Welcome to Our People: The Power to Make a Difference, a feature dedicated to the stories of Central Hudson employees who volunteer in the communities we serve. We hope that you will check back regularly to meet some of the men and women who give of themselves to "make a difference" through a wide variety of causes serving the region we all call home.
I have been with Central Hudson since 1988 and early on in my career the importance of being an active member of the community was engrained in me. More than two decades later, I realize that being able to contribute to the community not only raises the standard of living for all of us, it is also very personally rewarding.
For some people, this involvement takes the form of monetary donations; other people enjoy working directly with people that will benefit from their assistance. Personally, I feel that I have been able to add the most value by helping to guide organizations by accepting board positions serving nonprofit agencies. As a result, I have had the opportunity to work with several wonderful organizations that have focused on many different groups in the communities Central Hudson serves. In fact, I’m currently serving as a board member for two agencies – both of which contribute to the betterment of the community, but in very different ways.
In 2006 I joined the board of directors at the Mid-Hudson Civic Center. While many residents of the Hudson Valley have been to either McCann Ice Rink or the Civic Center’s main entertainment venue, Mair Hall, most do not realize that the organization is a nonprofit that relies on regular attendance, in addition to donations, to remain an active and vibrant part of the community. Even fewer people realize that the Civic Center also serves many other public and nonprofit groups, like schools and colleges, by holding events that could not be held elsewhere. The Civic Center has even served as a shelter during times of natural disaster in the Hudson Valley.
Most recently, the Civic Center elected to extend the area that it serves by resurrecting the Ice Time sports ice rink in Newburgh. The previous owners had decided to melt the ice and put the building up for sale. Our board recognized the health and recreational value of having an ice rink in the Newburgh area and secured the necessary funding to purchase and reopen the facility, bringing skating back to hundreds of people in Orange County.
In 2009, I was given the opportunity to join the Dutchess-Ulster Board of Directors for the American Heart Association. This organization has taken a lead role in many research and education initiatives surrounding heart disease – the number one killer of Americans. Our board helps to raise the funds, guide the initiatives and promote the importance of making continuous strides in heart health. A few of the many initiatives that the American Heart Association has campaigned for include bans on smoking in several public places, training people in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and installing automated external defibrillators. They have also assisted with research projects that have led to improvements in cardiac care. Not only has this board position been very educational for me personally, it is also nice to know that I have been able to contribute to an organization that is truly able to touch the lives of so many, because heart disease does not discriminate.
At work, keeping the power on and managing emergency response keeps me busy; and so do the volunteer positions I hold after-hours. How can you get involved and make a difference?
My involvement with swimming began in 2005 following the installation of our family’s swimming pool. At the time, my wife and I discussed sending our daughter to swim lessons to ensure her ability to handle herself in the water – little did either of us know it would lead us to the level of community involvement that it has.
When we began looking for swimming lessons, we were connected with the head coach of the Kerhonkson Barracudas Swim Team. We enrolled our daughter in the program and shortly thereafter, we found ourselves totally engaged. The Kerhonkson Barracudas organization promotes youth activities for children in the Kerhonkson/Wawarsing area, with swimmers from Ellenville, Marbletown, Rochester, Kerhonkson and Olive, among other local municipalities, and it allows them to expand their mental, physical and social experiences in a safe, structured environment. The program also affords children a sense of teamwork and competition, and the ability to accomplish goals despite challenges. The best part? No swimmer is turned away from the program for financial inability.
I currently serve the Kerhonkson Barracudas by acting as a meet official in one of numerous capacities – from “stroke and turn judge,” to referee, to starter. I also serve as the team representative for the Dutchess Ulster Swim Organization, our competitive summer swim league that includes teams from both counties.
Additionally, I’m often charged with team-oriented fundraising efforts, like working as a cook for pancake breakfasts and chicken BBQs, as a dishwasher during our spaghetti dinners, or as chief judge for the baking competitions – the best job! And when I’m not tasked with something to do, I volunteer for anything else that might need to be done in the spring and early summer.
