These Are the Hudson Valley’s Essential Workers

Honoring the women and men who have kept our region running during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By Kathryn Walsh and Sierra Guardiola

On March 19, 2020, as confirmed coronavirus cases in New York rose to 4,152 — up from just 22, two weeks prior — Governor Andrew M. Cuomo signed an executive order mandating businesses that rely on in-office personnel decrease their in-office workforce by 75 percent. Exemptions were made for essential service industries, including shipping, media, warehousing, grocery and food production, pharmacies, healthcare providers, utilities, banks and related financial institutions, and other industries critical to the supply chain.

One month later, as cases escalated to 242,786 statewide — 23,803 in Westchester alone — it was evident our essential workers were in this for the long haul. At this time, the staff of  Hudson Valley magazine conceived of a way to honor these workers — individuals who were not only going to work every day, as many of us worked from home, but were putting their lives at risk while doing it. All to keep us alive and keep the region moving.

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Our online ballot to submit nominations for Essential Hudson Valley individuals who live or work in the region went live in May. Due to our deadlines, it was up for only one month; in that time we received more than 100 nominations. Our intent was not to pick the “best” essential worker in the Hudson Valley, but to honor them all. In choosing 20 people to profile, healthcare workers were on the top of our minds. But, we also wanted to recognize the other categories that the governor outlined in his executive order: the mail carrier who continued coming to your door, but now with more packages; the deli worker who made lunches and coffee for other essential workers; the police officer who continued keeping our community safe — plus volunteers who donated time and money to make PPE. Starting on page 40, you will see a list of everyone nominated, who agreed to be featured.

In the following profiles, you will find excerpts from the nominations — kind words from family, friends, co-workers, etc. — and answers to questions about the essential worker’s job, including how their responsibilities have changed during the pandemic. We also asked: Is there anything else you’d like to add? Nearly all honorees took the chance to thank others.

Caitlin Dolan

New York State Thruway Authority, Woodbury
Toll Collector

Why She’s Essential: Caitlin currently works as a toll collector on the Thruway, but also started working at a grocery store in our small town to help the people around her and be close to home to help me. She will maybe get one day off a week, and, most of the time, she is so tired and worn down she will just sleep. She has also been collecting soda [can and bottle] returns and donating the proceeds to local animal shelters by purchasing food and needed items. She has helped pay for groceries for local people when she sees them struggling — anything to help the people around her. —Charlotte Dolan, Caitlin’s mother

There’s always extra cleaning that could be done, as well as taking extra shifts to help cover the work.
—Caitlin Dolan

In Her Own Words: One way my has job changed is that we are unable to be in contact with customers. We copy down license plate information and manually input all of the information into our computer. It takes a lot of time and patience. There is a lot of stress and a lot of tension in the world, but I could not ask for better places to work. My employers and co-workers are generous and kind, and the customers are always smiling and having a good time with us. I’ve also been lucky enough to witness acts of kindness. I look forward to doing anything I can to continue to make this world a better place.

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Anthony Morrone

City of Poughkeepsie Police Department, Poughkeepsie
Police Officer

Why He’s Essential: My father, Tony Morrone, has been serving his community for 19 years. He shines a positive light on police enforcement, and, for as long as I have been alive, he has been dedicated to the job. My father is less than two years from retiring and still goes in every day ready for what the day brings, with a smile on his face (partially because he knows he’ll be eating Rossi’s for lunch). Tony is a hero not just to me, but to others around the community. He has been recognized for his work over the years, including receiving Officer of the Year. He stands firm in what he believes in, and it reflects in the good he does for his community. Above all, I love my dad. —Sophie Morrone, Tony’s daughter

He stands firm in what he believes in, and it reflects in the good he does for his community. Above all, I love my dad.
—Sophie Morrone

In His Own Words: No much has changed [with my job] other than having to wear a mask and trying to balance social distancing while performing my duties. More importantly, I’d like to acknowledge my co-workers. From Chief Tom Pape to the frontline patrol officers, I couldn’t be successful at my job without their courage and support. It’s also important to note that successfully making it through this crisis would not be possible without the cooperation of the great people of Dutchess County.

