The Week: What Caught Our Eye

April 4, 2020

Sun streaming through branches of a tree in a field.Lean on me, when you're not strong / And I'll be your friend / I'll help you carry on / For it won't be long / 'til I'm gonna need / somebody to lean on. (Bill Withers, July 4, 1938-March 30, 2020)  (John Bulmer)

Good Morning, Friends and Colleagues: We can’t shake hands right now. We can’t hug. We never realized how much we’d miss that. So today we offer hugs and handshakes in words and song and images … stories of generous hands, compassionate hands, hands of hope extended in friendship, as we help each other through this storm.

HALLELUJAH FOR KIDS AND TEACHERS: Maya Angelou knew why the caged bird sang. The Beatles urged a blackbird to fly free. Tony Orlando longed to see a yellow ribbon. Charlie Daniels saw Americans sticking together in a crisis. Music liberates the soul and the spirit. Kids from Hudson Falls and Queensbury – not imprisoned, just confined to home and longing for springtime freedom — have found their voice and each other in an inspiring rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” These young singers have lost a lot this spring — school and sports, proms and concerts — and yet they have found a way to lift and liberate the spirits of others. This will brighten your day.

HERE’S THE BACKSTORY: The choir members are students of Diane Havern of Hudson Falls High School and Matt Gaulin of Queensbury High School. Matt once was Diane’s student at Hudson Falls. Today, they are colleagues and friends who share ideas and compare notes about choirs.  “We have done a number of concerts where our groups have performed at the same venue,’’ Diane told us. They’d been thinking about combining their choirs but had not done so until now. “When we switched to teaching at home, we decided that this would be the perfect time to try a virtual choir.” A perfect time, indeed.

PART OF THE SOLUTION: Companies across the Capital Region are taking up the challenge of retooling production lines to join the fight against COVID-19. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, among several drug developers rapidly working to find a treatment for the coronavirus, will make and donate at least 500,000 coronavirus test kits and ship them to hospitals and test centers across New York state. Hundreds of Regeneron employees volunteered to work weekends to make it happen. Glens Falls-based Ames Goldsmith usually is making silver products. Now, it’s making gold — hand sanitizer that it’s donating to Glens Falls Hospital and the Open Door Mission in Glens Falls. And Comfortex Corp. is converting part of its suburban Albany window blind factory into a surgical gown and medical mask production site.

A PEAK BEHIND THE CURTAIN: Anyone who has met Dan Van Plew knows he’s a force of nature and a gifted executive who challenges people to do great things and leads by example. He runs Regeneron’s Industrial Operations and Product Supply team, and in a blog post reveals how the company was able to produce an important component of the COVID-19 test-collection kits being prepared by the state. It started with a Saturday night phone call with the governor.

SCHOOL’S OUT, HELP’S IN: With classrooms across New York darkened for the foreseeable future, local school districts, as well as colleges and universities, are donating boxes of lab equipment, including eye protection, masks and gloves, to healthcare workers on the front lines of the fight against coronavirus. In the Capital Region, district donations are being coordinated by Capital Region BOCES and BOCES Questar III and will be delivered to county health agencies and hospitals in anticipation of the outbreak worsening.

A LIGHT IN DARK TIMES: Will Levith is the Editorial Director at Saratoga Living and Capital Region Living magazine, and he’s also a native Saratogian who, like many of us, is worried about the economic toll the coronavirus is taking on our community. More than offer conventional, black-and-white job listings, he’s using the Saratoga Living website to publish a curated list of available free-lance and full-time work that he plans to update weekly, along with other job-hunting tools and resources. “It’s really a personal crusade of mine,” he told us. “Having been a freelance writer for many years, and knowing the crests and troughs of the business, I know that it’s really important that people have jobs. It’s directly connected to their self-worth, I feel, and people need that more than ever right now.” Well said, Will. And thank you for doing what you can to help.

SUN ON THE ADIRONDACKS: Adirondack Foundation, a community foundation serving the philanthropic needs of communities and organizations across the Adirondacks, has created a Special and Urgent Needs Fund (SUN) to offer additional immediate support during the COVID-19 epidemic. The Foundation can accept applications from nonprofits, municipalities, and schools. Already the SUN Fund has made grants that will support new methods of getting food to low-income residents, providing child care under challenging circumstances, and alleviating economic burdens for people out of work. Be sure to check out this extraordinarily hopeful and uplifting short video.