At Central Hudson I work as a Transmission & Distribution Superintendent, but in addition to keeping the lights on – and swimming – I’ve also spent a number of seasons coaching the Rondout Valley Little League Baseball/Softball organization. The time I’ve spent teaching athletic and competitive skills to the children of the Hudson Valley is the most rewarding. Since children are our future, it is imperative that we each do what we can to afford all children the very best opportunities – and these programs do just that.
Additionally, I am deeply involved with the Kingston YMCA Hurricanes swim program, serving as the board secretary for the nonprofit Kingston Swim Club. Recently, the club merged with the YMCA of Ulster County to provide an improved, more deeply community-oriented program. I’m also a member of the parent committee, which is responsible for club operations like fundraising, organizing meets, and other administrative duties. The program runs for most of the calendar year, culminating in state and national championship meets – and two of our swimmers qualified for the latter this year!
When my daughters, now aged 16 and 17, were starting elementary school, I wanted to get them involved in an extracurricular activity; and since I was new to our neighborhood, I wanted to get involved and meet new people. It didn’t take long for me to discover that the right fit for all of us was Girl Scouts of America.
For my daughters, Girl Scouts taught about friendship, nature, leadership and community service. And through the organization we all got to experience new things and learned to appreciate the history of people and places that we might not have, otherwise.
As co-leader of their troop, I also acquired a deeper respect for friendship and nature. I took on additional leadership roles in my Girl Scout service community in Wappingers Falls, as a recruiter, consultant, service unit manager and a delegate to the Girl Scouts of Dutchess County.
My girls – and I do consider my Troop members “my girls” – have celebrated the 90th, 95th and, last year, the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts. Together we also witnessed an historic moment – when the five counties: Dutchess, Rockland, Orange, Putnam and Westchester – merged to become the Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson.
This is a bittersweet year for all of us. After 12 years as Girl Scouts, my girls have reached their highest level, so this year will be their last. As they are on the threshold of adulthood, I see that they have become young women of character, courage and confidence, and for that, I am proud.
Life is funny though; as one door closes, another one opens. In learning about our history and community service, the girls and I for the last six years have volunteered our time with the Wappingers Historical Society during their Victorian Tea and Harvest Festivals. Five years ago, I became a member of that organization. I have always enjoyed history and wanted something to be involved in when my time with Girl Scouts was done.
Wappingers Historical Society meets at the Mesier/Brewer Homestead in Wappingers Falls. The building is owned by the village, but the Society is the custodian. The Society was started in the 1960s by a group of village residents and was housed on the second floor. Today the society operates tours of the homestead, hosts book signings, organizes an annual tea party, maintains an educational and enjoyable website (wappingersgistoricalsociety.com), and has recently completed cataloging its book collection. It’s a lofty list, but it’s only a few of the Society’s accomplishments.
At Central Hudson, I’m an Accounting Technician, but for Wappingers Historical Society, I’m a volunteer docent, a past treasurer and a current trustee. As a result, I am always learning something new about my community’s past, while being very much involved in its future.
It all began in 2008 when my son, Benjamin, then just 8 years old, was invited to “check out Cub Scouting.” We didn’t know what to expect, but we also weren’t surprised to find that he fell in love with Scouting instantly. For Benjamin, who lives with Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD, I knew we had found a positive organization in which he could participate.
At that time, our local Cub Scout Pack 70 was going through some changes and had very few committee members. In fact, we were in jeopardy of losing our charter. That’s when I jumped in and volunteered to be the chair of the committee. Back then, I wasn’t really sure what I had gotten myself into, but today I’m so happy I did.
As committee chair, I help the cubmaster with the program, outings and pack meetings. I enjoy promoting the “Do Your Best” motto – one of the tenants of Cub Scouts. One of my favorite parts of Cub Scouting is finding new service projects in which Scouts can participate. Service projects are Cub Scouts helping others, and in the past our Scouts have participated in “Scouting for Food,” donating food to Community Action in Highland; Toys for Tots; and Clean Sweep, a community clean-up effort in Highland.
