How Rotary Clubs Saved A Piece of History

Beginning back in 1924 when first chartered, the Mechanicville Rotary Club took an active leadership role to save the land and work with NYS to create an historic preserve at the site of the Battles of Saratoga, .  Through the leadership of men like Mechanicville Mayor George Slingerlands, also Mechanicville Rotary Club president, and Adolph Ochs, publisher of the New York Times and others recognizing the significance of preserving the lands of the crucial Battles of Saratoga, the site was made part of the National Park System in 1938 when authorized by the United States Congress.
The Club archives include letters from President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, friend of Slingerlands and Ochs, letters from other dignitaries of the time as well as the Sesquicentennial Dedication and Historical Pageant held on October 8, 1927 – there are many stories of the thousands that visited the Battlefield that day, bumper to bumper traffic on the highways and byways; cars parked all the way down Route 4 to Mechanicville; Governor Alfred E. Smith, Governors from NH, VT and CT attended as well as representatives of Great Britain, France and Poland; hundreds of re-enactors and other performers, with the Club center to all the activity.
The dedication of the George O. Slingerlands Memorial in 1938, another area-wide celebration, was a tribute, not only to Slingerlands but to all the Rotary Clubs in the area who supported the project – financially tens of thousands of dollars were raised to buy the land.
Ably assisted by the Rotary Clubs of Ballston Spa, Granville, Saratoga, Albany and other Rotary Club’s in the area, the story to save these historic lands is a gem in the history of the United States and in Rotary International as well.
For more about the Saratoga Battlefield please click here to read more.

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Changing Lives

This is an inspiring video – where someone’s passion became a way of life and changed the lives of many others.  I would love to meet Veronika Scott, CEO of the Empowerment Plan, a young woman with great compassion and the understanding that empowerment and sustainability are the foundation to solving humankind needs.

The Empowerment Plan’s mission is to educate, employee and empower homeless people so they can provide for their families while producing a product for those in need.  From GED and post HS education, to employee training, daycare scholarships, tools like computers, sewing toolboxes and sewing machines, employees can gain back independence, secure housing and, once again, take care of their families.

By now you must be wondering what do The Empowerment Plan employees produce.  It’s called the EMPWR Coat, a coat that transforms into a sleeping bag.  Click here to read more about this amazing coat, how it is made and the Empowerment Plan’s mission to produce 6.500 of these coats this year for the United States and Canada.  To date twenty-nine states and three provinces have benefitted.

The Employment Plan




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Forty Pieces of Advice

As the new year approaches I once again offer this lovely slide show to you thanks to Charles and Alexandra and to Dennis Garner for his permission to use.  Happy and peaceful 2016 to all.  Remember just one act of kindness or compassion can travel many miles.

Forty Pieces of Advice

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A Few of My Favorite Thin gs 2015

As another year wraps up I thought I’d update my annual mention of a few of the people and organizations making the world a better place.   Yes, even after the indescribable acts we’ve experienced this year, we need now more than ever, to focus on the good that surrounds us.

Some of the organizations are local and some  faraway but all deserve high praise for their vision, commitment, dedication and generous spirit.  This year the list includes some smaller and perhaps not yet well-known organizations but their vision and passion give me personal inspiration and hope for the future.  Take an opportunity to fill yourself with the warmth and love generated by these stories.

Greetings of the season to all my friends and family.

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Holiday Ideas for Little Free Libraries

Wondering what to do with your Little Library during the holidays? Dressing it up with wreaths, garland, candles orBlind Date With A Book special holiday books is always fun. Some stewards, though, like to go a step further.

Check out these unbelievably creative ways to celebrate reading along with the holidays.

Blind Date With a Book

Here’s how it usually works: you cover some books with brown paper and write only the first sentence on the cover. The goal is to intrigue the reader into picking out a book they may not choose otherwise. This is a popular Valentine’s Day idea called Blind Date with a Book.

Steward Mia Villeta Alvarado gave this idea a holiday twist! Try wrapping a handful of books with wrapping paper like little presents and placing them in a special basket for your lucky visitors to discover and take home.

Santa’s Mailbox

We’ll admit, our jaws dropped a bit when we saw this idea. If you ever wrote a letter to Santa as a kid, just imagine how cool this would have been.Maria Gallegos News Article 1

Instead of a trip to the post office, you walk down the street to your neighborhood Little Library and drop that letter in an authentic iron drop box, right at your height.Your letter is sent express to Santa and then you pick out a book from the Little Library to take home. Amazing!

Steward Maria Gallegos got special permission from her local post office in Dillon, Montana to make this happen. She reported, “It has been a hit! Plenty of kids, young and old, have been making trips to the Library, no matter what the weather is doing!”

Advent Library

Did you ever have one of those advent calendars where you counted down the days to Christmas? Maybe you got a little chocolate, lit a candle or hung a new ornament on the tree each day. Well, steward Debbie Bedbrook has a slightly different take on this holiday tradition.

