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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 8, 2005

Coffey charged with rape of 14-year-old girl

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — A 28-year-old Guilderland man was arrested Sunday, after, police say, he raped a 14-year-old girl in his Church Road trailer.

Guilderland Police say that Robert J. Coffey, of 333 Church Road, Lot 3, of Bockley’s Trailer Park, raped his young neighbor, as she visited him at his home.

Guilderland Detective John Tashjian told The Enterprise that, on Sunday, Coffey overpowered the girl, bound her wrists with wire ties, and raped her.

After the incident, the girl was able to go home and tell her parent, Tashjian said. The parent then called Guilderland Police, he said.

The girl was taken to the hospital for treatment, Tashjian said, and Coffey was arrested.

"Based on the investigation," Tashjian said, Coffey was charged with first-degree rape and first-degree unlawful imprisonment, both felonies.

Asked if Coffey had asserted his innocence, Tashjian said, "We had some conversations. I won’t release the contents."

Coffey was remanded to Albany County’s jail without bail, Tashjian said. He is scheduled to appear in Guilderland Town Court tonight (Thursday).

Coffey had been arrested before, in another state, for conspiracy to distribute drugs, Tashjian said. He hadn’t lived in Guilderland long, the detective said.

Coffey had worked at Jiffy Lube, on Western Avenue near the intersection of routes 20 and 155, for a few months earlier in the summer, said his former boss, Bob Lacross.

Lacross heard of Coffey’s arrest through The Enterprise this week.

"It’s very surprising," Lacross said. "He was a pretty normal kid...He was a good worker."

Coffey had left Jiffy Lube to purchase his own automotive garage, Lacross said. But, he said, he’s not sure if that happened.

Coffey could not be reached for comment this week.

Asked what to tell residents who may be alarmed by the incident, Tashjian said anyone with questions should call the Guilderland Police.

Dealing with rape

Rape victims face a range of emotions and can react to the trauma in a variety of ways, said Shannon Cherry, of the New York State Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

She spoke to The Enterprise this week in general terms about how to deal with rape.

After being assaulted, victims should go to the hospital as soon as possible, Cherry said. There, they can get medical treatment and samples of forensic evidence can be taken, whether the victim chooses to report the rape to the police or not, she said.

Some women are afraid to report assaults to the police, Cherry said, such as in domestic violence cases where the rapist is the victim’s husband or boyfriend.

But, she said, it is important for forensic evidence to be collected, if the woman chooses to go to the police later.

Most victims are assaulted by someone they know, Cherry said. But, she said, each victim, no matter the age or race, reacts to the trauma differently.

"Usually, they need to talk to someone," Cherry said. "It’s very hard to cope with."

Many times it’s difficult for a victim to talk to friends or family members about what happened, she said, because it’s such an uncomfortable issue for her.

"She should find someone impartial," Cherry said. "Someone that can tell her she’s normal."

The Coalition Against Sexual Assault oversees 78 rape-crisis programs across the state. Albany County has one that offers confidential counseling and support, as well as legal advice and other services.

Families of victims can also use the program, Cherry said.

"It doesn’t just affect the person," she said. "It affects the families and friends for years to come."

The best support family members can provide is to let the victim talk about the rape on her terms, Cherry said. They shouldn’t force the victim to talk or ask prying questions, she said.

Sexual assault happens more often then reported, Cherry said. The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that one in three women, one in four girls, one in six boys, and one in 11 men will be victims of sexual assault in their lifetimes, she said.

In New York State in 2000, Cherry said, 23,600 sexual offenses were reported. Thousands more were kept secret, she said.

Victims of sexual assault or family and friends of victims can call Albany County’s hotline at 447-7716, she said.

Concerns raised over NEIP

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — Four residents raised concerns at Tuesday’s town board meeting about the Northeastern Industrial Park’s plans for future development.

Each town board member then spoke of his or her worries with the plan. The board agreed that more work needs to be done on the draft of the industrial park’s environmental impact statement before the town will approve it.

Representatives of the industrial park commented little Tuesday night, but said that the statement is just a draft and that more work will be done before a final draft is submitted.

"I’m very enthusiastic," David Buicko, chief operating officer of the industrial park, told The Enterprise Wednesday. "There were some very constructive comments. We look forward to working with the town."

The town has been waiting since 1999 for the industrial park to submit its environmental impact study. The town and zoning board decided then that the industrial park was appearing before the zoning board too frequently for new development, Supervisor Kenneth Runion said.

While adding individual warehouses to the industrial park does not create a significant impact, many businesses do, he said. The town then asked the industrial park for an environmental-impact study.

Six years after the industrial park was to submit a masterplan, the draft of an environmental study was announced, at the July 12 town board meeting.

The industrial park is located on 550 acres in Guilderland Center, along Route 146 and Depot Road. The industrial park has been in operation since 1969 and contains 2.9 million square feet of warehouse space.

Land use at the industrial park is primarily warehouses and offices to support the warehouses, the report says. Surrounding the industrial park are: the CSX railroad, along the eastern edge; residences and the Guilderland High School, to the north; residences, agricultural land, and forested land, to the west; and industrial, residential, agricultural, and forested land, to the south.

According to the environmental-impact statement, the industrial park’s yet-to-be-revealed masterplan proposes 1.6 million square feet of new industrial use; 160,000 square feet of office use; and 190,000 square feet of research and development use. Also to be built are: a truck stop with a 16-unit motel; a convenience store; a diner; a fuel station; restrooms with showers; and 30 tractor-trailer spaces with hook-ups. These are to be used by park tenants rather than the general public.

The Northeastern Industrial Park, which is on the site of a former Army depot in Guilderland Center, wants to build in two places that the Army has classified as areas of concern, or sites that were determined to be a risk to human health.

This inflames local activists, who for years have been trying to warn residents about toxic waste buried at the former Army depot. The buried materials affect almost everyone in town because tributaries to the Watervliet Reservoir, Guilderland’s main source of drinking water, run through the industrial park.

The environmental-impact statement briefly outlines development to be built on areas of concern 1 and 7.

AOC 1, the United States Army Southern Landfill, in the southern portion of the depot next to the railroad tracks and bounded by Depot Road, has a pond on the site. It is about 1,500 feet from the main channel of the Black Creek and is classified as a Class 2 site by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation, meaning it is a significant threat.

AOC 7, the Triangular Disposal Area, in the southeast end, roughly between AOC 1 and 4, has buried debris such as railroad ties and glass bottles.

The report also says that construction could impact AOC 8, the Black Creek, which flows through the property and into the Watervliet Reservoir, Guilderland’s major source of drinking water.

