Cheers to Schneider Electric and Run for the Troops 5K for their combined dedication to the wheelchair division of the race, set for April 28.

Run for the Troops 5K, founded by Andover resident and runner Bill Pennington, was originally established to support Homes For Our Troops, a national charity that raises money and builds accessible homes for wounded veterans.

As the race became more successful, its mission expanded to other charities helping out veterans, including locally based groups such as Brides Across America.

Pennington has smartly partnered with local companies such as Schneider Electric to increase fundraising opportunities, primarily through the establishment of teams of runners. The bigger the teams, the better the fundraising. But Schneider took it one step further. Not only do they have a big team running in the race, but they also have donated time and money to the construction of four hand-cycles and one push-rim wheelchair for wounded veterans who like to compete.

The company, a smart-technology operation based in France with North American headquarters on Federal Street in Andover, got a grant of $25,000 to build the cycles, which will be given to the veterans who use them. Because of its focus on veterans, Run for the Troops 5K continues to grow and thrive.

Hopefully veterans who want to compete but can't run due to injuries sustained as a result of their military service will be compelled to join in the fun next weekend. Thanks, Schneider Electric and Bill Pennington!

Cheers to AVIS — the Andover Village Improvement Society — for 125 years of preserving and protecting Andover's outdoor treasures. Needless to say, it's a difficult endeavor, given the pressure to build in a suburb where so many people want to live and work.

But AVIS, the oldest land preservation organization of its kind in the country, has persevered over the years with creativity and steadfastness. Sure, some opportunities, such as the old Strawberry Hill Farm, have been missed. But using negotiating skills and shrewd financial acumen, the group has been able to steadily pick up pieces of land throughout town that developers may not have wanted or were willing to trade for opportunities elsewhere.

The group now boasts "30 miles of trails, boardwalks, and bridges that are open to the public on over 1,100 acres of AVIS reservations in Andover," according to its website.

Between AVIS and the town's Conservation Commission, which has approximately 2,200 acres of open space under its jurisdiction, and the state of Massachusetts, which owns several hundred acres of the Harold Parker State Forest in Andover, the opportunities for hiking, biking, skiing, bird-watching, swimming, and, well, simply doing nothing while breathing in fresh air and listening to the sounds of nature are countless.

The group held its annual fund-raiser at the Andover Country Club this year, and hundreds attended. It was an event that brought out the best in Andover -- a sense of community, pride and celebration of the great outdoors.

Finally, a jeers goes to the town for a proposed increase in water rates. While we certainly recognize the need to maintain and upgrade the town's aging water system, it seems unfair that  residents would be hit with an increase while also having to deal with an ongoing brown water problem. 

The water soils linens, stains bathroom appliances, and may, say some, be harmful to human health. It's also hard to fathom why, after signing what was billed as a lucrative deal (for Andover) to supply water to North Reading, the first thing the town does is increase water rates. SMH, as the kids say. SMH.

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