When the coronavirus pandemic forced a longtime partnership between Pathfinder Village and New York Central Mutual Insurance to go remote, the two Edmeston organization s found other ways to keep their ties strong.
The result was a pen pal program and a donation drive centered around the sale of “crazy” polka-dot socks as a fundraiser for Pathfinder, in conjunction with World Down Syndrome Day on Monday, March 21.
“Not only has NYCM supported various Pathfinder events and capital projects, today NYCM is part of the day-to-day life at Pathfinder,” Paul Landers, Pathfinder CEO and president, said in a media release. “The purchase of crazy socks for all the residents this year was an initiative embraced by the entire NYCM family.”
NYCM officials said the company has long been a booster and supporter of Pathfinder, which is an open-access community for school and adult living for people who have Down syndrome and other developmental challenges. NYCM has had at least one executive on the village’s board of directors for about two decades.
In addition, NYCM officials said they have often looked for ways to increase those ties, with donations, with employing village residents or through other shared activities.
“We’re all invested in it in some shape or form,” Mike Perrino, NYCM’s CFO, CRO and treasurer, and a Pathfinder trustee, told The Daily Star on Friday, March 26. “They’re our neighbors and that’s what you do with your neighbors. It is a long, great history of our support for one another.”
Pete Smith, NYCM’s casualty internal business manager, said his unit’s employees have loved the relationship with Pathfinder’s residents. In the past, his unit has helped set up a car show in the village’s pavilion, helped run an annual blackjack fundraiser with the residents on March 21, and volunteered to help decorate for the village’s annual prom.
During one blackjack event, Smith said he struck up a friendship with a village resident named Lee.
“We built up a relationship over all those years,” Smith told The Daily Star on Friday.
“There’s just no prejudice there,” he said. “They’re just so open to love. Everybody they see, they love.”
To keep in touch with Lee and to let other NYCM employees keep in touch with other village residents, Smith helped coordinate the pen pal program. When Lee wrote him recently, Smith said he was surprised with the memories Lee shared.
“He said, ‘I look forward to playing boxing again in the cafeteria,'” Smith said. “That was something we did after one of the blackjack days. He came up to me and was shadow boxing with me and doing some karate moves. I was sort of surprised he remembered that.”
At the same time, Jeremy Bolton, NYCM’s business intelligence manager, was also missing his interactions with the village residents, including Andrew, whom he employed part time, pre-pandemic. As a result, he helped set up the sock fundraiser at NYCM.
“It was an easy decision for me to be part of it,” Bolton told The Daily Star on Friday. “You see the smiles on their faces and they are larger than life. You can’t help but feel good around them.
“New York Central has always tried to do what is right for our community,” he continued.
As the pandemic put a lot of the interactions on hold, NYCM and Pathfinder officials worked together to keep the ties strong. Crazy socks was an idea used in other organizations to commemorate World Down Syndrome Day, which is held March 21, or 3-21, because the triplication of the 21st chromosome in the human genotype is believed to be the cause of most cases of the syndrome.
NYCM officials bought 739 pairs of socks this year, resulting in a donation of $2,097 to Pathfinder. Some of the socks were donated to the village residents. Others were kept and worn by NYCM’s employees on Monday. According to NYCM officials, about 600 of the company’s employees work at the Edmeston headquarters, although most of them are working remotely during the pandemic.
“I think the numbers speak for themselves,” Bolton said.
Bolton got to deliver the socks Monday, giving him a chance to see Andrew as well.
“For me, this was all about Pathfinder Village and New York Central’s relationship with them,” he said.
Go to www.pathfindervillage.org for more information.