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Hilltown advocacy on Beacon Hill with Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley

Dave Christopolis and Board President Susan Bronstein had the honor and pleasure of meeting with Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley in Boston on Thursday, August 15th. Dave spoke with the Congresswoman about the importance of federal funding programs like the Community Development Block Grant which has allowed us to rehabilitate over 600 homes in the Hilltowns through lead removal and other needed repairs, while also providing work for local contractors and supporting the supply chain in our region. CDBG has also allowed us to renovate public facilities and address municipal infrastructure needs, and supported many of our social service programs assisting elders and families with young children. We are proud of the work we do and will continue to educate our state and federal legislators on the importance of securing these resources for rural communities.

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Small Business Administration to offer fall business classes
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Hilltown CDC has joined forces with the US Small Business Administration (SBA) to strengthen and expand small business development in the Hilltowns.

The mission of the SBA is to aid, counsel, assist and protect the interests of small business by providing financial, contractual and business development assistance and advocating on their behalf within the government.

This fall, our free business classes will feature popular SBA workshops and training, with a wide range of access to the extensive library of tools and resources developed by the SBA to assist small businesses from start-up through every phase of owning and operating any business.

For more information about the SBA visit www.sba.gov. The SBA Learning Center also features dozens of free courses and webinars that entrepreneurs and seasoned business owners will find useful, from marketing and accounting basics to legal requirements, financing, and growing a business.

Watch for our fall announcement of classes to take advantage of this great partnership!

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Hilltown Mobile Market Launches in Worthington & Huntington
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By FRAN RYAN

For the Daily Hampshire Gazette

THURSDAY, JULY 25—Making its debut run in Worthington on Thursday afternoon, the Hilltown Mobile Market was welcomed to town by customers who lined up early to buy farm-fresh produce brought right to town. 

“Today was fantastic!” Seva Tower of the Hilltown Community Development Corporation said. “We are very excited to be doing this and it seems like the people here were too because we already had a line at 2:55.”

For the next 10 weeks, the market will be open on Thursdays from 3 to 5 p.m. in Worthington at The Maples, 48 Old North Road and Fridays in Huntington at Stanton Hall Green, 24 Russell Road. 

Spearheaded by the HCDC, the Hilltown Health Centers and Healthy Hampshire, and other collaborators, the mobile market pilot project was created to increase the availability of fresh produce at a good price.

“We really wanted to make this affordable to families and seniors,” Tower said noting that the location in Worthington is at the Maples Senior Housing.

The produce comes from six local farms: Crabapple Farm in Chesterfield; the Four Corners Farm in Worthington; the Hart Farm in Conway; Intervale Farm in Westhampton; and Sawyer Farm in Worthington. The produce available Thursday were kale, chard, scallions, tomatoes, zucchini cucumbers, summer squash, and fennel.

In addition to on-site sales, a farm share program was created to allow customers to pick up a small weekly share for $5 a week. The Hilltown Mobile Market accepts cash, credit, debit, SNAP, WIC, and Senior FMNP coupons.

According to Tower, the market is a sister project to the Grow Food Northampton Mobile Market.

“This program is different from others because you don't see mobile markets like this in rural areas,” she said, recalling her experience working in Springfield with the Go Fresh mobile market. “The size and scale are different.”

Fletcher Schneeflock, Hilltown Mobile Market manager, said that Thursday's sales were good, with 16 shares picked up and another 40 to 45 people buying produce.

Tower said that if all goes well the program will continue in 2020.

“We are already looking for funding sources for next year,” she said.

The project was made possible by a grant from the Massachusetts Attorney General's Office. For more information on the mobile market visit www.hilltownmobilemarket.info.

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Meet the Problem Solvers - Dave Christopolis on CCTV Live

Cambridge Community Television recently aired a live broadcast interview with Dave Christopolis, director of the Hilltown CDC, for a series on “Meet the Problem Solvers,” to discuss community and economic development opportunities and challenges in the Hilltowns of Western Massachusetts. Dave was grateful for the platform to share Hilltown stories and perspectives with the Cambridge community and looks forward to more opportunities to bring conversations about rural issues to more people.

For more information about Cambridge Community TV visit www.cctvcambridge.org

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On The Ground | Summer Newsletter

Check out the newest issue of On The Ground, our quarterly publication of current projects and news from Hilltown CDC. From enhancing our local food economy to planning climate resilience to expanding senior transportation options - we are busy this summer!

Our newsletter comes straight to your inbox! Not on our mailing list? Click to subscribe!

