Janet Manko Interview:
This is file #59, Cycle 2. This is jean McMillen. Today’s date is July 20, 2017. I am interviewing Janet Manko. She is going to talk about her job at the Lakeville Journal, being on the Board of the Housatonic Child Care Center. She is also going to talk about the Chamber of Commerce. But first we’ll start with the genealogical information.
JMcM:What is your name?
JMcM: When were you born?
JM:July 15, 1953
JMcM:Where were you born?
JM:Newark, New Jersey
JMcM: My mother was Helen Borden Dribnack. My father was Edmund Dribnack.
JMcM:Do you have sibling?
JM:I have a sister Christine who lives in Plainfield, New Jersey. Her last name is Patnosh.
JMcM:How did you come to the area?
JM:I got married. My husband and I moved up here because his parents lived up here. We got to know the area by visiting them. His father Bill Manko had been transfer4red up her working at K & E in Millerton, New York. (See file #38, cycle 2, Joseph Soper) He was Plant Manager and thought this area would be a great place to raise a family. We did raise our daughter here. It is a great place.
JMcM:What is your daughter’s name?
JMcM:Now we are going to talk about the Lakeville Journal. Who currently owns it?
JM:It is currently owned by the Lakeville Journal Company LLC. It is a group of investors who believe in community journalism. All of them have home bases here but also elsewhere. They are generally part-time residents. They run it as a board; they are very supportive of our community, hands-off as far as what we write about or what we do. We could not be more fortunate in that way to have that follow-up to the Bob Estabrook era. (See tape #76 Bob Estabook) (See also Tape #10 A-E Stuart Hoskins)
JMcM:You have worked there at 2 different times.
JM:I did yes. In the early 1990’s I worked there when my daughter was quite young. I worked in the Production Department and in Graphic Arts. I left and went to Hotchkiss and Quality Printing in Pittsfield, Mass. I came back in 1998 as Associate Publisher, and later became Publisher, and then Publisher and Editor in Chief.
JMcM:As the Editor or Editor in Chief what do you actually write for the paper?
JM:Weekly I write the Editorials for the Lakeville Journal and I edit the columns and the Letters to the Editor. If anybody writes a letter to the Lakeville Journal I call them and speak to them and confirm that I received their letter. If I have any questions about it, I ask them. We tell people if they don’t get a call from me, I didn’t get the letter Sometimes E-mail does not work that well. If anyone doesn’t get a call from me, they know I do not have their letter for that week. The deadline is Monday at 10 AM so that we can meet publication. That is how they get into the paper. We love our writers.
JMcM:They add a flavor.
JMcM:The printing is no longer done here in town.
JM:Correct. Up until 2008 we had a Goss Community Web Press in the back warehouse at the Lakeville Journal at 33 Bissell Street. It had 4 units so we could not print full color on that press for publication. That became an issue of either buying a completely new digital press or expanding that one somehow. It was just a too costly a venture for us a little community paper. We sold that press to a paper down in Brooklyn, New York. That press was designed specifically for a community weekly newspaper of which there still are many across the country. Now we print outside at Trumbull Printing in Trumbull, Ct. They can do color and they are a great printer.
JMcM:I think you said that your advertisers were the ones who really wanted the color.
JM:That’s right. The advertisers could get color pretty much anywhere else and really wanted it with us too if they were going to continue to work with us. That is what made our decision.
JMcM:Are you planning to stay at 33 Bissell Street or is there a move in the offing?
JM:We are planning to move. We do have a buyer and that is Salisbury Bank and Trust who has gone before Planning and Zoning with their site plan which has been approved. But now we are still waiting for other regulatory approval through the banking system. Once that is all set we will go forward and will be moving. We have a couple of locations in line right now. We have looked at more than 20 sites across the area. Because of our specific needs, we do have limited places where we can go. It is not only office space, we need loading dock space to have the papers come in from our printer and then our drivers take them out to all the post offices and dealers. Right now there is a place in Millerton and a place in Falls Village which we are considering.
JMcM:It is in the near future?3.
JM:Yes it is.
JMcM:How much staff do you have right now?
JM:We have about 34 full time employees and we have three offices: one in Winsted, and one in Millerton for those two little papers and then the central location at 33 Bissell Street.
JMcM: Then you never worked at the Journal when it was at Pocket Knife Square?
JM:No I didn’t. It moved over in 1982. Bob Estabrook built that building. Oh my gosh what a project! We are going to do some writing about that as we come into when we know when we know where we are moving to we’ll print information on that. That is our little area. It is not that often that key businesses move around. You are not hearing that LaBonne’s is moving any time soon. It is a big project as in 1982.
