When Chambers School closed down in March, our After School volunteers decided to divide the crafts materials, books and games in our storage cabinet into gift packs for the 27 children in the program. Every other week in May and June, volunteers have driven to the homes of the children, ages 5 to 9, and each time gave them a bag with educational activities, arts projects, books and snacks. The meetings were brief but delightful for all: Some kids took their new books and immediately sat down to read them to younger children. If school reopens in the Fall, we will be glad to get back to Chambers on Wednesday afternoons.


All NY school districts are making plans, but the planners know that the coronavirus gets a vote. Re-opening public schools would be a big step toward normalization everywhere, if it’s safe. For children who are English language learners, the lack of an in-person classroom setting is a major educational setback.

For working parents in low-income households, open schools give an opportunity to seek employment while the children are at school. We don’t have a ready solution to the need for educational or child care options. As school districts take steps to combine reopening with safety for children and staff, we will be looking for ways to support their efforts and the special needs of children from immigrant families.


The notorious ICE (US Immigration and Customs Enforcement) did not close down this Spring, along with the economy. ICE has continued to incarcerate asylum seekers, keep small children separated from their parents, and move arbitrarily detained individuals from location to crowded location, leading to multiple Covid hotspots, according to evidence reviewed by the New York Times. But administrative immigration courts did shut down, which left ICE fewer opportunities to harass our friends pursuing asylum as they had a respite from court hearings and “check-ins.”

As the economy and government reopen, ready or not, ICE will be prowling more actively to deport our friends. Federal administrative courts will resume hearing applications for asylum and applicants will be required to “check-in” with ICE between hearings. That means many Ulster County residents seeking asylum status will need to make periodic trips to NYC. UIDN will once again be ready to help them meet their appointments and avoid giving ICE any excuse for disrupting their lives or those of their families.


We’ve helped start a sewing circle that is providing some income for immigrant participants making masks at home, and another potential project would make bicycles more available to families without cars.


It’s been an intense and disorienting season. All the trees and flowers bloomed. But so did the virus. And then the economy crashed. We stayed at home and missed our friends; and also went to work, protested, volunteered, and wore masks. At UIDN we saw critical needs and tried to fill them. And often our reach exceeded our grasp. Here is how two poets have captured, and responded to, such moments:

Thanks to the hundreds of Ulster friends and neighbors who have donated, often repeatedly, to keep us at work. And especially, we thank those UIDN volunteers who gave so much time on so many days to keep us on task:

Helpline operators

“Shop and Deliver” volunteers who often did not even ask for reimbursement for food they purchased and delivered

another 50 volunteers who came every Wednesday to deliver food packages and

“After School” volunteers who found a way to continue “After School” even after school itself had shut down

Market volunteers, summer 2020

Photo by Leslie Gallagher.

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If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy.
If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem.
But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world,
And a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.
from Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White


Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.
from Anthem by Leonard Cohen