Monday, December 27, 2010

At midnight or morning, Southern Tier Christians gather to celebrate

By William Moyer • •

December 24, 2010, 3:25 pm

By simple subtraction after the diocese closed six churches since 2000, local Catholics had fewer options for Mass on Christmas Eve.

Despite the closings, mergers and other reconfigurations in a massive downsizing, however, Catholics still flocked to traditional midnight Masses on Friday in Broome County.

"We have nothing to show total attendance at midnight or others Masses on Christmas Eve has decreased since we closed churches," said Danielle Cummings, director of communications for the Syracuse diocese, which includes Broome County.

"What we've seen in recent years is Mass at different times on Christmas Eve to accommodate people's needs," added Cummings. "In some cases, the time has changed from the typical midnight Mass or parishes have added earlier Masses."

In recent years, the diocese closed St. Rita in Chenango Forks; St. Stanislaus in Dickinson; St. Joseph and St. Andrew, both in Binghamton; St. Christopher in Castle Creek; and Christ the King in Endwell.

Still, at least 11 remaining Catholic churches in Broome County held traditional midnight Masses: Sts. John & Andrew, St. Mary and St. Patrick, all in Binghamton; Our Lady of Good Counsel in West Endicott; St. Ambrose, St. Casimir and St. Joseph, all in Endicott; Holy Family in Endwell; St. James in Johnson City; Our Lady of Sorrows in Vestal; and Our Lady of Lourdes in Windsor. Mass, either at midnight or earlier, remains important to Catholics, said Cummings.

Christians in the Southern Tier and elsewhere awake today to celebrate Christmas, one of the holiest days in Catholic and Protestant churches.

Most churches observed Christ's birth with an assortment of Christmas Eve services on Friday night. Many included candle-lighting ceremonies to symbolize Christians' belief that Jesus is the "light" of the world who was born in a manger to overcome the "darkness" of sin.

Despite a overall decline in organized religion in the past two decades, Christmas remains a religiously significant observance, according to the Rev. Stephen Starzer, pastor of Conklin Presbyterian Church.

Attendance at the church's two Christmas Eve services has remained steady in recent years, said Starzer.

"You come to the end of the commercialized Christmas and ask, 'There's got to be more to it than this?'" said Starzer, who's been pastor at Conklin Presbyterian for 20 years. "Christmas Eve remains important. People come to give pause, sit, think and hear a different message about Christmas."

Not all Christians celebrate Christmas today, though. Hundreds of Orthodox Christians in the Southern Tier will observe the Feast of the Nativity on Jan. 7. Commonly known as Orthodox Christmas, the date for this celebration is set by the older Julian calendar.

Christmas came early Thursday for inmates at the Broome County Correctional Facility in Dickinson. They received gift boxes from the jail ministries program of the Broome County Council of Churches.

About 450 inmates received gift bags with cookies, chips, tissues, candy canes and other small items donated by local churches, schools and civic organizations, according to the Rev. Cris Mogenson, chaplain.

"This is reaching out to a part of our community that is forgotten a lot of the time, much more so this time of the year," added Elizabeth Hayes, jail ministry re-entry program coordinator.

A white Christmas is unlikely, according to the National Weather Service at Greater Binghamton Airport. The forecast for Christmas is cloudy with a high temperature near 30 degrees. The last significant snowfall on Christmas Day was 12.7 inches recorded on Dec. 25, 2002.

Although the actual day when Jesus was born is unknown, Christmas evolved into a Christian celebration of his birth in the centuries after his death to coincide with secular winter festivals. Christians eventually fixed Dec. 25 as the permanent date for their observance

According to the Association of Religion Data Archives at Pennsylvania State University, roughly 108,200 of Broome County's estimated population of 196,000 residents identify themselves as Christians, including mainline Protestants, Evangelicals and Catholics. In Tioga County, about 18,000 people among the estimated population of 51,000 are listed as Christians.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

11 Binghamton-area groups receive Gannett Foundation grants

Staff report • December 18, 2010, 5:20 pm

The Binghamton Philharmonic, the United Way of Broome County and Mothers & Babies Perinatal Network are among the 11 Binghamton-area groups that received Gannett Foundation grants this year.

The foundation gives grants to organizations in communities where Gannett Co. Inc. owns a daily newspaper or television station.

Binghamton-area groups received $28,700, while Elmira-area programs received $11,100 and Ithaca-area groups received $10,000.

Local grant recipients included:

* United Way of Broome County: $9,700 for its 2010 campaign

* Binghamton Philharmonic: $2,000 in support of coaching sessions with members of the Binghamton Youth Symphony
* Boys & Girls Club of Western Broome: $2,000 in support of the Triple Play health and wellness program

* Broome County Gang Prevention: $2,000 toward after-school programming at the Tabernacle Youth Center

* Broome County Council of Churches: $2,000 in support of the Youth Initiative Wheel Chair Ramp program
* Catholic Charities of Chenango: $2,000 in support of their Roots & Wings food security pilot program
* Cornell Cooperative Extension Association of Tioga County: $1,000 in support of the Incredible Years Parents and Toddler Series
* Kopernik Observatory & Science Center: $2,000 in support of their pilot program to introduce economically disadvantaged preschoolers in Broome County to age-appropriate experiential learning in the physical sciences
* Metro Interfaith Housing Management Corp.: $1,500 toward replacement of the roof at 94 Henry Apartments, located on New Street in Binghamton

* Mothers & Babies Perinatal Network: $3,000 to help provide food for the Parents as Leaders Family Resource Centers' Dinner Bell and Breakfast programs

* Rescue Mission Alliance of Syracuse: $1,500 toward the purchase of furnishings and equipment for a residential facility for homeless men located at 56-58 Whitney Ave. in Binghamton.

Nonprofits interested in applying for a Gannett Foundation grant can get guidelines and an application at Applications will be reviewed twice in 2011. Deadlines for applying are Feb. 15 and Aug. 16.

Contact Jan Lesko at (607) 798-1112 with questions. Grant applications should be sent to Sherman Bodner, president and publisher, Press & Sun-Bulletin, P.O. Box 1270, Binghamton, N.Y. 13902-1270.

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Help needed to deliver toys

December 18, 2010, 10:25 pm

Binghamton The Broome County Council of Churches Jail Ministry Program needs volunteers to deliver small Christmas gifts for children of local inmates. Call (607) 724-9130 for more information or visit the Council of Churches, 3 Otseningo St., Binghamton. Packages are prepared and waiting, sorted by zip code.

Packages can be left at recipients' doors.

-- Valerie Zehl

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"Food For Fines" At Broome County Public Library

By WBNG News

December 20, 2010

Have you been a naughty library patron this year?

Well, for a limited time, you can make nice with the library and a local food pantry at the same time.

Monday, December 20 through Friday, December 31, every non-perishable food item you bring to the Broome County Public Library will get you $1 off your library fines.

All the food will go to the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse. CHOW helps 8,900 families in our community.

The "Food For Fines" program will help you knock down your fines, and also help families in need this holiday season.

For more information, you can call the library at (607) 778-6400.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Donate to CHOW, get free Frosty

December 7, 2010, 6:51 am

All area Wendy’s Restaurants are accepting non-perishable food items for the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse during the month of December. With each donation (one per visit), receive a coupon for a free Frosty, said Patsy Thatcher, marketing and community relations manager for Wendy’s.

— Valerie Zehl

Letter to the Editor

Hipocrits in Power

Judith Arnold, LCSW •Reader Submitted •

December 13, 2010, 11:35 am

First, a thank you to the new editorial writers who have spoken up in compassion and pragmatism for those in our community and nation who are struggling economically. More of the electorate need to take a stand.

