Recognizing the power of nonprofit to create community - BlueStone Press
October 19, 2019
Local Connections

Recognizing the power of nonprofit to create community

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It’s not unusual to see a spike in civic engagement during the holiday season. Coat, food and toy drives pop up all over the county, affording easy access opportunities to donate anything from a spiral ham to the “it” toy of the season. Fire departments, ladies’ auxiliaries, the Marine Corps, local police, schools and motivated, everyday citizens get into action, working overtime to make sure holiday needs are met for the community. This “good will to all men” gives a much needed injection of resources to those in need at a time of year when suddenly on top of every day bills there’s suddenly gifts to buy, teachers gifts to contribute to, extra food needed on the table and coasts to brace against the colder weather creeping across the country.

However, the holidays are not the only time that there’s need. Throughout the year, there are pillars in our small hamlets quietly supporting, supplementing and uplifting us: nonprofits. So, as you are scrambling for last-minute gifts for perhaps the hardest-to-buy-for people on your list, consider donating to the one of following nonprofits. Chances are there’s one that addresses every passion, and truly, in the addition to being the gift that keeps on giving, it also means a nice little tax deduction for the giver.

For the history nerd

Do you have a history nut or passionate reader of historical novels in your family? Consider donating to the D&H Canal Museum in High Falls and help protect local history for all of us. The museum’s stated mission is “to celebrate the story of the Delaware and Hudson Canal, its communities and industries, and their role in building our nation.” Deputy director for collections, historian and curator Bill Merchant expands that “The D&H Canal was important to our whole nation. In 1812, when the story begins, the country was much smaller, really just the states east of the Appalachian Mountains, which was then a huge barrier to settling the interior. The Canal brought Pennsylvania anthracite coal to the Hudson River. It fueled the growth of New York City, which was dependent on coal by then. All the towns in the Rondout Valley developed because the Canal traversed the area. The Canal Company was the first million-dollar private enterprise in America!”  

And there couldn’t be a better time to contribute to the cause. The Thompson Family Foundation has issued a challenge: If the D&H Canal Museum can raise $100,000 by Nov. 7, 2019, the foundation will match it. So basically, if your money was a superhero, it would be a superhero with not one but TWO superpowers. D&H president Peter Bienstock said, “This foundation is perhaps the largest donor to historic preservation of any non-governmental entity in the country. We’re proud of the credibility this gives our project and sure that their action will be a catalyst to our own fundraising efforts in the next 12 months.” To donate, visit http://www.canalmuseum.org/ and click the big “donate” button on the right.

For the animal lover

Is the family dog in every holiday photo? There’s a wealth of opportunities to donate to help those who have no voice: animals.

Have a Heart Animal Welfare Fund on Upper Whitfield Road in Accord is dedicated to providing the needed support for stray dogs or dogs lacking family financial means in Ulster County. The organization is far reaching and works to provide food, emergency medical care, and spay/neuter services for shelter dogs and cats living in low-income households, and even pays and coordinates behavioral training so that dogs can stay in existing households or become more adoptable. Founded by best friends Merle Borenstein and Jill Shufeldt, Merle writes, “Not one cent is spent on salary, overhead or any operational costs. Every penny goes to the care of the animals.” For more information or to donate, go to http://www.haveaheartanimalwelfare.org.

Just up the road in Stone Ridge there’s Mountain Haven Animal Rescue, which has rescued more than 200 animals of every kind, from your average house cat (if any cat can ever be called average!) to bearded dragons, donkeys, gerbils, birds … this organization has seen and helped it all. Founder Janine Carchidi explains that “donated funds go to veterinary care, rehabilitation, pet food and supplies. In addition to monetary donations, we always need and appreciate pet food, linens, cleaning supplies, wee-wee pads. We love how our community has embraced Mountain Haven. We feel that all who give of themselves to our organization through volunteering, donations, fundraising and positive thoughts and actions are an integral part if the Mountain Haven family. Visit https://mountainhavenanimalrescue.org.

And that vegan niece you’re not sure what to get? The Woodstock Farm Sanctuary in High Falls will thrill her meat-and-dairy-free heart. Part animal rescue, part animal rights advocacy, part social justice, the sanctuary is a Valhalla for vegans and farm animals alike. With just over 380 rescued animals on premises at print, marketing manager Lizz DeFeo writes that “the Woodstock Sanctuary is open to the public from April to October every year, welcoming visitors to come and meet animals who are most commonly exploited, abused and killed in animal agriculture. During the open season, we offer tours and shopping at the Woodstock Mootique, our on-site store, which has merchandise for sale like clothing, books and accessories.” All donations to the sanctuary directly support the care and rescue of the animals, humane education tours and visitor programs, and advocacy work on behalf of farmed animals. To donate, visit www.woodstocksanctuary.org. DeFeo in emphatic: “No donation is too small, and every dollar helps us care for our residents!”

To educate

With college debt so prominently in the news, there couldn’t be a more topical gift then a donation to SUNY Ulster, which boasts that 70 percent of its students graduate with absolutely zero college debt. With 3,587 students as of fall 2018, this is no small feat, and it’s getting the school noticed. The U.S. Department of Education named SUNY Ulster in the top 100 two-year public colleges nationwide for the low cost of education after financial aid and scholarships. In years past the school has awarded over $400,000 a year in scholarships, and this year is on track to double the number of scholarships that were awarded in 2014 and 2015. Donations go to so many places, from the President’s Challenge (a program aimed at helping eighth graders set their sights on college) to the Lights for Learning Program, which provides funding for emergency grants, loans and scholarships. When asked “Why give?”, Lorraine Salmon, executive director of institutional advancement and external relations at SUNY Ulster, said, “Because they (contributions) have the ability to change everything. Sometimes a $250 emergency grant to a student in crisis can help make their decision to stay in school. Students don't remember the amount of each of their scholarships – they remember the feeling of the belief that was placed in them.” (https://www.sunyulster.edu/foundation/scholarships/)

Education isn’t just found the halls of school, however. Step into your local library and enter a world of possibility. Travel to India with Arundhati Roy in “The God of Small Things,” challenge your family tree tracing abilities with, well, just about any Russian novel, or work on your kids’ manners with Aaron Blabey and his uproariously funny picture book “Pig the Pug.” The library holds all worlds and the answer to almost any question you may have, from “What’s the meaning of life?” to “How long do slugs live?” And libraries aren’t just for books, they also host community enriching programs and have computers available for job hunters and report writers. And lastly, there are the librarians themselves, the oracles of this magic land, who can lead you to literary worlds you didn’t know existed. Just stop in and pay my outstanding fines of roughly $42 … er … I mean donate.

One of the pleasures of living in a small community is the feeling that we take care of one another. Supporting the institutions that hold us and uplift us all year round gives us the chance to support our neighbors regardless of political affiliation, economic status or whether or not they are close friends or just that guy we wave to in Emmanuel’s. We as a community are in it together, and no one knows that better than the nonprofits.

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