Friday, November 2, 2012

Pink Power Earns Some Green in Battle with Breast Cancer

The Pink Pals are (from left to right) Ellen Baldwin, Barbara Conda, Cathy Barnhorst and Leslie Ware. (courtesy photo)

Celebrities donate designer purses to help raise money

By Pat Sommers
Staff Columnist

Four area residents have harnessed the “power of pink” to earn some serious green to help women battling breast cancer.
Ellen Baldwin, Cathy Barnhorst, Barbara Conda and Leslie Ware are finalizing plans for their third gala fundraiser, “Santa’s Got a Brand New Bag.” The dinner and auction, held at the Portsmouth Harbor Events and Conference Center, in Portsmouth, New Hampshire on Thursday, November 15, will offer about 160 high-fashion handbags, including a collection of seven designer purses donated by celebrity Oprah Winfrey.
The four organizers – known as the Pink Pals – will donate proceeds from the event to York Hospital’s Breast Cancer Living Well Program where the funds will be used to support women receiving treatment in ways that typically fall outside the parameters of health insurance coverage.
According to Dawn Fernald, hospital director of marketing and new service development, the fund established by the four Pals may, for example, provide a wig for a woman who has lost her hair as a result of chemotherapy but cannot afford a suitable hairpiece on her own. Or, it could help a woman and her family with the cost of traveling to and from cancer treatment facilities.
“York Hospital is honored to have the Pink Pals work so hard to help our patients and their families,” said Fernald. “Over 25 percent of patients diagnosed with cancer at York Hospital are diagnosed with breast cancer, making it the most prevalent cancer in our community. The funds raised by this event will undoubtedly affect the lives of many in our community.”
It was Leslie Ware who first posed the idea of hosting a designer handbag auction.  “Leslie came up with the idea,” said Barbara Conda, noting Ware had friends who had hosted a similar event. She networked with those friends, and the Pals set to work planning their own event in the Seacoast region. It was Ware who also dubbed the gala “Santa’s Got a Brand New Bag.”
The Pink Pals, who laughingly decline to give their ages but describe themselves as “mature professionals,” enlisted the help of friends, relatives and hospital staff members to serve on planning committees for the dinner-auction. “We have women of all ages, from young to old, from late 20s and early 30s to women in their 80s,” said Cathy Barnhorst of the inter-generational effort.
Leisa Smith, a dietitian with the hospital’s Dining and Nutrition Services, was tasked with contacting Winfrey, a favorite with the hospital staff, to ask if she would donate a handbag. To catch the attention of the entertainment icon and the staff of her Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), Smith and her team created a video on which they sang, “Oprah, we want to OWN your handbag” to the tune of the early Beatles hit “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.”
The video was uploaded on YouTube and shared through social media sites in an effort to draw notice by Winfrey. It did. Just two weeks after the video was launched, the hospital was contacted by an OWN staff member from Los Angeles who promised a handbag autographed by Oprah.
And just a few days later, York Hospital accepted shipment of two large cartons containing not one but seven signed designer handbags – from Versace to Ferragamo – all straight from the closet of Oprah.
Signed purses donated by actress Sally Struthers, a favorite at summer productions at Ogunquit Playhouse, and by Emmy-winning television star Carson Kressley, will also go on the block, as will a purse contributed by chef Mary Ann Esposito, whose “Ciao Italia” is America’s longest-running TV cooking show. Esposito, who is expected to attend the event, donated a glittery pink bag she selected especially for fundraiser while on a recent trip to Italy.
In their first two fundraising efforts – spectacular fashion shows hosted under tents on the grounds at Ogunquit Playhouse – the Pink Pals brought in about $200,000. They hope to top the $300,000 mark with proceeds from “Santa’s Got a Brand New Bag.”
“Ellen and I started the first fashion show, but we had never done a show of that size so we asked Cathy to help us put the show together,” Conda said. Leslie, who was literally recruited on the street outside a shop - “She was carrying a clipboard and she looked organized…” - completed the fundraising quartet.
Money raised by that first fashion show was donated to York Hospital toward its purchase of a digital mammography machine. “But we didn’t want to raise money for a machine,” said Conda of the subsequent effort. “We wanted it to go to women who were going through cancer treatment.”
The Pink Pals met with hospital officials who agreed to establish and administer such a fund.
“We embrace the power of pink,” Barnhorst said of the Pals.  None of the four has personally received a cancer diagnosis, she said, “But cancer has touched all of us in some way… family, friends.”
 “Santa’s Got a Brand New Bag” will open with a champagne reception with butlered hors d’oeuvres. A silent auction will be conducted during the 90-minute cocktail hour. A four-course, small-plate dinner and live auction will follow. The Pals also promise several surprises, including a special dessert planned for the fundraiser.
An Oprah-donated handbag will be awarded as a door prize, as will a Christmas tree decorated in a pink color scheme and a handbag motif.
Because the 300 tickets offered for “Santa’s Got a Brand New Bag” sold quickly, a waiting list has been established. Should cancellations occur, those on the list will be contacted.
Seacoast residents can also vie for the chance to own a gorgeous designer bag, including one carried by Oprah Winfrey, through an online auction now in progress. The online auction offers twenty bags of all shapes and sizes and in all price ranges. Several are signed by celebrities. Bidding will continue through Sunday, November 18.
Visit and click on the pink auction button for details on both the November 15 gala and the online auction, or call 207-351-2385.

