PUTNAM POSTING: Embracing Religious Organizations as a Viable Economic Driver

Jennifer Maher | June 6, 2017

Recently, we discussed Putnam County’s not-for-profits and how the business community could best support and enhance their efforts. To extend that topic further, perhaps we should consider promoting Putnam County as a hub for religious organizations. People may not realize it, but Putnam County is home to some rather large religious organizations.

One of my favorites which brings a considerable amount of people into our county is Graymoor. According to its website (www.atonementfriars.org/graymoor-spiritual-life-center), the Graymoor Spiritual Life Center sponsors and hosts retreats, conferences, days of renewal and recollection, pilgrimages, meetings and other events. Opened in 1970, the center has offered people of many different religious traditions and all walks of life an opportunity to slow down and encounter the Spirit in their lives. Graymoor is also host to the Franciscan Friars and Sisters of Atonement, both Catholic organizations of monastics.

Our county is also the home of the Chuang Yen Monastery, which is more than just an amazing Buddhist temple—it contains the largest Buddha statue in the Western Hemisphere. Chuang Yen Monastery is the jewel in the crown of the Buddhist Association of the United States (BAUS). Under president Bikkhu Bodhi, a world-renowned Buddhist Monk, BAUS is an organization of more than 800 members from around the world. Their mission is to spread the philosophy of Buddhism here in the U.S. Thousands of people visit the Monastery weekly.

An example of a non-sectarian religious organization is The Garrison institute. The Garrison, as well as the Chuang Yen Monastery, have hosted the Dali Lama. How cool is that? The Garrison is a spiritual retreat center that hosts year-round workshops on varying topics, again bringing thousands of visitors to our county.

The above organizations have clearly demonstrated that religious institutions have a place in attracting multitudes of visitors to Putnam. That coupled with all the philanthropic work they do makes it a no brainer for us to consider how to partner with these organizations and capitalize on their benefits to our county!

Supporting Local Charities Through A New Initiative

The Putnam County business community is very generous when it comes to charity.

For example, the Mahopac Relay for Life held on June 3rd, a wonderful community event and a great opportunity for local businesses to support the American Cancer Society. There are 655 not-for-profit organizations not including local sports teams, Girl Scouts and schools in Putnam County. The non-stop stream of organizations asking for financial aid or other donations can be overwhelming, potentially putting a small business owner in a precarious position. Saying “No” to a local team or school fundraiser can be a very unpopular decision and be harmful to one’s business!

The Putnam County Chamber of Commerce is considering the establishment of a not-for-profit council, designed specifically to help those organizations that join the Chamber. Such a council would allow for more promotional opportunity for the businesses that support these not-for-profits. Charitable organizations operate to fulfill their missions, not to make money, but are allowed to create and maintain a strong reserve. These organizations are a huge part of the Putnam County economy and culture, with hospital, healthcare providers, cultural organizations charitable foundations, non-government social agencies all making our county a better place to work and live. The council could assist in dealing with the tax laws, regulatory burdens, workforce training and more that impact the success of nonprofit organizations. If interested in being a part of this council please contact me at the Putnam County Chambers of Commerce at (845) 228-8595.

Some businesses aggressively support charities on their own. This July 8, Mahopac Marine is hosting an annual Armed Forces Appreciation Festival, to raise donations for local disabled American veterans and to show appreciation for all the men and women who serve in our armed forces, both active duty and veterans. There will be activities all day long including free food for military personnel and veterans. Sponsorship and donation opportunities are available. E-mail Charlie Melchner for more details at mahopacmarine@gmail.com or call (845) 628-6550.


Jennifer Maher
Jennifer Maher is the founding chairwoman of the Putnam County Business Council and is COO of J. Philip Real Estate.