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Brian Riddell

Dutchess Outreach’s Executive Director, Brian Riddell, comes from a large Brooklyn family carrying memories of playing stickball in the street. During his school years he witnessed the marches of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the Vietnam anti-war movement. “I saw the civil right movements on television- and all the social movement of the time- and it left an indelible impression on me,” he said. After students were killed at Kent State University during a war protest, Riddell participated in the protest at his own high school. “It was the first student strike at a Catholic school,” he said. “We were outraged that protest was met with such force. It was clear that something was wrong with our society and I wanted to try and change that.”

He traveled the country a bit, and eventually graduated from Brooklyn College in 1977 and a year later married Michelle Driscoll, whom he met during his travels. He spent time in Virginia, taking a job with a community action agency bringing potable drinking water to communities in need. From that experience he learned the ins and outs of non-profits, grant writing and budgeting. In 1985 Brian returned to New York, purchasing an abandoned creamery in New Paltz. His intention was to repair the building so he and his family could live in it. “It’s been our home ever since,” he said. In 1989 began his career at Dutchess Outreach, becoming the executive director in 1995. “While growing up, I saw the problems of inequality and saw the radical attempts to overthrow the system,” he said. “I learned that radical methods were unsuccessful, so we do the reform work on a day-to-day basis. It’s slow, but things do change. Just being able to help one person gets me through the day.” He has been implementing change and progress in the Dutchess county area ever since.

 


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