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  • Stephen D'Agostino

The Food Shelf Prepares Gift Boxes for the Holiday

I should be famous. Writing this column has revealed to me, and possibly you, that I have a fantastic talent, a rare skill that people have sought for millennia. Simply by writing about the weather, I have the power to change it.

No snow? Warm temperatures? I can fix both just by writing about them. Just read last week’s column for proof.

I know these strange pandemic days will leave an indelible mark in the memories of children. However, being young grants them the ability to look at such a massive snowfall as more of a miracle or at least special. Maybe some adults, too, took the time to be awed.

Another 5 or so inches of snow fell after I took this photo. The storm of December 17 is the biggest single snowfall I have experienced.

Before last week, the most snow I had seen in one storm was from the Blizzard of '78. I don't know what impact it at on Vermont, but in Massachusetts, the heavy snowfall—the heavy snow—and the high winds brought the state to a standstill. School was closed for a week. Since travel was impossible, my brother and I could sled from one huge snow mound across the street and halfway up the mound on the other side.

Last Thursday, I trudged through the snow in my front yard and proceeded to lose the yardstick as I tried to measure the depth. After that futile attempt, I spent an hour or so as the sun set shoveling. Though there was a lot of snow, it was easy to move.

While out there, my new neighbor, Brian Cali, walked by on the plowed road. He couldn’t resist seeing the impact of the storm, especially then when we’d entered that magical hour of the day.

That Brian was able to walk on a plowed road is a huge testament to our road crew. Thanks to Glen Towne, Mark Biathrow, and Bob Taylor for clearing the roads in such tricky circumstances.

I hope that in forty-two years, people—probably not the road crew--will look back with fond memories of this extreme storm in an extreme year. If I live for another forty-two years, I may not remember much at that age, but I think I will remember this.

I didn’t venture out until Saturday when I went to the Ottauquechee Health Foundation to pick up bags of knitted and crocheted hats, scarves, and mittens to be distributed at the Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf.

I’d seen most of these items before on the OHF’s two collection days, but seeing all those beautiful colors and deep textures of the stitches, and knowing their next stop was someone’s head or neck or hands, made me so thankful for all those who donated their time and talent to this project. There’s still time, by the way. Visit for details.

I dropped the bags off with Sara Norcross and then visited Diane Bennett at the Food Shelf. The purpose of the visit was to drop off bags of cookies I made for the clients.

As I drove up Tyson Road, my mind went back to 1978 again. That was the year I first started making cookies for Christmas (or for anything, really). A lot of Christmases have passed between then and now. Some years I had my parents’ kitchen to make cookies. Some years, I had an oven only slightly larger than an Easy Bake, some years I borrowed friends’ kitchens when I traveled home for the holidays, and some years, like this year, I had a system in place to make, bake, cool, and package cookies. Usually, I give them to friends and family. This year, it was nice to give baking a sense of purpose. This old dog can learn new Christmas tricks.

The storm presented some logistical challenges for the Food Shelf in preparing the holiday meals. Diane took some time from preparation to jot down the names of folks and businesses who helped just this month: the Woodstock Farmers’ Market, Brownsville Butcher & Pantry, Green Mountain Alpine Meats, Green Mountain Smokehouse, folks who dropped by with fresh eggs to distribute, the Reading Recreation Commission for raising funds from the wreath sale, people who came by to unload the Vermont Food Bank truck, and those who have helped and will help distribute boxes of food.

I know this list of Food Shelf thank yous is partial. Every person and every business that helps the Food Shelf deserves praise. I am working to put together a bigger list, and I will include that here in a later column. If you want to help out, you can still do so by making out a check to The Reading-West Windsor Food Shelf and mailing it to PO Box 384 Brownsville, VT 05037.

Finally, thanks to everyone who bought tickets for the Reading Historical Society raffle. The society raised $150. Thanks to Diane Bennett (where does she find the time?) for making the centerpiece, and congratulations to Jon Springer for winning it.

Now, I am going back to baking, listening to Christmas music, drinking more eggnog than I should. And I’m going to be thankful at this time of year. As strange as 2020 has been, I hope your Christmas is bright, happy, and hopeful.

That’s the news from Reading. See you next week.

This column originally appeared in The Vermont Standard on December 22, 2020.

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