Mending A Community

I consider myself lucky. My parents came from modest backgrounds and large families. Every resource was shared, saved, and utilized to its full expense. Both strove toward higher education; both earned their degrees. As college graduates, they worked hard from the bottom of the corporate ladder, saving what they could along the way, and accomplished enough to provide a comfortable life for me and my brother.

My brother and I were given everything we ever needed. We were taught the difference between needs and wants, and our needs were always met. We may have wanted and not received new gaming systems or clothes, but the minute a bone broke (and many did, we were rushed to the doctor without a second thought. There was never a question if we would have food on our table, heat for our house, or a stable place to live and call “home.”

I realize just now how fortunate I am. Beyond having the financial stability for my basic needs to be met, my home provided emotional stability and a place of refuge from the hardships of adolescence and growing up. I am lucky to have parents who can support me financially, emotionally, and mentally. Through their guidance, I have the confidence and ability to navigate the world around me. My college education was both a gift and an expectation from them, something I truly cherish and want to use to benefit my community. I gained valuable experience learning to serve those in the community and aiding in their overall wellbeing.

Home Matters because every person should feel a sense of refuge, stability, and safety from their living situation. It is the right of every individual to have their basic needs met, physically and mentally. We are all born to different situations and environments, but the need for a safe, secure, healthy home applies to everyone. Suffering due to a lack of these means is more than unnecessary. It is unjust. When a community’s citizens are taken care of and treated well, every person benefits. Working with an organization striving to provide safety and stability to neighbors in need begins the process of mending a community and is something I feel truly honored to be a part of.

Carolyn Smith is a SUNY New Paltz graduate majoring in Communications. She interned with RUPCO as a gran writer assistant in Fall 2017.

Michael Bisio Hits the Right Note in Home-Life Symphony

Michael Bisio holding bass black and white headshotMichael Bisio is an accomplished bassist player, music connoisseur, and long-time adjunct professor. Bisio also moved around many times, from Washington State to NYC, adding to his repertoire of cultural experiences.  He found stability at The Lace Mill in Kingston, where he lives with his wife and fellow artist Dawn Bisio.  Their apartment is his happy place with wiggle room to jive in and hang prized artwork hanging. Now, he can balance professorship, musical gigs, traveling, and love—a harmony he’d sought for years.

Bisio was a reserved student in college, shy and unassuming. Professors took note of his talent and realized self-confidence was holding him back from excelling. They routinely pushed him to step outside of his comfort zone in his work, to self-reflect on the success he wanted. They challenged him to see his potential, flaws included, modeling a budding artist into a star performer. For him, it was tough—to stand in front of sheet music and critics for hours a day. By graduation, he collected his degree and the payoff of a sharper sense of confidence.

Years later, married with a son, Bisio owned a home in Seattle. After experiencing a “high point” in home life, he divorced and moved cross-country for his musical career. He came to NYC, hopping from apartment to apartment for about a decade until he heard about The Lace Mill through a friend. He applied, and a “fantastic” opportunity unfolded for his music, housing and finding the love of his life next door. Dawn and Michael met passing through the door of ASK Gallery in Kingston—Dawn caught Michael’s eye. He flirted with a coy “you’re hot.” Dawn reciprocated, and the two instantly bonded. They soon moved in together and made their own hub for artsy exploration.

Now, Bisio is part of a large pool of artists who help each other out with events hosted at The Lace Mill. He’s glad he is in the mix, but with enough privacy to focus on his ever-evolving career. “I think in the abstract, it created a community that in the long run has proven to be diverse. It [The Lace Mill] gives me a platform to produce concerts, which benefits the community.” Artist-residents attend his concerts and they bring friends. Word of mouth spreads concert details quickly around town. Engaged audience members are key in these live concerts; they are an important “ingredient in the process” and contribute vibes—either high or low frequency—that Bisio feeds off for a unique emotive atmosphere. Live performance, he recognizes, is a special relationship between performer and audience. If the audience doesn’t understand the tradition behind the musical number, “they can still feel it—the overwhelming intensity of it.”

