Opal Jessica Bogdan

Opal Jessica Bogdan

PALMERTOWN — Saratoga PLAN, preserving land and nature, received a $500,000 grant from the Sarah B. Foulke Charitable Fund, the largest private cash gift made to the organization.

The grant will go towards the planning and design of roughly 20 miles of trails built in the Southern Palmertown Range. Home to 8,000 acres of protected lands, the project will establish the area as a recreational destination while conserving its natural resources.

“The Palmertown Range forms the southeastern-most corner of the Adirondacks. The undeveloped acreage of this semi-wild woodland provides climate-resilient habitat, replenishes streams and lakes, our source of clean drinking water, and fosters a sustainable forestry and tourism industry,” said Maria Trabka, Executive Director of Saratoga PLAN in a release. “Fast-growing local populations and visitors to the area will be able to enjoy a permanently conserved wilderness experience within easy access of their homes and lodgings.” 

The project aims to protect and conserve the ecological areas in Palmertown. According to Saratoga Plan’s website, another goal is to use the grant to establish Community Forests. The Community Forests are communally owned woodlands managed by the local community.

The development of the multi-use trail will add to the spine trail system aimed to connect Saratoga Spa State Park to Moreau Lake State Park. Discussion of the trail master plan is currently underway. According to Saratoga PLAN website, the plan will be used to determine where trails can be sited appropriately and which recreational uses can be supported in the area. Developers of the master plan will design site-specific trail networks for properties with willing landlords. 

“This grant will support the development of a recreational trail network within Saratoga County that will provide people with a place to enjoy nature and wildlife while also creating a vital protected corridor for wildlife habitat and movement. The trail system has been recognized as a top priority by business owners, partners, and outdoor recreation interest groups, and this funding will help make that goal a reality,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the Open Space Institute (OSI). OSI has been collaborating with Saratoga PLAN on projects in the Palmertown Range for several years,” Elliman said in the release.

Saratoga PLAN aims to design Friendship Trails that will provide enjoyment through an inclusive spectrum of outdoor activities: walking, running, wheelchairing, dog-walking, mountain-biking, horseback-riding, bird-watching, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and learning about nature and local history. Saratoga PLAN will announce new trail segments as they open to the public over the next several years, beginning in late 2020 if public health restrictions are lifted.

Anthony J. (Tony) Izzo, one of three donor-advisors to the Sarah B. Foulke Charitable Fund, explained the grant in the press release.

“Sarah Blackwell Foulke, a Skidmore graduate and an attorney who practiced in Saratoga County, was a kind, giving, compassionate and courageous woman with an outgoing personality, strong spirit, and a great heart and soul. She sought respite and restoration in the woods, enjoying the company of her friends and four-legged companions. The Sarah B. Foulke Friendship Trails project embodies Sarah’s enduring love of Saratoga Springs, nature, dogs, horses, and the power of friendship. We are confident that this gift to the community will bring pleasure to many and benefit all forever. We hope that our donation will inspire others to donate their time and money to Saratoga PLAN projects for the benefit of present and future generations of Saratoga County residents and visitors,” Izzo said.

Thursday, 07 May 2020 12:50

Downtown Struggles to Survive

SARATOGA SPRINGS — “Doors are closing. People are closing. It’s already too late for many businesses,” said Heidi West, Lifestyles of Saratoga owner. 

West is just one voice of many small business owners all coming to the same consensus, it may already be too late for the once bustling downtown Saratoga. While some stores embraced reinventing to keep business going for them amid COVID-19 restrictions, others were not so lucky. 

“A lot of doors are closing. We don’t have much time left to be honest. We do need to figure out how to be safe and be open all at the same time,” West said. “All of this makes it an uphill battle but…give us a fighting chance. Open our doors so we can get through it.”

The community of Saratoga Springs has felt the impact of economic restrictions before. In 1945, the community was filled with rundown structures following both the Great Depression and World War II. It was not until 10 years later, in 1958 the Planning Board moved forward with the city’s master plan for renewal. 

For years to come, the city saw plenty of urban renewal. However, individuals and small businesses owners lost low-cost rents and had “no choice” in what was happening, seeing the destruction of neighborhoods and facing costly relocation expenses. 

Small businesses worry that the town can revert back to those moments in history and time is not on their side as restriction stay in place. However, just as locals saw the creation of the new normal then, businesses are facing the new normal of today.

“It’s not like we are going to open our doors the way they were six months ago, not by any stretch. Our new normal will be gloves, masks, and disinfecting, but with our doors open. But we have to at least be able to open our doors,” said Pam Worth, owner of Spoken Boutique.