Contrary to the rebuttal to Prof. James Petras editorial, there is not a black and white answer to the financial quagmire we are in; it is not either this or I'll refuse that as Jonathan Stossel proclaims about collective sharing at Thanksgiving. These days everyone does not own property, in fact they are foreclosed. However, I would have the prisoners working at the CHOW garden.

The conservative political hypocrisy is particularly hard to take at this holiday season. We have a modern den of thieves in Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Karl Rove and their Wall Street pals. What is it that the tearful, daily Mass attender John Boehner does not get about 30 years of wages that are not livable, offshore bank accounts and the rising poverty level? His neighbors are not going to achieve that American Dream he cries about as long as there are 43,000 applicants for 1,000 KIA jobs in ultra-conservative West Point, Georgia and four more textile plants that closed there last year. The identified 6,000 Southern Tier unemployed know where their bread is not buttered. That is not soft social science Mr. Siwiec. The thieves' apologist Bill O'Reilly asks, “What does a moral society owe to the have-nots?” Jesus threw the moneychangers out.

As former columnist Molly Ivins stated in Dec 2005, “The nation's leaders sure don't act like Christians; some Christians seem to me inclined to lose track of love, compassion and mercy. I don't think I have any special brief to go around judging them, but when the stink of hypocrisy becomes so foul in the nostrils it makes you start to puke, it becomes necessary to point out there is one more good reason to observe the separation of church and state: If God keeps hanging out with politicians, it's gonna hurt His reputation.”

The thieves are so tight with the wealthy plutocracy they did not ask them to anti up any percentage of tax sharing for the common good in NY or Washington in the deficit reduction plan. Nicholas Kristof(NYTimes) reports that, “from 1980-2005 more than four-fifths of the total increase in American incomes went to the richest 1 percent and they are less likely to spend their tax cut or savings. Inequality leaves people on the lower rungs feeling like hamsters on a wheel spinning ever faster, without hope or me we've reached a banana republic point where our inequality has become both economically unhealthy and morally repugnant.” The American Friends Service Committee reminds us that 59% of the federal budget goes to the military.

I'm sorry Tiny Tim; as Bill Moyers states, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. But he's run off with all the toys.” (truthout, Nov 3)

Judith Arnold, LCSW

Friday, December 10, 2010

In Memory of Edward T Gidzinski

Edward Gidzinski age 83 passed away on Monday morning at his home. He is predeceased by one son Eddy, and his parents Jacob and Adele H. Gidzinski. He is survived by his wife of 56 years Jacqueline(Vimislik) Gidzinski of Port Crane, 1 daughter Eileen Bonham of Port Crane, three granddaughters, Shannon Bonham and George Heggie of Oxford, Stacie Bonham of Port Crane and Emma Stewart of Cenreville, Va., 1 grandson Andrew Gidzinski of Cenreville Va. and one great grandaughter Mazlynn, 1 daughter- in- law Mary Gidzinski of Cenreville Va. , 2 brothers Chester and Paul Gidzinski of Port Crane, 3 sister-in- laws, Theresa Kaminsky of Endicott, Iona and Adele Gidzinski of Port Crane; also many nieces, nephews, cousins and many good friends. Edward had worked at Binghamton University in the Maintenance Dept for 26 years having retired in 2000, prior to that he also worked at EH Titcheners for many years. He enjoyed hunting, his John Deere tractors and his polka music. Ed was one of the hardest working men you would ever find.

The family will receive friends at the Sedlock Funeral Home Inc., 161 Clinton St., Binghamton NY on Fri. evening from 4 to 7 pm. Graveside services will be private. In lieu of flowers kindly make donations to Chow, 3 Otseningo St, Binghamton N.Y. 13903

Published in Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin on December 10, 2010

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Mirabito to collect food for CHOW

BINGHAMTON Mirabito Energy Products said it will host is second annual holiday gathering from 9:30 a.m. to noon Saturday at the Metrocenter.

The public is invited to enjoy pictures, pictures with Santa, raffles and Christmas carols at the event.

A craft station will be available for children to color pictures that will be sent to troops overseas.

The cost of admission is at least one canned food item, which will be donated to Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

CHOW Benefit Concert - 12/4/2010

The 7th annual Chorus for CHOW Benefit was held at the Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church Saturday afternoon.

Hundreds filled the pews and listened to holiday music for an excellent cause.

The concert is held annually to raise money for the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse of the Broome County Council of Churches.

CHOW's director says many people are in urgent need of food this holiday season.

"So we're really here to help people who have to face the dilemma, "Do I pay for my heat bill or do I buy food?" And so, we're able to say because of the generosity of this community, "pay your heat bill and we'll give you the food you need," said Ed Blaine, the Director of Chow.

Last year this event raised around $2,000, and the events organizers hope to match that amount this year.

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Food for Fines at the Broome County Library

From Broome County Public Library:

Do you have outstanding fees on your account at the Broome County Public Library? For a limited time, you can reduce your fines and help the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) at the same time! Between December 20 and December 31, you will receive $1.00 off your fines for each non-perishable food item that you bring to the Library. Food items will be donated to CHOW in support of their assistance programs to the 8,900 families served in our community. Help yourself and help CHOW at the same time during this holiday season. For more information, please call the Library at 607-778-6400.

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chorus concert to benefit CHOW

December 2, 2010, 12:00 am
The seventh annual Choruses for CHOW benefit concert will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church, located at 380 Main St. in Johnson City.

The event, which raises money for the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse, will feature the Southerntiersmen Barbershop Chorus, the Binghamton Downtown Singers, the Bronzissimo! Bell Choir, the Carousel Harmony Chorus, Young Women in Harmony Chorus and the Endwell Community Chorus.

The concert is sponsored by the Southerntiersmen. Tickets are $8 in advance or $10 at the door. Purchase tickets by calling the Broome County Council of Churches at 724-9130 or by contacting a chorus member.

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Soldier in war on hunger devotes self to community service

By Valerie Zehl • • December 1, 2010, 6:50 pm

Volunteers Mary Ellen Wynnyk and Mary Kelly flank 'Kathy Pfaff' at the Main St. food pantry on Wednesday. The waiting room was full, with standing room only. (VALERIE ZEHL/Staff Photo)
Just call her Kathy Pfaff.

She mimes surprise when somebody actually spells her name right -- and with an 11-letter name that includes three f's, maybe she should be astonished.

Not much else surprises her these days, though. Kathleen Pfaffenbach, of Binghamton, has been on the front lines of the fight against local hunger for decades. Working for Catholic Charities as emergency services coordinator is a position she says is not a job, but a calling.

In the corporate world, she and Ed Blaine would be competitors, jockeying for the opportunity to rack up customer numbers.

But in the world of social service, she and Blaine, who's employed by the Broome County Council of Churches and runs the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse, attend mass together every morning at St. James Church and work shoulder-to shoulder as fellow soldiers in the same war.

"She doesn't just provide food for her clients, she really cares how they're doing," Blaine said. "She knows them on a first-name basis and checks on them from time to time. It's not just a job for her, it's a real service she does, a real ministry."

Now that she and husband Dan, 59, have launched four children into the adult world (all six of them Seton graduates), their own galaxy pretty much revolves around service.

Not that she's a saint herself, though many might argue. Just ask Dan, who has been married to her almost 40 years.

"When I vacuum, I can line her shoes up on the stairs by pairs, and they just about reach to the second floor," he said.

OK, she's bad about putting away her shoes, she admitted.

"And I'm obsessive," she said. "Things have to be done my way."

Bill Wynnyk, of Binghamton, who has volunteered at her side the last 18 years, nodded his head as he listened nearby.

"She says 'jump,' and I ask how high," he said -- but then made it clear he's joking.

