The Daily Gazette
The Locally Owned Voice Of The Capital Region
Judy Atchinson's A Stubborn Woman
by Judy Atchinson

A Stubborn Woman

A Daily Gazette community blog
QUEST leader's wanderings and musings

Donations wanted for a needy family

If I cannot bring you joy at least I bring you hope.”
-- "Toys” movie

I Salute You
There’s nothing I can give you
which you have not
but there is much that while
I cannot give
you can take.
No peace lies in the future which is
not hidden in the present instant,
Take Peace
No heaven can come to us unless our
hearts find rest in it today
Take Heaven
The gloom of the world is but a shadow
Behind it yet, within our reach, is joy
Take Joy
And so at this Christmastime
I greet you with this prayer
that for you,
now and forever,
the day breaks
and the shadows
flee away.

-- Fra Giovanni

On December 8, 2013 I entered on QUEST, Schenectady Facebook page a series of requests, they were as follows.

OK, all you high rollers out there, I have a family with 4 children ages 14 months, 8 years, 11 years and 16 years. No Christmas for them. No tree, no presents, no turkey or ham and no beds. One bed for the whole family. We may have two twin beds coming, that's a start.

I will donate sheets, we need blankets and pillows. I have toys. Couldn’t the downtown community band together to provide a blockbuster of a Christmas for these children? Quiet and kind, caring people. Movie tickets, tickets to Proctors. A haircut for Mom (or kids), gift certificates to restaurants, some books, some pizza. If State Street is thriving, share the wealth. C’mon no bah humbug.

Some 24 hours later and no response from anyone below Nott Terrace. We know you are out there, the children are waiting and it is one day closer to Christmas.

One in 5 children live in poverty in this rich, rich country. This is the highest rate of poverty in any developed country outside of Romania. Schenectady is one of the top ten cities in this nation for childhood poverty. We should be ashamed. What are our CEO’s salaries again? My source for these numbers is the New York Times. One of the few occasions we make it into the Times.

Hello Metroplex, how are the children being helped? We are one of the poorest cities in the country. Please explain once more where the money is going.

It’s Saturday, now downtown is silent; we went out and bought a tree for one family yesterday. Had a gift card from a small church in Rotterdam. $25 does not buy much in this town. One local supermarket is price gouging. Double and triple the cost of Hewitts and Faddegons. But without a car, where can local folk go? Taking advantage of the poor? I am outraged and saddened.

Not a peep from the major players in our tax-free downtown or anyone else for that matter. Greed abounds.

It is Sunday afternoon, I am disheartened -- fifty dollars from every buisness could transform a family’s life. There is so much cash flying around and so many special celebrations at these establishments. Don’t give away cookies and eggnog for one day and donate. I pick up and deliver.
15 robins gathered around my bird water site. If that isn’t hope and joy I don’t know what is. The very best of unexpected miracles to you.

Again my thanks to Toys For Tots who sent us 300 toys, an enormous contribution that will bring excitement and some kind of normality to a bevy of kids.

And Ann Marie who also organized 2 kinds of giving trees for QUEST. One gift certificate went to a volunteer who lost her job and her home in one big swoosh last week. I know our small gift was just that -- a small gift, but I threw in a hug and a candy bar, and God I wished it was more.

There isn’t just enough time or treasure and my heart is aching. All I can offer every day is a hot meal and friends who care. This city is entrenched in poverty. Millions for street renewal and nothing left over for the truly needy. Jobs, we need jobs. No jobs for hangers on, but jobs for those who want and need them. How many downtown jobs are above minimum wage and given to people in great need?

And yet, there’s Ka, a Questor I have loved for many years, gone through tremendous hardships but finished college online in six months. And you at the local college promised him a full scholarship and never followed through, boy did you mess up and miss out.

Ka, who is quoted, saying, “I don’t want a job, I want a career” has a job as a consultant at a Tech company and he starts at $40,000 a year. “Sis,” he says, “I don’t have a cubicle, I have an office.”

Two major successes in two weeks. And I am proud. Yup. First Chrissie Ann, assistant bank manager at Trustco, and Ka, computer master extraordinaire, now that is a Christmas present for my heart and soul. And the thing is Chrissie Ann is joining my board. Give back, Gift back. Ah life is good. At least this part is good.

But still, I’m waiting for some fool to state, “Are there no work houses, are there no prisons, let them go there and decrease the excess population.” I remind you of the folk who often call the poor scum. And yes it has been said exactly as I say, to me on several different occasions.

