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April 12, 2024 32 mins
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Welcome to Pulse of the Region,brought to you by the Metro Hartford Alliance.
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for Pulse of the Region, KateBawman. Hello, Hello, and welcome
to Pulse of the Region, theshow where we highlight all of the wonderful
things happening here through throughout the greaterHartford Region. I'm Kate Bauman here today
in studio and I'm gonna plug rightup front is we're I think we're on

camera here today, which is thefirst here for Pulse of the Region.
So a very exciting day here andthrilled to have our two guests here with
me today, as today we weregetting the pulse about Knox and the work
that the organization is doing to builda greener, more sustainable and a healthier
Hertford. So incredible conversation on theway and joining us today both individuals from

Knox. So first is executive directorPatrick Doyle. Patrick, welcome to Pulse
of the Region. Thank you,thanks for having us today. Of course,
no, I'm thrilled about this becauseyou know, I love Knox and
I think to Patrick, you andI have seen each other probably at least
I don't know, twenty two ofthe last twenty three days at different events,
different happenings around. So excited todaythough to just to sit down and
talk more about the things that's happenedin day to day with the organization.

Absolutely, and we're so excited tosee how much is happening in Hertford and
to be a part of that definitelya big part of that. And with
that certainly couldn't do all the workthat's being done without a great board of
directors behind the organization. And thrilledto be joined today by Justin May and
I would say by day with GaffneyBennett and by night in any other times
or whenever Patrick calls as you're thevice president of the board of Directors for

Knox, So welcome to the show. Great being here, Thanks for having
us, of course, of course, So first things first, I'm sure
many people know who Knox is inthe organization, but I always think it's
great for a reminder and a refresher. So Patrick, if you don't mind
kicking things off there, sure,So it's always funny to me. Oftentimes
when I talk to people, theywant to add a second word to Knox

and it's a fun little social experiment. But our name actually comes from our
founder. So we were founded overfifty years ago by Betty Knox, who
was a Hartford City councilwoman, andBetty believed that it was critically important to
do two things to preserve Hartford's greenspace, but also to be sure that
everyone in the city has access tothe benefits that those green spaces provide.

Our mission today is to engage andempower our community to create a greener,
healthier city. So that vision andthat mission is what drives our work and
brings it forward. And really,in a lot of ways, it's about
access. Access to space where folkscan grow fresh food, access to beautiful
neighborhoods, access to tree canopy andthe health benefits that trees provide, as

well as access to nature and theability to connect with one another and all
the great opportunities that are out therein Hartford. Okay, nice, and
now how long have you been withKnox. I've been with Knox just over
five years. Just so we're fiveyears. Okay, very good, and
I feel good that I passed thetest because I thought, I'm like,
do you put the inking at theend, so it's just NOTx. So
I'm glad. Yeah. Absolutely,But I've heard Knox, Hertford, Knox

Gardens, Knox Farms, not manydifferent variations, which, again it's always
interesting because we as an organization doso much, we sometimes forget that a
lot of folks out in Hartford mayknow us for one or two of the
things that we do, the differentways that they've come across, and that's
great for me because it helps meunderstand some of the things that we do

that are most meaningful to that person. Definitely, that's great, and certainly
I think justin very meaningful organization.To you, if you could kind of
start a little bit just on howdid you get involved? What was your
inspiration to get involved with NOx?Yeah? Of course, so, as
you alluded to, my day jobis running a Connecticut public relations firm.
In about a decade ago or so, I had a client in a similar

space as Knox that was looking foropportunities to get plugged in in the capital
region and did a little googling,and lo and behold, I stumbled across
Knox and I've been hooked ever since. I mean, to me, it
really is the perfect nonprofit. Justpiggybacking off of several of the things that
Patrick said. I mean, you'vegot the creating green space for Hartford residents.

You've got the health benefits of growingthat healthy food food locally it doesn't
have to travel a lot of distances. You also have the health benefits of
actually getting out there into the gardenand doing that work. I don't know
if you've seen that that recent Netflixdocumentary Blue zones about where people are living
the longest in the world. Butone of the big things that they push

is gardening and growing your own foodand and it's it's it's really it's it's
just a tremendous nonprofit overall. You'vegot the workforce development aspect of it with
the Green Jobs of apprentice program.So there's there's just so much that they
do here in Hartford that I thinkcompliments a lot of what what the city's

got going on too in terms ofof development. And and I joined the
board and it was right before Patrickstarted, and it's just been great watching
the organization grow since then. That'swonderful and really kind of what's the role
that the board plays, you know, I think it's always sometimes a little
different organization to organization if you talkabout that relationship. Yeah, of course.

