Rest Haven documentary to be shown Oct. 7 and 8

Film shows Helen Keller's contributions in Monroe

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  • Provided photos To honor the unique history and local work done by M.C. Migel and Helen Keller, a documentary about Rest Haven will be shown at the Town of Monroe Art and Civic Center (TMACC), followed by a showing of the movie, "Miracle Worker," on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 7 and 8.

  • Timothy Mitts' research shows that Helen Keller was keenly involved Rest-Haven Inc., which operated as an adult home residence home from 1923 to 1968 at 236 High St. in the Village of Monroe. Keller can be seen in the center of this 1950 photo (she's turned to the left, holding the rail) on the steps to Rest-Haven with about 20 other blind women who were vacationing there. Mitts said the photo "starts to show that Helen was more involved in the operations of Rest-Haven than previously known to the public. There is a letter in 1945 or so that speaks of this that will be released later."

By Christine Urio

— To honor the unique history and local work done by M.C. Migel and Helen Keller, a documentary about Rest Haven will be shown at the Town of Monroe Art and Civic Center (TMACC), followed by a showing of the movie, "Miracle Worker," on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 7 and 8.

With Monroe Town Historian Jim Nelson telling the story of how the home played a significant part in Monroe’s community, the documentary will showcase the life and times of Rest Haven, documenting the humanitarian side of the house from 1923-1968 when it was used as an Adult Home Residence for Blind Women.

'A home that served humanity'“The home has always been a home that served humanity,” said Timothy Mitts, the spokesman for HRR Corp. “From May 1978 to September 2016, AHRC of Orange County also used the home as an Adult Home Residence for the Developmentally Delayed.”

The documentary uses a broad collection of documents, pictures and interviews of important people who have helped gather information about Rest Haven from the American Foundation for the Blind, New York State Historical Preservation, Warwick Valley Dispatch and Warwick Historical Society.

“This documentary is about the life and times of Rest Haven,” said Mitts. “Hear directly from the residents of Rest Haven in 1957 about their stay and how the community helped.”

While the documentary is about Rest Haven, given the unique story surrounding the history of the home, it is being released by the Town of Monroe Historical Society and the Preservation of Rest Haven.

“It was only fitting to have the release of the Rest Haven/Helen Keller documentary in the local theater like they did back in 1923 when the Colonial Theater opened up,” said Mitts. “TMACC and Rest Haven are working in conjunction with Town of Monroe Historian Jim Nelson, who is running the program to introduce the world to a great American story right here in our own back yards.”

Rest Haven is the crossroads where many people and organizations have met for the purpose of community, he said, adding it's important for people to be educated by this documentary because many residents are unaware of the history Monroe holds.

Historical value“The purpose of the event is to show our community how much real historical value we have here right in Monroe,” said Mitts. “It has been over 50 years since a community like Monroe would come together in order to watch any new releases about movies and news stories at the local theater, and we believe this will give the community as a whole a chance to see what it was like in 1923 when the community came together, and what we take for granted today.”

The documentary, produced and directed by Merle Becker from Freakfilms Inc. in Newburgh, has been in the making since this past April and wrapped up in September. Photos, additional footage, and archival material came from HRR Corp, as well as from numerous sources.

"This documentary was made to provide historical facts to the public about a very unique property in their own community — so unique that New York State Preservation announced its historical designation just four months after doing a site inspection,” said Mitts. “Because of its unique history and architectural revival, New York State has recommended the property to be named a National Landmark. Like a time capsule, we wanted to preserve the history of Rest Haven in this documentary.”

Special guestFollowing the release of the documentary, the move "Miracle Worker," starring Patty Duke and Anne Bancroft, which accurately portrays the life and times of Helen Keller, will be shown, with a surprise appearance of a secret guest who played Helen Keller in this film.

While "Miracle Worker" does not directly feature, reference or mention Rest Haven, it demonstrates how Helen did the very same thing here in Monroe at Rest Haven as she has done around the world.

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