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Commonwealth Magazine "Hilltowns look for a foothold"

Commonwealth Magazine, a publication addressing many of the socioeconomic and political issues in the state of Massachusetts, recently published an article featuring Hilltown CDC Executive Director Dave Christopolis along with Aaron Allen and Erin Patrick of Chester and Gateway Hilltowns Executive Director Jeanne LeClair on the contemporary challenges and opportunities for rural economic development in the Hilltowns, and what we need from State Government to make it happen. Read the full article here:

https://commonwealthmagazine.org/arts-and-culture/western-mass-hilltowns-look-for-a-foothold/

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Lt. Gov Polito Visits Hilltown CDC to Announce 2019 CITC Awards

The Baker-Polito Administration has announced $8 million in tax credit allocations to Community Development Corporations (CDCs) and Community Service Organizations (CSOs) through the state’s Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC) program. 

The CITC program provides eligible CDCs and CSOs with a tool to leverage support from stakeholders and local residents to increase fundraising efforts and expand organizational capacity. These organizations partner with nonprofit, public, and private entities to improve economic opportunities for low and moderate-income households and communities. Since 2015, the Baker-Polito Administration has awarded more than $22 million through the CITC program, and during this time, the CITC program has generated more than $34.5 million in private investments across the Commonwealth.

“Community Development Corporations undertake important work in our communities by supporting affordable housing, community development, and critical services for residents,”said Governor Charlie Baker. “We are proud to work with these organizations to ensure all Massachusetts residents have access to affordable housing and safe neighborhoods.”

“The Community Investment Tax Credit Program is a unique tool to encourage private investment,” said Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito. “From instituting new lead paint programming in Central Massachusetts, to bringing on a full-time community planner in Boston’s Chinatown, our CDCs have leveraged significant funding to bring impactful programming to communities across the Commonwealth.”

Lt. Governor Polito announced the awards at an event at the Hilltown CDC in Chesterfield.  Through the CITC program, CDCs have been able to employ more staff, reach communities more effectively, and pursue new programming to the benefit of Massachusetts communities.  CDCs help families find homes, connect residents to jobs, grow small businesses, and bring communities together in rural, urban, and suburban areas.

“Hilltown CDC is grateful to host the Lieutenant Governor as she announces the state’s CITC awards to CDC’s.” Says Hilltown CDC Executive Director Dave Christopolis.  “CITC has been a successful financial and community organizing tool for our rural region. Access to capital is very limited in rural communities and this is no different in the Hilltowns of Massachusetts.  This is due to declining rural populations and decades long urbanization.   CITC provides a vehicle for people to invest in rural communities through Hilltown CDC.”  Hilltown CDC has used it’s CITC donations to expand work with local farmers and retailers, expand our senior van with a driver pool and offer marketing and organizing support to our local artists and musicians.   It has provided capital to build rural senior housing and provide technical assistance to our rural town governments.   “Rural communities are struggling to survive,” says Christopolis.   “Twenty-first century rural communities need a vision and the capacity to carry out this vision.  It requires our government and philanthropy to invest in people and to reimagine the importance of a vibrant rural economy.  CITC allows this to happen.”

“It is truly exciting to see what happens when banks, hospitals and individuals work together to make their communities a better place to live,” said Joe Kriesberg, President of the Massachusetts Association of Community Development Corporations. “Today, because of their collective belief and investment in their local community development corporations, millions of Massachusetts residents, regardless of their socio-economic status in life, will see demonstrative improvements to their neighborhoods and share in the benefits of Massachusetts’ success. For those unable to participate in the CITC for this year’s tax filing, be sure to visit the MACDC website to learn about how you can get involved next year.”

The CITC program awarded the maximum $150,000 in credit allocations to the Hilltown CDC. CDCs apply for tax credits to support fundraising for the development and implementation of their community investment plan from the CITC program. Individuals, corporations, and other entities that make a qualified contribution to a CDC earn a 50 percent state tax credit. For more information on the program and how to contribute, contact Finance Director Denise LeDuc at denisel@hilltowncdc.org or call 413-296-4536 x114.

 

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JLBA Summer Destination Map
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Looking for some summer fun? Hilltown CDC and the Jacob’s Ladder Business Association (JLBA) have teamed up to send a colorful map and business directory to every Hilltown household to promote some of the great destinations, trail heads, and adventures waiting for you in your own backyard. Check it out online or pickup your copy at a participating local business today!