And so we we have a boardof roughly a dozen or so right
now on on the Knox Board,and people from all different professional walks of
life, and and everybody kind ofbrings their their own experience, their their
their own skills to the table,you know, where where they come from,
and it's it's you know, aboard that that rolls up their sleeves,

gets involved, tries to jump inas much as we can, and
and a lot of it is firstand foremost being a cheerleader for the organization.
Second, just you know, tryingto make those connections for for knocks
out there in the community with someof the maybe the businesses that we're working
with and and other organizations where itmight might be like a good marriage of

of uh uh missions. And thenyou know, I think just with with
some of the events that we've gotgoing on and and uh opportunities for for
volunteerism. You know, that's that'skind of the Knox Board in a nutshell.
Okay, fantastic, that's great,And certainly I want to talk a
lot about the volunteer opportunities, sowe'll get to that. But first things
first, I think community gardens,if you don't mind, Patrick, if

we start there, and you know, if you could just tell us about
these and really kind of what's happeningthroughout the city, I think it'd be
great. Absolutely, And now isdefinitely the time of year so it would
almost be impossible if I had beenat the at Knox over on Laurel Street
at any point in time in thelast few days for gardens to not come
up, because now is the timewhen we have so many people who are

coming in they're looking for that accessto space. And so we manage twenty
one gardens within the city of Hartford, and our goal within that initiative is
to make sure that people in Hartfordwho want to grow fresh food for themselves
or to share with their family andfriends have a space where they can do

that. So within our gardens weoffer compost space to garden water for irrigation,
and then at our facility we alsohave a seed library where folks can
get seeds for free. So everythingyou need to be successful as a gardener.
But our model is really that weare helping to make sure that folks
are set up in their space andthey have that space. But then they're

deciding what they want to grow,They're deciding when they are going to harvest,
what they're going to do with it. So it's really their choice what
they're growing and what they're doing.And so it builds a beautiful sense of
community because you learn from the peoplearound you all of a sudden say hey,
what are you doing over there,Like that's kind of cool. I've
never seen that. But the otherthing is we've got such a rich diversity

of cultures and people here in Hartford, and our gardens become a reflection of
that. And folks have the ability, yes, to get seas from us,
but they can also you know,bring in things that they want to
do. So you see people aregrowing the food that's meaningful to them.
And I love gardening in part becauseI love cooking and I love eating.
So what's nice to me is like, hey, that's really interesting. How

do you use that? What areyou doing over there? So for me,
it's really fun to see what otherpeople are doing and to try and
try some new things, and likeexperience food through other people's lenses and through
other people's eyes. So it's reallymaking sure folks have what they need and
to grow for themselves and decide whatit is they're doing. The one sort

of most important, I guess rulewe have is we ask people to use
natural practices, so our gardens areorganic. And in my role, if
over the course of five years peopleare consistently asking you to have a rule,
you better listen. And we consistentlyare hearing from our gardeners, and
we have hundreds of gardeners every yearworking in Knox managed spaces, and all

is consistent that those gardeners want tomake sure that that's still a rule.
And the reason for that is becausethere's limited places where folks can access fresh,
healthy food. And if your neighboris spraying a pesticide on their garden,
guess what, they're spraying it onyours too, because the wind blows
right. So we hear consistently fromfolks who are in our gardens that they

want make sure this is fresh,natural food and it's important to them that
that's what they want to be puttingon their tables. Definitely, And can
you talk a little bit you said, you know hundreds of gardeners. Great,
take an idea of kind of justdemographics, you know, is it
families, individuals, you know,kind of I would love a little bit
of an insider's look there if youdon't mind. Yeah, it is.

