Beacon Bicycle Menorah celebrates members of the community

This week, Beacon Hebrew Alliance (BHA) and BeaconArts partnered up to bring the community Illumin8tion, a public menorah-lighting ceremony located in Polhill Park.

This year, Illumin8tion presented the Beacon Bicycle Menorah, a giant menorah in which the “candles” are comprised of bicycle tires wrapped in colored lights. According to the Dutchess Tourism website, each night is dedicated to honoring different members of the community. The first night, which was last Sunday when Hanukkah began, was a celebration of the town’s educators, but on different nights of the week Illumin8tion will honor activists, first responders, volunteers, and other notable members of the community.

On Wednesday, the lighting was dedicated to the children of Beacon. Children and their parents gathered around the menorah and sang ‘This Little Light of Mine.’  The kids then formed a line leading up to the menorah, and passed the newly lit bicycle tire down the line to place atop the menorah. The activity was meant to show the children how they can work together to bring light into the world.  Then, the group recited prayers around the menorah. .

According to Ellen Gersh, the cantor from BHA, the idea for bicycle tires came from a local artist named Ed Benavente.  Benavente does a lot of work with recycled materials; in particular, he frequently uses bicycle parts in his art. Gersh said that Benavente first came up with the idea for the bicycle menorah about four years ago. Since then, the menorah has gained popularity throughout the community. Benavente even traveled to Washington D.C. to give a smaller bicycle menorah to President Obama during his tenure in office.

The event is meant to be a celebration of hope and light.  The Dutchess Tourism website reads, “Hannukah tells us that we can hope against all reason and sometimes, we will prevail. Sometimes, the mighty will fall before the weak, and sometimes, just a little bit of fuel will get us through the darkest night — or even eight of them, if need be.”

Illumin8tion will conclude on the last night of Hannukah on Sunday, December 9th.  BHA and BeaconArts will host a community Hanukkah party at 11, followed by the menorah lighting at 5:30. The final night will be a celebration of the community’s artists and musicians.

“I love seeing the community come together,” Gersh said. “In times of darkness, we have to have hope.”

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Hughes Represents Kids of Special Olympics in NYC Marathon

Senior Caroline Hughes was making her way down the Verrazano Bridge alongside 50,000 other runners on Sun., Nov. 4, when it hit her that she was not running her usual route on the Walkway Over the Hudson, but was participating in the New York City Marathon.

Although always an athlete, Hughes picked up running in college as a way to clear her mind and destress. Only four years later, she trained for her first marathon entirely by herself, and finished in an impressive 5 hours and 47 seconds.

“Running next to complete strangers who also have a passion for running was such an unbelievable motivation,” Hughes said. “It was really, really awesome.”

Hughes first began training last summer, but it became harder to increase her mileage when she returned to Marist as the school work piled on. During mid-semester break, however, Hughes finally had time to pick up the pace, and ran 18 and a half consecutive miles, her longest distance yet. After break, she hit the gym for strength training, and, with only a few weeks to go before the big day, focused on getting enough sleep and eating properly.

Hughes’ decision to run the marathon was inspired in part by the children she works with at Windham Mountain Adaptive Sports Foundation, where she volunteers in the winter. Many of the students she teaches there are a part of Special Olympics, an organization that helps children and adults with mental and physical handicaps participate in sports. While preparing for the race, Hughes fundraised alongside 15 other runners on the Special Olympics Team, collectively raising over $70,000 for the organization.   

On that Saturday before the race, Hughes picked up her race number at the NYC Marathon Expo, where she saw runners of all different shapes and sizes, speaking a wide array of languages. The night before the race, she was sent a heartfelt video from her friends and family,  who wished her luck. She also received a letter from a Special Olympics athlete with Down Syndrome, in which he thanked her for her fundraising efforts. By 11 a.m. the next morning, the day of the race, the few fears Hughes had experienced were well out of mind, and she was ready to go.

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Hughes poses outside the NYC Marathon Expo

At the starting line, Hughes’ was greeted by the sound of Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York,” a special moment she said she will always remember. Neon signs in hand, her friends and family were scattered along the route, cheering her on. As she ran throughout the city’s five boroughs, Hughes noticed how although the crowds changed, each brought something new and exciting to the race, and every bystander, even members of the homeless, were there to support her.   

