Debating Effective Philanthropy

This spring, for the sixth straight year, Binghamton students will grapple with how to give money away. It’s a great problem to have, but as students tell me every year, it’s not as easy as it looks. In the undergraduate class, I teach, Philanthropy and Civil Society, students have $10,000 to donate to local organizations, provided to them by the Learning by Giving Foundation. Public administration graduate students, too, will be doing philanthropy, using money they raise through the annual “Party with a Purpose.” It’s all part of the University’s Philanthropy Incubator, which emphasizes the central role that giving time and money plays in community life, and preparing students for lives of active citizenship.

In deciding how to give the money away the students’ debates center around one primary question “what is effective philanthropy?” It is a great time to be engaged in this work, because so many people have been debating what it means to do philanthropy well. Stanford Social Innovation Review provides a regular source of articles, blog posts and podcasts; charity rating services, such as Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau/Wise Giving Alliance provide criteria for evaluating giving opportunities (and blog about these issues as well); and the Center for Effective Philanthropy raises questions about what it takes for donors (foundations, in most cases) to do their job well.

In addition, the ethicist Peter Singer and the charity rating organization Give Well have developed a philosophy they call “effective altruism,” which encourages giving based on rigorous evaluation and other quantifiable measures of effectiveness.   Lastly, the New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, who has regularly used his column to get us to think about philanthropy, has published a new book (with Sheryl WuDunn) on this topic, A Path Appears, (PBS debuted a new series this week based on the book). I like the book and am using it in my class this semester. It provides a valuable overview of many big themes in contemporary philanthropy. I credit Kristof, too, for introducing me to one last source of information about philanthropy, another book I use in my class The Power of Half, which tells the story of a family’s decision to sell their home and use half the proceeds for international philanthropy.

So, what is effective philanthropy? Is there a single answer? I like the sources I listed above because they ask good questions about our philanthropic choices, and they have led me to think about philanthropy differently. All good. Here’s what I worry about, though: The debates about effective philanthropy rarely lead to Binghamton or to Upstate New York, for that matter.

The effective altruism movement recommends that we limit our giving to organizations with rigorously demonstrated results in which the impact of individual donations is quantifiable and assessed as making a difference. For Give Well, at present, that means four organizations…in the world. Kristof & WuDunn take a broader view, and also embrace the importance of giving to organizations that can show meaningful results (which I agree are VERY important). They highlight the work of social entrepreneurs many of whom do great work; in many cases, high-profile organizations led by people with high social capital, extensive social networks and schooled at Ivy League institutions. My concern is that these profiles are not representative of those who are making a difference in our community.

While Give Well’s rigorous standards and Kristof and WuDunn’s book provide valuable ways for us to reflect on our giving choices they rarely include the kind of small, workmanlike organizations that build the Binghamton community (and other small communities around the country). These organizations are led by dedicated, professional staff, and too often in Kristof & WuDunn’s book they are dismissed as well-intended but lacking in professional skills. That critique is over-stated, and MPA programs like ours are helping to add skilled professionals to the local nonprofit sector.

Our local nonprofit organizations are essential elements in building civil society, creating bonds of social capital. They reflect what the economist Lester Salamon calls “individual initiative in the public good.” Without them our community would be considerably poorer. Further, my research (with Professor Kristina Lambright) looks at the challenges small nonprofit organizations face in quantifying the results of their work (see examples here and here). Nearly all human service organizations in the six counties in South Central New York we studied embrace some forms of performance measurement, which means they can tell us something about the results of their work. Performance measurement is imperfect but improving.

The lesson for me is that there is no one perfect donation, no one way to make the right giving decision. For me, effective philanthropy must start with the valuable role nonprofit organizations play in places like Broome County, and be followed by information—information about performance, the experience of the people the organization is trying to help, what we know about community needs and the best ways to address particular social problems.

So, as we start another semester of philanthropy at Binghamton University, I say to our students, have at it. Show us all how you make good giving decisions. And after you graduate, do more and change the world.

David Campbell, Ph.D.
Associate Professor and Chair
Department of Public Administration
College of Community and Public Affairs
Binghamton University

On the Value of Stories

Last month, I attended SUNY’s first system-wide diversity conference in Albany along with over 300 other faculty, staff, and students. While the conference had many inspiring moments (the SUNY Cortland Gospel choir, Dr. Kerry Ann Rockquemore, among others), the session that had the most impact on me, and my work, was that of Drew Kahn, Professor of Theater at SUNY Buffalo State.