As restriction continue to wear on businesses, coming back from what was lost may not be possible. Safety is at the forefronts of any plans business owners create with the hopes
of reopening.

“It is my opinion…I can be safer than a big box store. I have a 12 step program already typed up about how I’m changing protocol,” West said. “Even being allowed to have an one-on-one appointment with that protocol in place would be helpful. We just need to keep moving forward.”

Todd L. Shimkus, president of Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, has drafted a “Plan for Saratoga County’s Economic Recovery” through a collaboration with the Downtown Business Association, the City Center, Discover Saratoga, SEDC, and the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership.

“We’ve been sharing [the plan] with Federal, State, County and local officials. The development of this plan is in part a way for Saratoga County to demonstrate that we have a plan to safely reopen. The Governor has said this is a pre-requisite for businesses and we’re hoping that by doing this collectively with common operating procedures that we will position Saratoga County in a positive light,” Shimkus said. 

Shimkus shared two key aspects of the multi-part plan. Recovery kits for small business have been created to include a startup supply of PPE for all business. They also have met with local restaurants and will be doing the same with hotels and retailers to develop common cleaning protocols that those businesses will pledge to follow once reopened.

“Our focus is on making it crystal clear that health comes first in Saratoga County and that our local business community is united in working together to keep everyone safe so that we can reopen sooner,” Shimkus said. 

Pam Worth feels that downtown has a strong impulse of businesses wanting to prove they can open safely.

“Saratoga is a much different town than most, being one of the top five downtowns in all of the United States. I feel who better to set the precedence in what should happen in a beautiful resort town but Saratoga Springs,” Worth said. “We all want to open our doors safely and set the right precedent to what is the new normal. But in order for all of that to happen, we have got to get the doors open.”

Maddy Zanetti, Impressions of Saratoga owner with Marianne Barker, said they plan to take extra precautions, clean things more, and stay distant from customers as soon as their doors are open. Zanetti feels that foot traffic will take a while to pick up, as people adjust to going out and feeling comfortable around others.

“We are definitely worried about how this year is going to pan out for us, but we are making the most of it and doing the best we can,” Zanetti said. 

West believes it’s not too late to bounce back, but the key is getting safety plans in place as soon as possible. If she can’t open by June 1, she will have to focus on different plans in terms of closing doors. 

“My success is the success of my 20 employees, who are suffering, and the success of the whole community. I really just want a voice for the small business. It’s becoming crucial at this point in my opinion,” West said. 

Worth believes with the downtown leaders being business owners, everyone can bring an opinion and structure as to how they can get the town up and running again. 

“Saratoga is an amazing downtown community that wants nothing more than to survive and to stay successful,” Worth said. “The strong local community that we have, and the local people that support our downtown, are the ones that are going to keep us alive.”

Thursday, 30 April 2020 13:29

Small Business Reinvent During COVID-19

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Just as local eateries convert to online orders and to-go options, other small businesses reinvent themselves to adapt to the ever-changing times.

Something Bleu Bridal reinvented the bridal dress shopping experience, introducing two types of appointments for brides to be. Owners Kathyrn Metzler and Marissa Mackay developed concierge bridal appointments and Zoom party bridal appointments for brides to find their wedding gown, while still following social distancing guidelines. 

“These new appointments are unconventional but can still be enjoyed. You should still feel like you’re getting some of the bridal experience that you pictured in your mind,” Mackay said. “We wanted to discover a way to be in business when we are not allowed to be in business as we were.”

The concierge appointments includes a personal Zoom consultation where the bride can choose up to five gowns. Those five gowns are then transported to the bride to try on in the privacy and safety of their own home. Deliveries of the dress will be made within one-hour of their store location and dresses can be held for 24-hours. 

“The idea of having a concierge appointment seemed like the most natural way that we can service our brides in a really custom fashion with all of the conditions the world is in,” Mackay said. 

Zoom Party Appointments have become a permanent fixture for the boutique. Currently, Mackay and Metzler use the appointment to provide the bride a customized service at a distance. They use the appointments to gain a feeling towards the aesthetic the bride would like on their wedding day. However, they plan to use Zoom to include family and friends who live farther away in the bridal experience once social distance restrictions are lifted.

“Personal connection is really important to us, so we make sure that the consultation portion of the appointment is as close as possible to the experience of shopping in our store, including a tour of our collection, time spent getting to know the bride and her style, and the opportunity to choose from among our large collection of dresses and accessories for an at-home try on,” said Mackay in a release.

