By Dan Hust
SOUTH FALLSBURG June 17, 2005 Its not often an awardee brings a guest to the ceremony whos more popular than she is.
But thats exactly what happened Tuesday evening at the SYDA Foundations Atma Nidhi complex in South Fallsburg.
And Liz Keller wouldnt have it any other way.
Mingling with the crowd before the awards ceremony and then even during the formal presentation of the foundations Community Service Award to her, Keller held (and endured many licks from) Callie, a puppy she helped rescue from an abusive home in New York City.
A small terrier mix, Callie was thrown against a wall and had to have her tail amputated and her hips pinned . . . but shes happy and healthy now at the animal shelter in Glen Wild.
Thats what Kellers all about and thats why the SYDA Foundation honored the owner of the Glen Wild Animal Rescue Corp. Tuesday.
Tonight were honoring a great doer of good works in our community, said Swami Ishwarananda, one of the resident monks and meditation teachers. Her compassionate heart ... has turned hopeless situations into occasions for celebration.
Ishwarananda said Kellers actions are completely in line with SYDAs reasons for being, as well.
Shes the embodiment of selfless service and enduring commitment, he said.
This was the 20th bestowing of the award, and Keller joined a long list of well-known awardees including Joyce Salimeno, Ed Field and Allan Dampman many of whom were in attendance.
They were treated to two videos, one showcasing past winners and one courtesy of PAX-TV, which did a special on Keller last year for her rescue of a dog appropriately named Miracle.
But the capacity crowd came more than just to watch videos and applaud one of Sullivan Countys premier animal rescuers they brought with them doggie and kitty treats and toys for Kellers numerous charges.
SYDA itself donated a basket full of such items, along with a plush, stuffed red dog.
Certificates from SYDA, the Sullivan County Legislature, New York State Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, New York State Senator John Bonacic and Congressman Maurice Hinchey also paid tribute to Kellers work.
And as SYDA does with every Community Service Award winner, Keller received a check for $2,500 from the foundation.
Im honored, said an emotional Keller. I feel so grateful . . . but its really about these guys.
Callie, apparently understanding the cue, promptly licked away the tears on Kellers face.