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December 11th

Life learning

December 10, 2007

By MEGAN JAMES

ADDISON COUNTY — René Nill never imagined she would get college credit for the work she did as a child on her parents’ rabbit farm, or her experience as a paste-up artist at a printing company. But the 47-year-old Vergennes resident found there was plenty she had already learned before setting foot in a Community College of Vermont classroom two years ago. All she needed was a way to articulate that learning.

That’s what she found in the Assessment of Prior Learning (APL) course she took at CCV last year. The course, which is being offered again this spring at seven different locations around the state, including Burlington and Rutland, assists adult students in the preparation of individual portfolios through which they request credit for learning acquired on the job, through volunteer work or even in self-taught hobbies.

“Students do not get credit for experience, they get credit for learning through experience,” said Gabrielle Dietzel, coordinator of assessment services for the Office of External Programs of the Vermont State Colleges, which evaluates the completed portfolios.

The program, which is one of the oldest of its kind in the country, has been offered for 30 years, but Dietzel said she’s seen a rise in enrollment since returning to college after years in the working world has become more common in recent years.

“Adults are going back to school in huge masses,” she said. “A lot of our students have a business background. They’ve risen through the ranks in their company … Now they’re 50 years old and they realize that not getting a degree is holding them back from getting promotions. Or they simply want a degree.”

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A couple's take on Middle East peace

December 10, 2007

By JOHN FLOWERS

BRIDPORT — Ask most people to share their views about the relationship between Israel and Palestine and they will describe a political conflict of epic proportions that is often punctuated by tanks, missiles and suicide bombs.

But a Bridport couple recently returned from the Middle East with a far different take on the state of Palestinian-Israeli relations. Diane Nancekivell and Tom Baskett spent two weeks in the region as part of a tour co-sponsored by Interfaith Peace-Builders and the American Friends Service Committee. They were part of a delegation that toured Israel and Palestine, speaking to many regular folks and citizens’ groups that are quietly working on peaceful solutions to one of the world’s most volatile disputes.

The simmering feud centers on land claims dating back at least to the mid-1940s and the establishment of an Israeli nation under a United Nations plan. Palestinians have seen their territory shrink over the years and have sought to reclaim territories they believe are rightfully theirs. Israel has disputed those claims.

“We think it’s very important for people to understand the truth over there, that it’s not one group that is good and another that is bad,” said Nancekivell, a retired Episcopal dean and assisting priest at St. Stephen’s Church in Middlebury. “It’s about two nations trying to find a way to share the land, feel secure in a sense of national identity and prosper in the future.”

Nancekivell had been to the region before, as part of a trip organized by Sabeel — a Palestinian Christian organization. She enjoyed her time, and this year wanted to go with her husband. Baskett, a Quaker and retired psychotherapist, was game for the journey.

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Dealing with stress through literature

December 10, 2007

By CYRUS LEVESQUE

MIDDLEBURY — Health care is a highly stressful field with a risk of mental or emotional burnout, according to Diana Scholl, chaplain at Porter Hospital. Many medical professionals have found a way to deal with that stress through a new way to approach medicine: reading and discussing literature.

Scholl has helped run Porter’s Literature and Medicine program, a book club for doctors, nurses and others in the health care business in the Middlebury area. She says that reading about and discussing the inner lives of others can make a big difference.

“You have to have some way to deal with (burnout), and this gives people a way,” said Scholl, who in addition to being chaplain is one of Porter Hospital’s liaisons to the Vermont Humanities Council.

The club began about five years ago. The Vermont Humanities Council offers grants to help such programs get started, but Scholl said that Porter has paid its expenses for the past four years. Most participants are nurses and doctors at Porter, but the club also includes administrative and cafeteria staff at Porter, employees of Community Associates and other area medical practitioners that aren’t affiliated with Porter Medical Center, and retired medical professionals.

According to Scholl, most hospitals in Vermont have similar book clubs, but Porter’s is the most successful in terms of the number of members and consistent attendance. At the Dec. 6 meeting there were 20 guests.

The club’s activities sometimes include attendance at cultural events like movies and plays, in addition to reading books. They also discuss a related method called narrative medicine, which encourages doctors and nurses to think of a patient’s problem as a story rather than as a collection of symptoms and medication.

full story

December 6th

Wish List

NOAH QUESNEL, 5, of Middlebury gets in the spirit of the occasion during a visit with Santa Claus Saturday morning at the Community House in Middlebury.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell

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Aldi drops plans for Middlebury discount food store

December 6, 2007

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY — Aldi will not proceed with a plan to locate a 17,000-square-foot discount food store in the Middlebury South Village (MSV) housing and retail development off Court Street.

Jeffry Glassberg, one of the developers of MSV, confirmed the news on Tuesday — two weeks after the Middlebury Development Review Board convened its first formal review of the Aldi store plan. Some board members at that meeting voiced concerns about the scale and design of the proposed store, as did several community members.

Glassberg stressed, however, Aldi’s decision to reconsider a Middlebury store was not based on negative feedback at the November hearing. Rather, it relates to a shift in the company’s business plan for Vermont.