Dan, now retired from his own trucking business, is one of the 100 or so volunteers who pitch in at the food pantry at 100 Main St. in Binghamton or Mother Teresa's Cupboard on Garfield Avenue in Endicott, the only two local pantries run by Catholic Charities and coordinated by his wife.

Her office is tucked in to a pocket of the Main Street site, though she's not often sitting in her chair.

On Tuesday, she manned a table at a community resource fair, talking to all comers about ways Catholic Charities can help them.

Anthony Esposito, a student teacher working on his master's degree at Binghamton University, donated time through Catholic Charities in his hometown in Westchester County.

"We need you here, too," Pfaffenbach told him. "We have many ways you can volunteer."

He walked away with a brochure.

She usually finds herself talking to those who need help rather than those eager to give it."We make sure they're receiving food stamps, the elderly, especially, who are so reluctant," she said. "If there's a referral we can make, we do."

She goes as far as making WIC appointments for those with young children. She's a registered nurse and could work in a doctor's office or hospital. Instead she chooses to pursue this calling.

"The poor will be with you always," she reminds herself on a hard day. Then she reminds herself of another vital fact: She's no miracle worker.

She's just Kathy Pfaff.

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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gloria, Thank You for Your Dedication to Volunteering

Gloria J Bevilacqua, 83, went to be with the Lord Saturday, November 27, 2010 at Wilson Memorial Regional Medical Center. She was predeacesed by her parents, Stanley and Eleanor Mietus; brother, Richard Mietus and a grandson, Paul Monticello. She is survived by her husband, Samuel; children, Lonie (Harry) Hutchison, Victor, MT, Susan (Bruce) Fahrenz, Kirkwood, NY, Kerri (Robert) Kika, Binghamton, Carol (Sebastian) Monticello, Endicott, Gary Bevilacqua, Endicott, Donna (Bill) Weber, Endicott, Lori (Larry) Dixon, Yulee, FL; 14 grandchildren, 13 great grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren; sister, Dolly (Orlando) Ciotoli, Endicott; several nieces and nephews. She was a member of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, Endicott, and involved with its Chow Pantry for many years. She was an avid doll collector, doll maker, teddy bear collector and flower gardener. She loved spending time at family gatherings. She was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and great-great grandmother.
Funeral services will be held Friday at 10:30AM from St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 200 Jefferson Ave, Endicott. The Very Rev. John Martinichio will officiate. Burial will be in Vestal Hills Memorial Park. The family will receive friends at the Coleman and Daniels Funeral Home Inc, 300 East Main St., Endicott, Thursday from 4-6PM. In lieu of flowers, contributions my be made in her memory to the Chow Pantry, c/o of St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 200 Jefferson Ave., Endicott, NY 13760.

Published in Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin from November 30 to December 2, 2010 Email

Agencies working to help those most in need

November 29, 2010, 9:00 pm

If your biggest challenge of the holidays is fighting crowds at the mall, you've got it easy.

"Some parents say, 'Could you not bother giving my kids gifts? Just give me some extra food,'" said Kathy Pfaffenbach, supervisor of emergency services for Catholic Charities of Broome County.

That's how bad it is for some people out there.

Many local groups have stepped up to provide at least a bit of holiday cheer for those most strapped by tight economic circumstances.

.................Next time you're on Boscov's fourth floor, notice the little Christmas tree near the courtesy desk. It's the "Santa for Seniors" project, sponsored by the elderly-care agency called Home Instead and Broome County Council of Churches' Faith in Action program. Take a tag, buy the gift requested on it -- invariably humble ones, such as sugar-free chocolate or warm slippers -- then take the gift to that courtesy desk to be wrapped for free. Then leave it and the tag with the Boscov's staff for pickup and distribution by Home Instead, explained Rebecca A. Bradley, staff recruitment and retention coordinator for the agency. Call (607) 723-3600 for details.

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Region's largest craft fair a festive break from traditional shopping

By George Basler • • November 27, 2010, 6:00 pm

VESTAL -- Joyce Thomas wasn't going to let cold weather and a few morning snow flurries discourage her from trekking to Binghamton University's West Gym Saturday.

Shoppers fill Binghamton University's West Gym looking for unique gifts at the seventh annual Holiday Traditions Craft Show. The event draws between 3,500 and 5,000 people and features artists and crafts people from across the region. (GEORGE BASLER / Staff Photo)

The 65-year-old Johnson City woman wasn't there to watch a sporting event, but to look, browse and possibly buy items from the 150 artists and crafts people who filled the gym and lobby for what organizers said is the largest annual crafts fair in the region.

The snow "made me think how sweet the season is," said Thomas, who comes to the event every year looking for homemade and special gifts.

The Holiday Traditions Craft Show, which was in its seventh year, draws between 3,500 and 5,000 persons and attracts vendors from across the Southern Tier, central New York and Pennsylvania who must apply and be selected to be part of the show, said Amy Hastings, who co-promotes the event with Sally Giannini.

Visitors "build relationships with local artists" and "find it a festive shopping experience," Hastings said.

Festive, but crowed: An hour after the show opened, the parking lot by the West Gym already resembled the lots in malls on Black Friday. Cars filled nearly every spot. Inside, the gym and lobby were crowded with shoppers, making it slow going at times.

"I can go to the mall anytime. This is one day a year," said Sue Watson, of Newark Valley, who like others at the show was looking for unique items.

The show promotes local crafts people, some of whom travel two and three hours to get to BU, Hastings said. The event also raises about $1,000 each year for the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW), she said.

"It's a nice way to start the holiday season," said CHOW Director Ed Blaine.

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Holiday Train Supports a Good Cause

By WBNG News

November 27, 2010

Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) People of all ages bundled up tonight to catch The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train roll into town.

Each year the railway sends its Holiday Train on a tour through northern New York and Canada.
At each stop, the train opens its doors to a stage of entertainment and thousands of colorful lights.

This year there was a live performance by Canadian singer Melanie Doane.

"I think it's a great idea for the community CHOW is here and they're collecting food and you know this is the season for giving," said Dan Abashian of Apalachin.

The train will stop in Oneonta on Sunday at 3:15 pm.

It will then roll on to Cobleskill, Delanson and Schenectady.

Visitors are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items or cash that will be donated to local food banks in communities where the train stops.

Saturday's donations will go to help the Broome County Council of Churches and the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse, or CHOW, to feed the hungry during the holiday season.

This is the 12th year the train has teamed up with CHOW in Binghamton.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

GHS collects food for CHOW

November 24, 2010, 7:05 am

GHS Federal Credit Union said it is collecting nonperishable food items until the end of the month for donation to Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse. The credit union noted, however, that it will donate what it has on hand prior to Thanksgiving.

Collection locations include the GHS office on Front Street in Dickinson and the office on Court Street in Binghamton.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Binghamton High students to host Thanksgiving dinner for thousands

By George Basler • • November 22, 2010, 10:05 pm

BINGHAMTON -- An expected crowd of 2,000 people will fill the Binghamton High School cafeteria Thursday, and they won't be thinking about tests, homework and study halls. They'll be thinking about turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing.

Binghamton High students Claudia Kotchick and Harry Kammerma get ready for Thursday's Thanksgiving Dinner at the high school. Students have been organizing the dinner, which serves thousands, for 16 years. (GEORGE BASLER / Staff Photo)

For the 16th straight year, BHS students will serve a Thanksgiving dinner for the community. The event has grown into one of the largest annual holiday gatherings and a source of pride for those at the high school.

"The dinner is a staple of the good things that come out of Binghamton High," said senior Claudia Kotchick, 17, president of the school's chapter of the National Honor Society and this year's chairwoman.

Approximately 300 students, faculty and staff have volunteered to spend part of Thursday at the school, organizers said. Students and cafeteria staff will begin preparing the meals Wednesday.

