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Saturday, August 15, 2020

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Sullivan Renaissance celebrates 20 years

Annual Winter Symposium draws crowd in Liberty

Jan 9, 2020

By Sarah Clark - reporter/photographer

By: Sarah Clark | Democrat
The Arc for Sullivan-Orange Counties Business Developer Terry Grafmuller tables at the G2R Winter Symposium. The Arc will often have volunteers from their organization assist projects that are funded by Sullivan Renaissance.
LIBERTY — It took 20 years, but Sullivan County's outward appearance is catching up to the love that thousands of volunteers have given the landscape, parks, and main streets through Sullivan Renaissance projects.
Former County Manager Jonathan Drapkin said he recalled getting a note from Pat Pomeroy that said county residents were most concerned about Sullivan County's outward appearance.
“What do I do with this?” Drapkin thought.
Drapkin and a handful of volunteers started a grassroots organization called Sullivan First which sponsored roadside cleanups and went door to door looking for help.
“After I left the county manager's post to become Executive Director of the Gerry Foundation, Sandra Gerry came to me and said she would like to help beautify Sullivan County - and fund it.”
Drapkin was sold and so was born Sullivan Renaissance in 2000.

Over the past twenty years, Sullivan Renaissance has invested over $4.7 million in grants to Sullivan County community volunteer organizations and municipalities. These grants have leveraged over $12 million dollars in beautification, health initiatives, and community development throughout the county.
On Wednesday, Sullivan Renaissance held their annual G2R Winter Symposium to help educate attendees on building a healthier community, budgeting and promotion of new projects, volunteerism, and more.
The event highlighted the impacts these initiatives have made throughout Sullivan County, as volunteers, elect- ed officials, and committee members spoke to how the Sullivan Renaissance has benefitted their lives and the communities.
“You think back how far we've come as an organization, but then also how far we've come as a county and the fact that we were part of that… it's pretty amazing,” Executive Director Denise Frangipane said.
Frangipane has been working with Sullivan Renaissance since it began in 2000, when they were only a small team of three people. Today, Sullivan Renaissance has 10 team members.
Sullivan Renaissance has also helped implement important health initiatives throughout the community. Wellness programs were brought to schools in order to help educate students and others in the Sullivan County school districts.
One program funded by the Healthy Communities grant, which was offered by the state, helped implement a “Yoga for Classrooms” training in the Monticello, Liberty, and Fallsburg school districts. The training educated 42 teachers in Sullivan County and they now use the teachings daily throughout their time in school. Since this was implemented, absences decreased, test scores have increased, and children are also learning healthy coping skills when it comes to stress in and outside of the classroom.
“[Sullivan] Renaissance is always responding to the needs of the community,” said Healthy Community Initiative Program Manager Colleen Emery, who has been working with Renaissance for 16 years. “To me, that's one of the most exciting programs we've done.”
Educators, school executives, students and parents have all commented on the positive impact it has had on those who participate in the program.
“The world is really difficult now, and it breaks my heart to see the younger generation… I think everyone I speak to has anxiety, and they say it's part of [their] generation,” said Emery. “... I think we can't change the world, but we can change where we live.”
After the speakers reflected on the 20 years that Sullivan Renaissance has operated, the G2R Winter Symposium offered a series of workshops.
“With the workshop today I think it's a nice way to enlighten and just kind of [remind] of what we're looking for,” said Anne Smith, who works at Devitt's Garden Center and has judged gardens with Sullivan Renaissance for nearly nine years.
“They're all great gardens that we see, but somebody just maybe has the right day that the sun is shining, the rain is gone, and everything comes together and it looks great.”
Along with Smith, Peter Patel, who works for the Orange County Arboretum and has also been with Sullivan Renaissance for almost nine years, facilitated a workshop on what their vision of a winning garden looks like and offered information on installing and arranging the plants.
“We're all so lucky to have this program,” said Patel. “I hope they understand that beautification helps so many levels of the local economy and tourism.”
Visitors and residents who drive throughout the county can see the impact that Sullivan Renaissance has made in the community.
“I think what I love the most is the fact that it's a testimony to how individual people can make a difference, that you can empower people to make a difference in the community,” said Frangipane. “I feel good that we are able to support that.”

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