With such an active pack, my role has never been limited to one activity. I’ve found myself creating calendars, finding locations to hold events, setting up the Pinewood Derby track, working Curriculum Night at the school, and promoting and recruiting for our pack. This past January, my role changed and I became cubmaster. Now I focus primarily on programing, and finding fun and creative new experiences for the boys.
Back in 2010, Benjamin’s den leader stepped down. When he did, my husband, James, took over the den. Between the two of us, this has been a great experience, and since then we were able to help our den earn the Super Achiever Award. As Webelos, there are 20 different achievements the boys can earn, but not all are required. Our boys happily earned all 20 achievements, many of which have multiple parts and can’t be earned in just one day.
Cub Scouting is a great, family-oriented organization. Initially, I was concerned about what I would do with my two younger sons, Nathaniel, age 5, and Gabriel, age 2, during our pack meetings. But they attend all pack meetings and outings, and always participate. Nathaniel is looking forward to becoming a Tiger cub this fall, and in four more years, Gabriel will join, too.
By day, I’m an Accounting Technician, but by night I’m a wife, mother, Cubmaster and an all-around Cub Scouting enthusiast.
With the 2012/2013 girls high school and women’s college basketball seasons winding down, another Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) spring season is just beginning. For those not familiar with the AAU organization, it was founded back in 1888 and has become one of the largest nonprofit organizations in the United States. Since its inception, the AAU has worked to promote and encourage young adults to stay active, and to participate in various fitness activities and sporting events, including girls basketball – and it does.
As an AAU basketball alumna and the president of the Hudson Valley Knights, I can attest to the organization’s success. I have nothing but fond memories of competing at the AAU level, and I hope that the girls who have the opportunity to play within this organization today find their experiences just as rewarding.
I can’t help but notice that the number of girls playing AAU basketball – especially in the Hudson Valley – has just about tripled in the last 20 years. Back in the 1980s, there were only a handful of AAU teams in our area. Today, there are teams located up and down the Hudson River Valley. The Hudson Valley Knights organization, which was formed back in 1984, is approaching its 29th successful season, and today we see the daughters of former players joining the organization – including my own 13-year-old.
This year, nearly 130 girls, ranging from fifth- to 10th-grades, tried out for a position on one of the 10 Hudson Valley Knights teams. This sort of turnout doesn’t just speak volumes about the passion these girls have for the game; it also demonstrates how girls’ basketball is alive and thriving in the Hudson Valley. This season, some teams will have the opportunity to compete in tournaments in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and even at the U.S. Junior Nationals in Hershey Park, Pa.
My love for basketball began 25 years ago, while playing for the St. Martin de Porres CYO program in Dutchess County and this winter I had the opportunity to coach a team within its seventh- to ninth-grade girls division. I also had the opportunity to coach a seventh- to eighth-grade girls team for the LaGrange Youth Basketball program.
I’ve been at Central Hudson since 2002, when I was hired initially as a Junior Accountant. I’ve been in my present job, Coordinator of Customer Choice, since 2011. My day-to-day duties include helping customers make informed decisions about the energy they purchase, but through coaching basketball, I help girls stay active, have fun, make friends, and demonstrate success on and off the court.
Last year when I was given the opportunity to fill a vacancy on the board of the Ulster County United Way, I knew it was an offer I couldn’t refuse. After all, my husband and I had just purchased our first home in Ulster County, and I wanted to be sure that I could give back to the community in which we will raise our family. But that’s not when my involvement with the United Way began; instead, it began at Central Hudson several years ago.
I began working at Central Hudson in 2006, just prior to the start of the company’s annual United Way Employee Campaign for that year. During the eight-week-long event, auctions are held, raffle tickets are sold and employees are encouraged to donate what they can to help those who benefit from United Way programs. That year I made my first donation – a modest one – but together, my coworkers and I, with the help of retirees and shareholders, who match employee donations to the Community Fund, dollar-for-dollar, raised more than $361,000 for the United Way.
But it wasn’t just the bottom line that impressed me so much. I simply couldn’t believe the enthusiasm, and the generosity of my co-workers and the company – throughout the entire eight-week-long campaign.
