Local teens are hosting a fundraiser for fire-relief in Australia on Saturday, February 8, at 7 p.m. at South Presbyterian Church, 343 Broadway, in Dobbs Ferry. Proceeds will help the Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary in New South Wales rebuild after bushfires devastated their land and animals. $35 adults / $10 teens / donations welcome. Advance ticket purchase only: see SouthPres.org for details.
When South Church’s teens sat down in January to talk about what cause the 2020 Teen Benefit should raise funds for, deadly natural disasters and environmental issues filled the list. There had just been earthquakes in Puerto Rico and a volcanic eruption in the Philippines. Australia was on fire, with over a billion animals reported dead. Access to clean drinking water was another concern, as was the Great Pacific garbage patch—a floating island of trash more than twice the size of Texas. When the teens took a vote, raising funds for fire-relief in Australia won handily.
“We decided to support the Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary, a refuge for kangaroos, wallabies and wombats that was burnt to the ground,” said Sebastien Orlowski, a Dobbs Ferry junior who will be running tech during the show. “We want to help a small organization that was more under the radar—where our donation could make a big difference,” added Stanley Legan, a Dobbs Ferry junior who will be playing bass at the benefit.
The teens will have an opportunity to learn more about the complex causes of the fires in Australia in an upcoming conversation with Hastings High School alumna Berenice Tompkins, a climate change activist and Project Manager at Climate Stories Project, and an Australian couple living in the rivertowns.
This is the third annual Teen Benefit at South Presbyterian Church. As with the other years, church members Peter Brenner, retired Executive Dining Administrator at the Federal Reserve, Alex Orlowski, a former restauranteur known locally for his crepe stand at the Hastings Farmers Market, and Eric Greenberg, an avid cook, prepare the dinner. Middle school students volunteer as waiters.
Teens organize, provide the entertainment and run the tech for the show. The church’s core group of less than a dozen teens reached out to their friends, enlisting two bands from Hastings, the Dobbs Ferry High School Octet, a violist from Irvington, and a few surprises – involving approximately 40 teens.
“I have been a part of the Teen Benefit for three years now,” said Josie Rohan, a Hastings junior who will be singing at the benefit. “It is such a heartwarming experience to see teens from all over the rivertowns come to perform and support such great causes.”
It’s an exciting time for South Church’s teen group, now known as the Faith & Justice Leadership Lab. In late 2019, the Lab received a grant from the Hudson River Presbytery to support collaborative leadership opportunities for youth from different economic, social and faith groups in order to nurture a more equitable and just world view.
The Teen Benefit is all about teen empowerment towards social justice,” said Marie-Louse Miller, the interim director of the Lab. “Our young leaders point at the deafening destruction of climate change by raising awareness of and money for the Cobargo Wildlife Sanctuary. Young people are taking the lead, following their passions and making a difference.”