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Natural Awakenings Westchester / Putnam / Dutchess New York

Green Chimneys in Putnam County Celebrates 75 Years in Service to Children

75 years of nature, nuture and hope for children with special needs at Green Chimneys.

Green Chimneys is kicking off a year-long celebration to honor its 75 years of service to children and animals. What began as “the seed of an idea” for a school on a farm grew over those decades into an internationally known education and human services organization.

The story of Green Chimneys began on October 27, 1947, when the Ross family purchased a 75-acre dairy farm in Brewster. Inspired by his childhood boarding school experiences and his devotion to animals, 19-year-old Samuel B. “Rollo” Ross Jr. established an environment where children and animals could live together in a farm setting.

 His marriage to Myra Mattes in 1954 cemented a lifelong partnership that played an important role in the growth of Green Chimneys. The two became pioneers in the practice of animal-assisted activities as part of a child’s education and emotional well-being. The integration of animals and nature grew into a core component of Green Chimneys’ clinical approach, becoming a signature element in its special education and therapeutic treatment programs for children facing social, emotional and behavioral challenges.

Today Green Chimneys is a nonprofit therapeutic education and treatment facility for children with special needs. It has achieved global recognition in child education and advocacy with a unique focus on the human-animal connection. 

“Twenty years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Sam Ross but had no idea how that meeting would change my life forever,” recalls Bob Vetere, president of Green Chimneys’ Board of Directors. “Seeing how children benefit from the Green Chimneys experience has been the motivation for my commitment to promote the importance of the human-animal bond and its role in helping children develop.”

 In 2022, Green Chimneys will share its history by highlighting the individuals and organizations that have been pivotal to its success; opening its doors for treasured events and traditions; and continuing its mission advocating for the human-animal connection, in service to children. 

To learn about the journey of the Rosses, see historical highlights and photos, and find out about opportunities to join the celebration, visit