UNITING ALL OF US : The Tri-County United Way has established a COVID-19 Community Response Fund to support relief efforts of organizations addressing unmet basic needs as a result of the coronavirus. Designed to provide additional, critical funding and resources to existing assistance programs and local nonprofit agencies, the fund will help our neighbors in Warren, Washington and northern Saratoga counties. One hundred percent of the funds donated will be distributed. The first allocation of funds will be used to help food pantries respond to a rapidly growing demand for food and commodities. Donors may give at or send checks to Tri-County United Way, 696 Upper Glen Street, Queensbury, NY 12804. Please note your contribution to the COVID-19 Community Response Fund on your check.

THE BEAUTY WE SEEK: We thank our friends at The FUND For Lake George for a warm and timely reminder that better, more peaceful days are ahead, and for sharing as part of the message a curated collection of images from the legendary Carl Heilman that, in the FUND’s words, “lovingly portray the wonder and joy of Lake George.” Sit back, relax, and enjoy the Queen of American Lakes in all her majesty, as seen through Heilman’s peerless lens.

CAN-DO: We can all benefit from learning a little something new during this pandemic. AlbanyCanCode is offering free online coding classes for children and adults. The classes are being offered on Facebook Live. “Our mission is to build digital literacy across the Capital Region and across the state,” AlbanyCanCode Founder and CEO Annmarie Lanesey told us. “Because we’re a digital organization, we’re perfectly poised to serve in this way and I’m glad we could do it.”

THE FAUCI FROSTING ON OUR DONUT: This may be the sweetest tribute Americans can bestow upon a beloved public servant. A Rochester donut shop has created a donut honoring Dr. Anthony Fauci. Of course, it didn’t escape Jimmy Kimmel’s writers. Noting the confection early in the week, Kimmel marveled that “making donuts to bring attention to a health crisis may be the most American thing any American has ever done.”

MAKING LEMONADE: Sahil Swali, a junior at Shenendehowa High School, was looking forward to a summer trip to Australia, where Swali, a cadet in the Civil Air Patrol, was to serve as a cadet ambassador. With the trip scuttled by the COVID-19 pandemic, Swali’s parents challenged him to channel his disappointment into something positive. The result is #WriteToAppreciate, a program for people to send hand-written letters to nursing home residents and health care workers. So far, 19 facilities are participating.

CALF MEASURES: In response to recent school closures, a regional affiliate of the American Dairy Association invited kids stuck at home to use the association’s website to take virtual tours of three dairy farms. An appreciative mom in Collegetown, Pa., posted on the group’s Facebook page, noting that her 4-year-old son — sick at the time with a high fever — loves cows. The comment caught the eye of Nathan Chittenden, whose family runs Dutch Hollow Farm in the Capital Region, and what followed was 46 seconds of pure kindness and joy.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED: Michelle Larkin started Rebuilding Together Saratoga County in 2003, a non-profit that repairs homes for neighbors in need, and by 2019 the organization was able to repair 145 homes with the help of numerous volunteers and enough donations to even hire skilled labor for some of the projects. But then came a challenge, and an opportunity, bigger than any they had taken on before — a whole-house renovation of a donated historic property in Mechanicville. The amazing story of a challenge accepted and overcome.

NEITHER RAIN, NOR SLEET, NOR GLOBAL PANDEMIC: While more and more people are being instructed to stay home and most nonessential retail stores have closed, post offices have remained open and mail carriers are continuing to deliver mail and packages to residences. A postmaster who runs a midsize post office in the Northeast on what he’s seeing (“People are still express-mailing toilet paper; we had a customer express-mail it at a cost of $155 for six rolls”) and how his colleagues are coping.

NURSES AS NATIONAL HEROES: Dr. Paul Dohrenwind, the assistant chief of emergency medicine at Kaiser Permanente San Diego, has a few words for the healthcare heroes at the forefront of patient care during the COVID-19 pandemic — the nurses who today are putting aside concerns for their personal safety to treat the sick. “Everyone is playing a part,” he writes, “but none are more important than the nurses.”


LOVED, AND LOST: Terry Teachout writes beautifully about beautiful things. He’s the drama critic of The Wall Street Journal and the author of “About Last Night,” a blog for ArtsJournal. Prolific, working around the clock, he never got around to getting married until middle age. He was 49 when he finally discovered that love at first sight was real. Hilary Dyson Teachout showed him it was. “Loss is the price of love,” her husband writes. “I knew from the start that I was likely to lose her too soon, though I was lucky beyond belief to have her for far longer than her doctors foresaw. But merely to know such a thing cannot begin to ready us for its coming. Raymond Aron said it: ‘There is no apprenticeship to misfortune. When it strikes us, we still have everything to learn.’ I shall now try to learn the lesson of misfortune in a manner as worthy as possible of my beloved Hilary, who faced death as she faced life, with indomitable courage.”

