By Jessica Reynolds Staff Writer
The Daily Star
---- — Friends of Bassett Medical Center and the “Fabulous Beekman Boys” gathered Wednesday for a luncheon honoring more than 150 dedicated volunteers.
The theme of Bassett’s annual event, held at Cooperstown’s Otesaga Resort Hotel, was “Volunteers: Our Greatest Natural Resource.” Volunteers were treated to lunch and mingled with The Beekman Boys, Josh Kilmer-Purcell and Brent Ridge, who said they know first-hand the importance of volunteering.
Partners Ridge and Kilmer-Purcell are best known for their reality TV show, “The Fabulous Beekman Boys,” which airs on the Cooking Channel.
The pair moved to Sharon Springs from New York City in 2007, bought the historic Beekman 1802 Farm and Mansion, renovated it and created what has now become one of “the fastest growing lifestyle brands in the country,” according to the Nasdaq Stock Market.
Before moving to Sharon Springs, Ridge was a physician, he said Wednesday.
“Having worked in health care, I know how important volunteers are,” Ridge said. “Doctors and nurses don’t always have time to take care of all the customer service-related responsibilities, but volunteers can help provide that.”
Kara Travis, senior director of Bassett’s patient services, said Bassett Medical Center relies heavily on volunteers to support its staff. Volunteers provide more than 15,000 hours of service to Basssett each year, she said. Many of Bassett’s volunteers used to work at the hospital, and came back to help after retiring.
“Volunteers are often the first impression that people have of our organization,” Travis said. “They greet visitors and patients with a friendly smile.”
Kilmer-Purcell’s grandmother volunteered at a nursing home for the majority of her elderly life, he said. The couple said they were delighted to speak at the luncheon because Bassett is the facility they would use if they ever needed care.
During filming for the first season of their show, one of the cameramen fell out of a window, Kilmer-Purcell said. He spent more than a week at Bassett.
“Bassett is our hospital,” the couple agreed.
On the eve of President Barack Obama’s visit to Cooperstown to discuss area tourism, the pair agreed that it takes the entire community to keep tourism up and keep things running smoothly.
“Volunteerism is as important of an industry as tourism,” Kilmer-Purcell said. “Tourism has been moving more toward an experience-based industry lately - more about what you can do somewhere, rather than what you can see. We all need to work together, plan and volunteer to make this area a place people can visit for more than a day or two.”
With a population of fewer than 600, Kilmer-Purcell and Ridge’s homestead, the village of Sharon Springs, is “100 percent volunteer-driven,” the couple said. The village’s emergency medical services, as well as the fire department, rely solely on volunteers.
This weekend, Sharon Spring’s fifth annual Garden Party Festival will be held. Hundreds of local craftspeople, artists, farmers and foodies will be there to mingle and encourage visitors to participate in small-town life. It takes many volunteers to put together a successful festival each year, Kilmer-Purcell said.
The Beekmans owe much of their own success to volunteers and neighbors, who helped them get started in Sharon Springs and showed them the ins and outs of farming, they said.
The pair said they wish President Obama would come volunteer on the Beekman Farm someday.
“We’d love for him to come see our farm,” Kilmer-Purcell said. “But he has to do some chores, too! He’s gotta pitch in!”