So far three brides have participated in the concierge and Zoom bridal appointment. Mackay said they all went well, as the brides were shopping for their upcoming wedding and all found a dress they love.

Something Bleu Bridal isn’t the only local business that has reinvented to serve the community. Local eateries, bakeries and deli’s have became contact free establishments. Finding shopping staples such as eggs, milk and flour can be purchased at food eateries in the community. The Bread Basket Bakery is offering call-in orders for flour, sugar and yeast. They also offer bread delivery through Battenkill Valley Creamery. Another eatery, the Spring Street Deli & Pizzeria, created a grocery menu with popular grocery items that people can order and pick-up. Both stores allowing delivery or pick-up cuts down of social contact, creating a safer environment than a larger supermarket.

For projects to do at home, Saratoga Paint and Sip are offering take home projects, called Take ‘N Paint Kits. Starting at $25, the curbside pickup kit contains everything needed to create the paintings. They also offer a private Zoom room, where an artist will instruct the group through the project.

For dog owners, North Country Paws for Obedience is offering a train at home online session starting in May. Based in South Glens Falls, the online courses are described as interactive, informative and engaging. Interested parties can sign up online.

Thursday, 30 April 2020 13:27

A Personal Story: Surviving COVID-19

SARATOGA SPRINGS — As the community fights together against this viral disease, some individuals are lucky to not personally know anyone fighting the battle with COVID-19. Public knowledge of symptoms and social distancing are well known, but what happens to someone after they have tested positive?

Saratoga natives Barb and Steve Ferraro are on day 44 in their battle with COVID-19, and still counting. For this couple, symptoms of fever, cough and body ache showed up on March 16. Two days later they tested positive for COVID-19. 

“During the beginning of this when it hit this county, when we were tested there were under 20 people who tested positive, now it’s over 300,” Barb said. 

Saratoga County reported its first case on March 7, 2020 and reported to have 331 confirmed cases as of Tuesday this week. 

“Going through this has been very emotional and very scary. Luckily we are on the end side of this, but neither of us had underlying conditions. We don’t know how we got it, but it knocked us down,” Bard said. 

The Ferraro’s immediately self-isolated themselves in their condo, but while they were isolated from the community, they also had to isolated from each other.

“Steve and I have to be separated even though we are both positive. We trusted the professionals and they believe we could keep re-infecting each other,” Barb said. 

They divided the home into two parts, Barb taking the master bedroom and kitchen while Steve took the guest room, guest bath and den. Steve was still working from home, so Barb took it upon herself to be in charge of meals and medication. 

Ten days into fighting the virus, on March 25, Barb reported having a schedule through the day, knowing more of what to expect from the virus. They each became their own doctors, checking temperatures, oxygen levels and blood pressure to report to their health officials. 

“It’s an insidious beast of a virus,” Barb said. “You go one step forward and two back the next day…we are keeping an eye on our breathing which causes us the most concern. We are watching it very carefully and using our inhalers, monitoring our oxygen levels and drinking lots of fluids.”

Barb and Steve both “synced” up in terms of symptoms, learning about COVID as the rest of the community did. Barb recalled making pasta, one of her favorite meals, and having it taste like metal. That, along with the COVID-19 fog, are the symptoms the Ferraro’s experienced just as the rest of the world discovered it. 

“It’s important for people to know that everything keeps changing, which is why we still need to be safe and stay at home. Information keeps changing, COVID symptoms keep getting added to the list and the assurance of immunity remains unknown,” Barb said.

After a scare with Steve’s worsening symptoms, he was transported to the hospital for bilateral pneumonia and is still recovering. On day 19 into the virus, Barb said she was happy to report their first symptom free day. Although they both tested negative for the virus, they are both recovering and continue to experience shortness of breath and fatigue on day 44.

Despite continuous fighting with the unknown, Barb said the amount of community support they received was astounding. Neighbors would reach out to the couple and ask if they needed any groceries, and family members kept close through social media. She thanked Saratoga Hospital and Public Health workers for their daily efforts to ensure the couple was safe. 

Talk about re-opening the community has Barb worried, noticing that people are not taking to wearing a facemask when recommended. She went for a walk Tuesday this week and reported seeing very few masks on the families enjoying the Spring weather. 

“People wearing masks are just a simple thing that they can do. I think the lines are getting blurred. Think about whom you are staying home for. You are not just protecting yourself in this situation,” Barb said. 

According to their website, the CDC recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain (e.g., grocery stores and pharmacies) especially in areas of significant community-based transmission.

Thursday, 30 April 2020 13:10

Biking to Bring Puzzles to People

WILTON — Bike enthusiast Ian Klepetar discovered his own way to help the community during COVID-19 by delivering jigsaw puzzles. 

Klepetar started his mission, called Puzzles to the People, after stay at home restrictions were placed over the community. At the time, he was staying with his parents in Wilton and discovered he had a plethora of jigsaw puzzles from his childhood. Every other week, Klepetar posts puzzles to an online site called NextDoor and families interested can comment. Klepetar will later deliver the puzzle to the family’s front door. 

“This helps me have destinations throughout the area and helps me find new places to ride through. I like that it connects me with people, without connection,” Klepetar said. 

Klepetar said he typically starts in Wilton at his parent’s house, and would bike to areas including the Wilton Mall area, Ballston Spa and Route 50. Klepetar designs his routes per the households that requested a puzzle. 

“I’m still maintaining a family connection by delivering these, and I’m creating one too as families gather around a table to do the puzzle together,” Klepetar said. 

Donations are being accepted alongside the 100 puzzles Klepetar donates from his childhood. Families can distinguish how many pieces they want to work on, or a scene they would like either online or by contacting Klepetar at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 518-396-8376 for puzzle requests/donations.

A healthy transportation advocate, Klepetar enjoys the fossil fuel free endeavor. He has done another non-profit on his bike years ago in Madison, Wisconsin. There, he would distribute homemade muffins each day and in return, the recipients were required to complete a task.

“They were required to commit to doing something on my ever-changing list that would enhance their own life and the community around them,” Klepetar said. “I urge readers to check out the ‘muffin exchange’ video on YouTube...and take the concept to the streets when the times of COVID-19 are in the past.”

Klepetar dreams of opening a café called “Perch and Puzzle” in the future. His vision includes nests which visitors can climb into and finish a puzzle or simply hang out.

SCHENECTADY — Palette café announced a new location in Schenectady slated to open at a later date.

Owner of Palette, Catherine Hover, announced new partners as she prepares to open her second co-working space alongside the one she currently owns on Broadway. Hover’s first co-working space opened in November 2019. 

Denise Gonick, former president and chief executive officer of MVP Health Care, and Steve Gonick, co-owner of Steve & Nicole, LLC and co-founder at Passport for Good, have teamed up with Hover for Palette’s expansion to Schenectady. The local couple has vast experience coaching business and not-for-profit organizations. Recently, the Gonick’s have directed their efforts toward local entrepreneurs promoting socially conscious businesses, adding leadership and funding to help bring these concepts to market or expand their reach. 

“We believe in the vision Catherine has created for Palette,” said Denise Gonick. “Our local communities thrive when there is support and collaboration. This and Catherine’s endless positive energy are what attracted us to Palette. She is driven to better the community and the women within who aspire to be their greatest selves.” 

Denise Gonick worked her way to the top after getting her bachelor’s at Hofstra University, and her Law Degree at Albany Law School. Denise enjoyed a successful career in health care, spending nearly 25 years at the nationally recognized, not-for-profit health insurer MVP Health Care. Denise was a game changer at MVP becoming the first female CEO in 2012 and diversifying its portfolio of offerings, including the early adoption of telemedicine. She currently serves on several corporate and non-profit boards and is a frequent speaker on leadership. 

In addition to his corporate responsibilities, Steve Gonick recently did a stint as Executive and Entrepreneur in Residence at Ithaca College, where he has provided mentorship and opportunities to hundreds of students, many of them based in the Capital District. 

“Catherine laid out an impressive strategy where Palette can be a valuable resource for their customers as we embark on an economic recovery for the Capital Region,” Steve Gonick said. “She is a unique entrepreneur who has been able to flex and thrive during this challenging time. When we heard her plans, we wanted to be a part of it.” 

Hover is leasing about 4,000-square-feet in the Foster Building located at 508 State Street in Schenectady. Palette will also utilize space on the first floor for a café. The cafe will offer coffee, light fare, baked goods, and cocktails in a comfortable setting. It’s a place that will continue to celebrate culture, shared ideas and connections. 

“Denise and Steve are the perfect partners for Palette,” said Catherine Hover. “They fully understand what my team and I envision and have worked hard to provide in our community. Through their experience in successful business growth, we will be better positioned to bring my concept to the next level. This is just the beginning of a beautiful business relationship.” 