Today, in addition to participating in Central Hudson’s annual Employee Campaign and holding a seat on the board of the Ulster County United Way, I also serve on the organization’s New Leaders United Committee, a group of “under 40″professionals who support the Ulster County community and the United Way through community service projects and special fundraising initiatives. This past summer, we held a Back-to-School Supply Drive in collaboration with the Kingston City School District. As a result of the drive, we successfully collected supplies for many of the families attending John F. Kennedy, George Washington and Sophie Finn Elementary Schools in Kingston. We were able to identify a need within the community and work together to implement a successful fundraiser that helped supply families with the resources necessary to start off the school year.
Central Hudson celebrated its most recent United Way Employee Campaign Finale earlier this month, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. This year employees, retirees and shareholders raised more than $368,000 for the United Way, resulting in the most successful campaign in several years and the second most successful since I started at the company six years ago.
We all have our own reasons for donating to the charitable organizations that we choose, but one of the reasons my co-workers and I choose to give to the United Way is because our donations stay in our communities. Whether an employee designates their dollars to benefit the United Way of Columbia and Greene Counties, the United Way of Dutchess-Orange Region, or, in my case, the Ulster County United Way, the donations directly impact our neighbors and those served by Central Hudson.
It’s important to be aware of the needs of those in our communities, and I’m grateful for the generosity of my co-workers and my company. That’s why I will not only continue to find ways to make a difference in the community in which I live, but I will also instill that sense of commitment in my sons.
I started working at Central Hudson in 1997 and with the company’s annual Thanksgiving food drive in full swing, it didn’t take long for me to get involved.
Growing up, the late November holiday was always a celebration of food and family in my house, and we always had more than enough to eat. Each year, my coworkers and I work for more than a month to make sure that several families of Central Hudson customers do, too.
Central Hudson’s Thanksgiving food drive begins in mid-October when those involved work to get the word out and set up collection sites. Food is collected for several weeks leading up to Thanksgiving and before it’s distributed it’s sorted to ensure that the recipients receive everything they will need for their holiday meals. Afterward, grocery shopping for perishable items occurs and employee volunteers load up vehicles and distribute the donations.
Through partnering with City of Poughkeepsie-based Dutchess Outreach, the organization that provides the recipient information, and with the help of my coworkers, Central Hudson is able to provide four or five local families with more than enough food to stock their shelves for Thanksgiving and for several weeks afterward.
While it takes a lot of effort to coordinate, the statistics are shocking: One in four children in our area goes to bed hungry each night. As a mother, I know that one-in-four is one-in-four too many, and as a member of company that encourages community service, I know that my coworkers and I have the power to make a difference each November.
Just a few short years after I began helping out with the food drive, the employee that coordinated the event retired. That’s when I took over. I’ve been organizing the event for the past 12 years now and during that time I have had the opportunity to deliver many of Central Hudson’s Thanksgiving donations to area families in need. The relief and gratitude of the recipients never ceases to amaze me. The experience is both gratifying and humbling.
After more than a decade at the helm of annual food drive, I will pass the torch this fall to a coworker who has also been involved since she started working for the company, and I’m confident that under her leadership, employees will continue to give generously during the upcoming holiday season.
As for me? I’ll continue to support the IT department at Central Hudson in my role as Director of Information Systems Development, and I’ll continue to support the community through donating food for the upcoming drive; but most importantly, I will work to raise my daughter so that she, too, can help those less fortunate in the future.
And one more thing – while so many of us give so generously throughout the holidays, don’t forget that the local food pantries, like the one at Dutchess Outreach, need donations year-round. If you, your friends, or your loved ones are in a position to help those in need, there’s no need to wait until the holidays to do so.
Ever since I was young, I've always loved helping people – whether volunteering my time at the Grinnell Library in Wappingers Falls, or helping save lives or property through time served with the New Hamburg Fire District. The personal satisfaction gained from lending a hand and assisting someone in need is both indescribable and rewarding. That’s why I’m proud to work for a company that not only supports its employees with financial contributions to charitable organizations, but also supports us by allowing us the time needed to really make a difference.