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Hilltown CDC to advise on Town of Holland Senior Housing Project

Hilltown Community Development is pleased to accept a consulting role to assist the Town of Holland (MA) in planning for a Senior Housing development in the town.  The project will include a survey of senior citizens, market analysis, preliminary site feasibility analysis, and a cost estimate to build.  Work will be ongoing from late May until December of this year.  Hilltown Community Development has previously developed small scale senior housing in the towns of Westhampton and Goshen and has developed expertise that may be valuable to other communities.  Building small scale developments in rural areas comes with challenges that include the need to bring infrastructure to rural sites that are not served by public utilities, compliance with wetlands regulations, adapting to site-specific topographic issues, and working with more limited funding than is available in many larger municipalities. 

The study is funded as part of a regional Community Development Block Grant distributed by the Mass Dept of Community Development (DHCD) and Pioneer Valley Planning Commission (PVPC) is the grant administrator.

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Hilltown CDC to Attend National Rural LISC Conference

Hilltown Community Development is pleased to announce we will send staff and board members to the 2019 Rural LISC Seminar, an annual national conference convening more than 250 rural community development experts to catalyze new opportunities in rural America. This year’s Seminar will be held in Monticello, New York June 4-7 and will provide a unique forum to learn about new rural economic development opportunities; gain valuable insight on critical issues facing rural America such as the 2020 Census; develop asset building tools and organizational development strategies; and offer a networking environment for sharing knowledge with rural development colleagues from across the country.

 LISC President and CEO Maurice Jones will welcome attendees with a keynote address. Participants will engage in three days of plenary and workshop sessions organized around:

·         Economic Development – exploring new ways to catalyze economic development through downtown revitalization efforts, innovative wealth and skill-building strategies, and Opportunity Zones.  

·         Capacity Building – discovering how to increase organizational capacity through bridging generational differences in the workplace, asset and property management, and innovative financing tools.

·         Community Development – learning about the latest rural community development trends and how to best respond to them, including the opioid crisis, transportation barriers, and fighting isolation/striving for inclusion among our LGBTQ community.

 “Hilltown CDC exemplifies the very best in bringing innovative programming to their community, and we are delighted that they are attending this year’s Seminar,” said Suzanne Anarde, LISC Vice President and Rural LISC Director. 

 About Hilltown CDC

Hilltown CDC seeks to improve the quality of life for Hilltown residents by addressing economic, housing, educational, social and community needs while preserving the rural character of the area.

Over 30 years Hilltown CDC has evolved into a multiservice organization, providing affordable housing, small business assistance, social services, planning and grant management assistance to the region.  We have invested over $50 million in rural community development in the Hilltowns over the past three decades and engaged local residents in community development activities as well as local governing select boards in municipal planning and support services. 

Hilltown CDC was founded in 1981 and currently serves 22 rural towns with a combined population of 32,700 people. It remains the only community development organization based in the Hilltowns, advocating for rural policy and resources at the state and federal level on behalf of the region.

 About Rural LISC

Launched in 1995, Rural LISC is the rural component of the largest community development support organization in the country, called LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corporation). For 24 years, Rural LISC has partnered with rural communities, helping to forge innovative solutions that lead to prosperity and opportunity. Rural LISC’s investments in rural America have totaled $1.25 billion in grants, equity and low-cost loan funds. Rural LISC has leveraged this investment resulting in $3.3 billion from public and private sources, to produce 35,000 affordable homes and apartments, create 4 million square feet of commercial and community space, assist 700 businesses, create 12,000 jobs and support 20 early childhood centers. By generating resources and investing in the grassroots efforts of its 89 partner community-based organizations, Rural LISC is committed to making rural communities good places to live, work, do business and raise children. Learn more at www.lisc.org/rural.

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HUD Income Limits Increase for FY19

The HUD Income Limits have just been released for FY19, with a significant increase over last year’s income limits. These brackets are used to determine eligibility for several of our programs including Housing Rehab, Childcare Subsidy, and the HEN Program. If you or someone you know previously applied for one of these program and were not eligible, we encourage you to apply again! This is a great opportunity to access services that may make a significant difference in your life or the lives of your neighbors. Call us today to make an appointment! 413-296-4536

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Worthington Senior Center Focus Groups

The Town of Chesterfield recently received a Community Development Block Grant on behalf of the Town of Worthington to explore the feasibility of creating a new town Senior/Community Center. In February, the Hilltown CDC collaborated to distribute a survey to all town residents about their views and visions for a new Town Senior/Community Center. We received 250 responses and many thoughtful comments expressing residents’ ideas, questions, and concerns about the project.

