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New Canton Church & Community Director on a mission to help others

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CANTON - Raymond E. Crosby has spent most of his career on the fast-track, selling medical equipment to healthcare faciltiies and training employees how to use the devices.

Now, the 51-year-old spends his work days distributing food, clothing and advice to area families who need some help with basic necessities.

Earlier this month, Mr. Crosby started his new role as director of the Canton Church & Community Program, a not-for-profit agency created in 1974 by six area churches.

“This is my mission now,” Mr. Crosby, Potsdam, said during an interview at his office, 7 Main St. “This is what I want to do.”

He was selected by the agency’s 12-member board of directors, which launched a search to replace Catherine E. Mathews who resigned in May after serving three years.

Eager for a change and longing for slower-paced lifestyle, Mr. Crosby moved to the north county 13 months ago. His background includes consulting work and employment with various companies, most recently Johnson & Johnson. He graduated with a degree in the economics of marketing from Southern Connecticut State University, New Haven, Conn.

“I love the north country, and I was trying to find a place where I could give back,” he explained.

When he saw the advertisement for the Church & Community Program, he decided to take a leap of faith and apply for the job. The agency runs a clothing thrift shop and a food pantry that served about 500 families last year.

“I’ve known an awful lot of people who needed help. I was blessed with a great job and career, and I feel it’s my turn to give something back,” Mr. Crosby said.

He and his wife, Lori J., have two daughters in college, Chesley E., 22, and Delaney R., 18.

Janet A. Stitt, president of the Church & Community board, said Mr. Crosby’s experience working with volunteer boards made him a top choice.

He has served as president of the Greater Amersterdam School District and was a board member for the Amerstam Big Brothers, Big Sisters Progam.

“This gentleman has experience working with a board,” Mrs. Stitt said. “It’s helpful for us that we will be on the same page going forward. I’m hoping for his sake and for ours that we work well together.”

She said the agency’s board wants to refocus on its mission statement which is “to provide food and clothing to those in need and to offer referrals or additional assitance and to do so with respect for those we serve.”

Mr. Crosby said he plans to make sure the agency’s clients know what other services are available and how to access them. He keeps a two-page list handy that includes contacts and phone numbers for area churches, neighborhood centers, Renewal House, legal assistance, police departments and several other agencies.

He also wants the public to be aware that his agency doesn’t just hand out food to people whenever they ask. Clients receive three days worth of food twice a month and must meet income guidelines. He will also focus on applying for additional grant funding and organize fundraisers for the agency.

“We don’t take the place of food stamps. We’re a safety net,” he said. “We want to reach more people who can use our servcies because we know they’re out there.”

The agency serves individuals and families from Canton, DeKalb, Russell, Hermon, Rensselaer Falls and Clare. Its board is composed of two representatives each from six Canton churches: Unitarian Universalist, Grace Episcopal, St. Mary’s Catholic, United Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist and First Presbyterian.

The thrift shop is open from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Summer hours for the food pantry are from noon to 3:30 p.m. Monday and from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

The agency’s phone number is 386-3534.

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