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Judy Atchinson's A Stubborn Woman
by Judy Atchinson

A Stubborn Woman

A Daily Gazette community blog
QUEST leader's wanderings and musings

High crime rate in city; touching words of support

These are very sad figures but read them and try to change them. You, only you, and all the other yous can make a difference.

2011 -- Schenectady County had the highest rate of index crimes (murders, rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries, larcenies, and stolen cars) in the whole state of New York.

Schenectady’s rate per 100,000 residents was 3,509.2, Albany, which came in second, was 3,458.1, Rensselaer, No. 8, 2,923.

Higher crime rates than Manhattan, 3,192.6; the Bronx, 2,524.9; Brooklyn, 2,345.6; Queens, 1,779; and Staten Island, 1,444.4.

Outside of New York City, Schenectady County was the second-highest for violent crimes, 4,382.9 per 100,000, and third in crimes involving firearms, 80.4 per 100,000.

Let no one tell you how safe this city is. It simply is not true. This small city is simply seething with unrest and poverty and guns, and dispossessed youth. Yet we still persist in walking around and patting ourselves on the back. “Economic Development” being the consistent buzzword for God knows how many years. What about crime and homelessness and street gangs and HIV/AIDS and now arson. Youth based arson -- horrendous. And, of course, domestic violence.

Last Thursday, I received a phone call from a friend who was trying to find help for a young woman and her children who were in jeopardy from a male who was the father of at least one of her children. I called Ed Guider who runs an organization called “Stand Up Guys,” a group of men who stand up for and help abused women. I am going to use Ed’s quote to me to put this case into perspective for you:

“I was approached concerning a domestic violence situation in Schenectady in which the husband threatened to kill a wife and daughter with a shotgun. Although the police responded they felt unable to arrest the husband as he had fled the scene before they arrived. The police felt the law constrained them from an arrest under these circumstances unless they had an arrest warrant. The police have processed a warrant. It had been sitting on a judge’s desk waiting to be signed for several days.

These in-between times can often be the most dangerous for victims. Sources indicate to me that this is a frequent problem in Schenectady that judges handle these warrants in domestic violence cases as routine paper work, insensitive to the mortal danger presented by all too many offenders.

Schenectady could go a long way to decrease repeat domestic violence and provide accountability to offenders while enhancing the victims' safety by having all of our judges agree to process warrant requests expeditiously as the police department has done.”
-- Ed Guider, Schenectady “Stand Up Guys”

“When you have only two pennies in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one and a lily with the other.”
-- Chinese proverb

Standing behind us

For the past 3 weeks we have been soliciting letters and statements from folks who have been associated with QUEST for a while, and I enclosed two in this blog -- one short, one long.

The shorter of the two was written by Tina, whose daughter Tifa has been at QUEST for almost 15 years and is now our site coordinator and has 2 children, one five and one 11, the grandchildren of Tina, who now come daily to QUEST -- 3 generations, in fact, mother/grandmother- daughter/mother and sons/grandsons.

To Whom It May Concern:

QUEST has been a major part of my life. When my daughter found QUEST at 14 years old I never knew how it would not only help me, but help us as a family. QUEST gave us a safe place to grow and bond as a family. QUEST has helped us overcome major difficulties mother and daughters face. Without QUEST I don’t believe we would be in this relationship; we are close and trusting. And I know we would have never become friends. Thanks Judy.

Next is the longer one and it’s from someone who calls me his white mother.

Hey Judy,

I know this has got to be a huge shock to you to hear that I am in this kind of trouble. I’m so sorry, I wish I could tell you that I’m innocent in all this but I can’t lie to you. You’ve known me for so many years and whether you know it or not, you helped me through a lot of hard times in my life. I’ve always looked at you as a second mother to me, good times or bad you showed me you care. I wish people could see QUEST the way I & so many of your children have known it. It’s always been more than just a place to play and meet people. Aside from whatever activities you’ve entertained us with, we were and always will be family. You pushed me to pursue my dreams when I felt nobody believed in me. My passion for music would probably never be if you didn’t indulge me in the way that you have.

I’ve read your letter to the court so many times and I still can’t help but cry. As I write this, tears are running down my face. Judy, I love you and am so embarrassed to have come to you about this. I know I have played it off like I’m well put together but I have been fighting my demons by myself and the troubled little boy you knew still needs you. Don’t worry though, this is not going to break me. On the contrary I think it helped me realize how loved I am and helped me put some things in perspective. As long as you still have me, I would love to come home to QUEST and help you and our community as you’ve always done.

I think this time has taught me a lot and I believe I have more to offer QUEST and our children than I did before. From what I hear I may be gone for a few more months. I hope all is well and that you are holding up. I know that you are struggling to keep the program going. I will make something of myself someday soon and I promise you that QUEST will live on through me when, God forbid, you cannot any longer. You dedicated your life to the children that our community turns away from. I know there is times when you feel like you’re being taken advantage of but know that I love and appreciate you for everything. I miss you and I hope to see you soon.
-- Your Friend and Puerto Rican Son, Ray 3x

We now have 15 such notes and letters, and more coming, period. I never dreamed I would be getting such a response. This way we can stand up (with Ed) and say, "This is who stands behind his, this is truly who we are. Not it our words but in their words. Thank you.”

And then there was last Wednesday. Coming out of Denny’s I was stopped by a young woman with a young son. She was 31 and her son was 4. She remembered me; I was not so good at remembering her. I knew her as a child and a teen, she was now a mother and an adult.

But she came up to me and said:

“Judy I saw the interview you did on channel 6 news and a bunch of us are getting together and you spoke about having to close, we are not going to let that happen. You helped so many of us and now it’s our turn to help you. Throw a party, we will come and pay to get in -- we will raise money -- we will volunteer. When I was growing up I was going through a lot of stuff. You helped me get through, me and others, we are organizing. We owe you so much.”

And day by day they appear at QUEST’s door carrying the mantra, “We’ve come to help.” Even if I must close I will never never forget. It was not for nothing I did this. I made a difference.

And, finally, driving through my local McDonalds, I bought a very unhealthy lunch/dinner combo. “One large fries and one large frozen lemonade, please.” I am inordinately fond of their frozen lemonades. When I came to the “Please Pay Here” window, the young lady said, “$2.24 please.” “Wait a minute,” I responded “that can’t be right, I ordered large fries, and a large lemonade.”

“Nope” she responded, “dollar fries and a dollar drink; we are having a special today for a special lady.” I am surrounded by such love, I am so lucky.

“My favorite piece of music is the one we hear all the time if we are quiet.”
-- John Cage

“It is the sound of the world singing. Everyone in unison singing, singing, singing -- on and on eternally.”

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