February 18, 2013

Cheers and Jeers: Feb. 18, 2013

CHEERS to the late, lamented service organization Family Promise of Clinton County, which for a decade provided the homeless with shelter and access to more-permanent help through the generous and untiring efforts of local houses of worship and their congregations. Those faithful volunteers did all they could to make the guests feel at home and encouraged about escaping the conditions that had landed them in such need. The way it worked was that a homeless family needing Social Services help would be referred to the program, which would house the family with congregations that took turns providing the assistance. The volunteers would cook for them and stay with them overnight, then usually they would go to a Day Center in Plattsburgh where they found help locating needs such as a new home or jobs. Many balked at the idea of staying with strangers in a church or synagogue setting, but once they experienced the friendliness and genuine caring there, they were quickly sold. And the program kept them, including young children, from staying in the motels notorious for an atmosphere not, shall we say, family appropriate. And the effort reduced costs that would have been borne by Social Services for their lodging there. At least, there is still help for the homeless through that agency.

CHEERS to Penny Clute for the work that earned her the honor of being named Behavioral Health Services North’s 2013 Mardis Gras queen. Clute was Clinton County district attorney from 1989 through 2001 and then served as Plattsburgh City Court judge until she retired in January 2012. It was during her time as City Court judge that Clute created a local Mental Health Court, which allowed alternative sentencing for specific defendants, showing compassion for their struggles with mental illness. BHSN CEO Harry Cook, who is retiring after 23 years with the agency, said Clute was honored “to acknowledge her commitment to the people of the North Country over decades, especially her work with the City Mental Health Court and Drug Court. We are also honoring her for her volunteer work with our adult consumers, which takes her avocation of photography and blends it with the recovery focus of our Adult Services.” Besides her efforts with that photography program, Clute used money collected from her retirement party to start the Encouragement Fund, which offers mini grants to clients in treatment or their agencies. Some examples, provided by BHSN, of use of the funds were buying gift cards for clients who are doing well and helping develop a walking trail behind the new Adult Services facility at BHSN. Clute also shares her knowledge of law and the courts in a monthly column in the Press-Republican. The BNSN Mardis Gras dinner, held at Anthony’s, has been honoring community contributors for 11 years. The list of royalty: 2003, Angela and Roger Forrence; 2004, Christopher “Kit” and Sally Booth; 2005, Ron and Kay Stafford; 2006, John Flanzer and Pearlie Rabin; 2007, Mike Mannix and Shirley O’Connell; 2008, Rod and Dodie Giltz; 2009, John and Mary Zurlo; 2010, Drew and Linda Sabella; 2011, Angela Brown and Kellum Smith; and 2012, Janet Duprey.

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