GATEWAY PERSPECTIVES: Field Trip to Green Chimneys

Richard Haggerty | April 1, 2015

The Board of Directors of the Hudson Gateway Association of Realtors usually meets once a month at one of the Association’s three office locations in White Plains, West Nyack, or Goshen. At the beginning of this year President Drew Kessler suggested that we do a “road trip” for one of the Directors meetings to Putnam County to a location called Green Chimneys. Green Chimneys is a school that helps kids with special needs. On a chilly rainy day this April we headed to Brewster to conduct the business of the Association, and to learn about an organization that truly makes a huge difference in so many people’s lives in the lower Hudson Valley region.

The Directors were very fortunate to have Dr. Sam “Rollo” Ross, the original founder of Green Chimneys, address the Board and provide background about the organization. Two things became crystal clear in listening to Dr. Ross; he has a passion for helping and nurturing kids and he has developed a winning formula that integrates animals and nature in the education process for children in what he calls “animal assisted therapy.”

Dr. Ross, at the age of just 19, founded Green Chimneys in October of 1947. According to the school’s website, after a long search for possible sites in Putnam County, New York, the Ross family purchased the 75-acre Dell-Howe Farm from the widow of New York State Senator Ward Tolbert. His dream was to create an environment where children and animals could live together in a farm setting and in fact, the HGAR Directors met in what was once a barn on the original farm. When he first started the school there were 11 students, ages three to six years old.  Today Green Chimneys serves approximately 1,200 children on a daily basis in a variety of programs.

So why is Green Chimneys so vital to our community? For one thing it is one of the largest employers in Putnam County. However, much more importantly, Green Chimneys helps kids and families who are in need. Dr. Ross explained that in almost all instances the students at the school have been excluded from “traditional” educational institutions because of behavioral, emotional, or mental health issues, and Green Chimneys offers them a path to learn techniques and social and coping skills so that they can be re-integrated into their schools and communities. It offers hope to families who are often desperate to find solutions and don’t know where to turn.

Where do the animals fit into this mission? When Dr. Ross founded the school his vision included involving animals in helping kids overcome emotional and mental health issues. His original vision has greatly expanded with the current school. Today the Farm and Wildlife Center has more than 300 animals, ranging from your typical farm animals like horses and sheep to more exotic animals like camels and birds of prey. The public can visit the Farm and Wildlife Center on weekends from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The lower Hudson Valley has a host of tremendous assets and Green Chimneys is definitely one of them. Their team of professionals who work night and day with the kids demonstrate just how caring and talented our residents are. I can’t thank Dr. Ross and his entire staff enough for sharing with us exactly what they do for our community as a whole. To learn more about Green Chimneys you can visit their website at, or better yet, pay them a visit some weekend this summer. It’s worth the trip.

If you know of other assets in the lower Hudson Valley region that we should spotlight in Real Estate In-Depth, feel free to e-mail me at

Richard Haggerty