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Sunday’s Town, Gown Gala Seeks

To Build College, Community Ties

Kaler Carpenter, pastor of the Redemptorist Church, 148 River St., has organized this Sunday's Town & Gown Gala at Foothills to help build college-community relations.  (Ian Austin/
Kaler Carpenter, pastor of the Redemptorist Church, 148 River St., has organized this Sunday’s Town & Gown Gala at Foothills to help build college-community relations. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Exclusive

 ONEONTA – For Kaler Carpenter, the Town & Gown Gala – free this Sunday at Foothills – is not just a fundraiser: It’s a chance to bring the community together.

“There’s a lot of division between the residents of Oneonta and the students because of behavior,” said Carpenter.  “I knew we needed something more than a rock show to bring everyone together.”

From 3 to 5, local bands like Sunshine Symphony, KJ & Sky and Heaven’s Back Door will perform.  The SUNY Oneonta Slam Poetry Team will give a reading.  And there will be carnival-style games for kids.

Additionally, the SUNY Oneonta Inter-Greek Council will be selling sky lanterns and wax-paper bags to illuminate an outdoor candlelight ceremony taking place at 5 p.m.  The proceeds will benefit SUNY Oneonta student Tyler Giancola, injured in an altercation near the downtown in September.  He is currently at home in Westhampton Beach, L.I., working with a physical therapist on his recovery.

At the 5 p.m. candlelight ceremony, there will also be words spoken to memorialize Mayor, Dick Miller, who collaborated with Council member Mike Lynch in organizing the event.

Carpenter, pastor at the Redemption Movement Church on River Street, is no stranger to community outreach. At the beginning of each semester, church members drop off batteries and light bulbs to students who have newly moved into apartments.

On weekends, he offers free rides to students and townspeople coming home from the bars. “On Halloween, we gave 43 rides, the most we’ve done all semester,” he said.  “I decorated the car with a ‘Star Wars’ theme, and for the first two hours, we didn’t even have time to park – we were just back and forth giving rides.”

But when SUNY Oneonta student Tyler Giancola was injured in a late-night fight in late September, he knew he couldn’t do it with rides and light bulbs alone.  “I saw his picture, how young he was, and I knew the whole community would want to help this student – I think we all breathed a sigh of relief when we saw that he was going to pull through.”

After Council member Lynch’s recent Fourth Ward meeting, Carpenter stayed after to discuss what he could do to help bring the community together.  “He seemed anxious to do something,” said Carpenter.  “So I pitched this event.”

Miller helped him secure Foothills as the site for the event, and he met with the SUNY Oneonta Student Association to round up clubs, fraternities and bands.  “I credit Miller for helping us get it off the ground in his ‘get it done’ fashion.”

He also called SUNY Oneonta Vice President Steve Perry, who put him in touch with Giancola’s family, and the money raised at the Town & Gown will assist him in his continued rehabilitation.  “We’re going to sell candles and paper lanterns,” he said.  “At sunset, we’ll have a candlelit ceremony to talk about Tyler and Mayor Miller,” he said.  “Then we’ll all go back inside for a rock show.”

In addition to student groups, community organizations, including LEAF, First Night, the Commission on Human Rights and Relations and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention will be on hand to share materials and ideas for a stronger community.

“If we step up and are more welcoming to these students, they’ll stick around and start families here,” he said.  “What a wonderful way to grow a community.”



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