Buicko responded Wednesday to worries about the industrial park building on the polluted areas of concern.

"Some things are common sense," he told The Enterprise. "If there’s an area of concern, we won’t build on it till it’s mitigated."

Other misconceptions, he added, will be addressed by the industrial park later.

Comments and concerns

In July, Charles Rielly told The Enterprise of his concerns with the industrial park’s latest plans, especially for building on the areas of concern. Rielly is co-chair of the Restoration Advisory Board — a group, formed by the Army Corps of Engineers, of citizens and government officials.

"To me, Guilderland is playing Russian roulette with the Watervliet Reservoir," he told The Enterprise.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Rielly expressed the same concerns. If the industrial park builds on or near the areas of concern, he said, it will seriously affect the Black Creek.

Much of the three-inch-thick environmental-impact statement is devoted to the study of traffic issues at the industrial park. In the next 10 years, the report says, new development will generate 845 new vehicle trips in the morning and 922 new vehicle trips in the evening.

"The additional trucks generated by the build-out of the masterplan would not change the overall characteristics of traffic flow on the adjacent roadway network," the statement says.

Recommendations are made, however, for: a traffic signal at Route 146 and Van Buren Boulevard and four-way stop signs at Depot and Meadowdale roads.

Rielly told the board Tuesday that he’s worried about traffic and its impact on the environment.

Rielly also said he’s concerned about the volume of wastewater going to the town’s treatment plant and about the additional amount of town water the plant will use.

At Tuesday’s meeting, residents Carol Williams and Ken Smith reiterated Rielly’s concerns.

Williams said the report fails to adequately address the impact of the industrial park on those living in Guilderland Center.

Smith said the report only gave "a cursory overview." It didn’t discuss in any detail soil and water impacts or stormwater management, he said.

"Short shrift is given to the relationship of this site to the Watervliet Reservoir," Smith said.

Carol Relyea, of Ostrander Road, told the board that she and her neighbors get their water from wells. She worried, she said, that new development at the industrial park would pollute her well.

Board reaction

Councilman Michael Ricard was the first to give his reaction to the report and he had the most favorable comments of all the board members.

"It’s an extremely comprehensive document," Ricard said. "It touches on all the issues but, by its nature, it’s fairly generic....However, it doesn’t preclude further studies and naturally that has to happen."

Of water pollution and traffic, Ricard said, "There are so many unknowns. It probably will develop as it occurs."

Councilwoman Patricia Slavick expressed concerns for those who live around the industrial park. With truck traffic, she said, many residents of Route 146 have told her they can’t keep their windows open because of the noise.

"Adding all these trucks is a big issue," she said.

"We’ll address the traffic in traffic study, but ours has been down significantly in the past few years," Buicko told The Enterprise Wednesday. Since the Save-A-Lot distribution center moved out of the industrial park a few years ago, truck traffic has decreased, he said.

Asked about more development bringing in more traffic, Buicko said, "We’ve hired a transportation company more qualified than I am to address those issues."

As a member of the town’s traffic safety committee, Slavick also said at Tuesday’s meeting that she is concerned about additional traffic at the various intersections leading in and out of the industrial park.

And, of the industrial park’s soil erosion and stormwater prevention plans, Slavick asked, "Who would prepare that" Who will monitor it""

Councilman Bruce Sherwin said the industrial park can be a positive thing for the town. But, he said, proper planning is needed because the town is changing.

"It’s an awkward site in a lot of ways," Sherwin said. The town and industrial park need to talk more about future development, he said.

Sherwin suggested that, with community members, the town and industrial park meet to discuss goals, as was done earlier this year when the town created its rural Guilderland plan.

"This may be our last chance," Sherwin said. "Once it’s approved, the town is not going to have a lot of leeway."

Councilman David Bosworth also raised concerns about stormwater management and the need for a more specific plan.

"We’re all very concerned that we get a good report, a good, quality report," he said. "...We have more work to do."

Supervisor Runion spoke last and he said he agreed with many of the board members’ concerns.

He’s worried about environmental impacts, especially with increased traffic, Runion said. Much of the report is incomplete, he said, and more specifics need to be added about the effect development will have on the town’s water system.

"I don’t see any correlation between this statement and the town’s comprehensive plan," Runion said. "...This plan should make some reference to it."

Runion then repeated Relyea’s concerns about the people on Ostrander Road and said the industrial park should address impacts to outside the property.

After the board members spoke, Buicko said that a lot of the issues discussed will be addressed later. As a taxpaying member of the community, he said, the industrial park will work with the town for a better report.

Buicko told The Enterprise Wednesday that he was pleased with the board members’ comments.

"It was a lot of work for them to understand it," he said of the report. "We value their comments because we want to make sure ourselves and the town are in sync."

Written comments on the report can be submitted to the town clerk until Sept. 16. The industrial park will use all of these comments to create a more detailed report, Buicko said.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Set a public hearing to discuss transferring $36,000, from the town’s highway reserve machinery fund to its highway capital outlay fund, for the purchase of a used, truck-mounted, high-pressure sewer cleaner.

The public hearing will be on Oct. 6 at 7:30 p.m.

After the motion, the board then bid for the purchase of the sewer cleaner. It will be used by the highway department to clean out stormwater drains;

— Released $112,000 from the Lone Pine 7 subdivision escrow account for the completion of sidewalks and a bike trail, per recommendation of Boswell Engineering, which the town designated for the project;

— Released the remaining escrow funds for the Prescott Woods subdivision, phase C, per recommendation of a town-designated engineer; and

— Appointed a committee to participate in the study of the Guilderland hamlet, as part of the town’s comprehensive planning process. The committee members are: Steve Feeney, planning board chairman; Jan Weston, town planner; Don Csaposs, the town’s development director; and David Reid, president of the Guilderland Hamlet Neighborhood Association.

McKownville burglar sentenced to 15 years

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — David A. Hollenbeck, dubbed "the McKownville burglar," was sentenced last week to 15 years in state prison. Judge Stephen W. Herrick also ordered Hollenbeck to five years of post-release supervision.

Hollenbeck, 44, of 1939 Seventh Ave., first floor, Watervliet, pleaded guilty on June 14 to burglarizing several homes in McKownville and Colonie.

Between November and April, as burglaries occurred in the Guilderland hamlet on the edge of Albany, members of the McKownville Improvement Association circulated e-mails warning each other.

It was neighbors’ keeping a watch on nearby homes that led to Hollenbeck’s arrest.

On April 15, as many police officers were in McKownville investigating an unrelated incident, a resident called to say that a man broke his neighbor’s window, at 9 McKown Road, and went inside.

