Sussex County Council received its annual presentation from the powers that be at The Freeman Stage at Bayside last week — and, once again, we are reminded of just how far this effort has come over the years.
“If you can believe it, this is our 10th year,” said Patti Grimes, executive director of the Carl M. Freeman Foundation. “We want to thank Sussex County for being such a great partner and to let you know that what started as a vision in an arts desert in 2008 has turned into a thriving arts area.”
Grimes shared some intriguing numbers with the Council, as well. She said that 13,800 patrons visited the Stage in its first year, while 2016 saw 62,381 visit. She also offered that ticket purchases have been made from 41 states, bringing more money into the local economy by being a destination draw, and that more than $13 million has been contributed back to the community since 2008. Another interesting figure to consider is the volunteerism involved — Grimes said that the stage has more than 222 volunteers, who she said have contributed to the equivalency of $725,000 over the years, using “the independent sector’s rate.”
She added that out of every dollar raised by the Joshua M. Freeman Foundation, 80 cents goes into programming, 16 cents to raise additional funds and only 4 cents to management and administration. That is charitable efficiency that is nearly unheard of for an operation as big as this.
The Stage brings culture and entertainment — largely through volunteers and donors to this community, boosts the economy, introduces children to the arts and is growing by the year. Bravo.
Between the mountains of mashed potatoes and sneaky chowing down of my daughter’s Easter candy last weekend, I was shown an old magazine article by a family member that dominated much of our conversation for the next several minutes.
The article was published in 1955 in Housekeeping Monthly, and was titled, simply enough, “The good wife’s guide.”
Now, there wasn’t much preamble to the article. There was the aforementioned title, and then a series of bullet points which were meant to offer advice to wives on how to best perform their traditional “wifely duties.” Let’s go through a few of these together, as we reflect on the “good ol’ days.”
• “Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal ready, on time for his return. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal (especially his favourite dish) is part of the warm welcome needed.”
Wait... this is real? My mom would sometimes have dinner ready for my father when he would get off work, but that simply meant she called in the order and he could pick it up on the way home.
• “Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your make-up, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people.”
Typically, when I walk in my door after work, my wife looks like she just got off the set of a hostage video and my 2-year-old is swinging from a light fixture with a banana in one hand and the bumper of a small truck in the other. It instantly hits me who had the tougher day, and I often start to wonder if maybe I shouldn’t have taken the time to look refreshed for her with a ribbon stapled to my head.
• “Over the cooler months of the year you should prepare and light a fire for him to unwind by. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift too. After all, catering to his comfort will provide you with immense personal satisfaction.”
It’s beginning to dawn on me that this column was either written by a man with a major inferiority complex, or assigned by a male editor... with a major inferiority complex.
• “Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair and, if necessary, change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part. Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer or vaccuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet.”
I’m feeling like I just woke up on the set of “Mary Poppins,” but without the cool chimney sweep.
• “Listen to him. You may have a dozen important things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first — remember, his topics of conversation are more important than yours.”
I’m closing my eyes and thinking back to both of my sets of grandparents, and how they were raising families and working in 1955. I’m thinking of either of my grandfathers telling their spouses that what they have to say is of more importance. I’m thinking of frying pans flying through the air and my grandfathers going to work the next morning with black eyes. I’m thinking about how much I miss my grandmothers.
• “Make the evening his. Never complain if he comes home late or goes out to dinner, or other places of entertainment without you. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure and his very real need to be at home and relax.”
Yeah, definitely written by a guy. But, wait, there’s a follow-up!
• “Don’t complain if he’s late home for dinner or even if he stays out all night. Count this as minor compared to what he might have gone through that day.”
Now, this one makes sense to me. There are days at the office when I run out of paper clips or my little feelings got hurt by someone being mean to me. What better way to get through that emotional trauma than going on a three-day bender with no repercussions?
• “Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or have him lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him.”
You know, a nice, cool beverage would be nice after a long day at work, and it would be even more appreciated if my dutiful bride brought it to me on a silver platter. Of course, so would an evening without a wedgie or knuckle sandwich. I think I’ll just go ahead and grab that drink myself.
• “Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soothing and pleasant voice.”
Yeah, nobody that takes off my shoes follows up that action with a “low, soothing and pleasant voice.” It’s more of a gagging sound, followed by a mad rush to an oxygen tank or...
But I digress.
• “Don’t ask him questions about his actions or question his judgement or integrity. Remember, he is the master of the house and as such will always exercise his will with fairness and truthfulness. You have no right to question him.”
