NoteWorthy – 4/18/21
AROUND THE VALLEY
MRWC Announces Grant to Help Tackle Climate Change
The Merrimack River Watershed Council (MRWC) and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) will tackle climate change and the resilience of the Merrimack Valley’s drinking water supplies through a $250,297 Landscape-Scale Restoration grant.
The grant, announced this week, commences a three-year partnership between MRWC and the USFS, as well as Massachusetts Department of Conservation & Recreation, New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands, University of NH Cooperative Extension, and the Nashua River Watershed Association, to implement riverbank resilience projects, fill an education gap in climate-resilient forest practices, and increase connections between private landowners across the two states.
As both forest fragmentation and climate change threaten the ability of riverfront forests to protect ponds, lakes, streams and rivers in the Merrimack River watershed, this project develops and implements a resilient riparian forest management approach. Through precision mapping, on-the-ground riparian restoration, and education of private landowners and foresters, the MRWC will create a cost-effective, replicable model, and the connective tissue between stakeholders, to advance the 2-state twin priorities of forest resilience and source water protection.
In 2010 the USFS identified the Merrimack River watershed as the No. 1 most threatened in the nation due to development of forest land, and No. 4 for associated threats to water quality. As identified in both N.H. and Mass. state forest action plans, the loss of forest lands in the watershed’s rural communities is far outpacing the conservation and restoration of forest lands to protect and filter source water. This is a risk to drinking water supplies, which are vulnerable to increased pollutant pressure, including nutrients, bacteria and emerging contaminants. The Merrimack River provides drinking water to 600,000 Merrimack Valley residents. It is one of the largest surface water drinking water supplies in New England.
The grant is part of the USDA Forest Service Eastern Region’s distribution of over $4.2 million in grants across the Northeast and Midwest to restore the health of rural forest landscapes.
This year, 15 funded projects will collectively:
- Improve forest ecosystem health and benefits for nearly 600,000 acres of forest land through forest management for wildlife, removal of invasive species, treatment for hazardous fuels, prescribed burns and restoration of riparian areas.
- Plant 18,000 trees and shrubs in rural communities.
- Provide technical assistance and training to over 8,400 private forest landowners and practitioners.
- Reach over 280,000 people through outreach and educational programs.
- Develop over 460 plans for improved management of over 28,000 acres.
Drive Custom Fit Opens At Tuscan Village
Drive Custom Fit debuted their new facility in Tuscan Village on Friday, April 16, before opening to the public on Saturday. The state-of-the-art facility holds 8 new studios, including a heated yoga studio and turf training area, new equipment from Keiser, Assault, Fitbench and more. Their new CafeFit expanded menu features acai bowls, protein and power bowls, shakes and smoothies. The facility opens daily at 4 a.m. and offers over 400 classes a month.
UML Math Professor Awarded NSF Grant for Research
A UMass Lowell (UML) professor recently received a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to explore how change points affect statistics.
Nilabja Guha, assistant professor of mathematic sciences, received a three-year, $140,000 NSF grant for his project, “New Directions in Bayesian Change-Point Analysis,” which aims to fill a gap in the statistical tools used in the analysis of changes in data.
In his research, Guha will use the Bayesian method — a mathematical technique that applies probabilities or distributions to statistical problems and allows people to revise and update their assumptions after obtaining new experimental data – to develop methodologies for analyzing changes in the underlying data-generating process.
According to Guha, almost all dynamic and random processes in nature go through sudden and significant structural changes. Often, the change is expressed in an observable quantity, such as the change in fuel prices, stock indices, crime activities or population density, which responds significantly to a change in an unobservable factor such as an economic downturn, a change in public policy or an outbreak of disease.
Guha noted that while there is substantial literature proposing elaborate methods for detecting change points in different settings, there has been limited consideration of change points in what he considers as “hierarchical models with complex dependence or sparsity structures.”
“My research fills this gap with new statistical tools motivated by specific, real-life applications by developing a theoretical framework while retaining efficiency and usefulness in current applications,” he said. Through the project, Guha hopes to outline a comprehensive framework for estimating the change point in problems that may arise in different applications.
Trahan, Pappas, Kuster, Moulton Applaud New EPA Grant Funding to Prevent CSOs
On Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan, Chris Pappas, Annie Kuster, and Seth Moulton applauded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) newly announced availability of $67 million in federal grant funding through the Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant program. The funding will help local communities like those along the Merrimack River address stormwater and wastewater overflows that pollute local waterways.