Guilderland Police found Hollenbeck crouched behind a bed in the residence. He had jewelry and a piggy bank on him, police said, and he confessed to a series of other break-ins. In one case, police said, he stole over $1,000 worth of jewelry.

District Attorney David Soares praised the neighbor who called 911.

"The combination of an alert citizenry and rapidly-responding officers from the Guilderland Police force broke this case and saved who knows how many others from having their homes invaded," Soares said in a statement.

Man arrested for stalking

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — Police arrested a Queens man on Sunday for stalking, after a woman reported he was following her car.

Georgio Shinas, 20, of 50-32 Thirty-first Ave., 3-D, Woodside, N.Y., told police that he was trying to get the woman to pull over.

At 5 a.m. on Sunday, as the woman was driving to work on Western Avenue, she noticed a man in a red Pontiac following her, Detective John Tashjian told The Enterprise.

A patrol car stopped the Pontiac and found that Shinas, its driver, had an "imitation handgun" near the driver’s seat, Tashjian said. He had two more weapons — pellet pistols made to look like handguns — in his car, Tashjian said.

"He said he wanted to see if she’d pull over," Tashjian told The Enterprise. "He’d act like a cop."

Asked why, Tashjian said, "Who knows what his motives were""

Shinas was not wearing a uniform and police say the woman did not know him.

He was arrested for fourth-degree stalking and fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, both misdemeanors. He was then remanded to Albany County’s jail without bail.

Police say drunk driver wreaked more havoc

By Nicole Fay Barr

GUILDERLAND — More charges have been filed against a man who, police say, crashed into a truck and a house after driving drunk.

Shaun Menzer, 18, of 1224 Union St., Schenectady, was arrested on Aug. 23, for driving while intoxicated. Guilderland Police said then that Menzer was pulled over in a parking lot at Crossgates Mall for driving erratically and, as the officer walked back to his patrol car to check Menzer’s license, Menzer sped away.

The officer called for assistance and, as Menzer sped down Western Avenue, police in two cars followed, Lieutenant Curtis Cox said earlier. Within 20 seconds, Cox said, the officers saw Menzer crash at the intersection of Gipp Road.

Menzer struck a car that was pulling out from Gipp Road, police say. He then continued driving, lost control of his vehicle, swerved off the road, and struck a parked pickup truck in a driveway at 1833 Western Ave., police say. He then struck a house, at 1835 Western Ave., and his vehicle flipped over, landing on its roof, police say.

Menzer and his 15-year-old passenger were taken to Albany Medical Center. A spokesperson for the hospital said on Aug. 24 that Menzer was in serious condition and no information on the passenger was available.

This week, Guilderland Sergeant Gary Lee told The Enterprise that Menzer is out of the hospital. Lee was unaware of the passenger’s condition, he said.

Menzer appeared in Guilderland Town Court on Sept. 1. Police then charged him additionally with first-degree reckless endangerment, a felony; fourth-degree criminal mischief, assault, and leaving the scene of a personal-injury auto accident, all misdemeanors; and failure to obey a traffic-control device, failure to yield to a right-of-way, imprudent speeding, and driving a passenger without a seat belt, all infractions.

The charge of leaving the scene of an accident was because Menzer didn’t stop after hitting the first car pulling out from Gipp Road, Cox said.

Menzer had his case adjourned until Oct. 13.

Sex offender shunned
Elms says he has no place to go

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — On Sunday evening, Matthew Elms felt his options had run out.

The 35-year-old man has been labeled a Level 3 sex offender — the highest level, deemed the most likely to repeat.

As such, a description of himself and of his crime is posted on-line at the town’s website and on a state registry.

Matthew Elms was convicted in Washington County Court on March 26, 1988 of first-degree sodomy and first-degree rape, says the posting on the town’s website. "Elms raped and sodomized a 12-year-old girl in Fort Edward, New York."

Elms was convicted for a crime he committed at the age of 17 and, after serving 14 years in state prison, was released three years ago.

He had been living since July on Posson Road in Guilderland near Bill Vojnar’s pig farm.

Bart Jibeault, who lives on Posson Road and described himself as a friend of Elms, told The Enterprise, "Bill’s sons had been losing work in their roofing and contracting businesses because of him. They told him he had till midnight Saturday to be out or, first thing Sunday morning, he would be physically removed by the police."

Jibeault and Elms spent the weekend trying to get help for Elms.

Finally, Sunday evening, Elms went to Ellis Hospital in Schenectady.

"He told them, ‘I’ll slit my throat in front of you; I’ll kill myself if you don’t take me in. No one wants me,’" Jibeault said.

On Tuesday, The Enterprise went to the locked psychiatric ward at Ellis Hospital to talk to Elms.

"Please use extra caution in opening the door: High elopement risk," said a sign in capital letters next to the blue metal locked door.

Inside, Elms sat alone in a room with other patients, listening to music. He wore blue scrubs like the other patients. When he stood up, he looked about six feet tall, with a muscular build. He had short-cropped hair, a day-or-two-old beard, and intense blue eyes.

He agreed to talk to The Enterprise in private and led the way to a small conference room, shutting the door behind him.

Elms confirmed the events of Sunday as his friend had described them.

"I went out there to try to start fresh," Elms said of his home at 6458 Posson Road, off Route 20 in western Guilderland. "I thought everything was fine till a couple of weeks ago when the sons came down, telling me I got to go."

He went on, "People want to go back to when I was 17...I’m 35 now...I’ve been out for three years. I lived in Schenectady for over two years without an incident."

Elms said he was driven out of Schenectady once he was posted as a sex offender.

"Ever since I went to court in February of this year to fight the Level 3," he said, "it’s been bad. I was kicked out of Schenectady because of it."

After New York created its Sex Offender Registry, a federal court case was brought against the state, challenging the new law. For a time, an injunction prohibited the state from classifying any sex offender whose crime, like Elms’s, was committed before Jan. 21, 1996 to a risk level higher than Level 1 for purposes of community notification. In 2004, a settlement was reached, now allowing those convicted sex offenders a hearing to determine an appropriate risk level.

"Just to be left alone"

Elms did not have a happy childhood. He was born and raised in Glens Falls. "My mother used to work," he said. "My father was always drunk."

He went on, "My father had four or five heart attacks before he finally croaked, thank God." Elms said he was not sorry when his father died, but he said of his mother, "I wish she was still alive."

Elms was placed in the Schenectady Children's Home for stealing, he said. "I was like a wild kid, stealing, running the streets."

Asked about the rape he committed at age 17, Elms again paused for a long while. He said it was one time.

"When I was in Schenectady Children’s Home, it was done to me," he said. "I was sexually assaulted myself." The assault occurred when he was nine, he said.

"When I told someone what happened to me, they did nothing about it," he said.

He added, "I’m not trying to use that as an excuse for what I did."

Asked what he’ll do next, Elms said, "Dunno."

His girlfriend, Deborah Billetdoux, is the mother of Jibeault’s wife; the three live together on Posson Road.

Billetdoux told The Enterprise Tuesday afternoon that she and Elms plan on getting married.

"He’s a good person," she said. "People don’t know him. He’s a good boyfriend. He never hurts me. He won’t hurt a fly."

Asked about his conviction for rape and sodomy, Billetdoux said, "It’s behind him."

Tuesday night, when The Enterprise asked Elms what he would do with his life if he weren’t labeled a sex offender, he said, "I’d like to see myself with my own little place for me and her...I’d like to have a nice little job where I make the money to support us. I’d like for me just to be left alone."

"The man did his time"

Asked what prison was like, Elms was quiet for a long while. Then he said, "I was glad to be out. I went through hell in there. I thought all that would be behind me. I’m going through hell again."

Elms said he suffers from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) and from depression.

He said he is currently on a drug to treat the depression. "I’ve been off it for a month-and-a-half," he said. "I haven’t been able to get the medicine. I don’t have any way to pay for it."

He said his applications for Medicaid had been unsuccessful.

Jibeault said he had brought Elms to the Albany County Department of Social Services to get food stamps and Medicaid. "He has mental-health issues. They denied him," said Jibeault. "No doctor wants to do anything for him; he doesn’t have insurance."

Jibeault said Elms had worked at a fast-food restaurant in Guilderland until his employer found out about his sex-offender status.

Jibeault said he has an idea of what it’s like. "I spent time in jail myself and, when I got out, no one wanted to hire me," he said.

Jibeault described Elms as "an excellent worker." Jibeault has his own business, B & M Construction, and Elms worked for him as a roofer, he said.

"You couldn’t ask for a better person, work-wise," he said. But Jibeault said he, too, was losing business once people found out Elms was a sex offender.

Jibeault said, "I look at it this way: The man did his time. He has to register the rest of his life. His crime against his victim was really f--ked up...People make mistakes. His was much bigger than most. He did his time. There should be no reason everyone’s still condemning him."

Asked what he’d like people to know about him, Elms said, "I just want them to know I’m not like everybody else they’ve heard about, who gets out of jail and who goes and does it again. That’s not me."

Asked what he wanted for his future, Elms said, "I wish people would just leave me alone...I’m not a threat to nobody out there. I just want the past to be the past and let me go on with my life."

Guilderland arrest

Elms was arrested by Guilderland Police on Aug. 3 for second-degree reckless endangerment and reckless driving, both misdemeanors. The arrest report says that he was driving "at a high rate of speed" in the parking lot of the Corner Ice Cream Store at 3770 Carman Road, "nearly striking several pedestrians."

Asked about the incident, Elms told The Enterprise, "That was my way of calling out for help because I was in depression."

A Guilderland resident, whose name is being withheld at her request because she fears retribution from Elms, called The Enterprise after the newspaper reported the arrest in its Blotters column.

"The Corner Ice Cream is the first place kids in the neighborhood are allowed to go on their own," she said.

She is concerned that others aren’t of aware of the threat she believes Elms poses. She said Elms rides his bicycle daily past several day care centers.

Jibeault said Elms’s car was towed after the Aug. 3 arrest and he has been unable to afford to re-claim it so he had been riding a bicycle.

"He can’t come up with the money," said Jibeault.

Asked how Elms could afford the $2,500 bail noted on the arrest report to get out of jail, Jibeault said, "His girlfriend, myself, and my wife got a bondsman for $500."

According to the court clerk, Elms appeared in Guilderland Town Court Sept. 1; his case is adjourned until Sept. 15.

Megan’s law

In 1996, New York adopted a law requiring that information about high-risk sex offenders be made public. The law was modeled on one adopted earlier by New Jersey, frequently called Megan’s Law, after Megan Kanka, a seven-year-old who was raped and murdered by a neighbor who had twice been convicted of sex crimes.

States across the country have had a patchwork of different laws dealing with sex offenders. Some sex offenders in Oregon had to post signs outside their homes to alert others they were living inside. In California, legislation mandated castration — physical or chemical — of certain repeat child molesters. A Louisiana law required offenders to publish their whereabouts and background in the newspaper. A county in Washington State sent out fliers and press releases and held public meetings.

According to New York’s 1996 law, sex offenders must register with the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services. The offenders are ranked — 1 to 3, with 3 being the highest — according to their risk of re-offending. This risk is usually assessed at the time of sentencing, according to a number of factors, including the offender’s level of offense, its nature, the offender’s relationship to his victim, and if force was used. While all offenders are required to register, Level 3 offenders are subject to the community notification process.

Community notification can happen in four ways. A directory of Level 3 offenders is available at local law-enforcement agencies. A registry, which can be accessed by phone or Internet, is maintained by the state’s criminal justice department. And local law-enforcement agencies are notified when a sex offender moves into their jurisdiction.

In turn, the law-enforcement agency may disseminate relevant information to any entity with vulnerable populations.

Local notification

First Sergeant William Ward with the Guilderland Police prepared and distributed the bulletin on Elms. DCJS had sent information that Elms had moved to Guilderland in July, Ward said.

"I did the sheet July 30," he said. He hand-delivered the one-page flier to residents living near and on Posson Road. "I want to make sure everyone gets them," said Ward. He also posted the same information on the town’s website.

The Enterprise interviewed Ward on Tuesday, the same day police say a man in Washington State turned himself in to authorities there for killing two convicted child rapists, Level 3 sex offenders, saying he picked the victims from a sheriff’s website.

The Enterprise asked Ward if he worried about vigilantes taking matters into their own hands. "You have to," said Ward. "Part of the law is to make the public aware of offenders but built into it is also to make them aware, if you become a vigilante, you’re in danger of losing that privilege [of being informed]."

Ward’s sheet includes a recent photograph and a physical description of Elms, the description of his conviction, and some words in boldface type and capital letters, stating, "He is not wanted by the police. This notification is not intended to increase fear; rather, it is our belief that an informed public is a safer public."

The Guilderland Police Department has developed a point system to determine which sex offenders the public will be notified of.

"Any Level 3 generally meets the criteria," said Ward.

Elms is currently the only Level 3 offender living in Guilderland, Ward said; there were two previously who left town.

Ward said Guilderland looked at agencies across the United States to develop its point system. "We got the best out of everybody," he said.