JMcM:I just did Michael Harney on the tea business. That is another business that started in the basement of the White Hart and has moved and moved. They employ a large number of people locally.
With the Housatonic Child Care Center, I want to say day care, but it is child care center. Why was the name changed?
JM:Because that is the way the professional people call it in that business. We take care of children, not days. We want to make that clear that it is children. There are centers that for the elderly during the day so they wanted it to be clear that it was children.
JMcM;How did you get involved?
JM:I took my daughter there when she was 15 months old. I got to know the place. I started out in a parents’ group there. My daughter will be 30 in November. I got to know the place that way and really it is such an important resource for the young families in our area. To have young families stay here we need to have these services for them. It is affordable housing, it is decent jobs within driving distance and it is support for the families. If they don’t have that care, they can’t stay in this area. They have to have a place they trust that is professional and that is what the center is about.
JMcM:As a board member what does the board actually do?
JM:We do not want to micromanage the professionals in the business, but we do run the financial part. We do the fund raising, be there as resources for the staff and the director if they need help with anything. We help communicate the mission of the center to the public.
JMcM:What is the mission of the center?
JM:We have that mission on all of the communications. It is to provide loving and safe child care for the children from the ages of 3 months to age 6 and to be sure that it is available for everyone in the area. When I first started there it was really just Lakeville-Salisbury and smaller. During my tenure we
have raised the money for the new building on Salmon Kill Road from Wells Hill Road and it became larger. Part of what has happened now is that people from outside the area come in to work in Salisbury. The way that it is decided as to who gets first placement as students is the people who live in Lakeville-Salisbury get first choice and then people who work in Lakeville-Salisbury get the next placement.
JMcM:When did you start with the Teacher Strategic Gold curriculum?
JM:You will have to ask Kim about that.
JMcM:That is the curriculum you are using now?
JM:Yes. The real expert on that is the Director Tonya Roussis. That is the difference: board members bring our certain skills to the board and we can help with publicity or other certain things because that is what I worked in, but for the Director and the staff they are the experts in child care.
JMcM: With fund raising do you do special event?
JM:We have over the years. We used to do the House Tour that was the big fund raiser for the child Care center. We haven’t done one of those in a while. We don’t have board members right now who are interested in doing that. If they are able to run the center without having to do a large event, then that is what they are doing. We do the “Big Rig” event which occurred recently which is a great community out- reach program. It is a welcoming thing for the kids and their families. We have grandparents coming in. We had a bunch of them coming in to see their grandkids and people who were interested in seeing what the center was about which is great. There are so many supportive businesses at the “Big Rig” that bring their giant equipment: they just love to see the kids climbing all over it. It is a lot of fun.
JMcM: You made the point when we talked earlier that this is one of the few fundraisers where kids can attend. That is great. They can get used to the child care center because it is there.
JM:They actually get to show it off to their families in a whole different way. It is their place and they see their teachers too in a whole different way. The teachers are there running games for them and having fun. It is a great event and a fun one. We also do an annual appeal which is really important to their operating budget.
JMcM:This is a very generous community.
JM:Yes. It is. It is hard. There are a lot of non-profits and everyone is looking for support. Most of those non-profits send out their appeal letters toward the end of the year because that is when people give. But then everybody has their special charities. Thus we have to be creative.
JMcM:Yes you do have to be creative but we got the fire house and we got the new ambulance.
JM:That is right. And the new ski jump.5.
JMcM:That was fascinating.
JM:It was a big project. It would not have happened but for the community.
JMcM:The guys said that if they had known how much it would cost and how much work it was going to be, they never would have done it.
The center on Salmon Kill opened in 1996, but previously they had been on Wells Hill.
JM:That was a capital campaign in the building. The land was donated by the Gus Pope family. What a wonderful community center is there with Family Services (See file 897, Patrice McGrath) and the Salisbury visiting Nurses (See file56, Kathy Shortell),and Trotta field. It was he Bud Trotta (See file 80, Bud Trotta) helped put things together for that project. We were able to raise the money to pay for the building. Now they have to maintain it.
JMcM:Kim mentioned that they were trying to raise $1,500 for an alarm system for security after Sandy Hook. They got #11,000. That shows the community.
JM:People were so supportive of that. They were able to do other maintenance work at that time that was geared toward security too which is really helpful.
JMcM:The Child Care Center starts teaching children to ready them for school at about potty trained 3 to 6.
JMcM:They actually do learn things.
JM:Yes they have a real curriculum because they have state approval and regulations that they have to meet through NAEYC. It is a really structured system. The people who work in it are not just trained but true professionals. They do have on-going training that helps them to provide really good care, not just maintenance care, but muscle development, social skills.
