CHRISTMAS CONCERT – 2 p.m. Enjoy cozy virtual concert with artists DiSavino & AJ Bodnar. Call for how to connect. Suggested donation $20. Presented by First United Methodist Church of Oneonta. 607-432-4102 or visit www.firstumc-oneonta.org
In 2008, Joyce Mason, working as a missionary in Honduras, got an urgent message that she was needed at home in Oneonta.
“Opportunities for Otsego had decided to give the Lord’s Table two weeks’ notice that they would no longer run it,” she said. “And although they tried to limp along, it wasn’t enough.”
After locating a landline phone to talk with the staff at St. James Episcopal Church, Mason came back to Oneonta as director of the nightly feeding ministry and the Loaves & Fishes food pantry.
“I got home on May 31,” she said. “I went into work on June 2, and I’ve been here ever since.”
And at the end of the year, Mason will retire from feeding families, the elderly and the disenfranchised after 22 years of service.
“If people are hungry, you have to feed them,” she said. “That’s important. It doesn’t matter if they’re rich or poor or sideways. Anyone can come.”
A native of Forrest Hills, Mason moved to Sidney with her husband, James. He passed away in 1995, leaving her with their two sons, James and Peter.
“After they graduated high school, I became a missionary,” she said. “And I was sent to Honduras.”
But when she got back, there was much work to be done to get the pantry and the kitchen where they needed to be to serve the city’s hungry.
“When I got here, it was not a happy situation,” she said. “So much of what was in the freezers wasn’t labeled, and I had to throw everything in the dumpster. It made me very sad.”
She immediately set to restocking the fridges. “I ordered food from the Regional Food Bank and, sometimes, from restaurants or catered events, like weddings,” she said. “And I started calling every group I could get to help serve the meals.”
With the First United Methodist Church hosting Saturday’s Bread, and the Salvation Army offering the “Meal With a Message,” a hot meal is offered free of charge seven days a week in the city.
“There is no place else between Albany and Binghamton that does that,” Mason said. “And in a town this size, we’re absolutely blessed to have three meal service programs.”
In 2018, Mason spearheaded the formation of the Otsego County Hunger Coalition, creating a network of all the food pantries, feeding programs and farmers’ markets in the county to make sure everyone has access to food wherever they may be.
But there have been challenges along the way. “After the flood of 2011, we were the Otsego County Disaster Feeding program,” she said. “St. Mary’s was housing people, many of them from
Lantern Hill” – the Southside trailer park – “and we had to feed them three meals a day.’
She was preparing lunch for the flood victims one afternoon when she smelled smoke. “The food pantry was on fire,” she said.
Rather than shut down, the pantry moved into St. James and continued its ministry. “We were closed from Friday to Tuesday,” she said. “We had to keep it going.”
The pantry was rededicated in March 2012, and Mason was lauded by Father Kenneth Hunter for continuing to feed the most needy among them.
And this year, the ministries had to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced the Lord’s Table to go to take-out only.
This year, 3,642 households have received food, the highest number in five years.
“It’s tough for the older people especially,” she said. “They need that socialization of sitting down and having a meal with somebody. It’s not available to us right now, but as soon as we can reopen, we will.”
It has also limited the food available at the pantry. “We’re having a lot of trouble getting beef or pork,” she said. “It’s just not available.”
While Mason is leaving her post at year’s end, she doesn’t expect to stay put for long in her retirement. “I’m a missionary at heart,” she said. “I go where I’m needed.”
YULE BALL – 8 – 10 p.m. Dress up with your friends for Harry Potter themed ball featuring mocktails, food, games, some vendors. Admission, $5 with proceeds to support charity Reading is Fundamental. Ballroom, Hunt Union, SUNY Oneonta.
MOVIE NIGHT – 5:30 p.m. Enjoy Valentines themed movie night with your best gal’s watching ‘Bridesmaids’ (rated R), while snacking on decadent desserts, mocktails. Huntington Memorial Library, 62 Chestnut St., Oneonta. 607-432-1980 or visit www.facebook.com/hmloneonta/
POPS CONCERT – 2 p.m. Catskill Valley Wind Ensemble presents midwinter concert featuring lively pieces from film, Broadway including medleys from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ ‘Porgy & Bess,’ ‘Sweeny Todd,’ Guardians of the Galaxy, Pirates of the Caribbean, more. Free, open to public. First United Methodist Church, 401 Chestnut St., Oneonta. www.catskillwinds.com
DINNER – 12:30 – 2:30 p.m. Friends of Christmas, and Saturday’s bread join forces to present holiday dinner for all. Enjoy baked pies, fruit breads, dinner rolls much more donated by the community. Free, takeout & transportation available. First United Methodist Church, 66 Chestnut St., Oneonta. 607-435-7188.
After strange metallic sounds landed their car in the shop for repairs, Liza DiSavino and A.J. Bodnar found themselves on an extended layover and decided to share their musical talents alongside area hand bell choirs for this afternoon’s Christmas in the Catskills Holiday Spectacular at First United Methodist Church. Above, Liza and A.J., as their stage act is known, sing a Christmas song from Kentucky, where they now live after moving from Westford. At right, Chris Brashear, Oneonta, performs with The Buckingham Ringers alongside his son, Elias, during one of the opening numbers of the concert. (Ian Austin/AllOTSEGO.com)
Music Director G. Roberts Kolb encourages the audience to sing along to “Deck the Halls” at a performance of the “Songs of Christmas” by the Catskill Choral Society at the United Methodist Church in Oneonta Friday evening. Kolb, a professor at Hamilton College, has worked with the Catskill Choral Society since 1997 and this is the 12th performance he has directed. Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the society, which brings in approximately 50-80 regional singers to perform a variety of choral pieces twice a year. At right, Mary Hall and her friend Jean Seroka applaud the singers. Hall, who’s been a member of the church for 15 years, attends every performance. “It wouldn’t be Christmas without the Choral Society Concert,” she said. “To me this starts the Christmas season.”
PRE-CHRISTMAS SALE – 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Find gently used holiday decorations including lights, undecorated wreaths, ornaments, tableware, more. Also enjoy goodies at bake sale. Proceeds benefit mission programs of United Methodist Women. Cooperstown United Methodist Church, 66 Chestnut St., Cooperstown. 607-547-9515 or visit www.cooperstownumc.org
QUILT SHOW – 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Celebrate 25th year of the annual quilt show at Silver Jubilee. Features 300+ quilts from artists across the country with featured quilter Jim Bryden in Tudor style historic inn. Lunch available. Proceeds benefit roof project. Admission, $5/person. The Major’s Inn, 12 Marion Ave., Gilbertsville. 607-783-2780 or visit www.themajorsinn.com
ASTRONOMY – 7:30 – 9 p.m. Learn to find the North Star, Cygnus, Draco, other constellations in the autumn sky with nothing but your eyes. Astrology lovers have probably visited a planetarium or even use led projectors to create their own at home, but this is the real deal. Perfect for those who have never before witnessed the majesty of a starry sky. Bring blankets or a chair, dress warmly. Free. Mohican Farm, 7207 St. Hwy. 80, Cooperstown. 607-282-4087 or visit occainfo.org/calendar/naked-eye-astronomy-the-autumn-sky/
OPENING RECEPTION – 5 – 7 p.m. Celebrate group art exhibit “The Land On Which We Gather,” honoring new SUNY president Barbara Jean Morris. Features 40+ works by 8 artists of native descent in various mediums from painting to beading, sculpture. Martin-Mullen Art Gallery, SUNY Oneonta. 607-436-3456 or visit suny.oneonta.edu/art-department/art-galleries