Joseph Kirchhoff

Kirchhoff Companies, Salt Point

Why He’s Essential: Joseph Kirchhoff is a long-standing developer and community leader in the Hudson Valley, and has led our Business Restoration Task Force Construction Workgroup to develop guidance for the construction industry to safely re-open during this pandemic. —Shelby Adrian, employee

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In His Own Words: Upon the initial COVID-19 shutdown, we had to pause all construction on all of our major projects, including Eastdale Village. While my primary focus had once been constructing and leading these projects, I shifted my focus to what I could do to help the community.

I helped develop a strategic plan with the county’s Economic Rapid Response Team to safely re-open not only our, but all Dutchess County construction projects (when able to). We developed a guidance procedure to safely open and operate the construction field, and through the County Executive’s office, it was submitted to the state for consideration. I was also able to supply over 20,000 masks to Vassar Brothers [Medical Center].

William Begg, MD

Vassar Brothers Medical Center, Poughkeepsie
Vice President of Medical Affairs, Board Certified Emergency Medicine Physician

Why He’s Essential: Dr. Begg has worked tirelessly in our command center throughout…working insane hours and leading our medical staff with a calm hand and steady presence. In addition to his administrative duties he also continues to see patients as an ED physician. He has conducted countless interviews on the radio and in print throughout the Hudson Valley in order to get factual and scientific data to our community. A true hero. —Antonio Perugino, colleague

In His Own Words: I oversee all clinical activity at Vassar Brothers Medical Center. [When the pandemic began] I refocused efforts on preparing VBMC for the influx of patients stricken with COVID-19 during the coronavirus pandemic. I am proud to be part of a hospital team that helped over 400 patients admitted with COVID-19 be discharged back to their families much improved.

Catherine Sullivan

Montefiore Nyack Hospital, Nyack
Director, Respiratory Care Services

Why She’s Essential: Cathey has been on the frontlines with her staff from day one. [As of this writing]she has worked over 40 days straight. She is there when they are intubating COVID patients. She is there at management meetings to figure out how they are handling the situation. She is on the telephone calling vendors for much-needed supplies and calling per-diem staff to help cover [staff resignations].

She’s working with the pulmonologist, coming up with different strategies [to] increase the patient’s oxygenation in the blood. She has been going nonstop, 24/7 to figure this out. She’s a wonderful woman working as hard as she can. She also has asthma. So that alone could have had her take a step back and work from behind her desk. —Theresa Kernisan, colleague

In Her Own Words: During the pandemic it was “all hands on deck” and I worked bedside on both day and night shifts side-by-side with my staff. The number of ventilator patients we cared for was four to five times higher than our usual workload and required the hospital to convert areas to ICU beds.

Even with this increase, caring for our patients always remained our main priority. I worked many extra shifts and hours along with my staff to care for our critical patients. We all worked together doing everything needed to provide care and comfort to our patients.

 This pandemic demonstrated what teamwork means. The physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, PCA’s, lab, radiology, environmental services, dietary, transport, central supply, purchasing/storeroom and administration all worked together to either provide care or provide the caregivers with the supplies needed to provide care to “Our Patients.”

I have never been so proud to be part of such a fantastic team! I was also touched and humbled beyond words by the support we received from our community! …It was just amazing and provided us with the encouragement and strength we needed to endure this battle we faced.

Gregg Lewis

United States Postal Service, Carmel
Rural Carrier

Why He’s Essential: Gregg has been a mailman for more than 25 years in Carmel. He has had the same route for about 20 years and has very close bonds with his customers. He is committed to delivering everything his customers order, so they don’t have to leave the house. During this pandemic the number of packages has sky-rocketed. Yet, being a mail carrier is a thankless task and they are rarely mentioned as being essential workers. Gregg and others like him deserve to be honored. —Nancy Altman, Gregg’s wife

In His Own Words: My job has changed during the pandemic in that package volume has nearly doubled due to stores being closed, which significantly increased my work hours. It’s so nice that my customers are so kind, appreciative and supportive of me.

