Here’s my Journal News story from Sunday about Ann Barringer Spaeth, a Rye resident with an intractable habit of community organizing in the Rye-Port Chester area. She is being honored for her work with the Council of Community Services on Thursday.
I met Ann when she ran the Panacea Spanish-language bookstore on Port Chester’s Main Street in the late-’90s. Does anyone out there remember her “artmobile” from the early ’70s? Leave a comment and let us know.
RYE — In the summer of ’72, Ann Barringer Spaeth started a children’s art class out of her station wagon.
She would pull up to a parking lot in Port Chester and use her green Chevy as a supply cabinet for tie-dye and other creative pursuits. The best part of running the “artmobile,” she said, was seeing the results appear in the neighborhood.
“In those days in that area there were a whole bunch of tenements,” she said. “And you would see their art hanging on the clothes lines on the porches.”
Spaeth is being honored this week for her seven years’ work as executive director of the Council of Community Services of Port Chester, Rye Brook and Rye Town. The results of that work are not as easily displayed. But according to those who worked with her, they have a daily impact on the community.
Spaeth directed the council, an umbrella organization for nonprofit groups, from 2003 to 2009. She brought together just about every local agency, church, school and health service on various projects.
Three years ago, for example, the council teamed up with Bowen Memorial Baptist Church in Mount Vernon to create God’s Green Market, a program that supplies farm produce to needy families in Port Chester. Volunteers harvested and distributed the vegetables in what was probably the biggest ever collaboration between local congregations, said the Rev. Bruce Baker, the pastor of All Souls Parish. Baker has been council president for the last four years.
He credited Spaeth‘s tenacity and longevity for her accomplishments.
“Ann doesn’t take ‘no’ easily,” he said. “She just knows everybody, and she has the respect of so many people.”
In 2007, Spaeth helped organize the Community Cares Coalition, targeting substance abuse and other high-risk behaviors among young people. Two other offshoots are the People’s College, a series of seminars and discussions, and a knitting group that makes blankets for newborns.
Spaeth said she gained a knack for finding common interests. “You listen a lot, and you’re out a lot,” she said of her work, “and you love groups.”
At 72, Spaeth is retired from the council. She is being honored at a reception Thursday in the Performing Arts Center of Purchase College.
Her habit of public service came from her father, Thomas Barringer, who worked in government as director of the Federal Housing Administration. Spaeth and her husband, Tony, settled in Rye.
In 1980, she launched the White Plains-based Family Information and Referral Service Teams — a network that trains clergy, police, librarians, community activists, youth workers and business leaders to relay information about health and human services. During the late 1990s, Spaeth operated a Spanish-language bookstore in Port Chester called Panacea.
She has already moved on to a new project, researching the churches and synagogues of Port Chester.
Though her artmobile lasted only two summers, it continues to show results, via the lives of four original participants — the Spaeth daughters.
They are Catherine, an art history professor; Jennifer, an artistic tile specialist; Bridget, a painter; and Crispin, a choreographer.
Photo by Carucha Meuse/The Journal News