Points are assigned for five different categories. The relationship of the offender to the victim can range from 0 points for a family member to 6 points for a stranger. Points are assigned for the age of the victim, with the younger adding more points.

Points are assigned for the level of force, ranging from 1 for statutory to 10 for use of a weapon. Points are also assigned based on the victim’s injury, ranging from 0 points for no physical injury to 10 points for serious injury. Finally, up to 5 points can be awarded for "unusual circumstances," said Ward.

If the points total more than 12, notification is made.

Asked about Elms and how he scored in each of the categories, Ward said, "He got 29 points. That means he got near the maximum on everything. He scored a lot of points."

Ward decides where to distribute the leaflets based on where the offender lives, he said. "I’ll take a big circle to see what lives in that circle," he said.

In Elms’s case, Ward said, he did not notify the school district; Posson Road is not near a school. Ward did, however, notify nearby nursery schools, he said.

Ward says he is particularly concerned about Elms and others in his position who have served a maximum sentence.

Records from the New York State Department of Correctional Services indicate Elms went to prison in 1988 and was eligible for parole in 1992. He did not receive parole, however, but served the maximum sentence, being released from Oneida State Prison in 2002.

"Because he did his maximum, he’s not supervised," said Ward. Elms is not required to check in with a probation officer or a parole board.

"He’s supposed to report to me every 90 days to verify his residence," said Ward. "I know there is concern about him living there. I’ve been frequently checking, just to make sure he’s still there."

Level 3 offenders are required to notify police if they move, said Ward. "I’ve made it clear to him, ‘When you decide to move, ask me first...We have to know.’"

Asked if he saw any problems with the current notification system, Ward said, in order to work well, another layer of enforcement is needed.

"The only bad thing I can say about Megan’s Law is it’s compliance-based. Maybe he’ll come see me and maybe he won’t. It’s almost like you’d have to create another layer of government to deal with these people. Parole can’t do it; probation can’t do it.

"The ones without supervision are going to re-offend. If they’re not proactive in getting treatment for themselves, they’ll re-offend. They often have other issues, like drugs and alcohol."

On balance, though, Ward said, the current notification system offers something earlier generations didn’t have. Ward has been a policeman for 23 years.

"It was word of mouth when we were growing up," he said. "Now we can let people know for sure. It’s not rumor; it’s fact...To be forewarned is to be forearmed."

"The public is misinformed"

Notification laws create the illusion of safety, said Melanie Trimble, executive director for the New York Civil Liberties Union, but treatment is more likely to prevent re-offense.

Trimble cited research and statistics that counter common fears and assumptions. One such fear is that the rate of sexual assault and abuse is rising fast, especially against children.

The NYCLU quotes a 2004 United States Department of Justice bulletin outlining the steep decline of child sex abuse — by 40 percent from 1992 to 2000. The Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network is also cited as stating the numbers of rape and sexual assault against all victims has dropped 65 percent since 1993.

Another myth the NYCLU wants to shatter is that most children who are sexually abused are abused by someone they don’t know. According to a 2000 publication by the National Center for Juvenile Justice, only 7 percent are abused by a stranger; 93 percent are abused by a family member or acquaintance.

Finally, the NYCLU wants to combat the fear that most sex offenders are repeat offenders. Three years after release from prison, just 5.3 percent of sex offenders have been arrested again for another sex crime, according to the United States Department of Justice. And after 15 years, fewer than a third, 27 percent, have been charged with another sex crime.

"Recidivism rates are much lower for sex offenders than for other felony offenses, like burglaries," said Trimble. "The public is misinformed."

She went on, "Another false notion out there is that sex offenders are not helped by rehabilitation." The NYCLU cites a 2003 publication of the American Psychology Association that treatment has been shown to reduce the rate of sex offender recidivism by 43 percent.

About notification laws, Trimble said, "We’re worried what happens when the public is made aware of a sex offender in the area; it can cause the sex offender trouble trying to reestablish themselves in society, to keep a job and have a normal life. They tend to go underground and not register, so they can get a job."

Rather than notifying, for example, through Internet registries Trimble said, "Our recommendation is to leave it up to law enforcement to know where the sex offenders are."

Trimble is frustrated with much of the proposed sex-offender legislation. "Most of it doesn’t speak to real solutions," she said. "Experts all recommend programs that really help rehabilitate offenders and keep them from re-offending. Those programs are woefully underfunded...If legislation focused on real solutions, we could better protect the public and children."

She concluded, "We understand that people are very concerned about sex offenders living in their community but it’s important that we find real solutions to recidivism rather than discussing residential restrictions that only tend to drive the sex offender underground, out of the view of the police and the public."

Guilderland’s role

New York’s version of Megan’s Law allows people to look up information on the worst class of sex offenders. But the law doesn’t require the police, who have the information, to bring it to the public.

In 1996, the town of Guilderland appointed a Child Protection Task Force that studied the issue and made recommendations to the town board. At the task force’s recommendation, the board voted itself a "vulnerable entity," so that it would be informed of sex offenders living in town.

In 1997, the village board in Altamont decided, by unanimous vote, to release names of certain convicted sex offenders to the press. The Guilderland task force had recommended that the town do that, but the Guilderland board rejected the recommendation — which the task force considered pivotal — because it feared legal suits from sex offenders.

The head of the task force, Lauren Ayers, hailed Altamont’s decision as "truly historic," saying, "It’s the first municipality in New York State to do so."

In 2001, a man left the town of Guilderland because police notified residents that he was a convicted sex offender.

When the superintendent of schools, Gregory Aidala, was notified in August of that year, he wrote a memo to summer employees; summer school was in session at the high school, near where the man lived. The memo included his photo, but not a name.

Papers describing the sex offender were sent to all the schools in the district, Aidala said at the time. School employees were asked if they saw someone who looked like the sex offender at school activities to notify an administrator immediately, said Aidala.

"He’s moved," First Sergeant Ward told The Enterprise soon after. "He felt that, based on the community notification that we did and the fact we handed out our community notification fliers, he could not live a normal life. He moved back with his mom in Rotterdam."

That was the second time a sex offender’s name was given out in Guilderland since the 1996 law went into effect. The first time was in 1999. That man stayed in the town about a year, said Ward, and then moved to Albany.

Currently, Ward told The Enterprise this week, there is one Level 3 sex offender living in Guilderland — Elms — "one or two" Level 2 offenders, and "a handful" of Level 1 offenders.

According to the state’s Division of Criminal Justice Services, New York has a total of 21,821 registered sex offenders; 5,426 are Level 3. Albany County has a total of 369 registered sex offenders — 142 are Level 1, and 123 are Level 2, and 91 are Level 3, and 13 have not yet had their risk determined.

