2018 Blenheim Re-Cap

2018 Blenheim Re-Cap

Submitted by local resident Gail Shaffer

BLENHEIM  Long – Term Recovery Committee

2018   ~   Year-End Reflections  &  Thanks to Our Volunteers

Date:   November 29, 2018    From:   Gail Shaffer, Chair

To:   Blenheim LTCR  Committee Members,  Town Board Members, & Project Volunteers


Ho Ho,  y’all  !

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving,

…..and all the best for a Merry Christmas, Happy Hannakuh, and Joyful New Year!

The Holidays are a time for reflection, for taking stock of our blessings, and for thanking folks for special efforts.  I shall attempt here to wrap up the year with some thoughts about our many community blessings.

As Chair of the Blenheim Long Term Community Recovery Committee, I’m sharing this with the Town Board and some of our special volunteer friends who have helped with our projects, as well as the Committee members.   I want, on behalf of the Committee, to thank those who have donated so much of their time and talents to help us achieve so much over the past seven years since the committee was created.  I hope that I have not overlooked anyone; we have had so many great people involved in so many helpful projects, and we do appreciate all their dedication to our community.

I’m so thankful for all the wonderful volunteers on our committee, who do so much throughout the year for our community.

This has been a banner year for Blenheim, and we have much to be grateful for, including:

*     Our beautiful new Blenheim Bridge,  a worthy replica of the beloved Old Blenheim Bridge —brought to life thanks to FEMA federal funds and NY State funds, and the tremendous skills of the Graton Company, covered bridge experts,  and  — most importantly, the persistence of our citizens here in our little town who held to their dream and overcame formidable obstacles to see it through to reality; and Schoharie County for its efforts on our behalf

*     Our compensation settlement with the New York Power Authority (NYPA) for some financial relief, over the next 50 years, to partially offset the tremendous loss of one-third of our tax base to build the hydropower project

*     Our $ 4 million grant from the New York Rising program, which will enable us, in the coming year, to build our new  municipal building complex, for Town Hall, Highway Dept. HQ, and Fire Hall — forevermore above the flood plain !

*     Our acquisition (imminently) of the parsonage property at the Blenheim Community Center


*****   Thanksgiving Commuunity Dinner    : a great event   !

Profuse thanks to all on our committee who worked so hard on the community Thanksgiving dinner — special thanks to Phyllis Olsen and Renee Grabowski for organizing this, and to both Phyllis & Carole for a lot of baking & cooking….

Thanks also to other volunteers who joined in to make it a success, especially Sarah Bridge, Kevin Gillespie, and Mike Skabowski,all volunteer chefs…   Also thanks to Renee for her extra time in doing a thorough clean-up afterward.

I’ve heard lots of positive feedback, and people are most appreciative.  I know it was a lot of work.

Sorry I was unable to be there personally this year, as Saturday was the day we had our family Thanksgiving feast.

*****     Covered Bridge is beautiful, and landscaping, etc. back on track!

It’s still overwhelming to have our beautiful Blenheim Bridge reborn, gracing our community again, like an old friend returning home.

As icing on the cake, the outstanding documentary film done by PBS / Nova really put our little town on the map with a national audience, and we are so grateful for this project.  And as for Missy Graham and Don Airey —- wow, two real film stars among us !!!!   Maybe there’s an Oscar in their future??

We will have lots of work ahead, in organizing the Dedication ceremony.   For now, we can step back and admire this beautiful re-creation of our unique, iconic landmark, and savor the accomplishment it represents.  Walking through the bridge, I know that people like my father, who championed that bridge for so many years, and so many others of our forebears, would be so proud that we worked to restore this extraordinary gem of our historic heritage, and that it will be there for time immemorial as a link to that heritage.

Our special thanks to Robbie Mann, who as Town Supervisor at the time of the floods, supported the dream of rebuilding the bridge from the outset, and throughout our long efforts to secure the funding.

And special kudos to Don Airey, who has spearheaded these efforts to bring the bridge reconstruction to fruition, first as chair of this committee and then as Supervisor.  His efforts continue, as he has had to light a fire under the contractors to finish up the work at the covered bridge site…..

He has been putting a lot of time into riding herd on the remaining details that need to be completed.

So, Don, Muchas gracias !!!!

*****   Thanks to the Blenheim Town Board  &  Blenheim Town Clerk

We are very appreciative for the support of our Town Board —-   Renee Grabowski, Joe Ward, Anne Mattice Strauch, Chet Keyser, as well as Supervisor Don Airey — for their continuing support of the work of the Blenheim LTRC.

In addition, we are so grateful for Town Clerk Robin Alley —  an unsung hero who is always there and willing to help in any way she can, with her many skills and her encouraging support.

The many projects we have worked on could never have come to fruition without the support of our town government, and we look forward to our continuing partnership with our elected leaders.

*****   The ” LITTLE  LIBRARY ”

Thanks to Phyllis Olsen, who has singlehandedly taken on this project, constructing a ” Little Library” that will be in front of the Blenheim Community Center.  It’s a tiny, doll-house size structure that will feature several books that people can take for free, and they can also leave a donated book if they wish.  This is a project that has taken off at various locations around the county ( e.g., Schoharie, Middleburgh and Sharon Springs), and the country.