Bisio isn’t going to halt the torrent of gigs soon. He plans on affecting more people through his bassist work as long as he “remains creative and positive.” There’s always more good energy to create in the universe, and he feels it is his responsibility to contribute high-frequency vibrations that align people’s energies into a state of bliss. And after the shows are over, he comes home to his apartment, to relax and rejuvenate as he pleases. Indeed, his sacred space couldn’t be more loving and personal, a place which can be completely silent or filled with music, whichever, and whenever, he prefers. His home is where he can fluctuate between living and prepping for a show, balancing out the dynamics of being and doing, in symphony with his life partner.

Michael’s next Lace Mill concert is Saturday, April 21, from 4-6pm in the East Gallery of The Lace Mill, 165 Cornell St, Kingston. Suggested donation is $10.00. Guest parking is available on South Prospect Street and Manor Avenue. For more information, e-mail Michael at bisio@earthlink.net or visit MichaelBisio.com.

Check out Bisio’s photo feature on the American Express site: https://www.amexessentials.com/hudson-valley-guide/ Click “Start Slideshow and scroll to image #7.

Building Blocks of Change

Colorful Building blocks of change blogI grew up privileged. I always had ample food, clothing, resources and quality education from prestigious grade schools as well as colleges. I never had to worry if my parents could afford an unexpected expense, such as a doctor’s visit or replace a new electronic item that my brother, sister or I might have broken.

However, my father and both grandparents grew up in poverty. They experienced firsthand what the throes of destitution without familial support. Fortunately, they were able to work to where they are now, which includes having a steady income and being able to raise a family in comfortable means. However, this does not mean that people who can’t climb out of the cycle of poverty are lazy or undetermined to make a change for the better. Maybe they are missing the opportunity of a new job promotion because they have children to take care of during those hours of interview or work. Or maybe they don’t have a strong support system to fall back on for help. Maybe motivation just isn’t in the picture because circumstances have depressed their efforts to look for alternative solutions to save money or to search for better-paying jobs.

I haven’t experienced this type of traumatic situation, but I do know how it feels to live on a smaller budget that easily runs out if I spend a few dollars more on laundry for this week. Going to college, I made a personal goal to only spend the money I earned on rent, food, gas, and travel. This new habit cost me much more than I would have imagined—not just my finite cash source, but the emotional energy to hold back from spending money on needed expenses, such as healthy food for breakfast, versus spending money on fast food trips and unhealthy options. Being prudent for the first time in my life definitely robbed me of pleasures that I now consider luxuries. This spend-thrift habit enlightened me on what it means to work hard for money and not being able to save or spend. This lack created an endless worry over finances and fear of the black vortex of indebtedness.

Coming out of my senior year of college, I was determined to help others and make a difference in the world, but I wasn’t sure which career path to take in order to do so. The VISTA program was my opportunity to see other’s lifestyles and gain a humbling perspective of what it means to live in poverty without the fallback of family or savings. As I am making my way up into the economic and business world, I am doing so alongside the people I am served. It’s is amazing to hear about the challenges and milestones that are now a part of RUPCO’s family history, such as Give Housing a Voice community response to Woodstock Commons resistance. During my time here, I hope my writing offers you a peak through into the gems of what would otherwise remain undiscovered in RUPCO’s large network, and to give a voice to individuals with incredible stories to tell. Though I can’t provide the homes or make sweeping decisions that determines program eligibility, I can write our people’s narratives to promote awareness. That is often enough to set in place building blocks of change.

Monique Tranchina is an AmeriCorps VISTA member and RUPCO’s editorial assistant. A SUNY New Paltz graduate, Monique holds a Bachelors in English, a concentration in Creative Writing and minor in Theater. Look for more storytelling from her in the coming year.