Lara Hart

Holiday Inn Express, Lake Katrine
General Manager/Director of Sales

Why She’s Essential: This hospitality manager has been hard at work keeping the hotel safe for guests and emergency workers, while providing excellent service with minimal staff. All the while keeping her family of three children safe, healthy, educated, and keeping life as normal as possible. —Donna Gaudio, hotel guest

In Her Own Words: During the pandemic we have had a drastic change in operations due to safety. We have closed the breakfast buffet and have had limited staff, so my daily [responsibilities] have increased to [include] also helping more with the front desk and breakfast, as well as my sales and general Manager role. I have also taken over revenue management for our property.

I do whatever is needed to make the hotel run smoothly. Our hotel is very sanitary and clean, as it always has been. I am proud of my staff for being team players and getting us through the tough times.

Elaine Suderio-Tirone, FNP-BC, DNP

Mount Saint Mary College, Newburgh
Assistant Professor, Graduate Program
Vassar Brothers Medical Center, Poughkeepsie
Pediatric Hospitalist/Family Liaison, ICU

Why She’s Essential: Inspired by a news story about the shortage of personal protection equipment, Elaine recruited her family to help her make masks. At last count, Elaine and her team have made hundreds of masks. For several weeks in a row, the team would sew from 7 a.m. up to 3 a.m. the following day. Elaine is also a well-respected and beloved professor at the Mount. —Matt Frey, co-worker at Mount Saint Mary College

In Her Own Words: When I heard there was a shortage in PPE in NYC, I thought of being proactive and making masks, just in case we experienced the same here. When I shared my idea with my brother, he said that is what he wanted to do on his birthday: make masks. So we did. We never stopped for three months. My brothers (who are also RNs), sister-in-law, daughter, and I made about 3,000 free masks. We have requests locally, nationally, and have mailed them out to the Philippines, UK and Italy.

At Vassar Brothers Medical Center, since the pediatric unit was closed, I was recruited to become the Family Liaison for all COVID-19 ICU patients. I acted as the bridge between the patients and their families. Given that visitation was restricted throughout this period, I made sure that families got to see and talk to their loved ones virtually.

I feel helpless sometimes when the patients lose the battle, but to be able to hold their hands, rub their heads, and stay at the bedside while families mourn remotely gives me a little bit of peace, knowing they were not alone.
—Elaine Suderio-Tirone

When I first stepped in the COVID Unit, it was surreal. A war zone you may call it. Beds a few feet apart, filled with sick people; healthcare workers, all covered for protection, running around; no time to drink and get a restroom break for hours… and then you realize, you are there to do the best you can. A lot of sad endings but we also celebrate multiple victories.

I am glad that I was given the opportunity to make a difference. I feel helpless sometimes when the patients lose the battle, but to be able to hold their hands, rub their heads, and stay at the bedside while families mourn remotely gives me a little bit of peace, knowing they were not alone.

Ericka Von Salews

Vassar-Warner Home, Poughkeepsie
Administrator/Executive Director

Why She’s Essential: Administrators of adult care and assisted living facilities are often overlooked as essential employees, even though their dedication and committment goes well beyond the average 40-hour work week as they’re usually on call 24/7 and have the full responsibility of the facility on their shoulders. Without Ericka as the administrator and leader of our hardworking team members, our elderly residents would not receive the highly essential care and compassion needed to survive such trying times. In other words, she is essential to fulfilling our mission [of] taking care of those who can’t take care of themselves. —Cheryl Holt, co-worker

I cannot commend Ericka enough for the dedication she has shown, the example she has set for all of her staff, and the smiling, happy attitude she shows each and every day no matter how tired, how many things have gone wrong, or how many hours she has been there. —Kim Ryder, Board Treasurer for Vassar-Warner Home

In Her Own Words: The well-being of our residents and staff has always been of utmost importance to me in my job, but once the severity and proximity of the pandemic became clear, the protection of our residents and staff became the number-one goal. We’ve also had an ever-increasing focus on keeping our residents upbeat and positive, especially in light of the temporary hold on visits from family and friends.

