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Seth True, of Best Septic, fills up some of the container units with urine that will be used on a field of hay at Whetstone Valley Farm in Brattleboro, as part of Rich Earth Institute's program to utilize urine as a fertilizer. Rich Earth just received a grant from the National Science Foundation to continue its work.

BRATTLEBORO >> Governor Peter Shumlin has reappointed Charlotte Dennett of Cambridge and Kerry Secrest of Brattleboro to serve on the Vermont Commission on Women. Both will serve additional four-year terms.

Secrest is a leadership coach for individuals and organizations through Watershed Coaching, her Brattleboro-based firm. She leads trainings in the areas of team-building, women's leadership, understanding multigenerational work environments, change management, strategic planning, conflict resolution, and leadership development. Her clients include national and international firms, both commercial and non-governmental organizations, as well as Vermont-based companies.

Additionally, Secrest created and now directs Women's Leadership Circles of Vermont, a Marlboro College Graduate and Professional Studies program. This is a six-month intensive program for Vermont women in leadership positions, and is designed to enhance both personal and professional effectiveness and fulfillment at work, in turn, allowing companies and organizations to achieve greater impact locally and regionally.

Previously, Secrest served as a program director with the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C., and worked as director of a program at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Prior to those positions, she served as Advisor for Educational and Cultural Affairs at the Embassy of Lithuania. She holds a master's degree in International and Intercultural Relations with a focus on human resource development from the SIT Graduate Institute, and an undergraduate degree from Villanova University.


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Reflecting on her time so far with VCW, Secrest said, "The Commission is a critical resource and advocate for Vermont women and children. I am proud of our important advocacy work, especially regarding paid family and medical leave, as well as the Vermont Equal Pay Compact project, and our Change the Story Vermont initiative."

Dennett has a wide range of experience as a journalist, author, attorney, university professor and volunteer with women's and labor groups. She is currently focusing on her law practice with an emphasis on family law, personal injury and consumer fraud cases.

Born in Beirut, Lebanon, the daughter of a U.S. diplomat and an English teacher, Dennett holds a B.A. from Wheaton College in Norton, Mass, and a master's degree in art history at Pius XII Institute in Florence, Italy. Her journalism career started at the weekly English language feature magazine, The Middle East Sketch, and later as a reporter for the Beirut Daily Star. Her journalistic work took her beyond Lebanon to Syria, Jordan, Israel, Iraq, Iran, Dubai, Kuwait, and Oman, and she became fascinated with the impact of modernization on women's lives in those countries.

While working the UN beat she met her future husband, investigative journalist and author Gerard Colby. Dennett and Colby spent years researching and writing for national, international and Vermont-based news sources, including writing a book on the genocide of Amazonian Indians, Thy Will be Done: The Conquest of the Amazon, in 1995. The couple moved to Vermont in 1984 and Dennett became involved in local political and community issues, including public service positions as chair of NOW's ERA Task Force, as president of Franklin County Family Center board, as "Volunteer in Politics" on the Executive Committee of the Vermont AFL-CIO, and as a foster parent. Ms. Dennett currently serves on the Cambridge Board of Civil Authority as a Justice of the Peace, and is secretary of Lamoille County Democrats.

Windham & Windsor Housing Trust hosts Harlem Gospel Choir

BRATTLEBORO >> Get ready to tap you feet and clap you hands — Windham & Windsor Housing Trust is bringing the Harlem Gospel Choir to town. Mark your calendar for an evening of contemporary gospel with a touch of jazz and blues. The concert promises to be infectiously enthusiastic; a roller coaster tide of singing and dancing; a gospel celebration. Tickets on sale now.

The concert is set for Saturday, Oct. 22, at 7:30 p.m. in the Latchis Theatre at 50 Main Street.

NSF awards grant to Rich Earth Institute

BRATTLEBORO >> The Rich Earth Institute has secured $830,000 as part of a $3 million grant in research funding from the National Science Foundation.

As part of an interdisciplinary team led by Nancy Love and Krista Wigginton at the University of Michigan, the Institute will develop and test an array of urine treatment and processing methods. The goal is to determine the most effective, economical, and energy-efficient methods for transforming urine into a safe, practical, and aesthetically pleasing alternative to synthetic fertilizer. Other collaborators include the University of Buffalo, New Water ReSources Inc. and Hampton Roads Sanitation District.

Additionally, social researchers will continue their investigation of attitudes toward urine recycling and the use of urine-derived fertilizers in agriculture. Through surveys and interviews the team will identify the major factors that influence people's attitudes toward urine recycling. This information will be used to create educational materials to promote public understanding of the benefits of diverting urine from the waste stream for beneficial use in agriculture.

Since 2011, the Rich Earth Institute has operated the nation's first community-scale urine recycling program. The initiative saves water, reduces pollution of local rivers and streams, and produces sustainable fertilizer for farms. This is accomplished by using waterless toilets and urinals to keep urine out of the wastewater system, and then reclaiming the nitrogen, phosphorus, and other elements for reuse as fertilizer.

Rich Earth local partners are Jay and Janet Bailey of Fairwinds Farm, Jesse Kayan and Cailtyn Burlett of Wild Carrot farm, and Linda and Dean Hamilton at Whetstone Valley Farm. These farmers have participated in field trials measuring the effect of urine-derived fertilizer applied to hayfields. Best Septic owners, Jeff and Lisa Ruggiero of Westminster, and operator Seth True have joined this effort by transporting thousands of gallons of urine each year and by providing urine-collecting portable toilets for public events.

This project would not have been possible without the participation of more than 200 Windham County residents who have collected and donated their urine using special toilets and portable urinals. With this new funding, Rich Earth will be able to expand its groundbreaking project to include more participants and take the research to new levels.

For more information, or to learn how to begin recycling your urine with the Rich Earth Institute, visit RichEarthInstitute.org.