ECkists seek the Light and Sound of God

By Matt Cook

Susan Boyer sits at her kitchen table, eyes closed.

"Focus on something that fills you with love," she instructs, "a person, a place." After a few moments of quiet, she begins to sing softly, "Huuuuuuu. Huuuuuuu. Huuuuuu."

The kitchen doors are wide open to her Niskayuna backyard, colorfully adorned with flowers and shrubs. A fountain bubbles: the sound of God.

Behind her eyelids, blue and green shapes dance: the light of God.

After the exercise, Boyer describes what she felt.

"For me, it was just a feeling of incredible peace. I became aware of all the sounds around me, but not in an intrusive way," she said.

Exercises like this one are central to the lives of those who practice Eckankar, a religion which claims over 50,000 followers and is growing worldwide. Boyer is a clergy member, and one of a group that meets for services monthly at the Best Western Hotel on Western Avenue in Guilderland.

Eckankar, Boyer explained, "teaches practical ways to live a spiritual life." The goal of ECKists is to become co-workers with God, which is what, they say, Eckankar means.

"It means that everything you do is for the good of all," Boyer said. "We believe God is love. How do you act with love every minute of every day""

To connect with the Holy Spirit, or the ECK, followers learn spiritual exercises, which often involve singing or chanting "HU," pronounced "hue," which, they say, is an ancient name of God.

(Followers of Eckankar always completely capitalize the words HU and ECK.)

ECKists believe a human being is eternal Soul, negotiating his or her way through levels of consciousness, from the physical world to the spiritual, achieving what Boyer calls "spiritual freedom."

"I think God is the creative being that created Soul and set it in motion, and set up the lower world—the physical world—as a schoolyard for Soul," Boyer said.

In a series of lifetimes, ECKists believe, through reincarnation, Soul gradually learns the lessons necessary for leaving the physical world and purifying itself of karma, or sin. The process, again, is practical, Boyer pointed out.

"We believe in reincarnation as a way to raise Soul’s consciousness," Boyer said. "So, when we die, we meet with our inner guides and discuss what we learned in this lifetime and discuss what we want to learn in the next lifetime."

The inner guides are ECK masters that have left the physical world. They help other souls in their spiritual journeys and can be contacted, Boyer said, through the spiritual exercises, and soul travel, in which ECKists believe Soul can temporarily journey to the spiritual worlds, often during dreams. During soul travel, Boyer said, a person can communicate with other souls.

"There are even whole cities you can visit," she said.


ECKists, like Boyer, claim the teachings of Eckankar have been around as long as civilization. It’s a very personal religion—based on Soul’s own choices—and a practitioner doesn’t need to be part of an organization to practice Eckankar, Boyer said.

"The only thing in Eckankar that is essential, is to do the spiritual exercises," she said. "It’s personal. That’s one of the great things about it."

However, Eckankar, as a religious organization, emerged in 1965. It was founded by Paul Twitchell, a Kentucky native, World War II veteran, reporter and writer, who, after years of spiritual searching and studying with several teachers worldwide—and the ECK masters of the spiritual world, ECKists say—introduced his findings to the world as Eckankar.

"Paul worked with [the spiritual ECK masters] to decide whether it was time to bring the teachings out as religion," Boyer said.

Based at the Temple of ECK in Chanhassen, Minn., Eckankar now has chapters in almost every state and on every populated continent. Local organizations are called Satsang Societies. The New York Satsang Society is broken up into areas. The Capital Region area, of which Boyer is a member, serves Albany, Clinton, Columbia, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Montgomery, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Schoharie, Warren, and Washington counties.

Eckankar always has one Living ECK Master. The first was Twitchell; currently, it is Harold Klemp. Klemp, a Wisconsin native who discovered Eckankar while with the United States Air Force in Japan, runs the organization and is the chief spiritual teacher, writing most of the books and guides to spiritual exercises ECKists use.

"We relate to him as a teacher, a way-shower," Boyer said. "We don’t worship him. I guess what he does is offer us tools...One of the primary beliefs in Eckankar is you have to do it yourself."

A personal journey

Boyer started following Eckankar in the late ’70’s. She was raised as a Catholic, she said, but hadn’t found the spiritual answers she wanted in Catholicism alone.

"I was a spiritual, but not a religious, person," she said.

While a student at Syracuse University, she saw a poster on campus for a talk on Eckankar.

"Something inside of me, a door, opened, and I knew, ‘That is what I am,’" Boyer said. But, she didn’t go to the seminar, "The door closed and said, ‘Not yet.’"

A couple of years later, she said, the time was right when she saw the poster on campus again.

"The door opened again. It was like, ‘Okay, now,’" Boyer said. She went to the talk. "It just seemed so fresh to me: the concepts of studying your dreams and reincarnation," she said.

Now, as an Eckankar clergy person, she helps lead services (which involve singing HU, reading from ECK books, silent contemplation, and discussion), and officiates at ECK ceremonies, like weddings and memorial services. As with all Eckankar clergy, Boyer is a volunteer. She earns a living as a landscape architect.

"The idea of service and giving back to life is really important in Eckankar," Boyer said. "Why grow" Why learn" Why do anything" It gives us the ability to give back to life and serve life and to serve God."

The Light and Sound

Eckankar is not an exclusive religion. Boyer said that followers of other religions might find aspects of Eckankar useful, such as singing HU, and vice-versa.

"I think all religions are from God and they are here to teach certain things and appeal to certain levels of consciousness," she said. "A person drawn to Eckankar is a person who really wants to delve into the spiritual in a really real practical way."

Delving into the spiritual, ECKists believe they encounter the Light and Sound of God, the omnipresent dual aspects of the Holy Spirit.

The Light of God, Boyer said, is experienced visually on the physical plane, like the moving lights behind closed eyelids.

"That’s the light of the Holy Spirit in what’s called the third eye, the spiritual eye," Boyer said.

In an introductory pamphlet from Eckankar, it says, "Saul of Tarsus had a dramatic encounter with the Light of God on the road to Damascus. Moses saw It in the burning bush."

The Sound of God, Boyer said, is "the vibration of God’s love. You can hear it in the physical. You can hear it in dreams."

The Sound of God can be present in any sound, she said, like the noises of nature.

"The Sound of God was the rushing wind that visited the disciples during Pentecost," the Eckankar pamphlet says.

"See what happens"

Because Eckankar can be practiced personally, Boyer said there’s no way of knowing how many ECKists live in the Capital District. However, she said, between 10 and 20 people come to the monthly worship services at the Best Western.

People interested in Eckankar can come to a service and talk to some of the followers, Boyer said. There are also talks held periodically for newcomers. Information is available at www.eckankar-ny.org.