Hover created Palette to support local women but the cafe is open to the community. While the café offers coffee and bites to eat, Palette Upstairs is designed as a larger co-working environment. Conference room and areas for larger event gatherings are available with event programming and membership opportunities.

Palette will be open to members who hold yearly, monthly and even day passes which include access to concierge services, programming and other perks. Corporate memberships will also be available.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake Rotary club, in conjunction with the Ballston Spa Rotary club, donated healing hand cream to the Saratoga Hospital. 

The healing hand cream was donated to the ER and ICU departments earlier this week. Linda LeTendre, member of the BHBL rotary club, said the donation was made to recognize the working conditions front line workers face while caring for COVID-19 patients. 

“This is something not a lot people have thought about and it’s a way to say: ‘we see you, we know it’s tough and we really see what you are doing.’” We do appreciate what they’re doing,” LeTendre said.

The healing hand cream was donated to nurses and doctors at the Saratoga Hospital on April 16. Medical personnel in those departments have to wash their hands so often they are experiencing dry, cracked and painful hands. LeTendre said her friend, Lisa Cole, was the inspiration behind the healing hand cream. Cole is a nurse at the Samaritan Hospital in Troy.

“It never dawned on me, but if you wash your hands a lot, they begin to crack and break,” LeTendre said. “That lets infection in. Your skin is your first line of defense against infection. It holds all your body parts in but it keeps stuff out…it keeps infection out.

Cole also works as a local Mary Kay consultant, who sells the healing hand cream. LeTendre said she purchased the hand cream at no cost from Cole.

“They’re scrubbing their hands raw in this pandemic,” LeTendre said.

To date, LaTendre said 55 tubes would be donated. On Friday, members of the rotary club will donate hand cream to the Ballston Lake Emergency Squad. They donated ten tubes of the hand cream to the hospital and the remaining 45 tubes will be divided between the two.

“I said to myself I would do this. I put out my own money out first, and then asked if anyone wanted to be a part of this,” LeTendre said.

She added that the donations made covered more than her initial donation, and she hopes it continues. 

“[Cole] is selling this at no cost, this is her way of giving back,” LeTendre said.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — As some individuals embraced Covid-19 stay-at-home restrictions placed over the community, tensions in families and couples living at home can worsen to create an un-safe environment as time goes on. 

Those dealing with domestic violence are under duress as many survivors are locked down with their abusers. Maggie Fronk is the executive director of Wellspring, a social service dedicated to support survivors and engage the community to end relationship and sexual abuse. As tension, stress and abuse situations escalate with the abuser and victim staying home 24/7, Fronk shared ways to create a safe home situation. 

“Everyone’s situation is different. I think everyone who is in that situation knows their circumstances best, but I’d really like them to know that they are not alone,” Front said. 

Parents who may discover rising tensions and diminishing patience are recommended to take a step back. Fronk said spreading love is important for parents who experience added stress from schooling their kids at home. Taking a break from the rules, and giving love to their children and themselves allows individuals to take a step back and breathe. 

“It’s important to know that this is a new normal…I think none of us can strive for the level of performance we had before. It’s important to maintain some routines and also to relax them if we need to,” Fronk said.

The want and need to know what’s happening out in the world can add stress. Fronk said setting times to disengage from phones and computers is important to take a step back.

“Just to do something in the moment. It may be starting a new routine, going for a walk outside, playing a family game or cooking something different. Like having dessert first at dinner,” Fronk said. “It’s easy to get caught up in the stress of this, so we have to build in those moment that refresh and renew us.”

Although life may be different when it comes to navigating an abusive situation during COVID-19, Wellspring still offers their services. Supportive services such as advocacy and case management, crisis intervention and financial empowerment are different areas Wellspring can help in. For individuals who are dealing with relationship abuse, Fronk recommended calling their hotline to chat with an advocate.

“Sometimes, all people need is some support. Our hotline is not just for crises, it’s for information if you want to explore what’s happening at home or to discover if a [situation] is domestic violence,” Fronk said. “I don’t believe a lot of people think to call unless there is physical abuse, but there are all kinds of power and control.”

Emotional control and social-isolation are some of ways an abuser might hold control over their victim. Survivors who had abusers in jail gain another level of fear and complications as those inmates were released in New York and other states. Even as stress levels rise, Fronk said calling in can alleviate stress and help an individual navigate their situation. 