I don’t think even June Cleaver would have signed off on this.
• “A good wife knows her place.”
Anybody want this one? I’m just going to get myself in trouble here. Anyone? Hello? Is this thing on?
Letters to the Editor
Carpenter sees bright future in Frankford
I hope this correspondence finds you well.
As always, I have enjoyed reading the latest news and events found in the most recent edition of the Coastal Point, especially the article regarding the town of Frankford as published in the Coastal Point on April 7, 2017. I am writing to you tonight because I am deeply disturbed by some of the sentiments expressed in the article, entitled, “Frankford Looks to Lease Town Hall Building to Non-Profit,” in which Mr. Russ Davenport is quoted as saying, among other things, “We can’t spend a dime in this town, except on our taxes and our water bill; our kids have no where to go; the adults don’t; in the Summertime, it’d be nice to just take a walk.”
Having been in attendance at the monthly March town council meeting, I remember the town council indicating that the old town hall building would not be for sale, but this article indicates that Mr. Davenport would put in the sales contract that they wouldn’t do anything to the building.
Mr. Davenport is also quoted as saying, “We’ve got to do something to liven this town up. Somebody’s got to start somewhere; I just want to try to put something in Frankford. If not, I’m done. I’m not going to spend a damn dime in this damn town. I’m giving you an opportunity, that’s all; if you don’t want to take it, that’s fine. It won’t hurt my feelings because I’ll go somewhere else and do it”. Why does it seem in reading his words that Mr. Davenport appears to think that his is the only viable entity that could possibly make something of Frankford? The town has made great strides so far, without his help or involvement, so why does it seem in reading his quoted words that he feels that he is the only answer for the town to be successful and thriving again?
As in all stories, it is important that both sides be told. It should be noted that Mr. Davenport spends the majority of each year in Michigan and does not live in this town, but for what is estimated to be about 10 weeks out of each year; last year they left for Michigan in May and returned at the end of February 2017, one week prior to the March monthly town council meeting. He has no idea what good is going on here in Frankford because he is not here. When he does show up, it is to complain about what is not going on. To my knowledge, he has never once volunteered to help make a positive difference — not to help with one committee, to run for council, for anything. He likes to do a lot of complaining, especially when it appears that he will not get his way. The council expressly stated that they would not be selling town hall and it was after that that he decided to say that he was being unfairly treated and was not given the chance to rent the old town hall.
Further, there is A LOT of good going on in this town; my husband and I have started a small farm in town right on Frankford Avenue. It started as a small produce stand in 2015. We have since named it “Hay Wagon Country Produce” and are set to grow fresh market vegetables, in addition to fresh eggs from our own hens and baked goods, jams, and jellies. Part of our goal is to bring life back into town — Mr. Davenport is right — it does need to happen and somebody does need to start somewhere. We already did; folks can now walk to a place in town that offers safe, fresh, healthy food and homemade goodies for their families; we have registered this property as a farm with the USDA and are working with state officials to meet the necessary requirements to accept WIC and SNAP benefits — so that underserved families with limited resources, like so many who live in our town, can come to get fresh, wholesome food such as fruit, vegetables, and eggs, and sit at our picnic table and enjoy the cookies, brownies, cupcakes, and other goodies that are homemade (not out of a box) without artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, fake sugars, or transfats; people can feel good about the food we produce because it is grown and made in a safe way — our farm has taken great lengths to obtain the necessary licensure and certifications to follow GAP (Good Agriculture Practices), maintain ServSafe certification for kitchen food safety, and obtained licensure through the Delaware Department of Public Health as a CFE (Cottage Food Establishment) that is necessary to safely and legally produce homemade goods for sale to the general public. We volunteer our resources as volunteer members of Envision Frankford — having hosted at no charge to the children who participated — pumpkin painting for the Fall town festival in 2016 (in which local farmers, like Barry Mitchell, donated their own resources, including the pumpkins) and we will [have participated] in the Spring fest (Saturday, April 15) hosting the sugar cookie painting table (craft, no charge) for the kids — 25 dozen butterfly shaped sugar cookies — hand-made. But our venture is only one of many great things that has been happening in this town.
Since 2015, more has been happening in this town than in the previous 15 years combined. We now have Envision Frankford, a local citizen-run committee, whose sole purpose is to help breathe life back into the town. The positive influence from this committee of grass-roots volunteers interested in making a positive difference can be seen in the multiple events it sponsors each year — the town Fall Festival, Summer movies in the park, and the Spring Town Egg Scramble. These events are held in collaboration with our town’s local churches, the local library, the fire department, and other business, like mine, who volunteer time and money to make events happen that are safe and fun and offered at no charge for families to enjoy together — and over the past two years have drawn thousands of children combined who have enjoyed the community we are building, together.
