CHEERS: To the Warwick Area Migrant Committee, the Alamo community center in Goshen, Hudson River Health Care and especially to the many donors, including some local farmers, who make it possible for children of migrant workers to have an enjoyable summer. Parents of the children named the camp in Pine Island Dulce Esperanza, or Sweet Home, and that is what it is for their children. While parents spend the day in the fields picking and packing the onions, lettuce and other Hudson Valley farm products that will end up in grocery stores, farmers markets and farm stands, the children have a safe place for arts and crafts, reading and writing, gardening, sports and field trips. The committee started a summer program back in 1964. Today, about 90 children between 6 and 16 are at the camp, said Katherine Brieger, executive director of the committee. “Everything is meant to give them an opportunity to learn, to be together, to have a safe place, to feel loved, to feel like they have a future,” she said
CHEERS: To Steve Stiert of Ulster Park, who went in a new direction after his job as a software engineer for IBM was eliminated six years ago and ended up discovering donkeys. Not only did he discover them, he discovered their ability to provide comfort to those in need. The result is Donkey Park in Ulster Park, 11 donkeys, a mule and a donkey-zebra hybrid that live in a 1.5-acre mini ranch at his home. He takes them to schools, nursing homes and events for children with disabilities. He also teaches donkey husbandry and has an 800-member Meetup group that features hikes with donkeys.
“They’re great stress sponges,” Stiert says. Although donkeys are often portrayed as gloomy or ill-tempered — just think of Eeyore, now co-starring in the film “Christopher Robin” — they’re actually mild-mannered, intelligent and affectionate. “Some people come with the preconceived notion that they kick, they bite, they’re stubborn, they’re ornery,” Stiert says. “None of those things are true at all.”
CHEERS: To Newburgh City firefighters for setting yet another good example. Two years ago firefighters responded to a report of a dog tied to a hydrant just blocks from the main firehouse. The malnourished pit bull they found is now “Nick Firedog,” a healthy, tail-wagging ball of energy who has become ambassador for the department. Firefighters walked to the location to find a scrawny brown and white pit bull that Lt. Brendan Hogan described as “super-skinny.” “They approached him carefully, thinking god only knows what this dog is thinking,” he said. “But the dog was super friendly.”
The rescued dog received food, water, a home and a name. In February Nick made a featured appearance at a Newburgh Brewing Co. fundraiser to benefit local animal rescue efforts. His image is emblazoned on T-shirts whose sales proceeds are donated to local animal shelters. And he has been entered in a “World’s Cutest Rescue Dog” contest. But Nick’s contributions are most felt at the firehouse. “I think he has a calming effect on our guys – takes their mind off of not being home with their families,” acting Chief Terry Ahlers said.