Since joining Central Hudson in 2011, I have volunteered my time for several charitable events and organizations. Most recently, I organized a Central Hudson team of fundraisers for the 20th Annual Hudson Valley AIDS Walk to benefit AIDS-Related Community Services (ARCS). ARCS works to maximize the quality of life and coordinate care for those living with complex health conditions. Ours was the third-largest team of fundraisers and the overall event was a huge success, raising over $35,000 to directly assist those living in the Hudson Valley.
It's not only people who I love to help. Our furry companions need assistance too. That’s why, in 2011, I organized a food and supply drive to benefit the Dutchess County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA). Each year the organization rescues, shelters and secures permanent homes for adoptable companion animals while enforcing animal cruelty laws throughout the county. Currently, there are too many animals in need, and a combination of a lack of funds and inadequate facilities takes its toll on organizations like the SPCA. Initially, I had limited my outreach to only my department because I was unsure of how my colleagues would react to such an event, but I should not have second-guessed the compassion of those I work with, because in three weeks time I was driving to the SPCA with a car full of food, blankets, toys, cleaning supplies and other needed items. As usual, my fellow Central Hudson employees were very generous, financially and otherwise. This year, I hope to reach out Company-wide to make the drive an even larger success for the SPCA.
While at Central Hudson, I've also assisted Junior Achievement during its annual Bowl-A-Thon by organizing a team of bowlers and fundraisers; I've donated time with Rebuilding Together Dutchess County to assist a local homeowner in need.; I've also raised funds and walked for the Alzheimer's Association; and like so many here, I’ve made financial contributions to other organizations that my colleagues serve.
At work I’m an Assistant Accounting Software Specialist, but in the community I’m bowler, an animal lover, a fundraiser, an all-around volunteer and more. I look forward to serving these and other organizations throughout my career, and with the support of the Company and my colleagues, I look forward to making a difference.
Last year I participated in Leadership Dutchess, a nine-month Dutchess County Regional Chamber of Commerce program that gives local professionals a chance to enhance their leadership skills with the goal of giving back to their community. That’s where I met someone who works for the Children's Home of Poughkeepsie, an organization that provides a nurturing and caring environment to abandoned and neglected children. It was also around that time that the board of directors at the Children’s Home approved the idea of starting a social group of young professionals from the Hudson Valley area, charged with raising awareness and funds for the organization.
We call ourselves the Children's Home Social Network, and when I was asked to participate, I didn't even have to think twice.
My parents migrated here from India and I have always been acutely aware of the great opportunities that were provided to me as a child just because I was born here in the United States. When my father passed away 17 years ago, our family built a school for children in India in his memory. Although I visit the school from time to time, I have always been looking for a way to make an impact somewhere closer to home. Many people, including myself, often forget that places like this exist closer than we think. Local community centers, schools and various other facilities, such as the Children’s Home, are always looking for volunteers.
Children’s Home Social Network events are designed to bring out the kid in all of us. Funds raised through events like happy hours and prom nights go toward providing more services to abused and neglected children than are covered by state funding. The children are able to attend the church of their choice, go on outings to sports and cultural events, and participate in other activities they enjoy. And while fundraising is important, the awareness that these events create among local young professionals also helps ensure that the more than 165-year legacy of the Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie lives on.
Through no fault of their own, children whose parents are incarcerated, or who have passed away, or are simply incapable of providing them the care they deserve, find themselves at the Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie. Although no one can change their past, we as a community can help ensure that they are supported and encouraged to build a better future.
As an Associate Analyst at Central Hudson I support the Cost & Rate department, but in our community my planning and organizing skills help support children in need.
Like most children, I liked to build things when I was young. Throughout my teenage years, my building projects changed from Legos to “real” work around the house. So when I learned I could earn a college degree in construction management and engineering, the choice was clear and my career path was made. I wanted to manage projects and help to build the world around us – especially right here in the Hudson Valley where I grew up.
