Celebrity Parrots Find Paradise in Ruby

KINGSTON, NY—Gloria Waslyn has been a successful career counselor, a long-time peace advocate, and a professional photographer; but her most important priority is to provide a comfortable and healthy living environment for her parrots who promote messages of peace. Indeed, campaigning for peace and the environment have been at the top of both Gloria’s and her parrot’s to-do list for nearly 20 years. The Parrots for Peace are the primary reason why she moved to the Woodstock area. Waslyn pursued this move from NYC seven years ago, and she and the birds now live in a house in which they feel safe and secure which they were able to purchase with the help of RUPCO’s Homeownership Center. They are also working towards the next steps in promoting peace, effecting equanimity with spirits as light as a feather, strong as a Buddhist mantra.

The family’s origins began at the Urban Bird parrot store in SoHo 18 years ago, where Gloria chanced upon a female parrot who was then three months old, and immediately, she knew their paths had crossed for a reason. Waslyn promised the parrot that “I’d give her the best life I could so she could do the work she crossed my path to do: together, we would work to educate people that we are all inter-connected.” Waslyn named her Merlin, because she could “make the best kind of magic… to make children smile.”

While vacationing in Cape Cod and perusing a shrubbery store, one-year-old Merlin fell in love with a six-month-old male parrot, and Mr. Baby was adopted. Mr. Baby and Ms. Merlin soon became a power couple, rainforest ambassadors, and spokesavians for nature and wildlife. Their portfolio demonstrates an active role in the United Nations’ International Day of Peace as well as Human Rights Day. Since September 11, 2001, their official title became “Parrots for Peace,” which attests to their huge undertaking of national and international cooperation. Since then, the parrot couple have had two beautiful children, Peace-nik and Ara, and they travel together as a family to participate in Peace and Green Festivals.

First-time homebuyer Gloria Waslyn & Parrots for PeaceThough the birds have an impressive track record, getting there cost Waslyn financially and emotionally.  She met a man involved with the peace movement and made the move to the Woodstock/Phoenicia area. Gloria soon became involved in the anti-fracking movement, instead of working solely on Parrots for Peace. Gloria was not earning enough income, and simply ran out of money.

With RUPCO’s assistance, Waslyn took the homebuyer education course, found a home, and qualified for grants that would cover some of the costs necessary to make her new space livable. She secured part of her closing costs and a mortgage. Now, Waslyn is delighted to have monthly payments that are far less costly than her previous rent. “This allows me to have the opportunity to focus completely on the next chapter of my mission; the Parrots for Peace, comprising environmental education, social justice, and advocating for the interconnectedness of the planet.”

Her feet are firmly planted in her home in Ruby, showing stability after not knowing if an opportunity for homeownership would arise in the community. “I have developed real roots here. The idea of going somewhere completely new would be an adventure, but everyone I know is here and is right down the street,” states Waslyn.

The birds have also managed to attract recognition through making lasting friendships. Their presence has made some of the most powerful connections that animals can bring to human lives through a one-time meeting, bound to a child’s memory. Waslyn described a memorable outing with the birds, when they provided love and support to people who convened at Rockefeller Center at Christmastime. A young girl ran up to them, asking them if they remembered her from a few years back. She dug her toes into her shoes, like a tree roots itself in the soil, and spread her arms to catch the sunlight while they perched on her “branches,” and promised to help create world peace. Waslyn was taken aback by the magic that radiated from the connection that lasted between a young child and the parrots over the years. These moments of impact are constituent components of real change, like how a small pebble dropped in water creates ripples. She may not remember the specific event as she matures, but, Gloria states, “…something will stick” and spark a response that will unfold as concern for animals and nature. Perhaps seedlings of animal or environmental activism will sprout, bloom into local efforts, and pollinate far-off areas to achieve a more naturalistic world.

Waslyn is also optimistic about RUPCO’s future and its staff’s determination to carry out a mission for safe, affordable housing for all. Upon reflection, Waslyn states, “RUPCO was one of the many helpful pieces in a long chain of family, friends, and former clients who offered ideas, loans, gifts, and work to make my dream for the Parrots for Peace unfold as step one of their bigger plan.”

M&T Bank Sponsors HomeOwnership Center

RUPCO accepts M&T Bank sponsorship check of $10,000

Tara Dickett, Kevin O’Connor, Alex Hajek, Catherine A. Maloney, The Big Check, Eric Dahl, Kathy Germain, Sandy Altomare meet at Savonnah’s, Kingston.

RUPCO and M&T Bank share a vision for first-time homebuyers in the Hudson Valley, one that’s spanned several years and scores of first-time homebuyers. Last week, M&T Bank representatives Tara Dickett, Alex Hajek and Eric Dahl presented a $10,000 Girder Sponsorship check to RUPCO Board Chair Catherine Maloney, CEO Kevin O’Connor, Kathy Germain and Sandy Altomare from the RUPCO’s NeighborWorks America HomeOwnership Center.

M&T Bank — a consistent supporter of RUPCO’s NeighborWork’s America Homeownership Center located at 301 Fair Street, Kingston — believes its investment in local homebuyer education and savings programs works. “Homeownership is important. Like so much in life, our impact is greater when we work together. Thank you RUPCO for all that you do,” noted Eric Dahl, Vice President and Regional CRA Officer in MTB’s Community Reinvestment Program.

As of December 1, 2016, RUPCO’s HomeOwnership Center brought 81 first-time homebuyers across the finish line in Ulster County. The demographic make-up of that homebuyer group included 12 African-American (15%), 3 Hispanic and 13 single head of household families (16%).

The homebuying process, from orientation to house closing, can take up to two years. In 2015, 75 first-time homebuyers came through the education process to owning a home, up from 55 the year prior. “RUPCO’s Homeownership Center has helped hundreds of first-time buyers achieve the dream of homeownership,” adds Kathy Germain, RUPCO’s Vice President of Housing Services. “We all know that purchasing a home is one of our biggest, personal financial investments. At RUPCO, we work with local lenders like M&T Bank, who provide great fixed-rate, affordable mortgage products and the First Home Club match-savings program (FHC) to help families transition into homeownership with an affordable payment.” Often, a first-time homebuyer pays a mortgage payment, including other housing costs, that costs less than what the family is currently paying for rent.  Generally, families of 1-2 people can earn up to $60,160 to qualify for FHC. Mortgage payments are factored at an affordable rate or 30-42% of  a family’s gross monthly income, leaving greater disposable income for other necessities like food, clothing, and transportation.

As a mortgage lender, M&T Bank participates in the Federal Home Loan Bank’s First Home Club where first-time homebuyers open a match-savings program to facilitate savings toward a first home purchase. For every $1 a person saves, the bank matches $4, over a minimum of 10 months. A future homeowner can earn a combined grant of $7500 towards closing and down payment costs. Along with income eligibility requirements, future homebuyers must take six hours of homebuyer education and secure a mortgage through the lending bank. M&T Bank averages over 800 First Home Club participants a year, the highest enrollment in New York State. In 2015, RUPCO facilitated $336,000 in First Home Club grants.

Last year, RUPCO’s Homeownership Center introduced 81 homebuyers to their American Dream which generated over $10-million in mortgage lending through local banks. The average mortgage cost $140,880 with an average first-home purchase price of $155,251.

HomeOwnership Center sponsorship supports homebuyer marketing and outreach, orientation and homebuyer education classes. Accepting the M&T Bank sponsorship check was RUPCO Board Chair Catherine A. Maloney. “The partnership between M&T Bank and RUPCO is strong and vital. Together, we’re helping people achieve the dream of homeownership.”