Still Time to Book Trip for China

Former Somersworth mayor, Lincoln Soldati, at the Great Wall of China. (courtesy photo)

The Greater Somersworth Chamber of Commerce has announced that it is extending the China trip reservation deadline to Friday, November 30. At that time, the trip deposit of $300 per person is due with the final payment due December 17.
The nine-day, seven-night trip departs early next spring on Tuesday, March 27, 2013 and returns on April 4. The all-inclusive price for the journey is $2,300 per person, based on double occupancy and includes round-trip bus transportation from Portsmouth to JFK Airport in New York; round-trip international and domestic airfare, taxes included; 5-star and 4-star hotels; three full meals each day; English-speaking tour guides; and admission tickets to all the scheduled tourist attractions. Tours include Beijing, Shanghai, the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, Tian en Mien Square, a tea plantation, and a silk factory.
Travelers must have a passport that is good through October 2013. For anyone interested in taking this trip with other local travelers, there will be an information session held on Thursday, November 8 at 6:30 p.m. in the Somersworth City Hall. Attendance at the information session is open to anyone interested in learning more about this adventurous trip to China. For more information, contact the Somersworth Chamber at 603-692-7175 or visit the Chamber's website to download the brochure and directions to the information session at

8th Annual Spirit of Giving Campaign Launched

Piscataqua Savings Bank in downtown Portsmouth has officially launched its annual “Spirit of Giving” campaign. For the eighth consecutive year the Bank has provided drop boxes to collect donations for two important community service organizations. This year, they are Seacoast Family Promise, which serves homeless families and the Seacoast Family Food Pantry.
Kathleen Donovan, vice president and trust officer at the bank, chairs the holiday giving campaign. “We are so proud of our Spirit of Giving campaign. It grows stronger each year and there have been so many touching stories as a result,” Donovan said. “We had a successful Halloween party to kick off the campaign; hopefully we’ll continue to gather a nice amount of donations for these non-profits.”
Drop boxes for the organizations are available inside the Bank lobby on Pleasant Street in Portsmouth. You can help make this year a happier holiday for countless Seacoast families by bringing your donations in to Piscataqua Savings Bank.
Top three items on Seacoast Family Promise’s Wish List: outerwear, boots and shoes; diapers and wipes; new socks, underwear and pj’s. Top three items on Seacoast Family Food Pantry’s Wish List: non-perishable protein: canned tuna or chicken, beef stew, peanut butter; personal care items like toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, razors, deodorant; canned fruits.
Additionally, both organizations are in need of cash or gift card donations, which can be turned in at any of the teller windows for collection.
Drop boxes are filled and delivered to the appropriate agency as needed. Your donations are welcomed anytime during the bank’s main lobby hours which are Monday – Thursday 9 am to 4 pm, Friday 9 am to 6 pm, and Saturday 9 am to 12:30 pm.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Community Colleges Manufacturing Initiative Receives Federal Praise