We all have special skills that we bring to the workplace. I have learned that not only do our employers need our skills, but so does our community. Volunteering is a great way to share these skills. Several years ago I learned about Rebuilding Together (formerly Christmas in April). One of the organization’s signature events each year is National Rebuilding Day, when they work to preserve affordable home ownership by bringing volunteers and communities together to rehabilitate the homes of low-income homeowners. The goal is to keep families warm, safe, dry and independent. I participated in my first project several years ago. As “house captain,” I used my leadership and project management skills to orchestrate volunteers in completing over a dozen significant repairs on a veteran’s house, all in a single day.
When I came to Central Hudson as an employee in 2011, I learned that the utility was the very first sponsor of a Rebuilding Together Dutchess County house in 1992. Central Hudson has been an active sponsor ever since, contributing thousands of volunteer hours to fixing homes of those in need. This year I was honored to be “house captain” again, leading a team of 18 Central Hudson volunteers to make repairs to an elderly woman’s home in Beacon. On Saturday, April 28 we all converged on the house with tools in hand, performing many repairs. We patched and painted portions of the house previously damaged by a leaky roof, made plumbing and electrical repairs, fixed broken ceramic tile floors, repaired stair railings, caulked windows and bathtubs, tested smoke and CO2 detectors, replaced several doors, and made other various repairs. My primary duties included purchasing all the necessary materials within the allotted budget, matching the skills of the volunteers to the work, and ensuring that the day ran as efficiently and safely as possible.
Performing this kind of volunteer work is extremely rewarding to me and all the other employee-volunteers on the team. You see instant results as well as the joy and emotions of a homeowner who would not have otherwise been able to make the repairs. At Central Hudson I work in project management, overseeing upgrades to our extensive gas and electric infrastructure. I am happy to apply those same skills in our community, helping our neighbors.
During my senior year of high school, my twin sister Heather was the victim of a serious motor vehicle accident that rolled her truck onto its roof, trapping her inside. She escaped the incident with only minor bumps and bruises due in no small part to the swift and professional actions of the Highland Fire Department. To this day I’ve never forgotten the call from my uncle Ben (then a past chief and active member of that fire department) describing to me what had happened, and the indescribable feeling of relief from his voice saying that she was going to be all right.
It was then that I decided I wanted to be there for others just like my uncle and the rest of the Highland Fire Department was for my sister and my family when we needed them the most. I joined my uncle, cousin and grandfather as a member of the Highland Fire Department in 2006, while enrolled at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. During college you could usually find me back home on the weekends down at the firehouse studying for school and sifting through the endless stacks of Fire Engineering magazines and training videos. I attended training drills and classes, trying to learn anything and everything I could so that when the time came to act, I would know just what to do.
We have a proud organization comprised of approximately 50 volunteer members, seven pieces of fire apparatus, four command vehicles, and one utility trail rescue vehicle occupying two fire stations. In 2011 the Highland Fire Department responded to more than 600 individual incidents ranging from automatic fire alarms, structure fires, mutual aid to other departments, car accidents, public service calls, carbon monoxide alarms, odors of natural gas and even a dog rescue from inside a roadway culvert. In addition, members also attended monthly company training, bi-monthly “Duty Nights” to check equipment, annual self contained breathing apparatus training, extrication and driver recertifications, and firefighter assist and search team training.
In 2011, I was elected by the membership of the department to the position of 1st Lieutenant. As part of my responsibilities I work with the other officers to coordinate training, complete our annual OSHA requirements and maintain equipment and facilities. Most of all, we work to ensure that each and every time we respond to an alarm that our members have the necessary knowledge and training to mitigate the incident as safely as possible so that we can all return to the firehouse and our families.
Here at Central Hudson I work as an Assistant Transmission Design Engineer, but in my community I’m a son, a brother and a volunteer.
Weeks after graduating from high school, I went off to college to pursue an engineering degree. But my grandfather didn’t. Instead, like so many men and women, he joined the armed forces.
