‘This is my mission:’ How a NY foundation is aiding veterans, families of premature babies

Geoffrey Wilson
 |  For the Poughkeepsie Journal

Sharon Toney-Finch understands the struggles that come with service.

She was injured twice while serving in Iraq, and continues to deal with a disability, a traumatic brain injury. She earned a Purple Heart for her actions during an attack on her convoy, after which she required a lengthy hospital stay in Germany and numerous surgical procedures.

Despite those injuries making it unlikely, she became pregnant nine years ago while still in service. Shortly after an episode in South Korea in which she suffered immense pain and was put on bed rest, she gave birth in her 23rd week.

Her son, Yerik Israel Toney, was born in April 2014 weighing just over a pound. He survived more than seven months, with Toney-Finch visiting the hospital every day. Aside from the emotional toll taken by the experience, in which he needed multiple surgeries and intensive care treatments, there was a financial strain that came with taking cabs to be by his side.

“I created my non-profit based on my experience,” said Toney-Finch, who founded the Yerik Israel Tony Foundation in 2016. She was a logistics administration manager in the Army, serving for a decade until late 2015.

“It’s tremendous to me,” she said. “This is my mission − to bring what I can and help as many as I can within all communities that we are in.”

The Yerik Israel Toney Foundation’s mission is twofold: Providing aid to families of preterm birth children and to assist low-income and homeless veterans. And with assistance from Holiday Helping Hand, the nonprofit will be able to further their goal.

Holiday Helping Hand has served Dutchess County charities for 40 years, raising funds for holiday programs, gatherings and other charitable organizations. The charity drive, a collaboration between the Poughkeepsie Journal and the United Way of the Dutchess-Orange Region, raised more than $40,700 last year, with money split between 32 charitable programs this holiday season.

The Yerik Israel Toney Foundation received $500 through Holiday Helping Hand, which will go toward its winter coat drive. The money will allow the nonprofit to provide coats for 40 veterans in the Poughkeepsie area.

The nonprofit serves roughly 600 veterans, with roughly 300 in the Dutchess region. Toney-Finch said sometimes a small act of kindness is enough to make a difference, especially for veterans who can feel isolated during the holiday season.

Much of this help also comes from within the veteran community, with those in a stable place assisting others.

“People tend to forget that it really just takes somebody to sit and talk with,” she said. “So that’s why when it comes to our volunteers, we actually pair them up with different veterans that we have, that we are currently helping. Veterans that we have helped in the past, they come back and give it forward to the veterans that are in need. It’s a revolving door.”

The program’s goal with its veterans is to instill a sense of family and companionship, Toney-Finch said.

“We make sure that they have a sponsor so they are not just spending time by themselves, but also being able to have a family feeling,” she said.

To learn more about the foundation, get help, or donate, visit

This content was originally published here.

Michael Bourdon

Michael Bourdon


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