NORTH CREEK As news of an economic recession continues to draw national attention, a concerned group of local community leaders have decided to meet the challenge head-on. Led by Johnsburg Supervisor, Sterling Goodspeed, the Community Economic Coalition met for the first time last week at the North Country Outreach Center. Their agenda was to assess the various economic needs of the community, determine how those needs may change in light of the economic climate, and provide a forum for discussion on how to meet increased demand on the towns financial resources. In March, Goodspeed drafted a letter to key members of the community, inviting them to participate in the discussion. In the letter, he cited several factors that could challenge the quality of life in the region. Among them were transportation costs, rising food prices, mortgage and housing expenditures, and increasing home heating costs. As we stagger at the edge of a potential recession with dramatic price increases, near bank failure, a burgeoning credit crisis and the fallout of a mortgage crisis, Goodspeed wrote. It seems to me important to recognize that the challenges in the Town of Johnsburg and no doubt other similarly situated areas will be even further heightened by our own unique environment. At the meeting, Goodspeed and fellow board member, Ron Vanselow, met with over two dozen members of the community. Among them were representatives from the North Country Outreach Center, Hudson Headwaters Health Network, Johnsburg Rotary Club, Gore Mountain Region Chamber of Commerce, Tri-County Nursing Home, Johnsburg Central School, and North Country Ministry. Each group shared their concerns for the town and its residents, including the possibility of facing an increased demand on an already strained community assistance network. To illustrate this point, Brother James Posluszny of North Country Ministry provided details of his organizations activities, including an initiative to dramatically step-up fundraising efforts, and the recent community garden and farmers market project. I asked all of you here with the idea of being proactive, Goodspeed said. To act now versus reacting later. We all want to believe that our economic situation will improve, but if it doesnt, we need a plan in place to deal with it. Our challenge will be to recognize that the percentage of people that need our help will increase dramatically as this crisis goes on. During the discussion, Goodspeed also urged the participants to consider the impact on local government services, including the question of how essential services could be maintained while working within the parameters of a controlled town budget. Commenting on factors already at work in the community, North Country Outreach Center board member Anita Abrams was quick to point out the immediacy of the situation. The most direct thing we have seen is the increase in the number of families asking for emergency food, Abrams says. In this month alone, our requests for emergency food allotments have nearly doubled. Food itself is more expensive, and families are stretched so far with the price of gas, that if something extra happens such as an illness or trouble with a car, their budgets just cant stretch as far as it used to. Noting the need to focus on issues such as this, Abrams was confident that solutions could be found. Sterlings idea in starting this was to bring attention to the issue and to make sure we have a coordinated and efficient effort, Abrams added. I think its going to take all of us to make it work, but I believe it can work. As a coalition, our hope is to establish a community-wide plan for managing the economic impact of what we are facing. Moving ahead, the coalition has started the process of establishing breakout groups that will focus on specific aspects of the issue, including the development of local and regional action plans. Anyone interested in working with the Johnsburg Community Economic Coalition is encouraged to contact the Town Hall at (518) 251-2421.