However, Fronk pointed out that with children studying from home, calling in might not be easily available for parents. In response to this, Wellspring created a web-based chat line. The web-chat can be accessed at Wellspringcares.org, and allows individuals to “talk” to an advocate. The chat is available during the workday, but hours are also offered from 9 p.m. to midnight. Fronk said the chat line helps individuals who are not able to place phone
calls or communicate better through typing.

“That’s after when kids have gone to bed where you could just be on your computer and getting the support you need,” Fronk said. “With all of our services, you can find out what we can help you with.”

Self-isolation creates social-isolation, placing a pause on relationships outside the home environment. As those relationships grow distant, Fronk said individuals who know of someone in an abusive situation are welcomed to call in. Wellspring services are confidential and free of charge.

Knowing if and when to leave an abusive relationship changes based on each situation. However, Fronk recommended simply calling their hotline can help individuals.

“Many people don’t reach out for help because they don’t know everything that’s available. You don’t have to be thinking about leaving to call us. You can just want to explore what your options are so you have a plan A and a plan B,” Fronk said.

Wellspring also helps individuals with basic needs such as food and housing. Fronk said Wellspring offers rent subsidized housing for those dealing with abuse. Individuals can also get help dealing with courts to get safety, including gaining an order of protection. 

Most importantly, however, is that Wellspring allows individuals to explore their rights and options for assistance if it’s wanted.

“I want people to know that you’re not alone in this. There is help out there. I think people are afraid to call because they think it will start something where they will have to leave and they’re not ready to leave. We can just help you where you are to figure out how to get through this and know what supports there are. You don’t have to be in a crisis to call us,” Fronk said.

Wellspring hotline can be reached at 518-584-8188.

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Social distancing and self-isolation have become the norm in today’s world, but what happens when your entire job is based around social contact and stimulation?

Direct support professionals at Saratoga Bridges have been working since COVID-19 has struck the community, working hands-on with individuals living in houses or supportive apartments. Saratoga Bridges provides professional services to people with developmental disabilities. The non-profit ensures individuals are able to realize their goals, hopes and dreams and help accomplish them.

Explaining COVID-19

Sloan Russell is an assistant residential manager at Saratoga Bridges. For Russell’s daily duties, he helps six individuals take care of their daily needs. The needs vary each day and Russell helps with any banking duties, weekly shopping and even administers medication. 

“I help with everything that they need done in order to exist as a regular person in society,” Russell said. “Typically, our jobs are to help them feel more a part of the society that they’re in, but it’s reverse psychology here. Normally we’re trying to bring them into society…to let them feel more a part of daily life and interact with people outside of what they’re used to. Now, we have to keep ourselves distanced.”

DayInTheLife SloanRussellSloan Russell social distancing with Tina.

Russell works in a behavior house, meaning different situations and trigger points can impact one resident differently than others. He works a steady schedule with three women and three men in his house, helping with anything they need. Russell even helps with individual’s meal plans. Some individuals are tube fed, which staff are trained and certified for, while others have special diets including a ground diet and low acid diets.

Despite his daily duties, Russell’s day begins before he steps foot into the house, going through a screening before he enters the home. The screening process includes a check of temperature and heart rate, oxygen status and a standard questionnaire. The goal is to monitor as many things as possible, from vital signs to personal experiences on how they’re feeling for the day.

One of the hardest tasks Russell and other direct support professionals have taken on is explaining the virus. Although he goes through daily screening, not every resident understands what COVID-19 is all about.

 “It takes a lot of explaining and a lot of just careful planning with all the staff on how we handle it. You have to ease everyone into it. Tell them everyone else is doing it and it’s not just them,” Russell said. “Everyone is their own person, so how we explain to them is case by case.”

Direct support professional Dawnmarie Costantino said consistency as well as repetitiveness helps individuals understand the virus. Using the same type of sentence throughout the entire staff can help reinforce proper behavior. 

“It’s interesting because you have different forms of communication with the individuals in one home. Some of them do tactile manual signs, others are completely verbal, and others just do ASL. Then you have folks that are nonverbal who utilize gestures or physical movements for you to understand how they are feeling,” Costantino said. “It’s already a challenge so when we’re in a situation like this, reassuring them, letting them know why we are here and keeping everything consistent and concise will help them stay in a better face and be willing to participate in activities that are being offered at home.”

Russell reflected the same thoughts, adding some individuals are verbal, open to current events and consistently on social media while others are the opposite. He said those individuals that don’t understand what’s going on think they are being kept at home on purpose. 

“It’s tough. You feel for them because you can’t explain everything to them.

