Hometown Heroes Jewelers Who Volunteer

PAWS FOR A CAUSE

David Craig and Debbi Rotenberg and the first family share a love of dogs, Portuguese water dogs in particular. But the Rotenbergs, owners of David Craig Jewelers, in Newtown, Pa., had been breeding and training the pooches for therapy work long before the Obamas made the breed a household name.

Called Baywatch Portuguese Water Dogs, all of the Rotenbergs’ Portis are registered with the American Kennel Club, and Debbi shows the dogs in competition while David trains them for therapy work in hospitals. In fact, he sits on the advisory board of St. Mary’s Medical Center, in Langhorne, Pa.; oversees a team of 10 handlers and 15 certified therapy dogs; and brings in his own dog squad—Gabby (named after the famous stone cutter Gabi Tolkowsky), Abby, Dazzle, and Dozer (newborn Susie was just 10 weeks old at press time)—to aid patients. “The hospital never had anything like this before, but they allowed me to build the unit,” says David. For his services, David doesn’t charge a cent.

Some dogs are used “positionally,” according to Rotenberg, to help patients regain mobility, such as after joint replacements. Using dogs in occupational therapy can help people stand and learn to walk again and are also ideal for those that just want some company. Dogs are certified for use in therapy by Therapy Dogs International and the Delta Society.

The Rotenbergs enjoyed their own 15 minutes of fame when the Obamas adopted their Porti, Bo. Through her relationship with the American Kennel Club, Debbi was invited to appear with her pooches on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, World News Tonight, and The Martha Stewart Show.

Reach Baywatch Portuguese Water Dogs at (267) 278-1982.

HELPING KIDS

Nagi Osta, president, Nagi Jewelers, Stamford, Conn., decided four years ago to give back to the community by becoming a volunteer at DOMUS, also in Stamford. DOMUS’s educational, residential, and community programs for children and their families help children reach their full potential by building loving, trusting relationships in structured, respectful environments.

Some 400 kids attend DOMUS schools, and 30 reside in DOMUS housing. Osta, a DOMUS board member, shops for the resident children several times a year, supplying them with essentials like sheets, socks, and blue jeans. Osta also helps distribute 300 dinners at Thanksgiving and Christmas to DOMUS families in need, as well as hosting fund raisers—including a men’s night complete with steaks from Capital Grille and whiskey from Johnny Walker—in store to raise more money. (Proceeds of sales from the men’s night are donated to DOMUS.) Osta also helps organize an annual gala dinner to raise funds and recently hosted a food drive.

“When kids act out in regular high school, they are thrown out, but at DOMUS we find out what the problem is, we go to their homes,” says Osta. “[DOMUS has] helped crime go down in Stamford because we’ve taken kids off the street and monitored them until they turned 21. It’s working so well that we may start helping much younger kids. If we start earlier, the problems will be better resolved by the time the kids turn 14. There’s so much that the city, state, and federal government can’t give DOMUS; it relies on personal businesses and individual donations.”

One DOMUS staffer says of Osta: “He is a gentleman with a very big heart.”

EMERGENCY MAN

As a young man Jeffrey Singer, owner of Singer’s Jewelers, Albany, N.Y., wanted a career in the medical profession. But during his studies he just “didn’t have the capacity to do the work,” says Singer. “It’s not that I wasn’t smart. I just didn’t know until much later in life that I had ADD [attention deficit disorder].”

After he was diagnosed with ADD, at 48, doctors prescribed medicine to help him concentrate. Even after many years as a successful jeweler, Singer still wanted to be involved in the medical field in some capacity.

In his early 50s he began studying to become a certified emergency medical technician. For six months he dedicated six hours a week studying and also did practical lab work some Saturdays. He had to pass the practical portion of the EMT test with a perfect score before taking the written portion.

In 2006 Singer passed his exams and became a certified EMT, volunteering two nights a week at the Western Turnpike Rescue Squad. He has two six-hour shifts a week from 6:00 p.m. to midnight.

On average, two or three calls come in, and they’ve run the gamut: a seven-week-old baby experiencing difficulty breathing; a woman in her fifties, close to Singer’s age, dying from terminal cancer; an elderly woman who suffered a head trauma and had little time left to live.

In emergency situations, people don’t always remember, nor do they always have the capacity to express their gratitude. “I don’t wait around for a thank you,” says Singer. “The most rewarding thing for me is showing up to a call, looking people in the face and telling them everything is going to be OK. It means a lot to people when they can’t fend for themselves in an emergency situation.”