Meet Our September Hudson Valley Hero: Karen Peluso

This Red Hook local is all about helping community members who need it most.


(Left) Karen Peluso

Courtesy of Gene Capano

How far would you go to help a member of the community? Would you collect food and supplies; would you pay medical bills; would you coordinate an event to raise money?

Red Hook native Karen Peluso has done all this and more through her work with Friends Helping Friends. The organization will do practically anything to help those in need, particularly members of the community who have high medical expenses. You name it, they'll do it.

The idea that actions speak louder than words holds true for the not-for-profit organization. In cooperation with local business and the community as a whole, the goal is to help and change the lives of others within the community Rather than simply saying, "Let’s help," Peluso and the rest of Friends Helping Friends are eager to take action.

Cj's Restaurant, Facebook

Peluso isn’t the only member of Friends Helping Friends. The organization consists of five members from various backgrounds. Peluso, herself, works in hospitality. And while she feels thankful for the recognition, she is quick to turn the spotlight to the committee as a whole, all working together for one purpose: helping community members who need it most. “I feel that the success we achieve would not be possible without all of the committee members of Friends Helping Friends,” says Peluso.

Each year, the group works with local businesses to organize an annual golf benefit, raising funds for expenses like transportation to doctor appointments, funeral arrangements, food supplies, gas cards, and more. Saturday, September 16 marks the 10-year anniversary of the event, and means a great deal to both the community and Peluso. The community is able to come together. Businesses and individuals work  together to pay it forward helping others who are truly in need.

Courtesy of Gene Capano

For Peluso, the event hits a little closer to home. Friends Helping Friends first started when a good friend and family member of the committee was diagnosed with cancer. He was unable to work due to the diagnosis, so the people of the community searched for a way to help. The annual benefit is in part a celebration of his life. “It is a personal, bittersweet event,” says Peluso. “The good friend and family member was a brother, cousin, and friend to the board members.”

Though the event started out as a small golf outing, it has grown immensely, taking on a life of its own. This year’s event has 144 confirmed golfers with dinner and entertainment to follow at CJ’s Restaurant in Rhinebeck. The success of the event not only comes from the funds raised, but also in the form of advertising, donations, and raffle prizes from many of the local businesses in the community.

Many recipients of the Friends Helping Friends event aid return to volunteer, happily giving back to those who have given to them. However, Peluso hopes that Friends Helping Friends can reach a younger crowd to help carry on the work that the committee has started.

Meet more of our local heroes—and nominate your own—at

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Each month, we spotlight a Valley resident who goes the extra mile to help those in need. Our heroes are your friends and neighbors who volunteer their time and talents to assist others; their sole reward is knowing that they’ve contributed to making our region an even better place to live.

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Note: Though we’d love to showcase all of the Valley’s good samaritans, please understand that nominations are for consideration only, to be reviewed by Hudson Valley Magazine’s editors. We only feature one Hero per month, so if you don’t see yours in print, don’t worry! We may be waiting to spotlight him or her in a future issue.

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