“We don’t recieve wisdom; we much discover it for ourselves after a journey that no one can take for us or spare us.”
-- Marcel Proust

“Man always dies before he is fully born.”
-- Erich Fromm

And so the wheel turns and the years pass, we have lost 3 children to heinous deaths this year, and one adult to 25 to life in prison, we have various success stories, some spectacular, all in their own way very special, we are making our annual Christmas pilgrimage to a senior assisted living center, where our ballet kids will perform and share a meal.

We are feeding over 50 families in a week and growing and mellowing. Our kids are daily out in the community reaching out and helping out. This is our legacy and gift to the city in which we live. Responsiblity and growth, both personally and as a group.

We are offering teen parties as a venue designed and executed by a young 20’s group and overseen by a 30-year-old young man whom everyone adores.

We do Christening -- first birthday, 50th wedding anniversaries. and a variety of church offerings.

We’ve experimented with theater and bucket drumming. And now we are going to Indiegogo for monies to develop street videos, again run by kids. We have Cleaners who are super volunteers, we love to see the men scrub up.

We do poetry and nutrition, and bring food to shut-ins and seniors. We ride bikes and make pumpkins and trick or treating as a group. We have group cook outs and pet instruction. Everyone helps and get helped, and together we grow old and move forward.

Our money (what there is of it) goes directly on kids, seniors and families. We do homework, and read to each other, we tell stories and sing songs. Our littles learn to love to help, and volunteer everywhere.

We are responsible and child-like and explore the world together. We are your neighbors and like us or not we are part of your city. Your city is a bigger and better place because of what we do. We are wishing you the best of the old year and the passion and change of the new. Won’t you join us on this great adventure?

Come visit. Come eat with us, come ride with us and see how we live. You will feel better about us if you really know who we are -- make a resolution, volunteer. The hugs and cheer you get will help you warm on the coldest of nights.

Everywhere I go, I see people from QUEST, past and present, from Stewart's to Perreca’s to street corners and malls. And they come up to me and share good times and memories. And sometimes they even stop by to help out. But mostly they tell me about their life, and often their work and their families. And they never play me, they tell me of troubles they’ve been in, and stints in jail and rehab, but they are moving forward. And if I have played even the smallest part in their life I am grateful because part of me will be part of this city for a long, long time.

On the birth side, my staff woman LaTifa is in the hospital right now adding to our poplulation with a little boy waiting in the wings. And Starleen, who we haven’t seen in years, showed up very pregnant and had twins two week ago. But the best part is that she is breast feeding -- who knew. She looks to be a great Mom. Starleen, if you are out there, we love you. And Kayla, also just had a boy 3 days ago. We hope they come by.

Kayla and all her brothers grew up at QUEST and the other matters took her away several years ago -- Kayla come back, we love and miss you. Life will be different now and we want to help. So there you have it, 3 boys and one girl. One of the twins is female. All in one month. WHEW! Not to mention D.C. and Vanessa a few months ago is now bringing up 5 kids, 2 of his own, and 3 siblings. No there’s an overwhelming responsiblity.

But the wheel of life cannot be stopped, it keeps turning. Life and death, the everlasting cycle.
Then there’s my 3 munchkins Ernie, Wilber and Zoe. And I tell you, rescue animals are the very very best.

Zoe went to the vet on Saturday and does not need to go back for 6 months -- June -- can you imagine 6 months. Had her checked for worms. She continues to blossom and enchant. Little Siren! Loves attention and gets lonely without human companionship.

Ernie, who continues to get fat and is on the well known cycle of diet and gain back. Still aloof to Zoe, sticks his tail straight up and stalks off. He will run to the refrigerator when it opens and deign to sit next to Zoe -- both watching together for a handout. I want to see him dancing with those rubberbands in the moon light again. Though that seems to be a spring ritual.

And Willie, a little bout with bursitis in the elbow from a time before we knew him. And old injury which really flared up this fall. So no running or chasing squirrels for a while. He did manage to get sprayed in the face with a skunk though and the aroma like a long ago whiff of cheap perfume lingers. And there is a tiny mouse that lights up and squeaks, he comes running from anywhere in the house to claim ownership where he hears it. He sleeps with it everynight. And then on his walks, he wears his booties and his coat and Beth has a little pink hoodie to keep his ears warm. He seems to enjoy dressing up, he is an outrageous sight picking up his feet as he walks (all 90 lbs. of him) daintly along.

"A merry heart lives long”
-- Proverb
“Wherever you find love,you find Christmas.”
-- The Muppets
Love anywhere for any holiday
especially now, right now.
Peace, Love and Joy
To All of You.

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December 26, 2013
8:31 a.m.

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Thank you for your thoughtful and detailed columns, Ms. Atchinson. And for your caring.

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