In addition to dinners served at the school, community residents will deliver more than 2,000 meals to people at their residences.

The dinner served about 3,200 people last year, and the numbers are expected to be higher this year because of the economy, said Susan Phelps, a social studies teacher who is adviser to the National Honor Society.

Children will also receive a free book and toy but, unlike past years, the dinner will not feature a coat giveaway, organizers said. That had to be canceled because of concerns about bed bugs. In its place, students in the district's various schools have collected food and personal care items for Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse.

While a Thanksgiving meal is something that can be taken for granted, Thursday's event "makes you realize not everyone is so lucky," said junior Harry Kammerman, co-chairman of the serving committee.

Putting it on is fun, he added.

Money for the dinner comes from donations and student fundraising.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Temple Concord neighbors “CHOW down”

By: Sharon Nichols

Coordinator Adrienne Bennett in the Temple Concord Pantry.

Coordinator Adrienne Bennett in the Temple Concord Pantry.
On Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, under the auspices of Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse, nearby residents visit the lower level of Temple Concord, which has served as a CHOW pantry for more than 17 years.

Adrienne Bennett, current coordinator of the Temple Concord Pantry, explained the operation: There are 29 CHOW pantries throughout Broome County, organized by the Broome County Council of Churches. CHOW evaluates applicants, assigns them to a pantry near their homes and notifies the pantry personnel of the clients’ family size and needs.

Temple Concord’s pantry is staffed by fewer than 10 volunteers, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Training of new volunteers addresses the physical operation and the expectations for client interaction. The training is intended to ensure that patrons of the pantry feel welcome and comfortable. The coordinator is responsible for scheduling volunteers, regularly inventorying supplies and placing orders with the CHOW warehouse for needed items.

Temple Concord provides the pantry with a section of its lower level, complete with shelving and office equipment. There is a collection drive during the High Holy Days and food donations can be dropped off in the street level lobby throughout the year. The temple maintains a CHOW fund available for member donations, which are forwarded to the CHOW office. While stock varies, the most needed items currently are bottles of fruit juice, canned fruit, gelatin and pudding mixes. Bennett noted that in the past, the pantry was able to provide coupons that could be redeemed at specific supermarkets for perishables such as eggs, butter and meat. However, only milk coupons are currently available.

Bennett has coordinated the Temple Concord Pantry for approximately 10 years. She enjoys talking with the clients and their children, and believes that her efforts make a difference in the community. A native of Brooklyn, NY, she has a daughter, Ricki, in Oakland, CA; a son, Mark, in Honolulu, HI; and a granddaughter in Walla Walla, WA.

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Hunger hits home: Area food banks see a nearly 25% increase in people in need

By G. Jeffrey Aaron • •

November 20, 2010, 12:00 am

As the tough economy makes it harder for families to put food on the table, food relief agencies are becoming more resourceful as they work to keep pace with the increasing number of people needing their services.

Food cupboards, pantries and community kitchens are reporting a rising demand for their help, and at the same time, they are seeing a steady stream of food donations coming into their agencies.

The challenge, they say, is making sure the supply of donated food keeps pace with the rising instances of food insecurity.

"Food banks started as a way to rescue the surplus food in the system, but the food industry has gotten better at reducing that waste," said Natasha Thompson, president of the Food Bank of the Southern Tier.As a member of the Feeding America organization, the Food Bank supplies products for 188 feeding programs in Broome, Chemung, Steuben, Schuyler, Tompkins and Tioga counties.

"The system has changed, the sources have changed but distribution methods haven't," Thompson said.

On Nov. 15, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service reported that more than 50 million Americans, including more than 17 million children, lack consistent access to a nutritious well-balanced diet.

The report, titled Household Food Insecurity in the United States, is based on data collected by the federal government in December.

The sharp rise in food insecurity during the latest recession mirrors the findings in Feeding America's report Hunger in America 2010.

The study showed that the number of people seeking emergency food assistance each year through the Feeding America national network of food banks has increased 46 percent since 2006, from 25 million to 37 million.

Close to home

Feeding programs across the region are reporting similar increases.

Edward Blaine, director of the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse in Binghamton, said the number of people using the services of his agency's 30 food cupboards and 35 community kitchens has jumped by 24 percent this year. The agency limits its activities to Broome County.

Three years ago, the Food Bank of the Southern Tier distributed 5.19 million pounds of food through its network of 180 member agencies. It was food that found its way onto the plates of more than 9,000 people each week.

This year, the agency is working its way to distributing more than 7 million pounds of food and is on track to serve almost 11,000 people each week through its 188 partner agencies in the six-county area.

Meanwhile, the 24 feeding programs that are partnered with Ithaca's Friendship Donation Network are seeing a 25 percent increase in the number of clients it serves each year.

"Every single day you read about a firm closing and what you are looking at is a family in crisis," said Sara Pines, Friendship Donations' founder and past director.

"They may lose the rental apartment or their home, the family may break down and abuse may start or continue at a higher level," Pines said.

"They are insecure and don't know how they are going to meet the necessities of food, shelter and clothing. It's a destroyer of families and unfortunately, it's rising every day."

With more mouths to feed, hunger relief agencies are becoming more resourceful in soliciting their food donations.

In days past, food drives sponsored by schools, churches and groups such as the Boy Scouts were adequate.

Now, as the need rises, everyone is jumping on the bandwagon as the volume of donated food from local sources complements increases acquired through government channels.

"Sourcing food is still a challenge and we do look out into the network to bring food in from outside our service area," said the Food Bank's Thompson.

"Since the recession and with the new farm bill and the stimulus package, there's more money allocated for the federal government's commodities program, so we've been fortunate to see an increase there in the last three years.

"Meanwhile, we're turning over every rock to source the products locally," she said.

Sometimes, that means coming up with some innovative ways of convincing people to donate food.

Canstruction competition: Each year, the Food Bank sponsors a Canstruction competition, where local groups use canned food items to construct buildings.

After the structures are judged and the awards passed to the builders, all of the canned food used in the contest goes into the Food Bank's warehouse and is eventually distributed to needy families.

The Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse is working with Binghamton University on a similar food drive, Blaine said. He also said his agency has received food donations from families where a child has had a birthday party and asked the guests to bring canned foods instead of presents. The food is then donated to the warehouse.

"It's the kids that are coming up with the idea," Blaine said. "They know someone else who's done it and things like that catch on."

Since the beginning of the month, the Corning Community YMCA has been holding its first food drive.

"It seems every time we turn around, we are being asked to bring a canned good to an event, so the decision was made for us to get involved," said Ann Galvin, the volunteer at the YMCA who is heading the effort.

But unlike other food drives, each week in the Y's five-week program is dedicated to specific food items.

Last week, the agency was seeking peanut butter, jelly, cake mixes and Jell-O. Next week, the targeted food includes pasta and canned spaghetti sauce.

During the food drive's final week, soup and cereal will be the preferred items.

The food collected will then be given to Corning's Family Service Society, which will sort the items and deliver food-filled boxes to the families enrolled in its Family Focus program.

"This is a hard time of year," Galvin said. "We're heading into winter, so we decided to get involved.

"Sometimes, people usually reach into their cabinets and start grabbing things out for a food drive. But by putting out the preferred list each week, as people go shopping, they'll hopefully remember, see the items and maybe buy extra."

While some groups place their emphasis on canned and boxed foods -- which can be stored in warehouses for longer periods of time -- agencies such as Friendship Donations Network look to move perishable products such as fresh produce and whole-grained breads.

That business model, however, isn't without its hurdles when one considers the relatively short growing season here in the Northeast and the ups and downs of the farming industry.

"We see the increase in need, but at the same time we've also lost some of the donors," said Lisa Duggan, Friendship Donations' program coordinator.