A JAZZ DAD: Among most people, his children and his students are better known than he. But pianist and educator Ellis Marsalis was the patriarch of the royal family of jazz, the guiding force of the late 20th-century resurgence in the form, and recipient of America’s highest honor for a jazz musician.

AIN’T NO SUNSHINE: Bill Withers grew up in a segregated coal-mining town in West Virginia and didn’t begin recording music until well into his 30s, but he became a legend with the soulful strains of songs like “Lean on Me,” “Lovely Day” and “Ain’t No Sunshine.” We could all use a little more Bill Withers about now.

THE BEST THAT YOU CAN HOPE FOR: He grew up in public housing, sang in the church choir, and went to see Ray Charles at 12. He started a doo-wop group in high school, founded a chain of chicken joints, and wrote a book called “What Are the Chances?” He was never a hit with the critics, but the public loved the warmth and sincerity of Kenny Rogers.


THE CHEESE PLEASES: Stephentown’s Four Fat Fowl, where the motto is Cheese Worth Clucking About, is back with another winner, says the Times Union’s Steve Barnes, who tried the CamemBertha and pronounces it “a winner,” noting its “melting ooziness, barnyard stink and on-the-palate pungence.” Here’s where you can find it.

AN ISLAND OF BLISS: Like many of us, Vox’s Allegra Frank is looking for ways to escape COVID-19, even if just to take a break from the relentless waves of frightening news. She found it, on an island where she can fish, catch bugs, build furniture and do some amateur interior decorating, sharing space with a family of raccoons, a monkey, a lion and a horse. “The only limits to what I can do on my island,” she writes, “are those imposed upon it by Nintendo, the gaming behemoth that created this little world I love to lose myself in. For my island exists only in the video game Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a Nintendo Switch title that’s a true home away from home. It’s the digital equivalent to receiving a calming boost of serotonin. Playing it feels like you’ve just gotten comfortable on the coziest mattress ever made, with no one expecting you to get up anytime soon. Most of all, the game is pure happiness.” Sounds like paradise.

A TOAST TO FRIENDSHIP: Three Brothers Wineries & Estates is a Finger Lakes destination winery that has, like other hospitality businesses, been hard hit by COVID-19. Reduced to shipping its products or filling curbside pickup orders, the business was forced to lay off its tasting room staff until the pandemic is under control. “It was heartbreaking,” said Erica Paolicelli, a partner in the business. Turns out, four of the laid-off tasting room staff had reached out to dozens of current and former tasting room staff at the winery and urged them to come together to support the business. Then they led a 70-car caravan to the winery to pick up the wines and beers they’d been ordering all week.

IT'S AN HONOR: Mountain Lake PBS, which chronicles the rhythms of life in the Adirondacks and North Country from its base in Plattsburgh, earned three awards for Excellence in Broadcasting from the New York State Broadcasters Association (NYSBA). Mountain Lake Journal, the station’s flagship weekly magazine series, was recognized in the category of Outstanding Public Affairs Program or Series. A story on the first Crane International Piano Festival earned an award for Outstanding Feature News Story award. The winner in the category of Outstanding Specialty Programming was Mountain Lake Journal: A Spotlight Special, focusing on the creation of an outdoor mural in downtown Plattsburgh of local native Jean Arthur, a star of Hollywood’s Golden Age.


We need courage now. And character. And strength. And beauty. And a little fire. Maya Angelou once said: “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

Caged Bird 

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind   
and floats downstream   
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and   
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams   
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream   
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied   
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.


TROY TAKES THE CAKE: You’ve got to hand it to Troy. They aren’t squares. They’re not taking the alleged toilet paper shortage sitting down. And they’re not stalling either: They’re rolling out a new vanilla pound cake from chef Sue Dunckel at Sweet Sue’s Copper Pot. The cake’s shaped like a toilet paper roll, and she’s christened it the Troylet. Comes in one ply and two. Home delivery available.

PLEASE SHARE: Feel free to pass this along to your friends and colleagues.

THANK YOU to our contributors: John Brodt, Bill Richmond, Bill Callen, Lisa Fenwick, Colleen Potter, Tina Suhocki, Tara Hutchins, Emily Behan, Matt Behan and Claire P. Tuttle.

FACING OUT is what we do. We help companies, organizations and individuals work effectively with their most important external audiences – their customers, their shareholders, their communities, the government and the news media.

Facing Out features news and other nuggets that caught our eye, and that we thought might be of value to you, our friends and business associates. Some items are good news about our clients and friends, others are stories that we hope will leave you a bit more informed or entertained than you were five minutes ago. As always, we welcome your ideas and feedback. 

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