It snowed a little bit last Saturday when I was at Mower’s Meadow and more is expected this week. The books and clothing all got a mini dusting of the first snow of the season.
Whenever that happens (the first snow of the season) I always remember one of the first things I learned about the Woodstock community and its residents when I moved here: Labor Day means we pack away our dreams of a summer moon and drag out the brand new boots we were waiting to put on.
And, further into the memory is the afternoons in the pantry when the cold was so cold and Bob Otto and Tony Cannistra about froze to death in the barn. They distributed frozen food to the shoppers from that dirt floored room in the unpainted, uninsulated, unheated building behind the church parking lot.
Even though the pantry couldn’t open until 3:00, Bob and Tony unlocked the barn and got to work at 2:30. “Come on over!” they called to the crowd gathered in the parking lot. “We’ve got chopped meats, cutlets, steaks, roasts, mac and cheese packages, frozen juices.”
2:30 in the parking lot was described by some of the volunteers as a circus. I lovingly thought of it as a bus station in a third world country. And, actually, I thought of it as more than that.
I once spent a couple of hours in an out-of-the-way airport in Venezuela that was overcrowded with hundreds of gold miners who themselves waited for planes. They either waited for planes to get further into the interior of the country to hunt for gold or they waited for planes to return to civilization to sell what they found. Whatever their destination, the place was packed.
But, whether we were all coming or going at the pantry, we were in a hurry, too.
In the pantry, we were always in a hurry. The crowd was always larger than the hallway, the parking lot, and the barn entrance. And, they wanted to get the long wait behind them so they could have a two or three minute shopping spree in the tiny room.
And, after the shopping, they were always in a hurry to get their new found food home because the event had taken all afternoon. For some, it took more than just all afternoon because they got to the pantry late morning. Hitch hikers started out early and, if they got a ride quickly, they were in the parking lot before noon.
My memory always includes a vision of Bob and Tony taking turns to come into the hallway to warm up, whatever that meant. Even though the hallway was crowded, there was just not quite enough body heat generated to call the place cozy…or even cool. The place was cold.
I never said a word about the temperature because I was afraid that if I did the volunteers would walk off. I just went about my business pretending that I wasn’t wearing two sweaters under my coat. Volunteers made statements about the temperature of the hallway as they wore two hats.
“My hands are frozen!” Bob always remarked as he briskly rubbed them together, hoping the friction would get the heat going. Just outside the door to the building, Bob stomped his feet, trying to get some feeling into his cold toes.
Tony was less vocal but just as cold when he got his short break. I always suspected that he had a small hidden flask to help warm himself up. How else could he be so calm about fingers one degree away from frost bite? I never saw any evidence but it was the only excuse I could find for a person in such cold weather conditions.
Because, not only were the two men standing in the cold, they were handling frozen meats, vegetables, fruits, juices. All of it came rock solid frozen from the food bank.
Before the pantry opened, Tony also doubled as the parking lot manager which put him in the middle of the confusion. Just the parking lot was a fulltime toughie job. But, somehow, Tony made the parking lot and the barn distribution look easy.
But, no one complained. Ever. They had gotten a three-day-supply of food a week ago and it was all gone now. They were hungry. They were the struggling poor.
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Woodstock, New York
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It’s OUT! It’s in print! The story has been told! And you can get a copy of the book. Today! Right now! Simply go to thurmangreco.com and order it on paypal.
Or, you can get it at a book signing. I’m reading my book in libraries and church halls and in independent book stores. Check my website to find a time and place convenient for you.
What began as a project, guaranteed to take no more than two hours a month, is a calling. Proceeds of the sale of this book (and the t-shirt) are going to feed the hungry.
The Book and the T-Shirt:
The book and the t-shirts took more than five years of work. I went through reams and reams of paper. Two computers blew up and one copier died of exhaustion.
Get the book, read it, and let me know how you feel about what you read.
And, please share this unbelievably exciting news!
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It seems only yesterday that we sent you an appeal for support. We were a band of 4 people who barely knew each other, embarked on an adventure, a quest. None of us mentioned it, not even to each other…but you were our only hope.
We were processing a 501(c)3 to open the Reservoir Food Pantry. And, until it came through, we needed a sponsor willing to share theirs. So, you got the letter, and invited us to lunch at Zen Mountain Monastery so we could meet and make our appeal. We joined you at your table on Sunday, October 27, 2013.
We begged, really, but you never let on. We went away that afternoon energized by your openness, professionalism, interest, concern. Eventually you did what you did and we received the support from your group.
You gave us a raft on which we floated until we got our own 501(c)3 and gained acceptance with the Food Bank of the Hudson Valley.
So, today, as a result of your efforts, there is now a pantry on Route 28 in the Ashokan Reservoir area of Ulster County in New York serving over area households every Monday afternoon at 2 and every Tuesday morning at 9.
The majority of these people are seniors. For the most part, they have worked and lived all their lives in this area. They paid their taxes, raised their children, and contributed to their community. And now, in the 21st century they are finding they don’t have the resources to feed themselves. They constitute the senior citizen faction of the new 21st century Struggling Class.
The pantry volunteers look forward to serving the hungry for many years to come. They’ve had the last year to become a very dedicated and close knit group. The community appears to accept the services offered by these very special people.
IN CONCLUSION: Thank you Konrad Ryushin Marchaj for all you have done for yourself and your fellow man. I saw you change the world around you for the better. That counts for a lot in my book.