JMcM:Early childhood development and childhood training and knowing what to do for 2 and 3 year olds because this child is not ready to learn this.
JM:You have to evaluate the kids to see if they are ready or if they have any special needs like if they need help with speech, they would have those resources available to them at Salisbury Central or the Salisbury Nurses Association.
JMcM:Speech, hearing, eyes, all that?
JM:All that, yes. It is so good that they can do the evaluation. It is so good for the kids the socializing with peers that they are going to go forward to school with.
JMcM:The socialization is a big part of it, particularly if you are a single child. They are taught how to treat their friends that they are not going to hit them.
JM:it is good for the parents as well because they need the socialization too because it is a time of life where they can become isolated from those around them, even those in their same age group. If they do not have family around, it is much harder. Still it is nice for the parents.
JMcM:You have been on the board off and on for a number of years. Generally how has the children’s center changed over time? The curriculum has changed obviously because when they were at the Methodist Church and later at Wells Hill, there was not a focus on teaching at that time.
JM:Around the time of the early 1990’s when my daughter was little, that is when they really started to look at that to promote school readiness, the alphabet and all that. Although I am not sure what they did at the Methodist Church.
JMcM:It probably was more baby-sitting as it was at the beginning. It was a group of local ladies that thought this would be a good idea. They put it together. At that time there was not early childhood Training and curriculum and it was very informal.
JM:Ge4tting general even state regulations weren’t as formal back then. I do know people who had their children in that program and found it a great help to them.
JMcM: Oh yeah, when there has been a need, somebody in the community has stepped up to the plate one way or another. It has usually been ladies in the community that see a need for something and they say, “Well we’ll do it.” It is a great community.
JM:There is certainly more to it. Yes, that is the biggest change I’ve seen. The move from Wells Hill Road to here with much more space was also a bid change. As far as the building itself, the playground area in size was much smaller because that had a land plot and the building took up more space. It just happens that at Wells Hill Road there was a pretty big back yard.
JMcM:Yes, it did; I lived next door.
JM:That has been a challenge. They are right now trying to raise money to get new playground equipment. That is the big thing because there is a trend. For a while all the metal stuff, then it had to be wooden, now it is plastic. Another challenge with that playground area is they have to have very deep wood chips and they have to renew those every year.
JMcM:The playground at the Grove has got a soft surface so the children will not hurt themselves.
JM:That is not cheap but necessary. If they raise money for the playground in a capital campaign, they may do that instead of the wood chips.
JMcM:That was fascinating to me. We used to play on dirt and cement.
JMcM:What positions have you held while on the board?7.
JM:I have done about everything over the course of time. I did Vice President, President, and Secretary for quite a time, but I was not treasurer. That I had not done. I did Nominating and I did Building and Grounds.
JMcM:That is fun! How often do you meet?
JM:Once a month. The third Tuesday of the month and right now we are meeting at the child care center which is excellent. For many years we met at the Town Hall which was fine too. They were very accommodating with that, but it is nice at the center. If board members aren’t usually at the center if they are not a parent at that time, it is nice for them to see the building. And the results of the program and what the center is all about.
JMcM:Do you have term limits?
JM:You know the term limits were written when I first came on the board were 2 3year terms total of 6 years. We kind of stuck to that but it has become harder as time went on. I did the first 6 years and left for a year and then came back. It has become harder and harder to replace people going off the board. Part of the problem is that we don’t have the same younger population to meet the needs of the board. There is also the willingness and an ability to volunteer. It is hard to do that if you are working two jobs to make ends meet. It is an issue.
JMcM:It is an issue whether it is church, book club, or patriotic organization or a board.
JM:Most importantly fire and ambulance for those volunteers. It is really incredible that they are still functioning as they are will all the years.
JMcM:And the training that they have to go through.
JM:Right and that is the place where you really see the difference from 30 years ago. Everything has changed so much.
JMcM:What are some of the benefits of the child care center?
JM:We talked about it a little bit but I will say again that the benefits for the community are socialization, school readiness, being part of a group, getting to know as friends and colleagues the other kids they will be in school with, a good basis for their lives in the community. They learn about cooperation, team work, sharing and they learn about sharing with everybody, not just a cousin or a brother or sister. They learn about sharing with someone they have just met that day. They learn about teachers and how to relate to teachers, how the structure operates. When they start going to pre-k or kindergarten, the school bus will drop them off. The little kids see that school bus ride with the” big kids” on it. They look forward to that next stage in life in a very real way.
I think it is good for the parents for many of the same reasons: socializing with the other parents who are in the same community or nearby, feeling that their children are well cared for is so important so that they can do their job and whatever else they need to do.
