By Kirstan Lukasak
BERLIN—Three local women were honored and recognized Friday for their dedication to providing community service to people in need.
The 2014 Sylvia Evans award was presented to Elsie Hall, founder of the Errol Rescue Squad. Hall started the rescue service in the early 80's with her daughter. With limited funding they equipped their own vehicles with first aid supplies and medical equipment and provided emergency medical care to the community.
The Sylvia Evans Young Leadership Award was given to Emily Landry of Berlin and Alexis Marcou of Gorham. Each student has shown dedication to her community and school.
Errol Rescue covers the northern areas of New Hampshire and Maine including the wooded areas of Diamond, Dartmouth Second College Grant, the townships of Millsfield, and Magalloway, Maine and the town of Upton, Maine.
Stacey Ruel gave a touching speech, referring to Elsie Hall as "Gram". She highlighted the dedication and spirit that Hall has brought to the community even while she battled ovarian cancer. Errol Rescue recently received funding to purchase a new service vehicle, which was painted pink in honor of Hall.
Representatives from U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte both read letters recognizing Hall for her dedication and service on behalf of the two senators.
Started in 1891, the Sylvia Evans Award provides an opportunity to highlight the extraordinary, often unrecognized contributions that women have made to the women and families of Coos County.
Each year a woman is chosen for the award from a list of nominees who have devoted their time and energy toward community service to improve the lives of people in this region.
The award is named after Sylvia V. Forman Evans, who passed away on March 31, 2005 in Danville, Calif. Winner of the 2013 award was Berlin's Linda Morris for her community leadership and volunteerism far above and beyond her role as president of the Androscoggin Valley Hospital's Auxiliary.
The Sylvia Evans Young Leadership Award is given to two students, one each from Gorham and Berlin.
Emile Landry has served as vice president for her BHS class for the past four years. She is a member of the varsity field hockey team, track and field and girls varsity ice hockey. Landry also helps her fellow students as a peer tutor.
"Emily has learned well how to balance the demands of academics, athletics, and personal life. She is an indispensable member of our community, and will be successful in anything she chooses to do," said Craig Melanson, BHS athletic director.
Marcou has served as class secretary from her freshman to junior year. She is now the senior class president and also serves as the president of the Gorham Honor Society. Marcou holds two part-time jobs, one at Mary's Pizza and the Androscoggin Valley Country Club in the summer.
"Alexis Marcou has all the wonderful attributes that lead to success: scholarship, leadership, drive to make the community better and for those in it, and her strong moral code. This young woman exemplifies the best of the best. Alexis has already developed a very strong core which leads to a fulfilled and fulfilling life," said Christine Lemoine, GMHS guidance director.
All three Sylvia Evans awards are hosted by Coos County Family Health Services and presented in a ceremony at the White Mountains Community College in Berlin.
Last Updated on Monday, 14 April 2014 20:29
Written by Barbara Tetreault
BERLIN – The city council is supporting the latest bill to legalize two casinos in the state because it would mean over $1 million in revenue for Berlin.
The House Ways and Means committee Thursday heard testimony on SB 366, which would allow two casinos and use some of the proceeds to reinstate $25.2 million in local revenue sharing to communities.
In asking the council Monday night to approve a resolution supporting the bill, Mayor Paul Grenier noted the city has long supported efforts to allow some limited legalized gambling in the state. Under the current bill, he said Berlin would receive $1,043,252 annually.
"This is the first and only attempt the legislature has ever made to reinstate the local revenue sharing money they ceased back in 2010. That funding cut hurt local communities badly when it happened and reinstating those funds will go a long way to help our property taxpayers," Grenier said.
In addition to reinstating revenue sharing, the mayor said the bill also earmarks some of the estimated %160 million in proceeds to the state to funding education and transportation improvements. Grenier said passage of the bill would provide a substantial boost to Berlin.
"SB366 will give significant relief to the property taxpayers in Berlin, as well as cities and towns all across the State. I hope the House will listen to the people and pass this measure", he said.
The council unanimously approved a resolution that was sent to the House to add to the public record.
The bill has passed the Senate with the support of North Country state Senator Jeff Woodburn. But the House has consistently voted against expanding gambling in the state and earlier this year rejected a bill to allow one casino.
The present bill allows for two casinos – one with up to 160 table games and 3,500 slot machines and a smaller casino with up to 80 table games and 1,500 slot machines. The bill does not set a location for the casinos but provides for an application process. The initial license fee would be $80 million for the larger casino and $40 million for the smaller one. There would be a ten-year moratorium on new licenses that could only be overturned by a two-thirds vote of the legislature.
Berlin had long supported efforts to allow expanded gambling. In 2009, the city put forward a proposal to locate a casino in downtown Berlin.
Last year, Woodburn co-sponsored a bill to allow a single casino with a percentage of the revenue dedicated to economic development in the North Country. That bill passed the Senate but failed in the House.