Growing up, I listened to my grandfather’s stories of his time in the service. Today I listen to similar stories, told by my friends and coworkers who are veterans themselves, or whose sons, daughters, spouses and loved ones serve the United States, here and abroad. That’s why this past holiday season I raised funds for Wounded Warrior Project.
Through the sale of handmade, decorative chocolate houses, my coworkers and I raised nearly $1,000 for the Jacksonville, Fla.-based organization.
The holidays are a special time for my family, and making chocolate houses with my parents and sisters as I was growing up wouldn’t have been the same without grandpa’s stories. These days though, many soldiers aren’t able to spend the holidays with their families; but for some of those who can, Wounded Warrior Project is here to help.
Wounded Warrior Project’s mission is to help foster the most successful generation of wounded service members in the country’s history. Through raising awareness, providing programs and services to help wounded service members, and by enlisting the aid of those who are willing, the organization helps wounded service members reacclimate to civilian life. For my coworkers and friends who have loved ones serving in the military, that means assurance that their soldier will be well supported, should they be injured in the line of duty.
I earned my degree in engineering in 2002, and shortly afterward, I began working at Central Hudson. Today, I serve our customers as a Commercial New Business Counselor – Estimating Supervisor in the eastern portion of our service territory, but with the help and support of my coworkers, I’m able to do my small part for those who serve the United States.
When the new and gently used stuffed animals begin to pile up, I know the holidays are getting closer. That’s because each year I collect them on behalf of a long-active, local group of grass-roots volunteers led by Poughkeepsie’s John Flowers – a Christmastime charity event that provides local residents in hospitals, nursing homes and the Children’s Home of Poughkeepsie with stuffed animals for the holidays. For the past four years I’ve also helped coordinate collections for families through Astor Services for Children and Families. Most recently though, I began working with Semper Fi Parents of the Hudson Valley to collect items for soldiers serving in the military who can’t be home for the holidays. Late last month we wrapped, packed and shipped more than 350 care packages.
Recently, a coworker asked me why, with all of the hustle and bustle that already surrounds the holiday season, I would voluntarily get involved in so many causes at once. Then it occurred to me – I hadn’t ever really thought about it before. The more that I did, though, I realized that it’s probably because I didn’t have much growing up. For the first half of my life, I watched my parents struggle to pay bills and put food on the table. By the end of the week there was barely, if any, money left, so we made do with what we had. It was hard, to say the least, but even more difficult than living that way was watching the toll it took on my parents.
Fortunately, things changed over the years and I met and married a wonderful man. My husband and I worked together to create the life we live today. Now, after nearly 25 years of marriage, raising three children, decades of hard work at home, and years here at Central Hudson and in my community, I also know what it’s like to not have to struggle.
Because I’ve experienced the difficulty of not having enough, and because now I’m blessed with having all that I need, I want to bring happiness into the lives of others – whether the joy that I can help create lasts a lifetime, or just through the holiday season.
Everyone has his or her own story, and as a Customer Service Representative, I hear many such stories every single day. My coworkers and I, in Central Hudson’s busy call center, work hard to listen to the needs of our customers, and to assist each individual in the best possible way. The support I receive from my coworkers during the workday is only rivaled by their support of my charitable undertakings throughout the holiday season. Each year they donate time, gifts, and money, and they help me make the holidays happier for our neighbors in need.
I remember the day vividly; my son Matthew – then in second grade – came home from school and asked if he could donate all of the money in his wallet to his new friend, Eric. I knew he only had $7, but I asked why anyway. “He’s sick,” Eric said.
Needless to say, my son’s selfless act was life changing.
That’s the day Matthew introduced me to cystic fibrosis. It turns out Eric was quite sick, and so was his younger sister. Both children were born with the genetic disease that affects roughly 30,000 children and adults in the U.S., and 70,000 people worldwide. I, too, wanted to help my son’s new friend, so I met his family, joined the board of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and got to work.
As a mother of two, I’ve always volunteered in my sons’ schools and taken an active, hands-on approach to parenting. It’s the same approach I apply to helping Central Hudson customers. For five years I’ve worked as a Customer Service Representative and for five years I’ve been actively working to solve customers’ problems, one telephone call at a time. I apply that same sense of dedication to my work for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Since I joined the board more than a decade ago, I’ve raised funds and advocated for the cause, and I’ve helped organize the annual Great Strides Walk at Bowdoin Park in Dutchess County, as well as other events in our area.