"Some wholesale companies we dealt with went out of business and when the P&C markets were purchased by Tops Friendly Markets, they stopped giving us produce," she said.

"But they give us other things and other sources have increased their donations. For example, the USDA farm in Tompkins County and Cornell University's farm have planted extra rows of produce that they give to us."

Because of the perishable nature of the food it distributes, Food Donations Network has its community-based feeding partners, located in Tompkins, Schuyler, Tioga, Yates, Chemung and Seneca counties, pick up the produce directly from the donors according to a pre-arranged schedule.

"Our 24 programs come to Ithaca and they are assigned a number of stores where they pick up the food," Pines said.

"Every single day, our sources give us 20 or 30 different kinds of breads, bagels, rolls and pastries. They also put out 300 to 800 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables and we also have two sheds and they are assigned a quantity of food from the sheds.

To that same end, Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse operates produce farms at two Broome County locations and is seeking a grant to help it achieve its goal of tilling a total of four acres and distributing 15,000 pounds of produce next year.

By 2015, the agency hopes to increase its acreage to 10 acres and its production to 50,000 pounds of produce.

Distributing fresh food, which is more nutritious than boxed or canned food, comes with another issue -- how to cook it.

"A lot of people don't know what to do with fresh foods that don't come out of a can or a box," Pines said.

"We're finding we have to teach people how to use fresh foods. We use coordinators to handle the educational part. They meet people where they are and teach them how to cook the food."Thompson says her agency has partnered with Cornell Cooperative Extension to go to some food distribution sites, set up a table and do a fresh food tasting.

She also said the state Health Department offers a mobile program where nutritionists offer educational program in various community settings.

"But there's definitely more room for that type of work," she said.

Is it all working? For the most part, the food relief agency heads say "Yes." But the degree of success depends on who's doing the talking.

"We're not falling behind, but we're not getting ahead either," said Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse's Blaine.

"More people are being generous and we're able to distribute more food, but we would like to be able to stock up our warehouse."

Thompson said her agency appears to be making headway, partly because of the Food Bank's mobile food pantry, which allows the agency to increase the amount of food going out to the high-need sections in remote areas.

She also said the Food Bank is expanding its retail pick-up program to include high-volume grocers like Wegmans and Sam's Clubs, who donate items they feel can't be sold.

"We were doing it on a small scale for a little while, but we recently obtained a truck through a grant so now we'll be able to ramp it up," she said.

A Time to Give

A Time to Give is an effort by The Ithaca Journal to assist our community's not-for-profit human service agencies.

Items listed are things most needed by the agency to help our community. Agencies with wish lists can send items to

Agency mission: to help build communities that care for all people by reducing poverty, promoting healthy individual and family life, collaborating with faith communities and advocating for social justice.

Two items most needed: 1. Blankets. 2. Men's and children's gloves.

For more information:

View Article Here

Don't go hungry: Free meals available in Triple Cities

November 20, 2010, 9:00 pm

Hungry? Don't have any money?

If that's the case, there is some place you can go to get a free meal in the Triple Cities every day of the week.

At least 16 sites in Binghamton and the Town of Union open their doors for those who might otherwise not eat, or would eat alone.

Robert Roe of Binghamton gives a number of reasons he goes to the Tabernacle United Methodist Church supper every Wednesday.

"The fellowship, good atmosphere, hospitality and really good food," says Robert, 44. He's unemployed now, and the free food helps stretch his money.

His friend, Joseph Barham, 61, eats at local churches on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays.

He could fill in his Tuesdays, too, if he wanted to make his way at 5 p.m. to the nearby First Presbyterian Church in Binghamton for its "Food at First Pres."

He'd be one of about 80 to 90 diners -- or more than 100 on a good day -- there, and he could eat two or even three helpings if the supply holds.

Many hands make light labor, and the sites often rely on volunteers from Binghamton University, scout groups, local churches and temples. St. Mary of the Assumption Church, on Court St. in Binghamton, had to shut its doors temporarily when its most active volunteer had to take a leave of absence.

"The Hands of Hope Church, which uses our building, does one meal a month, and West Presbyterian Church does one meal a month," says Barbara Bartholomew, who has been involved in the endeavor for eight years. "Volunteers from all those churches come in every week to serve and clean up."

Barham, who lives in Binghamton, can dine well on the weekends, too.

The local Salvation Army began serving meals to the needy in 1885, and it's still at it, dishing out breakfast every weekday and hot suppers Thursday through Monday evenings. Major Ron Lee says they've seen only a 6 percent increase in demand over the last year, but the demographic of their diners is changing.

"What we are seeing is a lot of new faces, not just the regulars," he says. "Families for the most part, especially at the food pantries."

Ryan Thogode brings her 1-year-old daughter, Trinity, there almost every day, and to the Tab meals on Wednesdays.

If these places weren't around, she says, they'd "probably starve."

The busy volunteers at First U.M.C. of Endicott prepare a free light lunch every weekday and on the third Saturday of each month. They also serve breakfast every Sunday from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

"During the week it's about 15 to 20 a day, and weekends are 60 to 70," says Rev. Peggi Eller, who helps out at the church. "It's up 50 percent from last year."

It's much the same story at the Endwell U.M.C., where The Lord's Supper draws in 80 to 85 hungry people every Monday night.

"Ten years ago, it was about 40 to 50," says Karen Taylor, who has been involved in the endeavor much of that time.

Mt. Sinai's Soup Kitchen in Binghamton opens at 4 p.m. every Wednesday, but you'd better get there on time.

"By 5, we're on the road," says Traci A. Baskin, who gives her title as "willing worker."

They've opted to deliver within a 3- to 5-mile radius to those who can't come to the South Washington Street facility, "But I've done further; it depends on circumstances," said Baskin.

About 20 to 25 people volunteer periodically, but she doesn't want helpers who don't genuinely want to be there. Respect is as much a goal as physical nutrition.

"Sometimes people will starve or go without because they don't want the humiliation," she says.

Bill Palmer couldn't agree more.

"We're committed to restaurant-quality meals," said Palmer, who helps arrange the noon meals Sundays at Trinity Memorial Church in Binghamton. The beef stroganoff, chicken and biscuits, meatloaf and other meals are served on real dishes with real flatware, rather than plastic or paper.

He echoes the assessment of most who serve community meals: diners are generally fewer in the beginning of the month, but as food stamps get used, chairs fill up fast.

Another facet of Trinity's outreach is the Canteen on Wheels, which brings Saturday evening sandwiches to the Salvation Army for distribution to those who are chronically in need.

"We see some homeless people, too," says Rev. Wilfrid Guillaume, pastor of Grace Tabernacle on Glenwood Avenue. "But we don't have the resources (for all their needs) so we try to refer them to other help."

Their multicultural congregation serves hot food, thanks to the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) and their own resources. Other sites rely on purchasing food at discounted prices from the Food Bank of the Southern Tier or on support from their own groups and others.

Meals -- also restaurant-style -- at the 1,700-family Our Lady of Good Counsel parish come courtesy of local businesses, parishioners' generosity and donations given for post office food drives.

"We also run a van that picks people up at St. Ambrose Church and brings them back here to eat," explains Ginny Mouillesseaux, who spearheaded the project four-plus years ago.

Michael Haynes has no problem doing the prep work and manning the stove at both Boulevard and Sarah Jane Johnson U.M. churches, but he does appreciate being appreciated.

"I have people who come in to the dinner and ask me, 'Is there anything we can do besides just eat?'" he says. "I tell them, 'Come to the next dinner at 3:30, and I'll find something for you to do.'"

View Article Here

Craft show to benefit CHOW

November 19, 2010, 7:50 am

A holiday craft show at Binghamton University on Nov. 27 will help raise money for the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse.

