Goodwill lot becomes a dump after move

LACONIA — Charitable instincts have been overtaken by atrocious behavior at the building that housed Goodwill Industries at 22 Pleasant St.

Since the organization vacated the building on March 12 and moved its operations to Daniel Webster Highway in Belmont, the loading dock at the rear of building facing Beacon Street West has become a dumping ground. Despite numerous signs indicating that the store and donation center had closed and directing donors and customers to the new location, people have continued to leave items on the pavement. On Friday, four television sets, an air conditioning unit and assorted clothing were strewn around the site.

Goodwill has placed two donation bins alongside the loading dock as well as dispatched a truck to collect discarded items from to time. An employee of Goodwill, who asked not to be identified, said that the organization intends to continue taking steps to clear the site until the building is sold.

Meanwhile, Mark Warren, pastor of Grace Capital Church, said Friday that the church has entered an agreement to purchase the property. He emphasized that the church is in the process of pursuing due diligence and addressing various contingencies, which must be satisfactorily resolved before a transaction can be closed.

Grace Capital Church was founded in 1996 by Peter Bonanno and, after meeting in private homes and school rooms, moved to a building in Pembroke in 2005 and soon affiliated with the Foursquare church headquartered in Los Angeles. The congregation grew rapidly, with about 1,000 worshippers attending two services on Sundays, many of them from the Lakes Region. In October 2010, the church opened in the Lakes Region, holding its services at the Laconia Middle School and maintaining an office on Canal Street, and in 2012 moved to the 22,000-square-foot building attached to the downtown parking garage.

The building at 22 Pleasant St. was constructed in 1923 and once housed an A&P grocery store. It sits on a on a 0.46-acre lot, has 11,652 square feet of largely undivided space on one floor. The property is listed by the CBRE Group for $350,000.

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An employee of Goodwill Industries collected furniture, appliances and clothing strewn at the rear of the the building at 22 Pleasant Street, which the charity vacated in March when it moved to its new store and donation center at 95 Daniel Webster Highway (US Route 3) in Belmont. (Laconia Daily Sun photos/Michael Kitch).

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Drug abuse coalition in Belmont and Canterbury takes off


BELMONT — Community members of all ages packed the high school cafeteria Thursday night for an open and frank discussion about drugs, addiction and recovery.

It was the first meeting of the Belmont/Canterbury drug awareness coalition It Takes A Community. Modeled after similar area programs like Stand Up Laconia, the coalition seeks to bring together communities that are riven by drugs and the fallout felt by everyone whose lives they touch.

After watching a movie about the facelessness of addiction and recovery, "The Anonymous People" attendees ate some pizza and stayed for the panel discussion that followed.

With a panel of experts on hand, one of whom is in recovery, to answer questions, questions ranged from how many addicts sell drugs just to maintain their habit to the latest drugs, including Suboxone, to how long it takes to get into a recovery facility.

"Most of the addicts I deal with are dealers and stealers," said Dr. Paul Racicot who heads the emergency room at the Lakes Region General Hospital.

It Takes a Community coalition is a spinoff from the Belmont PTO that began its student-based program It Takes a Village three years ago. While the PTO has been doing drug awareness programs since it began It Takes a Village, the coalition incorporates elements from the PTO plus community members like Kelley Gaspa, who is the substance abuse coordinator for the Winnipesaukee Region at the Partnership for Public Health and Police Chief Mark Lewandoski.

One of the leaders of It Takes A Community is Darcy Ess, whose son Cameron died of a drug overdose in 2014, and she told the hushed crowd about his use of cigarettes and then marijuana in middle school, how he added alcohol to his choice drugs in high school and that it was when he had his wisdom teeth removed and was prescribed Percoset that caused the trigger in his brain to go toward opioids.

Ess has two sons, but said Cameron was the one whose brain reacted the way it did, leading him and her family into the dark hole of drug addiction. After a three-month stay in a drug facility, she said, he returned to Belmont but didn't get the support system he needed so he moved to another part of the state with her parents.

After graduation, she said, he did well for a while but she recalled him getting defensive about where he was going and what he was doing around the beginning of 2014. Three months later he was dead.

One of Cameron's friends, Josh Ross, told the audience that he is a recovering addict and has been sober since 2011. After telling the crowd that he was going to try not to get emotional, he recounted his story with drugs and recovery.

"I've done some really messed up things in my life but that's not what defines me," he said.
When asked what got him started, he said that his parents said he shouldn't and his friends at school said he wouldn't. He started with marijuana and alcohol and now realizes that something in his brain is triggered when he drinks.

He also said he was proud to be in the same room as K-9 Officer Evan Boulanger, who is a drug recognition expert with the department.

"He's probably arrested me six times," Ross said, to which Boulanger smiled and said he'd be proud to shake his hand.

Later in the meeting, Ross said that he remembered when Cameron got the Percoset because the two shared them. He said he remembered being at Cameron's funeral and having Ess look at him and ask "What are you doing?"

"Today, I can look Darcy in the eye," said Ross.