Drew is the founder of The Anne Frank Project, which “uses storytelling as a vehicle for community building, conflict resolution, and identity exploration. Inspired by the wisdom of Anne Frank, AFP surfaces and shares stories stifled by oppression”. In 2006, Kahn produced a play with an actress portraying Anne Frank, and a second, Rwandan girl Anana, narrating alongside. This play was the beginning of The Anne Frank Project, which continues to inspire and educate young people throughout the world through storytelling.

Just after this initial success, Kahn was invited by Carl Wilkens to travel to Rwanda. He had never been. Wilkens was the only American to stay in Rwanda during the 1994 genocide, sending his young family to safety in Burundi while he stayed to help orphaned children. Before the two men departed, Wilkens promised that Kahn’s heart would be filled and broken every single day. It was. Since then, Kahn has taken a dozen Buffalo State students to Rwanda every January. They leave as students, and return as adults. As you can imagine, the experience is life changing. Kahn believes that we have to push our students to the limit so they can navigate the complexities of their lives. Many of the students who have traveled with Kahn have gone on to produce important works that educate young people on issues of social justice and equity.

And so, events do converge. The evening I returned from the conference I went to my local library. As I approached the checkout counter, I looked down to see Paul Rusesabagina’s audio book, An Ordinary Man on the shelf. Rusesabagina was the manager of the Mille Collines, the hotel on which the movie Hotel Rwanda was based. I slowly swapped his book for the one I was looking forward to reading, knowing that I too was about to open my heart to breaking.

I listened to the book over the course of the following week. I didn’t take any calls on my commutes to work or home, I burned it on my computer so I could listen to it on headphones while I cleaned the house. The story, narrated by Dominic Hoffman, was poignant, unimaginable, inspiring, and heartbreaking: neighbors who had friendly cookouts with each other one day, went to murdering each other the next. Wives who killed their husbands in their beds. Vicious bloodshed continued for 100 days. While the violence seemed to be sparked by a singular event, it was the results of a slow, systematic radio campaign whose hatred only escalated. The Rwandan path toward genocide emulated all of those before or since: structured, systematic, and sponsored, developing over time. Genocides happen because good people choose not to act.

“The other thing you have to understand was that the message crept into our national consciousness very slowly. It did not happen all at once. We did not wake up one morning to hear it pouring out of the radio at full strength. It started with a sneering comment, the casual use of the term “cockroach,” the almost humorous suggestion that Tutsis should be airmailed back to Ethiopia. Stripping the humanity from an entire group of people takes time. It is an attitude that requires cultivation, a series of small steps, daily tending.” 

–Paul Rusesabagina, An Ordinary Man

The Anne Frank Project reminds us that we have an obligation to share our stories, even if they are uncomfortable to tell. By sharing our stories, Kahn means speaking up when we think policy might be made without taking in all of the facts, and people, into consideration: when we are yet at another meeting, or speaking with another parent at a curricular event, or even on social media. We know this. We say this. But we need to be self-assured in practicing it.

Joann Lindstrom, MPA ’07
Director of Recruitment & Internship Placement
Department of Public Administration
Binghamton University

Is Fracking Coming to the Southern Tier? And Are Municipalities Prepared?

Two articles published in the December 7, 2014 edition of the Press and Sun Bulletin suggest that high volume hydraulic fracturing of natural gas wells (aka “fracking”) may soon be a reality for the Southern Tier, and that municipalities are not prepared to take advantage of the opportunity. Yes, you heard me right, take advantage of the opportunity. I’m not making that statement because I am pro-fracking, but because those who are may find that the recent court decision that allowed the Village of Dryden to ban fracking within its borders has interpreted New York’s Oil and Gas Act in such a way that municipalities that have zoning must explicitly allow fracking within their zoning ordinances if they want it to occur, not explicitly prohibit it if they do not want it to occur. This language creates an important distinction between New York and our neighbor to the south Pennsylvania, where municipalities where the default interpretation is that fracking is permitted unless explicitly prohibited within certain zones.

