EQUINUNK, PA AND HANCOCK, NY — The communities sit roughly seven miles apart—Equinunk on the Pennsylvania side, Hancock in New York—and the Delaware flows between …
EQUINUNK, PA AND HANCOCK, NY — The communities sit roughly seven miles apart—Equinunk on the Pennsylvania side, Hancock in New York—and the Delaware flows between them.
There’s a long history of cooperation between that part of Wayne County and that slice of Delaware County. People are born on one side and marry into the other. Hancock residents hit the pancake breakfasts, the museum and the general store in Equinunk; Hancock has a great pharmacy, a supermarket and a lumberyard.
Among other things, of course. Once you start talking to people in either village, small businesses, charities and churches unfold and flower.
This is the underlying truth of our small towns: When crisis hits, everyone pulls together. Neighbors reach out to neighbors, strangers to strangers. Family is important, but in times of need, family is loosely defined. Everyone is family, because they care about each other.
“Everyone comes together when anybody needs anything,” said Linda O’Brien, executive director of the Hancock Community Education Foundation (HCEF). She’s been here all her life, either on the Pennslyvania side, attending Hancock schools, or living in Hancock itself. “When anything happens [to someone else], it’s like something happened to your family... The community shows overwhelming support.”
The HCEF is behind a variety of programs that create a nurturing network to support Hancock’s kids from birth, through high school graduation and on to college. It’s investing in the village’s future.
In the meantime, there’s the present. O’Brien talks about food pantries that make sure nobody goes hungry amid the pandemic’s job losses. The Perfectly Priced Shop, a thrift shop started by Socorro Marin, steps in to help. A house burns down? They will make sure you have those basics it’s easy to forget.
Meanwhile, the Hancock Partners, along with a lot of help from the community, created a town square where the Victory market once stood. There’s a gazebo, beautiful landscaping and a statue of Hancock native and baseball player “Honest” Eddie Murphy.
“Everybody looks out for each other as much as they can,” O’Brien said. “It’s the community that does the work. That, and the people who donate, make the work possible.”
Jutta Bishop was an antiques dealer, but now she sells food. “Selling food is so much more rewarding,” she said. “People come in with smiles on their faces.”
She’s owned the 19th-century Equinunk General Store since 2019.
To get it up, running and stocked, she reached out to farmers, beekeepers and coffee-roasters. An employee gave her a lot of guidance.
There’s experience and loyalty embedded in the village, especially one as small as Equinunk, and it must have helped enormously, certainly in 2020. “I could not have built it this fast if it weren’t for my customers,” she said.
The pandemic has strained systems, but the Equinunk General Store has stayed open. “It really is a group effort,” Bishop said. “I couldn’t do it all by myself.” She talks about her customers—the people who live here, the people who visit, the motorcyclists who pass through. She asks that customers wear masks and “they’ve been very respectful about that.”
Empty store shelves earlier this year drove home the importance, and perhaps the fragility, of our supply chain. Bishop worked hard to keep food on the shelves. Working with local farmers has always mattered to her, but now, it’s clear it should matter to the rest of us non-store owners. “[Selling food] is bringing all the farms together... and bringing the farms to the store.” And then, feeding the people.
Linda Wescott talks about small-town caring.
She and her husband had moved here from Connecticut 20 years ago. They’d gotten involved because small towns always need help. The church, the library, the historical society... there’s so much. You give because you care.
When she became ill awhile back, everyone helped. “For 30 days, I did not have to prepare a meal,” she said. “And the only way I can pay it back is to do the same.”
This would happen to anyone here, she adds. “I’m not special... [but] when you experience something like that, it’s so uncommon, and that’s how you know you’re in the right place.”
Equinunk is the right place. Here’s the Manchester Community Library, an all-volunteer effort funded completely by book sales and donations, not by tax dollars. They’re closed in the winter but they keep people reading in the other seasons.
There’s the Equinunk Historical Society, housed in the old Calder House. Alexander Calder and Israel Chapman bought the land in 1833, and Calder kept this part. The Society runs the Joel Hill Sawmill, too. (Read more about the Joel Hill Sawmill in the 2020 Upper Delaware Magazine, www.bit.ly/RRsawmill).
Community groups have had a rough year of it. Churches canceled services. The museum closed. The Pine Mill Community Hall’s pancake breakfast didn’t happen. “The Equinunk Fire Department’s fundraisers were all canceled,” Wescott said.
It sounds grim, and it could be. But people can help. They do help. “There are so many good people here. We’re just blessed.”