Employment and Training Administration Assistant Secretary Jane Oates, right, of the U.S. Department of Labor, speaks with Nashua Community College President Lucille Jordan, center, and Mark Dodge, associate professor, on October 19. (courtesy photo)

$19.9 million grant awarded to Great Bay & six other community colleges

“Manufacturing creates wealth,” said the U.S. Department of Labor’s assistant secretary for the Employment and Training Administration, Jane Oates.
She checked last week at Nashua Community College on progress made statewide under a $19.9 million federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant awarded to Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth, and the six other colleges in the Community College System of New Hampshire.
“Health care, education - they’re great, but manufacturing simply creates more wealth,” she said. “We need to make sure we keep it out front.”
William “Rick” Holka, president of Omni Components Corp. in Hudson, agreed.
“There’s nothing we touch every day that hasn’t been machined,” he said, adding the community colleges have made “absolutely fantastic advances in infrastructure” under the grant for their advanced manufacturing programs.
During her visit, Oates toured NCC’s advanced manufacturing laboratory and met with school officials, advanced manufacturing business leaders and students positively impacted by the community college system.
A newly renovated teaching laboratory, its floors quite literally sparkling underneath state-of-the-art computer-controlled precision machining equipment, was called not only proof of the early success of an educational partnership between local manufacturers and the school consortium, but also evidence to support a stigma-busting mission taken on by the colleges on behalf of the industry.
For one, advanced manufacturing is healthy in New Hampshire, representing nearly twenty percent of the state’s entire economy, according to the N.H. Center for Public Policy Studies. In fact, employers poised for growth said a main challenge they face is not a lack of demand, but a shortage of qualified applicants for high-tech, high skill jobs. Reasons for the shortage are varied, but two main concerns of employers and the community colleges are a misperception that manufacturing is an unstable industry of repetitive, low-skill jobs and low enrollment in core science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) academic programming.
Contrary to beliefs, Oates said, “It’s not enough to have a strong body. You need a strong mind and a skilled hand.”
James Jacobs, president of Rapid Machining, said of his 27,000-square-foot facility with more than twenty computer numerical controlled milling and turning centers, “It’s not a dark, oily, dirty place; it’s a high-tech environment, it’s a good wage.”
Mark Dodge, associate professor for advanced manufacturing tool technology at NCC, said during a recent interview “Our grads can expect between $14 and $15 an hour to start. A good machinist could go to $30 or $35 an hour. Typically, there’s overtime - five to 10 hours a week - so even at $15 an hour, that’s a pretty substantial paycheck for a beginning job. For an experienced machinist, $80,000 to $100,000 is not out of the questions for a year’s pay.”
“As we continue to expand,” Jacobs said, “the ability to hire CNC machinists with the right skills will be critical to our success.”
Jacobs said partnering with community colleges in the state will help ensure a pool of qualified machinists will be available in the future.
Said Holka, “If you can do precision machining, we are hiring.” He added he had seven to eight jobs he’d fill today if applicants qualified to operate his Swiss-type machining equipment were available.
Omni manufactures products for the medical, aerospace, optical, communications, electronics, instrumentation and commercial high-tech markets.
Oates called the qualified-employee shortage “a national crisis.”
“You can’t wait,” she said to the employers seeking qualified applicants. “We need to make sure everyone’s working together to eliminate the workforce slowdown. It’s amazing; you could grow if you (just) had the people.”
And that, in Oates’ view, is the importance of the grant. She said community college training programs were in need of a paradigm change. The new measure for success would need to be employment and, thus, employer input would need to be a central part of an updated and expanded advanced manufacturing curriculum.
Congress agreed, and in 2010, President Obama signed off on $2 billion to be used over four years for the nationwide TAACCCT grant program.
The payoffs are already obvious, she said, citing examples in which community college initiatives have benefited entities from large manufacturers like Pratt & Whitney, Toyota North America and Johnson & Johnson to individual students like Orlando Morales, who is working full time for Rapid Machining while enrolled in advanced manufacturing program at NCC.
Morales said he’d been working retail jobs for years when he decided he wanted something more. With the support of his wife, he enrolled in the CNC program at NCC and took part in a tour of Rapid Machining.
Now, Jacobs jokes Morales is “not going anywhere,” as he’s a valued employee who came to the company already prepared with skills necessary for success.
“The math classes were valuable,” Morales said about the education he’s receiving at NCC. “It’d been eight years since I’d been in (advanced) math, and it refreshed my memory.”
When he started at Rapid, Morales said the work was exactly the type he’d been trained for in the community college system.
“What you said made me jump up and down – that (businesses) were doing exactly the same thing outside” the schools,” said Oates. ”That’s what we’re working for (with this grant); we aim to have ninety-five percent of students ready to go straight into a job.”
The seven community colleges in the New Hampshire consortium are designing and implementing expanded programs in advanced materials (composites, aerospace) manufacturing technologies, mechatronics and automation/robotics, precision welding, advanced machine tool technology, energy systems for precision manufacturing, and advanced manufacturing processes and controls.
Offerings run the gamut from fast-track job preparation and certification services from WorkReadyNH, to short course and certification programs, to full associate’s degree educational tracks.
As part of the grant, state-of-the-art equipment and technology upgrades are being made at colleges across the state, with direct input from regional manufacturers who will be relying upon the program to help create a qualified workforce for hiring.
While progress is quickly being made at all sites, NCC had a leg up, according to its president, Lucille Jordan.
“When other colleges were closing their machining programs, we never did,” she said. “We were ready to run as soon as we got the grant.”
Other advanced manufacturing program milestones on the horizon include the opening of Great Bay Community College’s Advanced Technology and Academic Center in Rochester, which will educate and train students in composites manufacturing ahead of the opening of a 340,000-square-foot production facility being built in that city by Safran Aerospace Composites and Albany Engineered Composites. The project is expected to generate more than 400 jobs.
At Manchester Community College, computer and machining equipment is purchased and ready to be installed in a newly renovated student laboratory as the school works to expand its advanced manufacturing courses and course types.

