Attending (16): Terry Brewer, Deb Rodriguez, Murray Forth, Pat Bailey, Bill Dowd, Jim Leyhane, Jim Butterworth, April Dowd, Stewart Wagner, Peter Brown, Debbie Brown, Dick Drumm, Shannon Romanowski, Geoff Brewer, John Sawchuk, Bob Horan.
Guests (2): Brian Marsh, Andrea Neiman.
PROGRAM: “Equine Therapy”
John Sawchuk, principal of Columbia High School, introduced two of his faculty members — Brian Marsh and Andrea Nieman, to discuss the school’s equine therapy program.
Andrea, an art teacher who recently was named “Rensselaer County Teacher of the Year,” and Brian, a social studies teacher who also oversees the school’s CAP (Columbia Alternative Program) effort, described their team’s efforts helping at-risk students. Ranking high among those efforts is a new equine therapy program that grew from similar work in Columbia County at Little Brook Farm, an animal rescue facility the SRC Club has financially supported over several years.
Andrea and Brian explained that CAP is designed to serve about 50 students as a school-within-a-school at Columbia, particularly those who have such risk factors as academic failures, discipline issues, legal problems, and family problems. About a dozen graduate each year.
She said some students began visiting Little Brook Farm for community service work in 2012, and that involvement has grown to doing more than just mucking stalls. The students in the CAP program learn to work with the animals as a method of training themselves to interact with others in a positive way.
A dozen or so students have been selected to be part of an “Equine Facilitated Learning” program at Long Shadow Farm in Cambridge, Washington County. Interaction with horses provides opportunities to help build self-esteem, empathy, confidence, and leadership skills, improve emotional self-regulation, overcome unpredictable challenges, team skills, increase skills in safety, judgment and awareness of self and the environment. The curriculum calls for classroom preparation, introduction of students to the farm, partnering for grooming, involvement in leadership exercises, and begins with learning to lead a horse.
Valerie Buck, who leases and operates the farm, is a former professional racehorse exercise rider who founded ACTT Naturally. That organization, in her words, “transitions thoroughbreds from racing to new productive careers using the gentle techniques of natural horsemanship. To facilitate this process, horses are paired with people in an experiential learning environment designed to help individuals overcome challenges and enhance leadership skills.and owns a retraining facility for retired race horses and other rescued horses.”
The Long Shadow/Columbia High initiative began with Andrea, Brian, and John Sawchuk visiting the farm in October. They showed us a video of John’s experience handling a horse, something he said he had always had an aversion to but didn’t mention it to the others. He succeeded in overcoming his reluctance, putting the horse through its paces using a rope tether.
Our visitors said they needed $600 more to underwrite the program, and planned to make presentations to other groups in an effort to build support. Terry, with the full agreement of the members present, said our club will provide them with $500 toward that goal.
HOLIDAY PARTY: President Terry thanked Peter and Debbie Brown for again hosting our annual “Holiday Dinner & Silent Auction.” Treasurer Murray Forth reported that the auction raised $550 to go toward our community projects.
PUBLIC RELATIONS: Terry thanked the PR Committee of Bill Dowd, Pat Bailey, and Deb Rodriguez for its continuing efforts to spread the word about our club. We have had items published in “Our Town,” “The Advertiser,” and the “District 7190 Toolbox” electronic newsletter. Terry reminded members to make a practice of checking the club website ( SRCrotary.com ) at least weekly to keep abreast of club news and Rotary in general.
INDOOR GOLF EVENT: “Winter Indoor Golf Fest,” our first simulator golf event of the winter, has been rescheduled for Saturday, January 30, at Burden Lake Country Club in Averill Park. Bill Dowd created a flyer for the event, and already has posted it on social media as well as the club’s website and Facebook page. Each member and prospective member will be e-mailed a copy of the flyer and asked to help spread the word. The event originally was scheduled for December, but unseasonably warm weather allowed normal outdoor golfing activities to be held at Burden Lake. Another indoor event will be organized in April.
MEMBERSHIP UPDATE: We welcomed back two former Rotarians who have decided to renew their Rotary memberships after a hiatus of several years — past president John Sawchuk and Bob Horan. They will be among new members to be formally inducted at our Thursday, February 4, dinner, which will be part of a “Mid-Year Awards & New Member Induction” event. Our district governor has asked each club to add at least one (1) new member in the 2015-16 Rotary Year. Terry said that recruitment efforts, including our new monthly breakfast meeting series, could result in as many as 11 new members. We will continue the breakfast sessions, although we may add more host venues such as the Greenbush YMCA.
ROTARY HOME COOKING: This popular series of member-hosted dinners began in November at the Browns’ residence. Next up is a German dinner at the Forth residence on February 20 (8-guest limit), followed by a guest-chef dinner hosted by Pat Bailey on March 19 (8-guest limit), and a wine-pairing dinner hosted by the Dowds on April 16 (6-guest limited). The process is for members to provide food and beverages as well as the venue, with guests paying a per-person reservation fee that will go directly to the club treasury. Reservations are accepted on a first-come, first-served basis.
PROGRAM REMINDER: Debbie Rodriguez is updating the after-dinner program schedule which Bill Dowd will publicize through e-mail, social media and website postings. Please check the schedule to be sure of your assigned date and let Debbie know the program details ASAP.
GIFT OF LIFE: Jim Leyhane reported that the district Gift of Life organization is in discussions with Albany Medical Center concerning AMC’s continued participation in the program. He noted that our district GOL has been paying a $10,000 flat fee for pediatric cardiac surgery cases, double that paid in many other regions. He will report back on the outcome of the discussions.
SHELTER BOX: As we do each year, our club is planning to underwrite the $1,000-per cost of providing Shelter Boxes for use in various parts of the world hit by natural disasters and other calamities. We are aiming for five (5) this year, and already have donor pledges that will cover three (3). Jim Leyhane cautioned that donors of $500 or more be sure to make out their checks to “Shelter Box.” That is necessary to avoid problems with the IRS over the total amount of money that passes through our club annually. Anyone donating less than $500 may make out their check to “SRC Rotary Club,” but should put Gift of Life in the memo line. In either instance, checks should be turned in to Murray Forth.
MISCELLANY (4 items): (1.) Debbie Brown and the Scholarship Committee have been tasked with finding more effective ways to offer student scholarship awards. We have had little response in the past few years to our efforts at an essay program. (2.) A CPR training session will be scheduled for the spring, again with the assistance of Ron Annis and his Top Form organization. Turnout should be good since people who attended two years ago need to be recertified this year. (3.) The new embossed club mugs are available at $10 per mug, proceeds going to the club treasury. (4.) Hoffman’s Car Wash ticket books also are available from Murray, with proceeds going to the treasury.
NEXT MEETING: Local high school student Rose Reed will pay a followup visit to fill us in on the “Safe Passage” program in Guatemala that we helped underwrite. Go here for a look back at the April meeting at which the “Safe Passage” group presented a program to the club.