Glenn Sanders believes everyone needs respect.
"I'm a psychologist," said Sanders, who lives in the town of Schoharie. "And I tell you the need for respect is a fundamental need."
Schoharie has been filling that need for a couple years now. The movement began in 2016, with red "Respect for All" buttons throughout the county and the Sanders-authored "Encouraging Respect for All" resolution adopted by the Schoharie County Board of Supervisors in February 2017.
"Respect for All" is the message on a barn off Interstate 88 in Schoharie County. (Courtesy Lisa Zaccaglini)
The campaign, designed to boost respect and tolerance and boot prejudice and discrimination, has another public showcase. Since last autumn, motorists on Interstate 88 have seen a large red-and-white "Respect for All" wooden "quilt" on the side of a barn.
The 8-by-8-foot "quilt board" was painted by Schoharie County residents and artists Mike Shuster and Lisa Zaccaglini. The sign is not a part of the celebrated Schoharie County Quilt Barn Trail, which has decorated many rural buildings. It's just another place for the message.
"It seems bigotry and divisiveness are so palatable in the air," said Shuster, who along with his wife, Zaccaglini, operates the Mu Mu Muesli food store in Sharon Springs.
"It's just kind of an important message now," Zaccaglini added. "It's important for people going by on I-88 to see Schoharie County stands for that."
The campaign is a group effort. Sanders, the artists and principals in the new Institute for Rural Vitality at the State University of New York at Cobleskill believe the buttons, signs and overall message will help economic development efforts.
Shuster wants the message to speak to people. He wants them to know people of all faiths and all lifestyles are welcome in Schoharie.
The hand-painted sign also includes the words "First in Nation" and "Resolution 28," the "Respect" resolution number. It's also decorated with quilt-like designs.
People driving southwest on I-88 will see the sign if they watch for the following landmarks. Sanders said as drivers travel toward Cobleskill, they will eventually come to the top of a large hill that offers a panoramic view of the valley below.
At this point, the Route 30 bridge will be overhead. A cellphone tower will be the right side of the road; the blue-gray barn with the "Respect" sign will be on the left.
There are lights on the sign at night.
"The 'Respect for All' theme is a key component to the county's messaging to the rest of the world as it suggests that our historic Main Streets and beautiful open spaces are places to live, work and play for everyone," said Jason Evans, director of the Institute for Rural Vitality.
Evans believes the "Respect" signs and philosophy could become part of the way Schoharie County markets itself to the rest of the world.
"I think maybe something like this might be unexpected of a small rural community, but I think it really speaks to the core values of the people who live here," Evans said. "If visitors begin seeing this message over and over again on signs and in businesses, they begin associating it with us. And that's how good branding works."
SUNY Cobleskill President Marion A. Terenzio said the college shares the ideas behind the resolution and the "Respect" campaign.
"We are deeply committed to showing respect for everyone in our county and beyond, and support efforts to further than message," Terenzio said in a news release.
Diversity, Sanders said, is important.
"There is a substantial body of research showing when you have a lot of diversity in a community, it represents an opportunity to see things from different perspectives," Sanders said, "and use that additional information to build positive action and plans."
Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 518-395-3124 or at [email protected].