved in improving Rockville need to promote its investment potential to these audiences, develop stronger relationships with realtors and business groups, and perhaps consider offering incentives to renters who want to become owners.

7. Comprehensive Energy Plan – the town can save taxpayers money by using renewable energy sources and procuring grants to implement a comprehensive energy plan. This would benefit both residents and businesses, making the community more attractive to potential investors.

8. Public Relations – signs of progress need to be broadcast. For example, Roosevelt Mills is in the process of being developed, and if there was a sign in place by the road, it would look less like an eyesore and more like progress.

9. General Beautification – removal of dead trees and broken fences can easily be done by a motivated group of volunteers in an expanded version of the usual Spring Clean-up.

10. Blight – we need a comprehensive, published plan for dealing with these properties, a plan accountable to all parties involved in cleaning up Rockville. Rules and regulations should be on-line as well, and if they aren’t sufficient for coping with existing problems, should be revisited. A detailed organizational chart of town departments and responsibilities should be posted on the web and widely available so that citizens know to whom they can go with complaints about non-compliant property owners. A “hot list” of problem properties should be generated and as properties are dealt with, new ones can be added.

The presentation was very well-received, so we’ll see how things move forward! If you have relevant news on related initiatives, send it my way and I’ll be sure to post it.

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