Opal Jessica Bogdan
SARATOGA SPRINGS — While meetings, interviews and contact all moved online and over the phone, one fitness center aimed to move their workouts to members at home.
The strength studio called Evolution Strength and Performance announced an on-demand online portal with recorded videos on strength training, condition, core and mobility. The on-demand training concept allows Evolution members to still meet up and workout through the internet.
“This is a first…it was a goal of ours. We were going do it a year from now and we kind of had the foresight to look at what was happening and decided it was something we should do sooner rather than later,” Chris Abbott, owner of the studio, said.
Abbott said about a week before businesses closed down, the studio filmed for five days to capture video and start the online training program. Since then, the program has evolved to include classes Monday through Saturday that members can participate in.
“We are really big on community at Evolution and so initially, we started off with pre-recording coaches doing the workouts that we make for everyone else,” Abbott said. “We’re always trying to make our products better so as time went on, we decided that these were great, but we were missing the community aspect of it so we decided to start doing some live stream workouts,” Abbott said.
The 150 members can log into Zoom, a video communication service, and do the workout with five coaches. Abbott said he has been opening the training sessions earlier so people can join in and chat, just like they would in class.
“It’s that way to get a little bit of more of that community feel even though we’re not with each other,” Abbott said.
The workout is recorded so if members don’t join in live they are able to follow the training session after. Each video is posted on their online portal so members can focus on what workout they want.
Lindsay Cruz, coach at Evolution, said online classes became an idea after trying to figure out a way to train everyone in Saratoga, if they wanted to.
“Over a year ago we were all sitting down and [Abbott] brought to us the question: if everyone in Saratoga wanted to train with us, how would we deal with that? I think that’s where the whole thought process began. How could we help everybody and if we had the opportunity to, how could we do it,” Cruz said.
Cruz joined Evolution when it first opened as a member, and now as a trainer. Currently the online classes are only available for members, but Abbott said moving forward they hope to expand to anyone who has a kettlebell at home.
Abbott created the studio in July 2017 through a love of kettlebells. A kettlebell is a cast iron or steel ball with a handle attached to the top. Abbott said he loves the kettlebell because it’s one tool for a workout. He said just like a spin bike, members could come in, grab a kettlebell and have a great workout.
“Knowing that our tool could be used anywhere was always something that was in the back of our heads,” Abbott said.
Despite having a one-tool workout, safety and proper form is something Cruz said is a priority of the studio. Even though the studio moved workouts online, Cruz said members could still get one-on-one coaching time through Zoom.
“We can critique some technique on Zoom or we have members sending us videos, so there is that one on one personal feel of a coach even through the live workout,” Cruz said.
HALFMOON — Carol Pingelski Hotaling started to honor New York State Yellow Ribbon Day in 2006. The day was selected to honor and remember active troops and the daily sacrifices they make. The New York State Legislature began to honor Yellow Ribbon Day on April 9 of each year through the passing of a resolution. Her goal now is to make the resolution to not only be for NYS, but nationwide. Here is her story and how the yellow ribbon making began.
Who: Carol Pingelski Hotaling, 78-years-old, Halfmoon resident.
“I just sit here and make bows I don’t get involved with anything else except my troops. Every single day I make them,” Hotaling said.
How it all got started: Hotaling has made thousands of hand crafted yellow ribbon bows for the past 30 years.
“It’s all about current troops, that’s what Yellow Ribbon Day is all about,” Hotaling said. “I started making yellow bows in 1990, Desert Storm. In 2004, my sister lives in Ohio and she kept telling me about a Matt Maupin, the first prisoner of war captured in the Iraq War. I said I wanted to meet Matt’s parents so she contacted them and I talked with them. In 2006 I went to their program called Yellow Ribbon Support Center in Cincinnati Ohio for six weeks and I volunteered. It was the first time I flew and probably the last and I stayed there. Their first banquet was that year and was at the Oasis Country Club in Loveland, Ohio. I made over 1000 bows for that banquet. When I got off the plane in Albany that day, I said to myself I got to do than make bows and do fundraisers for our troops, so I started NYS Yellow Ribbon Day.”
