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Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson doesn’t sing, and says she never did.  Regardless of what made her reject  the lights, noise, and crowded streets of booming Big Apple life more than four years ago, the fact is that she is here today, a resident of our town and County – and we’re the richer for it.  It was the remaining whispers of a fading addiction that brought me to Janet’s door.

From years of working in visual display and merchandise showrooms, I learned how easily things can be repurposed; how an abandoned book or shelf could become a highlight in a showroom or department-store display.  Often and happily, I joined others like me on loading docks outside Macy’s or Sak’s or the JP Stevens as night crew hurriedly tossed props from a deconstructed window display into waiting dumpsters.  They were not allowed to give away anything but would watch in knowing amusement as one or two of us would jump into the dumpster and hand out the stuff to others waiting to check it out.  It was fun, laborious, and risky — but full of rewards — like exploring the pre-season dumps on Fire Island or post-season yard-sales of Palm Springs that yielded treasures, some of which I have today.

It was no accident then that a sign at 489 West Main Street in Cobleskill called out to me as I drove by each day on the way to work.  The address is that of Catholic Charities of Schoharie County – and its Thrift Shop in the carriage house to the rear.  The Thrift Shop opened in December of 2005.  It provides donated furniture and household items at bargain process. Income from the sale of items is parlayed into financing community-focused services.  It was there that I met Ms. Jackson amid the bric-a-brac and recycled wooden bowls.

Janet, it turned out, managed the shop.  But more important, she loved doing it and it showed.  I watched her work the rooms as if she were showing customers around Bloomingdale’s or Scholet.  She answered questions, listened to what people said they were looking for, suggested options.   “There are so many good buys here,” I heard her tell a group of students from nearby SUNY Cobleskill, “Take your time. I’m sure you’ll find something to meet your needs.”

Janet told me that the elderly and students are among the most frequent visitors to the shop – and then, with a smile, people like me! She helped me find some used containers at close to $1 in which to arrange some flowers for an upcoming event at the Arboretum.  We also found three neat containers shaped as a pear, apple, and pineapple that now sit in our gif show and hold two-sizes of paper clips and rubber bands. With regularity, shoppers look and ask about them.

Janet works for Tom Mayer, executive director, of Catholic Charities of Schoharie County.  Tom relates the array of services the organization provides to the public  — from a 24-hour hotline, crisis intervention, safe planning (what is that?), counseling, and advocacy — including legal advocacy, support group, transportation, referral, outreach, and community education.  The organization’s residential services feature a 9-bed Safe Dwelling.

Janet says that her relationship with the organization began when she arrived in the area alone and went there to see how she could help as a way of getting involved in our community.  The Thrift Store fit her like a glove.  “It gave me the opportunity meet many wonderful people in the area, to find friends among the staff and supporters of the organizations, and to help people – recycle, and find needed items that fall within their budget, and to help people to see value in things that may have lost their luster and value for previous owners.

Janet says that close to a hundred browsers visit the shop each week.  “We have a lot of people from downstate looking for items to tide them over during a move, and snowbirds who pick up items between here and Florida and donate them to us – or pick up something they may have left as they come here for the season.” Some are thrifty because of need she says; others just believe that it makes sense to use recycled items and use the money elsewhere.

Beyond the Thrift Shop, Janet says, Catholic Charities offers a Food Pantry that provides enough food for residents who are temporarily without resources to sustain them for four days.  They also sponsor a program called Extra Helpings, a monthly food buying club, open to all.

To those e who don’t know the Catholic Charities Thrift Shop, Janet says, “Don’t be a stranger.  And of course, you don’t have to be Catholic.  We’re here to help people.”  And it is clear that Janet is there to do just that.  519-234-3581; services@catholiccharitiesofschoharhieco.org; Domestic Violence Hotline (234-2231; collect calls accepted).

In this season of abundance, SUNY Cobleskill is preparing to share some abundance of its own at an affordable Harvest Dinner on Friday, Oct. 12, from 4:30 – 7 PM, in Champlin Hall.  $15/person.   Kathleen Harris Northeast Livestock Processing Service Company will be the featured speaker.  The savory menu includes the harvest of area farmers: Steamship Roast Pork, Chicken & Biscuits, Shepherd’s Pie, Roasted Veggies, Butternut Squash, Mashed Potatoes, Ginger Carrot Bisque, Vegetable Quiche, Cheese Display – and Oh My!

Experience our county at its best.  Partake and share it often – and again and again and again.

 

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