According to the Press and Sun article, “Fracking in N.Y. would face local zoning hurdles”, at present no Southern Tier zoning laws cover fracking although the towns of Conklin and Chenango are in the process of revising their zoning ordinances.

What can we learn from the Pennsylvania experience? Despite the difference in the default interpretation of state Oil and Gas laws, there is much we can learn from how PA municipalities have dealt with fracking. For the most part, these lessons will have to be learned not from our closest neighbors in the Northern Tier of PA, but from the southwest region of the state. Because the Northern Tier municipalities do not have zoning, they have no ability to restrict drilling within their borders. However, many of the municipalities in Washington and Greene Counties do have zoning ordinances and have written specific drilling ordinances to restrict where drilling can occur. Additionally, some of these municipalities have specified not only where drilling is a “permitted use” but zones where drilling is a “conditional use” or can be done under “special exception”.

Interviews that I conducted with local government officials revealed significant variation in the ways that drilling has been managed. There are three factors that underlie these varying responses: 1) expectations of what local government will or will not do, 2) whether or not a municipality has zoning, and 3) equity issues associated with the costs and benefits of drilling. The first and second factors are very closely intertwined. In municipalities that do not have zoning there is a very clear expectation that local government will not interfere in private property decisions. In municipalities with zoning, local government expectations include protecting the health and welfare of its citizens, being a source of information about drilling, interceding with gas companies when there are problems, promoting responsible drilling, and monitoring drilling activity. The expectation that extended to municipalities with and without zoning was that the local government would take care of the roads.

With respect to the third factor, municipalities were more likely to create a drilling ordinance when the costs of drilling within the community were likely to extend to those who were not going to receive the economic benefits of drilling. The costs or problems associated with drilling were described fairly uniformly and seemed to have little bearing on whether a municipality decided to restrict drilling. The most commonly mentioned problems were truck traffic, road damage, dust, and noise. Much less frequently mentioned were issues related to water and pollution (air or water), issues that dominate the discussion in New York.

There were other things that government officials from municipalities that have experience with drilling agreed upon. One was that drilling has been a net positive for their communities. Second was that there was a tremendous learning curve in how to deal with drilling in the five to seven years since drilling began.

New York is in a fortunate position in many respects. Local municipalities that do not want to experience drilling have the option of banning it outright (this is not an option in Pennsylvania). Those that want to take advantage of the economic opportunities have the time to decide where and how drilling will take place. Finally, New York municipalities should not have to learn by trial and error as Pennsylvania municipalities did; rather they can learn from the Pennsylvania experience.

For more information about my research on local government capacity and natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania, feel free to contact me at

How Do You Practice Self Care?

It’s the end of the semester. We’ve gotten through Thanksgiving and the December holidays are ahead of us. It should be an exciting time of year, right? Right, except for the pressure that comes from all of these things.

As I walk through the University Downtown Center and greet colleagues and students alike, there are a few common denominators, the look of exhaustion and the answers you get when you ask them how they are it’s “busy”, “stressed”, “overwhelmed”. Tis the season, right? In the MSW and HDEV classes that I am teaching this semester I have done my best to periodically check in with the students and ask what they are doing for their own self-care. Some of them are incorporating it nicely, others give me the understandable, “what self care, I am too busy”.

In the College of Community and Public Affairs we are training students to help others through Human Development, Social Work, Student Affairs, Public Administration and Doctoral Students who will one day teach. I fear that for many students though, helping themselves gets lost in the vision of helping others. I speak from experience as I suggest this.

As I have shared in my previous blog, I am a graduate of HDEV and the MSW programs at Binghamton University, I can speak to the rigor that I encountered as I went through both programs. They both took up a lot of time with classes, practicums and field placements. While I was a student I was not great at self care- I like some of the students I teach now would give the pat answer of “ I have no time!” That having no time and not making myself a priority translated into the field of social work for me.

Upon graduation I was hired as a Medical Social Worker where I worked with terminal illness, death, grief and bereavement. I worked ten years full time in this particular field. As I left that job this past summer and joined BU’s MSW department full time, I realized just how burnt out I had become and how I was not practicing what I was preaching.

Between working full time, being married, having two young children and a house to keep up with, my self care was on the bottom of my to do list. This made me irritable, exhausted and not the best version of myself, personally or professionally. I needed to make a change.

