Joe Cocker’s cover, from his debut album in 1968, is my favorite version of this song, which was written in 1967 by Lennon and McCartney as a vehicle for Starr. Cocker’s rendition, with a more complex intro and traditional 60’s style female back-up singers, feels raw, rough, and gritty – more real - like he literally would not survive without the help of his friends. Which perfectly describes DRC’s situation over the past six and a half months.
Purchasing 48 Riverside Dr. has always felt inevitable; however, without a ton of help from our community, we would not have been able to jump through all of the (ridiculous) hoops and hurdles placed in our path to get where we are today.
From the very start, there have been an amazing array of folks who, upon hearing our organizational mission and goals for the future, stepped up (or, in one case, stepped aside) to make it happen. With your indulgence, I am extending this prolonged sequenced account of our journey in thanks and deep gratitude to every single person who went out of their way to make this dream a reality. To those I have, inadvertently, missed, please know we are deeply grateful for your contributions.
First of all, I cannot go any farther without recognizing the pure brilliance of Christopher Raymo, the DRC Seedlings Coordinator and Music Director. He provides an ever-present, unflappable, calm energy to our days. He listens to all my crazy, out-there ideas, and works tirelessly along-side me to see them through. He is also our handy-man and heavy-lifter (even though he is not supposed to). For Chris, DRC is not just a job, or a place to go every day (for the past three years) – it is his home and he is deeply committed to our success.
Back to my story - in March or April, the, completely awesome, DRC Board (probably, hesitantly) approved my request to seek out a house as our permanent facility in Canton and suggested I contact Gail Abplanalp from Pat Collins Realty. After viewing several other properties, with repeat visits to 48 Riverside over several months, it became apparent that it was a perfect fit. Gail, our agent, was acting as intermediary between Phil Collins of LaValley Real Estate, the seller’s agent, and me to discuss potential terms. Very quickly, she decided that it was in our best interest to step aside and let Phil and I speak directly.
After Phil advocated for us by explaining the work we do with very few resources, Dale L, the owner, who had already indicated that he would hold the mortgage for any potential buyer, was open to selling to us. However, he was requiring 20% down – a total of $14,500, which we did not have. At this point, already 2 months in, I was ready to give up. We simply didn’t have access to that amount of money.
In stepped Trish Pielnik, DRC’s Water, Woods, and Wild Wonders Coordinator, and Larry McGory (who features prominently later in this tale). They were determined that we could not abandon our efforts because 48 Riverside felt like the ideal place for DRC. They each decided to loan us some of the down-payment. With that amount promised, I was able to contact my in-laws, Bonnie and Fred, to ask them if they would consider lending us the remainder of the down payment. By the end of June, thanks to their positive response, we had the entire down payment in our Savings Account. Dale kindly accepted our offer, mostly, because Phil impressed upon him the importance of the work we do.
I then began to research the zoning requirements for purchasing a property and quickly realized this was going to be a lesson (crash course) in small town governmental procedure. I learned that we needed to go before the Village Planning Board to plead our case, but that process was not entirely transparent. I showed up for the scheduled meeting with Christian Exoo, our then board president, as well as Diane Exoo, another board member, literally thinking that we would present our case and walk away with approval.
Ha – not so much. I want to be clear, Barry Walch, the chair, as well as the entire Planning Board, was incredibly supportive and understanding. But, because DRC is an animal unto itself, the exception we fit into for the R-2 district was the last category “similar …,” Barry went out of his way to speak with me over the phone and through email to ensure he completely understood the essence of what we offer and could present it clearly to the community. After a second meeting, in which neighbors were invited to ask questions, the Planning Board approved our zoning exception with a list of requirements.
Unbelievably, we learned two days later that someone from the community was potentially planning to challenge that decision. Because of that perceived threat, we ultimately ended up waiting an additional 60 days from the zoning approval before we could close on the house.
This is the point in the story where I need to inject an enormous thank you to Christian Exoo, the Board President during this incredibly stressful time. He listened to my (nearly daily) rants and calmly talked me down every single time. Christian, you are a Rockstar and I will be eternally grateful for your kindness and wisdom.
Finally (it almost felt anticlimactic after the preceding months of chaos), on September 26th, I wrote a couple of very large checks and we became official owners of 48 Riverside Drive.
Over this last month, we have been working hard, with so many incredible volunteers, to clean, move everything from 7 Main, make the house safe for our kids, and satisfy the requirements of the planning board.
The Friday after closing, parent volunteers, Cora and Shannon, as well as a couple DRC students cleaned the kitchen from top to bottom.
The next day, Larry, from above, replaced the handrails, installed a bookcase as the upstairs railing, and made some repairs to the stairways. We also had Mike Corse, Trish, Diane Exoo, current Board Pres, and Juliet B – cleaning all the walls and floors, replacing batteries in smoke detectors, and removing an old carpet, as well as a washer and dryer.
The formidable SLU Softball Team did some amazing heavy lifting during the SLU Make a Difference Day Event. Their coordinated teamwork while moving most of the very large items (down those 25 stairs) was awe-inspiring to watch. Randy, Sami, and Jake Russell contributed to that day’s efforts by providing their bread delivery truck and additional manpower. And, Diane, once again, showed up to help move and provide pizza for the crew.
After a closer look at the upstairs electrical situation by Larry and then Josh Pitts, we were devastated to learn that we probably had to re-wire the entire upstairs, at the potential cost of a couple thousand dollars. When Josh came back a few days later to measure, he discovered that it was actually all modern wiring – all he had to do was replace the old fuse box with a circuit breaker and ground all the outlets. Phew! He returned to do that job, on a Saturday, no less, and donated all of his time, as well as the materials!
Which brings this saga of gratitude to this current moment, in which we are awaiting determination by a representative of the Planning Board and the Canton Code Enforcer, as to whether our Herculean efforts meet the requirements and we can acquire that, all important, piece of paper, otherwise known as a Certificate of Occupancy. Stay-tuned!
PS – This story would not be complete without thanking Mike – my ever-loving and supportive husband - the guy who listens to every single one of my certifiably insane ideas and worries, which then lead me to spending most of my awake moments either thinking about or doing something DRC related. He is the one who picks up the countless balls I drop at home and makes sure, among many other things, we have freshly made bread and yogurt, wood for the fires, and that the pets are fed and loved up.