“I do this every year for my two boys on the last 10 days before Christmas. Each night before bed…they take it in Library Advent Calendarturns to choose a parcel to open (they are all picture books), and this is their bedtime story for that night. They love it. Even now, the 12-year-old still joins in and is happy to listen to a picture book before bed!”

A few weeks ago we shared a slightly different take on this idea on our Facebook page.

You may be thinking but wait, what’s the fourth idea? Well, it’s not a specific idea but rathera fantastic holiday tradition  in Iceland that we think everyone should start doing. It involves reading a book and eating chocolate before bed on Christmas Eve. Um, yes please.

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TJ Still Talking Turkey

Back in December of 2013 I posted a story about then thirteen year old TJ Tracy and his mission to provide Thanksgiving dinners for the needy in Saratoga County in upstate New York.  I promised I would continue to follow TJ and report on his progress.

His belief that kids can help kids has grown by leaps and bounds with, not only Thanksgiving dinners, but Christmas dinner, holiday gifts, Easter bags and more.  Along the way, he’s garnered many supporters, including businesses and organizations that help him raise money to buy the items that go into the dinners – turkeys, potatoes, cranberry sauce and more.  On December 17th a Shopping Fundraiser is planned by the Collamer Building businesses with proceeds going to TJ’s Turkeys.

Over the past six years, TJ’s Turkeys has raised over $30,000.00 to help feed hungry kids.  His goal this year is $15,000.00 because the need has doubled.

Childhood hunger is at a all-time high – depending on what or where you get your information, there really is no doubt this is a major problem.  People like TJ are doing something about this, not just talking about it.  They are making a difference in the lives of children and families because they believe no one should go hungry.

Thank you TJ Tracy.

TJ 2016

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How Polio Shaped My LIfe

When I was growing up polio epidemics were frequent.  I lived in a small upstate NY town known for its beautiful mountains, cool stream waters and great summer weather making it the perfect vacation escape for thousands of people.  Combine the time and the place and families were careful to shield the children from this crush of visitors.

We were lucky that my grandparents owned property up in those mountains and every year our family left our hometown the day after school recessed for our summer place, returning the day before school started.  I remember eagerly packing the old station wagon with summer clothing, bathing suits, as many books as I could fit and games.

Those summers were bliss.  Acres of property to run and play, forts to build, mountains to climb and brooks to wade.  Although I was the only child around I never got lonely – too much to do, so much to explore.  My sister was a baby but eventually,over the years we spent on this summer trek, grew into a fun, if sometimes a pesky playmate.

In the evening we would go for walks to watch the sun go down, catch fireflies, read, play Uncle Wiggly or listen to the radio or get my grandmother to tell us stories about life in Scotland.

These years, life was a blank canvas filled with experiences and we were willing sponges. I learned the names of birds and trees, devised games to amuse myself, read my way through all the Bobbsey Twins, Cherry Ames, Nancy Drew, Pollyanna, and too many others to name, learned to swim, learned to enjoy being myself.

And then there were our only near neighbors, just a short walk up the hill.  They lived here all year round, farming the land, haying, milking the many cows that grazed on the hillside. She was what they used to call a maiden lady, never married, and the owner of the old house filled with antiques, mostly china and books.  She opened a new world of authors to me: Gene Stratton Porter, Albert Payson Terhune, Readers Digest Condensed book.  I still have all she gave me each summer and enjoy remembering and re-reading even today.  My secret wish was to go to Mackinaw Island and meet Freckles so he could teach me more about moths and butterflies and then I would marry him.

Her border, was an elderly man, blinded and scarred years earlier in a chemical fire.  Born in Ireland he had the greatest Irish brogue – sometimes we had to guess what he said.  He was jovial, friendly and fun to be around.  He would take us into the barns with the cows, let us play with his dog and was always laughing.

We learned about Belleek China, drank watery tea from those cups, ate cookies, listened to stories and tried on old hats.  It was an odd tea party but oh so delightful.

These years went on for a long time but then in the mid-50’s things changed.  The reason for leaving our hometown – the chance of contracting polio, was no longer a threat.  First the Salk vaccine and then the Sabin oral vaccine and polio epidemics died down and then out. Although we still continued to go to our summer place we were not so isolated and eventually we only drove up for long weekends.

I learned many years later that members of Rotary International made a promise to the children of the world to eradicate polio.  Now most of the world is polio-free with a final push to finish what was promised over 30 years ago.  I joined Rotary in 1997 and do my part in the eradication effort.

From-time-to-time I think about those summers, all the experiences and adventures, the life skills learned, the passion for literacy, the habits of mind and realize that if it hadn’t been for the polio scare my life might have turned out very differently.

I still visit that summer place the land now owned by others.  Our neighbors long gone, the barns in neglect.  But the trail down to the waterfall is still there, overgrown of course.  The entrance to the pasture hidden by encroaching trees and maybe I’m the only one who remembers where the secret mountain spring is located.  And I will see Rotary keep its promise.



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