Now we are seeking additional input through a series of focus groups. Each focus group will go into more depth on the many considerations of this project, from site selection and funding sources to amenities and programming.  We welcome your input on all aspects of this project.

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All focus group sessions will take place at the Worthington Town Hall.  Light refreshments will be served.  Please register for one of the following focus groups using this link: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/focusgroupworthington
Tuesday, April 23, 6:30-8pm
Tuesday, April 30, 6:30-8pm
Tuesday, May 7, 6:30-8pm

We will cap each session at 15 participants so please register early to get your first choice.  If you are not able to attend any of these sessions, we invite you to submit a letter with any additional thoughts for the project committee to review.  Please email Kathy Ford, Project Manager at kfordarchitect@gmail.com or mail your letter to the Hilltown CDC, PO Box 17, Chesterfield, MA 01012.

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Notice of Public Hearing - April 16th, 5:30PM

The Chesterfield Selectboard will hold a Public Hearing regarding the Mass. Community Development Block Grant FY18 for two Program Amendments.  The hearing will take place on Tues. April 16, 2019 at 5:30 PM in the Selectboard meeting room in the Town Office Building, 422 Main Road. The building is accessible to persons with disabilities.  Any persons needing special accommodations should contact Hilltown CDC (296-4536, ext. 115) at least one week prior to the meeting.  All persons or organizations wishing to be heard will be afforded the opportunity.

Public comment is invited on the following meeting topics: 

  • A Program Amendment is being requested to add a Planning Activity to support ADA activities within the town.

  • A Program Amendment is being requested to add a Personal Medical Device component to the HEN program. 

 

The general public and representatives of participating towns and organizations with ideas or comments regarding these programs should attend to present their views. The Town of Chesterfield, through its Selectboard, is the recipient of funds for this program.  Hilltown CDC is the grant administrator responsible for oversight and implementation.  For additional information or if you cannot attend the hearing, but have comments you would like to make, write Hilltown CDC, P.O. Box 17, Chesterfield, MA 01012, or email beavh@hilltowncdc.org

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Rep. Blais Hilltown Office Hours

Every Thursday in April the Office of State Representative Natalie Blais will be hosting public office hours in Chesterfield at the Hilltown CDC from 1-6PM.

Rep. Blais and/or her legislative aide will be available to meet with constituents to discuss issues they may be having and/or their legislative priorities.

This location allows for confidential meetings and walk-ins are always welcome. To ensure the Representative’s attendance please email natalie.blais@mahouse.gov to book an appointment.

If you would like to contact Representative Blais the district address is P.0. Box 450 Sunderland, MA 01375. You can also call her district office at 413-362-9453 to schedule a meeting or voice your opinion on legislative matters. Rep. Blais looks forward to meeting you and hearing your thoughts, questions, and opinions.

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FREE Volunteer Income Tax Assistance still available!

The Hilltown CDC has partnered with the Berkshire United Way and Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity to bring VITA Volunteer Tax Assistance Program to the Hilltowns. IRS-trained volunteers are available for day, evening, and weekend appointments in Chester, Chesterfield, and Williamsburg. If your household income is $54,000 less and does not include self-employment or rental income, call to make your appointment today: 413-296-4536 x 100. Leave a message with your contact information and your choice of location. Our VITA coordinator will return your call to confirm your appointment and provide a list of needed documents for your appointment.

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Homelessness services transition to Community Action Pioneer Valley
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Hilltown CDC has acted as the Collaborative Applicant for the Three County Continuum of Care HUD funded program for the past 6 years.  This program provides regional funding across Hampshire, Franklin and Berkshire counties to agencies who are providing services to the homeless.  After six years Hilltown CDC determined this program was not aligned enough with the mission of the agency and began the process to find another agency interested in administering this important federal program.   Through a public bidding process, Community Action of Pioneer Valley was selected to administer the program going forward. Hilltown CDC has begun the transfer of the program and the process should be complete by June 30, 2019.   Community Action of Pioneer Valley is well suited to operate this program.  They have a presence in all three counties and a number of programs and services that address poverty and it’s symptoms.  The program provides close to $2 million in funds for the region and provide rental assistance and case management services to reduce homelessness.

