USDA Energy seeks grant applications

MONTPELIER — The U.S. Department of Agriculture is accepting grant applications from rural businesses interested in increasing their bottom line through energy efficiency upgrades or the installation of renewable energy systems. USDA Rural Development is accepting applications until March 31 for funding through the Rural Energy for America Program. USDA Rural Development seeks to support economic development in rural areas through helping businesses invest in energy improvements. Rural businesses and agricultural producers are eligible to apply for either energy efficiency or renewable energy project funding through REAP. For projects that generate renewable energy such as a solar array, applicants may apply for a grant of up to $500,000. For projects that increase a business’s energy efficiency — such as a dairy installing an energy efficient milk chiller — applicants may apply for a grant of up to $250,000.

Vermont churches awarded grants for energy audits

Seven Vermont churches and faith communities received grants in 2016 to enable them to have professional energy audits of their facilities though Vermont Interfaith Power and Light and the Katy Gerke Memorial Program. The matching grant money was awarded to: Federated Church, of East Arlington; Knights of Columbus, Rutland; Norwich Congregational Church; United Church of Dorset and East Rupert; United Church of Northfield; Waitsfield United Church of Christ; and White River Junction United Methodist Church. These energy audits provide assessments of their opportunities for reducing their energy costs. The results of these audits can then be used to apply for matching grants from the KGMP to install the energy efficiency measures identified. Vermont Interfaith Power and Light (www.vtipl.org) is a Vermont nonprofit organization whose mission is to serve and support efforts by Vermont faith communities to address our climate crisis through sustainable energy use and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

GMP makes list of innovative companies

COLCHESTER — Fast Company named Green Mountain Power in its annual ranking of the world’s most innovative companies for 2017. Green Mountain Power was named to the list of Top 10 most innovative companies in energy. Green Mountain Power is focused on energy transformation, with more reliable, cost-effective and low-carbon energy by radically transforming the antiquated grid system to one that is more home-, business- and community-centered and leverages innovations like battery storage, according to a news release. “GMP’s recognition on this prestigious list is richly deserved, as Mary Powell and her team have consistently demonstrated that even a smaller utility can distinguish itself through fearless innovation and relentless focus on enhancing the customer experience,” said David Crane, former CEO of NRG Energy and NRG Yield. “Other utilities, which persist in the old utility model, fighting a rearguard action against progress in the power industry, will be left behind.

V4A names Janet Hunt executive director

WINOOSKI — The Vermont Association of Area Agencies on Aging has hired Janet Hunt as executive director. Hunt will work in conjunction with the five area agencies on aging to enhance the public understanding of the agencies’ role, resources and expertise. She will work to address statewide needs through systems advocacy, legislative representation and visibility, and will advocate on behalf of Vermont’s seniors with policymakers and other stakeholders on promoting policies to support healthy aging. Additionally, Hunt will oversee such V4A programs such as the Veteran’s Directed Program, State Health Insurance Education Program and Case Management Training program. Hunt has worked as a leader in New Hampshire to empower individuals who experience disabilities.

Grants awarded to grange film project

MIDDLEBURY — Historic New England has received a $2,500 grant from the Vermont Community Foundation Small and Inspiring grant program, and a $1,000 grant from the Farm Credit Northeast AgEnhancement program for its latest Vermont Everyone’s History project. The Williston branch of Yankee Farm Credit also provided $100 toward the project. Historic New England will partner with two local granges: Middle Branch Grange in East Bethel and Riverside Grange in West Topsham, to create a 30-minute film celebrating the role of granges in Vermont’s agricultural heritage and their continuing relevance. The film will include oral histories from grange members, archival images and footage of present-day grange events. It will screen in grange communities around the state and air on local cable access stations.

Blue Cross Vermont achieves fourth member service distinction

BERLIN — Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont achieved the highest possible ranking in member satisfaction and efficiency metrics for the fourth year in a row, retaining its distinction as the number-one BCBS plan in America in overall service to its members. “The focus of our company is on creating positive member experiences, and our entire organization stands by that commitment,” said Don George, BCBSVT president and CEO. “We are very pleased to have received the distinction as the top-performing Blue Plan four years running, and we continue to look for ways to improve the service we provide to Vermonters.”

The ranking is based on the national Blue Cross and Blue Shield system’s Member Touchpoint Measures, which track service provided to members and assure industry-leading service levels. The MTM program tracks four primary levels of member service: enrollment, claims processing, inquiry timeliness and accuracy, as well as first-call resolution of member inquiries. In 2016, BCBSVT achieved 100 percent of the available points in each category, the highest ranking of any Blue Plan nationally.

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Davis joins Visiting Nurse and Hospice

WHITE RIVER JUNCTION — Hilary Davis has been named director of community relations and development for Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire. Davis has more than seven years of professional experience in strategic fundraising, event planning and volunteer coordination, and holds a bachelor of science in business management with a concentration in leadership from Norwich University. Prior to joining VNH, she was the director of leadership giving in the Office of Development and Alumni Relations at Norwich. She will be responsible for fundraising, development, marketing, public relations and planned giving activities. “I am thrilled to join the VNH team,” Davis said.

VGBN seeking entrants for green building award

BURLINGTON — Vermont Green Building Network’s fifth annual Vermont’s Greenest Building Awards Competition is now open for submissions. This statewide competition recognizes residential and commercial buildings that meet the highest standard of demonstrated building energy performance. The awards were designed to recognize buildings that have achieved high levels of energy performance and have demonstrated substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficient design, construction and operation. Submissions are due on Friday, March 10. Award winners will be announced at the Vermont Green Building Gala on March 30, 2017, at Main Street Landing in Burlington.

Green Mountain College creates green scholarship

POULTNEY — Green Mountain College has created a First in Sustainability Scholarship Award for one student who is passionate about ensuring social, economic and environmental sustainability. The winning student will receive free tuition, room, board and fees for all four years at Green Mountain College, valued at $200,000. “More than 20 years ago, Green Mountain College became the first college in the nation to dedicate its curriculum to sustainability. Now, the imperative to take meaningful action is stronger than ever. We hope this scholarship will help catalyze today’s students to ensure a more sustainable world for generations to come,” said Robert Allen, Green Mountain College president.

Hospital names new board chair

BRATTLEBORO — Brattleboro Memorial Hospital reports Patricia “Patty” O’Donnell has been elected chairwoman of its board of directors. O’Donnell has served in various capacities on the board, including several committees such as Quality, Planning, Joint Conference, and Board Executive. She represented the towns of Vernon and Guilford as a state representative from 1998 to 2010. During that time, she served on both the appropriations and human services committees, where she became well-versed in health care issues in Vermont. Additionally, she was a trustee of the Brattleboro Retreat Center from 2011-15.