MARK Group celebrates 30 years of service

By Jill Ribich
The MARK Group celebrated its 30th anniversary with a gala dinner and party at the upper lodge of the Belleayre Ski Center Saturday evening. The event was attended by over 150 past and present board members, founders, supporters, and recipients of the work of the MARK Group.
The MARK Project began in 1978 as a community development agency following a fire that burned Kelly’s Hotel and destroyed five other businesses on Main Street Margaretville leaving an already scared downtown desolate and the community in crises. Arkville was not faring much better with buildings in decline and a water system that could not deliver potable water to the residents. Vinnie Giacci, Frank Mann and Ed Perazone, who had started Alta Industries, shared a vision for revitalization and economic development with Pat Sheehan at NBT Bank, and Larry and Dawn Roadman of the Margaretville Telephone Company. They took their vision of a major public/private partnership to Mayor Bill Hubbell of the Village of Margaretville and Dan Morse of the Town of Middletown. Lynn Johnson became involved to insure that Arkville’s needs were also addressed. They all agreed that in order for these communities to survive an economic development agency with a paid executive director was critical. In 1978 the first board of directors of the M-ARK Project was formed. Dick Sanford from the Catskill Mountain News became the board’s first president with members including Bill Hubbell, Dan Morse, Lynn Johnson of Titan Drilling, Tom Smith, Larry Roadman and Hank Wern of the Margaretville Department Store as well as Jeanette Boxer of Kass Inn, Bob Lange of Lange’s Bar and Grill and Edna Gavette, legal secretary to Herman Gottfried, Cathy Hinkley and Ivan Miller. These visionaries gave it all—time, talent and money—to establish the region’s premier non-profit organization to breathe economic life back into a struggling community. New York State Assemblyman, Clifford Crouch was on hand to present Certificates of Appreciation to these founders and first board members. Crouch also presented current MARK Group Executive Director Joan Lawrence-Bauer with a Legislative Resolution honoring her for her work with MARK.
Following a slide presentation Lawrence-Bauer gave a history of the organization. Every day MARK provides and maintains 42 apartments that are rented by low-income families and seniors. Grants have been provided to help low income families fix up their houses and purchase their first homes. Other families were helped to hook up to new water systems. Emergency loans were provided to people in crisis and to connect people to other services in the county and region.
Loans have been given to local entrepreneurs to start or build their businesses and other businesses were aided in developing business plans and programs that helped them secure funding from other sources. MARK as provided Main Street grant funding to Margaretville business owners and worked tirelessly in Fleischmanns to help community leaders there kick-start their revitalization.
Grants requests have been written for dozens of programs that did everything from starting up new cooperatives to staging major events. Grants have been obtained for saving and restoring historic buildings and even starting a Vintage Baseball team.
MARK has provided technical support to libraries, museums, Chambers of commerce, non-profit organizations and municipalities that could not always find taxpayer money to achieve their goals. They have worked with CICS in Margaretville to raise money for a new pavilion, helped bring movies back to Main Street, spent time with both Plattekill and Bobcat ski centers on new development options and organized the Catskills Connection for Health and Wellness.
Since 1978, this organization has brought more than $21 million in outside investment to the area. Said Lawrence-Bauer, “When people aren’t sure where to turn, they call MARK. We always try to help. Some folks think we take on too much and others point to what we didn’t do. Getting it right is never easy. But for 30 years, a small staff, working with dozens of dedicated board members and very generous donors, has worked to respond to the area’s needs. As we celebrate our anniversary, we will continue to do whatever we can to improve the quality of life for those who live and work in our community”. She also expressed appreciation to all of the people who have helped MARK achieve incredible success over the past 30 years.
JR Lawrence, explained the new name of the organization, MARK Group, better represents the outreach to other communities; having expanded to include the villages of Andes and Roxbury in its economic development efforts. He then presented a gift on behalf of the board to Lawrence-Bauer, who is stepping down as executive director. The custom printed book, prepared by Jill Ribich of Catskill Images, includes photographs of the accomplishments of the MARK Group over the four years that Lawrence-Bauer has served as executive director accompanied by quotes from many of the people with whom she has worked. A new executive director will be named later this month.
Adding to the festivities of the evening were musical performances by Jenn Gambatese and Kent Brown. Gambatese, who plays Jane in “Tarzan” on Broadway and Marie in “Is He Dead” brought down the house with her incredible voice both before the program and after dinner. Music for dancing was provided by Blues Maneuver.