- by Mount Saint Mary College

Mount Saint Mary College celebrated the students, employees, and alumni who have helped to keep their communities healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic at its 11th Annual Gala on Wednesday, December 9.

The Gala raised $31,000 in gifts, sponsorships, and virtual ticket sales. The funds enable the college to provide scholarships and an affordable, values-based education to thousands of deserving students, many of whom are among the first in their families to attend college. 

Nikki Khurana-Baugh, Vice President for Advancement at Mount Saint Mary College and the Gala’s master of ceremonies, thanked the community for their support of the college.

 “Some of our students have to choose between buying food, paying rent, paying for utilities, and paying for school – an impossible decision for anyone, let alone a 20-year-old who is working hard for a better future,” she said. “Scholarships are critical for our students. Simply put, they would not be at the Mount without your generous donations.”

The college thanked the local leaders who sponsored the event:

  • Presenting Sponsor: Rose and Kiernan, Inc. an NFP Company
  • Gold Sponsor: Unitex Healthcare Laundry Services
  • Silver Sponsors: Wallkill Valley Federal Savings and Loan Association; William A. Smith and Son, Inc.

David Melby, Senior Vice President of Rose and Kiernan, Inc., said that he and his company were highly motivated to sponsor the Gala this year, “when local businesses have been negatively impacted by COVID-19. Having worked closely with the Mount for many years, I have seen firsthand the tremendous impact a Mount education can have on our youth that are working hard to improve their lives by obtaining their college degree. It’s an honor to be this year’s Presenting Sponsor.” 

It was a long journey from the first days of online instruction to living, working, and learning on campus again. But it was also through these hardships that the Mount community grew, adapted, and became stronger. 

“I’m thrilled that the Advancement Committee has decided to honor you, the students, faculty, and staff of Mount Saint Mary College as this year’s Gala Honorees,” said Dr. Jason N. Adsit, president of the college. “In true Mount fashion, we are all getting though this difficult time together, and we are doing so while continuing to honor our campus-wide commitment to service. From Nursing faculty, students, and alumni fighting on the frontlines to the Mount family donating their time and effort, we continue to give back to our community. I am so proud of everyone here at the college for their dedication, determination, and their drive to serve.”

One of those community members who went above and beyond was Assistant Nursing Professor Elaine Suderio-Tirone, who has also been a nurse fighting COVID-19 on the frontlines since the start of the pandemic. Along with her family, Suderio-Tirone sewed and donated thousands of cloth masks to those in need. The masks, she explained, were sent all over the United States and beyond. 

Joining Suderio-Tirone in the fight against COVID-19 is recent Mount Nursing grad Shannon Christiano ’20, who worked as a nursing assistant while simultaneously finishing her final semester at the Mount. After graduating, she got a job as an RN and continues to aid COVID-19 patients. 

Eddie Arnold of Southampton, N.Y., Student Government Association (SGA) president, discussed how Mount students worked together to keep their classmates safe in the Fall 2020 semester. The SGA created the “I Care” campaign, which promoted making healthy choices in the face of the pandemic. 

The gala also recognized Robert Armistead, a member of the Mount’s Board of Trustees, and Susan Najork, a former Mount Trustee and friend of the college, both of whom passed away this year. Armistead and Najork gave much of themselves in the name of the Mount and will be missed, noted Dr. Adsit. 

The keynote remarks were given by Rachel and Andy Berliner, founders of Amy’s Kitchen. The company is opening a new production facility and kitchen in Goshen, N.Y., and has been a well-respected maker of organic foods for more than three decades. 

“Here we are today, a bigger company than we ever imagined,” said Andy. “We are so excited about going to Goshen with our next facility because it will help us fill demand, it will save a tremendous amount of fuel from bringing products across country, and the people…have been so welcoming to us.”

Amy’s Kitchen began right out of their home: the Berliners initially made meals by hand and sold them locally. They thought they would remain a small company, but not long after Amy’s appeared in stores, consumers began asking for products like pizzas and soups, as well as gluten free and dairy free options.

“Our philosophy is something for everyone,” said Rachel. “We try to take care of all kinds of people with special [dietary] needs.”

The couple noted that Amy’s Kitchen shares the Mount’s mission of service and community: “Always taking care of people is the basis of our company,” said Rachel. “We’re able to take care of the communities around us and further out. If there’s an emergencies, we’re able to donate food… With COVID, we’re donating everything we can to the local hospitals.” 

Also like the Mount, Amy’s Kitchen awards scholarships – in this case, to the children of their employees. This year alone, the company gave more than 120 scholarships to deserving college students, many of whom go into service jobs like nursing and teaching. The recipients “are so grateful,” noted Andy. “It’s so inspirational to hear them talk” about their dreams and aspirations.

Rachel added, “Many are first-generation college students…their parents are so proud to see their children going to college and doing well.”  

Michael Horodyski, president and CEO of Wallkill Valley Federal Savings and Loan, and board chair at the Mount, closed out the Gala: “I want to personally thank our many donors,” he said. “Your gifts make it possible for our students to achieve their goals of a Mount education.”

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