Opal Jessica Bogdan
JOHSNTOWN — Students at Fulton Montgomery Community College are making their dorm rooms a second home during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Jane Kelley, vice president for student affairs, said during the college spring break, FMCC offered a place to stay for residential students that didn’t have a place to go. Kelley said 14 students stayed on campus during spring break, but that number has since decreased.
“We made the opportunity available for the international students to stay if they were having trouble getting home,” Kelley said. “We have, as of [Wednesday], we have three international students that are staying, and then one residential assistant who has been there throughout, and one student who doesn’t have a great situation at home so he’s staying there as well.”
A total of five students will stay on campus for the duration of COVID-19. FMCC closed March 13, the Friday prior to spring break, and would remain closed through March 31. Since then, the school has moved to a remote learning format.
“What has changed since then is that we decided, along with a lot of other Suny colleges, is to go to a total remote learning model for the rest of the spring semester, so no students will be on campus for the rest of the semester,” Kelley said.
Because the campus is shut down, not a lot of services can be offered to the students on campus, but the food service provider is still delivering food to the residential halls each day.
“We have a fridge set up in one of the lounges so they’re making sure that the students are fed,” Kelley said. “We’re making it work.”
Kelley said the remaining students would be able to partake in remote learning from the residence halls.
While those five students remain on campus, 282 high school students were flown from Israel to return to families during the virus outbreak. The high school students were studying at the Alexander Muss High School in Hod HaSharon Israel.
On March 16, the Jewish National Fund USA released $500,000 from the organization’s endowment to charter an EL AL Boeing 787.
“Its money that we want to put towards education and making sure all students can go and attend the high school we are running in Israel,” Stefan Oberman, director of communications said. “In circumstances we had to unlock this funding in order to bring the kids home.”
According to the press release, the students were escorted by bus to Israel’s Ben Gurion airport where chaperones accompanied students through passport control and to the plane. Students then flew to JFK and were greeted by parents, and member of the JNF.
“Everyone was crying and parents were crying, but it was the right thing to do because given what has happened in Israel right now, it’s not on the top of the radar of anyone, but it’s basically on lockdown and if we weren’t able to get the kids out last weekend, I doubt we could get them out today,” Oberman said.
Oberman said that once in JFK, students continued their travel to their hometowns in Albany, Boston and Saratoga Springs.
“It was a huge operation and never had we thought that one day we would charter a private dreamliner to charter those kids back home,” Oberman said.
SCOTIA — Searching for good news amid the current state of the world is a welcome distraction that 55,000 other individuals agree with as of Wednesday this week.
The distraction, called 518 Rainbow Hunt, started on March 18 by a mom sent home due to COVID-19. According to the 518 Rainbow Hunt group, Kristyn Dayter created the idea to bring some positive vibes and sunshine to families in the area after seeing similar ideas online. In a single day, the group welcomed over 1,000 members and has been growing since.
“Rainbows, unicorns, and glitter have always been my thing. They're a perfect expression of my personality…” Dayter said on the facebook group. “I'm so overly happy that this little project has touched so many families and has been a good distraction for everyone in this uncertain time.”
The hunt challenges families design a rainbow and display in a window, driveway or any other creative way they can come up with. The idea is to get families outdoors and practice social distancing.
“I can't wait to see how far we can reach! The 518 sure can come together…” Dayton posted. “Good vibes only, keep rainbow hunting, we'll all get through
MALTA — Finishing Touches Home Decor announced shutting their doors on their current store to open a new location on Route 9 in Malta.
After being open for five years, owner of Finishing Touches, Shelly Walker, said they felt tucked away in their old location and wanted to move to an easier accessed location.
“It’s very exciting and we’re doing renovations right now,” Walker said.
Walker said they plan to open doors early spring with a new look to the store. She said the new store would host a more modern and vintage looks compared to what they have now. Currently they have a selection of modern furniture and items upstairs, while they offer an Adirondack and rustic look downstairs.
“We’re going to have a large focus on products that are made in the USA,” Walker said. “Handmade and locally made items.”