*****  Thanks to Blenheim’s Highway Superintendent & Crew

We are so grateful to Dave Mattice, who puts the “Super” in Superintendent of Highways.  Throughout the year, he and his crew have done so many things to help our various community projects:   mowing the lawn at the BCC & and the pavilion park & the fishing access area & the Bridge and Schoolhouse properties; putting our seasonal flags up in the village (now with our super-duper bucket vehicle!); helping with signage; and always being willing to help out whenever possible.

*****   Veterans’  Honor  Roll

Thanks to Joe Ward, who repaired and repainted our Veterans’ Honor Roll at the Blenheim Bridge Park.  This took a lot of time, and it’s a great improvement.  Another of our ongoing projects this year will be to update the list of veterans, and also to develop plans for a veterans’ memorial park on Route 30.

*****   Bridge Remnants Storage

Many thanks to Chris and Anne Mattice-Strauch, for their generosity in allowing us to store the recovered remnants of the Old Blenheim Bridge in their barn for the past seven years, and also for being so accommodating with the parcel owned by them adjacent to the covered bridge.

******    Schoolhouse Museum

Thanks to Liz & Ralph Arrandale for all they’ve done thus far, to reorganize our historic archives, to put everything in storage during the bridge project in order to enable us to generate revenue by renting the building to the construction crew, and overseeing improvements to the building.  We look forward to getting the building back in shape, removing the “annex” addition, improving the drainage situation, and pursuing some grant resources to restore the building.

Also, many thanks to Ralph for contributing his artistic talents to our various projects:  His signs for the Town Hall, the BCC, the fishing access site, the Pavilion Park, the Rural Cemetery, etc.  — they are beautiful, professional quality enhancements to our town.

*****  Blenheim Methodist Church

We are also thankful for the Methodist Church in our town.  A small but dedicated congregation, they are a supportive partner in so many of the events and activities that we have worked on during this period of community recovery and revitalization.  Losing longtime Pastor Neil Irwin was a tragic loss for Blenheim and Fulton;  Neil was always a dedicated, passionate and sincere advocate for the community, and his cheerful humor in the face of adversity was an inspiration for all.  His successor, Pastor Mike Gephardt, has continued his legacy as a caring shepherd to his flock and the extended community, and is a supportive partner in our town.

*****  FLOWERS !   Beautiful Floral ( & Arboreal )  Enhancements

The beautiful flowers at both the east and west ends of the village of North Blenheim —as well as at the Honor Roll area at the Bridge — did not just grow there on their own.  They are installed and maintained lovingly by Helen and Hans Lindstrom.  And Carolee Russell has also contributed to these enhancements.  In addition, Bob & Carole Olsen have planted the beautiful grasses at the Town Hall, near the sign.   And let’s not forget our “Wandering Arboretum” that has been created, by several donations of trees and of loving care — from Bill Zichichi in memory of Jill,   from Steve Whitesell, who has contributed his expertise, and from other donors

*****  Parsonage Parcel added to the BCC Property

Our thanks to Don Airey and Bernie Levit who have negotiated the purchase from the Presbytery of the old parsonage building, reuniting it with the church property and providing a well and septic tank for the BCC.  We will be pursuing grant funds for the overall renovation of both properties.  In the meantime, the BCC Flea Market sales have already established some funds toward initial steps in renovation.

******  Blenheim Community Center Flea Market had our Best Sales Season Ever !!!!

Many thanks to all who have volunteered throughout 2018 Spring / Summer / Fall in our Community Center “flea market”….

Special thanks to our regular corps of volunteers, who give up part of nearly every week-end through the season to operate the center: Phyllis Olsen, Renee Grabowski, Carole Olsen, Bill Zichichi, (& oh yes, Moi ! )….  And by the way, we have fun together, too !

Carole, our treasurer, has told us that this has been our best revenue season yet  !!!

So the efforts have really produced results, and we appreciate all the time our volunteers have contributed.

******   The  R.A.R.E.  Gift to BCC

A reminder of our continuing gratitude to Missy & Keith Graham, who transferred the funds raised by R.A.R.E. to our organization, to continue the work of our community recovery efforts, in restoring the Blenheim Community Center and other projects.

*****   BCC hosting a Special HOLIDAY SALE at Town Hall

As our season finale for the flea market, our BCC committee is having a HOLIDAY SALE  !

Saturday December 15 and Sunday December 16  —  at the Blenheim Town Hall (which, unlike the BCC, has HEAT ! )

Stop in and shop for a variety of gift items, holiday decor,  stocking stuffers, etc !

And, of course, we welcome donated items —  a great way to downsize your excess stuff, by donating it to benefit  the BCC  !!!


One last thing we are all grateful for: our beloved Fanchon Cornell, former Town Historian and author of a fine book of Blenheim history, has recovered from her broken hip operation and is home for the holidays and improving steadily.  Fanchon (my former Sunday School teacher) continues her Bible study group of several decades, and will be 89 years young in January !   God bless her with good health in the new year.

As you can see, once you get started counting your blessings, the list gets quite long !

All of our Committee members are grateful for the above people who have supported our work this year and throughout these past seven years…..

Have a wonderful Holiday Season, and a Blessed New Year in 2019  !!!