It Takes A Village. Giving Thanks.

By Rebecca Martin

In the midst of perhaps the busiest year yet, I’m feeling gratitude for those working hard in helping to make Kingston a safe and cool place to live in these modern and tricky times.

I just arrived home from a wonderful visioning session held at 721 Media in Midtown. I loved being there, and was impressed at how much was accomplished in just two hours. I have many favorite moments from the evening, but at the top of my list goes to Valeria Gheorghiu who coined the phrase “Midtown Mojo”.  I hope someone uses it to promote our midsection because it’s perfect.

I wish I had more time to sit and contemplate to make a comprehensive list, as there are dozens and dozens of initiatives and people worthy of praise.  The end of the year is near, when I’ll recap 2010 and share more of what I’ve seen around the city.

Until then, here goes. In no particular order.

Behind the Scenes

Kristen Wilson, Project Manager of Healthy Kingston for Kids of Cornell Cooperative Extension
It’s no easy feat to score a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, but Kristen did it. She successfully brought together people working all throughout the area in a partnership to create ‘Healthy Kingston for Kids’ – a project that addresses childhood obesity through initiatives that include safe routes to school, complete streets, gardens and healthy eating. Managing efforts, people and grant administration is a hard job, so kudos to Kristen and all of those working alongside to bring Kingston up-to-date on many important community aspects.

Megan Weiss, Kingston Cares
At 25 years of age, Megan has worked tirelessly to help the youth be better understood in the midtown area of Kingston. Her office is in the Everett Hodge Center on Franklin Street, and you’d be hard pressed to visit her when there weren’t youth hanging out in her office. Her walls are plastered with artwork and I noticed a guitar in the corner of her office last I looked.  A girl after my own heart. Megan’s intuition, compassion and grace is gifted to this community.

Jennifer Schwartz-Berky and Dennis DoyleUlster County Planning Board
These two highly trained professionals and their department work tirelessly at some of the more important projects in our communities. From comprehensive planning to main street revitalizations and more –  their office secure grants, provide skilled recommendations, host community meetings and are as approachable as those working in your neighborhood deli.  They are unsung heroes who deserve a great deal of thanks.

Kevin McEvoy and Barbara Epstein, Historians/Documentors
What’s historic in Kingston? Just ask Kevin McEvoy and Barbara Epstein. Their efforts quietly pack a punch. Whether they are composing lists to help update historic landmark records or researching properties little known to even the most hard core preservationists, they volunteer their expertise to help connect our historic city’s past to its present.

Cynthia Lowe, Community Foundation of Ulster County
I love the Community Foundation. Their efforts in Ulster County ” is guided by a local board of community leaders and monies raised for Ulster County that stay in Ulster County.  The board’s goals are to grow philanthropy in Ulster County, raise money, establish new endowed funds and make grants to make the quality of life in Ulster County even better.” Cynthia is wonderful who will give anyone with an idea in mind the time that they need to see if they might qualify as a designated fund or grant opportunity. It’s a fantastic resource.

Lawrence McCauley, Community Organizer
Ward 9 resident Lawrence McCauley for years now has taken it upon himself to organize community meetings at his home while providing some of the best baked goods in the Hudson Valley that he makes himself. His monthly meetings allow citizens in his neighborhood a place to go to discuss quality of life issues to encourage action on important initiatives.

Sean Griffin, Community Organizer
Sean might be better known as the ‘ice cream man’ of Uptown, but his little shop collects locals with a place to go ‘where everybody knows your name’. He’s a passionate newcomer, who is always on the cutting edge with one idea after another. He’s also a badass musician – one of the best in Celtic music in the country.  Julie, his wife is equally as wonderful and is a Montessori teacher. I’m so glad that they landed here.

Farmer Jesica Clark, South Pine Street City Farm and ‘The Dig Kids’ Steward
Soon to be a household name in Kingston, Farmer Clark has moved to Kingston with one wish in mind. To make Kingston a destination for urban farming and sustainable living. Her projects include a Farm on South Pine Street and the stewardess of ‘The Dig Kids’, a farming program sponsored by the Kingston Land Trust that pays youth a stipend to farm at the Everett Hodge Center. The big picture is helping to create youth jobs while making farming accessible…and hip again. You go girl.

…and Those Seen

Valerie Hannum, Principal, GW Montessori School
Who could have imagined this?  A public Montessori school in the middle of Kingston providing a heart felt education and place of respect for our youth. Valerie Hannum did.

I encourage you to visit sometime. If you go early enough when the children are arriving to school, you’ll see Valerie out on the front steps welcoming and shaking students hands – every single day.  You will not believe the peaceful environment when you enter through the front door. The kids are happy, engaged and learning. Every community should be so lucky and every school should look to her leadership to imagine ways to incorporate public education with alternative methods.

