5 Things You Need to Know Today in Worcester - November 24

 by Tom MarinoNovember 24, 2021

In today’s daily 5 Things You Need to Know feature, ThisWeekinWorcester.com explores five important items and stories that Worcester and Central Massachusetts residents should keep a close eye on.

These five things can cover a whole range of subjects and issues that we feel are pertinent to understanding what’s going on in the city and the cities and towns surrounding Worcester.

In today’s edition - Wednesday, November 24 - the Holiday Festival of Crafts runs November 26 to November 28, United Way of Central Massachusetts announces its Community Challenge Winners, Worcester Arts Council receives a $250,000 grant, Green Hill Golf course announces  special "golf all day" December rate and AAA predicts largest increase in travel over Thanksgiving weekend since 2005.

Holiday Festival of Crafts this Weekend

The Worcester Center for Crafts is hosting the Holiday Festival of Crafts over Thanksgiving weekend from Friday, November 26 to Sunday, November 28.

Each year, the Worcester Center for Crafts transforms into a European-style holiday marketplace complete with twinkly lights and the sweet smell of evergreens. This juried marketplace celebrates American handmade craft and is an antidote to the big-box madness of holiday shopping.

The Worcester Center for Crafts is located at 25 Sagamore Road.

The hours for the festival are:

  • Friday, November 26, 10 AM to 5 PM
  • Saturday, November 27, 10 AM to 5 PM
  • Sunday, November 28, 11 AM to 4 PM

United Way of Central Massachusetts Announces Community Challenge Winners

United Way of Central Massachusetts today announced that its Board of Directors approved the awarding of over $1 Million to fund initiatives that were selected by a panel of 10 judges during a ‘pitch-contest’ style event last week at the Brick Box Theater in Worcester.

The Community Challenge was made possible by a gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott in December of 2020. The United Way requested 90 second video submissions to address the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, early education and/or poverty. Almost 100 videos were submitted and 20 were selected to present before judges, who reviewed the presentations and asked questions.

The winners are:

  • American Antiquarian Society: Create a pilot program to host two interns from the Nipmuc tribe who will be mentored for six months to acquire library and digitalization skills which will lead to equitable and improved access to important tribal archival sources.
  • Coalition for a Healthy Greater Worcester: An expansion of the local-informed, community-wide Trauma, Resiliency and Racial Equity Training Institute to engage leaders and practitioners in anti-racism work, develop common language, and provide opportunities for personal and professional development.
  • Crocodile River Music: Funding will expand the Crocodile River Music program to WPS as an afterschool program. The series of five weekly, high-energy, interactive workshops culminate in a concert performance featuring both the youth and the Crocodile River Music team.
  • Family Services of Central Massachusetts: Project Flourish seeks to strengthen family childcare educators in the greater Worcester area through an Early Childcare Apprenticeship program to support newly licensed educators with bilingual instruction and skilled mentoring while they build networks of peers and mentors.
  • Latino Education Institute at Worcester State University - Readers' Theatre: My Voice, My Community Reader's Theater uses multilingual WSU college students (theater and education majors) to engage with young readers to instill an interest in reading.
  • Muslim Community Link: Black Seed Farmers Market: Funding will create a communal kitchen space in the Main South neighborhood of Worcester, specifically for immigrant and refugee women. The foods they prepare would then be sold through the Black Seed Farmers Market, enabling them to lift themselves and their children out of poverty through food entrepreneurship.
  • OurStory Edutainment: To expand curated programming that provides an opportunity for the community to learn the rich history of Black people that is often left out of the mainstream as well as building organization infrastructure
  • Regional Environmental Council: Creating a Farm to ECE program in Worcester will increase access to healthy, affordable, and culturally relevant foods while enhancing the ECE environment, engaging families and community members, and supporting comprehensive childhood development.
  • Saint John's High School: The Ryken Scholars Program is a collaboration between Worcester East Middle School, St. John's High School and QCC that will impact boys and young men and their families by promoting the benefits of middle school, high school, and college graduation through a supportive program of academic rigor, enrichment, awareness building, tutoring, mentoring, and advising.
  • Technocopia: This seed initiative will allow Technocopia and the Hector Reyes House (HRH) to pursue a partnership that gives HRH individuals an outlet to exercise their minds, hands, and creativity. The program will provide over 35 hours of tool and shop training for up to 6 HRH participants, customized classes to suit the HRH population, makerspace staff support to help HRH participants transition to more independent project work and more.
  • The Community Builders (TCB): Rent Reporting for Credit Building will allow residents to build or improve their credit so that they can achieve their financial goals and move out of poverty into financial security.
  • Urban Parks Education Program: Funding will create a partnership with schools to provide naturalist early educator training and necessary clothing (boots, mittens, rain coats, etc.) so that students can enjoy, explore and learn in a natural environment in close proximity to their school.
  • Worcester Community Action Council, Inc.: In order to help families traverse the Cliff Effect barrier, WCAC will hire a Cliff Effect Navigator to provide coaching along with direct payments for unexpected bills and childcare expenses. WCAC’s goal is to help bridge this gap and provide families with the financial empowerment tools they need to achieve economic mobility.
  • Yes credit is everything: Funding to work with Worcester's immigrant population to provide financial education and credit building skills to help them achieve their financial goals.

