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Democrat Photo by Dan Hust

NYS SENATOR JOHN Bonacic presents a $75,000 grant to Sullivan Renaissance founder Sandra Gerry to help fund beautification projects. The check was unveiled at Saturday’s Sullivan First forum.

Starts Anew

By Dan Hust
LIBERTY — February 8, 2005 – After nearly a decade of spring/summer/fall efforts and winter expos, what does Sullivan First have to show for itself?
Revitalized main streets, new parks and gardens, an artistically creative sign for virtually every hamlet, a new sense of community responsibility, the formation of Sullivan Renaissance . . .
And the creation of a $20 million New York State program modeled after it, according to State Senator John Bonacic.
“I’m so proud of how far the County of Sullivan has come in bringing back pride in the beauty of this county,” he said on Saturday at the 9th Annual Sullivan First Winter Forum and Expo.
With close to 200 Sullivan First/Sullivan Renaissance supporters and participants looking on early that morning in the Liberty High School cafeteria, Bonacic then handed a $75,000 check to Sandra Gerry, co-founder of the Renaissance program.
The other founder, her husband Alan Gerry, stood quietly in the wings as Bonacic labeled them both “the best friends Sullivan County could have.”
Renaissance Program Coordinator Glenn Pontier said that money will be used toward funding various efforts, particularly projects listed under Category C – a revamped category reserved for the largest Renaissance efforts.
Category A remains largely unchanged – requiring participation from at least two community groups and involving small-scale efforts like sign replacements and gardens.
In the initial phase (prior to being selected as one of three winners by a panel of judges later this year), each project will get a $1,000 grant from Sullivan Renaissance and a $100 voucher from Sullivan First.
In Category B, municipal support is required, as the project will likely have a larger impact on the local community.
The initial grants total $2,600 and will include a $1,000 gardening internship, offering a young man or woman under the age of 20 the chance to work for $10 an hour 10 hours a week on various projects.
Category C, however, has been substantially altered, requiring a three-year plan that includes a visioning process, partnership with the municipality and various governmental agencies, even a strategy to create a not-for-profit organization to oversee the project’s continuation.
A $5,000 grant and assistance from artists and county planners will jumpstart the project, but from there it will be eligible (if so chosen by judges) for the $50,000 Golden Feather Award, made possible by Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther and her late husband Jake.
At every category level, environmental impact and historic preservation awards will be handed out in the second phase, but Pontier took time Saturday to focus on Category C.
“We’ve taken Category C and said, ‘Let’s dream,’” he explained. “If you’d like to take these community development projects to the next level, we’d like to help.
“It’s going to be hard work,” he warned. “This is for people who want to move beyond seasonal projects. . . . You just have to want to do it and be ready to do it.”
And Sullivan County Commissioner of Planning and Community Development William Pammer – himself a county native – is willing to help.
“What we’re trying to do is create a sense of community,” he said in his keynote address. “It’s amazing what we have here. We take it for granted every day. . . . I’m proud to be in this position to work with you guys.”
Four 2004 efforts were recognized during Saturday’s forum, with achievement awards going to Fouad and Bijan Kerendian (for the father/son team’s efforts to clean roadsides around Rock Hill), Mighty M Gaming at Monticello Raceway (for removing an eyesore at its Route 17B entrance and creating pleasing signage and gardens), the River Market (for the Barryville business’ building revitalization) and Woodbourne Action-Sullivan First (for the volunteer group’s ongoing efforts to create a park at the hamlet’s eastern entrance on Route 52).
Afterwards, participants browsed the services being offered at the expo and broke into four different groups to discuss Mickey Lanza’s “lasagna gardening” beautification technique, involving youth in Renaissance efforts, the basics of Sullivan Renaissance, and an in-depth look at categories B and C.
For more information on these beautification efforts, look up online or call 295-2445.

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