“Our understanding from a broker involved is that Aldi is retrenching from Vermont and has terminated its pursuit of four or five other sites in the state as well,” Glassberg said. “This is primarily a staffing decision for Aldi.”

Founded in Germany during the 1940s, Aldi in an international retailer offering a “no-frills” shopping experience at 3,500 stores worldwide, including one location in Bennington.

Aldi officials last year expressed interest in establishing a store at MSV, a planned unit development that has already received approval for 56 single-family homes, 30 townhouse apartments, a new Chittenden Bank, and a total of 34,000 square feet of office and retail space, including a bank and sit-down restaurant.

MSV developers had hoped to recruit several small retailers and firms to occupy the commercial/office space, but that strategy did not yield the results they were hoping for. They shifted gears, hoping to make Aldi MSV’s anchor retailer.

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Transportation secretary praises Middlebury bridge effort

December 6, 2007

By JOHN FLOWERS

MIDDLEBURY  — Vermont Transportation Secretary Neale Lunderville on Monday credited the town of Middlebury and Middlebury College for joining forces in trying to finance a new in-town bridge, adding that such collaborations will be key if the state is to whittle away at the many construction projects that are languishing on the drawing board due to a lack of funds.

“I commend both the town and the college for their willingness to look at creative and innovative ways to finance transportation projects,” Lunderville said during a telephone interview.

“The college and town were able to combine their resources to solve a mobility and safety issue that is important to them both,” he added. “I applaud their collaboration.”

The collaboration to which Lunderville is referring involves a pledge by the college to give $9 million toward a new in-town bridge that would link Main Street with Court Street via Cross Street, across the Otter Creek. The college’s commitment to back a $9 million bond the town would float, actually would add up to total payments from the college of $18 million ($600,000 annually over 30 years) to cover the interest and principal on the bonds. The college’s payments would kick in when and if the bridge is completed, perhaps as soon as 2011.

Officials are estimating a total project cost of $16 million, when one includes related road and intersection work, as well as the expense of acquiring four properties within the proposed bridge right-of-way. Middlebury officials will seek federal funds, donations, property tax dollars and “creative financing” to gather the remaining $7 million for the project.

full story

Efforts stepped up to fill holiday gift wishes

December 6, 2007

By MEGAN JAMES and CYRUS LEVESQUE

ADDISON COUNTY — The Christmas season is a time of buying and giving gifts to friends and family, but there are a large number of people who have difficulty finding the money for even the meanest gifts for family members, not to mention bare necessities.

There are many local efforts that go beyond just helping provide bare necessities to offer a little something extra during the holidays to people who are struggling financially.

“There are people that find themselves all of a sudden in a difficult financial situation, and we try to be there (for them),” said Helen Haerle, who coordinates a Christmas shop at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Middlebury, which will welcome those in need from around the county this Saturday and on Dec. 15.

Children are often the focus of the holiday season, especially when it comes to giving gifts. But in addition this year, a group of area agencies are collaborating with corporate sponsors to make sure isolated seniors also have something special to unwrap. 

“I’m often struck by the number of seniors in our community who don’t have family,” said Deborah Foster, development coordinator for Addison County Home Health and Hospice, one of the partner agencies. “They often have no one to provide them with a little happiness.”

Foster’s agency has teamed up with Home Instead Senior Care in South Burlington and the Rite Aid store in Middlebury for the “Be a Santa to a Senior” program, which coordinates the collecting, wrapping and delivering of holiday gifts to “elder orphans,” seniors without family nearby, or at all.

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December 3rd

Counting Bristol's headstones takes detective work

A MONUMENT WATCHES over Larry Gile and Donald Lathrop as they work to create an accurate record of those buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Bristol. Gile and Lathrop are working together to catalogue everybody buried in Bristol cemeteries.
Independent photo/Trent Campbell


December 3, 2007

By CYRUS LEVESQUE

BRISTOL — Taking a census of the dead may seem pretty straightforward, but two Bristol residents tallying up everyone buried in Bristol’s five cemeteries say the task involves quite a bit of detective work.

Larry Gile and Donald Lathrop know a certain person was buried in Varney Cemetery in the 1970s but they can’t find the headstone, so what’s the next step?

“Connecting all the dots there is pushing it a little bit,” Gile said.

Although Gile worked as a funeral home director all his adult life until he retired this year, he himself didn’t handle the Varney Cemetery burial in question. So, as in many situations, he and Lathrop have to rely on records.

In some cases the two Bristol men can find those records at the town offices, but they also work from half a dozen record books. Many of the records from Bristol’s history they use come from a yellowed, handwritten volume from 1895, held together mostly with Scotch tape.

Lathrop is president of the Bristol Cemetery Association, which manages Greenwood Cemetery, and Gile is the treasurer. But this census is a private project not for the cemetery association but for personal reasons.

“It’s interesting to me just because I’m running into my own ancestors down there and finding out where they were buried,” Lathrop said.

full story

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