“Every community along the Merrimack River like Lowell, Dracut, Methuen, Lawrence, and Haverhill knows just how devastating combined sewer overflows can be. For too long, Washington has shifted the financial and environmental burdens of addressing this issue to local governments, who are already being asked to do more with less,” said Trahan.
The Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant program allocates federal grants for combined sewer and stormwater overflow infrastructure projects in local communities.
Francis Gruber, Trahan’s communications director, noted by email: “This is a new allocation for the EPA’s grant program, so it’ll be up to states like Mass. to apply for the funds which can then be sub-awarded to local communities in need like Lowell, Lawrence, Methuen, Haverhill and others. … [W]e’re not sure how much yet, but this $67 million amount is an increase of allocations from years’ past, which is a good sign.”
Since its reauthorization in 2018, the Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grants program has seen consistently higher annual appropriations, from $28 million in fiscal year 2020 to $40 million in fiscal year 2021.
The lawmakers also successfully included key provisions of their Stop Sewage Overflow Act, which would authorize hundreds of millions of dollars over the next five years for CSO projects through the Sewer Overflow and Stormwater Reuse Municipal Grant program, in the Moving Forward Act, the infrastructure bill passed by the House last year.
Baker-Polito Administration Announces Regional Pilot Project Grant Awards to Support Economic Recovery
On Thursday, the Baker-Polito Administration announced 37 grants totaling $5 million were awarded to cities, towns and nonprofit entities through the Regional Pilot Project Grant Program.
Awards were made according to several factors, including an ability to demonstrate a collaborative approach on strategies to support recovery from the economic impacts of the COVID-19 public health crisis. Additionally, successful applications drew ties to one or more of the four pillars of the administration’s plan to spur economic recovery from the pandemic, Partnerships for Recovery: Get Massachusetts Back to Work, Support Small Businesses, Revitalize Downtowns, and Foster Innovation.
Grant award totals varied based on each applicant’s request, with awards limited to a maximum of $250,000. The Regional Pilot Project Grant Program was funded through the Commonwealth’s fiscal year 2021 operating budget signed by Gov. Baker in December 2020.
Local awardees include the 495/Metro West Corridor Partnership, the Hispanic-American Institute, the Lawrence Partnership, the Middlesex 3 Coalition, the town of Westford for their childhood subsidy assistance program, and the city of Lowell for a marketing campaign.
Haverhill Volunteer Leads New Merrimack Valley Hospice Support Group for LGBTQ+ Community
Following the death of his husband of 20 years at Merrimack Valley Hospice’s High Pointe House in October 2018, David Zoffoli experienced shock, overwhelming grief and numbness. Despite ongoing support from a strong network of family and close friends, Zoffoli said his healing has been slowed by discriminatory behaviors and anti-queer microaggressions which are common to marginalized groups.
Recognizing the vital nature of a sense of community, shared experiences and connection, Zoffoli and Merrimack Valley Hospice Clinical Social Worker Kara Cheek are co-facilitating a new virtual support group for individuals in the LGBTQ+ community who are grieving a death. The group meets every other Tuesday, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., via Zoom in a drop-in format, with no long-term commitment required.
Zoffoli said he was so appreciative of the compassionate care which he received alongside his late husband, Stephen Fales, that he resolved to give back to Merrimack Valley Hospice. In addition to donating an award-winning photograph taken by Fales to a fundraiser benefiting the nonprofit organization, Zoffoli became an active volunteer following the required one-year waiting period following a loss.
In “Volunteering From a Distance, the fifth podcast episode of “Compassionate Journeys: Conversations About Home Care and Hospice,” Zoffoli discusses his roles co-facilitating the support group; sewing memory pillows and teddy bears from clothing of the deceased; and leading the virtual Calm Breathing session each week for staff members and fellow volunteers of Home Health Foundation, which includes providers Merrimack Valley Hospice, Circle Home, Commonwealth Nursing Services, Hallmark Health VNA, Home Health VNA, Home Health VNA of NH and York Hospital Hospice as part of the Wellforce Health System.
New Degree Option Provides New Path for UML Exercise Science Students
A new UMass Lowell (UML) course of study for students interested in pursuing a career in fitness and sports management is already proving to be a popular option.
Students enrolled in UML’s Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences as exercise science majors now have their choice of two academic options to pursue. The first provides the coursework and clinical experience essential to becoming a physical therapist, physician’s assistant or other health-care practitioner. A new option in exercise and fitness management (EFM), combines courses in science with business, public health and psychology to prepare students for careers as athletic trainers, exercise and fitness business managers and more.
