Library Foundation Hosts “Sunday Tea” Fundraiser

Sunday, May 6
1:00 – 3:00pm
at the Library

With completion of its decade-long drive to preserve, restore and modernize the Stone Ridge Library in sight, the Stone Ridge Library Foundation will host its annual fundraiser that recognizes individuals whose dedication to the library have helped make it the heart of life in Marbletown.

This year’s honorees at a Sunday Tea on May 6 are Stephen MacDonald, who was a library trustee for some 30 years, and his wife, Priscilla Derven, who lent her considerable talents to the Foundation’s sustained fundraising effort. Short biographies are below.

“Steve and Priscilla have never hesitated to give of their time, energy and creativity to keep the Stone Ridge Library thriving,” said library board president Susanne Warren. “They’ve helped us build back from the scary moment when our library was in literal danger of collapse, and with their insight and talent helped position our library to continue to expand our services into the future.”

Foundation president Varcia Venetzanos said, “It has taken almost a decade of sustained effort by our unheralded Foundation board members to find money in the community to repair and update our library buildings, because tax levy funds can’t be used for structural costs, only operation. Thanks to hard-working board members like Priscilla, we raised an astounding $470,000 from our community that paid for the most important structural and environmental work. Now we’re continuing to look for funds for the remaining projects. This tea is a good moment to celebrate how far we’ve come.”

The event will take place from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. There will be a short presentation at 1:00 p.m., followed by tea sandwiches, desserts and a selection of hot tea, served in the library’s recently restored 1798 stone building. Guests are invited to tour it and the attached 1811 building to see how past contributions from members of the public – along with private grants, key government grants from New York State Construction Aid and a grant facilitated by State Senator George Amedore, as well as corporate grants from Ulster Savings Bank and Stewart’s Foundation – helped preserve these historic buildings for a third century of use. The Stone Ridge Library opened in 1909.

Guests also will be able to enjoy the library’s spring art exhibit, which features paintings by local artist Barbara Gordon. Her work, featuring abstract images and landscapes, is on view through mid-June. Some of the paintings are available for purchase.

Tickets to the Tea – $30 per person and $50 per couple – are available at the circulation desk and online at Anyone who can’t attend but wants to honor Steve MacDonald and Priscilla Derven can make a donation via the website. For more information contact the Stone Ridge Library Foundation Office at 845 687-7023, Ext. 106 or visit

The fundraiser will help pay for the final phase of restoration, which involves building a multipurpose room that can accommodate up to 25 people. This has been a top priority, for the library has steadily increased programming. Last year there were 292 programs attended by 3,404 adults and children. The space is being created by combining a room formerly used for teens and activities with an adjacent cold porch, which had been used for storage. The library anticipates that work will be completed by early fall. No programs will be eliminated or halted because of the construction. In 2017 the Library had 73,068 visitors.

The library board created the nonprofit Library Foundation, a 501(c)(3) corporation, as its fundraising arm in 2006. Over the years, funds contributed by community members – with additional state funds and grants – repaired the two Federal Era buildings. That prevented the collapse of the 1798 building’s stone walls, replaced rotting windows, tied the walls together with metal rods, and installed doors and clapboard siding with historically accurate ones. Residents happily watched as the wooden buttresses that held up the building for a number of years finally were removed.

After that, the library turned its attention to the adjacent 1811 building, replacing a leaking roof and fixing various outdoor eyesores, including rotting clapboard and a dangerous front porch that had been added in the 1930s. Additionally, through special memorial gifts, there have been improvements to the children’s reading area.

Here are brief biographies of the two honorees:

Priscilla Derven – painter, textile designer and pivotal fundraiser for the Stone Ridge Library – saw how central the library was to the community soon after moving to High Falls in 1986. Like her husband, longtime library board member Steve MacDonald, she began by volunteering at the Library Fair. About a decade ago, after voters turned down a modest tax increase to preserve and expand the library’s two-century-old buildings, she joined the Library Foundation board. There, she helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars in private funds that literally kept the buildings from collapse. She worked contact lists for donations and planned fundraising events, including a notable silent auction of first-class artwork that she solicited from their creators.

Born in Nyack, she went to the School of Visual Arts, attended City College part time and graduated from Hunter College with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in art and art education. Over the next decade, she taught art to children and Hunter undergraduates, worked in the graphic art departments of every major New York City newspaper and painted.

When she and Steve moved here from Brooklyn, she studied textile design at The School of Visual Arts and Fashion Institute of Technology so she could learn the trade. That enabled her to work from her High Falls studio as a freelance textile designer for the next 15 years. For some of that time, she ran her own hand-printed fabrics business.

Once they began spending winters in Florida in the mid-1990s, she focused more on painting. She has exhibited in New York City, the Hudson Valley and Key West since 1976 and has been with John Davis Gallery in Hudson, NY, since 2004.

She long taught English as a foreign language with Ulster Literacy Volunteers. Through the Marbletown Youth Commission, she taught after-school art classes both out of her studio and, later, in a program she created at the Canal House. She likes to read, take walks and practice yoga. Until recently she was a beekeeper who sold honey at Davenport’s. She also was active in the local Democratic Party and the Marbletown Residents Association.

Steve MacDonald served on the Stone Ridge Library Board for some 30 years and sees the library as “the life force of the community. I’m proud to have been a part of it.”

After moving to High Falls with his wife, Priscilla Derven, in 1986, he served on the Zoning Board of Appeals and ad hoc town committees, including the Master Plan Committee. He was an EMT and team leader with the Marbletown Rescue Squad. He was on the board of Friends of the Shawangunks and still offers them his editorial services.

Born in Des Moines, he attended Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, graduated from Grinnell College in 1957, joined the Navy and served as radio officer on a heavy cruiser in California and the South Pacific.

In 1961 he graduated with high honors from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism and won a Pulitzer Traveling Fellowship. After a six-month tour of South America, he took a job on the copy desk of the Miami Herald. The Wall Street Journal recruited him and he spent most of his working life there as a writer and editor; he retired as a senior special writer.

In the restless early 1970s, he took a 10-year break. He helped start a commune, taught journalism at Brooklyn College, opened a carpentry shop, studied industrial design at Pratt Institute, was managing editor of the design magazine ID and worked in an industrial design firm in Manhattan. But newspapering won out and he returned to the Journal.

He discovered Stone Ridge in the early ’80s, when he and a fellow editor rented an apartment in the Sturgis house on Leggett Road for a couple of summers. When Steve and Priscilla got together, initially renting and then building their first house, they figured out how to spend more time here. For Steve, that initially meant telecommuting via primitive, dial-up phone transmission.

Steve is a woodworker, swimmer, sailor, bike rider and walker. He likes to read and to draw. He admires Italian design and food and is an intermittent student of the language.

For more information contact the Stone Ridge Library Foundation Office at 845 687-7023, Ext. 106 or visit

%d bloggers like this: