by Tom Pedulla –
Irvington would not have the same festive appearance or the same warm spirit for Christmas and other religious holidays if not for the leadership of Anne Myers and Rita Milo, co-chairs of the village’s Beautification Committee.
Myers, Milo and their equally hard-working committee members, have been decorating window boxes and large barrels, preparing red bows for 36-inch wreaths that adorn light poles, and preparing other eye-catching displays for almost 30 years.
“We are lighting up the dark because it is dark in the winter,” said Milo, 74. “We are trying to brighten it up a little bit.”
Myers, 72, believes the decorations are as important to residents who have no religious affiliation as they are to those who express unwavering faith. “It’s quality of life,” she said, “and I would hate to lose that.”
Myers and Milo head a committee comprised of Mary Adamovic, Laura Antonietti, Heather Bancroft, Claudia Gasparini, Andrea Kish, Cindy Link, Pat Manfredi, Joan Nelson, Mary Niedzwiecki, Maria Ralescu and Renee Shamosh.
Much of their time immediately after Thanksgiving is devoted to “greening” approximately 50 window boxes. Clippings from evergreens, ornamental cabbages, pine cones and white twigs are among the elements used to create an inviting look and smell outside the many shops and restaurants along Main Street.
“Everything smells like woodland, so it’s a nice feeling for people walking into the stores,” Milo said. “Everything smells fresh and like a Christmas tree.”
The committee chairs are quick to point to the support they receive from Joseph Archino, superintendent of recreation and parks, and the village board when it comes to the limited financial support they enjoy and the need for an occasional helping hand.
“We don’t ask too much, and we don’t expect too much,” Myers said. “We understand where the village is coming from because they have other priorities as well.”
The Beautification Committee is at work every season to make the village attractive. Myers has been known to drive around with as many as 20 gallons of water to keep plants alive, if not thriving, in lieu of a village watering truck.
“People think government should do it all. Well, government can’t do it all,” Myers said. “I can enjoy my own garden, but it’s important to me for other people to enjoy this, too.”
Myers also gives of her time as archivist for the Garden Club of America. Milo was a driver and aide for the Irvington Volunteer Ambulance Corps for more than 20 years, in addition to involvement with the Parent Teacher Association.
The Beautification Committee’s work can be demanding because of the upkeep that can be required during the different seasons. No one is about to stand by and allow fresh plants and beautiful flowers to wither and die due to neglect.
“It is a committed, loyal group of volunteers,” Myers said. “We understand our responsibility and what we want to do. We are not here today, gone tomorrow. We show up every single time.”
Their greatest issue is the need to add younger members to an aging group, something that has been difficult to achieve for whatever reason. In the meantime, they continue to find ways to brighten their village throughout the year.
“Just about everybody has bad backs. It’s hard to get out there and do the work,” Milo said. “But we get it done anyway.”
The Hudson Independent presents “Unsung Heroes,” a series of articles profiling those who provide extraordinary service to the communities in the readership area. If you wish to suggest someone for this feature, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with a brief description of that person’s background.