The Woodstock Public Library will have a maker space in its new Dixon Avenue location thanks to a $50,000 donation from Neal Smoller, owner of Village Apothecary, in honor of the Covid Busting Volunteer Army.
“We were giving lots of doses with the help of a gigantic volunteer army,” said Smoller. “Everybody chose to be there. Almost nobody asked for anything in return and it was always such a moving thing. Persistently, when there was no pandemic to rise up and fight, they were just doing the daily grind of community care and community service. Those people have been doing it before us. So it was our turn to serve. And we all did it. We all went above and beyond what was expected of us.”
As a medical provider, Village Apothecary was being compensated by the government and by insurance providers for the vaccinations, and the volunteers helped get them into people’s arms.
The volunteers worked with groups. “So it started with the Boys and Girls Club in Saugerties and moved on to different organizations, ” Smoller said. “I was giving money here and there. And there was a number that I had in my head for the approximate value of the time that people would get if I paid them to be there, and so I said this is the number that I’m going to give.”
Smoller said the $50,000 gift to the library was the largest of the donations he’s made. “I of course respect the community role of a library, and I hold it in high regard, and especially the library crew that we have, the people that work there, the people that serve the library so well to the community — and unfortunately, in Woodstock, it’s been a weird kind of fight at times.”
His donation, he said, was something that’s a statement. “It says that not only do I support the library, but I really, really, really support the library. Not only do I support the library, but I really I want them to have the tools that they need to keep on their mission.”
Smoller got the idea when he was doing 3D printing at his house and decided it would be great to have the technology available in a public setting.
“Then I think the idea of a maker space got teased. And I was even thinking beyond just 3D printing, having some workstations for video and audio editing, even potentially some robotic stuff, if we could, and I know there’s this sound equipment that you can get so kids can make music and such or even stop-motion video,” he explained. “There’s so much available to kids and to people that we didn’t have before where they can really learn these things. This stuff can be available to people in the community that can’t afford to have it in their house or don’t get access to it can finally have access to it, and then that kid ends up doing something with it because of his or her access.”
Smoller attached two conditions to the donation. One was that the library consult with his friend Perri Naccarato, owner of The Computer Guys, for the equipment purchases. The other was that the library display photographer Franco Vogt’s photo of the Covid Busting Volunteer Army and put up a plaque dedicating the space.
“They said, ‘Do you want a big check and we can do a photo op?’ I said absolutely not. They said, ‘Do you want to name the room?’ I said no. We will call it the MakerSpace. But we will have a small dedication, a little bit of modesty around it.”