July 8, 2009: Many thanks for community support

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To The Editor:
I recently returned home to Hobart from eight months in Zimbabwe where I work with orphans and their caregivers. These are difficult times for most Americans, but in spite of these times my neighbors here continue to amaze me with their generosity and caring.
I want to take this opportunity to thank my community here in the Catskills for all their support. And it has come in so many forms. While I was away, Sue Wittenberg of Roxbury sponsored a doll making project and sale with the Margaretville Central School, the proceeds from which went to support my orphans. Last week I heard about a six-year-old girl who was given a doll last year. This year, she declared that her friends shouldn’t bring gifts to her birthday party; she asked them each to buy a doll to feed Zimbabwean orphans. And she’s hardly alone:
A middle-aged woman made the same announcement to friends planning her 50th birthday.
What I have come to think of as the Catskills-Zimbabwe connection began four years ago, when the employees at NBT in Margaretville volunteered to sell the dolls my kids make that buys them their food. Soon they were joined by Richard at Wildflowers Florist, who displayed them. Then churches began opening their doors to me, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists and the Margaretville Christian Center; Rotary clubs started inviting me to meetings and The Roxbury Arts Groups made the Zimkids doll sale an annual event. Dubbens in Delhi and LaFever Excavating help out tremendously. The Longyear Gallery in Margaretville and the arts group in Oneonta hosted me. You all keep reminding me why I love the Catskills — the sense of community, and building on it to reach beyond this community — makes me proud to call this home.
So because of all of you, 125 families that include 160 orphans and their caregivers who were malnourished are able to receive food year-round. My kids work hard to make the dolls that pay for this food, learning along the way the fun of creating and original and the self respect they find in the knowledge that through their efforts they are able to bring food home to their grandmothers and families. With direct donations we now provide a monthly medical clinic.
At Zimkids we believe in empowering youth. So this year we decided to form Council of Elders composed of our beneficiaries who are 16 and over. Each of them decides on an activity either alone or as a team, formulate their plans, sign up children, schedule and direct their own programs with guidance from the trustees. As a result we now offer the following activities to our orphans: chess club, drama and comedy writing, acting and directing, choir, dancing, both traditional and modern, general drawing, drawing comics, boys’ and girls’ soccer, storytelling, magazine development and production. We are also beginning computer training with donated laptops.
For complete information and to see a video about Zimkids go to our Web site at www.zimkids.com.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Dennis Gaboury,
Zimkids founder