It is all of that. Itis a range of ages, it is
a range of ethnicities. You know, there are a lot of different languages
that are spoken in our garden.And what's really nice, so where we
work is a community garden as well. Staff has garden space. Okay,
we have our Urban farm program thathas garden space, but we also have

some community gardeners that have been workingdifferent parts of that property for a really
long time. In one particular familythat I think of in general, we've
got four generations of that family thatI see that I see, you know,
working that space and all the differentthings that they can do, and
just the being able to share things. They grow these really beautiful long beans

and do a lot of trellis growingand it's really interesting. And every once
in a while, I say,hey, what's this and so here,
try this, try that, Andthen I'll pull something out of my garden
bend and say, oh that's great, you know, try try some Swiss
jardin. It's just really nice tohave that connection with people and to see
the different things they're doing. Wereally we're young, we're old, we're

every color within the spectrum nice youcan, you can find it in our
gardens. And I think I thinkthat's important and it's a barometer for us
because we know the diversity that existsin Hartford, and so if that same
diversity doesn't exist in our gardens,then we're we're missing and we need to
be thinking about how do we reachand make sure that everybody out there understands

that they have this opportunity to connectwith garden space through Knox definitely, and
what airs kind of some of theways that you're educating residents that this is
an opportunity. Yeah, so certainlywe have our website, there's a lot,
there's a lot that happens through wordof mouth ball I'll give you just
a couple of other examples. TonightI will be at the Maple Avenue and

RZ meeting just talking to the folksthere about what garden space is available.
So certainly we work with those neighborhoodgroups. This past weekend we were up
at weave Were High School. There'sa Black Wellness expo that the Links were
putting on, so we tabled there. We're actually giving some plants away,
some little herbs that people could growin their windows sell, but also talking

to them about where they can getgarden space. So we want to make
sure that we're out in the community. We connect with community partners, will
show up at neighborhood meetings and thingslike that. But beyond the traditional kind
of marketing efforts, we want tomake sure we're getting out into the neighborhoods
and talking to folks because that's wherea lot of it happens, and not
forgetting that with three hundred plus gardeners, we have a lot of ambassadors out

there. We find a way tosort of tap into that energy and make
sure that they know, yes,send people our way if they're interested.
So each of our gardens has acoordinator that kind of helps on a volunteer
basis to make sure that we're awareof what's happening in that garden on a
day to day basis. But alsothey're typically a person that is of an
in that particular neighborhood or area,so they know for anyone that they run

into that's interested in garden space thatthat's a place that they can come to.
The other gardeners are typically in thatneighborhood in that area, and so
we want to make sure they know, like share this opportunity with people that
you're in space with, so thatwe can make room for them and make
sure that if folks are looking,they can have that connection. Okay,
I'm sure. Yeah, very strongword of mouth and marketing, I would

think so, which is great,And Justin would love to get your perspective
on really kind of you know,what are you seeing from your vantage point
really as the impact of these communitygardens. Yeah, I think there's several
things piggybacking off on of of whatPatrick said. I mean, I think
first and foremost, you've got thatthat community engagement and getting people out into

the garden working, growing their ownfood, growing their their their own produce,
collaborating with one or one another,having those conversations. So it's it
really is is just such a greattool for for a community engagement. Esthetically.
I mean I I've driven down thestreet in Hartford before and said,
there's there's one of Knox's there.I mean, it's it's it's beautiful.

It just it pops up out ofnowhere and and really just just creating that
that extra green space here in thecity of Hartford. And I think from
from a doing business in Hartford perspective, I mean, this, this is
the type of organization that that isdoing all the right things to make this
a city that you want to driveinto every day. You want to walk

into the office and and you know, take a lunch break and walk down
the street and see a Knox gardenor see some of the trees that we've
planted or planters, and I justI think that a lot of what the
Knox is doing is just really makingthis better community overall. Definitely. And
one piece I'd like to touch onto is workforce development because that is such

a strong core where yes, there'sthe beautiful gardens, there's the community there,
but what you're doing from a workforcedevelopment standpoint is not only really benefiting
the sitting but it is very unique, I think compared to other organizations.
So I will tee that up toyou Patrick to talk a little bit more
about that. Yeah, well it'sreally interesting to me. Any nonprofit,

