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Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc.
38 East Market Street, Rhinebeck, New York 12572 USA -  845-876-2626
Vegetarian - Vegan - Animal Rights - Health - Nutrition - Environment

The mission of the Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society, Inc. is to promote the vegetarian ethic in the Mid-Hudson (New York) region, educate the community and aid anyone in the pursuit of a totally vegetarian (vegan) cruelty-free and healthful lifestyle.

Newsletters - Winter 2008 Issue

President's Message 2

It was autumn of 2003. My wife Jen and I were recent transplants to the Catskills from Wilmington, Delaware. While learning the byways of our newly adopted home, Jen and I noticed this restaurant in Greene County, a roadside relic of Catskill bygone glory. There were lots of aging establishments in the area harkening back to the Catskills' more posh period. Three things about this spot caught our eye: A silo towered from the middle of the restaurant; a too-somber portrait of the King of Rock-n-Roll promised a live Elvis show every weekend and, at the bottom of the sign was painted, "Vegetarian Ecstasy."

"Oh, this we have to try," I said to Jen. Or she to me (you know how it goes when you've been married a while). Here's this fossilized roadhouse in nowhere (that used to be somewhere) that hasn't seen a paint job since the actual Elvis was alive, promising "Vegetarian Ecstasy" in the midst of dairy farm country.

So we went in and asked about the vegetarian offerings. Under bicentennial-décor wagon wheel chandeliers, a tobacco-tarnished waitress from the Elvis era handed us a segregated veg menu, Xeroxed on white paper. "You're with the vegetarian group," she rasped. I wasn't sure if it was a question or a statement, and, if the latter, it was some political or social conclusion. "They're meeting in the other room," she added. We explained that we weren't with them, but just came in, having seen the sign.

Jen and I had dinner on our own. The vegetarian dishes were fine, especially given the surroundings, but a little under-inspired. Basically, Italian gone veg; veal picatta becomes tofu picatta. Over dinner, we resolved to meet the local vegetarians.

We wandered back to discover a Mid-Hudson Vegetarian Society restaurant outing still going on. Jen and I were greeted by Joan Zacharias, our still-beloved former vice-president who has since escaped to warmer lands and who has created New Tampa Vegans. Next we met the indefatigable Robbie Schiff, MHVS president, and Rae Schlecht, foundress.

Over the next few years, Jen and I became more involved with MHVS. We attended events. I started coming to board meetings and taking on a steady string of volunteer tasks. Eventually I joined the board. Upon Joan's departure, I became vice president. Later, Jen, a teacher by trade, agreed to serve as secretary, "but, only for the summer." That was nigh onto three years ago now.

This spring, as Robbie completed two, three-year terms as president, it has become my task, happily and humbly, to serve as the Veg Society's third president. Following Rae and Robbie, I have some really big shoes to fill. Which is strange considering they're both really short women. Anyway, I'll do my best, and will not be without help. Just as Robbie insisted on continuing strong support and participation by Rae, I am calling upon Robbie to remain just as involved and committed now as vice president as she has been through her recent years as president. No one can match Robbie's phenomenal investment of time, energy and enthusiasm for MHVS. I am buoyed by the assurance that her efforts will continue on stride now and for years more.

Robbie, Rae and I are supported in our work by our fellow board members: Judi Gelardi, Jen Van Alstine (no bylaw against fraternization), Marvin Lang, Zinnia Konviser, Robin Henderson, Jane Curran and Jeff Baker.

Looking ahead, I am hopeful for an ever-growing membership, volunteer base and community presence for MHVS. The challenges of unnecessary human health afflictions, a global environmental precipice dance and an ongoing animal holocaust are daunting issues to address. Thankfully, we don't have to save the planet ourselves. We here at MHVS need only help each other and our wider community to turn, one step at a time, toward a more healthful, compassionate, and sustainable lifestyle.

I am optimistic. I see people yearning for personal health and vitality. I see among our neighbors real willingness to make personal changes to help our environment. I believe all people are, in the core of their nature, called to compassion for all our fellow earthlings. Most importantly, I believe I am not alone in this optimism.

I believe MHVS is poised to grow as a community voice and force for vital change. I, and all of us engaged in MHVS, should feel proud to have the opportunity to serve as wee local agents for great progress. As one possible course, take a look at our pitch for involvement in the story "What's your thing?" To turn optimism into meaningful action, individual involvement by more (and new) members is needed. Through MHVS, you can take steps to, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."

Jim Van Alstine,

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