|Monday, June 29, 1998
Web site opens windows to county
Annick Elzière uses her
computer to meet
Annick Elziere leaned back on her kitchen chair — her hand resting on the red-and-white checkered tablecloth, her eyes focusing on her 3-year-old Packard Bell computer, printer and scanner cramped in the corner of the kitchen.
The computer is covered by her son Eric’s computer printouts, a Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. magazine and various office supplies.
Elziere, 45, said she has spent countless hours in her kitchen corner, learning, experimenting and creating a way to enjoy Hunterdon County. Residents form their own cliques, she said, and it’s hard to break into that. The World Wide Web is one way to network with people in a community, she said.
"It’s tough to meet people in Hunterdon County. When you don’t know anyone, it’s hard to discover all the wonderful things about it," she said.
Elziere began developing a Web page (www.flemington-nj.com) for and about Hunterdon County and its residents a year and a half ago. She described it as her "therapy." Her children — Veronique, 18; Eric, 17; and Alexander, 14 — used to visit their father, who is divorced from Elziere, on Wednesdays and the weekends. Elziere said she used to spend many of those nights alone. Her family — three brothers, sister and father — live in a county outside Lyon, France, the place where Elziere was born and raised.
In Hunterdon County, she said she knew few people. Elziere came to the United States in 1974 as an au pair for a Tewksbury Township family.
Elziere knows people from work in Trenton and Princeton, but they live nearly an hour from her home in Flemington. Is that right?
Sometimes she would go out to eat with co-workers, but she still had responsibilities at home. Moving closer to the workplace, she said, was not an option because her children have roots in Hunterdon County.
Elziere is "a creative, wonderful individual," but is very reserved when it comes to meeting people, said Pamela Stanford, Elziere’s friend and former co-worker. The computer, Stanford said, is Elziere’s way to communicate.
But not many residents from Hunterdon County are responding to the page, Elziere said. Most of the feedback she gets is from people who want to visit Hunterdon County or those who moved out of the area and want updates.
"This is a unique site and hopefully a forerunner for a more universal approach to the many avenues of religious expression," Amir and Marga Bashir of Browns Mills wrote about the Web site. "Annick your photos are fantastic. We hope to visit the Flemington community one day in the future."
The page displays local photographs, event calendars, local news, and has business page listings. Advertisements for the Alexandria Balloon Festival and community garage sale proliferate the page. It contains links to the municipal, state and federal government home pages.
When Elziere first began the site, she said it was voluminous — it had all sorts of information such as a page of children’s cartoons. Now, she’s trimmed it a bit and may remove the government links because the Web is built up to a point that the links no longer are needed, she said.
Her main focus is to unify people through communication, the main tenant of her faith, Baha’i. According to the religion, Moses, Jesus Christ, Buddha and Mohammed were great religious prophets. In 1844, another prophet, Baha’u’llah preached about the oneness of humanity.
The Internet promotes the faith because it breaks the barriers of racial and ethnic intolerance and allows people to communicate more freely, said Janice Stillhard, a Frenchtown resident who shares Elziere’s faith.
The community bulletin board is flooded with this communication, such as an open letter to the United Nations and comments about the state of American government. One Hunterdon County man wrote to complain that Annandale was listed in the census data, but it’s really part of Clinton Township, and Flemington was counted twice.
Eric, her son, said the Web site was OK, but it is nothing he would check out.
Elziere created all of this by experimenting. After all, she said, she got the computer to teach herself. When she went back to work as a secretary in Trenton, she knew the position required people who were more well versed in technology than they were 20 years ago.
Elziere said she could have either gone back to college or buy a computer. Because she was raising a family and had to support them, Elziere said she had no choice but to buy the computer.
"And, of course, I knew my children wanted it," she said.
Eric, whom Elziere describes as a "computer expert," did not give her much direction when she was constructing her site.
"Teen-agers don’t always make the best teachers," she said. "They have so little patience."
In fact, she said she had to compete with her children for time on the computer. But somehow, she said, she scrambled enough time to maintain the Web site between all of her other obligations — a photography coordinator for Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. in Princeton, caring for her children and teaching Alexander the basics about French for when he visits France this summer,
"I never decided to come here. It was destiny," said Elziere, eyes still focusing on the computer. "Whether I made a mistake is yet to be seen."