I'm sure you know, benefits fromhaving a dedicated staff, but in addition
to that, at Knox, wehave what I consider to be the twin
engines of volunteers and in our apprenticeprogram our workforce development program, so we
get all of this extra muscle interms of how much we can get done
in the community. Is also aboutthe way we get it done in the

community. So I'm sure we'll talkmore about volunteers later, but with our
workforce development program, we're bringing apprenticesin to work alongside our team for all
the work that we're doing in thecommunity, so that includes maintaining those community
gardens. We also plant trees forthe City of Hartford to help her store
the canopy, which is very importantwork. And we also take on landscaping

contracts for other commercial entities, sowe do the landscaping at a few Hartford
housing complexes. We also do otherprojects. Many people know us for our
planters programs planters throughout the city,and so with our workforce development program,
we're trying to provide professional skills,so folks are learning how to show up

for work and overcoming some of thebarriers that they may be experience in crossing
that line. We also are workingto get them certification so they all go
through OSHA ten. Within their firsttwo weeks, they get first Aid certified
and a lot of team building workto really get them working together, make
sure they're working safely, and thenafter that they're working alongside our team so

they're doing real landscape work. Thework that our apprentices are doing are beyond
what we would ever ask a volunteerto do. That's why we make sure
they have that OSHA ten certification beforethey start, but we want them after
the sixteen week program ends. Wewant them in a position where they can
be getting sustainable employment in the landscapeindustry. So we don't want them to

be going to a next job wherethey're getting paid minimum wage, where they're
getting laid off at the end ofthe season. We want them to be
elevated from that point. That's great, that's great, and all right,
it's getting nicer out warmer. Alot of events coming up, so I
think we'd love to highlight some ofthose. So Patrick, first off,
farmers' markets. When do they start? What are the deal? How do

people get involved? So our farmersmarket, which is at seventy five Laurel
Street, starts on the third ofJune. It will be every Monday from
three to third to six pm.So we're really excited about that because it
gives us an opportunity to feature thework of the participants in our urban farming
program. So we have a residentfarmer who always helps to support our market,

Derek. Most people in Hartford,no Derek. He's an incredible just
great spirit, great person in Hartfordand a tremendous farmer, and so he's
typically selling at our market. Hedoes a lot of growing at NOx and
is someone that farmers in our programcan really learn a lot from, So
we love that relationship. And thenour farmers themselves are growing within our farm

plot there, and so every weekwe're trying to make sure that we feature
their produce and give them that opportunityfor a sale. It also becomes a
learning space for us. So forthe farmers in our program, they have
a really easy lift in terms ofwhere they're growing the produces right there where
the market is, so getting readyis a little bit easier than if you

were going somewhere off site. Butit also gives us the opportunity to observe
how they prepare for market, toreflect on that with them and make sure
that they're really getting into the scalewhere if they want to be going to
some of the other farmers' markets inHartford, that they're starting to understand what
that is before they're halfway across townand realize, oh I should have brought

more produce or oh I should havebrought half as much produce, and so
all those things are helpful. Weappreciate the customers and last year we did
something really cool where we were kindof featuring a guest vendor once a week,
so something a little bit fun andinteresting and unique, and so folks
can come on out to that marketand get lots of great fresh produce and
usually there's one or two other littlesurprises along the way that you can enjoy.

Okay, very nice, very nice. And so we have the farmers
market and then additionally to the bigthe garden party. So it's give you
a talk about that and when that'shappening this shore. Yeah, So our
garden part is a fundraising event.It'll be on Friday, August twenty third,
and this will be our first fullscale garden party since COVID. So

I'm like, so I'm really excitedabout it. It's a great opportunity to
come together and celebrate our community,but it also provides a lot of support
for the organization. We also knowon a day to day basis, like
we get so much support from volunteersin the volunteer community. So probably the
first thing we have coming up,our Greater Heartford Green Team has a volunteer

event getting that farm plot Ready,so you can help support that market,
help get the farm plot ready.On Saturday, April twentieth, from nine
am until noon, we'll be outthere volunteering and so folks can sign up
and do that as well. Sowe're excited about that work. We're excited
to bring everybody together at our gardenparty on August twenty third and really celebrate

not just the work that we're doing, but celebrating Hartford. One of the
nice things about that event is wetake a small plate approach to it,
so rather than having sort of onecaterer, reinvite in multiple restaurants to provide
small dishes where people can really geta taste of a lot of the different
great things that exist in their region. And I'm really excited to do that

this year because there's so many newrestaurants and businesses that have crossed up in
the last five years. Hartford hadthis tremendous scene before that, but so
much new has come into place,and a lot of it is really exciting,
really unique, and so we're excitedto find ways to infuse that into

