Faces of Kingston is a chance for all of us to know one another better and celebrate the wonderful folks in our midst.
This week the delightful 38-year-old Shawna-Marie Elizabeth Brown joins us to share her feelings and experiences.
Morgan Y. Evans: How long have you lived in Kingston?
Shawna: I’ve been back in Kingston since I was about 14 years old so it’s been about 24 years now. At three years old my family moved to Delaware for my father’s job. We lived there for a while and then moved to Auburn, N.Y. and then back to Kingston. Kingston definitely has always been home, almost my entire family lives here.
What is your earliest fond memory of here?
One of my earliest fond memories would have to be coming to stay with my grandparents for the summer. Just imagine ten little girls all playing Barbie dolls, clothing everywhere. I also went to summer camp for the first time. One of the best things about summer with the Grans was falling asleep to the sounds of the train driving by the bottom of Emerick Street, such a comfort. Still to this day when I hear a train at night it brings back such nostalgia.
What can you tell us about what you do for a living here currently and what do you love about it that is rewarding?
I moved back to Kingston from Brooklyn about a year ago and was blessed to have found a job pretty quick. I’ve been in health insurance for the last 14 years or so, and the first place I applied called me and I was hired. I’ve been at Mid-Hudson Regional Hospital for about a year and work with some really great ladies. We process insurance, set up authorizations for patients coming in for surgeries or therapy, and we make sure they have active coverage so they don’t have to worry and know that their care is paid for. I guess we are kind of authorization superheroes.
For fun and to keep my zen I also assist with events at Petalos Floral Design in Uptown Kingston. I met the owner Brian about a year ago at a farmers’ market fundraising event. He said, “I own a flower shop,” and I said, “I love flowers and plants if you ever need any help at all.”
We got in contact with each other a few weeks later and it;s been flower heaven ever since. My dream job is actually working in a flower shop. It took 38 years, but it happened.
What is a place no longer part of Kingston, like a closed business you remember or a time period come and gone, or something you miss from the past?
Well, it wasn’t part of Kingston, but the Catskill Animal Farm was a part of my childhood, and I know it was a staple in just about every kids live when we were young. There’s a picture of me sitting on my mom’s lap — I think I was maybe two — and I’m feeding deer.
What is your favorite part of Kingston to explore when you have the time or have a night free to relax?
Hmmmm, I love all of Kingston. The Strand, so you can walk by the water and look at boats. Midtown with all of the art galleries. But I’m definitely a bit of an Uptown girl. You can usually find me on a Saturday morning walking through the farmers’ market and on a weekend night at Crown or Stockade Tavern enjoying a delish beverage. Since I work Monday through Friday I try to stay low-key, and I’m actually in bed by ten on a weeknight since I have to be up and out so early.
What do you love most about Kingston right now?
What I love most about this beautiful little town is that she is thriving, growing and evolving! The art galleries, the music, festivals, the restaurants, the shops and of course the people. The revival has begun and is going strong. I’ve been here for a long time now and I’ve never seen Kingston like this. It’s basically Kingston 2.0 and I’m really proud to say I live here and can’t wait to see what the future has in store.
What is an important social issue for you currently in this country or even on a local level?
The most important social issue to me right now is affordable housing. Many of my friends are working two or three jobs just to make ends meet while trying to enjoy life and survive, and it shouldn’t be like that. Rents are soaring and not just for the young folks but also for the empty-nesters that want to sell their homes and downsize. It’s a constant battle, but on the upside I have been reading about all the grants that Kingston is getting that will allow more affordable housing units to be built. It’s important that with all the great change it’s inclusive and not just one-sided. For a city to do well, all parties have to be included.
How do you manage to have better style than the vast majority of other people who live here?
[laughs] Umm, well my style is my style. I don’t follow trends because that’s just not me. I go with what feels right and makes sense. I’m pretty tall and lean, so not everything I try on fits right. I do love fashion so one day I’m in a vintage dress at brunch in Saugerties, and the next minute I’m wearing Old Navy leggings, a tank and flip-flops while grocery shopping. As of late, I’ve been trying some new things. I actually bought a sun hat from Bop to Tottom that’s fantastic.