During the last year in the medical field I started to make a change. I went to a spiritual retreat sponsored by my workplace, during which we participated in making soul collages. What came out of my soul collage is how burnt out I was taking care of everyone else, personally and professionally, it was time for a change.

Over the last year I have started incorporating self-care into my life as a daily practice, it has been work. I have learned that self-care for me is time alone- meditating, running or practicing Baptiste Yoga. My journey into self care has been a challenging one, as everyone around me was used to me putting myself last, so making time for myself has not always been welcomed or even understood. I have been called selfish and even a bad mom because of it. Due to the self-care that I have incorporated into my life I feel that I am better both personally and professionally- I feel that I have more to give.

I am still just as busy, a husband, 2 young children, 2 dogs, teaching 2 MSW and 1 HDEV class, and facilitating bereavement groups part time. The difference though now is that I schedule my self-care in just like I do everything else. This may mean that I don’t have time to go out to lunch with friends, or catch up on TV shows, it means eating my lunch at my desk as I work, because I squeeze a run in during lunch or get up at 5 am to practice yoga at 6am.

While teaching my children and students about self-care, I also want to role model it for them. I love to see my students when I am out running, I love when my family comes to watch races, or when my daughter sees me dressed she will say have fun at yoga mom. I am now finally practicing what I preach.

As for those who have called me selfish and a bad mom, they need to do some self reflection and re-prioritize and make self care a priority for themselves. All it takes is 15 minutes a day- wake up 15 minutes earlier, stay up 15 minutes later. For me self-care is physical, but it does not have to be physical for you. How do you nurture your soul? What makes you feel at peace? Many people can not answer these questions, do a self inventory what do you need? Then try something new; journaling, meditating (try the Honest Guys guided meditations on Youtube, paint, walk the dog, take a bubble bath, read a book (not one that is assigned or that you will be assigning), make plans with a friend who you keep putting off, just pick something and try….

Through the holiday season and winter break, as you look for the perfect gift for everyone else, give yourself the gift of self care. In order to help others you need to start by helping yourself. My favorite line of thinking is what is told to us on the airplane- put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help someone else. Treat yourself how you treat others! Happy Holidays!

*Editor’s note: Binghamton University’s Dean of Students office offers some unique de-stressing events for students in the month of December. Find out more about it here.

Sarah E. Hopkins, LMSW

Full Time Lecturer

Department of Social Work

College of Community and Public Affairs

Grandparents raising grandchildren in Broome County

Grandparents raising grandchildren is a population that is growing fast. They are important in sustaining healthy family systems, but the caregiving is demanding and requires that the older adults make significant shifts in the roles that they hold in their families. Grandparents struggle with high stress and they tend to be depressed than non-caregiving older adults. Furthermore, the upheaval from unexpectedly taking on parenting responsibilities may hinder positive aging. Unfortunately, however, grandparent-headed families’ access to and utilization of professional services are limited, and current social services do not meet their needs. For example, grandparents need information on grandparent rights, programs for their grandchildren, legal advocacy, and respite care. These services are often unavailable or, when they exist, the custodial grandparent may be unaware of their eligibility for these services.

To explore needs and experiences of grandparent-headed families, I talked to twenty two grandmothers and one grandfather in Broome County from 2012 to 2013. Of the 23 grandparents, twelve were White, ten were African American, and one was Hispanic. The mean age of the sample was 60 years old (range: 44-76), and the mean age of their grandchildren was 11 years old (range: 5-17). The median annual income of the grandparent-headed families was $40,560, but varied greatly, ranging from $12,500 to $150,000. Economic hardship was prevalent. Of the 23 grandparents, 15 reported family incomes below 150% of the poverty line.

While the stressors impacting grandparent headed families were wide ranging and often unique to a particular family situation, they tended to cluster into four areas: (a) grandparents’ health problems, (b) financial stress of the grandparent-headed families, (c) social isolation, and (d) fragmented support systems. In addition, in all but two cases, the grandparent gained custody of the grandchildren following highly stressful, and frequently, traumatic crises in the family. Circumstances under which the grandparents gained custody included the brutal murder of a grandchild’s mother (the daughter of the grandmother), profound abuse and neglect of the grandchildren by their biological parents, and severe domestic violence that was witnessed by the grandchildren. There were also indications that some families had endured years of highly stressful situations that culminated in the biological parents either losing custody through court order, or voluntarily surrendering the children when they realized they were not capable of parenting. Others stated that they took custody when the adult children’s mental illness interfered with their ability to adequately parent their children. In many cases, the children showed signs of emotional problems that the grandparents attributed to trauma related to the circumstances with the biological parents.

