Washington Electric Cooperative Inc,As individuals and communities all over Vermont welcome members of the Vermont National Guard home from deployment, the employees of Washington Electric Cooperative have expressed their thanks and support by donating dozens of Christmas gifts to needy, local Guard families with children. The $1,400 worth of gifts ‘ from a small bicycle with training wheels, to kitchen play sets and other toys, to children’s clothing and gifts for teen-agers and adults ‘ were purchased with $700 raised among the Co-op’s employees and a matching contribution by Washington Electric’s ‘Community Fund.’‘This is amazing,’ said Joyce Cloutier, Family Assistance Specialist with the Guard’s Family Readiness Program, on December 20 as she surveyed a large conference table loaded with gifts at the Co-op’s East Montpelier headquarters. More gifts, wrapped and ready for the tree, were piled on chairs and on the floor in the conference room. ‘It’s extremely generous. I had expected to find about four or five gifts for each of the family members, and that would have been plenty!’Cloutier will see to it that the gifts are distributed to three military families in the central Vermont area. WEC’s employees were told the ages of all the family members, and learned something about their circumstances from Cloutier, who also provided wish lists from each person to guide the Co-op’s volunteer shoppers in their selections. The families’ identities, however, were not disclosed.‘They remain anonymous,’ Cloutier explained. ‘We protect them fiercely.’WEC presently has 38 employees, and General Manager Avram Patt said most if not all of them contributed to the fundraising effort. Their express desire was to assist families with a parent serving in, or just returned from, Iraq or Afghanistan.‘Once someone suggested the idea it just took off,’ said Patt. ‘People jumped at the chance to do this as a group. It meant a lot to them.’Usually at the Christmas holiday WEC’s employees share inexpensive gifts with each other by organizing a ‘Yankee Swap.’ That ritual was put aside this year to concentrate on giving to the military families in need.‘After they had raised $700,’ said Patt, ‘they asked if I would authorize a contribution from the Community Fund, and that was a no-brainer; when we can combine the resources of the fund with something so important to our employees it’s an opportunity you don’t miss.’WEC’s Community Fund is financed by voluntary contributions from Washington Electric’s membership. The utility annually distributes capital-credit refunds for past years in which WEC’s revenues exceeded its costs ‘ a ‘profit’ for investor-owned utilities, but as a co-op WEC’s owners are its electric customers. The refunds are provided as a credit on members’ November electric bills (or as cash to former members), but members can donate the money to the Community Fund instead, and thousands do. The Community Fund provides modest grants to a variety of community-oriented organizations serving the central Vermont area.With $1,400 now available, the employees contacted the Vermont National Guard and were directed to Cloutier, one of 10 Family Assistance Specialists with the Family Readiness Program. Cloutier’s territory primarily covers Washington and Orange counties. Stationed in Berlin at the National Guard Armory, Cloutier can be reached at 802-223-2975.‘We’re a resource and referral service for people in the National Guard and all branches of the military, currently serving and going all the way back to World War II,’ said Cloutier. The Family Readiness Program can tap into 14 funds ‘ federal, state, and military ‘ and Cloutier maintains close contact with veterans groups and other social-service resources.For the holiday season Cloutier has been selecting families for the Wrap Around project. ‘We pick families based on need,’ she said, ‘particularly those will little kids who believe in Santa. With Daddy coming home [from deployment] we don’t want that to be a time of disappointment.’For the employees of Washington Electric Cooperative, the holiday project served at least two purposes, said one worker. It expressed their appreciation to the Guard members and concern for their wellbeing, and, the worker added, ‘it makes you appreciate what you have.’Washington Electric Cooperative is a consumer-owned, democratically governed utility that serves 10,000 households, farms, schools and businesses in 41 central Vermont towns.