In order to keep our residents safe, we followed the guidelines as directed by New York State Department of Health and the CDC. Good health is key, but so are good spirits. To that end, we purchased tablets and software to assist with video conferencing with residents’ families. We also facilitated window visits.  Our team made sure that video and window visits could happen at any time. We’ve also hosted an indoor carnival and creative projects that connect our residents with the outside world, like our resident senior citizens writing messages to graduating seniors with well wishes and life tips.

We are thrilled and grateful to share that there have been no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in our community, and we work every day to keep it that way.

Jamie Talmadge

Good Samaritan Hospital, Suffern
Registered Nurse, Labor & Delivery

Why She’s Essential: My friend Jamie Talmadge from Port Jervis is a labor and delivery nurse. She has been helping mothers who are COVID positive — and those who are not — deliver their babies during this difficult time. —Terri Blancato-Horton, “bestie”

In Her Own Words: My job as a labor and delivery nurse has changed drastically since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our hallways, which are normally filled with family and doulas, have been empty due to restrictions on visitation. I have had to be not only the RN, but the sole support person for some of my patients. We now gown-up in full gear from hairnets, gowns, and gloves, to face/eye protection. Our patients can barely see our faces.

Despite these changes, we try to keep their labor and delivery experience the best it can be while providing a safe environment for both mom and baby. Once my shift is over, I go home, strip down, and disinfect before being around my family. For weeks, I gave up hugs and kept distance from my kids and spouse. It has been very hard but we RNs will get through it.

Lansford Richards

ShopRite, Monticello
Head Maintenance Clerk

Why He’s Essential: During these tumultuous times Lance has been on the frontline. When asked if he could rearrange his schedule to come in earlier to sanitize our carts, he quickly jumped on the task. When asked to clean up debris in the parking lot, he again attacked the task at hand. Lance was also instrumental in maintaining a rigid inventory of all essential cleaning materials. The most impressive part was he did his job with a smile.

His loud, hearty laugh brightens everyone around, guest and associate. You can’t miss Lance; he always wears his St. Kitts bandana around his mouth and nose. But, what really turns your head is his calm demeanor, willingness to help, and his great, big laugh. Lance truly embodies, “Happy to be here and show it!” — John Dearani, District Director of Operations and Shannon DeFreese, District HR Specialist

In His Own Words: The biggest change [in my job since the pandemic began] is that I now interact with people in a time of crisis. It is important for guests to know that we are here for them. I volunteered to go out in our parking lot and clean up debris that was left behind by customers: masks, gloves, empty sanitizer bottles. I take pride in my job and feel that, when a guest gets out of their car, their impression begins.

It is very important to maintain a clean parking lot. We came up with a good strategy and ordering system for our cleaning supplies; at no time did we run out of wipes, sanitizer, paper towels etc. We were always ready for the next challenge and, more importantly, had the right equipment. Again, I would like to emphasize it was important that our guests and associates knew that we were going to be there for them.

Shannon Christiano

Mount Saint Mary College, Newburgh
Recent Graduate
Mather Hospital, Port Jefferson
Emergency Room Nursing Assistant 

Why She’s Essential: Shannon lived on-campus at Mount Saint Mary College until the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Then she worked in the emergency room at Mather Hospital. Her parents and sister work in the healthcare field, as well. When they’re not working, they have been practicing social isolation from themselves and others. —Matt Frey, Mount Saint Mary College staff

In Her Own Words: I now work at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset as an RN in the emergency department. I worked at Mather Hospital for three years. There, I worked with a team in the emergency department. When COVID first started, guidelines for healthcare workers seemed to be changing every hour. As healthcare providers, our patients expect us to have the answers, but during this time no one did. The unknown is scary, especially when your patients are relying on you. Not having visitors added to the patients’ stress. Healthcare workers became their support system while also providing measures to, in some cases, save their lives. COVID took a lot of things from a lot of people, including, unfortunately, the lives of many.

My sister is a labor and delivery nurse, her fiancé is an ER nurse and a firefighter in FDNY, and both my parents also work in healthcare. This pandemic really hit home for us.
—Shannon Christiano, RN

 I am so blessed to have such a strong support system. My sister is a labor and delivery nurse, her fiancé is an ER nurse and a firefighter in FDNY, and both my parents also work in healthcare. This pandemic really hit home for us.