Despite the traumatic events the intergenerational families have experienced, the grandparents show signs of family resiliency that can promote health and growth. Grandparenting gave them the ability to learn from past child-rearing mistakes and improve parenting skills. The grandparents also enjoy loving, rewarding relationships with the grandchildren. For example, one stated, “You learn with your children what not to do with your grandchildren. You become more educated and have more wisdom about what you did as parents.” Another grandmother said, “I’m learning more now and I am finding out the mistakes I made with my daughter and I’m not making those mistakes again. The grandparents shared that raising their grandchildren positive influence their life. One said, “I’m healthier because of him, I have to get up and do stuff because of him, and I walk to school to pick him up so it’s a positive impact.” Another stated, “At my age I am healthier than I was before, I run up and down the stairs, I’m taking them to the movies, putting up the pool, doing things that keep me fit.”

From the interviews, I learned that the multigenerational impact of the trauma is clear and impacts each generation differently. Understanding the physiological nature of trauma and toxic stress reactions and focusing on strengths and resiliency factors are important in working with the grandparent-headed families. Moreover, in spite of the family trauma, the grandparents whom I talked worked hard to protect their grandchildren, nurture them, and provide the stable home life they need. Interventions for the older adults should include efforts to access resources and help custodial grandparents build a coherent support network. While the children may need care to ensure their stability and social emotional development, attention to the older adult’s development is important as well. Linking the normal development process of all generations to the process of healing from trauma can help reinforce positive growth and the development of healthy family systems.

Youjung Lee, Ph.D, LMSW
Assistant Professor, Department of Social Work
Director, Center for Family, School, and Community Partnerships
College of Community and Public Affairs
Binghamton University

Struggling with Sustainability, Some Small Cities Shine

Flush a toilet in South Daytona, Florida (pop. 12,252) and the waste comes back to you to water your lawn. The small city, only three square miles in size, acts big in terms of sustainability as it faces a major challenge – providing safe drinking water to a rapidly growing population. Water conservation is increasingly commonplace in many American cities, but South Daytona goes a step further. Every day, the city buys millions of gallons of reclaimed sewage water from a neighboring municipality. Formerly, the sewage was just dumped into the ocean. Now, after being highly treated, the water is pumped through a second network of water pipes that snakes back around the city. The water is not for drinking, but can be used by residential and business customers for landscape irrigation. Property owners pay for the service just as they would any utility.

This and other sustainability efforts by places such as South Daytona often go unnoticed by the mainstream media and most Americans. The attention is often focused on the sustainability successes of the biggest American cities. While important, these do not tell the whole story. More than half of Americans live in smaller cities, suburban towns, or rural communities, which face enormous political, fiscal, and technical challenges when they seek to protect the environment. Many of those, such as South Daytona, Florida, are defying the odds and finding that sustainability can be both environmentally and economically successful.

Another aggressive community is Columbus, Wisconsin (pop 4,991). In 2007, when Boyd Kraemer (now retired) came on board as city administrator, he was charged with turning around a largely moribund local economy. The city applied for and received a $40,000 sustainability grant, which Kraemer used to fund a new sustainability director position; the new person was charged with boosting both economic development and environmental protection. Columbus wanted to create for itself a marketing persona as a sustainable place. Now, with every policy and purchase, the city considers its green reputation. Columbus received grants to convert all of the street lights to high-efficiency LED fixtures – one of the first in the nation to do so. When it came time to repave the municipal parking lots, they added electric car plug-in stations. The city made extensive energy efficiency renovations in all of its municipal buildings and provides subsidies to homeowners for energy audits, air conditioner tune-ups, and the purchase of high efficiency washing machines. City residents can also receive a $50 grant towards the purchase and planting of deciduous trees to shade buildings and reduce air conditioning costs during the summer.

