Glenn and Susan Dickes honored

'We’re blessed to be able to help'

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  • Photo by Stan Martin November 2013: Warwick Rotary President Neil Sinclair, center, joins in a "community teamwork handshake" with food pantry representatives at last week's Rotary meeting at the Landmark Inn. Participating in the gesture of unity in feeding needy families are Susan and Glenn Dickes from the Warwick Ecumenical Food Pantry, Sinclair, Mary Jean McHugh, vice president of the Greenwood Lake Food Pantry, and Denise Thibault, Florida Food Pantry director.

  • The Empty Bowls 2013 planning committee and community representatives are, beginning in the front row from left to right: Louise Hutchison, Glenn P. Dickes, Susan D. Dickes, John Metzger, Suzanne Rupp and Deb Holton-Smith. In the back row, from the left, are: Jay Rowland, Dr. Ray Bryant, Shirley Puett, Mary Schweitzer, Deb Bernstein, Sharon Galbraith, Lois Radon, Gianna Rotondo, Victoria Garloch and Carrie Garloch.

  • Photo by Roger Gavan October 2012: Warwick Ecumenical Council Board member and treasurer Glenn Dickes and his wife, Susan, join Ken and Betsy Mitchell, owners of Track 7 Postal Center, to help launch this year‡­s program to collect pounds of food and dollars for the Food Pantry. From left, Susan and Glenn Dickes, volunteer Meagan Rota, Betsy and Ken Mitchell.

  • Photo by Louis Hutchison Celebrating the successful þÄúPennies for FoodþÄù fund raiser to support the Warwick Ecumenical Food Pantry in February are, from left to right: Charles W. Hemstreet, manager of the Warwick Ecumenical Food Pantry; David Eaton, Warwick Valley School Board president; Tracey Pietrzak, PTA Council president; Katina Dombrowski, Warwick ShopRite HR coordinator; Neil Sinclair, Warwick Rotary Club president; Glenn P. Dickes, community supporter; Ken Mitchell, Track 7 Postal Center; Susan D. Dickes, community supporter; and Dr. Raymond Bryant, Warwick Valley school superintendent.

  • File photo by Roger Gavan Susan and Glenn Dickes of Warwick will be recognized by the Orange County Human Rights Commission for their efforts to reduce hunger in their community.

  • Warwick High School Junior Victoria Garloch, 16, recently received a grant from the Sodexo Youth Foundation for a community dinner she organized on April 26, Global Youth Services Day, in the former Pine Island Elementary School. The $500 grant was matched by Glenn P. and Susan D. Dickes of Warwick who are pictured with Victoria Garloch.

Editor's note: Glenn and Susan Dickes of Warwick were among the six community-minded individuals who were honored at the 19th annual Orange County Human Rights Commission Awards dinner on April 10. The commissioners described the couple as "retirees whose volunteer work shows a commitment to reducing hunger in their community, laying the foundation of a more level playing field."

By Abby Wolf
— At first blush, you wouldn’t suspect that the unassuming couple sitting before you are some of Warwick’s most generous benefactors to worthy causes: Glenn P. and Susan D. Dickes are modest people, who shun the spotlight.

Yet they are the sort of folks whom Warwickians are justifiably proud: the kind of people who see a problem and immediately step up and offer their time, talent, energy, and – most of all – their funds.

Glenn, a retired attorney, and Susan, a retired dietician, moved to Warwick in July 2004; long-time friends who have lived in town since childhood recommended Warwick to the couple, originally New York City natives (from Queens), as a great place to live.

“We could’ve retired anywhere on the planet," Glenn said. "We came here."

Though they have no children of their own, and the family they do have are far away (Portland, Oregon, and Washington, DC), they have woven themselves into the fabric of Warwick.

“This is our home: it’s not a country home (and then we live) six months elsewhere. We think of Warwick as our hometown.”

Warwick Village Mayor Mike Newhard said: “I love them both.

“They’ve kind of raised the bar on community benevolence…They’ve energized fundraising, making every dollar count…whether it’s the library or the Ecumenical Council…Everything they talk about brings everything back twofold to the community.

“I’ve known them since they moved to Warwick…Their house is beautiful…Everything they do enhances” the town.