Gift bags and sets for birthdays will also be offered at the new location. Walker described it as a one-stop-shop, where customers can pick out a gift box, get it wrapped and even pick out a card.
“It’s a little bit different than what we have here now,” Walker said.
However different, Walker said they still plan to sell furniture, lamps and interior design details. Since the new location has a plethora of windows, Walker plans to stain each trim with a different treatment so customers can come in and see what the actual trim would look like.
“We do a lot of window treatments, shades, shutters and custom draperies,” Walker said. “We used to have to show what it would look like in pictures, but now they can come in and see in person what it looks like.”
Walker also added that she and her husband, Doug Walker, have a surprise planned for the new location, but plans to release that at a later date.
“There is a little section of the store we want to have it,” Walker said. “He has always wanted to do this and it’s another reason to bring people there.”
Starting this week, Dollar General is encouraging the first hour of operation each day to be dedicated for the shopping needs of senior customers. Market 32 starting March 19 will pre-open exclusively to seniors from 6 a.m. to 7 a.m.
Dollar General wants to provide these at-risk customers with the ability to purchase the items they need and want at the beginning of each day to avoid busier and more crowded shopping periods, according to their release. Market 32 President Scott Grimmett reflected similar ideas and announced the stores will close at 10 p.m. and re-open at 7 a.m. to help restock products and preventative sanitation. Dollar General will also close an hour earlier to allow employees to clean and restock shelves.
“In keeping with our mission and our ongoing commitment to serve our communities, we are dedicating the first hour of each day to seniors. We appreciate our customers’ understanding of our decision and request they visit our stores later in the morning to allow at-risk populations the ability to purchase the items they need at affordable prices,” said Todd Vasos, Dollar General’s CEO.
“Despite the fact that some high in demand products are more difficult to keep in stock than others, I assure you that the food supply is not in jeopardy and that we are committed to providing the highest possible level of service,” Grimmett said.
SARATOGA COUNTY —As schools close through the end of March, districts in the area are providing free meals to students.
Ballston Spa Central School District is offering free and reduced breakfast and lunches available to students who are enrolled in the reduced meal program. Meals can be picked up each weekday starting this week between 10:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
Here are the locations for pick up:
• High School/Middle School Students - HS main entrance
• Malta Students - Malta Ave. Elementary School main entrance
• GC/MT/WR Students - Milton Terrace Elementary School Cafeteria Side Entrance
• Town of Milton - Community Center
• Town of Malta - Community Center
• Town of Ballston - Town Hall
Saratoga Springs School District will offer breakfast and lunch, free of charge, for any student under the age of 18. Starting this week meals can be picked up between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Families who plan to take advantage of meals are asked to fill out a Meal Distribution Survey to help with planning. Meals will be provided in a grab and go style.
Here are the locations for pick up:
• Saratoga Springs High School (outside of the main entrance)
• Greenfield Elementary School (outside of the main entrance)
• Dorothy Nolan ElementarySchool (outside of the main entrance)
Shenendehowa buses and food service staff will be delivering breakfast and lunch for those in need, free of charge, for students while schools are closed
• Cheryl’s Lodge/Halfmoon Heights: 12 p.m.
• D&R Village: 12 - 12:30 p.m.
• North Pointe Apts: 12 - 12:30 p.m.
South Glens Falls Central School District is offering grab-and-go meals for families who qualify and were contacted by the school. Pickup is available Tuesday and Thursday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. Families will not enter the building but can grab the meals at the rear of the building.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — In honor of World Water Day, Artisanal Brew Works will release a limited-edition beer on March 22.
World Water Day highlights the importance of freshwater, showing the connection between water and climate change. The goal is to bring awareness of how to use water more efficiently and adapting to those habits.
Artisanal Brew Works partnered with Saratoga PLAN, Preserving Land and Nature, to create a one of a kind beer that’s only available for a limited time. Owner of Artisanal Kurt Borchardt said he’s excited about the fundraiser.
“We like to do that kind of stuff,” Borchardt said.
The beer, named the World Water Day IPA will be offered until the single batch runs out. He said a portion of proceeds would go to support Saratoga PLAN.
