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10 things you can do to make Rutland a better place

I had the pleasure this week to be the guest speaker at the inaugural meeting of the Rutland Young Professionals, a new group created by people interested in mixing, networking and the greater Rutland community - and I left inspired by the energy and optimism in the more than 60 people who attended.

My brief talk focused in part on the work Green Mountain Power is doing in Rutland, including the Solar Capital initiative, Energy Innovation Center, and socio-economic development in support of the city's VISION Campaign. I also focused on what these forward-thinking Rutland-area people can do to contribute to Rutland's ongoing rebirth, which I grow more confident in every day.

A synopsis of my comments follows, including 10 things they, or any local resident, can do to make Rutland a better place.

1) As a community, let's stop bad-mouthing Rutland. If you care about the community, highlight its strengths - great schools, outdoor recreation, local history, vibrant downtown, local music, arts, good local colleges. When you hear unfounded negativity, challenge it.

2) Become a mentor. With as little as an hour a week, you can have a huge impact on a child's life. At least three local organizations have mentoring programs than can have enormous benefits for mentors and mentees alike, including the Mentor Connector, Everybody Wins and the Rutland Boys and Girls Club.

3) Subscribe to and read local newspapers. Criticizing local newspapers seems like a sport to some, and that's true in communities across the country.  But we have solid, locally owned papers here, and when a community loses its local papers, it loses an enormous tool for communication, commerce, and community building.  All local newspapers are vital to this community.

4) Help change the environment. Plant a garden, clean up your street or yard, or pick up one piece of litter every day. It's proven that if you change an environment, you can change behaviors in that environment.

5) Shop downtown. If you can buy it in Rutland or Vermont, forgo the Internet. Shop at the Farmer's Market or a local farm stand, and eat at local restaurants.

6) Support GMP's Solar Capital effort. It's helping turn around downtown, inspiring investment in Rutland, and it's already helping boost Rutland's image. You can actually save money by adding a small solar array or with NRG Residential Solar, and it's good for the greater community, too.

7) Buy a house. Rutland and the surrounding towns have incredibly inexpensive real estate, often making buying cheaper than renting, and interest rates remain near record lows. You can get a much nicer house for much less money in Rutland County than in Burlington, Montpelier or other similar communities, and build equity for yourself as you help strengthen our local economy.

8) Get to know your neighbors. Nothing builds a sense of community better than building relationships one on one.

9) Vote. Think it doesn't matter? Bernie Sanders won his first election, as mayor of Burlington, by 10 votes.

10) Donate blood at the Gift-of-Life Marathon and help put Rutland into the national record book on Dec. 17.  Just imagine what that would do for Rutland's community spirit!

Steve Costello is vice president for generation and energy innovation at Green Mountain Power.