O + Festival Organizers
Here is major evidence that Kingston is a city of Artists in the Hudson Valley. Charged with connecting artists of all sorts with the medical arts, this crew has launched what will no doubt be a powerhouse of a concept in the State of New York and beyond. Their motto is to go about it alone with private donations. Have you noticed the artwork placed beautifully all around Uptown on our historic buildings? It’s fabulous. Keep an eye out in future years as they continue to drive the arts, business and good health everywhere.

Gerald Berke, The Kingston Corridor
There isn’t a meeting that this man isn’t at these days. Gerry (as I like to call him, who wears a signature cap as I do)  is working hard to connect all three sections of Kingston into one with an effort called ‘the Kingston Corridor’.  Most recently, I caught him gorilla gardening all throughout midtown with a car filled with hearty mums to help spruce up vacant lots.

Michael and Claudia D’Arcy, Kingston, NY Neighborhood Watch
These two dedicated Kingstonians have helped to create one of the more important initiatives in Kingston to date. Every day, they put themselves in the middle of hard stuff, shedding light on criminal activity through projects, events and meetings. They are also wonderful parents, and Claudia is a major advocate on adoption rights.

Hayes Clement, Andi Turco-Levin, Jennifer FuntesCouncil Members
In my short time in community work, I haven’t seen such a show of interested council members as I have in these three.  It’s a complicated balance providing stability for their parties while being out in the public listening to their constituency as they do.  Their roles come with a deep amount of baggage and quite often,  city government takes many lumps from citizens who should consider taking on a more responsible role than they do.

We have three rising stars in government and I watch with respect and patience in what they have and will contribute to the City of Kingston.

Conservation Advisory Council
Have you all caught the works of the CAC? All I can say, is thank goodness this council has arrived. “This volunteer board is an advisory body that will work to ensure the sustainable use of Kingston’s natural resources and the enhancement and protection of its environment”. Kingston is one of only 12 cities in New York State that have a Conservation Council and is now one of 16 other Ulster County Conservation Councils. Filled to the brim with volunteer professionals and experts on many subjects,  this board meets the second Wednesday of each month at 6:30pm in Kingston City Hall Conference Room 2. Led by Kingston Environmental Educator Julie Noble,  meetings are open to the general public and I encourage you to attend sometime.

Diane Reeder and Michael Berg, The Queens Galley and Family of Woodstock
Yeah, yeah. I know. We all are aware that Diane and Michael represent all that’s good in the world. I’d like to refer to them here as the Matriarch and Patriarch of good will.  But these boats float on donations and their work need our support now more than ever. With an economy that has tanked, many of our neighbors need assistance and Diane and Michael in their work have the smarts and the hearts to provide .  Remember, that giving is a person’s greatest fortune. Don’t get hung up on your taxes taking care of food and shelter, because it is only a part of it. We need organizations like these to find creative solutions, education and support to those who face downtrodden times.

Feel free to add to this list in the comment section.

3 thoughts on “It Takes A Village. Giving Thanks.”

  1. This is an excellent piece of work… a “keeper”…
    An excellent piece of writing that is exactly along the lines of what is needed: the cross connection of various organizations and people involve, a beginning of a directory of activities and services. (I am humbled that you included me… oh my.)
    Thanks, too, for repeating the “midtown Mojo”… Midtown is midtown, not something else. And while it is grand that all the business districts are so well connected along the Corridor, Midtown is midtown: it has some grit. Seeing and calling it what it is as opposed to what it is not (and the attendant disappointment) might go a long way to enjoying midtown not for what it might become, but for what it is.
    I cannot say enough about the effect of Keegan’s, the Seven 21 Media Center, the Kingston Library, what is happening along the spurs like Cornell Street.
    Mojo’s not my word, but I can embrace it if citizens like it, pick up on it.
    Perhaps Valeria Gheorghiu will pen something for the Kingston Times on Midtown Mojo… It is the germ of a very good idea: naming Midtown.

  2. Taking Kingston Back is the theme — this term has been around for quite some time and precedes some of the recent players. I recall the prior work of activists bringing the Guardian Angels into this area (Midtown) to help
    cleanup the streets – Lennie won’t be forgotten. I spoke with outsiders regarding the increased use of drugs, etc., and his “opinion” was “entrenchment” – a direct connection between Poverty and Crime. About the LOW involvement of the Midtown residents, I say this, don’t be so harsh, UNTIL you walk in another persons shoes. There are reasons why MIDTOWN residents take a “quiet stance”. In some ways Midtown is the dumping ground. Unfortunate as this is I’d like to see progress not only in the structure of Kingston BUT the improvement of the attitudes of the population. Diversity true Diversity should indeed permeate Kingston. Make it asafe and healthy place for ALL. Diversity in employment, etc. throughout the City of Kingston. It doesn’t take a “survey” just open your eyes !


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