Federal Financial Assistance for NH Farmers & Forest Landowners

Agriculture or forest landowners in New Hampshire: If you are interested in protecting, conserving, or restoring the natural resources on your property through technical or financial assistance, contact your local USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) field office to begin the conservation planning process.
Once an NRCS Conservation Plan is developed, you can work with NRCS to determine which programs would best suit your conservation needs. Applications for NRCS programs and initiatives (see below for details) may be submitted at any time year-round; however, the next application cut-off date is December 3 of this year. In order for your application to be considered in the February 15, 2013 ranking, landowners/operators must submit a complete application packet (including eligibility paperwork) by December 3. Additional application cut-off dates may be announced, if funding becomes available.
Applicants must be eligible in the USDA Farm Service Agency’s (FSA) system by February 15 of next year to be considered in this round. If your landowner eligibility has not yet been cleared by USDA, you are strongly advised to get your landowner eligibility documentation submitted to your USDA Service Center as soon as possible (ASAP), because it may take several weeks to clear eligibility in order for your application to be ranked.
“NRCS conservation programs help farmers and forest landowners promote stewardship and environmental quality on farm and forest land, address water quality and quantity challenges, and protect valuable wetland ecosystems, agricultural lands, and wildlife habitat,” said Rick Ellsmore, NRCS state conservationist for New Hampshire. “NRCS conservation professionals will discuss with you your conservation objectives, help you identify resource concerns, and suggest options and alternatives for treatment. We will also identify conservation programs that may provide you with financial assistance for the implementation of many conservation practices.”
Examples of eligible lands in New Hampshire include privately owned:
- Agricultural land
- Grasslands
- Non-industrial private forest lands
- Freshwater wetlands and salt marshes
- Coastal habitats, and rivers and streams
Emphasis areas in New Hampshire are:
- Livestock and grazing issues
- Cropland – including orchards, specialty crops, high tunnel and greenhouse operations
- Forestry
- Organic Agriculture
- Fish and Wildlife Habitat – including native pollinator habitat
- Energy Conservation
The 2008 Farm Bill, provides higher payments for land owners who qualify as beginning farmers, limited resource producers, or those who are “socially disadvantaged” because they belong to racial or ethnic groups that have historically been subjected to prejudice. Such landowners could historically receive up to ninety percent of the estimated incurred costs associated with planning and implementing conservation measures. However, Farm Bill program policy is subject to change.
- Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) – Through EQIP, farmers may receive financial and technical help with structural and management conservation practices on agricultural and forest land. EQIP in New Hampshire offers financial assistance to help off-set the costs of eligible conservation practices. Environmental Quality Incentives Program Initiatives include the Organic, On-Farm Energy, Seasonal High Tunnel, Long Island Sound Partnership, and the Water Quality (new watershed(s) to be determined), and New England & New York Forestry initiative.
- Wildlife Habitat Incentives Program (WHIP) – This program provides assistance to landowners who want to improve fish and wildlife habitat or restore natural ecosystems on their land. This program includes the Working Lands for Wildlife New England Cottontail initiative that was offered last year.
- Agricultural Management Assistance Program (AMA) – This program provides assistance to agricultural producers to voluntarily address issues such as water management, water quality, and erosion control by incorporating conservation into their farming operations.