I wish you well on your continued journey of spiritual growth. I am proud to have been touched by you. On behalf of all the hungry people volunteers feed weekly, I offer gratitude. It is an honor and a pleasure.
I cannot thank you enough for your trust, your support, and your confidence in our humble venture
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Please refer this article to your preferred social media network. And, please forward this article to your interested friends. More people in this world need to know about the goodness of Konrad Ryushin and the volunteers of the Reservoir Food Pantry.
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:
terminally ill 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
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.
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Shiv’s message came through on Facebook the other day.
“I finally decided to take the step and become a Tibetan monk after taking instruction with HH Yangsi Rinpoche, shaved my 30 years of dreadlocks and beard and now I’m getting my robes today.”
April 1, 2015
Although I didn’t know him personally, he was a popular face at Monday night poetry readings at the Colony Cafe. I noticed him each time he attended a poetry reading, with his massive mound of dreadlocks wound around the top of his scalp. He also had an open smile and everyone seemed to like him. And, of course, silly me, what did I know? Here he was, living and breathing…the most famous of the famous.
One of the first things that impressed me about Woodstock was the prevalence of artists, writers, poets, musicians, singers, actors. They move about town as if no one knows who they are. And, indeed, many are not known to people on the street.
It’s been that way for years. Byrdcliffe has attracted people in the arts since the early 20th century years. Artists live at Byrdcliffe both permanently in their private homes and temporarily through the artist-in-residence program.
And, then, the famous Woodstock Music Festival brought another group which also never left. They are seen about town today. Some of them are now local businessmen. The story goes that the original owner of Taco Juan was at the festival, for example. Ditto for Not Fade Away. The new Shindig is owned by a “festival family”.
But, back to Shiv, the most talented in a lineup of many.
Both famous, semi-famous, and unknown talented people in the arts used the food pantry regularly after the downfall of the economy in ’07. Because Woodstock attracted artists, musicians, and writers, many of them had second homes in Woodstock. Some of these creative and talented people saw their incomes totally dry up.
I heard similar stories. They essentially went like this: the person would have a home in the Woodstock area in addition to a place in New York City or Paris or Dubai, Katmandu, Delhi, or Miami or someplace…anyplace else. As the income dwindled, the person looked around, assessed his/her situation and tried to unload the most expensive place which was usually in the someplace else location.
Some sublet. Others sold. Still others underwent foreclosusre.
They came to Woodstock to live in the cheaper home, only to find zero opportunity to earn $$$ away from the city environment. So, here they were…down and out in Woodstock and Bearsville. Some even experienced foreclosure of the Upstate New York home.
The pantry line filled weekly with intelligent, well educated, talented people who were stranded because their support system was just not what it should have been. They, for the most part, made the best of it. What else could they do? Artists, musicians, writers, actors…talented…all.
Eventually, some established new lifelines. A few ended up homeless.
Battling the restrictions of the building committee, while trying to serve everyone who needed food was challenging for the volunteers. Often the wait was over an hour for a 3-day supply of food during the darkest days of the depression.
Somehow, I felt these talented people deserved better than a begrudging attitude offered to them in the cold basement of the Woodstock Reformed Church. As volunteers, we did the best we could to make them feel welcome, safe, accepted but it was hard.
Shiv Mirabito was the center of the group in the food pantry line each week. He offered strength with his positive attitude and smile. I credit this with the essence which makes makes Shiv Mirabito the person he is. He has spent his entire adult life studying Tantric Buddhist philosophy and lives what he studies. Each moment is a religious experience for him.
Now, time has passed. Possibly life has improved in the bowels of the church on pantry day. Hopefully fewer of these talented people need food from the pantry. I’m not sure because I moved to Reservoir Food Pantry where the atmosphere is totally different.
We’ve all changed. Especially Shiv who will be totally unrecognizable for awhile on the streets of Woodstock. I’m hoping to see him soon in his new robes. Without his dreads, the robes will be the only way I’ll be able to recognize him.
Shiv has a publishing house in India for his fellow writers/artists. He prints their work on handmade papers. Shiv has been doing this for years. Shivastan Publishing uses traditional printing methods to craft print chapbooks and broadsides on handmade paper. Each of these books is a work of art unto itself in addition to the poetry printed on the page. There are typos to be found. After all, the people doing the printing don’t read or write English.
And what has happened to the other equally talented artists, writers, musicians who were stuck for awhile in Woodstock? Hopefully times have changed for them too. I occasionally see 1 or 2 of them in Kingston.
It was gut wrenching to see the effect of the foreclosures on them in Woodstock. And, it was difficult for them to leave Woodstock. For some, foreclosure affected their emotional health.
A few, I know, returned to the primary city where life is easier for them now. They are happy for the return move.
RUPCO is opening a new housing unit for those in the arts. It’s located in the newly refurbished, historical Lace Mill in Kingston. I’m hoping some will be lucky enough to get an apartment there.
Opening soon, 1, 2, and 3-bedroom lofts will be available with mezzanines and high ceilings. Several gallery spaces, designated shared and private work studios are planned.
A common artist utility room is being built on every level.
Outdoor sculpture areas are designed for public art.
I’m hoping some of those in the arts in Woodstock will be lucky enough to get an apartment there. I’m hoping they’ll enjoy it. It’s gorgeous!
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