Everyone has played a part in helping us out of this crisis: healthcare workers, sanitation workers, postal service workers, grocery store workers, and so many more. There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and this experience is something I will not soon forget.

Christian Ortiz 

Cherries Ice Cream Bar & Grill, Stone Ridge
Front of Store Manager

Why He’s Essential: My son has been going to work six days a week, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. He has been working only with his boss, Alyson, and co-worker, Shannon, for months now. They are serving free lunches Monday to Friday. Trying to spread happiness to his customers, Christian greets everyone with a smile. I’d really like to nominate the whole team.  Kathleen Ortiz, 
Christian’s mother

In His Own Words: We have been running strong since February 11, [which has] allowed us to figure out a plan/procedure to help customers, as well as ourselves, feel safe. During this time, a store that is normally run by a whole group of people was being run day-in and day-out by myself and two co-workers.

I’m happy to see how offering free lunches to the community has helped out so much. My grandfather sadly lost his battle with COVID-19 during this time. And the joy of helping my community and coming together is more than I could ever ask for.  

Meghan De Witt

St. Thomas Aquinas College, Sparkill
Associate Professor of Mathematics

Why She’s Essential: Dr. Meghan DeWitt put the 3D printers in the college’s Innovation Center to work by producing face shields that received the thumbs-up for distribution to Holy Name Medical Center in Teaneck, NJ; Nyack Hospital; and EMT groups in Rockland and Bergen Counties. Meghan raised $800 in 24 hours from faculty supporting her efforts. —Anne Lombardi, colleague

In Her Own Words: Our director of campus ministry, Dan Cummings, was really the person who got us started. He had seen articles about people making PPE supplies with 3D printers. Both of us felt like doing anything we could to help the real heroes, the healthcare professionals on the frontlines. So, he and I collected donations from faculty and staff and used the money to purchase 3D printing supplies. We then used the school’s 3D printers to make 832 face shields and 1,281 face mask extenders that were donated to local paramedics and hospitals. We were really happy we were able to do something to help the health workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.   

As far as teaching, because of the lockdown, I had to transition to entirely online teaching. As I teach math, this is not an easy thing to do! I prerecorded lectures for some of my classes and taught several live over Zoom. I also held Zoom office hours and remotely helped my students as much as I could.

James Schroeder

Crystal Run Healthcare
Outpatient Infusion Center, Middletown
Registered Nurse

Why He’s Essential: Jim is an essential employee to so many people. He is a registered nurse currently working in the infusion center at Crystal Run. [While] he may not be on the frontline of COVID-19, he is still taking amazing care of many terrified cancer patients that need their oh-so-essential chemotherapy. He continues to smile bright through his mask, bringing comfort, care, sunshine, and, of course, as many laughs as possible to his patients and his co-workers. You will never see this man have a bad day.    Nicole Schroeder, Jim’s wife

In His Own Words: We treat oncology, hematology, neurology, rheumatology, nephrology, and gastroenterology patients with medication by IV. The one constant has been that our job is needed, and things have not slowed down. Our patient population cannot just quarantine and take a break from being treated. We’ve eliminated patient visitors at the chairside (which eliminates exposure), and, as a result, I’ve tried to increase patient emotional support as they are being treated alone at such an unnerving time. Patients have been very appreciative and realize some of these inconveniences are not only needed but hopefully temporary.

I just want to say thank you for all the hard work the healthcare field across the board has put in…Job well done, everybody!

Miriam Arroon

Lutheran Care Center, Poughkeepsie
Director of Nursing Services and Infection Preventionist 

Why She’s Essential: During this pandemic, Miriam showed excellent leadership. She networks within the county and state to advocate for her residents, families, and staff. She works tirelessly and never gives up, even when COVID-19 seems to be all-consuming. As a leader, she implemented best practices as recommended by CDC, NYSDOH, and AHCA.

