Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Person of the Week

Anne Bishop: Useful is the Word

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When growing up, Anne Bishop frequently heard the statement “Make yourself useful” from her father. It’s a message she’s taken to heart. Photo by Rita Christopher/The Courier

When growing up, Anne Bishop frequently heard the statement “Make yourself useful” from her father. It’s a message she’s taken to heart. (Photo by Rita Christopher/The Courier | Buy This Photo)

Most adults have only dim recognition of childhood babysitters, but not Anne Bishop. That’s because one of her sitters is now enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame: Carl Yastrzemski.

Anne grew up in Bridgehampton, Long Island, also Yaz’s hometown. He lived on one side of the town’s baseball diamond, she on the other. Anne recalls seeing the hall of famer practice with the parish priest, Father Joe, who was the coach of the team.

“I don’t recall how often, but I know he babysat for me,” she says.

She does remember the Boston Red Sox star in a high school production of Hamlet, though she cannot remember what part he played. But one thing stuck with her.

“He wore purple tights,” she says.

Anne recalls more vividly from her childhood her father’s repeated exhortation: “Make Yourself Useful.”

She has done that throughout her life, working much of her career for non-profit organizations. At the moment, she is one of the board members of the Essex Community Fund (ECF). The organization’s annual fundraiser, Cheers for Charity, has just been rescheduled from March 21 to July 25. The venue will remain the same, the Oliver Jensen gallery at the Essex Steam Train.

The event features beer from some 18 Connecticut craft brewers, among them local favorites, including Little House Brewing Company in Chester, Stony Creek Brewery in Branford, and High Nine Brewing Company in Deep River. For non-beer drinkers, there are both wines and non-alcoholic beverages. In addition, there will be food a selection and entertainment provided by Local Honey, an East Haddam-based acoustic group.

The admission fee covers both the drinks and food. Prospective attendees at Cheers for Charity 2020 must be 21 years old and provide proof of age.

ECF gives annual grants to local organizations, from scouting groups to senior citizens. All focus on the welfare of town residents. Among the organizations that got grants last year were Bikes for Kids, the Essex Fuel Assistance Program, and the Shoreline Soup Kitchens & Pantries. One hundred percent of the money ECF raises goes to the designated organizations.

Anne got involved in the organization through her involvement in another local non-profit, the Ivoryton Alliance, which sponsors the holiday Illuminations display. For Illuminations, Anne’s responsibility was to let local community service organizations know that they could set up informational tables in the Ivoryton firehouse. In that process, she met Jackie Doane, then the head of ECF. Doane had her own question: She wanted to know if Anne was interested in serving on the group’s board.

“The rest is history,” Anne says.

Anne’s last job before she retired in 2011 was as CEO of the YWCA in New York. Previously she had worked in executive capacities both at the American Women’s Economic Development Corporation, an organization that no longer operates, and at the I Have A Dream Foundation.

Eugene Lang, a wealthy, self-made New York businessman started the foundation after he had an inspiration when addressing a 6th-grade graduating class at the elementary school he had once attended. On the spur of the moment, he discarded what he had meant to say and instead offered to pay for college for all the members of the class.

He named the foundation after Martin Luther King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Lang provided the support—financial, intellectual, and social—the 6th graders needed to make their way through both high school and college. The foundation, now supported by many other people as well, has expanded its activities and increased the population it serves since it began in 1981.

“Lang came from a humble background and his whole objective was to give support to these students,” Anne says.

Anne also worked at Barnard College, from which she herself had graduated, in the alumnae office. She earned a second bachelor’s degree, this one in fine arts, from Manhattanville College, with the idea perhaps of making art a career.

“While I toyed with pursuing an illustrator position, other opportunities emerged, and I needed employment. I hope to resume studio art classes this summer and see where it leads,” she notes.

Recently, Anne used her editing skills in helping Essex resident Margo Valentine publish her own autobiography. The two had first met walking on the beach in Old Lyme. It was Anne who suggested to Margo that she begin her autobiographical project to write not only about her own life but also to illustrate the fickle nature of human experience.

“Life is full of challenges. Almost always something special comes out, but we can’t time travel so we don’t know what that is going to be,” Anne says. “But we can learn from it.”

Anne and her husband Jan moved to Essex in the mid-1980s and while Jan left his job as an international banker, Anne at first continued to work and joined him on weekends. At one time, they shared the grounds of their mid-19th century farmhouse with two goats, Floyd and Vergil, and two miniature donkeys, Bucky and Emma. Now they are down to one cat, Abigail.

Anne is enthusiastic about her work for ECF, explaining it with a favorite word.

“If it is useful, I will do it,” she says,

Cheers for Charity Beerfest

The Cheers for Charity Beerfest to Benefit the Essex Community Fund is on Saturday, July 25 from noon to 4 p.m. at the Oliver Jensen Gallery at the Essex Steam Train. For more information on ECF or to purchase tickets, visit www.essexcommunityfund.org.


Rita Christopher is the Senior Correspondent for Zip06. Email Rita at news@shorepublishing.com.

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