Massachusetts Daily Collegian

For Amherst homeless, ‘Hope’ comes in the form of a cow

By Jaclyn Bryson

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Jaclyn Bryson/Daily Collegian

There is a cow in Amherst Center, standing guard outside the Loose Goose Café, quietly watching the traffic make its way down North Pleasant Street.

But it isn’t real.

The life-sized cow statue, named “Hope,” was unveiled Sept. 7 and functions like a giant piggy bank, inviting local passersby to drop their spare change into its mouth in support of Craig’s Place, a homeless shelter in Amherst.

“People feed the cow, they feed Hope and there is hope for people who are homeless,” said Kevin Noonan, executive director of Craig’s Doors, the organization in charge of Craig’s Place.

The construction of Hope follows the creation of the Counterfeit Cow Production’s documentary, “Homeless in a College Town,” which profiles the local homeless population in Amherst.

According to Sari Gagnon, the director, she and her partner, Matt Heron Duranti, the producer, were inspired to do this project after noticing the prevalence of the homeless community in the Amherst area.

“Every time I got off the highway, on exit 19 to Route 9, I would see someone panhandling there,” said Gagnon of the times she frequently travelled between Connecticut, where she’s from, and Amherst.

“What was unusual to me was that it was quite often new faces,” she added.

According to Noonan, both filmmakers knew there was more they could do in addition to producing their documentary.

“They wanted to do something that was more long-lasting, and something that would call attention to the people who are homeless,” he said. “So the cow is doing just that.”

According to Gagnon, development of Hope began in Oct. 2012. The cow was constructed by local Amherst artist Kamil Peters who, according to Noonan, created most of the statue from recycled metal such as propane tanks and a 275-gallon oil drum.

“It’s an eye grabber,” said Gagnon of the final product. “But it’s not just something you can look at, it’s something that you interact with and can learn from, and that’s what’s going to draw the community in to helping with this sort of crisis.”

Even though the cow statue was modeled after the Counterfeit Cow Production’s logo, Noonan believes it symbolizes more.

“The cow is a nurturing thing,” he said. “In India, cows are sacred. They are allowed to walk down the center of the highway and no one would dare hit them or do anything to harm them. The cow is a symbol of life in many ways, and our philosophy is that everyone deserves a place to live.”

According to Noonan, the hard work that went into making Hope a reality has paid off. So far, the cow has raised almost $900.

“It is something that would be set there in place, all year round, forever, really,” Heron Duranti said of why Hope will be a more successful tool for raising money than a typical, one-time fundraiser.

And they still have more plans for Hope.

Gagnon and Heron Duranti added that they would be interested in organizing a 5k run or a dance for Hope in order to keep increasing funds.

“There’s all kinds of things that we could do that really get the community involved in helping,” Gagnon said. “So I think the cow is a great fundraising tool for the future.”

Heron Duranti added that what he really wants to see is not only engagement from the community, but contribution from local students.

“What I really want to have happen is to get a lot of student involvement, from all the schools in the area, but mainly the colleges,” he said. “We are currently actively seeking involvement from student groups at UMass .”

Yet despite their impact on the community, Gagnon added that anyone could have done the same.

“We’re just filmmakers, she said. “We just identified a problem, and wanted to know more about it and wanted to do something to help. Whatever it is that you are good at, you can put towards helping your community.”

Jaclyn Bryson can be reached at [email protected]

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