The 10 scariest words in the English language, Ronald Reagan used to joke, are these: “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you.”
Kathleen L. Steed embraces a very different world view. Officialdom, she believes, can offer comfort, company, support and holiday cheer.
And every once in a while, it can even rescue you from mortal peril.
“The word ‘miracle’ is overused and overworked,” said the 73-year-old Yorkville woman, a retired private investigator and hospital fundraiser.
“But this really is a story about a miracle,” she added.
It surfaced on Dec. 13 at the annual holiday party of Upper East Side City Council Member Ben Kallos as some 70-plus constituents mingled in his district office on East 93rd Street.
Over baked ziti from the Italian Village Pizza on First Avenue and gallons of apple cider and other nonalcoholic beverages, Steed buttonholed Josh Jamieson, the communications director for Council District 5.
“Your newsletter saved my life,” she said simply.
Jamieson said he was stunned.
Thus began a conversation between a pair of newsletter aficionados.
Jamieson has worked for Kallos for nearly three years, and his duties include writing, editing and curating most of the document, which reaches thousands of constituents online and in a hefty print edition that can range from 30 to 50 pages.
It’s so comprehensive and labor-intensive that he’s regularly on the receiving end of good-natured ribbing from Kallos and Jesse Towsen, his chief of staff, over both the newsletter’s length and its encyclopedic scope.
A recent issue, for instance, was chockablock full with listings for UES events, lectures, exhibits, book groups, support groups, writing circles, yoga workshops, dance rehearsals, ballet workshops, exercise classes, cooking classes, legal clinics, medical services and homeless services.
Not to mention the screenings of “Casablanca,” symposium about the 1830s, drag queen story hours and discussions of the U-boat attacks on allied shipping in the North Atlantic during World War II.
Steed, who has lived in the same rent-stabilized, walk-up apartment on Third Avenue since 1977, is every elected official’s dream: She’s a self-professed “information junkie” who actually reads all their newsletters. Voraciously.
As an active senior who lives alone and likes to keep busy, she can often be found at gatherings, parties and other activities for the elderly that she’s spotted in the newsletters of Kallos, state Senator Liz Krueger, state Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, as well as nonprofits like the Lenox Hill Neighborhood Association and Health Advocates for Older People.
Of those six community newsletters, Kallos’ is by far the longest, while Krueger’s is a close second, Steed said. “Sometimes,” she confessed, “I don’t read it all the way through ... I just scan it!”
Nonetheless, she made it to page 46 of the 49-page July newsletter and focused on an event listing: “In honor of World Head and Neck Cancer Day,” it said, “please join us for free head and neck cancer screenings offered through Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.”