Thursday, December 31, 2015

On change

All this past year, as I have told people my story of growing up in the North Country, graduating from St. Lawrence University, and then moving away, before finally returning 35 years later, they have asked, "What has changed?"

It is an interesting question to think about, for much has changed.

The campuses have changed - major new buildings at SLU, whole new programs at Clarkson, and SUNY Canton?  Well, that was two-year Canton ATC when I left!

Dairy farming has changed.  150 cows was a huge farm back in the 70's.  Today a farm ten times that size isn't even among the biggest!  I learned that there are fewer farms, but more cows, than when I left!

The Neighborhood Centers were just getting started back then, in fact, one of my aunt's was one of the founders of the Gouverneur Neighborhood Center.  I'm glad to see they are still here and still lending a helping hand when needed.  I was surprised to see how many free will dinners and other food pantries have sprung up around the county, though.  This is a testament to the job losses the County has seen and the growing poverty that has resulted.

School systems have changed - consolidations meaning long bus rides for some kids and empty school buildings in some communities.  And the number of kids eligible for a free lunch at school has grown - today it's at 51% of our children!

I had the sense that the winter's had changed and gotten milder - but then I moved back in January of 2015 and that did not seem to be true!  But December of 2015 suggests that maybe it is, after all!

On the other hand, a lot has stayed the same - I came back to Canton and saw Josie's and Sergi's right next to each other just like always, the American Theater still going strong, the Hoot Owl around the corner, and a very similar feel to the place where I spent my four college years!

Yes, much has changed in my 35 years away. 

But what has not changed is the rich farmland and the resilient and caring people of St. Lawrence County.  No one here should go hungry and I'm glad to be back here and on the team trying to make it so!