Making A Difference In The Worst Way

Posted on May 13, 2011

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     Yesterday while I was helping Elder Sandra Hopgood -Thompson prepare to pack up forty years of her life and leave the Everette Hodge Midtown Neighborhood Center forever, I spilled one of her current files.  On the top I saw a letter on City of Kingston Stationery, and as I tucked it back into the file, one sentence caught my eye.   “How is the Hodge Center involved in Make a Difference Day?”

        Too bad I never looked down to see who wrote the letter, because I would LOVE to give them an earful.   The Hodge Center has been the jewel in the center of the crown of Make a Difference Day since the program originated.

         The cool posters and coordinated t-shirts for each year’s event?   Elder Hopgood worked long into the night brainstorming with her interns to pick a design by one of the Hodge Center participants.  then she made dozens of calls to get the donations of the printing.   All those booths did not just magically crop up on Franklin Street like daisies.   Each booth represented dozens of hours spent on the phone with participants from previous years, and those who wanted to join the celebration for the first time.

          Those hot dogs and buns?    Those bikes and helmets and soccer balls and caps and swag bags that were given as prizes?   They were not left on the doorstep by Tinkerbell.   Elder Hopgood had the “street cred” and the connections to get donations nobody else thought possible.   Everyone in the neighborhood  owed her respect and gratitude.

         When a teenage boy was threatened by a gang for volenteering at Hodge Center, who jumped in her car, drove into the darkest part of midtown, and instilled the fear of God into the gangstas with a few choice words and her penetrating gaze?   Well, it sure as HELL was nobody from the YWCA.   It was Elder Hopgood, and a grateful parent  donated to Make a Difference Day.

         Those bands that perform?   The Church choirs that make a joyful noise unto the Lord from the stage on Make a Difference Day?   They reherse in the Hodge Center.    That stage and those sound systems?   Who calls in favors from all over town to get that set up?   Well it sure as HELL is nobody from the YWCA.   Its been Elder Hopgood.   

          Who stores all the bikes and the helmets and the toys and books that will be given out as raffle prizes in her office and guards them with the tenacity of a  beautiful bull terrior?   Well, it’s nobody from the YWCA.   It has been Elder Hopgood.    Who almost collapsed from heat exhaustion but kept on making announcements, clutching the mike stand  for support?    Nobody from the YWCA.    Not the Mayor.   Not the Alderperson.  It was Elder Hopgood.

         Who organized the street cleenup so the city crews had tidy trashbags to pick up intead of a street full of debris?   It was Elder Hopgood, who Mayor James sottile characterized as a “pig” earlier this week.

         All the files for the celebration –all the vender lists, all the templates, all the award certificates, all the lists of performers and the results of their background checks–are all on one computer in the Hodge Center, and only Elder Hopgood knows which computer, or the passwords, or the file names.

          Characterisitically, she has spent her final days as director trying to share  the information with others so that they can carry on….but the posters are not up yet.   The t-shirts have not been printed.   The bikes have not been collected and refurbished by Elder Hopgood’s volenteers.   I know I haven’t been around the streets hanging posters and doing a Facebook even page like I did in previous years.

          Mayor Sottile said sneeringly that Make a Difference Day could go on with Elder Hopgood gone and the Hodge Center locked.    How can it go on?  How can the city get the stuff done that should have been done six months ago?   Who at the YWCA is going to have the stones to collect donations for the program on streets that some of the Y members probably do not know exist?     Does anyone at the YWCA know how to barbeque chicken like Brother Waters?  Who will a screaming three-year-old turn to when she has to pee and the Hodge Center is locked?

        I can imagine that something may get cobbled together.    They may find some booths and some balloons, and maybe even, some bikes.   Polititians will get out there and press the flesh and kiss the babies…if they can get close to anyone.    I’ll even be there, but this year, I won’t have on my volenteer shirt.  I’m Elder Hopgood’s volenteer, I’m Farmer Frank’s volenteer, but I sure as HELL ain’t the YWCA’s volenteer.   After spending well over half my annual income on city property tax, I sure as HELL ain’t gonna work for the city for nothing.   I’m gonna be there in my PIG tshirt.   I’m proud to be a PIG–a Productive, Interesting Giver!   There will be a difference in Make a Difference Day this year, and we’ll all know who’s to blame.    Not the dozens of people that went to the hearing at City Hall to speak for Elder Hopgood and the programs at the Hodge Center.   Just remember–taxation without representation is tyreny.

      And now, I have to go to the final Rewards for Excellence celebration for the kids, and a farewell to the woman who grew up with Everette Hodge’s family, and who is leaving her home for the final time.

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