“As a runner, I was running alone, but I never felt alone,” Hughes said. “There was just so many people cheering you on, even if they didn’t know you. It was such a moving experience to see all of the different people supporting you. It really unified the entire city.”

Hughes recalled mile 21 as her most challenging, but mentally related her pace to her route back home, to remind herself that she had completed similar distances before. For further motivation, she thought of the kids of Special Olympics, who had already gotten her this far.

When she reached Central Park, she realized she was almost done; after passing her family one last time, she crossed the finish line only a few miles away, and was instantly overcome with emotion.

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Hughes finished the NYC Marathon, her first, in 5 hours and 47 seconds.

“It was just a really unbelievable feeling, to know that I had just completed a marathon,” she said.

Despite the long day, and the lingering dehydration and leg pain, Hughes returned to Marist later that night. Her own reward for the once-in-a-lifetime accomplishment? Hughes skipped her 8 a.m. the next morning, and slept in until her 11 o’clock class.

“I didn’t want to give myself too much time to rest,” she said. “I had to keep going again.”

Hughes said her favorite part of the experience was running along 1st Avenue to “Empire State of Mind,” while passing her friends and family. In the future, Hughes intends to run more marathons, but wants to race in other cities to see how their environments differ from New York’s.  

“At the end of the day, I was extremely proud of myself, because I was able to set a goal, and stick to a commitment, regardless of other things going on at the time,” Hughes said. “[Receiving letters from Special Olympic athletes] showed me that I am very blessed to run for something that is bigger than myself. It was really special, and something that I’ll never forget doing.”  

Study Abroad: “Complex but Worth it”

Colleges and Universities across the globe offer numerous study abroad programs and even encourage this form of study.

“I think it is important for young adults to get out and see the world.  So many of us are stuck in a little bubble without even realizing it,” said Maya Guzman, Marist College Junior.

Colleges and Universities aren’t the only types of schools that offer overseas programs.  Many high schools offer the opportunity as well through a certain Rotary club.

“I was so young when I decided to leave my home for a year to study in Brazil.  I had barely just turned 16 years old and I walked onto a plane knowing I wouldn’t be home for a year; it was the most surreal moment of my life.” said Christina Schumchyk, Stony Brook University Junior.  “I just knew there was more to see. I come from such a small town and I felt so isolated, I knew I needed to get free and explore,” continued Schumchyk.

According to research conducted by NAFSA, roughly 325,339 U.S. students studied abroad for college credit in 2016.  The enrollment increased by 3.8 percent from the previous year.

https://www.nafsa.org/Policy_and_Advocacy/Policy_Resources/Policy_Trends_and_Data/Trends_in_U_S__Study_Abroad/

The Power of International Education organization conducted research that concludes more women than men study abroad each year with an approximate 70 to 30 ratio.  There is also a higher number of undergraduate students going abroad compared to graduate students with a rough 90 to 10 ratio.

https://www.iie.org/Research-and-Insights/Open-Doors/Data/US-Study-Abroad/Student-Profile

So where are these students going?  The U.S. Study Abroad Data from the 2017 Open Doors Report claims about 12% of students choose to study in the United Kingdom, nearly 11% in Italy, and 9% in Spain.

“Going to London was important to me because it seemed to be the most centralized destination.  I figured from there I had pretty easy access to every other country and city I wanted to visit, which is exactly what I did,” said Erin Greco, Siena College Graduate.  

“I would do it all over again and I am a huge advocate for current students going abroad.  There is nothing like it.” said Greco.

Rachel Thayer, a Junior at Marist College, described the process of going abroad “complicated but worth it.”  “There is just so much that goes into it and so much I didn’t fully understand. So many government documents are needed and you really have to take everything into consideration.  I mean you are leaving your home country for a full semester.” said Thayer.

Thayer expressed that the process shouldn’t discourage students from traveling and studying abroad.

“Once you are here, once you sit in a class, once you are eating your first meal, it all just falls into place.  You take a sigh of relief and just feel grateful for the opportunity.” continued Thayer.

Historic Graveyard Tour returns at St. James’ Church

It was 8 p.m. on a Friday evening and the weather was chilly at 40 degrees. The 200-year old graveyard at St. James’ filled up with an eager crowd holding lanterns. People of all ages attended, dressed in their winter gear. The tour was about to begin.