Worcester Arts Council Receives $250,000 Grant

The City of Worcester announced that the National Endowment for the Arts [NEA] issued an American Rescue Plan grant of $250,000 to the Worcester Arts Council to help the arts and cultural sector recover from the pandemic.

The Worcester Arts Council will use this funding to distribute grants in their community to eligible recipients to save jobs and to fund operations and facilities, health and safety supplies, and marketing and promotional efforts to encourage attendance and participation.

This is the second of three installments of the NEA’s American Rescue Plan funding. Last April, the NEA announced that 40 percent of its $135 million in ARP funding would be allocated to 62 state, jurisdictional, and regional arts organizations for regranting through their respective programs. The third installment of APR funding to arts organizations to support their own operations will be announced in early 2022.

Green Hill Golf Course December Special

While golf remains possible in December, Green Hill Golf Course, at 1929 Skyline Drive in Worcester, offers a golf all-day rate of $29 to walk the course.

Carts may not be available. Call the course ahead at (508) 799-1359 to inquire.

AAA Predicts 53.4 Million Thanksgiving Travelers

AAA Predicts a return of traveler volume to rebound to near pre-pandemic levels, the highest single-year increase since 2005, to 53.4 million travelers over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The prediction represents a 13 percent increase from 2020. This brings travel volumes within 5 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2019, with air travel almost completely recovering from its dramatic fall during the pandemic, up 80% over last year.

“This Thanksgiving, travel will look a lot different than last year,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. “Now that the borders are open and new health and safety guidelines are in place, travel is once again high on the list for Americans who are ready to reunite with their loved ones for the holiday.”

With 6.4 million more people traveling this Thanksgiving coupled with the recent opening of the U.S. borders to fully vaccinated international travelers—people should prepare for roads and airports to be noticeably more crowded.

AAA offers the following tips for travelers:

Be Proactive. Book flights, car rentals, accommodations and other activities as early as possible. Prices are not going down and are still somewhat impacted by the limited capacity of flights and staffing challenges faced by many industries. Consider working with a travel advisor who can make any last-minute changes to travel plans, explore travel insurance options and help plan a trip that meets your needs and comfort level this holiday season.

  • Air—Even with air travel seeing a boost this year, AAA finds that the average lowest airfare is 27.3% less than last year coming in at $132. Tuesday and Wednesday are still the most expensive and heaviest travel days with Monday being the lightest and least expensive. Those wanting to book last-minute travel will find the best fares about two weeks prior to Thanksgiving but keep in mind availability may be limited.
  • Hotels—Mid-range hotel rates have increased about 39%, with average nightly rates ranging between $137 and $172 for AAA Approved Hotels.
  • Car Rentals—Daily car rental rates have increased 4% compared to last Thanksgiving at $98. Over the summer, consumers experienced high costs and limited availability of rental cars in some markets, due to the semi-conductor chip shortage impacting automakers. While this shortage has subsided, it is possible it could return as the holidays near.

Be Patient. The roads and airports will be busy so plan ahead.

  • Arrive at the airport early so you’ll have plenty of time to get through longer TSA lines and other travel checkpoints. For domestic travel, AAA suggests 2 hours ahead of departure time and 3 hours for international.
  • Consider booking a flight during non-peak travel periods to cut down on wait times.
  • Hit the road when there’s less traffic and allow for extra time when traveling to your destination.

Be Prepared. For the 48.3 million Americans hitting the road, make sure you and your vehicle are ready for the trip ahead as AAA expects to respond to over 400,000 for help over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. If your vehicle has been sitting idle, AAA suggests getting an inspection to check key components like the battery, fuel system, tires, brakes and fluid levels. These systems are particularly vulnerable to deteriorating if a vehicle sits too long without proper care or maintenance.

  • Be Protected—Both You and Your Trip.  If you plan to travel during the holidays, it’s essential to do so safely and understand how to protect yourself, your loved ones and your investment while traveling. Also, as travel restrictions remain in flux, it’s essential to know requirements and recommendations based on your vaccination status, where you’re traveling from and your destination. AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map and TripTik.AAA.com are also helpful resources travelers may use for free to understand closures, recommendations and requirements when traveling in the U.S.
  • Travel insurance—AAA highly recommends travel insurance to cover unexpected delays or trip interruptions. It is best to consult the expertise of a travel advisor who can guide you on the coverage options available for your specific trip, including if your destination requires visitors to carry travel insurance.
  • Clean accommodations—When booking a place to stay, look for accommodations that prioritize cleanliness and have implemented additional housekeeping standards since the start of the pandemic. Earlier this year, as part of its Diamond designation, AAA enhanced its housekeeping evaluation to include objective, scientific validation of the cleanliness of common surfaces throughout hotels. Hotels that meet these new standards are now recognized as Inspected Clean and a current listing can be found here.
  • Safe travel = smart travel—Everything from airports to restaurants to attractions will be busier this Thanksgiving, which means more people congregating. Masks are still required for everyone on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. The CDC also recommends everyone wear a mask indoors in public if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission.
  • Domestic and international travel guidelines—As of November 8, the U.S. opened its borders to fully vaccinated travelers. The CDC has updated its guidance to reflect these changes. When traveling within the U.S., fully vaccinated travelers do not need a negative viral test or to self-quarantine. For international travel, refer to the CDC for specific guidelines.
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