Changing the World, a group of Russell Sage students, helps
bring fresh produce to the tenants of Joseph’s House
Earth Day, you might have seen groups of college students
cleaning up parks and empty lots. If you were in Lansingburgh,
you might have spied young women from Russell Sage College
installing a greenhouse in a courtyard garden at the Lansing
Inn. The following weekend, the students returned to kit out
the greenhouse with shelves and tend the plants.
The Lansing Inn is a branch of Joseph’s House, a nonprofit
that addresses homelessness in Troy. Thirty people live permanently
in the former Phoenix Hotel. Located on a busy strip that
is part commercial and part residential, the brick building
has private studio apartments, and a large community room
for shared meals and recreation. Meals are cooked in a well-equipped
kitchen with a commercial stove and lots of tools. Outside
the community room is a very green and floral garden with
a gazebo and plenty of places to sit, installed when the building
was renovated 10 years ago.
This bit of green has a long relationship with local colleges.
Students from Rensselaer Polytechnical Institute assembled
many of its structures. On the first Saturday in May, a group
of RPI students rest in the shade, having finished a morning
of planting flowers and pressure washing the gazebo. The women
from Sage are busy transplanting tomato starts in topsy-turvy
holders, and working in the greenhouse that their class purchased.
After watering seedlings, they come indoors to eat lunch with
People wait in line for the staff to dish out hamburgers,
hot dogs and chicken hot off the grill, as well as green,
potato and macaroni salads. While the students and residents
tend to sit by themselves, this particular bridge of the town-gown
divide is pretty remarkable.
Women Changing the World has worked with Joseph’s House as
a community partner for three years; adjunct professor Christine
Nealon chose the organization because it fit a number of criteria.
had a set time each day where everyone gathered for a meal,
which would make it less intrusive for the students to get
to know the guests. Plus, Joseph’s House is right in Sage’s
backyard. It had all the right ingredients,” Nealon explains
while waiting for lunch.
While each term provides a different group of students, the
focus of one class can piggyback the next. The fall semester’s
class looked at the causes of homelessness and launched an
awareness campaign, which included selling T-shirts printed
with the phrase “Got Shelter?” to fight stereotypes associated
with the condition. When this spring class began getting to
know the folks at Joseph’s House by bringing desserts to group
dinners at the shelter in downtown Troy, access to fresh fruits
and vegetables struck them as the issue to target. As they
studied how to get produce to the clients of Joseph’s House,
they launched their own campaign, printing T-shirts with the
phrase “Got Grub?”
kept wanting to make food,” says Dana Cafaro, one of the 25
students in the 400-level class. “We wanted to do a weekly
dinner but we saw that would be an endpoint. We watched Global
Banquet and Food, Inc. We wanted some way for people
to control what they eat. We wanted them to have the power
to do it themselves.”
The garden project stems not just from the students, however,
but also from the people who live at the Lansing Inn. Ideas
that are invented for someone else often don’t work, as frustrated
parents and disappointed social workers know all too well.
At a tenant meeting, Nealon discovered a number of people
had gardening skills, but lacked resources for vegetable starts
or containers. Capitalizing on these interests, the class
started to investigate buying containers, but found that getting
ones large enough to support vegetables would be too expensive.
Further brainstorming led the group to shop for a greenhouse,
and now the 10-by-10-foot structure sits in the yard. Money
for the garden supplies came from T-shirt sales.
Tenants are excited about the project. After lunch, one avid
gardener gives students tips on how to handle tomatoes. When
the students aren’t around, he and other resident gardeners
take care of watering the plants and ventilating the greenhouse
so it is doesn’t cook the growing food too soon.
nothing like a fresh tomato with mayonnaise, a little lettuce
and turkey bacon,” says one tenant, who planted peppers, cucumbers
and herbs in the greenhouse. When he lived in the country,
he grew sweet corn.
food budget is limited,” says Charlie DeBrocky, director of
operations for Joseph’s House. We try to rely on what we get
donated. When it comes to fresh fruits and vegetables, it’s
not going to happen, not at today’s prices. So this is great.”
here for a list of recently reviewed restaurants.
Day Nursery’s 11th
annual fundraising event, “A Little Bit of Jazz
& More,” will take place from 5:30 to 8 today
(Thursday, April 29) in the Fenimore Gallery at
Proctors Theatre (432 State St., Schenectady).
The “more” part of the proceedings includes a
cornucopia of food, including a carving station
with turkey breast and roast beef, a pasta station,
an hors d’oeuvres display and, if you don’t want
to fetch your food, circulating trays with even
more hors d’oeuvres, including sesame chicken,
a Mediterranean artichoke tart, shrimp Wellington,
spanakopita and more. There will be complimentary
beer and wine and Chocolates by Lindt. The jazz
part is a performance by Colleen Pratt and Friends.
The event includes a benefit drawing with a choice
of a $500 gift card at either Town TV or Empress
Travel, and gift baskets sponsored by the Schenectady
Day Nursery Board of Directors. Reservations are
$50 per person or $100 for honorary committee
status, and may be made by calling Jim Kalohn
at 894-6305. . . . Remember to pass your scraps