After seeing the devastation our country endured following the attacks on September 11, 2001, Sullivan County native Sharon Toney-Finch joined the Army in 2006 and never looked back. She soon headed overseas and in 2010 her convoy was attacked, badly injuring her, and she lost her best friend. Since the attack, Toney-Finch has endured over 30 surgeries and while undergoing pre-op for one surgery in particular she discovered she was pregnant with a baby she was told she would be unable to have following her injuries.
In March 2014, Yerik Israel Toney was born at 23 weeks’ gestation and headed to the nearest neonatal intensive care unit an hour away from the military hospital his mother was recovering in. Sadly, Yerik passed away seven months later. With her son as her guiding light, Toney-Finch founded The YIT Foundation, located in Maybrook, which strives to raise awareness of premature births, offer assistance to preemies (and their families) and provide a place to stay or transportation while the babies are in NICU. The foundation also helps homeless and low-income military service veterans in need of living assistance. YIT serves families in the seven New York counties from Westchester to Sullivan County.
“I really wanted to turn a negative into a positive,” said Toney-Finch of her decision to begin the non-profit.
According to Toney-Finch, some military/veteran families do not receive full medical benefits, and YIT services fill the gap when it comes to getting what a family with a baby in a NICU needs. From housing to diapers and gas cards, YIT is a saving grace to families in need. The organization helps both military and non-military families as they endure the stressful time. She explained donations from organizations such as a Bundles of Joy allow the non-profit to be able to help stock families with baby supplies at a moment’s notice.
“At YIT, our goal is to help a family through every stage. When they get home, even the room is already set-up; the crib is there, clothing and diapers,” said Toney-Finch.
YIT also offers services to families in need of housing and educational opportunities. Through donations and grants, YIT is able to help with tutoring for families, daycare costs, formula and diapers. When it comes to homeless veterans, YIT assists with getting them back on their feet and life planning, including burial.
“Every donation we get goes to helping families and our veterans,” explained Toney-Finch.
Veterans are often paired together or put in house settings thanks to generous donors and grant opportunities. Currently, YIT is working to revitalize the historic Arnott House located on 747 near the Newburgh/Montgomery border to create a house for homeless veterans through a lease agreement with the Montgomery Town Board. Renovations such as plumbing, electric and furnishings are currently in the works for the project.
“We’re looking forward to being able to house homeless veterans in transitional housing in the new house,” Toney-Finch shared.
In addition to a male house, Toney-Finch hopes to create a house for female veterans in the future. Both houses would be able to offer cooking and nutrition classes and house management for residents.
“YIT is here to serve families in the community and our veterans. We’re always looking for volunteers and welcome donations or sponsorships. The generosity of others makes it easier to help families and we would be able to expand into other counties in New York state,” said Toney-Finch.
For more information about The YIT Foundation or to make a donation, please visit yitfoundation.org.