Information resource for New Hope, PA and Lambertville, NJ

MARCH 2007


Box of New Hope
By Regina Schrambling (as appeared on 2/07)

Most people who knew Jonny Krist from diaper days watched him grow up on film. Every Christmas his father, renowned travel photographer Bob Krist, and his creatively energetic mother, Peggy, mailed out a black-and-white print of “the three wise guys” in lieu of traditional Hallmark cards, with Jonny and his older brothers Matthew and Brian posing as Jersey boys in shades and various states of cool. Year one he was being towed in a wagon; by his teens he could play any instrument he was pictured with.

Jonny died at 19, his promise and vibrancy wiped out in a car accident very close to their home in New Hope, Pa., on May 31, 2006. He was a prodigiously talented musi-cian whose band had gigs in New York City, a charmer who was president of his high school, a globally and environmentally aware dreamer who worked on such projects as digging wells in driest Africa. And his devastated family is determined to keep his aura alive through the medium they know best.

As a way of partially underwriting the many projects of the Jonathan D. Krist Foundation they immediately established, the Krists tapped into a network of contacts to print and package images of their son’s happiest hometown in what they are calling a “Box of (New) Hope.” Money from the sale of the 12-pack of blank cards will be used to pay for bigger “boxes of hope” containing anything from saxophones to soccer balls, anything that will benefit others who can carry on the Jonny spirit. To make the project even more worthy of a son who saw ways to improve things wherever he looked, his high school’s Future Business Leaders of America chapter has been enlisted to come up with out-of-the-box ideas for taking the cards to a wider audience.

As Peggy Krist recounts, in late 2005, she and Jonny spent a weekend gathering un-used instruments and musical supplies in their basement and around town to box up to send to a music-hungry charter school, KIPP Gaston College Preparatory in Gaston, N.C., that his brother Matt knew needed help. They did so well collecting that there was no room in the car for Jonny, and Peggy drove south alone to drop off the instruments and change a few lives. That in turn rebooted the way she thought about charity. “We’re not Bill Gates,” she said, but she realized that “in tiny little things you could make a dif-ference.” A mere $4,000 can support the entire jazz band program at the school for a full year.

She and her husband were in Fiji not long after the shock of Jonny’s death when she had a similar epiphany. While Bob was teaching on a Lindblad travel tour, they dropped in on the tiny impoverished island of Bega, where young boys had more adrenaline than equipment to put into practice for a baseball tournament, and they stopped on the next big island to pack up a box of sporting goods to be shipped to the team. It was quick, it was immediate, and it had to make a difference.

While Bob was teaching at the Maine Photo Workshops in Rockport last summer, Peggy grilled everyone she met there about fund-raising ideas for the foundation. Already contributions were flowing in, including $5,000 from Jonny’s grandfather, who lives on the Krist compound on the site of an old mill in New Hope. That gesture became the first scholarship, awarded to a senior heading for a local college who would have had a hard time paying her own way. But to give away money, you need to keep raising money, and how to do that?

Because Bob is such a prolific photographer and Peggy is such a boundlessly optimistic promoter, they ran with the notion of selling photographic note cards of, and in, New Hope. Bob, after all, had rich resources in the files of photos shot for his self-published book on the almost too-picturesque town. Rather than selling them individually, they chose to offer 12 in a clear package, to be labeled “A Box of (New) Hope.” Peggy thought of enlisting printing help from Cardthartic, a company in Champaign, Ill., that had bought Krist images for its line in the past. After all, that business was started by Jodee Stevens in the wake of her father’s death when she noticed the commercial condolences were not much solace ( Steve Wolock of River Graphics in Lambertville, N.J. designed the cards. The Krists were able to tap into the end of a run on another printing job to get the cards out by mid-December.

The project was done quickly, which left little time for aesthetic angst, Bob admits. The six photos in the box were chosen not just because they are quintessential New Hope images but because they happened to be among the few verticals shot from his book, Impressions of Bucks County. They comprise electric fall foliage against a red barn, a steam engine on the New Hope and Ivyland Railroad, a mule-drawn boat on the Dela-ware Canal, a bicyclist along the Delaware River towpath, the historic Perry Man-sion/museum with a flock of geese out front and the American flag whipping in the wind on a snow-covered antique buckboard. Each captures a sense of history and a sense of place in a town with roots dating from the early 1700s.
The Box of New Hope is just a small piece of the foundation, which the Krists set up with the help of a family friend, local lawyer Peter Reiss, and whose board is made up of Jonny’s brothers, Matthew and Brian, and fellow students, Brandon Grossman, Rose Gutekunst, David Aaronson and Jared Mancuso. Two scholarships will be given each year, one to a New Hope student and another to a student in the Bronx. The “Bridge Program” will bring in speakers and artists to enhance studies in music and the humanities at New Hope Solebury High and Trenton Central High School in NJ.

But the boxes may prove to be the most hands-on, user-friendly program. The school’s shop teacher, Craig Balmer, is building a suggestion box to collect ideas for worthy beneficiaries to insure Jonny’s gifts keep on giving. And by focusing on both the future and the here-and-now, the Krists are working to overcome savage grief. As Peggy notes, there is a saying that “you don’t heal from the loss of a loved one because time passes; you heal because of what you do with the time.” By using hers to connect with other people and build the foundation, she has found, she can “get out there and look for him, just to find he is all around us.”

Boxes of New Hope can be purchsed for $15 each. Call Peggy at 215-862-4828 or purchase in New Hope at Farley's Bookshop or New Hope Photo.




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