The community always turns out to support the walk, and so do my coworkers. Each year a team of Central Hudson employees walks to show their support for the cause that is so important to my family and me.
Today, both of my sons are attending The College of St. Rose in Albany, and I’m proud to say that Eric is in college too. At birth, Eric was given just 19 years to live; this year he celebrated his 20th birthday. Tragically though, Eric’s sister lost her battle with cystic fibrosis four years ago, at just 13 years old.
Eric’s plight, a plight he shares with countless others who are also affected by this genetic and life-threatening disease, is a humbling reminder of the importance of compassion and community. Together, with the support of my family, friends, coworkers and community, I am able to make a difference.
Like many of the customers I assist on a daily basis, I understand what it’s like not to be able to meet your basic needs. I grew up in a single-parent household and we faced financial challenges daily. So, in my role as the Supervisor of Customer Account Services in Consumer Outreach at Central Hudson, I’m able to relate to many of those who call for help.
Every day I hear from customers who are having trouble making ends meet. Many are in danger of falling behind on their utility bill payments, while others are already in arrears. Whether they’ve experienced job loss, illness, or something else that has resulted in financial hardship, my colleagues and I try to help them get the help they need – whether from us, or, if possible, from an agency or organization that is better able to assist them.
I try to apply the same compassion and dedication that I demonstrate at work to my roles at Dutchess Outreach and New Horizons Resources, Inc.
At Dutchess Outreach, a Poughkeepsie-based nonprofit agency dedicated to helping low-income residents meet their basic needs, I serve on the board of directors. As a member of the board, I strive to promote the agency’s mission by raising funds, assisting with food and clothing drives, and contributing in other capacities. I also fundraise for New Horizon Resources Inc., where I’m a board member. Located in Pleasant Valley, the agency provides developmentally disabled individuals with the opportunity and environment to develop the skills and confidence needed to live independently.
While the agencies serve separate demographics in our community, they both have similar goals: to help those who may find it difficult to help themselves. I’ve been there, so I appreciate that someone may need a helping hand – whether putting food on the table, finding suitable shelter for themselves or their families, or paying their utility bills.
Helping people – whether at Central Hudson or in the community – is what I love to do.
My name is Karen Kosack and I am a Customer Service Representative at Central Hudson. I’m also a single mother of two. When I’m not serving customers or spending time with my children, I’m working to help those with autism and their families in the Hudson Valley.
I am the president of Autism Society Hudson Valley, and the founder and chairperson of the annual Autism Walk & Expo. This past April, Autism Society Hudson Valley celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Autism Walk & Expo. The event drew more than 3,500 participants to the fairgrounds in Rhinebeck, and raised more than $100,000. Since it began 10 years ago, the event has raised more than $930,000.
Central Hudson has twice recognized my commitment to our community during the company’s yearly community service recognition ceremony; and last year when I received the Spirit of Dutchess Award from our local chapter of the United Way, the company matched the United Way’s $1,000 donation to Autism Society Hudson Valley.
This year I celebrated my 23-year anniversary at Central Hudson and during my career I was blessed with two beautiful children, both of whom were diagnosed with autism at a very young age. At first, I was devastated, but 15 years after the first diagnosis – while there is still no known cause or cure for the disorder – I find strength in the challenge. My life is challenging; my childrens’ lives are more challenging; but after two decades of assisting Central Hudson customers, I recognize that at times, we all have our own struggles.
As a Customer Service Representative, I not only listen to the customers, I also hear their concerns and I solve their problems to the best of my ability. In my role as the president of Autism Society Hudson Valley, and as a mother to Casey and Alexis, I employ many of those same skills.
Not a day goes by that I don’t recognize how fortunate I am to have learned so much about service – from my children, my company, and from the customers we serve. As a result, I work hard to give back to my community, every chance I get.