She kept up with the sometimes daily or hourly changes or advisory from the state and made sure to communicate with her team members for successful outcomes. Her passion for what she does is evident in the way she leads her staff and cares for her residents. She is compassionate and is a strong advocate for her residents, families, and staff. —Albert Riddle, Medical Director

I have learned that the human spirit cannot be broken if we are innovative in our thinking during a crisis.
—Miriam Arroon, RN

In Her Own Words: As an RN working for more than 25 years in the nursing profession, this is definitely a life-changing experience with quality care delivery for our patients/residents.… Keeping our residents, staff, and ourselves safe from the COVID-19 virus is an ongoing survival challenge. But seeing the success and positive outcomes with an elderly, 100-year-old resident was rewarding. Maintaining communication with residents and families during this pandemic became an innovative adventure with FaceTime videos, Skype, window visits, drive-through car parades, etc. Communicating with our residents while wearing a mask is a daily struggle because they cannot see our smiles or read our lips. The normalcy of human interactions has changed significantly for our residents and staff, but we do the best we can to boost everyone’s morale. 

As a nurse, I am inspired by the true “heroes” during this pandemic. These people are not professionals working alongside us, they are our elderly residents and their families, who have endurance to cope with being separated by social distancing and not being able to hug their 91-year-old mom on her birthday. I have learned that the human spirit cannot be broken if we are innovative in our thinking during a crisis.

Kathy Fanitzi

Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall, Newburgh
Director of Infection Control

Why She’s Essential: During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Fanitzi provided absolutely essential guidance to our clinical teams. None of us could have been fully prepared for the magnitude of this pandemic and velocity at which it arrived, but Kathy approached each day with a sense of calm. She educated our clinical teams on isolation precautions, visited patient care units to address staff questions, and advised leadership on patient placement, PPE, and return-to-work policies based on the current Center for Disease Control and New York State Department of Health guidance.

As we gained more knowledge about the COVID disease processes, Kathy provided crucial updates as needed. This included working tirelessly to ensure our team was receiving updates in real time. For close to three months, Kathy has woken up at 4 a.m., every single day (seven days per week), to review all patient test results and new admissions to have all data ready to submit to the New York State Department of Health as one of our daily reporting requirements.

As the primary liaison between our hospital and the Orange County Department of Health, Kathy fields phone calls day and night to answer any and all pertinent questions. As a long withstanding member of the Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall family, with a close to 30-year tenure, Kathy’s dedication and commitment has always been evident. However, during this pandemic, Kathy has truly outdone herself. She approaches every day with professionalism, positivity, and refreshing sense of humor. We could not have done it without her! —Mary Kelley, Vice President of Quality Management

In Her Own Words: Traditionally, the role of the Infection Control Practitioner has always involved evaluating and implementing strategies to minimize “infections” inside and outside of the hospital. Because COVID-19 was unknown to all of us, this pandemic added challenges and took those responsibilities to a new, different level. It has always been my belief that you have to be available to staff 24/7. Issues and questions do not occur during a set time schedule.

 This is an honor I never would have expected. During the past several months when COVID reached critical mass, and [as it] continues through today, I have had the distinct honor to work with true heroes. The entire medical and hospital staff at Montefiore St Luke’s Cornwall went above and beyond to care for the patients and their families. Most importantly, they supported each other and rose to the challenges posed by COVID every single day. I share this honor with all of them as my role was small compared to theirs.

Finally, I would like to dedicate this to those that made the ultimate sacrifice, both here and at every institution where patients with COVID were hospitalized and especially to some of our dear colleagues who fought the fight and, unfortunately, lost their battle to this virus. May they rest in peace.

Patrick McGriff

Stewart’s Shops, Red Hook
Shift Supervisor
Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck
Technical Director

Why He’s Essential: Patrick goes above and beyond. He greets his customers, abides by social distancing rules, and provides the best service. You can just tell that, behind his mask, he is greeting you with a smile. I don’t feel safe shopping in most stores, but thanks to Patrick (and his colleagues), I feel safe in Stewart’s. —Jessica Nichols, customer

In His Own Words: We are close to Red Hook Middle and High Schools, so we saw a major fall in customers  — parents, students, and teachers — when the pandemic began. We started selling out of bread and milk much faster, and some items we couldn’t even get in stock for weeks. It was scary, it was stressful, but we did what we had to for the customers. I went from working five days, 20 hours per week, to six days, 25 hours per week.