Last Updated on Monday, 14 April 2014 17:45
COOS COUNTY -- Donna Cummings, the executive director of RESPONSE to Domestic and Sexual Violence, was recognized for her work to improve the lives of victims of domestic and sexual violence and stalking at this year's Crime Victims' Rights day celebration on April 8.
Cummings has spent 26 years as head of RESPONSE, which serves all of Coos County.
Back in 1988, Cummings was a mother with nine children at home and going to the School for Lifelong Learning full time. Her advisor thought she needed to slow down so he encouraged her to apply for the then 16-hour a week executive director position at RESPONSE. She got the job – but she never slowed down. Cummings finished her degree in just 27 months.
When she took over in 1988, RESPONSE covered just half of Coos County. There was no shelter, and the program relied on safe homes. Today RESPONSE covers all of Coos County. There are three satellite offices, a shelter, and transitional housing. In 2013 they served just fewer than 800 victims with a staff of four people.
If you have never spent time in the North Country you should realize there are unique challenges that come with providing services in a county with a 120-mile perimeter. Many days are spent in a car driving an hour to pick up a victim, and then driving another hour to get her to court for a hearing, and then doing it all in reverse, often during the most severe weather that New England has to offer.
Cummings has continually gone above and beyond for victims. Perhaps the most memorable case was of a woman who needed to escape a violent situation with her child. They would not leave without the child's calf that was part of a 4H project. Being resourceful, Cummings removed the back seat from her tiny hatchback, loaded the calf and found a foster home for it.
Cummings' contribution is not limited to her work at RESPONSE. She also served on several committees of the Governor's Commission on Domestic and Sexual Violence. She was an integral part of the process to rewrite the state's domestic violence law back in 1999. The process took four years but the end result is model legislation that is held up as the standard for other states to follow. Cummings is the only person who was a part of that process from start to finish.
"We really took the time to craft the document that was going to be able to last, that had the remedies that were needed. It took four years but I think it had to. It is something I am most proud of working on," she said.
When asked where she has seen the most change throughout her career she points to the medical field, which she counts as their strongest ally in the North Country. "There is more recognition now of how being in a violent situation exacerbates medical conditions, because of that our agency now receives many more referrals from medical professionals."
Asked to reflect on her career Cummings said, "The last 26 years have been the best years of my life due to both my staff and the people I work with, the community agencies and the victims. Anytime my optimism starts to wane - there is always someone who walks through the door whose strength really pulls me up. It's been a privilege to work with them and the people at the state level. It is amazing how many people who are committed to ending violence."
In addition to being an amazing advocate, Cummings and her husband have also fostered over 60 children over the years, adopting five of them. They often took in three or four children at a time so that families would not have to be separated.
Cummings' dedication and commitment has made an incredible impact on survivors in the North Country and throughout the state.
Last Updated on Friday, 11 April 2014 20:02
High school girls encouraged to go into science, technology
by Gail Scott
BERLIN—"Find your passion and pursue it; don't take 'no' for an answer; don't be afraid to change your mind; never stop learning; be curious; work hard; " were messages the some 75 students heard at the 4th annual Women in Science and Technology Forum at the White Mountain Community College Friday.
Students from Groveton, White Mountain Regional, Kennett and Berlin High School attended the forum and listened intently as 16 women professionals in scientific fields explained something about their jobs and how they got to where they are.
Keynote speaker Cyrena-Marie Briede, 31, Director of Summit Operations for the Mount Washington Observatory, stressed the find-your-passion-and-pursue-it theme.
"There will be good days and bad days," she told the girls. "These are growing experiences. They will teach you what you would like to do: Seaworld dolphin trainer? Astronaut? Think about your dream job and how to attain that and what you need to do. Talk to the people on the panels and find out what path they took and that will help you find your way."
Briede was inspired when, at 5, she saw her first tornado.
"I thought it was awesome and I knew weather was what I wanted to do," she said. "I did well in my earth science classes, participated in science fairs. It was all about the weather. I had supportive teachers and family to help me out."
"I worked hard in school and in college. I did lots of internships. They taught me what I liked about my work and what I didn't," she said.
Briede went to the University of Oklahoma to study meteorology and then the Metropolitan State University of Denver, where she graduated with a BS in meteorology in 2005. She said she worked for the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Severe Storms Laboratory, participating in mobile radar data collection of hurricanes and severe storms.
"I got to sit in a truck at the airport and be hammered by storms; then I was on the History Channel in storm chasing programs. These were all internships," she said. "You will find they (all the intern experiences) combine. In my case, they combined to what I am doing today. Without those, I wouldn't be here today."
She added she had worked for a NASA contractor, testing how airplanes worked in icing and turbulence.
"I was able to be on the plane through the turbulence," she said. "I puked, for sure, and I thought, 'Wow, I can't believe I am getting paid to do this."
She went to Alaska to work for an air quality monitoring company, "putting weather stations where people didn't live. They monitored the air conditions—measured dust and dirt. We had a lot of different types of weather sensors and I got to go to some pretty crazy stations. Our weather stations were 10 meters tall (about 35 feet). I had to climb the towers, all the way up. I got rid of my fear of heights very fast," she said.
