EDMESTON – Like many people, Laurie enjoys going to her favorite coffee shop – the Pathfinder Village Bakery – in the morning.
But with COVID-19 closing down the campus and confining the residents to their homes, the bakery is closed. But her house manager, Jamie Miner, set up a coffee shop on her back porch, complete with a freshly brewed pot and coffee shop cups.
“She pours her own coffee and pays for it, then sits at her dining room table, happy and content,” said CEO Paul Landers. “That’s love in action.”
Editor’s Note: Here are remarks President/CEO Paul Landers delivered at the Otsego County Chamber of Commerce annual Gala & Celebration of Business Thursday, May 2, in Foothills’ Atrium. Pathfinder was named the chamber’s NBT Bank Distinguished Business of 2019.
By PAUL LANDERS, Pathfinder Village President/CEO
About 43 years ago, 30 families were told they needed to find a new school for their children because the State of New York was going to shut their doors – this school was the Otsego School, a family-owned boarding school for children with Down syndrome in operation since 1922 in Edmeston.
Thankfully, a group of families, community members and a wise nurse named Marian Mullet did the unimaginable! They built, what is today, a world-renown planned community for children and adults with Down syndrome and developmental disabilities.
It began in a 23-acre cornfield, with a revolutionary mandate – that each life may find meaning.
Thirty countries, 26 U.S. states – they have come searching for this place – to learn, to be inspired, to work and to live. National and international educators, physicians, therapists and developmental disability experts have traveled to Pathfinder to share their knowledge and experiences with New Yorkers all because of the Kennedy Willis Center, our research, education and outreach arm of Pathfinder.
In 1980, we were a school house and seven homes on 23 acres. Today, we have grown to a 300-acre campus with 14 residential homes, a farm and farmhouse, state-of-the-art community health center, youth soccer fields and community hiking trails, chapel, cafe, village inn, research/education center, produce market and agriculture center, an adult day-treatment program operated by Otsego ARC, two off-site residences and two off-site day programs.
Dr. Streck, board chair, says Pathfinder Village now needs its own zip code!
Today, we are also more than Pathfinder Village. We are Otsego Academy, a two-year post-secondary education program; Camp Pathfinder, a young adult summer camp; Chenango House, an Alzheimer’s Care Home; Pathfinder Produce, a vocational training and community business.
In March, our founding CEO Marian Mullet passed away after 91 remarkable years. She was the revolutionary leader who left a remarkable legacy – a legacy that has touched so many, far more than she would have imagined. Today, those of us left to carry out this legacy are merely stewards of her vision and design.
Marian gave us this remarkable place! BUT, more remarkable than this beautiful place, are the PEOPLE and the PURPOSE of Pathfinder…
Here’s a little history about Pathfinder Village that many people don’t know.
The original plan was for the village to be built in Syracuse. But, after much deliberation and, I’m certain, influence from Marian, the board decided to build in Edmeston and remain in this county.
Why? Because they had tremendous confidence and faith in its people! People like: Senator Jim Seward, founding board member (39 years), Dr. Bill Streck, Bassett president, 32 years of service as our board chair, and the men and women of NBT Bank and NYCM, loyal business partners since our beginning.
People like Dan Osborn, 36-year employee who started out as a cook and is now the senior director of quality assurance and ancillary services; Caprice Eckert, 25-year employee who started out as a finance clerk and in my mind is the best CFO in the county today; Lori Grace, 22-year employee, started out as a marketing writer and now is the director of development, and Paula Schaefer, 21-year employee and music director. She and the talented bell choir remind all of us the power and beauty of humanity.
THE PLACE + THE PEOPLE = THE PURPOSE!
Marian created a space to perfection and we have been blessed with the right people who have guided the village as society evolves. How remarkable is it that after 40 years, our planned community model remains relevant? This is why …
It’s Saturday morning in the bakery, people from all walks of life gather to enjoy fine food and fellowship. Nowhere else will you find such a diverse group gathered, everyone is equal.
It’s Michael and Holly walking hand in hand late one weekday evening; they have been boyfriend and girlfriend for more than 20 years.
It’s a business woman from NYCM attending an off-site leadership workshop at the Village. Taking a break outside, she says to her coworker, “This place is so beautiful; we are so fortunate to have this in our community.”
It’s Jared, giving a workshop on diversity at Bassett Healthcare to new hires.
It’s dancing under the stars on a warm summer night.