My full-time job is the Technical Director at the Center for Performing Arts at Rhinebeck. When the theater shut down, the staff decided to keep spirits up and create things to keep our audiences and community entertained. We would make and post videos: technical things around the theater, sewing and costuming tips, make-up tutorials, audition tips…the list goes on and on!

I would like to thank the community for their patience and understanding during these difficult times! And thanks to the Hudson Valley magazine for this amazing opportunity in recognizing those who keep our region moving during hard times!

Julie Carroll

Fishkill Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing
Assistant Administrator/Speech Language Pathologist

Why She’s Essential: When Fishkill Center began admitting COVID-positive patients in late March, no one stepped up to the frontlines faster than Julie. A speech therapist by trade and an administrator in training, she was there for everything these patients and her fellow staff needed. Treating patients, caring for them, laughing with them…guiding them through the ups and downs of this terrible disease. She never gave up hope or dropped her unmatched, exuberant spirit in the pursuit of getting them better. She is a shining example of a healthcare hero. —Michael Zyskind,  administrator

In Her Own Words: Prior to being an assistant administrator, I worked as a speech language pathologist in skilled nursing facilities. During the pandemic, it was decided for infection control, that the nurses and therapists that worked directly with COVID patients would not work with non-COVID patients. We currently only have one full time SLP on our staff, which meant we needed someone to treat the residents that we admitted to our facility with COVID-19 for speech. I gladly took that responsibility on, and was honored to return to my roots to help rehabilitate the swallowing and cognitive abilities of these individuals impacted by this virus.

From March to May, I worked, not only as an assistant administrator, but as the COVID SLP as well. While the days were long, and split in half between being an assistant administrator and a SLP, watching the teamwork that our building demonstrated and the progress that these individuals showed made everything worth it. I cannot put into words how proud I am to work with the individuals at Fishkill Center. We grew together, adapted together, and faced every challenge together, and because of that we are successful. 

Kia James

Access: Supports for Living, Middletown
Direct Service Provider

Why she is essential: When the COVID-19 virus struck the Access: Supports for Living residential group homes for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, the team of Direct Support professionals (DSPs) never stopped caring for the residents and advocated to meet all of their needs. As residents were quarantined to their rooms, staff continuously advocated for support or items the residents needed. With much care and compassion, the team worked to help residents adjust to this new routine as they were used to being together. They are all heroes, they all clearly saved lives.

DSP Kia James, in particular, has continued to go above and beyond. As an organization, we had to set up a stand-alone isolation unit to serve COVID-positive individuals who were being discharged from the hospital but unable to return to their homes right away. Kia was one of only three employees who agreed to be reassigned to this unit to assist with the care of these high-need, high-risk individuals. Kia has been a true hero to the individuals, their families, and our organization. —Yvette Figueroa, Senior Vice President of IDD Supports and Services

If I had to do it all over again, I absolutely would. There is no greater feeling than providing care to those in need.
—Kia James

In her own words: Ways my job has changed during the pandemic: I now help residents deal with the grief of losing an individual. I explain to residents that they can no longer eat together as a family and need to self-isolate from each other. I continuously clean and sanitize the Individual Residential Alternatives (IRAs). And we now have different and longer shifts to keep minimal staff and individual contact. I volunteered to work at the off-site center set up by Access to provide care for COVID patients after they were released from the hospital, before being transitioned back into their homes.

If I had to do it all over again, I absolutely would. There is no greater feeling than providing care to those in need.

131 Essential Hudson Valley Honorees by Workplace

Access: Supports for Living
Kathy Burkhardt
Nicole Holland
Nathanael Hughes
Kia James
Cindy McDade
Jerome McNeil
Betty Owens
Giselle (Gigi) Torres
Elizabeth Torres
Kathyann Scantlebury
Taylor Shuman
Karen Troy

“With many of our employees using public transportation and having it suspended, Becky Kelly rearranged schedules so that our workers could come to work and not only provide excellent customer service but also put food on the table for their families.”