Historical Tavern Walk Draws Big Crowd

Some of the townsfolk: Rick Griffin and Betty Moore

On Saturday, October 13, with apple-crisp New England fall weather setting the stage for an afternoon of food, fun, and local history, downtown Hampton took on a festive spirit as the Old Salt, 401 Tavern, and the Galley Hatch restaurants hosted the Hampton Historical Society’s Old Hampton Tavern Walk.
More than 150 attendees, each taking the persona of an early Hampton citizen, visited the three locations to learn how they had “sinned” and to plead their cases before a “magistrate” who pronounced judgment and awarded prizes. They enjoyed colonial foods prepared by the restaurant chefs, rum punch from Sea Hagg Rum Distillery of North Hampton, mead from Sap House Meadery of Center Ossipee, and pumpkin ale from Smuttynose Brewing Company of Portsmouth. Silas the Double Agent and Olive the Tavern Wench from Portsmouth Underbelly Tours were on hand to wickedly entertain in the Old Salt’s Goody Cole Room.
The Tavern Walk was also the launch of “A Meet and Suitable Person: Tavernkeeping in Old Hampton, New Hampshire, 1638-1783″ by local author Cheryl Lassiter, the book that prompted the Historical Society to put on the event. Historical presenters, attired in period costumes provided by Tracy Theatre Originals and Candace Stellmach, portrayed real-life characters from the book as they talked about life in Hampton during the 17th and 18th centuries.
“The Tavern Walk was truly a reflection of Cheryl’s book. Part history, part adventure, and altogether a delight!” said Betty Moore, the event’s coordinator and executive director of the Hampton Historical Society. “We’d never done an event of this size out in the community before, and we weren’t sure what to expect. We poured our hearts into making this a fun, historical event for the town, and the response from the community was incredible. It exceeded all our expectations. We thank the restaurants for their hospitality, generosity, and enthusiasm. Along with our amazing volunteers, they helped make the Old Hampton Tavern Walk a huge success.”

Story and photo provided by Cheryl Lassiter

Friday, October 19, 2012

Author Talks about Fatwa, New Memoir in Portsmouth

Salman Rushdie says it's "Get-Along Time"