Or, Boyer said, spiritual seekers can try some of the exercises on their own.

"Set aside five minutes a day to sing HU and see what happens," she said.

Altamont moratorium leaves Romanski in the lurch

By Bill Sherman

ALTAMONT — Subdivisions within the village will have to wait until next year as the Altamont Board of Trustees unanimously voted for a moratorium on Tuesday night.

Citing significant concerns over the village’s water supply, Trustee Dean Whalen proposed the one year moratorium. Whalen said the water supply is at or near capacity much of the time and he was not sure if the village could supply enough water for another major subdivision.

Whalen said other factors have caused him to call for the moratorium. He identified the litigation surrounding the current drinking water project on Brandle Road, just outside the village, as causing uncertainty in the village. Whalen also wants time to review the village’s zoning laws before any subdivisions occur.

Donald Cropsey Jr., the village building inspector, said until this year he has not received any applications for subdivisions in the village during the last five years. The century-old, mile-square village is largely developed.

Cropsey said he recently received an application for a 32-lot subdivision on Bozenkill Road. Cropsey said during the meeting Tuesday that he believed the moratorium would postpone the proposed project on Bozenkill Road.

A question arose if the moratorium was established to specifically stop the Bozenkill project. After the formal meeting, village attorney E. Guy Roemer quickly disputed Cropsey’s view that an application has been received by the village. Roemer said he was unaware of any formal application for subdivision of any land in the village.

Cropsey could not provide the names of the applicants at Tuesday’s meeting.

The Enterprise spoke with Troy Miller on Wednesday. Miller and Jeff Perlee had owned the Bozenkill property and planned to develop it before selling it five months ago, he said.

Their plan, Miller said, was to build "higher-end houses," ranging in price from $300,000 to $400,000 on the 32 lots.

"We received concept approval," said Miller. "After subdivision approval, the next stage is to do engineering."

Miller estimated the engineering would have cost about $65,000. The developers then met with village officials under Mayor Paul DeSarbo’s administration, he said.

"We held a meeting on water; we were told to wait to hear about the well," said Miller. "The water looked iffy to us."

At that point, Miller said, Ken Romanski expressed interest in the property.

"He met with Paul DeSarbo and he felt comfortable moving forward," said Miller. Miller stressed that he had no previous knowledge of the moratorium and the property hadn’t been sold to Romanski because of that.

"I was hoping to proceed with a subdivision," Romanski told The Enterprise Wednesday. "I’m anxious to speak with some people about the moratorium."

Romanski, who lives in Schenectady County, said he hadn’t realized a moratorium would stop his plans. He said he had planned to proceed with what Miller and Perlee had proposed, building 25 to 30 homes on the Bozenkill Road property.

Water concerns

During public comment on the proposed moratorium, village resident Christine Capuano asked how the moratorium would be enforced since the last moratorium established by the village board was eventually ignored. Under Paul DeSarbo’s administration, the village board approved water for a senior housing project outside of the village despite a moratorium prohibiting such a practice.

Christine Capuano and her husband, Dan, have bought property on Brandle Road from Michael and Nancy Trumpler; Dan Capuano is Nancy Trumpler’s brother.

The Trumplers had signed a contract with the village to sell five acres of the land, when the village had found water. The Trumplers said they had been told that the wells on their land would be used only for water in the village, not an outside developer, and they had procedural concerns.

In March, the Trumplers filed papers in Albany County Supreme Court to have a judge decide whether the village’s contract for the five-acre site is legal and binding; they sought no money from the village.

The village responded by filing counterclaims, amounting to hundreds of thousands of dollars, against the Trumplers. Roemer told The Enterprise earlier that the counterclaims were to enforce the contract and for damages due to the delay and increased costs to the village.

Roemer is being paid $125 per hour to defend the village against the Trumplers’ suit. The village board last month authorized up to $10,000 for the litigation costs.

Subsequently, Jeff Thomas, the developer of the senior complex, sued the Trumplers for $17 million for interference with his plans.

Both Whalen and Mayor James Gaughan said the moratorium enacted Tuesday was a completely different situation. Gaughan said he expected the board would follow the moratorium.

Capuano recommended the moratorium be amended to include prohibiting the allocation of water to properties outside of the village. Members of the board felt that was unnecessary. Whalen pointed out the moratorium in question did not apply to property owners who wanted to develop a current parcel of land within the village.

The board went on to approve other spending related to developing a Brandle Road water source. It approved a resolution authorizing an additional $5,000 for the services from the engineering firm, Barton and Loguidice. The firm has been asked to assist with the litigation surrounding the Brandle Road drinking water project.

And the board approved a resolution to place $4,700 in escrow for the payment of services to be provided by the engineering firm of Spectra. The town of Guilderland has required the village to hire the firm to review its water project on Brandle Road because several area residents expressed concern over the impact of the water project on their residential wells.

After the meeting, Capuano told The Enterprise, "I’m a little disappointed. I am concerned about what they are going to do with the water." Apparently the village is still committed to providing water to the senior housing project.

Capuano added, "I wonder how the person feels who is in the village and is waiting for water," referring to the applicants of the 32-lot subdivision.

Later, Whalen explained to The Enterprise that the moratorium is in place to give the village more time to review future development, which includes zoning, sewers, roads, sidewalks and water allocation.

Whalen said the board’s planning subcommittee will continue its comprehensive review during the moratorium. The subcommittee consists of 10 members, including members from the planning board and zoning board of appeals, village officials, a village resident, and two members of Altamont Community Tradition.

Other business

In other business, the board:

— Accepted the "Separation of Service" agreement from former Public Safety Commissioner Robert Coleman as of Aug. 16. Gaughan said this was a mutual agreement between the Village and Coleman. Coleman agreed to a two week transition period once Tony Salerno was hired to the full time position; and

— Recognized Brad Abelman as winner of the "Mayor for the Day" contest held in conjunction with the Altamont Free Library. Mayor Abelman, who is in first grade, spent part of the day with Mayor Gaughan.

However, the real fun began when he was given a ride in a village police car, complete with lights and siren. He was also given a tour of the fire department and inspected the equipment used by the firefighters.

Abelman said, as mayor, he would build a NASCAR race track and buy a race car because he "likes to drive fast." As mayor, he would also recommend no homework and "tell everyone to clean up." He was joined at the meeting by his very proud little sister, Rylee, and about a dozen other family members.

— Melissa Hale-Spencer contributed information from Troy Miller and Ken Romanski to this story.