From an economic development perspective, the green marketing is working. Articles about these programs have appeared in statewide economic development and construction magazines. In just twelve months starting at the end of 2011, the city saw about $30 million dollars in capital investment including a new housing development, an assisted living center, and the expansion of a packaging operation. An arts incubator chose Columbus over Madison, the state capital, and a local pump manufacturer has broken ground on a larger facility that will anchor a new business park. Kraemer estimates that 50 percent of his community’s recent success is attributable to its sustainability image. People are impressed, Kraemer reports, when they hear that the city has all high-efficiency LED street lights. “We can turn them on with a laptop and we can change them in high crime areas.” He says it gives them a media and attitude edge over other communities.

All these efforts save money for Columbus city coffers, as well. The city’s 2013 Economic Development – Sustainability Report finds that the city has reduced electricity usage by 15.4 percent from 2007-2012. Much of this was due to the 2011 conversion of streetlights to LEDs, which cut energy usage 49 percent. Efficiency upgrades to the wastewater treatment plan, scheduled for spring of 2014, will save an estimated $18,000 a year in electricity costs.

The sustainability actions in South Daytona and Columbus demonstrate that environmental protection and economic development are not in conflict. Small cities, suburban towns, and rural communities can make important contributions to sustainability – and do it in a way that fits their local circumstance. Indeed, Boyd Kraemer of Columbus believes smaller places may have an advantage. He points to the nearby state capital of Madison, which has more eco-friendly students and many more resources, but they do not get as much done because of their bureaucracy. “You’ve got to make it easy to get things done. If you get tied up in committees and studies and consultants, it doesn’t last.” So while big cities boast of their green successes, there are many unlikely innovators taking advantage of their agility.


This post is based on an issue brief co-authored by CCPA assistant professor George Homsy for the ICMA Center for Sustainable Communities. Titled “Defying the Odds: Sustainability in Small and Rural Places,” Homsy and co-author Mildred Warner of Cornell University are conducting research into the sustainability practices of small cities and rural communities with funding from the US Department of Agriculture.

The entire issue brief can be found at:


Binghamton in 5: BU + community = success

The Binghamton University College of Community and Public Affairs (CCPA) at the University Downtown Center is committed to the growth and vitality of downtown Binghamton, including being partners in making that a reality. With an investment in social entrepreneurship, CCPA faculty, staff and students are contributing to the public and nonprofit sector through applied research and best practices.

In five years, we hope that the efforts of CCPA’s growing students, faculty and staff contribute to making Binghamton a place where increasing numbers of people choose to live and work.

CCPA makes significant investments in our local community through hundreds of thousands of internship and volunteer hours a year. This, combined with faculty’s applied research, contributes to our local schools, health care, government organizations, nonprofits, and colleges and universities.

For example, faculty and students are involved in the Broome County Promise Zone initiative in collaboration with Broome-Tioga BOCES and the Broome County Department of Mental Health, geared to supporting all public schools in the county in becoming community schools. Binghamton city schools have been actively involved with this effort to make schools the hubs of their communities, where children, families and communities gather beyond school hours to take advantage of needed health and social services, enrichment, recreation and arts programs. In five years, we expect schools will be seen in this light.

In addition to providing programming and services for existing community members, this initiative has the potential to draw professionals and families and to keep Binghamton University alumni in our community. With cutting-edge educational systems, professionals will want to work here, and families will want to send their children to our schools.

The same can be said about our local health care settings. Many students and faculty in CCPA and across the university are involved in developing, implementing and evaluating innovative practices and programs at local hospitals, nursing homes and outpatient settings.

If an alumnus can graduate from Binghamton University and work here implementing state-of-the-art, evidence-based practices, then why would they move to a major metropolitan city for similar opportunities but with twice the pricetag? And if our services are among the best in the country, then as these young professionals age, they have fewer reasons to leave our community — and more reasons to stay.

So, a vision for “Binghamton in 5” consists of our community as a magnet for professionals of all ages and as a place where increasing numbers of the university’s graduates choose to stay and make their home. It’s a place that is known for increasing innovations in business, social entrepreneurship, programs, practices and services. This effort drives up home values (although still keeping them vastly lower than larger cities), and promotes more successful retail endeavors downtown. In summary, “Binghamton in 5” is a go-to place for people to live, raise families, age and engage in innovative career opportunities. Let’s make this so, together.

Dr. Laura Bronstein

Dean of the Binghamton University College of Community and Public Affairs

Note: this post appeared originally September 17, 2014 in the Press and Sun Bulletin