An Open Letter to Froma Harrop – a Hero for Hunger

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Dear Ms. Harrop – I enjoyed reading your article in the Friday, June 19, 2015, Daily Freeman Newspaper entitled “Why we still need public libraries.”  Thank you for writing about such a important  subject.  I periodically blog  about this issue in one of my blogs.  In fact, I discussed this subject just a month ago on a May 20, 2015 post of this blog.

Woodstock, NY, has been debating  if/how to modernize our library since about 2007.

Your arguments in favor of  public   libraries are  all relevant as far as they go. However, I feel that you omitted  arguments touching on the heart of the most pressing need for continuing their existence.

Libraries are lifelines for the new Struggling Class – a growing group of people experiencing poverty to such an extent that a local library is  essential  in ways we never before imagined.

For starters, libraries  offer clean restrooms.  In our community of approximately  10,000 residents (if you count both the full time residents and the weekenders), there are very few public restrooms.

We have  a public restroom just up the street from our village green which closes each year on November 30th  and does not reopen until April 15th.

Our recently renovated Town Hall has public restrooms.

Family of Woodstock has a public restroom.

And, the Woodstock Free Library has one.

That’s it.  The homeless and the struggling poor don’t have the funds to duck  into a local cafe and buy a cup of coffee in order to get access to a restroom.  They rely on the services offered in their communities.  This always includes the restroom at the library.

Libraries offer a place to get in out of the cold, the heat, the wet.  They offer an opportunity to sit in a chair and read a newspaper or a magazine.  This is  important to the many categories of poverty ridden:


generational poor,

hardworking poor,


mentally ill,

persistent poor,

resource poor,

senior citizens,

situational poor,

terminally ill poor,

transient poor,

underemployed poor

unemployed poor,


The Woodstock Library has computers.    When I visit the library  they are always being used.

For those  without  a computer, the library is  a  lifeline to the world.  Nowadays, computers are needed to:

apply for a job

find housing

make a medical appointment

apply for benefits such as social security, SNAP, unemployment compensation

find a food pantry

find a soup kitchen

find a bus schedule

This is just the basic list.  I’m sure  the people using a library computer can give several more reasons.

Many struggling poor and homeless people have smart phones.  They often sacrifice much to keep a smart phone but it is an invaluable tool for survival in the 21st century.

Other struggling poor have working computers but can’t afford wifi.  Libraries offer wifi for people who don’t have the price of a cup of coffee needed to get the service in a cafe.  On any evening in Woodstock, it’s common to see people sitting on the grounds of the library, under the light of the moon, using the public wifi services offered by our Woodstock Library.

However, not all struggling poor people can afford  smart phones or computers.   For them, the library is their only  option.

And, we haven’t even gotten to the books yet.  One of the reasons our community has been wrangling over the expansion/update of our library all these years is that we simply don’t have space for the needed books.

And, we haven’t even gotten to the children, either.  Our library offers story telling hours throughout the week for the many children in the area whose families use our library.  Our children’s room is very popular.  It’s every bit as important as the computer area.

We have a public speaking space with a waiting list several months long.

What would we do without our library?

On behalf of the poor, the hungry, and the downtrodden, I thank you for supporting the continuing existence of libraries,  Froma Harrop.  In my blog, that makes you a Hero for Hunger.

Thank you for reading this blog.

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Thurman Greco

Woodstock’s Best Kept Secret

Woodstock is really a very special place.  But…not how yo think.  There are several places in our fair U S of A where you can drop me off blindfolded and I’ll know exactly what town I’m in.  The places, in alphabetical order, are:




New Orleans

New York City

San Antonio

San Francisco


The sounds and smells tell the whole story just the way it is.

Each of these places hold secrets.

I really shouldn’t be publishing this article so soon.  After all, this is a brand new blog and I shouldn’t be giving away the goodies up front.  I should, instead, publish articles for at least a year or 2 before I begin to spill the beans.

But, I can’t wait.  I never could keep either a surprise or a secret forever.  So, here goes…

The best kept secret in all of Woodstock is  not who’s sleeping with whom, or who has the best dope, or if I think so-and-so is going to try to run against somebody special this year in the election or anything like that.  Or why…oh well…I could go on forever.

