December 8, 2011

We celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday two weeks ago today in traditional style with a noon meal shared by residents, staff, our friends the Hoyts (from Saint Francis Farm) and guests Doug and John. The meal was served at 12:30, after Thanksgiving Day Mass. Father Jones offered the blessing, and then all those assembled shared turkey, potato, stuffing, gravy, etc., etc., and several sorts of pie. The meal on Thanksgiving was planned and prepared by small team of very dedicated men who run the Unity Acres kitchen, day in and day out, week in and week out, but who really shine on these special occasions. Thank you, Gary and Lou and kitchen workers!

Immediately after Thanksgiving, an artificial tree, lights and holiday ornaments were removed from the little closet dedicated to the purpose of storing seasonal decorations, and these were set up throughout the sitting room and the ground floor of our main building. (Thanks, Elby!) A wreath was fashioned from fresh hemlock branches and was in place in our chapel for Mass on the first Sunday of Advent. Two other pine cone wreaths have been made and are hanging, one from the ‘Unity Acres’ sign at the front of the property along Route 2, and the other at the front entrance of the main building. (Thanks, Rick!). The dining room in our ‘Star Building’, too,has been decorated for the celebration of the upcoming holiday. (Thanks, Helen, Marie and Aleata!)

 

The Altar and Rosary Society of Christ Our Light Parish have organized their annual Christmas party for the Acres for Wednesday, December 14, continuing a tradition of at least 30 years. We’ve also been in touch with Lorraine, the ‘Glove Lady’ of Holland Patent, who for the last ten or so years has been collecting winter gloves and other presents for distribution to our men at Christmas. This year, however, the Glove Lady, will become the ‘Pillow Lady’, and so through herassistance, and the generosity of Saint Ann’sSaint Leo’s in Holland Patent, we will have new clean pillows. John and Don will be meeting Lorraine at SU next week to receive the pillows on behalf of the men of Unity Acres. As we prepare for our celebration of the Christmas holiday, andthe arrival of the New Year shortly thereafter, it’s time to offer a brief updateof events at the Acres during the past few months.

Sunday of August, becomes a sort of organizational prompt for many of the efforts of the men and the staff at Unity Acres. We adjust the menus, debate the amounts of food to order, ponder over the number of guests we might expect. The vegetable garden is planned with the date of the picnic in mind, so that we should have fresh cornonthecob to offer. We hope that the weather will not be too hot. We know that it won’t rain.

By late spring, anticipation of our annual summer picnic, held on the third Sunday of August, becomes a sort of organizational prompt for many of the efforts of the men and the staff at Unity Acres. We adjust the menus, debate the amounts of food to order, ponder over the number of guests we might expect. The vegetable garden is planned with the date of the picnic in mind, so that we should have fresh corn-on-the-cob to offer. We hope that the weather will not be too hot. We know that it won’t rain.

So it was something more than a shock on the morning of August 21 to wake to the sound of a pounding rainstorm. Despite inclement weather, the kitchen staff with help from Peg, Loretta and Helen made the lastminute adjustments to seat more guests than usual indoors,with Bear and Charlie arranging overflow seatingin the recreation room. Stillothers helped with preparations to bring the usual ‘outdoor’ Mass inside. Thanksagain, to Rick, for lending his fern collection to decorate the chapel! The weather improved slightly as the morning wore on, but we were glad in the endto have moved our celebration of the Mass into our Sacred Heart Chapel. Most years, the Mass on Picnic Sunday has been outside, on the lawn immediately in front of the Main Building, with flowering Rose of Sharon bushes, and the tall Sunflowers as a sort of backdrop. In the further past, our Mass was celebrated a few times behind the North Wing, next to the Stone Chapel, and one memorable year, on the banks of Trout Brook.

This year’s unplannedand unanticipated move inside became a happy occasion for visitors and Unity Acres folks to squeeze in together creating a literal closeness and a tangible unity between all, with every pew filled, and every hastily set folding chair occupied. The Mass crowd extended out of the chapel and spilled out into the hallways and sitting room.Once again, the spirit of community at Mass was strong; the food delicious. We thank all who attended our Mass and Picnic. We offer sincere appreciation toall who contributed, to all who assisted in whatever way.

Our mailing in October announced a capital improvement plan. We have receivedkind and thoughtful responses to that appeal. Among our many concerns for the future of Unity Acres has been the structural integrity of the buildings that constitute ‘home’ for 78 men (that’s the number of men who are living here today, December 8), the comfort and safety of the men as they inhabit these ageing buildings, and our ability to continue to meet rising energy costs for heating and lighting.A group of longtime supporters began meeting several years agoto help insure the ongoing ability of our little team to meet the needs of the men for safe and securehousing in these buildings. One of the results of these meetings was a comprehensive assessment of the physical plant, which included a number of recommendations and suggestions concerning repairs and replacement of equipment, windows, roofs, and so on. The buildings themselves for the most part dateto the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s. The Star Building was built in 1973 or 1974 to house our kitchen and dining hall. There are a few outbuildings that the men themselves have constructed during the past few years: a tractor barn, a maintenance building, a pig barn. It was a great relief to receive the opinion that the buildings were in fact generally sound, however several deficiencies were noted which we have been sinceattempting to address. Wehave tried to prioritize and carry out the recommendationswe received, to the extent of the capabilities of the men in residence here to carry out the needed repairs, and to the extent of the availability of funds to hire contractors, when necessary. There have also been not a few items added to our critical ‘to do’ list, due to unexpected failures of equipment and systems. (Click for details of projects undertaken during 2011.)

In the meantime, as daylight grows shorter, and as winter’s cold and snow start to set in, we are staying warm and wellfed. We have clothing and food to offer and share with one another. And we are glad that Unity Acres and other places like it existwhere the sharing of food and clothing takes place, where hospitality and mutual assistance are enacted, where the stranger is welcomed. Thank you, everyone, whose generosity, whose kindness and prayers, allow this sharing, this hospitality and mutual assistance, and this welcoming, to continue.