 

In a statement about the transition, Hilltown CDC Director Dave Christopolis writes, “We believe that housing is a right not a privilege.  We know that many of our friends in western MA struggle with homelessness and have difficulty finding affordable housing.  We know wages have not kept up with costs of living and that there is a desperate need for new jobs and housing production.   We know the cost of homelessness is putting a burden on the tax payer and on our social fabric.  We know that homeless people are often treated like criminals.  We know that this can be generational and that children who grow up in homeless shelters are at a disadvantage later in life.   We know that people’s lives are robbed because they don’t have the economic opportunity to maintain stable housing where they can find work, raise a family and contribute to society.   We know that the millions of homeless in the United States on any given day is a reflection of the current state of our spiritual bankruptcy. 

“We support Community Action of Pioneer Valley in its willingness to administer this program regionally and ensure that these resources are preserved for our friends and neighbors who need some help.”

 
A study released by the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness revealed that in January 2018, 2,899 people were documented as homeless in Western Mass.

A study released by the Western Massachusetts Network to End Homelessness revealed that in January 2018, 2,899 people were documented as homeless in Western Mass.

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FREE Small Business Classes this Spring!
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The Village Enterprise Center (VEC) in collaboration with the Hilltown CDCSouthern Hilltown Adult Education Center and Jacob's Ladder Business Association is offering an ongoing series of classes and workshops aimed at helping entrepreneurs and small business owners start and grow their businesses in the Hilltowns!

Some of the classes being offered this spring at the VEC in Chester and the CDC in Chesterfield:

  • Graphic Design Fundamentals and Branding Identity: Your brand reflects what and how other people think about you, your company, your product, or your service. Learn how to make it shine!

  • Selling on eBay: With more than 100 million buyers, eBay is one of the world's largest online marketplaces. This class will help you start selling!

  • Grantwriting: Learn the basics on how to research and identify potential foundations and government funders that might be able to fund your project or program, as well as how to prepare and submit a grant to foundations.

  • Starting an AirBnB: Learn how to turn an extra room, apartment or cottage into additional income through short-term and vacation rentals on AirBnB.com.

  • Marketing Your Business: Learn the fundamentals of marketing and what it means to create a marketing plan. Leave with a basic marketing plan, as well as a few marketing pieces designed and ready to print or post!

For more classes and information check out the latest Hilltown Small Business Assistance Newsletter. To reserve your spot call the VEC at 413-354-1055 or email Michele !


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A New Senior/Community Center for Worthington? Take the Survey!

Deadline extended until Feb 22! The Town of Worthington has received a federal grant to identify potential buildings or properties in town that could support a public facility for use by seniors and the community. The Worthington Select Board has appointed a committee to work with Hilltown CDC to conduct a study of the current real estate in town to determine the feasibility of renovating or building a new facility for this purpose. The committee has designed a town-wide survey to gather public input and is currently visiting area senior centers to get ideas for the types of facilities and amenities Worthington Seniors may enjoy. If you are a resident of Worthington (all ages) please let us know what you think about this project and share your views on the needs of the town by filling out the paper survey that was mailed to you, or by taking the online version using the link below. Please submit your responses by Feb 22st! Thank you for participating!

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Invitation To Public Hearing for Community Development Grant

Hilltown CDC, on behalf of the Town of Chesterfield, invites you to a public hearing to collect your input regarding potential projects to be included in the FY2019 Community Development Block Grant application.  Typical programs included are: Housing Rehabilitation, planning projects, Hilltown Elder Network, Health Outreach Program for Elders, Hilltown Food Pantry and Childcare Subsidy.  If there are new programs/activities you would like to have considered, please let us know as well!  Your participation and input on these programs is greatly appreciated.

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Goshen Adopts Complete Streets Policy

The Hilltown CDC is pleased to share that MassDOT has accepted the Complete Streets Plan put together by the town of Goshen Select Board, Highway Superintendent, and the town’s Complete Streets committee, making Goshen one of the smallest communities in the state to adopt such a policy! The plan was developed in partnership with the Hilltown CDC and Healthy Hampshire, with assistance from WalkBoston, who conducted a walk audit with community stakeholders in the Spring of 2017 (pictured). The plan emphasizes safe walking, signage, streetscape design and walking trails that connect the town center to the DAR State Park and other recreational areas. With recent renovations to the Town Hall and the new senior housing development project completed in June 2018, accessibility - particularly for older adults - including crosswalks, ramps, and other amenities became a high priority for the town. Creating a sense of place that is both accessible and attractive will also encourage pedestrian activity, calm traffic and contribute to a sense of community. Now, Goshen is turning their sights to a town-center planning process funded through the Executive Office of Energy & Environmental Affairs. Congratulations Goshen!

 

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