Chasing the Dream


8; Chasing the Dream: Finale

We revisit some of the organizations that were featured in the series. We also speak to Amanda McIntyre, Executive Director of the Klee Foundation, about the inspiration for Chasing the Dream, and how by telling the stories of people in our community, Chasing the Dream can help foster understanding and compassion towards our neighbors here in the Southern Tier.

AIRED: June 08, 2021 | 0:25:49

(bright music)

- [Voiceover] WSKG thanks the following

for their support of this project.

The Conrad and Virginia Klee Foundation.

The Corning Incorporated Foundation.

M&T Bank.


And viewers like you.

Thank you.

- Hello, I'm Natasha Thompson.

Welcome to the series finale of "Chasing the Dream."

This television series was an initiative

that began over three years ago as a collaboration

between several philanthropic and nonprofit organizations

here in the southern tier.

The project's goal was to take

a personal storytelling approach

into the challenges of poverty

and other economic and social issues

families and individuals from our region face every day.

The primary funding for "Chasing the Dream"

was granted by the Conrad and Virginia Klee Foundation.

Before her retirement,

Judy Peckham was the Klee Foundation's executive director,

and she spoke with me on our first episode

about the reasoning to initiate a conversation

around what is often a popular misconception

of people living in poverty.

- It's easy to assume, number one,

that poverty has certain reasons,

and if people would just get off their seats

and do something about it, it would be solved.

They should go get a job.

They should be more careful about how they shop.

A whole variety of things.

Poverty is a much more complex issue than that,

and we had been looking, even in our healthy living program,

at some of the childhood trauma that leads

to behavior that's inappropriate,

lifestyles that are inappropriate, on into adulthood.

And we learned early on how complex those early factors are.

Same thing for poverty.

The things that drive poverty

are not people's unwillingness to do things.

We tend to blame the victim.

- Right.

- And that's pretty pervasive, I think.

"Well, if they would just," fill in the blank.

"If they would just," fill in the blank.

One of my favorite quotes, and it didn't originate with me,

is, "People should just pull themselves up

by the bootstraps.

Oh, whoops, they don't have any bootstraps."

- [Natasha] Right.

- And that's so telling.

So we have to look at what things contribute to poverty.

We have to help people maintain their dignity

as they come out of poverty,

which is part of what this series should do.

- Our series also received funding from other organizations,

including the Community Foundation of the Southern Tier,

the Corning Incorporated Foundation,

and the Tioga Downs Regional Community Foundation,

as well as numerous individual contributors.

All of our series funders voiced their support

for the ultimate goal of our program,

which was to try and put a personal face and voice

on the issue of poverty in our region,

and to help connect those individuals

with the numerous sources of support that are available.

Over the course of the last three seasons,

we have attempted to do just that.

We have visited and filmed interviews

with more than a hundred individuals,

and we have highlighted dozens of organizations,

both big and small, who work to provide a helping hand

to our neighbors in their time of need.

Tonight, we wanted to give an update

on a couple of stories we profiled

over the course of the series.

In our first season, we took a look at one

of the most pressing issues in many communities:

food insecurity.

As part of our story, we spoke with the organizers at Vines

and looked at the success of their community food gardens.

Recently, we revisited the people at Vines

and looked at some of the exciting progress

their organization has been making

since our original story.

- Well, we went from four vacant lots

in the city of Binghamton for our urban farm

to two and a quarter acres of lots

in the city of Binghamton, still just east of downtown.

That's allowed us to expand our Farm Share program,

so we've been able to serve more families

through Farm Share.

We also have expanded our community gardens exponentially.

So in 2017, I believe we had about 11 gardens,

and now, going into 2021,

we will end the year with 21 gardens.

So that is an incredible amount of growth for us.

We took on the Otsiningo Park community garden

that came under the Vines umbrella,

so we were able to serve 200 people

just in that garden alone.

Last year, with the pandemic, you know,

there was a huge demand for the Vines resources.

Our Green Thumb Workshops had to go online.

That actually served us very well

because we were able to reach 1500 people

with our resources that way.

So that was wonderful.

We also started our Build A Garden program.

That started, actually, six months early.

So we had planned it for last fall,

but with all the demand for garden plots, for food...

Food access was really, really hard last spring,

so we started building gardens in people's backyards.

We also have options for folks to have container gardens,

so that, you know, if you're in an apartment

and you just have a balcony,

you can still be growing your own produce.