St. James’ Church in Hyde Park kicked off their 9th season with their annual Historic Graveyard Tour. Originally a run up for the bi-centennial church celebration in 2011, the tour has remained a popular event for many years. In fact, 200 people turned out for the first tour that the crowd had to be split into three groups. “My family and I look forward to the tour every year. I’m always amazed by the production. It’s definitely one of the biggest highlights for the church,” said parishioner Stephanie Carson.

The tour consisted of approximately eight actors stationed in different parts of the cemetery. Each of the actors played characters who were buried at St. James’ Church. Around half of the actors are parishioners, and half are not. Every year has non-coincidentally turned into a different theme for the tour. One year the theme was slavery, while another year the tour concentrated on disabilities. This year, the focus was on those who were connected to the First World War. The script is written by a committee of parish volunteers who plan months in advance for the momentous parish event.

The crowd followed the dark path of the graveyard, led by a host for the hour. Each actor described their character’s background and major roles they took on in life. Dressed in costume of the era, characters ranged from Red Cross personnel, soldiers, lieutenants and even chefs to President Roosevelt.

The host for the evening, Russell Urban-Mead led the crowd in an animated voice and took the group to each stationed actor. A family affair–Urban Mead’s wife, Wendy was the director of the tour this year. Smiling, he sat in a church pew before the start of the 8:00 p.m. tour, enthusiastic for the evening. “It’s an exciting time for our parish where everyone comes together to work on the tour. There is a lot of history that many people do not even know about, just in front of our eyes in the 200-year old cemetery,” Urban-Mead admits.

The Rev. Chuck Kramer has been at St. James’ Church for 21 years. He made his debut appearance as an actor in this year’s tour. Kramer played Ogden Livingston Mills, U.S Secretary of the Treasury during Herbert Hoover’s presidency. Kramer was the first actor for the evening, and passionately depicted the spirit of Mills with his gestures and keen storytelling.

Recounting the intention of the tour, Kramer sat in his office, filled with books, sacred embellishments and bright colors. “There are three goals of the tour. One is to entertain. One is to inform and one is to inspire,” Kramer said.

Partakers of the St. James’ Historic Graveyard Tour can expect to be educated on major roles individuals played during World War I. It is a night to learn about the lives of the souls who rest in the church’s cemetery.

Kramer is proud of the impact the tour has left on people for the past eight years as well as the light it sheds on history. “The tour makes people come alive in a way that tugs at   the heart and has people thinking ‘wow.’ It engages both the funny bone and the heart,” Kramer said.

The tour runs for three weeks in October on Friday and Saturday night’s starting at 7:00, 7:30 and 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $20 and proceeds go to the on-going ministry and outreach of the church.

(from left to right) Pete Bedrossian, playing the role of (William) Gerald Morgan.

Andrew William Gordineer, 21, playing the role of William T. White.

Reverend Chuck Kramer in his parish office at St. James’ Church.

 

 

Historic Walkway Undergoes Renovations

The Walkway Over the Hudson has served as a popular attraction for both tourists and locals since its opening in 2009 as a State Historic Park. Today, the site is undergoing changes to ensure parkgoers have an even more positive experience.

The walkway’s nearly 600,000 visitors have been asked to pardon its appearance as construction on a Dutchess Welcome Center and a new elevator has begun.

Located near the parking lot, the 1,800-square-foot Dutchess Welcome Center is set to include amenities such as an outdoor patio, a dog-friendly water fountain, bike racks, and bathrooms, according to an article from The Poughkeepsie Journal. A new staircase will also be added to give visitors access to the walkway from Orchard Place.

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Images with the design of the new welcome center is posted on the fence outside of the construction site

The addition of a welcome center on the Dutchess side follows the unveiling of a similar center in Ulster County in June.

 

Many individuals, especially older visitors, have expressed a great deal of excitement towards the new bathrooms. Prior to construction, people could only utilize portable toilets set up near the parking lot.

Aside from bathrooms, visitors also expressed that they would like to see an additional concession stand providing snacks, light fare, and water incorporated into the welcome center.

“I just think overall it’s a good concept that they’re trying to provide better facilities for people because this is an attraction,” stated Matt Kravits, a Somers, NY resident.

