Chimneys: Making the World a Better Place
Samuel B. Ross
Its 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
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
live and share the site with hundreds of animals whose lives are cherished
by the children. Many of these childrenmostly boys, between the
ages of six and 21have 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 Centeranother 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 Childrens Zoo in
Central Park. We accept the challenge of finding the means to make
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 www.gchimney.org/~gchimney
or call: 845-279-2995 or 718-892-6810.