Wednesday October 3, 2012

Building a Better Brattleboro held its 13th Annual Meeting of Members at the Robert H. Gibson River Garden on Wednesday evening, Sept. 26.

In addition to the regular business of the annual meeting, the body nominated and voted unanimously that Larry Bloch be honored as the twelfth recipient of the Larry Cooke Memorial Service Award.

The Larry Cooke Memorial Service Award is presented annually to an individual whose committed and tireless volunteer work has helped to make downtown Brattleboro a more vibrant place. This award is presented in memory of Larry Cooke who was a BaBB board member and a great friend to the organization and the downtown.

Larry Bloch's contributions to the downtown and Brattleboro are many. His downtown store, Save the Corporations from Themselves, open from 1997 to 2012, primarily stocking organic cotton and hemp products, acted as the social enterprise funding the educational endeavor that was located upstairs called the Activist Attic. The Activist Attic offered information on localism and the importance of the local movement in addition to offering meeting space for those in pursuit of the local mission. The store added colorfully to the downtown Brattleboro story, attracting and intriguing visitors to the area.

A passionate community contributor, Bloch can be credited with being instrumental in the founding of Radio Free Brattleboro, an independent, non-commercial, all access, community radio station, unlicensed by the FCC but authorized to broadcast by local voters and in operation from 1998 to 2004. He co-founded Brattleboro Community Radio, WVEW-LP, located in downtown and licensed by the FCC in 2006, and served as Program Director and DJ.

Larry was a key supporter of the Common Ground Restaurant, seeing the establishment through the challenges of attempting to reopen as a downtown landmark. While seeing to that mission on Elliot Street, Larry had a community bulletin board erected noting the numerous local events taking place. Larry maintained that resource.

Larry has advocated passionately for the Robert H. Gibson River Garden to be maintained as a space accessible to the public and as a centerpiece to the downtown district. He was instrumental in defining a mission statement for the facility and opened and closed the doors daily as a community service for the past five years ensuring regular accessibility for everyone. Larry was elected on to the Building a Better Brattleboro board in 2007 and where he continues to serve.

As a resident of downtown as well as a business owner, Larry can be known to represent the needs of those less fortunate often reminding critics that this issue is a complicated one at best.

The economic, social, and cultural vitality of a downtown is a key factor in making a community an attractive place to live and work. Healthy downtowns require a persistent and creative effort and advocacy to survive in today's economic climate.

But downtowns need more than that. They need folks like Larry to contribute tirelessly and personally. They make up the fabric of each and every downtown. It's important that we recognize these people. I am delighted that Larry's contributions are being acknowledged. He deserves it.

Larry Bloch was recently diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas.

Andrea Livermore is the executive director of Building a Better Brattleboro.