New name, same vision for Orange County Citizens Foundation


Sharon Soons is quick to tell you what she loves most: taking on a project that people say is impossible to achieve, then working until it’s done.

Before returning to work on her family’s farm in New Hampton, she had worked on environmental projects for several years in and around New York City.

Soon. Photo by Kathy Roberts

One of those projects was right under the Brooklyn Bridge, a former dumping ground that had been neglected for years in the shadow of John Roebling’s architectural masterpiece. She and other like-minded residents got together in 2002 and envisioned the site as a park.

“Who doesn’t love a park? Asked Soons. “Twenty years later, Brooklyn Bridge Park is an incredible place to visit and enjoy. To have been there when it was just an idea and to see it become the beautiful place it has become is a real joy for me.

Soons brings that same spirit to her new role as Executive Director of Vision Hudson Valley, formerly Orange County Citizens Foundation.

“As the region continues to grow, people have viewed the Citizens’ Foundation as a charitable institution, but our goal is to improve the quality of life for all of our residents. “

To that end, he inspired the creation of the Heritage Trail, the semi-annual Hudson Valley Honor Flight, the Orange County Arts Council, and the Seligmann Center for the Arts, among others.

Now, like Vision Hudson Valley, Soons said the goal is to get more community members engaged and actively involved in planning the future of the County and the Hudson Valley.

Two weeks into her new role, Soons strategized how best to attract new members to the organization, which was formed in 1950 by a group of artists. The association is on the property of surrealist artist Kurt Seligmann, whose widow, Arlette, donated the couple’s 55-acre farm to the Citizens Foundation before his death in 1962.

Vision Hudson Valley
Drawing course at the Seligmann Center.
Photo by Kathy Roberts

“I am fortunate to have an active board of directors, which brings a whole range of experiences and also provides us with corporate support. The name change to Vision Hudson Valley will certainly help define our goal, ”said Soons.

“My parents raised me to be an environmentalist and it’s the perfect job. I want to do something that makes a difference to our quality of life.

Andrea Nilon, outgoing president of the Orange County Citizens Foundation, said Soons “had the best mix of talents – she’s worked for nonprofits, she’s an entrepreneur and she’s also a business owner.”

Nilon said: “Out of our 21 applicants, we felt she was the perfect fit. She has a lot of projects… first, she’s going to locate herself. We had several events planned, including our annual Ottaway dinner, which had to be postponed. Sharon will get us back on track.

Vision Hudson Valley will celebrate Linda Muller, President and CEO of Cornerstone Family Health Care, at the West Hills Country Club on October 6. The event coincides with the association’s 50th anniversary.


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