M-ARK Project now MARK Group as part of 30th anniversary changes

The M-ARK Project, a fixture in the region for parts of four different decades, will kick off its 30th anniversary this year with a name change, a new logo, a new website and a gala event in May to honor the group’s founders.
Effective March 1, the M-ARK Project, Inc. will officially adopt a new dba, the MARK Group, losing the mid-word hyphen that reminded people of its origins in Margaretville and Arkville. MARK President, JR Lawrence, said the group’s formal corporate name would remain un-changed but that the new dba more accurately reflects the nature of the work that the Rural Preservation Company does and encompasses the total geographic area the group now serves.
“We started in 1978 to tackle a few projects in Arkville and Margaretville that needed to be done,” said Lawrence. “Today we provide on-going services to five municipalities including Arkville and Margaretville, but also taking in Fleischmanns, Andes and Roxbury, as well as all of the other hamlets in the Town of Middletown.”
Lawrence went on to note that the group still takes on major projects that are labeled priorities in the communities MARK serves and pointed to the group’s active role in the construction of a new pavilion in Margaretville last year as an example. “But that is now only part of what we do,” said Lawrence. “We own and/or manage 47 apartment units, administer dozens of different grant programs, and provide technical assistance to municipalities, organizations and businesses seeking to locate or expand in the area.”
Joan Lawrence-Bauer, MARK’s fifth executive director, said that through the years, efforts have been made to keep a healthy balance between its social and housing missions and its economic development efforts. “About half of our staff time is spent in managing and maintaining affordable housing,” she said. “That means providing apartments people can rent, grants people can get to make repairs on their own homes and grants to help first-time homebuyers purchase and fix up their own homes.”
On the economic development side, MARK’s efforts range from managing a revolving loan fund for small businesses to recruiting and coordinating new capital investment from outside the region. “We just finished the sewer lateral connection program in Fleischmanns and are working on Main Street grants that gives businesses money to fix their facades and structural repairs.”
MARK has brought more than $15 million dollars into the community during its 30 years, and completed projects like a new water system in Arkville, a community parking lot in Margaretville, initiation of the Pakatakan Farmers’ Market now held at the Round Barn each summer, and supported local organizations from local libraries and chambers of commerce to Legion post and Fleischmanns baseball teams, to support for the Margaretville Hospital and school.

Anniversary year ahead
In preparation for its 30th anniversary, MARK gave its office a face-lift last year and upgraded the technology used by staff members to accomplish the organization’s goals. A new logo has been adopted and a new website is in design stages now and is expected to launch in April.
“The main event will be a gala dinner scheduled for May 31,” said Lawrence-Bauer, “and we hope everyone will save the date and plan to attend.” The event will be spearheaded by a committee of local volunteers and will honor the community leaders who helped start and sustain MARK through its first five years.
“We talk about vision and future planning today,” Lawrence-Bauer said, “but these people did a whole lot more than talk. The business community really stepped up and took a huge leadership role then and none of our work could have happened without them.” Businesses noted as early and significant supporters of MARK were the Margaretville Telephone Company, the Margaretville Department Store, Kass Inn, Alta Industries, Titan Drilling, and the Catskill Mountain News, among many others.
Together with individual leaders like Dawn, Larry and Karen Roadman, Tom Smith and Doug and Cathy Hinkley, MARK’s first executive director, Lewis Kolar was able to create significant positive change within the first five years of the group’s existence. “Our communities were really down and out in those tough early years,” said Lawrence-Bauer, “but instead of giving up, people came together and worked to reverse the decline.”
She noted that the economic times facing the region today are not unlike those of 1978. “We believe that the best is yet to be for our region, despite current economic woes,” said Lawrence-Bauer. “We will use this year to go ‘back to the future’ so to speak; looking back over the successes of the last 30 years and using them as springboards for success going forward.” More information on MARK and its programs is available by calling the office at 586-3500 or e-mailing joan@markproject.org. Those who want to be invited to MARK’s 30th anniversary gala should e-mail iris@markproject.org or reserve a space by calling the office.