Sunday, September 27, 2009

Clothe-A-Child, now in its 35th year, continues to impact the community

This was originally published in The Record.

I found it ironic that no sooner than summer turned to fall this week. a co-worker was outside our building on a 70 degree day getting a tractor mounted with a small plow ready for winter. And none-to-soon, because we all know the weather follows no calendar when determining when to blanket the region with the white stuff; the first snowfall could be just a few weeks away.

Sue Chasney is another individual on our staff who could be found thinking about winter this week as well. In addition to her role in our newsroom, Sue is returning as coordinator of our Clothe the Child program, now its 35th year. The effort, which raises money to buy winter clothing for children from needy families, requires some planning as we head into the final quarter of the year.

The program is pretty straightforward. The Record raises money from the community to purchase the clothing. Some 30 organizations bring forward the names of prospective recipients. The groups – from area schools to non-profits such as Unity House - also help solicit volunteers to help recipient families shop at discount department stores. Currently, the spending limit is $100 per child.

The program’s impact is bigger than one might think. Some parents tell Sue the clothing is the only “present” the child will receive that holiday season. A child’s self-esteem gets a little boost when they go back from winter break wearing brand new clothes like the kids from better-off families. Teachers tell us kids do come to school inadequately dressed to protect them from the cold and these clothes do help. And shopping volunteers return year-after-year because they enjoy witnessing the impact of their gesture – and that of the donors - on these young lives.

We haven’t created an exact tally – maybe someday we will – of all the children impact and funds raised over the years. But we do know that local residents have given many hundreds of thousands of dollars to this cause. That Clothe the Child has impacted thousands of families. And that 100 percent of all monies received have gone to purchase clothing; administrative costs are borne by The Record.

Recently we received our largest donation ever, a gift of stock and cash from an estate worth approximately $24,000. In addition, the Troy Turkey Trot has named Clothe the Child a named charity for the second consecutive year. And we know we can count on organizations such as R.P.I.; for years, students, faculty and staff have held countless fundraisers for the cause.
But we do need more help. If your club, workplace, classroom, fraternity or sorority, scout troop, church or family is looking to raise money for a good cause, we would ask that you keep Clothe the Child in mind as the holidays approach. Jars of pennies, spare change from bottle drives, large checks and small denomination bills are all welcome and all have a real impact.

Folks who are seeking winter clothing should contact a local social service agency for more information on how they can be considered for the program; The Record does not accept applications. We do accept donor questions, however. For more information, contact Sue Chasney at 270-1280.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Record is publishing more 'good news' than ever

Those of us who are old enough to remember growing up in our neighborhood where everyone knew everybody, most news that our industry today calls “hyper-local” traveled via conversations across backyard fences: Who was promoted at work, who was accepted to what college or joined the military, and who started their own business.

Today, Americans are much more mobile, and with hectic work-life schedules and suburban neighborhood designs that promote isolation, a lot less interaction occurs on the streets we live on. It may take us months or even years to meet those “new” neighbors down the street, and as much or more time may pass to learn word-of-mouth that a new deli has opened across town.

In the wake of these fundamental changes to our communities, weekly newspapers have sprung up across the U.S. “They showcase the goods things going on schools and community institutions, and zero in on an interesting people, in a way daily newspaper cannot,” observes Lisa Lewis, editor of The Record. “It is an opportunity for people to reconnect with their communities.”

To that end, we have expanded our product portfolio in the past year to include three weekly newspapers. The first, Greenbush Life, celebrates its one-year anniversary this month. It, along with Latham Life, founded in February, focus on two large suburbs in our region. The third, River Life, launched in April, serves smaller communities; Mechanicville, Stillwater and Waterford.

Two of weekly newspaper editors reflected this week on the weeklies’ first year and reported they find the job – and the community feedback – rewarding.

Greenbush Life Editor Jennifer E. O'Brien, a former high school and college English teacher, says the “the memorable stories are always the ones that can help someone else. Last fall, we did a feature on the annual JDRF walk; it was inspiring to meet the children and their families.”
She adds, “Residents really seem to enjoy reading stories about their community and recognizing familiar faces in the photo pages.”

Rebecca Eppelmann, editor of Latham Life, says “two of my most memorable interviews have both been Siena (College) professors. One wrote a book and another was working on a research project. The passion with which both spoke struck me as awe inspiring. Anytime I can share with the community the story of those who clearly love what they do, it's a great day for me. “The community has really embraced Latham Life,” she continues. “Not only have I received calls and notes from readers saying how much the like the paper, but in my opinion the best feedback the community has given is by becoming patrons of the local businesses we've profiled. The community is reading and reacting in a very positive way.

These newspapers are still evolving. There are plans to integrate more local school and recreational league sports coverage, incorporate more interaction from the community – including teenagers – and to introduce more news from school and municipal boards.

The Record is publishing more “good news” than ever with the addition of these products. And from what we have heard, that has been received as, well, good news by the communities we serve.