Helping Hands: Hotaling said the VFW in Ballston Spa buys all the ribbons each year to distribute through the town and stores. This year they purchased Hotaling 72 rolls of ribbon with 100 yards per roll to create the ribbons for Ballston Spa.
“One year they had to buy me a $1000 worth because I ran out. They came this past Monday and picked up 80 bows, so the town of Ballston spa will have 80 bows. I’m now making them for the town of Clifton Park because every year they get filled with bows for yellow ribbon day,” Hotaling said.
Moving Forward: As April 9 Yellow Ribbon Day starts in Hotaling’s room creating the ribbons, it has since expanded from Saratoga County to Halfmoon, Ballston Spa and Clifton Park. However, Hotaling doesn’t want to stop just there, her goal is to pass a resolution to recognize the date nation wide.
“We have to make sure it’s all about current troops because that’s what it’s all about they don’t have a day of their own so that’s what I’m fighting for. That was our number one priority in this world before this virus was the troops. They’re out there every day for you and I. I’m trying to get it passed nation wide. It’s my last bucket list item I need to do before I die, I’ve done everything else I set out to do,” Hotaling said.
Of the 26 dozen eggs sent out, 12 dozen were hatched at the 4-H training center, a learning facility in Ballston Spa. Photos provided.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — While schools across the state closed their doors and people self-isolated in their homes, 26 dozen chicken eggs wanted to break out of their “home” and hatch during COVID-19.
The fertilized eggs were sent out to participating elementary schools in Saratoga County as a part of the 4-H outreach program. The program allows classrooms to experience the 21-day development of a chicken egg. Brieanna Hughes, program coordinator for Saratoga County 4-H animal science, said a surprising amount of eggs still hatched despite being moved from schools.
The eggs were due to hatch on March 18, the week most schools announced their closings. Hughes said she reached out to schools that prior weekend to ask if teachers were willing to take the eggs home, or offered to pick them up and bring them to their facility to hatch.
“Because a lot of teachers were being told they couldn’t go into their schools so I didn’t want anyone to be burdened with this,” Hughes said.
Despite school closings, only 12 dozen eggs were collected from schools and hatched at the training center in Ballston Spa. Of the 26 dozen eggs sent out, over 75 percent hatched which Hughes was surprised by.
Hughes said the hatch rate was by chance, and added that she expected a lower hatch rate simply from moving the chicken eggs. Transportation of the eggs is not recommended due to drastic temperature changes. However, the unstable period for the eggs is earlier in the development as well as the day of hatching if a small movement occurs.
“We almost got them at the ideal time. It isn’t ideal to move them at all, but it was pretty cool to have such a good hatch rate,” Hughes said. “What that means is that the school did a really good job taking care of the eggs for the first 18 days and then we were able to finish that out.”
Seeing the eggs develop for the 21 days allows students to learn about the development and embryology. Hughes said in the beginning, the program attains the fertilized eggs and provides the schools with incubators and equipment. 4-H hosts a small teacher training where they pick up all the needed materials and bring them to their classroom. Not having a set curriculum, schools are at liberty to teach what they want.
“But our program is incubation and embryology so that is what they’re learning about, the development of an organism. They get to candle the eggs and actually see the changes in the embryo. They can see the first veins coming and an eye during the forming of the head,” Hughes said.
Once the eggs are hatched, teachers are at liberty to keep them or give them pack to the program.
“A lot of teachers have friends that want chickens, but we want to make sure there is a resource so we also provide someone to take them,” Hughes said.
She added that these eggs were a part of the first rotation for the hatching program. The second session was anticipated to start at the end of April, but Hughes said they’re waiting to see how the self-distancing plays out. The participating schools for this sessions included Schuylerville, Arongen Elementary in the Shenendehowa school district and Greenberg Child Care Center.
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.