“Our intention with this collaboration is to bring awareness to the community by connecting the dots between water conservation and all of the systems that rely on it, not just nature,” said Alex Fylypovych, PLAN’s Community Engagement Manager in a press release.
As a brewery that focuses on achieving unique flavors in beer, Borchardt stepped up to create the IPA. He added that in early summer, another beer would be released to donate to the Saratoga Auto Museum.
The brewery opened in July 2016 as a New York State Farm Brewery, meaning 90 percent of raw materials came from NYS farmers. However Borchardt said grain was becoming expensive, they were limited on hop choices and they didn’t want to pass cost to the customers.
“They love the idea of local but then they look at the price and ask why it’s so expensive,” Borchardt said. “It was really hard to compete like that and we wanted to make certain styles of beer, so directionally we changed our focus from being exclusively a farm brewery to a dual license.”
The brewery is still certified as a NYS Farm Brewery, so each year the brewery has to use a certain amount of farm materials. In addition, the brewery also has a microbrew license, which is what more breweries have.
“Once we did that we started ramping up our creativity because we weren’t constrained by ingredients anymore,” Borchardt said. “That [license] allows me to use ingredients form all over the world.”
The brewery now aims to target unique flavors in the beers they create, like a chocolate caramel truffle stout, and figure out what ingredients they can use to achieve that. He said they perpetually try different hops, water chemistry and different grains to achieve a specific flavor.
“I like the fact that were not static and were flexible in a lot of different ways. Clearly the different beer styles we make are reflective of that,” Borchardt said.
He added that over the winter, he focused on creating sour beers. He said most sours give an off flavor that he didn’t enjoy, so he focused on eliminating that over the winter until he figured it out.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — What began a career in fashion turned into something above and beyond what Virginia Fretto, owner of Razimus Jewelry, ever thought she would do.
Fretto designs and creates custom pieces of jewelry made from keepsake fabrics. Memorable garments such as wedding gowns, baby quilts and a grandfather’s tie can now be worn and remembered forever.
“So talk about fulfilling, I get to be creative and help people,” Fretto said. “The best part is this feeling and sense that I’m doing something bigger than just design.”
However, Fretto never imagined herself designing with such keepsake items and said it was something that happened naturally.
“It was just something that happened organically. I started having clients ask me if I could make them something out of an important garment and the more I said yes to it, the more fulfilling that felt,” Fretto said.
Fretto started Razimus Jewelry after she and her husband moved to New York for a job opportunity. In Boston, Fretto said she handled the corporate social responsibility at Hearts on Fire, a diamond dealership. After experiencing the corporate side of business, Fretto searched for a creative outlet and thus her business was born.
Fretto began her store with design collections of eco-friendly fabric jewelry, which she sold through a number of boutiques in the capital region. She said her store combines two passions: fashion and jewelry design.
Starting three years ago, Fretto noticed requests for custom keepsake jewelry more often. After placing a small listing on her website about such items, Fretto started to shift the business focus in Feb. 2019.
“This is a big transition for my business,” Fretto said. “The beginning of last year it started to become more of a request and something I started to realize was a service and a gift that I can provide to my clients.”
The store now holds the focus of custom designing. Fretto said they work with clients to transform fabric pieces such as a great grandmother’s apron and design it into jewelry that can either be a special gift for someone, or can even serve as memorial gifts.
“It’s really such a beautiful way to honor a loved one or preserve a memory, and there aren’t many options out there to preserve loved ones clothing after loss or to transform your wedding dress after the big day is over. I have found a really unique niche, and it is touching so many lives. I am just so thrilled that I can use my creative skills to touch so many families & people through fabric jewelry design,” Fretto said.
Fretto uses a variety of different materials to create these custom pieces. They use everything from sterling silver to precious stones and a majority of their pieces are made with solid copper, brass, stainless steel or pewter. Fretto wanted to offer enough materials in case a client had an allergy to one of the metals.
Once a request in sent in via mail or online, Fretto and her team get to work. She has two women who work at home as contract employees. They do the sewing and beading of the designs as they come in.