JMcM:And have peace of mind that you know your child is safe.
JM:Nobody is ever totally safe anywhere. But you can certainly feel confident that they are as safe as possible.
JMcM:Now I am going to ask you a little bit about the Tri-State Chamber of Commerce. I am assuming that involves you are in that because of the Journal.
JM:Yes The Journal is a big part of it. We are a company in this area which connects with business. We certainly over the course of time past 120 years have connected with all the businesses in the region. Our ad rolls pretty much reflect whoever is here. That is very important to us as a community as well as to the Lakeville Journal as a business. We have been involved with the chamber group a long time.
JMcM:It used to be the Salisbury Chamber of Commerce, but now it is Tri-State.
JM:Now it is Tri-State Chamber. John Lannen, who is from Canaan, is the same guy who runs Railroad Days. He just finished up with that. When he was President of the chamber (He stepped down in 2006 Ed.), he had the vision and because of the way our area is it should be able to have members from our tri-state region because that is our economics. We go shopping in Millerton, NY, we go to movies there. We go up to Gt. Barrington, Mass. It is much more of a cohesive community than say looking at Hartford or Albany. We welcome people from three states, mainly we have most of our members from Connecticut, but we do have those from other states.
JMcM:When did it change to Tri-State?
JM:I shall have to look that up. (2004 Ed.)
JMcM:What offices have you held with the chamber?
JM:I have been on the board as secretary and am still secretary. It is an important job. It really does keep the history together. I always keep the books of minutes together and keep that going forward. If there is a question like you just asked, I can look it up. When I think back, oh when was that? I should be able to look it up.
JMcM:What is the purpose of the chamber?
JM:It is to build community and commerce. That is their slogan and that is really it to support businesses in this area in whatever way we can. One of the events that John Lannen started when he was President was the Trade Festival which we would have at the high school for many years. That was a
vendor fair where businesses rent a booth and show their wares. We would have music and kids’ events. Over the years it has been successful especially at the time of the recession 2007-2008. It has become harder for businesses and that is when the chamber really has to work harder and communicate with businesses to see what we can do to help them through that difficult time. We are all in business ourselves so we understand all too well how hard it can be, especially in a rural area like this.
At that time we sort of changed it over and we changed the venue. As it evolved we did that event most recently as “Taste of the Tri-State” and we held it at Hotchkiss. It was really fun. There was one area for food and beverage tasting and another area also for vendors, and lots of kids’ events. We did have good attendance. It is a way to get people out. We did it in March so it was a nice time to come out and shake off the snow from winter and get to see people whom you have not seen in a while.
JMcM:Do you still do the Christmas trees?
JM:We do! Hometown Holidays that is one of the most fun things, especially now that the White Hart is open again. It is nice to have the tree lighting in front of the White Hart. When that was closed we had to move it around but we still did it. We have Santa for the kids. We bring in little toys and stuff.
JMcM:I did not know when I married my husband in 1982 that I was going to be doing Christmas trees. 92 Christmas trees Foster and I did. I remember there was an article in the paper about Foster McMillen and his committee. “Who is the Committee?” “You are!” We would go out every night to check the trees that they hadn’t taken the bulbs or strings of lights or taken the whole tree.
JM:That is huge! I can’t believe that you 2 did that because that is a big undertaking. Now we do “Adopt-a-tree” which is the other side of Hometown Holidays. Around October we send out the letters to everybody would you like to adopt a tree? Then they do. Whatever they donate supports both the purchase of the lights and the trees. It is our volunteer board; I never helped with that personally because it is always on Monday mornings which is a busy d time at the Journal. But everybody else on the board does. The Salisbury Garden Center -Eric Mendelson and all his guys come down and help too. We have the town crew people who help. You will be happy to know it goes on. We found a way to have more support because then the town does not have to do their own decorations that way. The chamber takes care of that for them.
JMcM:They are so beautiful.
JM:It is so subtle and yet it is festive.
JMcM:It is so beautiful coming through town and seeing the trees lite.
JM:Eric is the one now who goes around and worries about all the bulbs. He just can’t stop. If it snows in between or if a tree gets knocked over.
JMcM:If you have done it once, it stays with you. When I go through, I automatically look.10.
JM:If you see something let Eric know. You did 92 trees; we have done as many as 150, but that was too much to get done and keep track of, Last year we did 120.
JMcM:That is about right.
JM:We can only do so many and keep it looking nice.
JMcM:Is there anything you would like to add to this interview before we close?
JM:I appreciate you doing it. I think it is great that you are keeping track of what is happening in our town and community. I hope you learned a little something about the things I have done.
JMcM;I have. I appreciate your time and your knowledge. Thank you so much.