Barbara Marshall moved to Rainbow Lake in 1987.
"After watching the movie 'On Golden Pond,' my husband and I decided that living in a home on a lake in the North Country would be wonderful," she said. "For the first two years, I lived here with my daughter Dulcie, while my husband Jim worked as a Nassau County police officer until his retirement in 1989."
At the time, their son was heading for the military. Dulcie finished high school in the area.
Barbara Marshall at the Town of Brighton Food Pantry
(Photo — Yvona Fast)
"We love the country, the seasons, the mountains. There isn't anything here we don't enjoy," she said. "Everyone is very friendly and willing to help out; it's like a big family. The pace of life is slower, more relaxed. There is a reason the Long Island Expressway is known as the Long Island Depressway."
Barbara wasted no time in getting involved in community life.
"I'm very active in our church, the Church of the Assumption in Gabriels," she said. "It's a warm, tightly knit community of parishioners. The Spirit is very alive here, and the people make it very special. It's our second home."
As a member of the secular Carmelite order, Barbara responds to God's call in her life through meditation, prayer and service. This order includes regular parishioners serving God (not clergy, nuns, monks or priests).
"As a lector, I take time reading the Scriptures during Sunday Mass; it's very profound," she said. "As a eucharistic minster, I help serve communion. And as a cantor, I sing."
Along with other women, she also helps with cleaning, linens, and other housekeeping necessities - anything that's needed.
"I Corinthians 13 depicts what love is: 'Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
That passage is one of Barbara's favorite Scriptures. "It's similar to what God did for us: He gave His Son for us because He loves us so," she said. "That is why we should be the eyes, ears, hands, touch of Christ to other people here on earth."
It is through trying to be the hands of Christ in the community that Barbara began working with the St. Pauls/Assumption/Town of Brighton Food Pantry. "There is such a need - some of the stories that the families go through are so heartbreaking," she said. "People shouldn't have to make a decision between medicine and food on the table. Some people have been so grateful, they shed happy tears."
Just three years after moving to the area, Barbara was approached to consider the position of town clerk for the town of Brighton. She campaigned, and was elected in 1990. Back then, the food pantry was run by Leo Cummings and Bob Jaquish. They handled the food distribution. John Bray did the ordering, getting food mainly through Comlinks.
"Some people asked me to see how the food pantries in Vermontville and Brighton were run," she said. "They contacted our priest, and we got in touch with the food bank. At first, I didn't want to take it on; I was town clerk, and felt that was enough to do. But I began volunteering and before I knew it, I was in charge. As the years progressed and I got more involved, it became something I enjoyed."
In March 1995, the pantry joined the regional food bank and came under the auspices of the churches, Assumption and St. Paul's, with Vermontville being site one and Brighton, site two. The church affiliation gives the food pantry tax-exempt status.
When her term as town clerk ended in 1992, Barbara found the time to be more involved. In 1996, she took over as the Brighton pantry's director.
"There is a lot of paperwork, bookkeeping, doing the orders twice a month," she said of the job. "You're basically shopping for the clients that come to you. I order a variety, trying to cover all the bases, including not just food but things like toothpaste, toothbrushes, shampoo, diapers, senior diapers, even makeup for the women and toys for the children.
"In spring and summer, we take clothes that are in good, clean condition. We set them up outdoors for people to go through for what they need. When it's available, I get whatever we can. Once a year I file for grants to make sure we're covered for the year. There is a lot that goes on behind the scenes that people don't realize."
Barbara works with other local agencies.
"For example, Paul Smith's College has been instrumental with donations and raising funds for us. I give them a list of families that need wood for the winter; they get in touch with these families and get wood to them.
"If my wonderful volunteers weren't there to help me it wouldn't happen. There are about 12 volunteers. They're great. They know what needs to be done and they do whatever they have to do. Wednesday mornings we get together and set up for the pantry the next day. We take care of the cleaning, organizing, straightening up. We empty the bottle bins across the street and sort them out, it brings in extra money for us. We all work together and that's what makes everything work out as well as it has." On Pantry mornings (the first and third Thursdays each month) the volunteers are there by 8 a.m. to meet the Comlinks truck from Malone.
At the same time, other volunteers meet the Food Bank truck from Latham at the Saranac Lake Civic Center.
"We average anywhere from 6,500 to 7,000 pounds of food each time," Marshall said. "We open at 1 and work until everyone is finished, usually after 3. We distribute it all.
"The more involved I get, the more I see the need in other areas. That has been very gratifying."
Based on an interview with Barbara Marshall. Yvona Fast can be reached at www.wordsaremyworld.com.