Dobbs Ferry resident since 2000, Niall is a founding member of Rivertowns for Refugees, which he joined in 2016. He is the Principal of NcC Studio Architecture P.C. He is also an assistant professor of architecture at New York Institute of Technology and has served on the boards of the Dobbs Ferry Historical Society, RiverArts and Dobbs Ferry Planning Board.
Lifelong educator and 40-year resident of Hastings-on-Hudson, Anne has dedicated her life to working in general and special education, as well as educational administration. She currently supervises student teachers. Anne has spent most of her educational career working with children and adults from immigrant communities, especially those with limited English proficiency, and has worked specifically with refugees for the past ten years. A founding member of Rivertowns for Refugees, Anne joined in 2016.
Elliot is a management consultant living in Northwest Yonkers. He has been working with refugees and asylum seekers in Westchester since 2016 and joined Rivertowns for Refugees in 2022.
Sue, a founding member of Rivertowns for Refugees, is a 55-year resident of Hastings-on-Hudson and happy grandmother of four. She worked for years as an administrator for small building construction projects, and now volunteers for local human justice organizations that focus on food, housing, and healthcare access, especially for immigrants and refugees.
Long-time Irvington resident now living in Sleepy Hollow, Pam is a retired elementary school teacher who has been working with Rivertowns for Refugees for five years. In addition, she has done volunteer work for San Andres Church in Yonkers and Abbott House in Irvington.
Sleepy Hollow resident and public health writer, Andrea is a TESOL-certified ESL instructor who has been teaching English to immigrants and refugees since 2013. She joined Rivertowns for Refugees in 2020 and is thrilled to play a part in its refugee resettlement work.
Rivertowns for Refugees started in August of 2016, when a few folks—our founding members, including past president Steve Grieder—answered a call for children’s furniture to help outfit a refugee family’s home. We’d heard about Kathie O’Callaghan, founder and president of Hearts and Homes for Refugees, who’d helped to resettle the very first refugee family in Westchester, and Northwest Yonkers Neighbors for Refugees, who had resettled a refugee asylee and his son. These resettlement pioneers inspired us to join the effort.
We invited neighbors from across the river towns to a series of monthly meetings and named ourselves Rivertowns for Refugees. Catholic Charities, one of the two resettlement agencies working in Westchester County, joined our early meetings, as did Hearts and Homes for Refugees, teaching us everything we needed to know about refugee resettlement.
These two agencies piloted an initiative called ‘Helping Hands’ to help refugee families in Westchester County with specific short-term needs. They invited us to join the effort as we waited for our first refugee family to arrive.
In May 2018, we helped our first ‘Helping Hands’ family, a brother and sister from El Salvador, navigating special needs and educational challenges. In December 2018, we helped our second. More families followed. Some required direct volunteer support, others simply needed household goods or school supplies. Each family gave us the opportunity as volunteers to build networks for donated goods and services.
In March 2020, in partnership with Hearts and Homes, we resettled a young couple from Kabul, Afghanistan and in August 2021, a family of seven. Both families were Special Immigrant Visa or SIV cases--refugees who have rendered special service to the U.S. Government, armed forces, or our allies. Together we secured and furnished cozy apartments for the families and prepared to spend the next year helping and getting to know them. Despite the challenges of COVID, they found their footing, as well as employment.
In January 2022, we took the lead on resettling a SIV family of eight Afghanistan. Then, in July 2022, we resettled a family of six from Mariupol, Ukraine. We anticipate resettling a new family in 2023.
In the six years since it began, Rivertowns for Refugees has helped resettle families and individuals from Central and South America, Burma, Afghanistan, and Ukraine. Our work continues. We are expecting our next refugee family in the immediate future!
Resettling refugees takes a village, and ours includes not only our own dedicated and tireless board members, but also The Church of St. Barnabas in Irvington, Zion Episcopal and South Presbyterian churches in Dobbs Ferry, Grace Episcopal Church in White Plains, and First Reformed Church, and North Yonkers Community Church in Hastings. Additionally, Father Frank Breen and the Maryknoll Brothers, and Brother Anthony Zuba of the Capuchins have been endlessly giving.
We owe special thanks for the generous help, training and support from Sam Heptig of Catholic Charities, Kelly Agnew-Barajas of HIAS, and Kathie O’Callaghan and Amy Robertson of Hearts and Homes for Refugees.
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455 Tarrytown Road, Suite 1340, White Plains, NY 10607