They look at you and ask why you’re wearing a mask around them, or constantly washing our hands. They want to know what’s going on with that and why extra activities taking place,” Russell said.

Keeping Consistency

The extra activity Russell is referring to doesn’t only include proper PPE and screening procedures, but the “day-hab” classes as well.  Prior to social restrictions, individuals in Saratoga Bridges would participate in a day program, or day-hab. Pamela Polacsek, assistant director of communications, said the day program has since moved to the individual’s houses or apartments. 

“Because of the virus, all of our day staff are going and working in the houses during the day. The individuals who would normally be in a day program setting or at work are now at home,” Polacsek said. 

The day-hab would normally partake in Wilton, Clifton Park, and off of Exit 13. At those locations, Polascek said an upwards of 450 individuals would get transported to partake in the day-hab. 

Costantino would teach day-hab classes to 13 individuals from different agencies. Now, Costantino teaches a group of five in their own home. Just as Russell goes through the initial screening each morning, Costantino does the same. She now see’s her classroom individuals earlier in the day, allowing her to get a better idea on how everyone is feeling that morning. 

She starts each day with an activity schedule, so the five individuals always know what to expect. They start with daily communication, talking about the day of the week and month.

“We talk about the things are good for them cognitively to remember. It’s very good for people to continue remembering where they are in their day or their months. Everyday we do the same thing to help them with structure and we see end results, helping them with their own cognitive abilities,” Costantino said.

After the daily communication, Costantino will focus on different activates each day. Activities including a math group, music exercise activities and preparing meals are some of the few. In her math class, Costantino teaches the typical school layout but adjusts the level for each individual. 

“Not everyone gets the same thing out of it, but everyone gets something. I try to engage them in a lot of music. It’s really good for you to feel music and move to music. It lets people forget about what’s bothering them and their worries because they’re engaged in something with such a great energy,” Costantino said.

Having a set routine helps some individuals out who prefer having a schedule ahead of time. Costantino said when the individuals have a routine, they know what they’re looking forward to and can help with forgetfulness. She said some individuals may start forgetting earlier than others, but being able to remind them of the daily schedule helps their mental health. Bringing day-hab to their homes is something new to the residents as well, and having a schedule helps them differentiate between class and regular home hours.

Russell said his individuals have responded well since COVID-19 struck. Although they are coping, Russell noticed they missed going outside the most. He said outings with his house have always been a big deal, going to play basketball or to a department store. They are trying to incorporate sensory rides, using a van to keep individuals six-feet apart.

“We go out and do a ride through the neighborhood or go out by lake. We drive around so they can see scenery and look at nature. The biggest thing is trying to keep everyone isolated from outside contact as much as possible right now. It’s a reversal of typically what we do,” Russell said.


Polacsek felt direct support professionals often get overlooked when someone defines an essential worker. In response to that, she created the hash-tag WeAreEssential to call attention to direct support professionals. 

“Our field, a lot of times, gets overlooked as far as the essential work they do to enhance, improve and empower other peoples lives. It’s truly very inspiring…their commitment and devotion and flexibility throughout this whole virus,” Polacsek said. 

Saratoga Bridges supports 132 people in their residential program, having 19 houses and 10 supportive apartments through the county. Of those individuals, Polacsek said 150 work in the community. 

“A lot of our individuals have worked in grocery stores for years, and they’re working hard because the current hours to go into work. They’re providing support to the community as well. They’re certainly able to support the community that’s supporting them,” Polacsek said.

Russell feels that direct support professionals often get forgotten because people don’t understand the way these individuals live and their daily routines. He said the hash-tag wasn’t created for the work they’re doing during COVID-19, but rather the daily routines before and after COVID-19 they will continue to do.

“People don’t think there is actually staff out there helping and aiding. That there are individuals in these homes, where if we don’t come in or are not able to help these guys, they wouldn’t be able to live in these independent homes and enjoy life as it is. Some have no clue, they just think that these guys are autonomous. That they’re just out there living their best life not knowing how they live it,” Russell said. 

Just as he goes through a screening to protect the individuals in his home, he does the same when he goes home to his family. Russell can work a 12 or 16-hour shift and feels at the end of the day, all essential workers are in the same situations. 

“I’m trying to get other people to recognize what exactly a front line worker is, there are so many different aspects of being a front line worker. At the end of the day, all of us essential workers are all in the same boat. We all have to still work, so the chances of cross contamination between your job and your personal life is at an all-time high,” Russell said. 