So those are some of the great leaps and bounds

we've made at Vines.

We also expanded our youth program to be all-year,

so it goes the full academic year.

So that is really exciting.

Due to COVID, we had to go from 25 youths down to six,

but those six youth did the work of 25 youth,

and that was pretty incredible to see.

The new Vines headquarters will be located

about two blocks from where we are now,

at the Binghamton Urban Farm,

and we started a $150,000 capital campaign for that.

We are planning to break ground in May.

It'll be a community space,

where community members will be able to gather.

We'll have our cooking classes there.

I'm sure we'll have lots of workshops.

Right now, all of our produce, our coolers,

you know, our supplies for our different programs

are all over Broome County, frankly.

So we are...

We will be able to consolidate all of our supplies

into one area and make it so much more streamlined,

and we'll be much more able to serve the community better

from one location.

(bright music)

- My guest tonight is Amanda McIntyre,

who's the executive director

of the Conrad and Virginia Klee Foundation.

Amanda is a graduate of both SUNY Cortland

and Northeastern University.

Before joining Klee in 2019,

Amanda was the development director

with Pro Literacy Worldwide

and the Girl Scouts of NYPENN Pathways.

Amanda lives in Whitney Point

with her husband and daughter.

Welcome, Amanda.

- Thank you for having me.

- So you joined the Klee Foundation

after this project began,

but you'd done a lot of work

with nonprofits in the community.

So how did your experience help guide

your transition into this role?

- Right, so before I came to Klee Foundation,

I worked in development and fundraising

for local nonprofits,

starting locally with small nonprofits,

working in early childhood education,

then youth development...

From there, I went on to a larger regional organization,

and from there, to a national organization

that also did international work.

Each of those nonprofits gave me an opportunity

to learn about those issues,

whether it was childhood poverty

or lack of education in adults,

various issues that affect people and their families.

And I thought that was my path.

I thought that was my lane,

and I was very happy doing that work.

When the opportunity came up at Klee Foundation

to come back into the area that I was born and raised in,

I'm Broome County, I couldn't pass that by.

I really wanted to find a way closer

to the impact of the work.

And so now I'm on a different side of the table.

I was fundraising and raising funds.

And now I am part the process of distributing funds,

which has been really fascinating, rewarding work.

Think that my purpose here is connecting

opportunities and needs with resources,

and that's still where I find my inspiration and enjoy.

- That's exciting.

And so how does a project like this

fit into the the goals and objectives

of the Klee Foundation?

- So the mission of the Klee Foundation

is to support health and economic vitality in Broome County,

and we go about that in a variety of ways.

Poverty, really in all the ways that it shows up,

whether it's lack of transportation,

lack of healthcare, food insecurity, housing insecurity,

all of those things really is a threat

to lives and livelihoods in our region.

And that is why we wanted to be a part

of this project specifically.

So what I think is important about "Chasing the Dream,"

about projects like "Chasing the Dream"

is the opportunity to personalize poverty,

or whatever the challenge might be,

and tell those stories

and bring people in closer to that experience,

so that it might foster some empathy

and that empathy will lead to more deliberate

acts of kindness and support moving forward.

And that's why we wanted to be a part of this

and any other educational or awareness-type issues...

Or educational opportunities that can help

bring those stories to life for people

that might not have walked that road.

- I think that's a really progressive

and probably non-traditional kind of approach, right?

Because I think when most people think of foundations,

they think that a majority of your resources

are supporting the organizations that do the work

and not necessarily something like this,

which is more educational.

- There's a balance to that.

We absolutely support direct service/direct needs

as they arrive.

The pandemic gave us a lot of opportunities

to step in and fill gaps that were created.

But to pull back from there,

to create a broader opportunity for support,

to bring more people to the table,

opportunities to educate and just elevate situations

that exist in our community...

- So based on what you're saying,

it seems like there's a shift happening in philanthropy

in terms of kind of imagining what kind of role

philanthropic organizations can play

in impacting communities, right?

It's not just addressing immediate needs.

It's also supporting things like this,

which sort of help with some of that culture change

and some of that long-term change.

So what are you looking for

and what is your board looking for

in terms of proposals or project ideas that, you know,

you might be inspired to support?

- What I appreciate about the board's approach

is that we're very open.

We consider art as a key driver

of vitality and wellbeing in our community.