Also included in the panel was a Gilford man named Nate who is participating in Recovery Court, a program that began about three years ago by multiple Belknap County private and public entities, including Horizons Counseling Center, 4th Circuit Court Judge Jim Carroll, and other county and local agencies who have created an intense program with support for recovering drug addicts.

"I have a disease of more," said Nate, who said his pattern of addiction was very similar to that described by Ross and Ess. "I racked up four felonies in one month."

Noting that Recovery Court "saved his life," he said that now he is focused on where he is going, not where's he's been, and that he has reconnected with his family and real friends who really love him.

He said it was nice to "sit here with Officer Boulanger and not have him follow me into the parking lot."

At one point, the conversation turned to Suboxone, a controversial, but for some a viable method of staying off drugs until recovery and/or rehabilitation is available.

Racicot said that the general thinking around Suboxone is changing, and five years ago he was against "drug replacement therapy."

Corey Gately, a substance abuse counselor at LRGHealthcare said many physicians and counselors took a long time to accept narcotic replacement therapy but said now she had changed her mind.

Likening Suboxone with insulin, she said when someone learns they are diabetic, he or she given a new routine to follow and medicine to help.

"Suboxone give people a chance to get their lives together," Gately said, adding that a person can't just walk in a "get a script" but must work with behavioral health experts on their life habits as does a diabetic.

"It's more than just avoiding detox," said Horizon's Director Jacqui Abikoff. "Even after detox, (addicts') brains aren't capable of feeling joy."

BES students celebrate Earth Day with a Tiger Trot

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Belmont Elementary School students Morgan Breingan,  Ava Hall and Zack Capra plant a rhododendron tree, donated by Appletree Nursery of Belmont, in observance of  Earth Day.




BELMONT — While nearly all of the elementary school Tigers started out trotting on the woodsy trail behind the school, most of them returned walking. But it doesn't matter how fast or slow, they went because they were all outside celebrating Earth Day Friday.

With 15 minutes in between, each class came from the school and met with teacher Danielle Embree before embarking on their trot through the trails at the school. After a brief ceremony the now fresh-faced children each got a crabapple tree sapling to plant when they get home, courtesy of the Green Club.

"We are just celebrating that we have a nature trail," said Associate Principal Ben Hill, who was at the end of the trail in the baseball field to high five, fist bump or verbally congratulate every student who walked the mile-plus Tiger Trail. A water station was set up and each got a drink after their run and deposited the cup in the recycling bin.

This is the first year of the Tiger Trot, which is a program designed to get students outside, moving around, and enjoying the healthy living program promoted by the entire Shaker School District. On Thursday, the Plymouth State University Tiger Drama team performed "Every Day is Earth Day" and through out the month students have been working on grade-appropriate projects in preparation for the day.

While all of the students participated, the student leaders come from Embree's running club, which she started to better prepare the willing students to participate athletically in more organized sports at the middle and high school levels.

Embree said the school partners with Prescott Farm with its outdoor classroom, and have worked on age-appropriate projects like building bird houses.

Waiting in the shade of the outdoor classroom were trot leaders 10-year-old Ricky, 10-year-old Brianna and 9-year-old "but almost 10" Bree.

"I love running. It's hard but ..." said Brianna as her voice trailed off. She said the most important thing as a leader is to be responsible and listen to the teachers, who were strategically placed along the trail to help anyone whose shoe came untied or suffered any other calamity.

"It's running," said Bree.

Ricky described himself as a "gamer boy" but said he stays in shape by running.

All of them said that the things they have watch for are ticks, big rocks, tree stumps and roots.

The intricate trail system was started by retired Belmont Elementary School teacher Judy Perrier and is named for her. Once named the New Hampshire Science Teacher of the Year, she said the project began in the early 1990s when she realized that there was 50 acres of land at the new Belmont Elementary School, and some of it was geologically unique.

Helped by Sumner Dole, a former Shaker Regional School Board member and forest research educator at UNH, they identified a "glacial erratic" or an extra large boulder of a different type of native rock material left behind by glacial ice. They also identified streams and their beginnings and set out tags to identify educational items they could teach to students.

Perrier said a great deal of the back-breaking work was done by the inmates at the former N.H. State Prison in Laconia calling themselves the Shocking Conservation, while teachers, volunteers and some sixth-graders helped actually create the trails.

Altogether, they built two bridges to span two of the larger streams, and Perrier said she taught her third-grade class how to identify where the streams come from, how water runs into the Tioga River, and eventually into the Merrimack River. She said students made boats and documents the journeys through the use of topographical maps.

Teacher Karen Gingrich organized and marked the significant spots and stops along the trail with metal placards of a tiger's foot.

While Friday's run was as much about healthy living as it was about Earth Day, Embree said that being outside on a lovely spring day was one of the best things the district could do for its students.

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Belmont Elementary School students run on the Perrier Tiger Trail, honoring Earth Day, on Friday. 

Below, Judy Perrier, namesake of the Perrier Tiger Trail at Belmont Elementary School, listens as students are instructed about the nature walk they’re about to embark on.

(Alan MacRae photos/for the Laconia Daily Sun)

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