The best kept secret in all of Woodstock is…ta DAH…where the best place to eat in Woodstock is.

There is this little place located on 26 Mill Hill Road in Woodstock.  It’s upstairs in the educational building behind Christ Lutheran Church.  This restaurant is the creation of Victoria Langling and has been open continuously since May 17, 1993.

It’s open Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

The menu at this restaurant is simple…as is the decor.  Renee Englander sets up the tables in the afternoons before the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen opens.

About 3:15, a volunteer from one of the local churches goes to a local area restaurant and returns with a large container of a specially prepared hearty soup.  Volunteers from the local religious congregations take turns in the soup kitchen monthly.  They set the tables, serve the soup and clean up after the kitchen closes.

The donating restaurants vary with each soup kitchen day so that it’s possible to eat at the soup kitchen every day it’s open for an entire month without eating the same soup twice.

Donating restaurants include:

Bistro to Go

Bread Alone

Catskill Mountain Pizza

Hickory BBQ Smokehouse

Hurley Ridge Market

Little Bear Restaurant

Nana’s Creative Cafe

Oriole 9

Mountainview Market

Woodstock Meats

Breads are served with the soups…from Bread Alone, no less.  Real butter is offered also.

Desserts are baked goods from Meredith’s.  Cookies are also available.

Half and half is offered for the coffee.

There is always a generous serving of peanut butter and jelly so sandwiches can be made to eat in the dining room or take home.

The whole package is delicious, nutritious, inviting.

The soups are wonderful, delectable, hearty.  If purchased in one of the local area restaurants which donates them, they would cost much $$$.

The room has large windows overlooking Mower’s Meadow.

The clientele is consistent.  Woodstock’s Colorful Characters are always in attendance.  An occasional person will come over from the food pantry on Wednesday.  Sometimes people recuperating from a hospital stay will drop by for a take out container.

All are welcome.  The soup is superb.

Thank you to everyone who makes this event a reality.

 Thanks for reading this blog.

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Good Luck to us all.

Thurman Greco





Have you ever searched for the face of God?

snowy branch
“Hello Mrs. Greco.  Here’s my paper for you this week.  Keep it hidden.  I don’t want it to get in the hands of the wrong person.”  He spoke rapidly.  “Ricochet tried to kill me this week.  But I’m not going to let him get away with it.”

“What happened today?”

“I caught him outside the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen telling lies again.  He’s an informant of the FBI and the CIA and he’s spreading lies about me again”.

“I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Yes, he’s involved in the Exxon-Mobil scandal with the Iran Contras.  But, he’s not going to get away with it.  I’m an ex-marine and an investigative journalist.  I called the FBI on Rick and the whole bunch of them.

“Keep up the good work”.

Although he was a regular shopper at the pantry, coming to shop every week, I considered him to be a volunteer.  It was always a pleasure to see him.  He had a lot of brown hair going grey, wore tortoise shell glasses and he sported a beard.

He’s very intelligent, well educated and has been living in Woodstock for many years. And, he  really lives in Woodstock. He can be seen everywhere, everyday. He stops by Family daily. He dines at the Daily Bread Soup Kitchen every evening that it’s open. He visits the monthly Woodstock Democratic Committee meetings. He attends the Town Board meetings and always has a contribution in the “Public be Heard” segment of the meeting.

How long the hair is and how full the beard is varies as time passes.  A couple of times he disappeared for several weeks/months and returned with a very neat haircut and very little facial hair.  Then, as time passed, I would see him getting scruffier and scruffier.  At one point he pulled his worldly possessions behind him on a little wagon.  When the wagon wheels gave up, he made a sled and pulled his things behind him without the wheels.

He is articulate, respectful, and always brought me the latest copy of his newspaper which he writes, publishes, and distributes weekly.  His stories and illustrations cover local news and events.

There would always be a good story about the latest Town Board Meeting, in addition to the ongoing saga of the Iran Contra affair involving the CIA, FBI, and Ricochet.  Occasionally the pantry would be featured when he covered a fundraiser.  I was always touched and very proud to be featured in his newspaper “Free the Press.”