Westford resident Michael Hines, who enrolled in the exercise science program before the new option existed, found his way to the EFM option as one if its first students. An accomplished basketball player, he said the new option combines his twin passions: business and sports. As he prepares to graduate in May, he’s not sure if he wants to go on for his doctorate in physical therapy. But he does know that he wants to run his own athletic training or physical therapy business one day.
The academic path for the EFM option was developed by the Zuckerberg College of Health Sciences and UML’s Manning School of Business to provide enough elective courses in business for students to complete a business minor.
EFM is especially exciting for students who want to pursue careers in college or professional athletics, according to Kyle Coffey, assistant teaching professor of physical therapy and kinesiology, who directs the exercise science program.
Coffey is hoping to grow the program with the addition of a for-credit internship, similar to the experience that students in the clinical option must complete.
Hines has already gotten a head start. With help from Coffey, he got an internship at Athletic Evolution in Woburn, which has high-level athletic strength and conditioning, physical therapy and general fitness all under one roof, he said.
Hines is already working with the certified strength and conditioning trainers. He will also get to rotate through the business operations and the physical therapy unit, giving him insight into several aspects of the operation, he said.
Boston Business Journal names Touchstone Closing a 2021 Best Places to Work Company
The Boston Business Journal (BBJ) has named Touchstone Closing, who is locally owned and has offices in Andover and Salem, N.H., to its 2021 Best Places to Work — the BBJ’s exclusive ranking of the Massachusetts companies that have built outstanding work environments for their people.
The 80 companies honored in 2021 range in size and industry, with winners from the technology sector, retail industry, health care space, commercial real estate and more.
The 165 businesses that met criteria for office location and size participated in employee-engagement surveys distributed by Business Journal partner Quantum Workplace. Employees were asked to rate their work environment, work-life balance, job satisfaction, advancement opportunities, management, compensation and benefits.
Based on the results of those surveys, businesses were assigned a score out of 100 percent and ranked by Quantum. The top-rated companies are listed in five size categories — extra small (20 to 49 employees), small (50 to 99 employees), medium (100 to 249 employees), large (250 to 999 employees) and extra-large (1,000 employees and up).
MOVERS & SHAKERS
Ezequiel Cruz Joins Mortgage Network’s Burlington Branch
Ezequiel Cruz has joined the company’s Burlington, Mass., branch as a loan officer and sales assistant. Cruz will help residents in both Mass. and N.H. with their home financing needs. A longtime Essex County resident, Cruz brings almost a decade of mortgage banking experience to his role. Cruz is involved in the Greater Lawrence Community Action Council and the Kiwanis Club of Methuen. Fluent in Spanish, Cruz is able to assist Hispanic borrowers, who have accounted for more than half of the homeownership growth in the U.S. over the past 10 years.
MEFA FAFSA Festival 2021
For high school students looking for financial aid advice, MEFA’s FAFSA Festival is open for Massachusetts residents to drop in on Saturday, April 24, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. In advance of the event, MEFA recommends students begin filling out the FAFSA and to then bring their questions to the FAFSA Festival. Families can start the FAFSA at fafsa.gov and find other helpful resources here. Visit here for more information on the event.
Piscataquog River Park Earth Day Clean-Up
Join the Merrimack River Watershed Council for the Earth Day cleanup of Piscataquog River Park in Manchester, N.H. The event provides an opportunity to give back to the community by learning about how invasive species affect the local ecosystem, helping remove invasive bittersweet, bamboo and trash, and learning about land conservation with Piscataquog Land Conservancy. The cleanup takes place Saturday, April 24, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. click here to RSVP.
What Makes Community? Using Cultural Mapping to Understand our World
“What Makes Community” is an online program that will be presented at 7:00 p.m. on Wed., April 21. The event is free and open to the all but registration is required. To sign up, visit the events page on the Amesbury Carriage Museum website: AmesburyCarriageMuseum.org/events.
UML iHub Community Coworking Day
Entrepreneurs, startups and small business owners are invited to iHub’s Community Coworking Day, monthly open days to access the iHub, connect with other members, and join a free virtual lunch. During Community Coworking Days, the iHub will host a virtual networking lunch and learn with a guest speaker that will be open to all. Click here to register for Thursday, May 13.