What else positive is happening in this town? To name a few: the town park is being paved; the water plant is being evaluated; since 2015, the town council has implemented and maintained citizen committees who work with town council on issues facing our town, instead of one person (or town council only) deciding what happens in this town; we are working on annexing Delaware Avenue and the area on 113, which will grow our town; the police department is more engaged in the community, especially with children, hosting cookies with cops; we now have open monthly meetings where citizens can attend and have their voices heard without being shut down; we have a budget committee that (like last year) is working on a true balanced budget, which this time two years ago we could not make heads or tails of the budget; private citizens, like Ab Franklin, think so much of the positive work that is going on in this town that they donate their own personal funds for unrestricted use by town council; and, multiple volunteers, from town council members, to Envision Frankford, to all of those who serve on the committees- volunteering countless hours away from their families, their own businesses, and putting their own interests aside to come together to work as a team for the benefit of this town.
It is my current understanding that the town council had decided to rent the old town hall to SERCAP (Southeast Rural Community Project); honestly, I can think of no one better to rent this building; SERCAP is a non-profit whose mission is “To improve the quality of life for low-income individuals by promoting affordable water and waste water facilities community development, environmental health, and economic self-sufficiency.” (sercap.org.ffmob.com) Isn’t this exactly what we as a community, in collaboration with town council and the residents of Delaware Avenue, have been working toward for so long? Are we not a rural community with a large population of underserved residents who could benefit from having such a positive business/renter right here in our town? Would this not help move the town forward in a positive way, as their sole mission could, in part, be met, by being in a rural community- one their mission statement indicates they strive to serve?
Further, I would hope that town council, when considering to whom it ultimately rents the old town hall, considers the renter. SERCAP would be here. Based on Mr. Davenport’s chosen usual location of Michigan, he would not be here. Additionally, why would the town rent to someone who is only here approximately 10 weeks out of any given year and has lived that way (proven track record) for a number of years now? Why rent to someone who doesn’t volunteer to help solve problems, but only attends meetings during the approximate 10 weeks or so he is in town to complain and then make threatening comments to council members when he feels the outcome doesn’t suit him? In my opinion, the council has done nothing wrong in offering a rental agreement contract to SERCAP; and Mr. Davenport should not feel slighted by this action of the council. For two main reasons: First, the council did not think to approach Mr. Davenport about renting the old town hall because he had clearly indicated that he wanted to purchase the property and the council is not going to sell the property and he had indicated that the building was not appropriate for his use. And, second, the council should not feel intimidated to change their course of action for these reasons.
It took a long time for Frankford to get where it is today and while I can not speak for everyone else who is involved in community building, I think that I can safely say that we all agree it is going to take a long time to “right the ship,” so to speak. Rome wasn’t built in a day. We need more people to be happily involved, not complain; to volunteer, not only tell us what isn’t happening without acknowledging all the good that is already happening.
I hope you had the opportunity to join us at the town Egg Scramble this past Saturday — to see the good that this town’s occupants are doing — to watch the kids (kids and families who are strangers to most of us, but for whose benefit we work), watch the community — to see the good that happens when a few positive, community minded individuals come together for the greater good. It is amazing to watch.
I appreciate the time you took to read this email. I hope you are well. Happy Spring!
Reader believes in consolidation
Regarding the article, “School board approves $2.4 million in budget cuts” (April 14, 2017), I was interested to read in the recent insert, “The Story of Millville,” that in the 1960s residents voted to consolidate schools in the area and the Indian River School District (IRSD) was created. Given the growing budget problems, maybe now is the time to consider consolidating all school districts in Sussex County into one school district to reduce personnel and overhead costs and eliminate duplication of efforts.
Like many transplants to this area, I moved from Montgomery County, Md. This county has a population of more than 1 million, yet has one school district consisting of 203 schools (elementary, middle, high, special, and one technical) with 156,164 students (2015-16 stats). IRSD consists of seven elementary, three middle, two high, and two special schools, a kindergarten center and an arts magnet school, and serves 10,465 students. There are seven school districts in Sussex County (pop. about 220,000) with 31,525 students (2016-17 stats).
For such a small county, why are funds being used to pay for seven superintendents, assistant superintendents, human resource departments, technology managers, administrative staff, etc.? Just food for thought.
Anne Marie Rogerson