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By MICHELLE MONROE Messenger Staff

On Friday, November 15th, Rise-VT recognized those members of the community who have been leading partners in the effort to improve health and prevent disease in Franklin County.

Those honored included municipalities, schools, companies and individuals.  Rise-VT aims to get people more active and eating more nutritious food in order to reduce health costs over the long term, but also to improve the quality of people’s lives.

“How long and how well you live is directly connected to your zip code,” said Marissa Parisi, who is leading the effort to take RiseVT statewide. “It’s because of the environment and conditions in which you live.”

RiseVT is working to change those conditions by creating more recreational opportunities, including the construction of infrastructure such as sidewalks and recreational trails; getting students moving in schools; and working with employers to improve the health of their employees, as well as inspiring and supporting individuals and families in their efforts to become healthier.

The theme of the event was ripples. Everyone who has joined the Rise effort creates ripples that impact others, explained Denise Smith, the program manager for Rise locally.

Two schools, St. Albans City and Sheldon Elementary, were recognized as gold schools for their demonstrated commitment to the health and well-being of both students and staff.

Roughly two dozen teachers from schools across the region were recognized for their efforts within their own classrooms to improve student health. “This was one of our greatest years working with teachers,” said Smith. “We’re very proud of everything they’ve done.”

St. Albans City and Swanton Village were honored for their efforts to improve the health of both their employees and their citizens. An additional nine employers were recognized: Ben & Jerry’s, Community College of Vermont, Duke’s Fitness Center, Franklin County Home Health, Franklin Northwest Supervisory Union, Maple Run Unified School District, Northwestern Counseling & Support Services, Northwestern Medical Center, Vermont Dept. of Health, and Vermont Precision Tools.

Smith also recognized those community members whose efforts to improve their own health or that of the community have appeared in the pages of the Messenger.

A “Rock Star” award was given to those “whose ripples are making huge waves,” in Smith’s words. They included:

  • Joanne Allen, Enosburg school;
  • Kate Althoff, founder of Food for Thought;
  • Mitch Craib, the wellness coordinator at St. Albans City School;
  • Sarah Downes, Enosburg school;
  • Melanie Gross, Northern Tiers Centers for Health;
  • Shawna Lovelette, Enosburg community leader;
  • Alan Mashtare, St. Albans Town Public Works Director;
  • Meredith Plumpton, Vermont Dept. of Health;
  • Anissa Seguin, Bakersfield Elementary Principal;
  • Steve Wadsworth, Enosburg community leader.

The Greatest Ripple Award went to three organizations which have resisted criticism and stalling tactics to move ahead with efforts to improve the health of their communities, said Smith. “They prove to us that anything is possible with the right people and the right goal,” she said.

Those awards went to: the Abenaki community, the Town of Alburgh and the Highgate planning and development boards. The latter two awards were for their commitment to sidewalk construction.

The awards were held at St. Albans City Hall with Northwest Technical Center culinary arts students providing the catering.

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