the event. We'll be right nextto one of our community gardens. We're
still finalizing the location, but we'llhave the opportunity to do garden tours,
the opportunity to connect with one another. We're pulling together an auction as well,
So a lot of opportunities to reallycelebrate the work that Knox does.
But the connectedness to that work tothe rest of the Hertford community and the

great things that are happening here inthe city. Well, I'm very excited.
So that's I was kind of camein the Hertford scene pandemic. So
that's a solos to be my firstfirst big party, which is great.
And we keep talking about volunteerism andI think, you know, again such
a lifeline to the organization and youknow, justin opportunities for individuals, for
companies. Let's first start on thebusiness side. You know, how can

organizations really look to support from avolunteer standpoint or in other ways too.
Yeah, no, of course,And I think first and foremost we are
nonprofit, so we are always lookingfor corporate sponsors to tease that always.
Of course, of course garden partycoming up. It's it's a great opportunity
if you're a greater Hartford organization toget get your brand out there, get

some of your employees attending, evenif if you don't sponsor, just if
you're if you're curious about just learningmore about what we're all about buy a
ticket, come down, check it, check it out toward one of the
gardens where we have it and andto Patrick's point, you know, mixed
with with a lot of people fromfrom the community, a lot of great
restaurants. They'll be live music,there'll be a live auction going on.

So it's a really just overall funevent. Was one of the first events
I went to as a Knox boardmember and really it sold me on on
that's how you're now the vice exactlythe the Greater Hartford Green Team. I
mean, there's events going on,opportunities to to clean up the city throughout
the summer. As an employer,you can get your employees plugged in,

rolling up their sleeves, helping out, uh, you know, joining Knox
for their their mission here in thecity of Hartford. And we have a
harvest market to in in the fallthat this year. I think we might
be exploring looking for some opportunities toget some some businesses involved with that as
well too. So uh, fromfrom a high level perspective, businesses,

We're we're looking for for your supporton on sponsorships and and financially, but
also looking to get your employees pluggedin with with different volunteer things that we've
got going on. That's fantastic Andfor individuals Patrick that may be interested in
participating, are there you know kindof sounds like some specific events we've already

talked to about. Any other waysthat individuals can get plugged in sure,
I mean, certainly the same waythat we appreciate, you know, all
the sponsorships from our corporate sponsors,we also appreciate our individual donors, so
folks can give to the organization.We've seen actually a lot of a big
increase in folks who want to makea monthly gift. So they may say,
okay, if I can put intomy budget fifty dollars a month and

just set that as a monthly donationto the organization, and then they know
that we'll be in touch with themon an ongoing basis and that they're supporting
the work. We have these volunteerevents just to make mention the greater Heartford
Green Teams, So that is reallydesigned to take in anyone who's interested in
in volunteering. It's once a monthon a Saturday. We're not always at

Knox. Sometimes we're at one ofthe great parks in the city. Sometimes
we're working with the neighborhood group todo something specific in a neighborhood based on
what we're hearing as we go outinto the communities. We go to the
different meetings and hear about what people'spain points are and how we can bring
that vision of Betty forward right,that vision that everyone in the city has
access to the benefits of green spaces. That we're collaborating with the folks who

are doing that, and then wecan do that work to invite people in.
We also have a program because ofall the work we do, we
have a lot of tools and wehave a program and a lot of neighborhood
groups take advantage of this. We'vedone some work with Bluehill Civic Association as
an example, where because we haveall these tools, a group in the

neighborhood may know what they want todo, they may have the volunteers to
do it, they just might nothave as many shovels or litter picks as
we do, and so we havea process where they can borrow that so
that they can do the work thatthey want to do in Hartford and then
bring them back so that they're readyfor the next group, So that's really
important and part of that overall,a FFFORT has really led us down a

path of partnership with the City ofHartford and specifically the Love Your Block program
where we are collaborating on a citywide cleanup in the fall, and the
goal of that is to bring togetherthe many different groups that we believe are
caring for the city on a dayto day, week to week basis,
and it doesn't get noticed enough howmany people are putting sweat equity into making