Story and photo by Timothy Gillis

Best-selling novelist Salman Rushdie spoke at the Music Hall last week, about his new memoir called "Joseph Anton" and the life he lived in fear since the 1989 "fatwa," or death sentence, imposed on him by the Ayatollah Khomeini.
The fatwa was for his allegedly blasphemous novel "The Satanic Verses," which Rushdie said is actually one of his least political works, much less so than "Midnight's Children," which took on the public life of India or "Shame," which was based on "genuine political confrontation" in Pakistan.
Rushdie seems to have weathered the storm, though the 600-page book is a harrowing account of the effects of the fatwa decree, including the dissolution of a dying marriage, his raising of his nine-year-old son, and living with a 24-hour security detail from Scotland Yard.
He was shocked at the reaction to "Satanic Verses," especially the accusations in the British press that he did it on purpose to attract attention.
"'Joseph Anton' is how my real life turned into a novel, stranger than anything I had ever made up," Rushdie said.
A dream sequence from the work, in particular, seemed to incite Islamic tension. Rushdie read from this episode to start his talk, and emphasized that "Satanic Verses" was a novel "primarily about migration," he said.
"In the middle of it there was this dream sequence... about a prophet, not called Muhammad, living in a city, not called Mecca, inventing a religion not called Islam. And the person having the dream was losing his mind and going insane. This is what we, in the trade, call ‘fiction.' Unfortunately, it wasn't read like that."
The serious thing that this passage talked about, Rushdie said, was the nature of revelation, or "how does a new idea come into the world?" Also integral to the contentious passage was "what do you do when you are strong? When your enemies are at your mercy?"
After a short break, Rushdie returned to the stage with Virginia Prescott, host of Word of Mouth, for an interview. The Music Hall house band Dreadnaught played the Platters "Great Pretender," and Rushdie noticed the tune and sang along.
Prescott asked how Islamic culture has changed since he was a child. Rushdie said he grew up in a house that was "happily godless," where his father and his father's friends would discuss whatever they wanted. Rushdie was free to think and express himself. That did not mean his opinions went uncontested. There just wasn't a threat of violence for unapproved thoughts. Then came Valentine's Day, 1989, when the fatwa was issued, and there began "the difference between rhetoric and reality," said Rushdie, exasperated after all this time at the extreme reaction.
"Books are books. If you don't like it, don't read it. This is why they have books by more than one person in bookstores," he said. The United States is a very divided country, he pointed out, where half the people are often saying things that the other half of the country can't stand, "but it doesn't occur to either half to burn the country down."
Rushdie was often light-hearted and humorous on the night, belying the years of living in fear. Asked if he was still fearful or looking over his shoulder, Rushdie motioned to the audience and said "Look, there are hundreds of them in the dark. They don't seem that scary."
Audience reaction to Rushdie was overwhelmingly supportive of his plight, even if many in attendance knew more about his life's story than his written works.
Peter Randall, a filmmaker on local farms, was invited to the talk by a friend. He said he was interested in the whole story of Rushdie and the fatwa against him.
"It's ridiculous," Randall said. "I don't understand why people get so upset about something written. An act, I can see, but it's just words."
Henry Linscott said he was in grammar school when the fatwa was issued. "I didn't know what the book was about, but it sounded scary."
Twenty-four years after the fatwa, Rushdie feels it's "get-along time" now and looks forward to discussing the literary merits of "Satanic Verses," a work which has been analyzed through political and religious lenses, but has remained unstudied in the language of literature.
Rushdie said he is proud of the novel, but would have changed its history if he could. Related to the "Satanic Verses," an Italian translator was stabbed, a Norwegian publisher was shot, and a Japanese publisher was killed.
Rushdie lived in hiding, in England first and then in the United States, and tried to provide a normal life for his young son.
"Joseph Anton" tells of his hidden life and was his alias with the police, based on two of his favorite writers, Joseph Conrad and Anton Chekhov. His case, called Operation Malachi, was considered the most dangerous assignment for the police, and they served by volunteering instead of being required to do so. Despite the disdain from some higher-ups who didn't feel he had done anything to deserve their protection, hadn't "performed a service to the state," Rushdie grew close to many of the police officers who were protecting him. He thought they had it tougher than he did, since "sitting around, looking out the window, wondering what to do next" was the typical life for a writer.
"Joseph Anton" was originally written in the first person, a standard voice for a memoir, but Rushdie changed it to third-person.
"I had to get beyond the anger and resentment. That's why I waited so long to write it," he said. The objective voice also gives him some emotional distance and allows him to write more "novelistically."
"The thing about an autobiography, in the end, is to tell the truth," he said. "Otherwise, why write it?"