Summer Fun for a Good Cause
Renovations Lead to Scaled-Back Celebration in Woodstock
Anya Olmstead, 10, of Bridgewater, Vt., left, and her friend Genevieve Morel, 10, of Barnard, Vt., giggle while snacking on sorbet at St. James Episcopal Church's community outreach barbecue on the green in Woodstock, Vt. on July 19, 2014. Proceeds from the barbecue, which was held in lieu of their annual fair, will benefit the Woodstock Community Food Shelf. (Valley News - Ariana van den Akker) Purchase photo reprints »
Pamela Skyrme, of Dunedin, Fla., left, scoops more popcorn while manning the popcorn booth with Candace Vandouris, of Norwich, Vt., at St. James Episcopal Church's community outreach barbecue in Woodstock, Vt. on July 19, 2014. Proceeds from the barbecue, which was held in lieu of their annual fair, will benefit the Woodstock Community Food Shelf. (Valley News - Ariana van den Akker) Purchase photo reprints »
Woodstock — Although residents will have to wait until 2015 for the St. James Episcopal Church’s 90th community fair, the house of worship on Saturday hosted a barbecue on its lawn anyway, donating the proceeds to the Woodstock Community Food Shelf.
“We thought we’d demonstrate to the community that we didn’t forget,” the Rev. Norman MacLeod said.
The fair usually takes place inside as well as outside the church, but because of a $1.4 million renovation of the building, the same tents that usually shelter furniture, art and a dizzying array of knickknacks were lined with tables of residents enjoying food donated by local businesses and parishioners.
In the past, a spread of local charities have benefited from the fair, but this year the local food pantry will take all the proceeds.
“Hunger isn’t a good thing, but we try to keep it as positive as we can,” food shelf board member Laura Kent, also a parishioner of St. James, said.
The number of families signing up with the group has been steadily rising, reaching over 300 in recent months, according to fellow board member Sally Gottlieb.
“For a community this size, to have 300 families is pretty astounding,” she said.
The all-volunteer nonprofit, which accepts members of all denominations, was founded in the basement of the Episcopal church. The group moved into its own building five years ago because the church cellar lacked wheelchair access and was cramped and damp, Kent said.
Other charities founded by the church that eventually became independent include WISE, an Upper Valley support service for female victims of domestic and sexual violence, and the Woodstock Job Bank, she said.
With this summer’s renovations, the church will tear out the old basement, which is currently sealed off with plastic and plastered with signs warning of lead. Among other improvements, the church will add an elevator for handicapped access, MacLeod said.
In addition to the existing wheelchair-accessible ramp to the sanctuary, the church will add another that will open directly onto Route 4. This arrangement will be more inviting to the community, according to MacLeod.
“Woodstock is challenged with regard to spaces with handicapped access,” he said.
The old stone church was built in 1907 by Ralph Adams Cram, the architect who also designed the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City. Midge Scanlan, an artist from Rochester, Vt., is repairing the stained glass depicting the church’s patron saint, James, which usually fill the windows behind the altar, MacLeod said.
The repairs should be done by Thanksgiving, he added.
Outside, Bill Brink, of Perkinsville, stood on the cobblestone threshold of the Church and sang Always Look on the Bright Side of Life, in a broad British accent, while accompanying himself on guitar. The grillmaster sang along as he flipped and served the patties.
Joseph Morel, of Eastman Farm in Barnard, donated the grass fed beef. He and his wife, Amy, are active members of St. James. They don’t think of their donation as overt proselytizing — more as spreading the love.
“Part of the way we think of being Christians is there’s a taste-and-see element,” Amy Morel said.
The Morels and other attendees have come to appreciate the constancy of the church and its fair. Amy’s mother was Episcopalian and raised her just outside of Seattle.
These days, Amy’s church and her mother’s often share the same sermons, so the two women can come home each Sunday to discuss the same homilies, spoken in sanctuaries a continent apart.
Sande Lafaver, 97, of Needham, Mass., has attended the fair for 31 years, ever since her daughter, Joyce, bought a condominium to rent in Quechee.
They showed up one year to look for furnishings and have been coming to the event ever since.
While the Lafavers will miss the fair this year, the cookout isn’t a bad substitute for combing through antique gewgaws.
“Having grass fed beef is even better than coming here and finding I don’t need anything,” Joyce Lafaver said.
And Sande Lafaver will keep making the trip up from Needham — she and her family have already made plans for her 100th birthday.
“She’ll be here, even if I’m bringing her in a stretcher,” Joyce Lafaver said.
Rob Wolfe can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3242.