In honor of Doris Kirk:
Happy times and hard times on display in Altamont quilts

By Holly Grosch

ALTAMONT — "A quilter will always tell you a quilt has a life of its own," said village quilter Ruth Dickinson.

And now, Dickinson and her Altamont quilting circle are hosting a quilt show to honor the life of their friend and craft mentor, Doris Kirk.

Things that happen in your own life are mirrored in the stitching, especially if the quilt was made by hand, Dickinson said. She said that, when she looks at a friend’s quilt, she can tell when people died, when a child was born.

"It’s like a memory book," Dickinson said. "You can see joy and happiness in a quilt and....going through hard times as well."

"Quilts speak volumes of the people who make them," said Judith Rothstein, who recently stepped down as co-president of the Community Caregivers. There’s a story that goes along with every quilt she said.

This Saturday, Sept. 10, from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m., quilts will be hanging in Orsini Park, in the center of the village off of Main Street. The exhibit is a fund-raiser for the Community Caregivers, with a $5 visitor fee for adults.

The artists will be standing by their quilts, to share the stories mirrored in their work and talk about their quilting style—such as appliqué or tying.

"What I love about this whole venture...is the lives of the people in the community...It’s a chance to learn about people. It’s sharing things...It’s fascinating to look into someone’s life," through their art, Rothstein said.

"No quilt I’ve ever had followed the pattern exactly," Dickinson said.

Also, when people make quilts for others, such as a child, Dickinson said, "You do what you see in them."

Someone may tell a quilter what she wants, such as the pattern or colors, but the quilts turn out differently when the quilter is thinking about the person as she makes it, Dickinson said.

Patchwork is really an American art, Dickinson said. One of the earliest designs is called log cabin, she said, although it looks nothing like a log cabin; also, stars form popular patterns.

Appliqué involves stitching over the top of the fabric rather than patching pieces together, connecting their sides. Tying binds three layers—fabric on the top and bottom, with batting in the middle—useing individual little knots of thread, pushed through each layer.

The village is home to a number of quilting circles as well as to individual people who quilt on their own. Saturday’s show is a village-wide event where all the artists will come together to show off their work.

The show is not juried because, Dickinson said, she knows it makes people apprehensive about entering their work. Dickinson likes to get her work judged professionally, but others don’t because their work is too personal.

Every attendee will be given a white glove upon entering the exhibit to touch the quilts on display on the lawn.

Antique quilts that are light sensitive and delicate will be on display in the old train station, now owned by the library. Displaying is not just reserved for quilt-makers, but also quilt-owners.

In honor of a friend and master quilter

Kirk was "a leader but not a designated leader; it was just the way it was," Dickinson said.

Now, with her failing health, Kirk has moved into an assisted-living facility, but many of her quilts will be on display at the show. She has made at least a hundred in her lifetime, Dickinson said.

Dickinson has made more than 50 quilts herself, and she is a newcomer compared to the other members of her quilting circle.

"Kirk was a mentor to me," Dickinson said, "a calm gentle leader of how to do it." She would purposely compliment people.

If a person made a mistake on the border of a quilt, Kirk would gently take the stitches out and never diminish her friend’s work Dickinson said.

Bobbie Scrafford is one of the original members of Kirk’s quilting circle."She was gracious in her teaching manner," Scrafford said. Kirk saw quilting as an artwork and a means of self-expression, so the little quirks, a person’s imperfections, was part of the art for her, Scrafford said. She was both an artist and master quilter.

Kirk was an artist, a beautiful painter, before becoming a quilter, Scrafford said, so she was the one that taught everyone else.

She organized a women’s group at church and offered to show others how to quilt, Scrafford recalled.

"It started with just three of us,’ she said, and together they made everything by hand.

"So many of us attached ourselves to her," Scrafford said.

Dickinson said the slogan of the event is in honor of Kirk "who taught so many."

Fellowship and healing

There is a real sense of community in a quilting circle, Dickinson said.

Quilting is "an outlet for all the stuff you have to deal with in your life," Dickinson said. She said, her daughter attended one of her quilting-circle sessions, and said, "This is the way women are supposed to be together."

The women talk for hours about their lives and children or being widows, and, as they quilt and their minds are occupied with the task at hand, "You trust and feel free to say things you might never say," said Dickinson.

These women quilt two to three hours a week together, so, over time, they bond, Rothstein said.

Some sessions become very intimate, as the women talk about how or when they felt like they failed as mothers, to other times of great laughter and jokes, said Dickinson.

"We are usually laughing and talking about men," Dickinson said with a smile. It’s therapy, she said.

Scrafford said if her mind is busy with something, and she is feeling stressed, quilting calms her.

A family’s story

"I remember helping my grandmother tying a quilt," Scrafford said. Her grandmother would spread a quilt over a frame and, as a young child, Scrafford had a job—to sit underneath the frame and, as her grandmother pushed the needle through the fabric, to push it back up and through again.

Now, for many years, Scrafford has been working on a quilt for each of her grandchildren, a progressive quilt, which she plans to give them when they graduate from college or turn 21. The quilt catalogues each grandchild’s life, from birth until graduation.

Each square represents a moment or accomplishment of childhood—losing a first tooth, learning to play the clarinet, riding horseback.

Scrafford has also made quilts for wedding gifts. She keeps a few for herself, including a quilt named, "My Quilt," because she designed it herself, and didn’t use a pattern.

Scrafford said, when she made a quilt for her daughter, she thought about her more frequently, prayed for her more, and it’s the same for a wedding quilt; She thinks about the couple as she makes the quilt.

Other attractions

One unique quilt on display Saturday will be the Fair Quilt made in 1999 in a collective effort by another Altamont circle. The group-owned quilt, has on it the names of all the women who made it, Dickinson said. The quilt represents the Altamont fairgrounds, with patches including Scottish men, and the old church, Dickinson said.

Other attractions at the exhibit will include classes for childern, where they will color fabric with crayon and pound flowers onto fabric. An adult class is titled Penny Rugs Revisted. All the classes require pre-registration.

The show will also offer demonstrations, and vendors selling quilting supplies such as yarn and patterns.

Music will be provided by the Traditional Strings of Knox and quilt appraisals by Kathleen Greenwold are available by appointment.

The appraisals cost $25 each. Greenwold can tell the owners the condition of their quilts, every material that was used in the quilts and how to properly store and protect them.

At noon, there will be a reading from the book Grandmother’s Quilt, which talks about how people use quilts, Dickinson said.

Quilts that have been a part of a family for many years may have become worn and torn into pieces over time, and sometimes a quilter will use the many pieces of that quilt to make stuffed animals to pass on to their children, Dickinson said.

There is a lot of emotion and love in a quilt and there are many different ways they can be used, she said.

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