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The new Dutchess Welcome Center is currently under construction and is set to open in the spring of 2019

Construction on the welcome center began in April, as stated by one of the walkway’s ambassadors, and is set to be completed by spring 2019 prior to the park’s 10th anniversary.

 

Currently, the welcome center appears to be in its initial phases of construction. Cinder block walls have been resurrected, and the structure is encased along with construction equipment by a chain-link fence. A sign posted on the fence provides visitors with images of the future site in addition to information on what to expect.

The materials and equipment being used for the construction site itself are being stored in areas that serve as parking spaces. Approximately 36 parking spaces, included those designated for handicapped individuals, seem to be taken up by the activity.

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Construction materials can be seen taking up several parking spaces

According to the walkway’s ambassadors, however, there have been no complaints concerning less parking spaces available. Additionally, the Walkway Over the Hudson is offering free parking in the lots due to the ongoing project.

 

In addition to the welcome center, the Walkway Over the Hudson will also debut an improved elevator system by the spring.

The new elevator will rely on an “encased energy chain upgrade,” which will replace the wireless-based communication system. The wireless-based system was discovered to be sensitive to the changing weather conditions of the region, as reported by the Mid Hudson Valley Patch. This energy chain system is anticipated to extend seasonal usage and improve reliability.

While construction on this project has not begun yet, the elevator remains closed to visitors until the construction is completed. Signs explaining the closure are posted at both the Dutchess and Ulster sides of the walkway along with a phone number to inquire about the elevator’s status.

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Signs warning of the elevator’s closure are located at both ends of the walkway

 

“I think they should definitely prioritize having the elevator accessible sooner than later,” shared Sue Kravits, a New York resident visiting with her husband, Matt. “I believe that it just opens it up to people that have disabilities and can’t access it another way, and that just would be a really goodwill sort of thing to do for the community and for those that want to use it.”

In regards to both the elevator and the welcome center, John Fila, another visitor from Greenwood Lake, NY, said, “I think anything they could do to make more parks and stuff more friendly for more people to enjoy, the better off [it] is.”

Hudson River Housing Continues Commitment to Revitalizing Local Area

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. — Nestled on Mill Street is an antiquated house with new purpose. Hudson River Housing, a local non-profit organization, resides here. This incorporation “improves lives and communities through housing with compassion and development with vision,” according to their website. With the group’s unwavering dedication to bettering the Poughkeepsie area and helping the community reach its full potential through not only housing but also programming, this organization does not receive a fraction of the recognition it deserves for the meaningful work it does.   Continue reading

Vegas Strong

POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y.— An unexpected casualty struck in Las Vegas, Nevada, on the night of Oct. 1, 2017.

Concertgoers were fearful of their lives that night as hundreds were left staggering about the venue trying to flee the scene as quickly as possible without getting shot. Individuals were being taken randomly in vehicles and many were separated from family and friends by the end of the night. The only sounds that were heard while this horrific tragedy ensued were the sounds of the individuals crying for desperate help.

Stephen Paddock, 64, maliciously fired hundreds of rifle shots from a hotel room in the Mandalay Bay Casino towards patrons at the Route 91 Harvest music festival, killing 58 people and leaving 546 injured. This unthinkable tragedy is the deadliest mass shooting committed by an individual in the United States.

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Hudson River Housing Loses Vital Grant

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY—Christa Hines sat in her quiet, isolated office on 313 Mill Street, pondering what the immediate next steps for her company would be. When asked about the fact that the Department of Veteran Affairs would not be renewing their annual grant, her response was exceedingly dour. “That’s correct”, Hines said. She replied with a simple “no” when asked if she had been in direct contact with Veterans Affairs. In her responses, one could easily pick up a somber, defeated tone. In a way, she serves as a personification of the views of both her organization and the community at large, as a force that provides a great many services for a large number of people now faces an incredibly murky and uncertain future.

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Outside the Bubble: November 14-20

It’s been a busy week. Not necessarily a very good week, but it’s at least been busy. And there’s snow on the ground this morning, so there’s that.

The headlines from this past week span from Star Wars, to Hamilton, to Metallica and more. Let’s sort through the madness and take a look outside the bubble.

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