They’ve shown their love through their generosity.”

Fighting hunger, especially in children

Glenn has been treasurer of the Ecumenical Food Pantry for three years.

“We owe a lot of our involvement with Fighting Hunger initiatives to Ray Bryant (WVCSD Schools Superintendent).”

Bryant was a guest in the Dickes’ house in the summer 2009 when school board member Lynn Lillian introduced him to them.

They literally bumped into Bryant on the street one day (“It’s a small town, and you meet people”), when Bryant mentioned Empty Bowls.

Glenn and Susan wanted to join, and offered a match of $5,000. Although it took a year for the first event to occur, they raised $13,500: “We were off to the races” in fighting hunger in Warwick.

It was Bryant who nominated Glenn and Susan for the award, in large part due to their contributions to the Backpack Snack Attack Program, “Pennies for Food” and the Warwick Valley Empty Bowls fundraiser.

“They are a very quiet presence in our community, that believe that…no child or family should be hungry, and that everyone should be able to read…they work to ensure that our citizens are literate and fit…they’re extremely hard working…Warwick is blessed they decided to retire (here),” Bryant said.

“They’re strong supporters of the Community Kitchen (a program started by a WVHS student and Girl Scout, this program continues to serve hundreds of attendees a free dinner each month.”

“They don’t seek recognition, but we thought it time our community understand what a vital part of the community they are.”

'Hungry kids can't learn'

The Dickes are also “the largest individual supporters of the Warwick Food Pantry, the Greenwood Lake and Florida Pantries and the Pine Island Community Kitchen.

“Each program is housed in a church,” Glenn said. “People of different faiths – and of good faith – (are) working together to alleviate hunger…it’s very satisfying to work with these people.”

During the school year and in the summertime, the church is open every Sunday afternoon, so that needy families can pick up bags of kid-friendly food: cold cereal, peanut butter and jelly, shelf-stable milk and sometimes cookies.

“The theme is fighting hunger among kids,” Susan said. “Hungry kids can’t focus and can’t learn,” Glenn added. “Though Warwick is an affluent community, a lot of families have a hard time making ends meet – not just the agricultural workers.”

They expanded their efforts to include the Backpack Snack Attack program, which provides food in weekly backpacks to students who need food over the weekends; Susan said that they enabled BSA to expand into the summer months, when needy children are unable to receive free and reduced price lunches at school.

BSA is offered through the schools throughout Warwick, including the villages of Florida and Greenwood Lake. The backpacks are delivered to the school nurses’ offices on Thursday, except on school half-days, or if school is closed on Friday: then the backpacks are delivered on Wednesday. Extra backpacks are provided to younger, non-school-age siblings, too.

“The only test of service is that you live in Warwick: there’s no religious discrimination,” Glenn said.

Susan added: “Last August, (Town Supervisor) Mike Sweeton declared August Backpack Snack Attack Back-to-School Month. Collection canisters raised $5700 at local businesses.”

Among the merchants who have canisters: Sterling Bank (the former Provident Bank, on Oakland Avenue); Larry’s Deli; Central Deli.

‘A lot of money’ needed to run food pantries

Although he’s a lawyer by profession, Glenn has both financial and administrative experience. “It takes a lot of money to buy all this food.”

“Glenn’s background led him to grant writing,” Susan said, noting that he used this skill to apply to the New York State Hunger Prevention and Nutrition Assistance Program (HPNAP) for grants, as part of their fundraising efforts.

The Warwick Pantry, for instance, requires $90,000 a year to run, in addition to donated food. “There’s a lot of that,” Glenn said.

He added that St. Stephen’s parish and school provide “tremendous” support as well.

Greenwood Lake and Florida’s pantries combined spend about the same amount as Warwick.

Backpack Snack Attack costs about $75,00 - $80,000 a year.

The Community Kitchen takes about $10,000 - $12,000 a year. Glenn added that it’s not just “shelves with cans: We run miniature grocery stores.”

‘Not just snacks’

In addition to the snacks, kids are sent back to school in the fall with a complete kit of school supplies, and are provided with new winter coats.