When the Wisconsin women’s hockey team hits the ice this weekend against conference rival Minnesota-Duluth, all eyes will be on Badgers senior forward Sara Bauer. That’s because Bauer will in all likelihood reach the milestone of 200 career points, as she is just two points away from that plateau.There is really very little left to say about Bauer; all of her accomplishments have been written about and poured over a million times. Yet at the same time, it is difficult to not talk about her — she’s that good.That was evident this past weekend, when Wisconsin trounced Minnesota State. Riding a seven-game winning streak, the Mavericks weren’t supposed to go easy. But they did. The Badgers scored 13 goals in the series. The Mavericks scored none.Bauer starred in the Minnesota State dismantling, racking up eight points in the two games. She really shined in the second game when the Badgers scored eight goals. Bauer had two of them — including one that was completely unassisted — and added three assists for a five-point game.The eight-point series gave Bauer a season total of 52 points, good enough for best in both the conference and nation. Bauer leads the WCHA points race by a whopping 15 points over teammate Meghan Duggan. The best scorer in the WCHA who doesn’t wear a Wisconsin uniform is Ohio State junior forward Erin Keys, who has 35 points.The crazy thing is that this success is nothing new for Bauer. She became the Badgers’ all-time leading scorer when she passed former Badger Meghan Hunter earlier this season. As for the WCHA, she has led the conferences in scoring all season long and has been among the best each of the past two seasons. Just look at the numbers: Every season, she has improved. Between her freshman and sophomore years she jumped from 33 to 55 points. She followed that up with 58 points last season and currently holds an astronomical plus-97 rating over the past three seasons.”When you come in as a freshman, you don’t really know what to expect,” team captain Bobbi-Jo Slusar said. “That first year, she did very well, but after freshman year she knew what she could do and what role she played on the team.”Bauer was recognized as the nation’s best female player last season when she was awarded the Patty Kazmaier Award. At the rate she’s going, she very well could win it again this season. With six games remaining in the regular season, Bauer could easily surpass her season point record of 58 — she is averaging nearly two points per game.She’s even more impressive when you look at the fine print. Sophomore year: She became just the third Badger to ever record a 50-plus point season. Junior year: The Badgers did not lose a single game when she scored a goal, and lost only one game when she recorded a point. That makes for a 44-1-2 record when recorded a goal or assist. Not too shabby.Perhaps the most astonishing thing about Bauer’s success is how humble she is about it. Most players who are about to break the 200 career points mark would talk about how great they are. But not Sara Bauer. Bauer hates making a perceived spectacle of herself, shying away from media attention and passing the praise on to teammates. On the verge of becoming just the seventh player in NCAA history to score 200 points, she is modest as always.”Points was never something I paid attention to,” Bauer said. “I think the progress we’ve made over the past few years is important [because of] what we’ve done as a team and how we’ve been able to take a step forward every year. … I’ve played alongside some great players. I think any time you’re more of a playmaker than a goal scorer, your success is dependent on other people.” Bauer said it best; she is a playmaker. With 34 assists already this season, Bauer is a master at finding an opportunity and then exploiting it. She’s the one who makes the play happen, fire off a pretty pass, and have her linemates Duggan and Jinelle Zaugg finish the deal.And Bauer leaves no doubt that any individual accomplishments this year are secondary to team success.”That’s the goal every year. You want to go after the championship,” Bauer said. “That’s the whole idea — as a team you want to go after that as your biggest goal.”It’s that kind of drive that helps her be a leader for Wisconsin. While she might shy away from attention, that shouldn’t be confused with a lack of leadership. Her quiet lead-by-example attitude is why she is an assistant captain.”She’s not the faster skater or has the hardest shot,” Slusar said. “She just sees the ice better than anyone on this team or anyone in the league. … She’s just a well-rounded individual, both on the ice and off the ice. … She’s respected, and when she says something, everybody listens. “She’s very modest and she’s very skilled and she’s already accomplished a lot,” Slusar continued in what might be one of the biggest understatements of the year.With the Badgers searching for a repeat of last season’s national championship, fans will also have an eye on whether Bauer repeats as winner of the Kazmaier Award. Scoring her 200th point will be just another notch in her belt, as she goes about her business quietly, leading on the ice and avoiding reporters afterward.