The event, which features more than 140 crafters from around the Southern Tier, will run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the West Gym. In addition to the craft show, there will be baskets filled with crafts to help raise money for CHOW. Admission is $3, and food donations for CHOW are also sought.

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Wednesday, November 17, 2010

In Memory of Eugene F. Burns

Eugene F. Burns

Eugene F. Burns, 82, formerly of Johnson City, went to be with the Lord Sunday morning, November 14, 2010, at Willow Point Nursing Home. He was predeceased by his parents, Joseph and Bernice Burns. He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Patricia Burns; his children and spouses, James and Lynn Burns, David Burns, Diane and James Mays, Donna and John Burchell, Beverly Burns, Robert and Marie Burns; ten grandchildren; and ten great-grandchildren; also several nieces and nephews. He was a member of St. James Church, Johnson City, and a Eucharistic Minister. He was an avid hunter, gardener, and loved to assemble model planes. Eugene was very devoted to his wife and family. The family would like to thank the staff of N2 at Willow Point Nursing Home for the care given to Eugene. Funeral services will be held at the J.F. Rice Funeral Home, Inc., 150 Main St., Johnson City, Tuesday at 10:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. at St. James Church, where a funeral mass will be offered. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery, Johnson City. The family will receive friends at the funeral home Tuesday from 9:30 a.m. until time of service. In lieu of flowers, those wishing may make memorial contributions to the St. James Church Memorial Fund, 147 Main St., Johnson City, NY, 13790, or CHOW, 3 Otseningo Street, Binghamton, NY 13903, in Eugene F. Burns' memory.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Kids to raise funds for CHOW

November 9, 2010, 7:10 am

Clayton Avenue Elementary School fifth-graders are holding a “Kids for CHOW” event from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 20 at the Oakdale Mall in Johnson City.

Anyone donating to the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse at the event will receive a hand-painted picture from one of the Vestal students. All donations will be given to CHOW to help feed those in need during the holiday season.

View Article Here

Friday, November 12, 2010

Choruses for CHOW Benefit Concert Dec. 4

From Broome County Coucil of Churches:

The 7th Annual Choruses for CHOW Benefit Concert will be held Saturday, December 4, at 2 p.m. at the Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church, 380 Main St., Johnson City.

The concert, which raises money for the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW) of the Broome County Council of Churches, will feature the following groups which are all non-profit organizations:

--Southerntiersmen Barbershop Chorus

--Binghamton Downtown Singers
--Bronzissimo! Bell Choir

--Carousel Harmony Chorus and Young Women in Harmony Chorus

--Endwell Community Chorus

The concert is sponsored by the Southerntiersmen Barbershop Chorus.

Tickets purchased in advance are $8, or $10 at the door, and can be purchased by calling the Council of Churches at 724-9130, or by contacting a chorus member.

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Chorus concert to benefit CHOW

November 11, 2010, 9:13 am

The seventh annual Choruses for CHOW benefit concert will be held at 2 p.m. Dec. 4 at the Sarah Jane Johnson Memorial United Methodist Church, located at 380 Main St. in Johnson City.

The event, which raises money for the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse, will feature the Southerntiersmen Barbershop Chorus, the Binghamton Downtown Singers, the Bronzissimo! Bell Choir, the Carousel Harmony Chorus, Young Women in Harmony Chorus and the Endwell Community Chorus.

The concert is sponsored by the Southerntiersmen. Tickets are $8 in advance or $10 at the door. You can purchase tickets by calling the Broome County Council of Churches at 724-9130 or by contacting a chorus member.

— Jennifer Micale

View Article Here

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Thank you to Mary Palmisano's family for asking for donations to the Council

Mary (Tedeschi) Palmisano, 98, of Endwell, died at her residence Sunday, November 7, 2010. She was predeceased by her husband John F. in 1979; a daughter Grace-Marie Harvey in 2010; her parents, Joseph and Isabella Tedeschi; brothers, Frank, Martin, Michael and Louis Tedeschi and a sister, Grace Suggs. She is survived by a daughter and sons-in-law, Isabel and Louis Montone, Boynton Beach, FL and Wayne Harvey, Endwell; her grandchildren, John Harvey, Vestal; Catherine and Scott Denmon, Endicott; Christopher Montone and his fiancée, Linda Watson, Germany; Robert and Nancy Montone, East Aurora, NY and Lisa Montone, Cary, NC; eight great grandchildren; three sisters and brothers-in-law, Florence Zucco; Phyllis and Gene Ash, all of Endwell and Lucille and Michael Rossi, Deltona, FL; a brother, Anthony Tedeschi, Endicott; brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law, Vito and Mary; Dominick and Doris; Nicholas and Mary and Cosamina; also several nieces and nephews. She was a member of St. Anthony of Padua Church, Endicott and was co-owner of Palmisano's Market, Binghamton. Some of Mary's memberships included Alhambra Sidona Caravan #212 Sultana Auxiliary, St. Ann's Club, Catholic Daughters of America, a Republican Committee Woman and was a Meals on Wheels volunteer. The Palmisano family wishes to thank Dr. Lazarus Gehring, the staffs of Endwell Family Physicians and Good Shepherd Village at Endwell, for their loving and compassionate care given to Mary. Funeral Services will be held Friday, 9:30 am from the Allen Memorial Home, 511-513 East Main Street, Endicott, followed by a Funeral Mass at St. Anthony of Padua Church at 10 am. Burial will be in Calvary Cemetery, Johnson City. The family will receive friends at the Allen Memorial Home Thursday from 4-7 pm. In lieu of flowers, expressions of sympathy in Mary's memory may be made to Broome County Council of Churches, 3 Otseningo Street, Binghamton, NY 13901.
Published in Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin from November 9 to November 11, 2010

View Obituary Here

Kids to raise funds for CHOW

November 9, 2010, 7:10 am
Clayton Avenue Elementary School fifth-graders are holding a “Kids for CHOW” event from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 20 at the Oakdale Mall in Johnson City.

Anyone donating to the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse at the event will receive a hand-painted picture from one of the Vestal students. All donations will be given to CHOW to help feed those in need during the holiday season.

— Jennifer Micale

View Article Here

Holiday Train to make Nov. 27 stop

November 9, 2010, 7:58 am

The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train will stop at the Binghamton East rail yard on Conklin Avenue at 9:15 p.m. Nov. 27. The event will help the Broome County Council of Churches and its Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse feed the needy during the holiday season.

The brightly-lit train will stop in Binghamton for about a half-hour and collect food and cash donations for CHOW. Entertainment will include music by Canadian artist Melanie Doane.

— Jennifer Micale

View Article Here

Canadian Pacific Holiday Train Benefits CHOW

Published: 11/08 3:32 pm
From Broome County Council of Churches:

The Canadian Pacific Holiday Train will stop at the Binghamton East Rail Yard on Conklin Avenue at 9: 15 p.m. Saturday, November 27, to help the Broome County Council of Churches and its CHOW Program feed the hungry during the holiday season.

The public is invited to this holiday event where the brightly lighted freight train will bring awareness to Broome County in its fight against hunger. Entertainment will include music by Melanie Doane, a product of a musical family and one of Canada’s most talented and diverse musicians and entertainers who plays the guitar, violin, mandolin, ukulele, piano and bass, and has six Top 40 charting singles in Canada.

The brightly decorated freight train appearance helps collect food and cash donations and donates it all to CHOW (Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse). The holiday train is a special attraction for children who are encouraged to bring their families along for the festivities. Spectators are encouraged to bring food items or a cash donation to the show.

Since 1999, the Holiday Train program in Canada and the U.S. has raised $4.8 million and generated almost 2.3 million pounds of food for local food programs like CHOW. This year the Holiday Train will stop in 40 towns and cities in eight U.S. states.

