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GIVING BACK: Wings, wheels and meals

Fly-in, car show benefits Keene Food Pantry

July 13, 2017
By ANTONIO OLIVERO - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

KEENE - A retired F-16 pilot with the National Guard in Syracuse, Bob Rose, loved the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks for decades and desired to live here ever since his first visits as a Boy Scout.

His experience sport flying as part of the Syracuse-based National Guard familiarized him with the Marcy Field landing strip in the town of Keene. And when it came time for him to retire as a pilot for Delta Airlines a decade ago, it was time for Rose to live his dream as a full-time Adirondack resident.

Fast forward 10 years, and Rose, 70, is a Wilmington resident who is currently the only person to keep a plane at Marcy Field. His passion is to climb into the skies above Blueberry Mountain and veer above the majestic High Peaks Wilderness on those rare days when the winds die down and the conditions are clear.

Article Photos

Event co-chair Bob Rose of Wilmington holds up the sign for the Wings-N-Wheels airplane fly-in and car gathering fundraiser that was held Sunday, July 9 at Marcy Field.
(News photo — Antonio Olivero)

With each trip to fly at Marcy Field, the former colonel developed the idea of hosting the kind of fly-in breakfast benefit many sport flying chapters do across the country. So last fall, he pitched his idea to outgoing Keene town Supervisor Bill Ferebee to use Marcy Field for a fundraiser breakfast while the Keene Valley Farmers Market took place.

Ferebee loved the idea, and more than eight months later, Rose's vision came to fruition on Sunday, July 9 with the inaugural Wings-N-Wheels airplane fly-in and car gathering. For four hours, members of the Keene and Keene Valley communities and business leaders from the surrounding region came together to put on Rose's vision of an event. It was a slightly windy and partly cloudy day on the airstrip, as four planes, 25 classic cars and one ladder truck from the Keene Valley Fire Department graced some of the most famous grass in the Adirondacks, enticing those driving by to pull over and buy a plate of pancakes for $2.

"A lot of people said, 'Oh, I was just driving by and I saw the planes and cars and I pulled over and bought breakfast,'" Rose said. "Some people bought as many as 20 raffle tickets. It was great. It was the generosity of the people to stop, but mainly it was the support of the Keene and Keene Valley community that made this special."

The total take from the raffle was $733 and its proceeds were split between the Keene Food Pantry and the Keene Fire Department, members of which volunteered Sunday morning to flip pancakes and serve refreshments.

For the food pantry, the event was a blessing that will help with its reserve fund and food reserve just weeks away from what Food Pantry Director Carolyn Fish said is the beginning of the most difficult time of the year. The pantry, Fish said, works during the summer on an as-need basis, helping between five and 12 families from Keene who struggle to support themselves with minimum wage jobs to put food on the table.

Come the middle of September, the pantry is hit the hardest, as more families request help as heating bills start to rise.

"We have a working population," Fish said. "But minimum wage doesn't cover much in this day and age."

From September through mid-May is the busy season for the pantry, and Fish said the pantry's take on Sunday of $366.50 and numerous food donations from fundraiser attendees and local businesses will go a long way to keeping its shelves stocked. Raffle tickets for an assortment of prizes, which were donated by regional businesses, sold for $1. And for $2, with a plate of pancakes came a free raffle ticket.

"We had one whole case - six big bags of pancake mix leftover that went to the pantry," Rose said, "and four or five big shopping bags of food people brought to the event that was donated to the pantry."

"This event helped a great deal," Fish said. "It helped with food as well. We are very enthusiastic about it."

These days, Fish said the team working behind the scenes to make the food pantry a reality consists of just two people, which made Sunday's benefit that much more impactful.

Since 1998, she's led the pantry's effort, but nearly two decades later, she said the pantry can use more help.

"I need people to date food, because our food pantry is located in the Keene Community Center owned by the town. I only give food within the best buy date," she said. "So we constantly have to date food. We also have to shop for food and bring it into the center and stock shelves. We could use some volunteers for that. That's a very important aspect of the pantry. I man the hours. I do the shopping. I do the financial. It's just gotten to the point where now I am looking for help to do it."

Fish said if anyone would like to volunteer for the pantry, she can be contacted at 518-576-4405 before the busy season starts in the fall and the pantry opens Sept. 1 for its typical Thursday evening 4 to 6 p.m. hours.

"Not every one of the families uses the pantry every week. Generally subsidies come in at the beginning of the month and for the first two weeks of the month, I have a low usage," Fish said. "But at the end of the month, I have all of my families coming because their food stamps have run out and they are getting low.

"The pantry is so grateful to Bob (Rose)," Fish continued. "Events like this, they are difficult at best to pull off, and this one went really well."

Rose credited the event's co-chair Chris Straight with helping to pull off the event. Straight, an employee of one of the event's donors, Sub Alpine Coffee in Keene Valley, is the president of the Adirondack Step Sides Car Club. So Straight put in the work to help secure the event's cars while Rose secured the handful of planes. Straight also designed a small recognition award for the event's donors, a Wings-N-Wheels prize designed to reflect a propeller blade with a couple of stripes at the end.

"He spent so much time," Rose said. "He did a great job."

With the execution of the event, Rose wrapped up a whirlwind three weeks when the retiree drove all around the Tri-Lakes region securing donations. His time on the road included stops at eventual donors Adirondack Rock and River and ADK Cafe in Keene, Aubuchon Hardware in Lake Placid, AuSable River Two Fly Shop in Wilmington, Coakley High Peaks Ace Hardware in Saranac Lake, Dartbrook Rustic Good and East Branch Organics in Keene and The Mountaineer in Keene Valley.

Between all of these generous shops, Rose and Straight had more than enough prizes to entice folks to the raffle.

His Tri Lakes tour also included stops at eventual food and equipment donors such as Black Rooster Maple Syrup in Keene, Hannaford and Price Chopper supermarkets and Laura's Custom Artwork in Lake Placid, McDonough's Valley Hardware and SubAlpine Coffee in Keene Valley, Tops Friendly Markets in Elizabethtown and even a chat with the local representative from U.S. Foods based in Rosemont, Illinois, Kristen Sandler.

Looking back, Rose is proud of what he, Straight and key volunteers Sue and Emma West and Alexandra Thomas accomplished, so much so that he's already planning a "next year."

"I think we can double the number of people," he said.



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