Cherries Ice Cream Bar & Grill
Christian Ortiz

City of Poughkeepsie Police Department
Anthony Morrone

Cornerstone Family Healthcare
Penelope Guccione

Crystal Run Healhcare
James Schroeder

Penelope Guccione’s business was shuttered and considered non-essential (a CrossFit gym), but she continued working as a nurse practitioner making a difference.”

Ellenville Regional Hospital
Myrian Benton

Fishkill Center for Rehabilitation and Nursing
Julie Carroll

Good Samaritan Hospital
Jamie Talmadge

Holiday Inn Express
Lara Hart

Lutheran Care Center
Miriam Arroon

Kirchhoff Companies
Joseph Kirchhoff

Jeanine Slane is one of the most dedicated people to her profession. She got COVID like many and returned. I am in awe of the lack of fear that she and all nurses have.

Montefiore Medical Center (Bronx)
Jeanine Slane, RN

Montefiore Nyack Hospital
Catherine Sullivan

Montefiore St. Luke’s Cornwall
Denise Bambinelli
Karen Berkshire
Patricia Detoro, RN
Margaret Deyo-Allers
Kathy Finitzi
John Hordines, MD
John Jonasch, DPT
Melissa Morales, RN
Eva Persaud
Kathleen Sheehan
Mona Simon
Marc Uhrik

“This is a nomination for Northern Dutchess Hospital’s entire Emergency Department. There was no greater COVID-19 battle than the one that occurred in the emergency departments across hospitals. As the outbreak hit NYC first, the ER staff in Rhinebeck prepared thoroughly, adjusting  procedures and workflows to best treat these patients with care, dignity, and with the safety of patients, visitors, and staff as the number-one priority. They are all heroes. Every one of them.” 

Mount Saint Mary College
Shannon Christiano
Elaine Suderio-Tirone, FNP-BC, DNP

New York State Thruway
Caitlin Dolan

Northern Dutchess Hospital
The Emergency Department’s 65-member team

Stewart’s Shops
Patrick McGriff

“In order to keep her family safe Lisa Caldwell-Moskowitz moved into a hotel and will live there until this is over. Not only is Lisa an amazing, love, caring, human being and friend, but she is my true hero. The patients she cares for are so blessed to have her by their side during the most difficult time in their life.”

St. Anthony Community Hospital
Kathleen Cordes, RN

St. Thomas Aquinas College
Meaghan De Witt

Valley Hospital (Ridgewood, NJ)
Brenda Doebbler, RN

Vassar Brothers Medical Center
William Begg, MD
Lisa Caldwell-Moskowitz, RN
Melissa Sabatino, RN
Elaine Suderio-Tirone, FNP-BC, DNP
Zachary Ruckh, RN

Vassar-Warner Home
Ericka Von Salews

“As a registered nurse, Kathleen Cordes cared for many very sick patients. She rejoiced when patients recovered and were released, and mourned those that were lost. She bravely withstood the risks… Always calm in a crisis, she is a model of how to respond when called to service in a time of great need.”

Isabel Carpenter (Fishkill)
Shannon Halstead (New Paltz)
Diana Gronkowski (Lagrangeville)
Becky Kelly (Poughkeepsie)
Taylor Kopec (Wallkill)
Anna Mahone (Carmel)
Ailda Garcia-Milostan (Vails Gate)
Matthew Molinaro (Chester)
Dawn Doughty Myers (Cortlandt)
Lansford Richards (Monticello)
John Salcito (New Rochelle)
Jen Spangenberg (Warwick)
Tatiana Ray (Newburgh)
Gabriela Tapia (Warwick)
Ashley Tubbs (Colonie)
Victoria Ward (Greenbush)

Greg Lewis
Eileen Wells

“The New Rochelle community was hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, and, as the virus began to impact the area early in March, John Salcito worked diligently at his store to maintain a calm, organized, and safe environment for customers and associates. He often reported to work at 5:30 a.m. and worked 12-hour days to help stock shelves, clean and sanitize the store, and ensure that people got the food and essential items they needed.

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