The Holiday Train will stop in Binghamton for about 30 minutes, so bring the family for entertainment and a good time, and benefit CHOW at the same time.

View Article Here 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Thank you Heiss family for thinking of CHOW during your time of loss

William J. Heis Jr., 78, of Johnson City, died Friday, November 5, 2010 at Our Lady of Lourdes. He was predeceased by his parents, William and Irene Heis. He is survived by his loving partner, Joan Sexton, Johnson City; cousins, Trude and Irwin Benjamin, Conklin; his best friends, the Sexton Girls, Barbara and Kenneth Bohling, Owego and their children, Keith and Susan Bohling, Albany, NY, Matthew and Julianne Bohling, Seattle, WA. He was a graduate of Binghamton University and a retiree of the IBM Corp. Mr. Heis has been known in the area for his participation in theatrical productions with the Ti-Ahwaga Players and the Civic Theatre. Funeral services will be held Tuesday at 11:00am at the Barber Memorial Home, Inc., 428 Main St., Johnson City. Burial will be in Vestal Hills Memorial Park. The family will receive friends at the Barber Memorial Home on Tuesday from 10-11am. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to CHOW, 3 Osteningo Street, Binghamton, NY, 13903.

Published in Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin from November 7 to November 9, 2010 Email

Chaplain tends to members of the flock serving time

By Valerie Zehl • • November 6, 2010, 5:50 pm

On Sundays, Cris Mogenson can be found serving behind an altar or in a pew with his family.

On weekdays, look for him in jail.

For a decade now, Cris, 49, has served as coordinating chaplain in Broome County's correctional facility.

Only once did an inmate get in his face.

"It sounds like you're trying to threaten me," Cris snapped. "Listen, I'm the only friend you've got in here."

That lion became a lamb.

Now, Cris looks with a parent's pride at the former prisoners he calls "success stories."

He fights exasperation with the ones he sees behind bars again and again. It can be frustrating, this jailhouse ministry, but it's his calling and he wouldn't have it any other way.

He did try.

Answering an altar call in 1979 at the Maranatha Church of the Nazarene near his home in Bergen County, New Jersey, started him on a course he resisted with all his might.

"I had a real wrestling with God," he says. "For me, if I didn't enter into full-time ministry, to call myself a Christian would be a fraud."

His eye was on a career in medicine, but like Jonah dumped on an unexpected shore, he soon found himself a seminarian.

In 1992 he was ordained in the Church of the Nazarene. His first assignment: a Latino congregation.

"Here's a kid who flunked Spanish in high school, and my first church is a mile from the border of Mexico," Cris jokes.

He served as pastor elsewhere, including at the Free Methodist congregation near his current home in Windsor, but the "adminis-trivia" of heading a congregation took him from the hands-on work he loved most.

He had worked the front lines of the battle for men's souls before -- with prisoners during college and as a drug and alcohol counselor at the Salvation Army facility on Griswold Street in Binghamton -- and he felt drawn to jail ministry again.

One phone call alerted him to an opening with his present employer, the Broome County Council of Churches, where he's a listening ear to the prisoners and those who deal with them.

Part of his job has him intercepting little ones when they get off the school bus because Mommy can't be there. She was just put in jail.

His border collie ("We jokingly call her 'the borderline collie,' he says) came to him by way of a prisoner who suddenly found himself in no position to care for the canine.

"I can't do that too often, obviously," he says, hands splayed. If he could, though, he probably would. He's known to be that kind of guy.

He just about gushes when he talks about the Jail Ministry staff and volunteers, 100 or so individuals who make him shake his head in admiration when words fail him.

Elizabeth Hayes, part of the Jail Ministry team, points out that they could confine their efforts to working with prisoners while they're incarcerated. Instead the team chooses to reach out for the greater good. She designed and wrote grants for a reentry program, which supports prisoners when they get out of jail.

"He's interested in giving Christmas to the inmates and to their children," she says. "He includes the families and takes an interest in what happens after their time in jail is ended."

One of her and Cris' favorite programs is also that of their boss, the Rev. Dr. Joseph Sellepack, executive director of the BCCC.

"In their literacy program, they have inmates read books into a voice recorder to be converted into a CD, then they send the book and CD home to the inmates' children," "Dr. Joe" says.

Cris deals with a very tough population at the jail, including many with mental illness, Dr. Joe points out, yet Cris can see beyond external barriers to the hearts of those he serves.

County Sheriff David Harder is in charge of the jail.

Of Cris, he says: "Very hardworking and always ready to help other people, despite his own problems."

Those problems come in the form of an ongoing sorrow: Son Bradley has an incurable mitochondrial disease and autism that tightly circumscribe his life. Brother Wesley, 18, and sister Kristin, 16, attend the Oak Tree program at BOCES. Both have been diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome.

"I like Daddy to read to me," says Bradley, 11. Cris is their youth leader at the Windsor United Methodist Church they and their mom, Cheryl, attend.

"It's nice to have another clergyperson in the congregation," says Pastor Douglas Clark.

Cris switched his ordination over to the Free Methodist Church in 1997, and now fills in at Presbyterian, Lutheran and other pulpits as needed. He tends to the flock of those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS at Southern Tier AIDS Program (STAP) retreats. His extended family of faith also includes Baptists, Catholics and Muslims -- such as fellow chaplains Father Stan Gerlock and Imam Kasim Kapuz."We're very ecumenical," Cris says with a grin.

His calendar bulges with board and other group meetings, and he's regional manager of the American Correctional Chaplains Association, overseeing the Northeast from Virginia to Maine. His hours at home are precious, and precious few.

"I know he looks forward to the opportunities when he can take the boys fishing," Cheryl says.

He talks to his kids about God's love, about seeing themselves and others as God sees them -- the same message he brings into the hearts of prisoners.

"I tell them we're a mirror reflecting God's image, but sometimes that mirror is cracked or tarnished," Cris says. "But it can be repaired."

Volunteer information

If you're interested in donating time to the Jail Ministry or other projects of the Broome County Council of Churches, call (607) 724-9130 or visit

At a glance

Name: Cris Mogenson.

Age: 49.

Hometown: River Edge, N.J.; now lives in Windsor.

Family: Wife Cheryl; sons Bradley, 11, and Wesley, 18; daughter Kristin, 16.

Most unexpected hobbies: Civil War reenactor; actor in dinner theater at church; musician and music collector -- everything from the Bulgarian Women's Choir to Pygmy Water Drums to Kansas -- but Celtic is his all-time favorite.

Self-assessment from 1979: "Jesus freak, driving a VW van."

Previous jobs: Volunteer firefighter; emergency medical services technician; residential director of inner-city rescue mission, then its executive director; chaplain at Herr's Snack Foods factory (quote from fellow Jail Ministry teammate Father Stan Gerlock: "So you were the chip monk.")

Personal experiences he doesn't talk much about: Having heard an "almost-audible" voice counseling him to stop what he was doing and go to the school -- where circumstances converged at that instant to put him into his first pastoring position.

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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thank you for your genosity to the Council, Mrs. Kennedy!

