Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley to Honor Community Service at Annual Garden Party

‚ÄčPOUGHKEEPSIE, NY – Community members with long and impressive commitments to philanthropy and community service will be honored on Sunday, September 27, 2015, from 3-6 pm at the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley’s annual Garden Party. The event will be held at Montgomery Place, an historic mansion in Annandale-on-Hudson, Dutchess County, with sweeping views of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains. Proceeds from the event support the Community Foundations’ community response grants in Dutchess, Ulster and Putnam counties.

Darlene L. Pfeiffer
 of Ulster County and Richard C. Strain and daughter Karen Strain Smythe of Dutchess County will be honored at the event for their extraordinary community service. Victoria St. John Gilligan and Michael and Clare Graham, last year’s honorees, are honorary co-chairs for 2015.

“Every year, the Garden Party is our opportunity to honor those who have made significant contributions to our communities,” said event committee chair and board member Thomas J. Murphy, Vice President and Regional Manager with M&T Bank. “Darlene Pfeiffer and the Strain family epitomize the culture of community service that is the basis of the Community Foundations’ mission.”

Since her childhood in Columbus, Ohio, Darlene L. Pfeiffer has been a champion of women and education who has dedicated life to community service and philanthropy. After relocating to Ulster County, where she later graduated summa cum laude from SUNY New Paltz, Ms. Pfeiffer became the first woman in New York to establish a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, eventually building five restaurants. She has twice served as President of the Kentucky Fried Chicken National Franchisee Association, as well as on the National Advertising Board of Directors, the National Franchisee Advisory Board and the Association of KFC Franchisees.

Ms. Pfeiffer credits her dear friend KFC founder Colonel Harland Sanders with inspiring her toward philanthropy. She expanded the KFC Colonel’s Scholars Program, which awards up to $20,000 to high school seniors to complete a bachelor’s degree program, to include direct donations from franchisees, resulting in millions of new dollars raised for education. She has since funded several scholarships for Hudson Valley students.

Ms. Pfeiffer established the Kentucky Fried Chicken Scholarship Presented by Darlene Pfeiffer with the SUNY Ulster Community College Foundation and later created the Darlene L. Pfeiffer Center for Entrepreneurial Studies which supports the study and execution of entrepreneurial business development and management. This endowed gift was the single largest gift and pledge to the College by a living donor, earning her recognition from the New York Community College Trustees with the Benefactor Vision for Tomorrow Award. She currently serves on the SUNY Ulster Foundation Board as Vice Chair.

Ms. Pfeiffer previously served as president of the YMCA Board of Directors and Kingston Kiwanis Club, on the board of the Benedictine Health Foundation and was inducted into the Chancellor’s Society of the State University of New York. Honors include a YWCA Lifetime Achievement Award, the Sister Mary Charles Award from Benedictine Health Foundation, the “Making a Difference Award” from Always There, the “Outstanding Philanthropist” award from the Mid-Hudson Association of Fundraising Professionals. She was featured in Helen Engel and Marilynn Smiley’s book, Remarkable Women in New York State History and was a guest speaker at the Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley’s “Women Who Change Lives” event in March 2015.

Poughkeepsie native Richard “Dick” Strain, retired President of C.B. Strain & Son, became associated with the Community Foundations as a way to support local programs anonymously, back when it was called the Area Fund. Some say that “anonymous” has become synonymous with Dick Strain. In many ways, this matches Mr. Strain’s philanthropic belief that giving is about the event, the organization or person, not about the donor.

A fisherman in search of the perfect stream and an accomplished baseball and tennis player, Mr. Strain has won the Poughkeepsie Tennis Club Men’s Championship a record 13 times over a 15 year period, building on two years of baseball and academics at Philips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, where he received the MVP in baseball for his accurate pitching. He graduated from Yale University with two bachelor’s degrees – in mechanical engineering and business administration – and came back to Poughkeepsie to work for his father at C.B. Strain & Son in Poughkeepsie. Mr. Strain assumed the reins of C.B. Strain & Son upon his father’s death in 1975, and his daughter, Karen Strain Smythe, took over as President in 2009. In 2012, they sold the business to Dynamic Systems, Inc. (DSI) out of Austin, TX.

Mr. Strain has served on many boards and been a strong financial supporter of innumerable local charities throughout his long career in Poughkeepsie. He was recognized in 1995 by the former Dutchess County Arts Council (now Arts Mid-Hudson) for his support of local artists when he furnished his new office building with artwork exclusively from Dutchess County artists. Over time he added pieces from Ulster County artists as well. More recently, Mr. Strain has been an important supporter of the Woodstock School of Art.

Also born and raised in Poughkeepsie with her three siblings, Karen Strain Smythe, daughter of Richard Strain, grew up with the influence of her parents and her grandparents, who were constantly giving back to their communities as volunteers and donors. Ms. Smythe graduated with a bachelor’s degree in drama from Vassar College and a master’s degree from the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business Administration. Her early career was as a marketing executive in the food industry working with such brands as Doritos, Skippy and Dannon. Following assignment in Canada, Ms. Smythe returned to Poughkeepsie to work for her father in the family mechanical contracting business, C.B. Strain & Son in 1998, rising to President in 2009. Ms. Smythe and her father sold the business to Dynamic Systems, Inc. (DSI) of Austin, Texas, where she worked to ensure a smooth transition before leaving to explore other ventures.

Ms. Smythe is Executive Director of the Beatrix Farrand Garden Association, a non-profit organization with a mission of restoring and maintaining the gardens at the Bellefield mansion in Hyde Park, New York. She is married to Nevill Smythe and together they have two children in college. A volunteer throughout her adult life, she’s been a soccer coach, a Sunday school teacher and a class parent. She has served on the Board of Trustees for the Healthcare Chaplaincy in New York and the Mid-Hudson Children’s Museum. Currently she is on the Council of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, is a trustee for Vassar College and is President of the Board of the Bardavon 1869 Opera House.

The Community Foundations of the Hudson Valley’s 2015 Garden Party will be held at Montgomery Place in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York, an early 19th-century classical revival estate designed by architect Alexander Jackson Davis. The mansion’s landscape showcases views of the Hudson River and Catskills, while its gardens and outdoor features influenced by Andrew Jackson Downing provide a glimpse in estate life in the early 20th century.  Event sponsors include:

Platinum Sponsors: HealthAlliance of the Hudson Valley, Health Quest Systems, Inc.

Gold Sponsors: Alpha Apple; Bruderhof Communities; Central Hudson Gas and Electric Corporation; Key Bank, Hudson Valley Metro New York; Local Economies Project of the New World Foundation; Marshall & Sterling Insurance; Merrill Lynch - Adel, Bagtas, Cassalina, McLaughlin; Mike Arteaga’s Health & Fitness Center; James J. McCann Charitable Trust; M & T Bank; Herb Redl, Inc.; Rhinebeck Bank; Riverside Bank; Tinkelman Architecture, PLLC

Tickets are $140 each and can be purchased online at here or by calling the Community Foundation offices at (845) 452-3077. Sponsorship opportunities and program book ads are available – contact Kevin Quilty at the Community Foundations at (845) 338-2535.


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