Education, workforce development,

obviously health and human services,

all of those things fall under that larger umbrella

of how to make a healthier, more vibrant community.

So we're very open to ideas and approaches,

and especially novel approaches

for how we can start to make those changes in our community.

There's a lot about things we can do.

There are levers we can pull that aren't only dollars,

that aren't only financial.

We can convene conversations.

Sometimes we have the fortune to work

with a number of partners that don't always have

the opportunity to interact with each other.

And we can bring those conversations together

and start to, you know...

When we're lucky, when the stars align,

we can see opportunities to rally a couple people

or a couple organizations around an area of need.

I think that there's a lot to be hopeful about,

looking forward,

and something that I think philanthropy can be a part of

is creating those spaces and opportunities

for conversation and connection

with people that don't know each other,

might have different opinions,

and might carry different experiences into the world.

I think we really need to work on rebuilding

that fabric of our community and our society.

So I'm excited to see that start to happen

because a connected community

is a more resilient and healthier community.

- Excellent.

Well, thank you so much for joining us tonight, Amanda.

It was great to speak with you about your work

and your vision for the community.

- Thank you so much,

and thank you for guiding us through this excellent series.

Thank you to the team at WSKG for what they have created.

I think it's been phenomenal.

Thank you.

- In our second season,

we featured a story about food deserts,

communities without reasonable access

to fresh food and groceries.

The north side of Binghamton had, for well over a decade,

been without a grocery store within walking distance.

When we filmed our story,

construction had just begun on a new community market

for the north side neighborhood.

The store is now open,

and we're happy to be able to provide this update.

(bright pop music)

- The north side of Binghamton has been

without a grocery store for over 20 years,

and about three and a half years ago,

the Broome County Council of Churches

was invited down to Utica to observe

a model that's been successful,

which is a non-profit grocery store,

where all of the proceeds from the grocery store

get rolled into their existing programs.

And we thought, with the condition of the north side

and its food desert status,

it would be perfect to try to replicate that model here

on the north side,

and the Greater Good Grocery store

is the realization of that.

(bright pop music)

In the planning phases of this project,

one of the biggest issues, one of the biggest hurdles,

was where was it going to be?

So, you know, we went all around the north side

looking for existing buildings,

and it was just by chance that this project was starting,

the Canal Plaza housing project.

And it was just really fortunate.

So we occupy one of the wings,

one of the bottom floor wings,

which is just over 5,000 square feet.

Our neighbors are Catholic Charities

and, actually, Binghamton Housing Authority

on the bottom floors,

and then there's 48 affordable housing apartments above us.

So it's just an incredible, incredible asset

to the community.

We actually have a supply agreement with the folks in Utica,

and all of the food that stocks the shelves

and the coolers and freezers of the grocery store

is purchased.

None of it is donated.

It's really important for the community to understand

that food donated to Chow

is not gonna be sold at the store.

All of the food is purchased.

I think one of the most exciting things

about the grocery store

is the ripple effect that it's gonna have,

not just in the north side of Binghamton,

but all throughout Broome County.

Every dollar of profit that's generated by the grocery store

is gonna get rolled back into the Broome County

Council of Churches,

which is gonna enrich its already running programs,

like Chow and Faith in Action.

So not only are we providing food access

on the north side of Binghamton,

but it's also going to ripple throughout Broome County

through programs that are already operating,

whether it's emergency food programs,

maintaining senior citizens' independence,

building wheelchair ramps,

or lowering incarceration and recidivism

through Jail Ministries.

The reception from the north side, I think,

it's gonna be one of those slow and steady kinds of things.

There's been so many different propositions,

so many different programs that have been proposed

to come here on the north side,

that I think it's gonna take time

for individuals to come in the store

and to see what it's about and communicate with us

changes that they'd like us to make

or inventory that they'd like to see.

It's my goal to really get into the community

and ask for their input.

I'd like this to be the north side grocery store,

and for them to take ownership of it.

- In nearly every episode of our series,

we featured first-person stories

from some of our neighbors

who are facing personal, economic, or social challenges,

but who continue to work toward the future

they envision for themselves and their families.

Internally here, we call these our "series dream segments"

because in every interview, we asked a simple question.

"What are your dreams?"

Here is "Chasing the Dream's" final dream segment.

(birds chirping)

- In this area, I've noticed that if you're in poverty,

you don't have the opportunity to not be.

