Failed Zoning Vote For The Anew Center

I believe that the recent vote by the Town of Ellery to vote against the proposal by the Salvation Army to establish a New York state-certified domestic violence support center is a missed opportunity to reach out to those in need of a helping hand. The Anew Center offers not only a temporary safe haven for those who have found the courage to leave an abusive situation, but it also offers emotional and educational support to deal with this cycle of despair.

Some of the concerns were legitimate, and I can very well understand and sympathize with these concerns. That being said, they were not taken lightly. Each concern was addressed by the Salvation Army, which bent over backwards to change and adjust their plans in order to satisfy those concerns. However, there was no satisfying certain individuals, including some board members who appeared to have made up their minds even before discussion at the numerous meetings.

I am curious as to the underlying reason why an outreach center to benefit others in need of our assistance was voted down under the umbrella of “fear” when in the very same area, several bars are located. Bar patrons may get in their vehicles, back out on to the road, and possibly drive under the influence of alcohol. Where is the fear and concern with that? Could it be about tax revenue above brotherly love? How about self-righteousness and apathy or self-centeredness, close mindedness or Lack of compassion? Motives are like pealing an onion skin. On the outside it may appear one way, but there are often hidden agendas in subsequent layers.

And then there was the vote by the board to rezone the area to approve a Dollar General in that same area. Do we really need another dollar store? Everything comes and goes in cycles. Here today and gone tomorrow. There is a definite potential for this business to close eventually and leave a vacant eye sore of a building. The Anew Center has been in its present location for 30 years. However, they have outgrown their existing location.

People often say, “But for the grace of God go I,” and “my heart goes out” to the unfortunate and suffering, but obviously not too far. This is shallow rhetoric because the very same good people also exhibit a “Not in my back yard,” mentality.

This reminds me of the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Two separate, religious, learned, powerful and well-respected men walked down a road. A man lay robbed and beaten on the side of the road. Both men in turn crossed the road to avoid the man in distress and went on their way. Perhaps they were too important, or too much better, or too indifferent or too judgmental or too fearful to help their neighbor. Whatever the reason, they turned a blind eye. Then along came a Samaritan who was considered to be unworthy and lowly. He reached down, got dirty and helped and provided for the poor victim until he was able to help himself. What a wonderful example of “love your neighbor as yourself”.

Those opposing the Anew Center are not mean-spirited or hurtful people. Perhaps just closed-minded or fearful and in need of strength and courage themselves. Change is not always easy, but it is inevitable. We all must deal with change in our lives and it’s not the change but the way we handle the change that defines us. After all, life is not all about “me.”

Where is the Good Samaritan who will reach out their hand to their neighbors who are hurting and lonely and crushed beneath life’s load? I am very sad and disappointed that the community I live in will not have the opportunity to reach out The Hand of Hope. I wonder how the desires of all the people in Ellery would have voted rather than only the five board members — two in favor and three against.

Hopefully the Anew Center will find their “good Samaritan” soon, in a welcoming, loving, caring, fearless and courageous community. May God bless their efforts!

Kathy Swanson is a Jamestown resident.