Interview with Susan Rodriguez of the North Rockland Rowing Club

After receiving the invitation to the March 2 free and amazingly fun-sounding gallery opening called “The Great Painted Paw Brigade” in Haverstraw, NY, I had to learn more. Susan Rodriguez, the Secretary and Director of the sponsoring North Rockland Rowing Club, talked to me about the art, the nonprofit, and the city. 

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Jen Bokoff: Why cats and dogs as a fundraiser? Why not cows, whales, or horse?

Susan Rodriguez: Cats and dogs occupy 86% of all households…and people are very passionate about their cats and dogs! We first made a list of nonprofits to choose from who would benefit from our efforts, and after learning that Hi-Tor Animal Care Center was struggling with finances and County budget cuts, we thought it would be a natural fit given our chosen cats and dogs motif. A nonprofit helping a nonprofit is good idea.

JB: So where did you find all of the artists? You got some great ones!Transformed Dog, by Andy Golub

SR: I have a Drawing and Painting Masters Degree and taught art for 24 years in the public school system, so I’m very connected in the art world. I was receiving e-mails from Andy Golub, so I contacted him and asked if he would paint one; he was delighted to get involved (see “Transformed Dog” at right). Andy Golub connected me with Andy Stewart, Director of KEEP ROCKLAND BEAUTIFUL. Mr. Stewart sent out a “calling all artists” blast; they responded. Finally, a retired Art Coordinator from a local school district approached the Rockland County Art Teachers Association, and many are practicing professional artists.

JB: This project is to benefit the North Rockland Rowing Club, which has been active since 2004. What inspires you to volunteer your time to run the organization?

SR: The North Rockland Rowing Club, Inc. is a 501c3 nonprofit community rowing program created by three local high school students in 2004. Our group’s mission statement explains much of what keeps us going: “To aid, encourage, foster, support, and promote the development and growth of rowing as an inclusive sport on the Hudson River in Rockland County, N.Y.” The benefits of our program include: good health and exercise, access to top colleges and universities across the country, character building & leadership skills; the inspiration is passion for the sport, beauty of the Hudson River, and the overall benefits to young and senior adults. We try to educate community members about the benefits of being physically active and experience the real beauty of the Hudson River firsthand. We are all volunteers with a passion for what we do.

JB: What is something you’ve learned about starting and running a community-based nonprofit?

SR: A community-based nonprofit allows people from various backgrounds and ethnicities to work together closely to achieve a common dream. You learn that there is a lot of educating involved that targets a small group of people who do not understand simple concepts. Not knowing creates fear, control, and power issues.

Nicole Alexandra, by Donna GrossoJB: The gallery and the Rowing Club are both in Haverstraw. If someone were to go for the gallery opening, what are three other places they shouldn’t miss seeing?

SR: Come and see unobstructed views of the Federally designated historic Hudson River. It also has possibly the last group of 19th century architecturally significant buildings like that depicted in “House by the Railroad” by Edward Hopper and twin Second Empire Italianate mansions on Clove Avenue, which are the last twin mansions of their kind in the United States. Visit the Brick Museum on Main Street (did you know Haverstraw was the brickmaking capital of the world?), Bella Rose Restaurant, Union Restaurant, and other unique fusion, Latin, and South American Restaurants.

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Join me at the gallery opening to preview the dog and cat sculptures before they go off to their hosts. (Note that Haverstraw is easy to get to from NYC on the ferry). The Great Painted Paw Brigade leads to a final auction and gala in early June, and the proceeds will support the Rowing Club and Hi-Tor Animal Center.

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