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July 11, 2014
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Thanks for giving!

The "Hilltop Homes Elves" joined Santa and country star Jimmy Wayne (top row, center) at the M&M Auto Group in Liberty to kick off the Thunder 102 Toys for Tots holiday drive.


“Charity begins at home,” Thomas Fuller wrote, “but should not end there.” With Thanksgiving upon us, it’s time once again to take stock and give thanks, which is easy (for me, anyhow) to lose sight of in the workaday world of bills, stress and everyday worries that sometimes seem insurmountable. As school children, we are taught that the first Thanksgiving began with the Pilgrims stepping off Plymouth Rock, but a bit of research (www.wikianswers.com) informs us that this is a “hotly debated” topic and goes on to say, “It is believed that the first ‘Day of Thanksgiving’ actually occurred before the arrival of the Pilgrims. This festival was completely religious in nature and did not involve any feasting.” (OMG!) And it did not involve Plymouth Rock. “On 4 December, 1619, a group of settlers from England arrived at Berkeley Plantation on the James River, now known as Charles City, Virginia. This group dedicated this day of their arrival as a Day of Thanksgiving to God.” Hmmm.

It would seem that my own family traditions, including homemade chopped liver and chocolate cream pie, are a bit of a stretch (if Wiki’s answer is to be believed), but thanks, nonetheless, are in order. To that end, I look to the community-at-large for ways that I can give back, and from my vantage point, the food-fest propels. Just before diving into the charity pool, I received an invitation to take part in the first Sullivan County “Tweet-up” held last week in Bethel, NY ( www.catskilldistillingcompany.com ), and (having no clue what a “tweet-up” is) my interest was piqued. Co-sponsored by Green Door Magazine’s Akira Ohiso (www.greendoormag.com) and Large Media’s David Binkowski (www.davidbinkowski.com), the event was designed primarily to bring people together.

“When it started out, a tweet-up was simply a small group using the new [Twitter] technology,” Binkowski explained, “and presently, we are launching a local chapter here in the Catskills to give residents and weekend visitors an opportunity to participate. For city dwellers, who call the Upper Delaware Valley their ‘second home,’ we want them to understand that this region is on the cutting edge of technology as well, and that their attachment to social networking reaches beyond the city limits.”

As folks gathered to learn about tweeting, we schmoozed, snacked and made some new friends, exchanging ideas and information, just as our hosts intended. Distillery proprietors Stacy Cohen and Monty Sachs were on hand and were the first to admit that tweeting was new to them. Guests ranged in age from 21 to 90, giving me the impression that the curiosity factor runs high here at home, and so we shared our “handles” (I can be followed [uh oh] by looking for @jonathanfoxIMHO) More importantly, The River Reporter is on board, and can be followed by searching for @TRRnews. Before leaving, I learned that there will be future events, scattered about the region... so stay tuned.

Giving out my twitter handle does not count as charity (LOL), so I packed up the dog and headed out to the M&M Auto Group in Liberty, NY to say “hi” to Santa and help kick off the Toys for Tots campaign with the fine folks at Thunder 102 radio (yep- @thunder102). Country singing sensation Jimmy Wayne (@jimmywayne) was in the house, and as the National Spokesperson for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), he gave of his time and (IMHO) considerable talents to lend a hand locally (www.sullivancountycasa.org).

Signing copies of his best-selling book, “Paper Angels,” in which Jimmy shares about his tough childhood growing up in the foster care system and the steps he’s since taken to support kids in similar circumstances. Wayne posed for pics with his legion of fans, and later that same day, he joined country crooners Al Stream (www.AlStreamMusic.com), local boys-make-good Nashville superstars Ken and Barry Somerville (www.somervillebrothers.com) and Texaco Country Showdown winner Jason Casterlin (www.jasoncasterlin.com) at SUNY Sullivan’s Seelig Theater where they performed many of their hits for a sold-out crowd, with proceeds benefiting CASA.

Giving back is all important for these entertainers, and I decided to put my money where my (loud) mouth is and participate by donating to both worthy causes on behalf of The River Reporter. Dharma and I will also be on hand (and on-air) at Santa’s Village (sponsored by Hilltop Homes) on December 14 and 15 to join the Thunder team, whose mission states that “No child in Thunder Country should be without a toy for the holidays.” For more information on the spectacular (and free-to-the-public) holiday village in Monticello, call 845/807-7555.

Donating to Toys for Tots and CASA are only two of the many fine organizations and events scheduled for the season and it is my fervent wish to make many other stops along the way, including some photo-ops of the Santa Express which will be “Spreading the Magic of Christmas with Santa and all his North Pole friends on an annual 100-mile journey through Sullivan County on Santa’s lighted and musical sleigh” (www.facebook.comsantaexpress). Mustn’t forget that Hannukah is just around the corner (beginning December 8) but first—Thanksgiving!

[For another take on Thomas Fuller’s “Charity begins at home…” see today’s editorial on page 6.]