Faces of Dryden: Feeding the community

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Standing in the kitchen of the First Presbyterian Church of Dryden to stay out of the fray, Aiden Payne sounded almost robotic in her calculations. “We have 89 baskets for families with four or fewer people, 54 baskets for those with five to six people…” Payne has reviewed the numbers so many times, they’re automatic.


About 25 youth from the Dryden United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church, and Holy Cross Catholic Church came together to make Thanksgiving Day bright by organizing the non-perishable portion of the 170 dinner baskets, which were made possible through the Kitchen Cupboard and many other community organizations and helping hands. These baskets will include a turkey and all of the expected trimmings, including yams, veggies, fresh potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and mixes and fillings for desserts galore. The youth helped set up the tables, organize bags and boxes for the various families, and then fill them with the appropriate number of items based on family size.


This incredible feat of organization and coordination is planned out by Aiden Payne, the director of the Dryden Kitchen Cupboard, a food pantry housed at the Presbyterian Church. Payne said that she starts in mid-September, working with the various groups that make it all possible. The churches and the schools hold food drives; the Food Bank of the Southern Tier provides some free or discounted food items; Clark’s grocery store steps in with turkeys and so much more. “Mike Clark has been so wonderful to me,” Payne relates. “He will order turkeys for me, give me a special price, deliver them and unload the truck. He donates this time away from his store. He has a business to run, yet he gives his time.”


The Freeville Fire Department donated specifically towards the purchase of turkeys. Cornell donated 950 pounds of potatoes. Bagel Lovers provides the bags that the teens used to divide those potatoes into five-pound portions over a tarp spread on the floor.


Students from the William George Agency helped out on Tuesday afternoon. “The kids are so wonderful and so enthusiastic,” Payne admits. They will pick up boxes of donated foods from all of the schools, which are collected at Dryden Elementary School. All of this food will come back to the Kitchen Cupboard, where the kids will sort it and pack the remaining dinner baskets.


Mary Hicks, a social worker at Dryden Elementary School, encourages giving throughout the community, accompanied by her paper turkey. “I use a character education based large turkey at Dryden Elementary School to encourage giving back to our community. We have a faith-based large paper turkey that visits the congregations each year with the youth sharing how important it is to give back.”


Turkey and trimmings were collected by families the week before Thanksgiving, Thursday, Nov. 15. To maintain confidentiality, Payne works with the social workers from the school to merge lists of potential recipients with the Kitchen Cupboard’s file. Retired teachers assist with this final stage of the production. Hicks and her team of social workers will deliver food for “those who transportation would be an obstacle for them to be able to participate.”


“When you stop and think about it, it really is unbelievable what we can accomplish,” said Payne. “We’ve learned by mistakes over the years. At this point, we have it pretty fine-tuned.” Hicks concurs, “It makes my heart so happy when so many folks both young and experienced (old) come together to show our love and support to our community members!”

Dinner is Served
The Varna Community Association, 943 Dryden Road, is gearing up to host its free Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday, Nov. 22, from noon until 3 p.m. For the past seven years, the community center has provided a free dinner for anyone who wishes to come and enjoy dinner and visit. All are welcome to come and enjoy turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, squash, green bean casserole, fruit salad, rolls, beverage, and a variety of pies for dessert. Vegetarian lasagna is served as an alternative entree. Donations of food or finance are welcome. Contact Dawn Potter at dap4@cornell.edu or 280-9750 for more information. If you have a few hours to spare, let Susan Simmons know at sasrvcs121@yahoo.com or 280-8042.


The Freeville United Methodist Church, 37 Main St, will also be hosting its annual Free Community Thanksgiving Day Dinner at 1 p.m. Call 898-4713 for questions or to make a reservation.


Village Considers Solar Law
The village of Dryden Planning Board Chair Ben Curtis took the lead at a special public hearing on Wednesday, Nov. 14. The Village is considering adding a Solar Energy Law to the books. The entire Board of Trustees was present, as were members of the Planning Board; Candace Rossi from NYSERDA, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority; and members of the public, totaling 16 attendees.


Curtis led the group through the proposed law, point by point, suggesting concerns, modifications, and changes as they went. Curtis mentioned that the Planning Board “shortened up language provided by the state,” making modifications for the circumstances of the Village. He also offered appreciation for NYSERDA’s cooperation in the process, noting that they were “good listeners and good talkers.”


As with any law, terms are defined and conditions imposed. After the contentious solar law process that the Town endured, it’s good to see neighbors working together for the good of the future of the Village.
The Board of Trustees will consider the discussion at the public hearing as part of their deliberations before voting on the law. A copy of the law is available at the Village Hall for review.

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