“We really like that [work] dynamic. It’s conducive to moms who stay at home or people that have multiple jobs or different issues of flexibility in their schedules,” Fretto said. “It’s something that we can continue to grow and add more artisans in the area and it’s really lovely because I get to kind of work and feed off of all these other very creative women.”
Working with memorable garments creates a sense of honor in Fretto and said every story she hears holds a place in her heart. She even had the privilege of watching people open the box with their new bracelet or necklace and the tears that are shed don’t come from sadness.
“There’s a certain comfort and happiness that I know I’m providing and it’s a beautiful thing. I feel like I’m actually offering a service that was not planned but has become a really beautiful part of this journey,” Fretto said.
Operating largely through her website, Fretto said she also occupies a small portion of the Palette Cafe on Broadway. Requests for the custom pieces can be made online, in store, or through the mail.
“I’m able to use the talents that I’ve had and kind of keep developing them and keep innovating,” Fretto said. “And not just in a way that’s serving me as a creative outlet, but that I know is actually providing something so meaningful as the end product to the client.”
COPING WITH COVID-19
Paying it forward is a great way to help businesses around the community after being shut down during this outbreak. In response to this outbreak, and as a small business owner herself, Fretto created an idea to help pay it forward.
Fretto dedicated a portion to her website to help other small businesses. A portion of sales from any purchase on their website will be used to make another purchase from a small business in the local community. She wants to encourage other small businesses, in any way they are able, to use a portion of that sale to continue the cycle and make a purchase from another small business.
For example, once a bracelet is sold, Fretto will use those funds to purchase a delivery meal, local farm produce, toiletry, clothing, cleaning or other handmade products produced by a small business owners. She will then donate said product to Wellspring, a non-profit organization whose mission is to help survivors of relationship abuse and sexual assault.
The idea is to help generate some needed revenue and support in the community. While upholding social distancing to slow the spread of COVID-19, anything ordered will be mailed directly. Bracelets can range in price from $40 to $90.
BALLSTON SPA — Town officials heard from two-dozen local residents regarding entering a building moratorium at their meeting Tuesday evening.
Proposed Local Law 2 of 2020 would establish a moratorium on certain developments in the town. A moratorium is a delay or suspension of an activity or a law.
“This proposal is temporary and allows us to take a good look and get a grasp on what we have and where we want to go and how we want to get there,” Eric Connolly, town supervisor, said.
According to the proposed law, the town board expressed concerns regarding potential impacts on certain developments.
“We understand that some developers or applicants object to the proposed moratorium but we believe that this is the direction that a majority of the constituents wants us to pursue,” Connolly said.
The moratorium would allow officials to update the Comprehensive Plan, which was last updated in 2005. They also plan to revise the zoning and subdivision regulations to be consistent with the soon-to-be-updated comprehensive plan.
Over 24 residents spoke during the public hearing while others sent letters in. Most agreed with passing the moratorium, saying large apartment and condo developments should be included as well.
Ballston Lake resident Kathy Wilcox said she agrees with the moratorium and feels that since she moved to the area 26 years ago, vast amounts of farmland has been filled with high density buildings such as apartment complexes.
“I would like to express my agreement with the moratorium being imposed. This is long overdue and sorely needed. We must control the growth our town has experienced…” Wilcox said.
Resident Don Dudley spoke against the moratorium during the public hearing, expressing concerns over an indoor tennis facility he planned to build. Dudley said this project has been in the works for the past seven years. The 2.8-acre lot on route 50 in the Town of Ballston is where he planned to put the indoor tennis facility, but is worried he cant move forward with the project if the moratorium is passed.
“Unfortunately my son was killed in a car accident in August of 2011 and after that I founded the tennis foundation in his honor,” Dudley said. “My concerns are it would be heartbreaking to not be able to move forward and continue with our project.”
Prior to the public hearing, Connolly announced that written comments will be accepted until March 31. If adopted, the law will take effect within 30 days after the public hearing and operate until Jan. 2, 2021.
“The board will carefully consider all of the written and verbal public comments received,” Connolly said.