While Russell hopes to shed some light on his daily job for the community, Costantino said she noticed the work residential staff do. Since stepping outside her classroom, she noticed how careful the staff works with the individuals, ensuring every room in the house is sanitary. She noticed individual’s bedrooms were personalized as well. 

“I have to say I’m really amazed about how much more work my residential coworkers do that I wasn’t aware of before. There are a lot more involved that I didn’t know,” Costantino said. 

Thursday, 16 April 2020 12:20

Broadway to See Opening of Darling Donuts

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Darling Donuts, a shop dedicated towards creating unique donuts, was set to open this month, but COVID-19 restrictions has pushed the store towards a new opening date.

Owner of Darling Donuts, Natascha Pearl-Mansman, set her new opening date at 441 Broadway to early June. Due to COVID-19 restrictions placed over the community, renovations have slowed the opening for her new store.

“Construction has been dramatically slowed. Part of the issue was some of the supply warehouses that we were getting the materials from were closed,” Pearl-Mansman said. “Little by little things are happening. This process…in the best of times takes longer than you hope it would, and in the worst of times it seems to drag on forever.”

Despite the slow progress, Pearl-Mansman said electrical work has finally finished and plumbing would start this week. After renovations are finished, Darling Donuts would wait for inspections once COVID-19 restrictions were lifted.

“Its really just a waiting game,” Pearl-Mansman said.

Darling Donuts started in 2018 after Pearl-Mansman had her first child. After experiencing difficulties in the past with pregnancy, Pearl-Mansman said she didn’t feel right putting her child in daycare.

“I decided not to go back to my regular job right away. The thought of putting her in daycare and working fulltime-after everything I went through just to have her in the first place-it was just too hard,” Pearl-Mansman said. 

She began to spend more time at home with her new daughter, attempting to still earn an income to pay for loans she had. She took to her roots as an avid baker and started to bake cupcakes and cookies. 

“There is a ton of people in this area that make [baked goods] and I didn’t want to feel like I would be competition against a ton of people early on just to get my name out there. I wanted to make something that was going to be different from everybody else,” Pearl-Mansman said.

The idea for Darling Donuts was inspired after visiting her sister in Brooklyn years prior. While there, Pearl-Mansman and her sister visited Doughnut Plant, a shop making different kinds of gourmet donuts. After experiencing not only the taste, but the feel and smell of the atmosphere Pearl-Mansman knew she needed to create something similar for Saratoga. 

After testing her own recipes on family and friends, she decided to venture in a serious route and developed a business plan. New York only allows homemade food to be sold at farmers markets, and she realized she needed a proper kitchen to sell her donuts.

Pearl-Mansman found a commercial kitchen to rent and started to bake orders in summer 2018. She purchased her location on Broadway in November of 2019, partnering with Glenn Severance to expand Darling Donuts. 

“Once I [started], things took off and started to get crazy. I increased my production as much as I could, with the equipment that I had in the kitchen that I was working in. A year and a half in, I realized it was time to move to the next step,” Pearl-Mansman said. 

Pearl-Mansman creates all her donuts from scratch. Using brioche style dough, which creates a yeast raised donut. The brioche style gives Pearl-Mansman a neutral base that allows her to get creative with her donut flavors. 

“I have really simply natural recipes and there is actually no sugar in the dough itself, just enough to get the yeast to rise. All of the flavor comes from the glazes and the toppings. And all the glazes and the toppings are made with real fruit and real nuts. Even the cake glazes that I do, such as funfetti, has actual cake that’s in the glaze,” Pearl-Mansman said.

Along with sweet donuts she creates, savory donuts are also listed on the menu. She creates an everything-bagel donut, which has a savory cream cheese glaze, everything-seasoning and a bagel chip on top. She also creates a pizza donut, which starts with a san-marzano tomato base topped with fresh mozzarella and pesto.

“The biggest compliment that I get from people is that it really tastes like you say it will. My donuts taste like what I say it will because that’s what I used to make them,” Pearl-Mansman said.

Until renovations on her Broadway store have finished, Pearl-Mansman will not be producing any donuts. The commercial kitchen Pearl-Mansman has been using belongs in a religious institution, which has since closed. However, once the Broadway shop finished, they will explore to-go and delivery options if the restrictions are not lifted. 

“I like showing my children that if you work really hard and if you follow your dreams, that pretty much anything is possible. I never would have thought when I was writing my business plan that I’d be opening a store on Broadway. Things happen as long as you work hard and you are dedicated, then things fall into place,” Pearl-Mansman said. “There will be donuts.”

Page 6 of 9


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