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June 2000
Green Chimneys: Making the World a Better Place

By Samuel B. Ross


It’s hard to believe that it has been over 50 years since the founding of Green Chimneys on what was then a dairy farm in rural Putnam County, NY. Located on 75 acres along a country road, its barns, chicken houses and horse stables seemed like the ideal place to establish "a home away from home" for young children. Many staff members now make up the work force of what has become an internationally known, multi-site, multi-program, comprehensive child care agency.

The original idea of Green Chimneys was to integrate children and animals to provide a unique therapeutic experience. Today, more than 380 animals and 41 varieties of rare birds live at the Farm and Wildlife Conservation Center. The animals set the tone for those who live, work or visit the Green Chimneys campus. Through an array of programs, the children learn to care for the animals, the plants and the environment. These experiences in their formative years may well shape their behavior as adults. When children are given the responsibility of caring for an animal, they learn to carry out activities in which their role as caregivers makes it possible to provide services to others. Children, who are themselves receiving care, accept the role of providing care for others, namely, the animals. Thus, service receivers become service providers.

Now, with 160 acres comprising the main campus of Green Chimneys, 60 miles north of New York City, 102 at-risk, troubled, special needs children live and share the site with hundreds of animals whose lives are cherished by the children. Many of these children—mostly boys, between the ages of six and 21—have histories of homelessness, violent behavior and depression and are comforted by the companionship of the animals. In addition, 50 children from surrounding communities in New York and Connecticut arrive daily, year-round, to attend the special education school. The campus welcomes local young children who come to our public pre-school and kindergarten programs. For parents who commute to work early in the morning and return later in the evening, there is a before and after school supervision program.

Each year nearly 20,000 youngsters on school field trips visit the Farm and Wildlife Center or engage in environmental and adventure activities sponsored by the Hillside Outdoor Education Center—another program operated by Green Chimneys. Green Chimneys runs a summer camp for local special needs and regular children and adolescents. Our special Farm-on-the-MOO-ve program even takes animals to schools, agencies, parks and hospitals for educational animal awareness opportunities. Children are also given the opportunity to rescue injured or abandoned animals and wildlife as described by Terri Lujan in a Satya article entitled "The Concrete Jungle" (August, 1999). In addition, we teach children to train service dogs for assistance to those who are confined to wheel chairs or in need of physical help.

Green Chimneys offers other programs at additional sites in Putnam, Westchester, New York City and Northern Fairfield (CT). These programs include services to run-away and homeless youth, provision of mentoring to children from single parent families, residential care and work opportunities to developmentally delayed adults, supervised living for young adults who are being trained for independent living and special programming, training, residential and educational services for LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered and Questioning) youth and their families.

Involvement in sustainable agriculture practices is in keeping with our concern for the earth. Organic gardening, organic eggs, honey, maple syrup and wool are all fruits of our efforts. In addition to the gardens and greenhouse, there are barns, stables, riding rings and hiking trails, providing education and recreation to residents and visitors.

It is interesting to note that some of our farm animals have become part of the permanent collection at the Tisch Children’s Zoo in Central Park. We accept the challenge of finding the means to make all this possible. We could not do what we do without a network of people who are concerned for our very existence. Green Chimneys and its projects are an opportunity to make the world a better place for children, families and animals in need so that we can all live in harmony and peace.

Samuel B. Ross, Jr., Ph.D., is the Founder and Executive Director Emeritus of Green Chimneys. To learn more about programs, tours and how to help, visit or call: 845-279-2995 or 718-892-6810.


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