The following statement may be attributed to The Wesley Community Chief Executive Officer Brian Nealon:
“The Wesley Community has taken immediate proactive measures as a result of the health threat posed by coronavirus (COVID-19) to our older adult population. We want to emphasize that we do not have any cases of coronavirus at Wesley Health Care Center and have not quarantined any individuals, including staff, at this time.
“Based on the most recent recommendations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, The Wesley Community has made the prudent decision to discontinue all non-essential visits to the Wesley Health Care Center, effective immediately until further notice. We have decided to take this necessary measure to preclude the spread of coronavirus to our highly vulnerable residents and the dedicated staff who care for them.
“This new policy will include visits by family members. Visitors will only be allowed into the facility if deemed essential or for end-of-life situations. Since family interaction is an important component to the well-being of our residents, alternative means of communicating with loved ones are being implemented, including the use of video conferencing.
“Staff and visitors granted access will be required to go through a mandatory screening process by a trained employee for potential exposure or symptoms.
“We do not take these decisions lightly and we understand the importance of family and friends visiting. These new policies are based on the guidance we have received from the leading national health agencies.
“We are closely monitoring the situation and following recommended guidelines from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, New York State Department of Health and Saratoga County Public Health Services. We will continue to work closely with these health agencies as matters continue to evolve.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Those looking to start their own in-home fermentation can look no further than Saratoga Zymurgist.
Saratoga Zymurgist offers a full service home-brewing and winemaking shop. Priding themselves on being experts in fermentation, customers can not only find the materials for fermenting, but will learn the science as well.
“We’re here to teach and educate for a hobby,” owner and zymurgist Reed Antis said.
A zymurgist is an individual who studies the science of fermentation. Antis said he started as a home brewer who became involved with the hobby over time. After serving for a few years as a certified beer judge in competitions, Antis took ownership of the store with his wife, Mary Antis.
Reed Antis said the store started in the early 90’s on Broadway, which later moved to Phila Street. The company was then sold to Eddy’s Beverage Inc. who in 2009 reached out to Antis to see if he wanted to take the business over. In 2010 Antis said he purchased the business and hasn’t worked a day since.
“I don’t consider this work,” Antis said. “Most of my time is educating. I’ve been nicknamed the professor because I’m constantly training someone to learn [fermentation].”
Antis encourages anyone looking to make beer at home, wine at home, or anything with fermentation at home to stop by the store. Offering wine kits and beer kits, the store also holds items to brew hard cider, mead, kombucha, cheese and vinegar. The store offers a wide variety of yeast to ferment with, which Antis said varies depending on what is being fermented.
“My job is to really find out what you need... what are you trying to ferment,” Antis said.
When a customer walks into the store, Antis said he asks what they are looking for. If they are looking to make grape wine, they have kits with all the ingredients to create a six-gallon batch of wine. He said hard cider is the most popular, followed by country wine, which is a wine made with any kind of fruit, besides grapes. Antis said fermenting honey, also known as mead, is also popular.
“The procedures are pretty much the same going through and the steps are pretty much the same but I target it with what type of wine they want to make,” Antis said. “Once they get the hang of it they can easily move over to ferment something else because they already have the skillset to make this, so they just transfer those skills over.”
Self-taught, through books and seminars, the art of homebrewing, Antis ensures each customer feels confident with the art of fermenting each time they leave the store.
“When someone comes back and says ‘hey that worked’ then I’ve done my job communicating. I learned that I have to hone my skills as a communicator to each individual and how they can absorb information,” Antis said.
In addition, Antis said his favorite thing to say is “assume nothing.” Because zymurgy is the science of fermentation, testing should be a priority rather than assuming or guessing. Antis said the hardest part is getting people to know where they are. Located in the corner adjacent to EBI Beverages, Antis said most people miss the arrow and flag they hang out to let people know they are there.
“In the City of Saratoga we have easy parking, easy reach off major roads, and no complaints,” Antis said.
For more experienced home brewers, the store offers different grains and a mill to grind the grains with. Once stepping into the fermenting world, Antis said each recipe is what makes the process interesting and different.
“You can play with it, put your own twist to it,” Antis said.