ROSES to Dakota Wilber and Chad Varney of Greenwich, N.Y. -- the parents of the first baby to be born in Bennington County this year. Raya Joeden Varney was born at 7:41 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 1, at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington. Best wishes to Baby Raya and her proud parents!

ROSES to 13-year-old Caroline Coffield, of Bennington, who recently raised more than $1,400 to put on a surprise 60th birthday party for her father, Brent, at Mount Anthony Country Club. Caroline, who goes by "CC," wanted to put on a birthday celebration for her dad, a local dentist, who has been undergoing treatment for cancer for more than a year. CC, a student at Sacred Heart School, was able to raise money for a special celebration for her dad using GiveForward.com, a site that helps people raise money for family members with medical conditions. "How CC organized this ... I'm at a loss," Brent Coffield told The Banner.

ROSES to the New Year's Day Band -- Bruce Davis, Larry Betit, Phillip Sausville and his son, Michael -- who performed a once-yearly concert on New Year's Day for about 30 residents of Southwestern Vermont Health Care's Centers for Living and Rehabilitation.

ROSES to the Bennington County Sheriff's Department and Bennington Taxi for again holding its annual Safe Ride program on New Year's Eve. ROSES also Rensselaer County, N.Y., for offering a similar program.


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On a night when many indulge in alcoholic beverages, party-goers who needed a safe and reliable ride home had the invaluable opportunity to call for a designated driver.

THORNS to outgoing Hoosick Town Supervisor Keith Cipperly for attempting to tie up a majority of the town's fund balances with several unsuccessful motions during his final meeting on Monday. What's worse is how he treated residents in the audience who spoke up against what he was doing. "You're not talking," Cipperly told resident Bob Ryan, who said he was against what the board was trying to do at the last minute. With Cipperly gone, we hope the new leadership on the Hoosick board (instated Jan. 1) will be more productive, and more civil.

ROSES to nonprofit Casting for Recovery's Vermont/New Hampshire for holding its annual "Game, Set, Match Against Breast Cancer Pro-Am Challenge." The challenge, slated for Jan. 11, pits amateur and pro tennis players against players from the Williams College NCAA championship tennis team to raise money for three-day fly fishing retreats for local women who are battling breast cancer. "It allows these women -- from all walks of life -- to focus on themselves and not the disease," said Betsy Butler of Manchester, a volunteer social facilitator and trainer.

ROSES to the more than 100 area firefighters who battled a destructive fire at LaFlammes furniture store in Bennington Friday morning. Firefighters from Vermont, Massachusetts and New York battled the blaze for hours in sub-zero temperatures. ROSES also to those in the community who helped to shelter and bring hot food and drink to the firefighters during the extended time it took to quell the fire.

~Michelle Karas