Community, Former NFL Pros Join Forces To Tackle Veteran Suicide

Veterans and football players, as well as former New York Giants’ wide receiver Odessa Turner, at the Play For Your Freedom first anniversary football classic at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center on Jan. 25. (photo by Mark Gerlach)

By Mark Gerlach

A friendly football game was played at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center on Jan. 25 to help battle veteran suicide.

“A good friend of mine came back from war carrying things on his shoulders that nobody knew how to understand or even what to look for,” David Lionheart, Play For Your Freedom founder, said at the event. “And it opened up my eyes to what veterans are going through on a daily basis. We decided to take action and to try to become an outlet for that, using physical fitness and peer-to-peer support, as a way to get our veterans back on track and get back into a society, a free society, that they fought for.”

Play For Your Freedom helps veterans suffering from wounds, both “seen and unseen,” use exercise and peer support to help with their recovery process, the organization’s website says. The group partners with local hospitals, and provides wellness workshops for veterans.

Wednesday’s game was Play For Your Freedom’s first anniversary football classic. Odessa Turner, a retired NFL wide receiver who won a Super Bowl with the New York Giants, was a guest coach at the game. Veterans on hand could play, if they wanted, or watch the game from the sidelines.

Other players that have taken part in past events include Stephen Baker of the New York Giants, Gary Brown of the Green Bay Packers and Damian Gregory of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Retired players guest coach during the game as a morale booster, Lionheart said. About 435 veterans have taken part in the program since it began, he said.

The Newburgh Armory Unity Center field was donated for more than a year to Play For Your Freedom. Lionheart thanked businessman and philanthropist William Kaplan, founding chairman of the Newburgh Armory Unity Center, for letting the veterans and players use the field.

To read the full article see the Jan., 27 editions of The Sentinel and Orange County Post.

City Garden Often Unnoticed By Residents

Tours were held at the Newburgh Armory Unity Center’s garden on July 23. The garden, located in the back of the armory, often goes unnoticed by residents. (photo by Brandon Doerrer)

By Brandon Doerrer

There’s a community garden behind the Newburgh Armory Unity Center. However, the garden often goes undetected by area residents visiting the armory.

“A lot of people come to the armory, but they never come back here,” Lisa Rittwegger, city resident and teacher at the armory’s Saturday morning enrichment programs, said.

Tours of the garden were held on July 23 to help “introduce the garden to the community,” Rittwegger said.

The tours also sought to attract potential renters, although the garden is at full capacity for the 2016 growing season. There’s currently a waiting list for a space.

The growing season runs from April 15 to Nov. 30. Fees vary on plot size. Wooden beds are $20 for a 4 foot by 10 foot space; a 4 foot by 20 foot plot costs $30. Beds made of cinder block are $25.

“(It)’s so important for all of us to know where our food is coming from, and this is the way to figure that out,” Rittwegger said. “You get to meet other people, you’re learning about gardening.”

The sentiment was shared by first-time garden visitor Lisa Timm of Cornwall. “In the city it’s hard to have gardening opportunities and this is right in your backyard,” Timm said. “I hope more people get involved and utilize it.”

To read the full article see the Friday, July 29 editions of The Sentinel and Orange County Post.