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TLC's Town Haul - Jeffersonville

Duke Devlin & John Kavaller

In the fall of 2004, the hustle and bustle of Main Street, Jeffersonville, New York was a sight for all to see. The previous summer was full of anticipation. The buzz was about a new television show coming to film in our town. The show, called Town Haul, would be produced for TLC (The Learning Channel) and hosted by TLC¹s designer Genevieve Gorder. With work already completed on many community projects by dedicated individuals and organizations like the JACC (Jeffersonville Area Chamber of Commerce) and JEMS (Jeffersonville Enhances Main Street), Jeffersonville was chosen as the site of the first town featured in this new series. Excitement about the possible projects for the town, the impact of such projects and the actual presence of the television crew, was abound.

In early fall the Town Haul crew arrived in Jeffersonville, with paint cans in hand, and stirred things up. We all watched Mayor Ed Justus welcome the Town Haul crew to the village: Genevieve Gorder, Jimmy Little, Ray Romano, William Moss and the rest of the crew. They were a charismatic team. Their high energy and warmth enveloped us. The group was gracious and excited to be working on this project with us - their sense of purpose and enthusiasm was contagious.

Projects and project managers were announced at TLC-style town meetings. Renovations to Main Street store fronts, Amazing Bargains, Kelly¹s Kones, the Johansen's concrete block garage, the Village Hall and upper level teen/community center and even the firehouse would all be project sites for our town.

Landscape designer William Moss found a green space where he could create a public park. Once the necessary paper work was signed, creation of the little park began, with television cameras rolling. All things nostalgic are this town's soul and having the old "Jeff Alleys" sign exposed and preserved on the Amazing Bargains¹ building was a poignant tribute to the town, courtesy of Town Haul.

Town Haul gave us the chance to see our village through someone else's eyes, meet new people, work along side of old friends on a beautiful autumn day and get to know our neighbors a little better. For instance... while digging in the dirt, on assignment from my new friend and TLC landscaper William Moss, I had the pleasure of getting to know the mother of an old school chum of mine. I remembered when I was in the drama club at JYCS (Jeffersonville-Youngsville Central Schools), my friend's mother, Mrs. Brennan, would pop by practice to offer her assistance. It seemed to me that we have always known each other and often exchanged light banter in the post office. Part of the charm of this small town is being able to exchange hellos with everyone you pass on the street. Newcomers to the village happily fall into this same ritual quickly.

Charming? Yes!

I was convinced that the very presence of Town Haul kicked the pulse of the town up a notch. Seeing Ann Brennan in action discussing the arranging, feeding and protecting of plants, that I could not name, with landscaper Moss, I believed I was in the presence of genius! Ann had a quick wit and an equally quick smile that was quite heartwarming. This was all happening in my hometown. How cool was that? This gem of a woman was here all along and somehow I had never gotten a chance to know her and enjoy her company on this level. Not until this project from out of town pushed us into the same space to work side by side as neighbors and friends.

I asked around and was not at all surprised to learn that I was not the only person that had this type of experience with a neighbor. Everyone's stories were a bit different, but for those of us that had answered the call to volunteer for Town Haul, we picked up our tool belts and got dirty. We were reminded about the strength that makes this community such an amazing place to live, work, raise a family, retire and vacation.

Jeffersonville was transformed from a quiet town nestled in the hills to a front-page news, life-sized, in-your-face, big-as-a-bus billboards test pilot ³Town Haul² show for TLC. Our scheduled four weeks of redesign turned into much more. Even as the first episode was airing, the construction dust had yet to settle. The snow was covering our mountain haven as we tuned in to see how we looked. As we watched, it seemed that the efforts of the JACC, JEMs members and volunteers, that had worked so hard to make our town an appealing place to begin this series, had been overlooked.

As the series on our town concluded, I realize the production known as Town Haul only scratched the surface. Our experience will help us to continue to grow and prosper. What we have collectively gained from our Town Haul will not disappear. After all, we had the opportunity to treasure sunny fall days working alongside and laughing with old friends or new pals, while redesigning and enhancing our town. The results of the Town Haul renovations and the exposure that Jeffersonville received nationwide were mostly cosmetic. But, it is the continued dedication of the people with whom we actually share our lives day after day that goes well beyond reality television.

From my perspective, as I looked around Jeffersonville, past the paint, around the facades, under the shrubs, I definitely saw what was at the heart of it all. It was the people who have worked to move us forward. The people who have lived here their entire lives in conjunction with newcomers for whom this hometown is a dream-come-true. Still others who had been determined to leave, yet circumstances made them stay. Living here has taught them the value of a hometown and what it is to know who you are and where you are meant to be. We all came together, as we very often do. We got our hands dirty. We did the work we were asked to do. The final cut of the television show didn't matter because it was our town that we were working for.

Article by Beth Bernitt, owner of Mane Street Styles, a hair salon, in North Branch and Realtor for Klimchok Real Estate in Callicoon.

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The Jeffersonville Area Chamber of Commerce | PO Box 463 | Jeffersonville, New York 12748