Glad tidings in the heights
Door-to-door they went, donning bells and silver-tinseled halos, singing Christmas tunes for a worthy cause and the whole neighborhood to hear.
“Good tidings we bring to you and your kin, good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year,” they sang.
And, so it went for the better part of the evening in “The Heights” neighborhood in the city of Newburgh Thursday, where more than a dozen Newburgh Heights Association carolers sang songs wishing their neighbors joy and happiness for the holidays and the coming new year.
“We do this because it’s a joyful, community-spirited thing to do,” said association member Deborah Dresser. “It really touches people.”
It was the second year of the musical outing. Leading the procession was Saint Nicholas himself – a.k.a. former association president Yaakov Sullivan – carrying a large shepherd’s staff, dressed in purple robes and a tall, red bishop’s hat.
Neighbors peeked through windows in disbelief and slowly emerged out of homes and onto stoops while the group sang songs like “Silent Night” and “The First Noel,” from beginning to end.
“This is the first time I’ve ever seen this,” said Courtney Avenue resident James Ray, 61. “This puts the Christ back in Christmas.”
The outing also raised funds to help the victims of a fire that destroyed an apartment building on Bay View Terrace last week. “They lost everything,” Dresser said. “There were many children who lost their homes.”
The procession funneled into pizzerias, bodegas and laundromats, making its way along South Lander Street, Overlook Place and Bay View Terrace. “We came because we love the Heights,” said association member Ellen Fillo, whose 10-year-old son Theodore Friedrich jingled sleigh bells in time with the singers.
The nonprofit, which was formed almost 20 years ago, brings neighborhood residents together to improve and maintain the quality of life in their community.
“When it began, it was intended for homeowners and renters to work for a safer and more beautiful neighborhood,” Dresser said.
Recently, the association has conducted initiatives to encourage residents to vote and provide education on taxes and building codes, she said.
In July, the group organized a public forum between residents and police at the First Congregational Church on Liberty Street following a rash of neighborhood car break-ins.
The caroling party was a “group decision,” Dresser said. “We wanted to do something fun that included a real cross-section of the people who live here,” she said.
To make a monetary donation to assist the victims of the Bay View Terrace fire, send checks or money orders made out to “Newburgh Heights Association,” c/o Newburgh Heights Association, 12 Bay View Terrace, Newburgh, NY, 12550. Be sure to note “fire victims” in the memo area.
To learn more about the Newburgh Heights Association, visit their website at newburghheightsassociation.com.
By Shantal Parris Riley