Hike for Hope 2021
Join the Lazarus House Ministries’ Hike for Hope 2021 Challenge and be part of the solution to food insecurity in our community. This community-focused and fun challenge will raise critical funds to support the soup kitchen and food pantry, relieving the stress and uncertainty for families who struggle to put food on the table. This year, there will be two live 5K walk or run events on Saturday, May 22, and Sunday, May 23, at 10 a.m. Click here for more information.
Merrimack Valley Hospice Free Virtual Support Group for Children
Merrimack Valley Hospice has expanded its offerings of free grief support groups to include a session for children. Groups are offered biweekly via Zoom video conference, with sessions led by a facilitator from the Merrimack Valley Hospice licensed, credentialed bereavement staff. The new children’s grief support group meets every other Monday, 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., through June 7. All groups are free of charge and open to the public. To register, call (978) 552-4510 or visit here to learn more.
YWCA 38th Annual Tribute to Women
Each May, YWCA Northeastern Massachusetts honors a select group of remarkable women who contribute to the communities within its service areas. This year the women will be honored virtually at the 38th Annual Tribute to Women on Thursday, May 13. Visit here for more information, or to help sponsor this event.
Megan House Foundation 7th Annual Golf Tournament
The Megan House Foundation Inc., who are committed to supporting the treatment and recovery of young women struggling with substance use disorder, will be hosting their 7th annual “Fore” Hope and Recovery golf tournament on Monday, June 14. The tournament will be held at Four Oaks Country Club in Dracut, and tee time starts at 7:30 a.m. Click here for more information.
WSCW Spring Craft Fair 2021
The Woman’s Service Club of Windham will hold its 9th Annual Spring Craft Fair on Saturday, June 26, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. outside at Windham High School. The fair features more than 85 artisans from Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont who exhibit a wide variety of handmade crafts. The fair benefits the club’s scholarship fund and its many contributions that benefit area residents. Click here for more information.
LGH TeamWalk for CancerCare
Last year, Lowell General Hospital transitioned their annual TeamWalk for CancerCare to TeamWalk on your terms, and the will be continuing this tradition this year. TeamWalk on Your Terms allows you to hold TeamWalk on your turf and on your time. When it is safe and you feel comfortable, simply choose when and where you want to walk. Get your team together for a three or six mile walk on the date and time of your choosing. You can walk anywhere between May 23 and September 1. For details, click here.
Emmaus Annual Cycle for Shelter
Registration is now open for the 2021 Cycle for Shelter. Join the ride to help raise money to defeat homelessness. This year riders have the option of riding virtually or joining in-person on Sunday, September 19, if COVID restrictions allow. If the in-person ride is limited in numbers due to state restrictions, the event will operate under a “first-come, first-served” model and those who registered first will have the opportunity to participate. Click here to register.
Greater Lawrence Summer Fund
Consider providing opportunities for thousands of children this summer by donating to the Greater Lawrence Summer Fund. The fund gives children from low-income families a chance to experience life-changing summer activities that not only keep them safe but provides them with opportunities that open doors for a promising future. Click here to consider helping this community organization.
Free Webinars for Essex County Artists
Assets for Artists has redesigned its business and financial education programming to provide artists with recovery-focused, distance-learning opportunities that retain the intimate cohort-focused style of in-person workshops. The workshops will discuss current challenges, relief efforts and opportunities for artists’ financial futures. They are only open to artists who currently reside in Essex County, Massachusetts. All workshops are free and held via Zoom, with pre-registration required to keep the webinar cohorts at a size that maximizes participation and peer support. Click here to register.
MCC’s College for Kids Online Summer Classes
This year, Middlesex Community College (MCC) has transitioned College for Kids to online formats for this summer’s programming. These summer programs aim to provide children and teens with unique opportunities to explore careers, learn new skills, meet new friends and boost self-confidence while keeping them safe and having fun. The program will feature seven weeks of half day programs taking place from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m., or 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. for children and teens ages 8 to 17. The program will run from July 6 through August 19. Click here to register.
Bring Live Theater Back to Lowell
Lend a hand in the effort to bring live theater back to Lowell by making a donation to the Merrimack Repertory Theatre (MRT). Your support will bring back vital, remarkable storytelling to the stage and help revive the careers of 40 gifted artists, technicians, and staff members who have all been out of work since March. Visit here to support the MRT.
Project LEARN is an organization that works hand-in-hand with Lowell public schools to fund innovative programs and services to inspire today’s students and equip them with the skills, knowledge and mindset they need for college, career and life. Your support will ensure that Project LEARN can expand in 2021 to impact more of Lowell’s young people through game-changing programs. Visit here to donate and learn more about this program.