The weather stations had to be built "from the ground up" at remote locations. The equipment would be helicoptered to the location.
"We got all the stuff out of the helicopter and the helicopter guy would leave, saying ,'Tell me when you're done'," Briede said.
"We would have to do this in all conditions—snow, rain, dark, it didn't matter," she said.
"Some sites were covered with ice and snow, the wind blowing 50-60 mph. We had to work. We had to calibrate the weather stations and check everything. You would be surprised at how much math that takes, how much science that takes. These are all experiences that needed a strong background in science, math, engineering, technology. Needless to say, I was the only girl out there—the only white girl. The native populations didn't look too fondly on that, but through working hard, I was able to convince them that I should be there," Briede told her audience.
She worked in Alaska for five and a half years, before taking the job at the Observatory.
Briede said that her work at the Observatory involves overseeing education programs and the hourly observations that are taken at the summit and overseeing the volunteer program that requires safe transportation up and down the mountain, and keeping up the Observatory's 82-year history of making advances in meteorology and in science.
She was amused to find that at the Observatory Center in N Conway, there is a "tornado-in-a-box," when one of her school science projects had been to make just such a tornado-in-a-box.
She also checks the weather stations around the summit and works with people who test products at the summit to see how they will work in "sub Arctic locations" and those who bring products to the summit for elevation testing, because the summit of Mount Washington has the highest elevation in the east, north of the Carolinas, she said.
In September, she said, the Observatory will be featured in a BBC program.
"To sum up," she said, "the bottom line is that whether you are a boy or a girl makes no difference, whatever your goals are. I am living, breathing proof of that. What's important is for you to find out what is important to you and find how science and technology are applicable to your goals. Demand (in these fields) is growing. If you work really really hard in school and get lots of internships, you can get your dream job. I did. I feel like the luckiest person in the world."
Asked if she had people who helped her, she said she would first give credit to her father.
"He was born in the Netherland Antilles and moved to Holland as a teen," she said. "He was told by his parents that he would be a bricklayer, but Dad wanted to be a pilot. He went to school for it and found a job in the U.S. and moved here without speaking English. He had a bike for transportation. He worked and worked and now my father is a captain for American Airlines. It took him a long time to accomplish that, so when he saw that I had an interest in meteorology at a young age, he had done this himself. When I was failing algebra, he helped me. We spent hours and hours at the dining room table until it clicked. Then later, in high school, I gave up a study hall so I could help others get better in math."
Asked what she had studied other than meteorology and math, she answered, "Meteorology is physics for the atmosphere. My degree is in physics, fluid dynamics—the principals of physics necessary for meteorology. I also have a minor in math, calculus. My degree is very very math and science heavy. I loved it. And to think I was once a scared 7th grade girl, failing algebra. It's awesome. I felt so proud to complete my studies."
Asked whether she had gone right from school to school or taken time off to do internships, she replied that she had done three years at the University of Oklahoma and transferred to Denver because she had an opportunity for an internship with an international instrumentation manufacturer she knew from field work, working on instrumentation and data collection.
"Some internships worked well with the school schedule and some required me to leave for two weeks, such as when I was doing the Doppler radar project. It wasn't always easy," she said. "There was one point where I went to school and held two internships and a job for one semester. It was exhausting. But there were all these opportunities and things I wanted to try. Anything I wanted to go for, I did it 100 percent. When I look back at all the jobs I did and if I took one thing from each and if I had put those all together on one list, that was the job description for the Mount Washington Observatory. Some were awful. I had no idea what truly interested me and what I found exciting. But I can't describe how I loved being on the summit, working on the snowcap yesterday, and being here with you girls today. I am the luckiest person. I am truly blessed."
Following the keynote speech, two hours were planned for four panel discussions, each of one hour, featuring the other professional women and their experiences. The students could pick two of the four panels to attend before lunch and wrap up.
On the Science panel were: Ashley Hyde, Environmental Science and Policy; Dianne Timmons, Wildlife Biology; and Ashley Newell, Environmental Science; Maggie Machinist (Forestry) being unable to attend at the last minute.
One the Math and Science panel were: Dr. Elizabeth Burakowski, Earth Science and Climate Change; Lisa Guay, Mathematics; Dr. Alexa Halford, Astrophysics; Sarah Murphy, Atmospheric Science.
On the Technology and Veterinary Science Panel were: Lucinda Allen, Industrial Electronics; Sheri Cassell, DVM, Veterinary Medicine; Karen Conroy, Information Technology; and D.J. McDonald, Computer Programming.
On the Technology and Engineering Panel were: Cynthia Boisvert, Surveying Technology; Cindy Campbell, Nuclear Engineering; Jennifer Stonecipher, Environmental Solutions; and Heather Wells, Welding Technology.
The White Mountains Community College, the New Hampshire Space Grant at UNH, and the National Aeronautics and Science Agency sponsored the event.
Last Updated on Friday, 11 April 2014 19:53