Saturday, October 8, 2016

Altoona Convocation Immersion Excursion- Day 1

So... who wouldn’t want to start their day with Ice Cream?

Well, probably the Lactose Intolerant but... because this was the beginning of a special 3-day trip... and because my digestive system is very hospitable to lactose... I jumped right in with lunch at the Meyer Dairy.
Oh sure, others were having hot dogs and cheeseburgers.  There were even the sensible among us who had chicken salad on toast-  or on lettuce!-  but I dove into the deep-end with a double scoop of Pumpkin and Grape Nut.  There is nothing like eating ice cream made from the milk of cows who are grazing in the pasture behind the store.  Now, in State College there is also “The Creamery” which is, I guess, somewhat of a rival to Meyer’s.  And I’ve had their ice cream before (of course), and it is good.  But when in Rome State College, you go with the flow of your hosts.... so Meyer’s it was.  Delicious.
As good as the ice cream was,  so was the conversation delightful:  several members of the laity and clergy came out to join around the table and to talk, informally about any number of things ranging from the Vatican’s recent gathering with Anglican leaders... to cathedral renovations in different dioceses ... to what company makes the best gluten-free bread.   It was an easy and nice beginning to a busy day.
note that I’ve already taken a bite out of this even before I could get out the camera

We caravanned over to Tyrone- The Rev. Gene Tucker of St. John’s Huntingdon (a.k.a. Friar Tuck), The Rev. Jack Hoffer, Deacon, of Trinity, Tyrone, and I- through some of the prettiest farm land I have ever seen.  Much of it is state-owned land used for agricultural and livestock experimentation and development .  The farms are set up against the foothills of the mountain ridge and the valleys are fertile and verdant.  Red barns, white silos, cows grazing, a lazy hawk in the sky... you get it. Beautiful.

We arrived at the American Eagle Paper Mill in Tyrone in time to don our safety classes and ear plugs for a tour of this facility, led by Clarke Adleman, part-owner of the company. American Eagle  makes new paper from recycled paper- 300 tons of it a day- in a 100 year old factory which has been retrofitted to accommodate the re-cycling process and to use gas-fired boilers instead of the former coal fired furnaces.  The paper plant shut down years ago and re-opened in 2003 with contracts to make and sell paper made from recycled goods.  Today, the plant employs 240 people who work 12 hour shifts but work 4 and 3 days per week, alternately, and get one continuous 7 day period off per month.  That’s a pretty sweet deal.  According to Clarke, it’s a small operation, but it looked pretty impressive to me.  The American Eagle Paper Mill provides all of the copy paper for the Commonwealth of PA government and also for NYC government.    We walked, mesmerized, though the factory, watching old paper ground into a pulp slurry, rolled along yards and yards of rollers getting the water squeezed out of it, run on a belt through big dryers, collected onto giant spools and wrapped, labeled and transported to the 50,000 square foot warehouse.   I felt like I was watching a Mr. Rogers or Sesame St. film reel about a factory tour up close.  I had a sudden appreciation for the many gifts that God gives us and for the intricacy of industry.  I was pleased when Clarke told us that he loved coming to work every day.

Clarke giving us the pre-ear plug part of the tour

Onto Altoona.

Our first stop was to visit Improved Dwellings for Altoona (IDA)  where our own Jane Gable (St. Luke’s, Altoona) serves on the board. IDA is an umbrella organization started in the late 1960s by an ecumenical group of ministers who wanted to create affordable housing for Altoona residents and to combat, in a constructive (sic) way, some of the creeping blight and disrepair in the city.  24 housing corporations make up IDA which has 32 number of housing “projects” in Greater Altoona containing 982 units and housing 1,400 people.  We got to see an historical retrospective video about IDA and then we went to tour one of the facilities- Evergreen Manors.  Jane Gable joined our happy throng and we met Angel, the Assistant Manager of Evergreen Manors and Doug, the Board Chairman and got to see the oldest (first) IDA project.  Specifically, we toured the After School Program that was in session on this Friday afternoon and I reveled in being in a room of 25 school aged kids all engaged in a fun game of trivia.  Shouts, giggles, squirming, silly, happy kids.  It was great.

We went across the street to meet Joe Reed at the Miracle League baseball stadium.  The Miracle League is now in its 10th year in Altoona.  Joe, the local founder of this international program, felt a strong call to establish the Miracle League in Altoona that serves children with Special Needs by providing a special playing surface and specially trained coaches for the game of baseball.  We toured the facility and then watched a short video about the league which did not leave a dry eye in the house.  The joy of seeing children on walkers, in wheelchairs, and literally crawling from third base to home plate is a moving and humbling experience.  I am so grateful to Joe and all of the 200 volunteers who give of their time to create a safe and supportive sporting environment for nearly 100 children each spring and summer.

Not done yet.

We headed over to St. Luke’s to enjoy 2 of their evening programs:  First Friday (a monthly pot luck held at the rectory) and The Beacon, a Friday evening gym/socialization/supper/ arts and crafts program for kids 12-20.  Not a dull moment.

I enjoyed conversation with a bunch of folks at the First Friday event at the rectory including Rector Josh Shipman and his husband Tim Inman, several parishioners, a couple of awesome organists, an artist, a doula, a young grandma who cares for her 6 grandchildren full time (!), and many others who had gathered for this monthly time of really great food and fellowship.  Josh, Tim and I enjoy following each other’s vegan cooking exploits, so I was especially interested in trying Josh’s pulled “pork” (home-smoked jack fruit) and his pasta marinara (a good measuring stick of any cook, no?)
I was not disappointed... Delish.  Also, Josh’s fresh pickles- spicy and not spicy- were really great.  I preferred the spicy ones.  Food Review over.

Friar Tuck making a feline friend

The Beacon was rocking, next door, in the church.  This Friday night social gathering for kids is just incredible.  There were probably 75 kids playing dodgeball, ping pong, pool, coloring, chatting, and generally hanging out with adult supervision in several different spaces of St. Luke’s.  Participants checked in on laptops with a scanning devise that recognized each of them, and then were allowed to move through the areas of the building set up to accommodate their social needs-  Lots and lots of staff circulated in their teal t-shirts, and it was clear that the staff and the kids all knew and cared about each other.  It was great to see.  A meal is included in the program that runs from 7-10 PM and we beat it out of there just as dinner (Pizza!) was being delivered.

I made it to my hotel.
I spent 1/2 an hour with 3 trips to the front desk trying to get my room key to work properly.  And now... that this is done, I’m hitting the hay.

Altoona Convocation-  you’ve got it going on.

Tomorrow, I’m going to have my introduction to all-things-railroady.  (It’s de rigeur in Altoona.)

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