This past fall, 210 winter coats were distributed, and another 22 dozen coats are being ordered for next fall. The need increases every year.

Glenn said: “For all these programs, we rely on members of the community generally and the well-to-do,” who give larger donations, as well as HPNAP (the latter provides assistance only to food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters, not the backpack program).

During the Pennies for Food drive, WVCSD children raised $9,858; the Dickes’ wrote a check for the additional $142, to make it an even $10,000.

They then wrote another check for a matching $10,000.

“We’re blessed to be able to help – it’s great to be able to share with our hometown.”

Local business partners

While some of assistance for emergency food aid comes from the federal government, and – to a lesser extent – New York State, the overwhelming majority of funds come from private and corporate donations.

“We seek grant money from foundational affiliates…employee match programs, especially Shop Rite’s Partners in Caring,” Glenn said.

Other corporate sponsors include the Warwick Savings Foundation; Stewart Shops (“long-term supporters of Winslow Therapeutic, too”); local merchants include Len Singer and Tony Sylaj, of Café Grappa (a “major” BSA volunteer).

“Susan and I supply money, intellectual capital and financial capital. We’re joined by people of faith and good faith.”

The Warwick Food Pantry’s hours are Monday, 6-8 pm; Tuesday, 3:30 – 5:30 pm; and Thursday 6-8.

Wisner Library

The Dickes’ – who are avid readers – are also major patrons of the Albert Wisner Public Library.

They’ve been involved with the library practically from the day they moved to Warwick: “We are well-educated people, lifetime library card carriers since we were small children (Glenn got his first card at the age of 3 or 4). It’s a passport to learning,” Glenn said.

“We liked the online registration system,” Susan said. For his part, Glenn liked that Warwick’s part of the RCLS (Ramapo-Catskill Library System, which includes some 45 libraries in the Hudson Valley region): “It’s a very robust lending system,” he said.

Once again seeing a need, “Serious fundraising began for the new library,” Susan said. According to Glenn: An important criterion in coming to Warwick was a well-attended, large, taxpayer-supported library.

(It’s) the kind of community we wanted to live in.”

Irony – turned down for library card

Glenn recalled their experience the first time he and Susan went to the library: “The first time we came up, we wanted to see the library, and were turned down from filling out a library card application – we hadn’t yet signed our lease, and couldn’t prove our residence.”

“They are a dynamic, committed group, from the board to Rosemary Cooper (the Director), to the full-time professional librarians,” Susan said.

The library attracts some 200 regular volunteers: “That energizes us that so many want to volunteer,” Glenn added.

“It’s a wonderful thing: As long as you have a library card and you behave yourself, you’re welcome in the public library, whoever you are.”

He observed that, “A well-educated, well-read electorate is a bulwark of a successful democracy.”

“We like them (the library),” Susan added.

The feeling is mutual, according to Wisner Library Director Rosemary Cooper. “The library was the first place they showed interest in” when they moved to Warwick.

“They gave $100,000 before the referendum (in 2007), to support the new building, furnishings, and new collection material.

“They made that generous gesture that encourages other people to step forward.”

Cooper added: “They showed leadership” in private giving.

“We were able to do things we couldn’t have done,” if not for the Dickes’ donation, as most of the library’s support is private, not from taxes.

“They support Teen Battle of the Books; Story Time kits; early literacy skills; the collection – from classics to e-books,” as well as emotional health and wellness materials.

Of all the good works they’ve done, “the library stands at the head” of their giving, according to Cooper.

“They’ve had a huge impact on our library…they’ve always been very supportive.”

She added: “I think the library is their first love.” “Both are huge readers.”

“The award is very fitting.”

Spare time?

In their spare time: “We nap,” Glenn said.

“We read a lot; Susan cooks and bakes bread; we enjoy dining out together; in the warm weather, I garden – I’m very good at growing rocks and weeds.”

Also – according to Glenn - “We have the five good healths: physical, emotional, spiritual, marital and financial.

“We still work at having all five of them.”

Although Susan was part of the interview, Glenn did much of the talking. Did she mind? Not at all – she considers herself “the Silent Partner,” she said with a smile.

Glenn said, “I always introduce Susan as the nice member of the family.”

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