It’s friends gathered in the all faiths chapel to celebrate a life lived well and to say goodbye to a good friend
It’s a parent who decides to make the trip after years of research and soul searching, hoping that this is the right place for their child. As they head west on Route 80, coming over the bluff, they see Pathfinder and the feeling is almost immediate: This is the place. And later that day, when it is time to leave and their child wants to stay … now they know, this is the place!
This place, its people and its purpose. This is Pathfinder. I encourage each and every one of you to come to our café, take a walk on out nature trails, shop at our market, or get your flu shot at the health center. I promise you, it will be the highlight of your week.
By LIBBY CUDMORE • The Freeman’s Journal & Hometown Oneonta
EDMESTON – When she was 16, Joanna Draper had a brain tumor removed and was in a coma for a month. Though she recovered, her short-term memory was all but gone, dashing her hopes of continuing to perform in musical theater.
But now, you can find her serenading customers at the Pathfinder Village bakery and café, where she has worked for two years. “I’m doing so well that they let me work here,” she said. “I sing to the customers. I give them a hug if they’re having a bad day. It’s about treating people how I want to be treated, with kindness and a smile.”
“Her parents recognized that she would fit in here as a hire, not as a service recipient,” said CEO Paul Landers. “And since she started working here, her neurologist has seen her memory improving.”
A couple of months ago, Gerry Benjamin, director of SUNY New Paltz’s Benjamin Center and an expert on Upstate New York, saw the region’s economic future in nurturing and growing what we have.
Craft brewing and yogurt production, in particular, are developing nicely, he said, although neither is generating sufficient jobs at sufficient salaries to begin replacing the manufacturing behemoth that was the Mohawk Valley.
The advantage to incremental growth, of course, is that it can be absorbed organically, with job along I-88 incrementally reviving the declining community centers to the north.
Springbrook, of course, is the poster child, growing to over 1,200 jobs on a simple concept: Better care for handicapped children can be provided more humanely and at lower cost in proximity to their New York State families. Win, win.
Two more examples of growing in place – growing and excelling is more like it – may be found in the two organizations that will be honored at the Otsego County Chamber’s annual Gala & Celebration of Business Thursday, May 2, at Foothills. (Reservations, call 432-4500, ext. 2.)
One, venerable Pathfinder Village, is vigorously placing its Down syndrome and otherwise handicapped residents in real jobs, filling real employer needs. For instance, with Astrocom in Colliersville unable to find workers, Pathfinder is deployer a half-dozen trainees and two supervisor daily to that aircraft parts fabricator.
Former Pathfinder residents are also working at Golden Artists Colors, Price Chopper, Silver Dollar Optical, NYCM and NBT Bank.
Two, Les Grummons arrived in Oneonta in 1970, having acquired the Rotherby-Murphy Funeral home, and knowing virtually nobody.
He quickly developed a strategy: Get on friendly terms with as many people as possible. He joined the Rotary, the Elks, Moose and Eagles. He pursued his interest in the Sons of the Legion, rising to state commander. He served on the board of Catholic Charities, St. Mary’s and Hospice. He rose to the state Funeral Directors Association presidency, cementing his reputation in the industry. He was elected to Common Council.
In the process, he solidified the Lester R. Grummons Funeral Home among the front ranks of such local institutions, a solid business that has provided service and employment to many over almost a half century.
As detailed on Page B1 of this edition, Pathfinder will be honored at NBT Distinguished Business; Grummons, as Eugene A. Bettiol Jr. Distinguished Citizen.
The state Comptroller Office a few years ago reported that only 29 jobs had been created in Otsego County in 2016 but, one, state data lags and, two, it doesn’t reflect the groundwork that was being done to make way for growth we’re starting to see now.
For instance, Custom Electronics is creating 50 jobs for to make high-storage batteries, building blocks of a renewable future. A grant has ensured Corning’s 175 Oneonta jobs for 15 years. Cooperstown Distillery and Andela Products, Town of Richfield, are anticipating expansions and 10 new jobs each. Some 50 jobs are unfilled at Amphenol in Sidney. A little bit of natural gas would allow a distribution center to bring 300 jobs to Schenevus in short order.
Plus, the colleges, schools and hospitals provide a stable base.
And with Paul Landerses and Les Grummonses among us, the current downward trend, we can confidently hope, is temporary.
EDMESTON – Pathfinder Village celebrated the longevity of 16 employees – 280 years combined – at a luncheon Tuesday at The Otesaga.
Honorees included Senior Director Dan Osborn and Eva Pickens of the Ancillary Department, who each have served 35 years. Those celebrating 30-year anniversaries included Pathfinder School Teacher Nancy Kelly, Direct Support Professional Cindy Holbert, and Assistant Director of Enrichment Services Charleen Orendorff.