Hertford a green or healthier place.And what we want to do is to
continue to do that work, butalso to draw attention to the fact of
how many places that works being doneand how many groups are out there doing
it. So we want to bea cheerleader as an organization and a support
for making sure that we're telling thestory of all the great folks in Hertford
that are investing in green spaces,that are investing in neighborhoods and saying this

is a great place to live,this is a great place to work,
and we want to be a partof that. So certainly stepping up as
a volunteer is one way to dothat. Becoming a donors and other way
to do that and then just joinus as community coming out to one of
our fundraising events. But if you'reinterested and curious about gardening and you find
yourself in Hertford, think about becominga community gardener and being a part of

our community in that way, Ithink I need to come and just to
get tips from others around exactly perfect. Well, time for one more question,
which I'm opposed to each of you. We have a couple minutes left,
is you know, really the impactWe've talked a lot about what the
short term and what the impact ishappening here today, kind of longer term,

where do you really see the overallbenefits of the organization? I know,
a big question for not a tonof time left, but Justina,
I'll pose that one to you first. Yeah, that's a great question,
and I think I touched on someof what I'm gonna say. I just
feel like Knox really is the righttype of organization for future development in Hartford.

You'd have to have an organization likeKnox as the city continues to grow
and expand, add new new housing, you know, add new corporate offices.
Knox really fits into that picture verynicely with the tree planting, with
the partnership with the City of Hartfordon a number of initiatives, with workforce

development and the green Jobs apprenticeship program, with the community gardens. I just
I think you need an organization likeKnox in a capital city that really ties
a lot of these different pieces togetherand it just makes a better city to
live, work and play. Andat the end of the day, completely
agree and Patrick, anything to addthere, Yeah, So I would just

add We're actually coming up on twobig holidays at Knox. The first is
Earth Day and the second is ArborDay, both taking place April twenty second
for Earth Day and the twenty sixfor Arbor Day. Okay, And it's
one of the things that excites meabout those days. It really reflects the
importance of our work. What Ithink about is globally, if people can

reduce the number of miles that thefood has to travel to get to their
plate, and if we can workto restore the tree canopy, those are
two very local things we can dothat can make a big impact, especially
in the long term with some ofthe things that are happening in US.
Having a more sustainable planet and makingsure that we're addressing how we do things

sustainably, and so that's critically importantwhen I really look out right and kind
of get big picture. It's somethingwe can do here, It's something that
we can do today, but weknow people are stepping forward to help with
these goals. On Arbor Day,we're actually going to be planting trees in
Colt Park with the Friends of Parkand with Eversource and the City of Hartford,

so that will be really exciting.Later in May, we'll actually be
planting trees with Travelers and American Forests. So we're really excited about about some
of those efforts because that tree thatyou plant, it continues to grow and
continues to support the city, whetherthat's the reduced heat from the shade and
the canopy coverage, but also helpwith storm water, which is a big

issue, especially in some parts ofHartford. So how can we really use
the work we're doing to help withthose things is important and again give people
the opportunity to grow and enjoy thekind of food that they want to have.
Our focus and our mission is reallyincreasingly about the work we can do
to empower people so they have moreand better choices for what it is they're

doing right here in Hertford. Soas we see them step forward as volunteers,
as we see them get involved inwhether it's free planting or gardening and
these other things, we see alsoall the potential there is in the city
because as we do this work,we want to plant that seed with all
the other folks who are in thecommunity that we know Hertford has everything we

need in order for this to bea totally green, totally healthy city.
And the more we're able to workwith people and have them see what they
can do for themselves and in theirneighborhood, the stronger that impact will be.
I love it. I love itextremely well said. And where can
people go to get more information aboutgetting involved? Sure, so please visit
us online at Knoxhartford dot org.So Knox perfect Hertford dot org. You

can all kinds of information there.You can also come see us at our
farmer's market on Mondays starting on Junethird, or come on out and volunteer.
Love it well, Thank you bothso much for being here today.
I'm inspired to go home and workin my garden, so I appreciate that,
but really appreciate the work that youguys are doing in your organization because
it certainly is making a huge,huge difference in Hartford. So thank you,

thank you, thank you, ofcourse, all right, for all
of you listening here today, youcan get all the details about today's show
at Pulseothregion dot com. We'd liketo give a big thank you to our
show partner, Okill, and ofcourse thanks to you for listening. I'm
Kate Bowman. Go out, maketoday a good day here in Connecticut.
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