ROSES to Sen. Bob Hartwell on his four terms in the Vermont Senate. Hartwell announced this week his decision not to run for a fifth term. It was a tough decision, said Hartwell who is chairman of the Senate Committee on Natural Resources and Energy and serves on several other committees. Hartwell said his decision to retire from the senate was to spend more time with family.

ROSES to area graduates -- kindergarten, eighth-grade, high school and college -- during this busy graduation season. Remember to thank your parents or guardians for their help getting you to this point!

ROSES to the success of The Hour for Our Community time bank in Bennington, which has grown in the past year to 84 members who have exchanged nearly 350 hours among them. The time bank allows those to seek services, such as dog-sitting, to trade another service for what they want (lawn-mowing, perhaps). Rose-Marie Pelletier, volunteer coordinator, said the time bank has the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Bennington as a fiscal partner, which will enable it to apply for grants. To learn more, email h4obenn@gmail.com.

ROSES to students in this year's Emerging Leaders program, which includes sophomores and juniors from Mount Anthony Union High School, the Career Development Center, and Burr and Burton Academy who have been recommended by their teachers or guidance counselors for their potential leadership abilities. This summer, each participant will have a 40-hour internship with a local business of their choosing, and will also have the opportunity to enroll in two free classes at Community College of Vermont through CCV's dual enrollment program.

ROSES to the Southwestern Vermont Regional Cancer Center's recognition and celebration of the 27th annual National Cancer Survivors Day on Sunday. The theme for the party for 300 held outside the center was food, music and celebration, with the majority of the amenities donated by the hospital or community organizations. The focus was on providing a fun event -- complete with free food, music, raffles and massages -- for area cancer survivors. ROSES also to the smashing success of the inaugural Cupcake Crusade and Community Remembrance Day last Saturday to raise money for local cancer research. What a great, cupcake-and memory-filled community event!

ROSES to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., for his tireless work this week on behalf of our nation's veterans to ensure their benefits. Sanders and Sen. John McCain on Thursday compromised on legislation to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs to expand veterans' access to health care and make it easier to fire VA officials for misconduct.

ROSES to HAYC3's second town hall meeting in neighboring Hoosick Falls, N.Y., on drug abuse, held Thursday. As we have experienced here in Bennington, drug addiction is a universal problem that needs to be addressed on a community level.

THORNS to the sad situation that has led to the deaths of three Vermont children within three months, all connected to the Department for Children and Families. Those deaths have prompted public complaints and investigations into DCF. ROSES to legislators including Sen. Dick Sears, D-Bennington, on the state Committee on Child Protection for their diligence in conducting a series of hearings throughout the state seeking a solution that will better protect vulnerable children.

~Michelle Karas