I also knew him  outside the pantry.  I attended the Woodstock Democratic Committee meetings for an entire year before I joined the committee.  We sat beside each other at every meeting…the only 2 people in the audience at meetings held at the Center for Photography.  I didn’t know anything about him then.

I sensed that he was special and felt it was an honor and a pleasure to sit with him in the audience.

Once we sat together at a Library Forum speech given by Ron VanWarmer.  Ron spoke about hunger to a  small audience that night.  Michael didn’t care whether other people were there or not.  He took notes just the same as he prepared for the next issue of his newspaper.

After I resigned from the Good Neighbor Food Pantry, he brought his newspapers by the house so I could read the latest copies.

In spite of all his public life, he’s very private about where lives. In fact, his place of residence is known by pretty much no one… The story in town is that he’s that he’s homeless.

He came into the pantry weekly and walked around the tiny room, briskly choosing items off the shelves,,  never stopping to read the labels as  many do. He decisively  chose items from every category.

So, I have absolutely no idea where he lives. But, this I do know: he’s got a kitchen.

I always felt, when I saw him, that I was looking straight into the face of God.

Thanks for reading the blog.

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Thurman Greco

Good Luck to us all

Photograph provided by Jennette Nearhood

Woodstock is a Food Desert. Why is that?



Hard to imagine, isn’t it?  Woodstock lacking in anything.  After all, 60% or so of our residents are weekenders with homes elsewhere, mostly in the city.  They venture to Woodstock on the weekends, hang out,  entertain their friends with foods coming from



Cub Market,

and maybe Adams Fairacre Farms.

The meats for their main dishes come from the well stocked Woodstock Meats.

But, what about the rest of the crowd who live here 7 days a week?  The lucky ones with working automobiles zip over to Hurley Ridge Market on 375, the Price Chopper in Saugerties, or 1 of the other chain supermarkets so prevalent in Kingston:



The  locals with resources also shop at the



Cub Market.

Additionally, they shop in Saugerties or Kingston at

Mother Earth’s


These upscale shoppers, both locals and weekenders, focus their purchases on organic, Hudson River Valley food:  popular buzz words here are






humanely raised,


You get the picture.

Those who are not yet vegetarians or vegans also shop at

Woodstock Meats,

Adams Fairacre,


Smokehouse of the Catskills on 212 in Saugerties.

The point here is that these shoppers participate in consumption  trends associated with their lifestyle and health.  And, with the upscale foods available to them in Woodstock, they’re able to pretty much get anything they want, whenever they want it.

The not-so-lucky live a different lifestyle.  The line is drawn with the transportation. The Woodstock resident without a working automobile shops at the


Rite Aid,

Cumberland Farms.

The Woodstock Resident without a working automobile gets Sunflower products with food stamps and/or by diving in the dumpster behind the store and by shopping at pantries located at

Family of Woodstock,

Holy Ascension Monastery, and in the

Woodstock Reformed Church.

Some of the home bound Woodstockers benefit from Sunflower’s benevolency with produce donated regularly to Meals on Wheels.

For many years, the Grand Union was very popular in Woodstock.  Community groups sold Girl Scout cookies, held raffles, and neighbors visited with one another while shopping.  It was an indispensable store for the elderly and those without cars.  In 2001, the Grand Union in Woodstock closed and the space was taken over by the CVS.  In typical Woodstock fashion, residents took to the streets with demonstrations.  On April 11, 2001, Woodstock became a food desert.

The result?  People walking on the sidewalks of Woodstock don’t have enough $$$ to purchase a sufficient amount of nutritious foods.  Food insufficiency is also known as food insecurity.  More people in Woodstock than we realize deal with this situation daily.

Without access to nutritious food, they suffer from over consumption  of unhealthy food.  When a person gets too much of the wrong food and too little of the right food, hunger, poverty, and diseases such as diabetes and obesity overlap and connect.

The reality is that people eat what they have access to.  They don’t eat what they can’t get.

As the wealthy and privileged shop for the best available food and adapt the latest food and health trends to their diets, the lower, less privileged class is left farther and farther behind.  They will probably never catch up.

Thank you for reading this blog.

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Good luck to us all.


Thurman Greco