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Democrat Photo by Jeanne Sager

IT TAKES A village . . . to break ground on a new library wing. From left to right, District 3 Legislator Greg Goldstein, Grahamsville resident Gerry Skoda, District 7 Legislator Leni Binder and Town of Neversink Historian Carol Smythe pick up the first ceremonial bits of dirt at Saturday’s groundbreaking for the Daniel Pierce Library.

It Took a Village

By Jeanne Sager
GRAHAMSVILLE — April 20, 2004 – If the measure of the worth of a community is in the support it throws behind its library, Grahamsville is the richest town in the country.
A groundbreaking usually draws out 10 to 20 people. In Grahamsville Saturday morning, there were close to 100 folks gathered to herald in the new wing on the Daniel Pierce Library.
Six years in the making, the people were gathered to break ground not just on extra space for children’s programs and reference books, but for community rooms and a museum dedicated entirely to the history of their community.
It brought kids from Keith Edwards’ fourth grade class to hand over their piggybank of money to help see the library meet its goal.
It brought out Helen Coombe, at 101 the eldest in the crowd, who quickly penned a check for $5,000 and called Supervisor Georgianna Lepke over in the middle of opening ceremonies to make her donation.
It was truly a community day, a day to honor Daniel Pierce, who grew up in Grahamsville and went west to find his fortune.
In the 1890s, Pierce sent money back home to construct a library on the main drag in 1902. That building served the community until the 1970s when the Lion’s Club pulled together the funds for the first addition.
And since the late 1990s, folks in Grahamsville have been working to bring together the funds needed for another very necessary addition.
Phil Coombe remembers being asked countless times to help. He kept saying no, until one day he was asked to stop down at the library so some folks could just pick his brain.
Librarian Joann Gallagher was facing the possibility of having to move the facility out of town so they could find the space to fit everything the community needed.
Coombe stopped and thought.
“Daniel Pierce put that library there,” he told the crowd Saturday morning. “I thought we should try to keep it there.”
Suddenly Coombe found himself chairing perhaps the biggest fundraising project Grahamsville had ever seen.
He helped talk a neighbor into selling her land to the library, keeping life rights to the house. He helped do land swaps with the Gariglianos who gave acres of property for future expansion.
He called Paul Gunther and Alan Gerry to borrow some money. And he asked the rest of the town for help.
They came through, little by little. Winnings from the Grahamsville Sullivan Renaissance projects went into the building fund, donations from townspeople went into the building fund, a brick campaign at the front of the library helped boost the fund.
By Saturday, the library was just $700,000 short of their goal – and it was time to begin.
Yes, money is still needed, but Coombe said his community will come through.
“My hope is people will step forward when they see it actually happening,” he said. “What we’re putting together is something you should be proud of.”
His family has pledged more than $100,000. He hopes others will be willing to make similar contributions – and have a piece of the town’s future named in memory of their family.
“You don’t say ‘no’ to Phil Coombe,” said District 3 Legislator Greg Goldstein with a laugh. “You change your phone number!”
Carol Smythe hopes donations will come in for the museum, too – not just money, but pieces of town history.
The Town of Neversink historian has been on a similar mission to Coombe’s to see the Time and the Valleys Museum become a part of the town.
“Every moment, I met someone in town that I knew was interested in history, I’d walk up to them and say, ‘Hey, we’re going to have a museum; do you want to serve on a committee?’” Smythe said with a laugh.
“They were good,” she said. “They said, ‘Yes.’
“Not only did they say, ‘Yes,’” Smythe continued, “but they kept coming.”
Time and the Valleys will serve as a reminder of the past and an educator of the future.
That’s what libraries are all about.
Just ask Senator John Bonacic.
The state representative stopped by the groundbreaking for a few minutes to extol the virtues of libraries.
“Libraries are the soul of a community,” he noted, “where new plans are made in community rooms for the future, where lives are enriched.”
Work will commence soon on the new wing – right behind the current structure.
Anyone who is willing to lend a hand in the building project should stop by the library or call 985-7233.

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