D. Jean Kennedy, 89, passed away the morning of November 2, 2010 at the Lourdes Hospice unit after a brief stay. She is survived by her niece Dorn Black of Vestal, and Dorn's daughters Darcia and Danielle Black of Raleigh, N. C. Also surviving are her cousins: Craig and Marge Waldo of Apalachin, NY and their children; Donald and Jewel, who were extremely supportive during her battle with Parkinson's Disease; David, Barbara, Douglas, Mark, and Nanette; and Gary Waldo of Bath, NY and his children: Dwight, Duane and Deborah. Jean was a kind and generous person, and will be missed by many; human and canine friends alike. She was a graduate of Westminster College, and SUNY Albany with BA degrees, and received her MSLS from Syracuse University. She taught Social Studies in Candor, Port Jervis and Vestal, and was librarian in the Vestal Schools and retired as Coordinator of Library Services from the Vestal Central School System.She was an Elder of First Presbyterian Church in Endicott, and a former member of Delta Kappa Gamma.
Funeral Service will be held Friday evening, November 5, at 7:00 p.m. at the Coleman & Daniels Funeral Home, 300 E. Main St., Endicott. Reverend Janice Devine, Co-Pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Endicott, will officiate. The family will receive friends on Friday from 6:00 p.m. until service time at 7:00 p.m. at the funeral home. The burial will be held on Saturday at Riverhurst Cemetery at the convenience of the family. Contributions may be made to the Memorial Fund of the First Presbyterian Church of Endicott, 29 Grant Avenue, or the charity of one's choice.

Published in Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin from November 4 to November 5, 2010

View Obituary Here

Obituary asking for donations to CHOW

Harriet "Polly" Humphrey

Johnson City resident Harriet "Polly" Humphrey, age 94, died peacefully in her sleep on November 3, 2010 at Lourdes Hospital. Please join the family on Saturday, November 6th, at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, located at 734 River Road in Chenango Bridge, NY, for an hour of remembrance to begin at 12:30 pm. There will be a church service immediately afterwards, to begin at 1:30pm. Family has asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Muscular Dystrophy Association, or to the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW). Polly was born in Scranton, PA, on September 13, 1916. After graduating from Scranton High School in 1934, Polly married the love of her life, Ed Humphrey, in 1938. Her beloved "Eddy" preceded her in death on October 23, 1996, after 58 years of marriage. Also preceding her in death were her sisters Elizabeth Pell and Gertrude McGeehan. Without question, Polly's greatest joy was found in spending time with the wonderful family she and Ed created, as well as with friends and extended family. Polly is survived by her sister Margaret Hamilton; oldest son, Jack Humphrey (wife Dorothy) of East Syracuse, NY; daughter Peggy Knox (husband Dave), of Chenango Forks, NY; and youngest son, Bill Humphrey (wife Kathy), of Chadds Ford, PA. Beloved family includes grandchildren Tracie (Dan) Begeal, Todd (Kris) Humphrey, Jeff Humphrey, Josh (Jenn) Humphrey, Jennifer (Jim) Van Luvender, Heidi (Dave) Young, Becky (Bill) Morgan, Meredith Holden, Paige Holden; Great Grandchildren Emily Humphrey, Andrew Begeal, James Van Luvender, Beth Van Luvender, Kaitlyn Van Luvender, Aimee (Scott) Hogan, Madeline Humphrey, Leah Humphrey, Catherine Humphrey, Autumn Morgan, Amanda Morgan, Sara Morgan, Roger Hart; Great Great Grandchild Zachary Hogan; and many beloved nieces and nephews. Polly's family would like to express the following: "What moves through us is a silence, a quiet sadness, a longing for one more day, one more word, one more touch. Ninety four years was still too soon for us... we were not ready to say good-bye. But little by little, we begin to remember not just that you died, but that you lived. And that your life gave us memories too beautiful to forget."

View Obituary Here

Six songwriters to perform at showcase Saturday at Binghamton's Cyber Cafe West

November 3, 2010, 2:35 pm

The latest edition of the Songwriter Showcase at Cyber Café West has lined up six performers for Saturday night.

The featured singer/songwriter, BettySoo, is a nationally touring musician whose latest album, "Heat Sin Water Skin," draws from folk, gospel, country and more.

Also on the bill for the 9 p.m. show will be Brittany Garrison, Joanna Yaeger, Hunter Davidsohn and Spencer Rowell. Greg Meisner will perform a 20-minute preshow at 8:30.

Admission is free, but organizer John Kanazawich suggests a donation of $5 and 1 item of nonperishable food. The concert also will be collecting food and funds for the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse and WHY-Hunger. Cyber Café is located at 176 Main St. in Binghamton.

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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Bank to hold shredding events

November 1, 2010

REGION Chemung Canal Trust Co. said that it will host document-shredding events from noon to 3 p.m. at the following branch office locations to help people reduce their exposure to identity theft:

* Saturday, Route 17C, Owego (next to the Owego Treadway Inn).

* Nov. 13 at 100 Rano Blvd., Vestal (in the Weis Markets shopping plaza).

The events are being presented in conjunction with Rogers Service Group and WIVT-TV.

The events are open to individuals only, not businesses. There is no charge for the service, but the sponsors are asking that those who attend bring nonperishable food items for donation to Tioga Opportunities and Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse.

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Valerie Zehl Neighbors: AmeriCorps provides a way to give back to community

November 1, 2010, 5:45 pm

Jason Fleischer and Marsha Bailey are Binghamton University graduates now serving at the Council of Churches through AmeriCorps. "I'm developing skills myself while helping to feed people," Jason says. "It's a win-win-win situation all the way around." (VALERIE ZEHL/Staff Photo)

After Susan Beaudoin, of Apalachin, graduated from St. Mary's College of Maryland, she faithfully shipped her resume to potential employers but -- nada.

Then a position back home caught her eye.

Now she's in her second half-time term of paid service with AmeriCorps because she loved the first one so much.

"I'm currently working to promote local foods," Susan, 23, said. "And I'd like to continue in that line of work."

About 75,000 opportunities are available annually for adults of all ages and backgrounds through the organization's three primary programs: AmeriCorps State and National (working with more than 2,900 nonprofit and community groups), AmeriCorps Vista (to fight poverty) and AmeriCorps NCCC (a residential program for young adults with projects in public safety, disaster preparedness and relief, environment and youth development), explains Andrea Todd from the Corporation for National and Community Service in Washington, D. C.

Locally, Habitat for Humanity uses the talents of two AmeriCorps VISTA members, says Mary Vivona, who works out of the Endicott office. She won't have openings again until next summer, but suggests any interested adults check out opportunities at the AmeriCorps website,

Some positions offer an opportunity for relocation, depending upon where they are, she points out.

Jason Fleischer, 22, came from Middletown to attend Binghamton University and he's staying here to serve in AmeriCorps State at the Community Hunger Outreach Warehouse (CHOW).

"I like Binghamton and wanted to give back," says Jason, who lives on the West Side.

Those who have student loans or who are anticipating more schooling appreciate the possibility of a Segal AmeriCorps Education Award of $5,350.

Whitney Point-based Rural Health Network of South Central New York works with Susan, Jason and a hefty volume of other members.

"This contract year, September 2010 through December 2011, we have 12 full-time (1,710-hour) positions, 10 half-time (907-hour) positions, and 11 part-time (303- or 455-hour) positions," says Julie Pitts, RHN's administrative services coordinator. "Current full-time members receive a living allowance stipend of $11,800 during service, college loan forbearance on most federal loans in good standing and health insurance."

Maybe the best news is that RHN is almost always recruiting for positions at 20 sites in Broome, Tioga and outlying counties. They include the Southern Tier AIDS Program in Johnson City, and the Hope Dispensary of the Southern Tier and Dr. Garabed A. Fattal Community Free Clinic in Binghamton.

Marsha Bailey, of Binghamton, serves in programs at the Broome County Council of Churches, working with seniors and the housebound to help them make good food choices.

"It gives me a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day," says Marsha, 28. "I learn from them, and they learn from me."

CHOW director Ed Blaine appreciates having Jason there, particularly when AmeriCorps picks up half the tab for the full-time worker's wages.

"It allows us to focus someone who can run with it on a certain project," he says. Jason subs for him at meetings as needed, as well as rounds up and guides volunteers in the warehouse and the community garden in Conklin and other tasks.

"I'm developing skills myself while helping to feed people," Jason says, "So it's a win-win-win situation all around."

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