Look in in the boardrooms,

look in the legislative rooms, look anywhere.

There's no one that looks like me.

I want to work for my food.

I want to be productive, but it's very, very hard.

And you know, it's a horrible revolving door of poverty.

And so I dream of that changing.

140 million people are struggling

in the richest country in the world, okay?

And we can't ignore that fact.

And with sub-par healthcare,

with unsafe and affordable housing,

we have to look at that.

We have to try to change that because it shouldn't be.

The moral revival is...

I mean, just like what it sounds like.

Morally, there's things that need to be done.

You know, there's things that need to be said,

systems that need to be changed,

so that people can come out of the poverty,

so that racism can end,

so that people that need healthcare can get it,

you know, and live in housing that's affordable and decent.

So a moral revival is for us to look into ourselves,

to actually see that there are things that are wrong

and do something to change it.

We're gonna continue to have the conversation.

We're gonna continue to set up rallies

and Zoom meetings and different forums to talk about this

and to formulate changes and to, you know, be active.

'Cause talking is just talking

until you actually do something.

- Well, that will bring our series to a close.

WSKG, myself, and the "Chasing the Dreams" producers

want to thank all of you who have watched and supported

our series over the last three years.

And we especially wish to thank the hundreds of individuals

and all of the organizations

who unselfishly opened their doors to us

and shared their stories.

And although this marks an end to our weekly series,

we plan to continue the Chasing the Dream Initiative

by periodically updating stories

and highlighting many of the people and places in our region

that work to make this corner of America a special place.

I'm Natasha Thompson,

and it's been my pleasure to be your host for this series,

and remember to never stop chasing your dreams.

(hopeful music)

♪ Dream, baby, dream

♪ Dream, baby, dream

♪ Dream, baby, dream

♪ Come on, dream, baby, dream

♪ Come on and dream, baby, dream ♪

♪ Gotta keep the light burning

♪ Come on, we gotta keep the light burning ♪

♪ Come on, we gotta keep the light burning ♪

♪ Come on, we gotta keep the light burning ♪

♪ Come on and dream, baby, dream ♪

♪ Gotta keep the fire burning

♪ Come on, gotta keep the fire burning ♪

♪ Come on, we gotta keep the fire burning ♪

♪ Come on and dream, baby, dream ♪

♪ Come on, open up your heart

♪ Come on and open up your heart ♪

♪ Come on and open up your heart ♪

♪ Come on, dream on, dream, baby, dream ♪

♪ Come on and open up your heart ♪

♪ Come on and open up your heart ♪

♪ Come on and open up your heart ♪

♪ Come on, dream om, dream, baby, dream ♪

♪ Come on, we gotta keep on dreamin' ♪

♪ Come on, we gotta keep on dreamin' ♪

♪ Come on, we gotta keep on dreamin' ♪

♪ Come on, dream on, dream, baby, dream ♪

♪ Come on, darlin', and dry your eyes ♪

♪ Come on, baby, and dry your eyes ♪

♪ Come on, baby, and dry your eyes ♪

♪ Come on, dream on, dream, baby, dream ♪

♪ I just wanna see you smile

♪ I just wanna see you smile

♪ Yeah, I just wanna see you smile ♪

♪ Come on, dream on, dream, baby, dream ♪

♪ Come on and open up your heart ♪

♪ Come on and open up your heart ♪

♪ Come on and open up your heart ♪

♪ Come on, dream on, dream, baby, dream ♪

♪ I just wanna see you smile

♪ I just wanna see you smile

♪ I just wanna see you smile

♪ Come on, dream on, dream, baby, dream ♪

♪ I just wanna see you smile

♪ I just wanna see you smile

♪ I just wanna see you smile

♪ Come on, dream on, dream, baby, dream ♪

♪ Come on and open up your heart ♪

♪ Come on and open up your heart ♪

♪ Come on and open up your heart ♪

♪ Come on, dream on, dream, baby, dream ♪

♪ Dream on, dream on, baby

♪ Come on, dream on, baby

♪ Come on, dream on, dream on, baby ♪

♪ Come on, dream on, dream, baby, dream ♪

(hopeful music swelling)

(music gently fading out)

- [Voiceover] WSKG thanks the following

for their support of this project.

The Conrad and Virginia Klee Foundation.

The Corning Incorporated Foundation.

M&T Bank.


And viewers like you.

Thank you.


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