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By Colette Linton
SARATOGA SPRINGS—Interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) studies have a strong history in the county with STEM fairs, courses and competitions.
Now the best and brightest high school students have the opportunity through the New York State STEM Incentive Program to receive a full ride to college for those pursuing high-tech careers.
Students who are in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class, who are also planning to major in a STEM field at SUNY or CUNY, and later work in a related STEM job in New York state for five years following college graduation, qualify for the program.
“This scholarship is a great reward for those students who chose to work incredibly hard in one of our many high school or Early College STEM pathways,” Dr. Joseph Greco, K-12 Director of Math, Science and Technology Integration at Saratoga Springs City School District wrote in an email to Saratoga TODAY.
However, he added, that students’ interest in STEM studies are planted and encouraged long before they reach high school.
Regarding whether he thought the scholarship will propel students into STEM fields and careers, he said: “At Saratoga, we believe that interest in STEM happens long before students even enter into the high school. While these incentives are a great reward for students who have taken on the challenge of a high school or Early College STEM pathway, it is our curriculum and instruction at the Primary and Intermediate grade levels that will have the greatest impact on interest in STEM.”
Saratoga Springs City School District’s Project Lead The Way (PLTW) engineering program has been taught at the high school since 1999 and was expanded to the middle school in 2000. Greco was hired in 2012 by the Board of Education to oversee the Math, Science and Technology Integration for the entire school district.
In addition, Greco wrote, that the school has added math coaches at the K-5 level, started Lego Robotics programs at different schools, started the Educating Young Engineers Saturday Program, extended the STEM Academy to the summer (through BOCES), and has recently competed in the middle and high school’s first VEX Robotics competition.
“Our rich STEM programing at the high school will continue to grow in 2014-2015 with the continued expansion of our PLTW Computer Engineering course offerings. Thanks to forward thinking leadership by the Board of Education and Superintendent Michael Piccirillo, Saratoga students have access to some of the most rigorous STEM programing that is offered in U.S. public education,” Greco said.
For one student anticipating her first semester of college in the fall, her story of STEM studies has resulted in a compromise of interests and began with a discovery.
In eighth grade, senior at Saratoga
By: Colette Linton
SARATOGA SPRINGS – A treasure hunt is afoot: Hundreds upon hundreds of books are lining the walls of the Saratoga Book Warehouse, to which children are encouraged to come for a the tactile experience of perusing walls of some classic and varied children’s books as John Keefe, the store’s owner, plans to give away as many as 20,000 books within the next six months “no strings attached”, he said.
This program is Keefe's first “Readers are Leaders” initiative, during which individuals 18 and under are invited to choose any children’s book/chapter book, in the warehouse of approximately 30,000 children's books, that sparks their interest during the first week of each month starting May 1 - 7.
“I wanted to really ignite that burning desire for reading,” Keefe said. “I'll even finance it just to see some kids get excited about it (reading).”
The one-year-old Saratoga Book Warehouse houses a variety of books that were once dumpster bound from around the area. Keefe collects them from community colleges, libraries, retiring professors, school systems and, sometimes, the dump. By the end of the year, he can collect as much as 100 tons of books, of which some are stored at his textbook store located at Saranac Lake.
Some years the total can be as much as 200 tons of books a year, Keefe said. “That’s when I decided to save a tractor trailer load full and hand them out. Otherwise they would all be ground up,” he said.
Keefe started off in the business of recycling unwanted books. If he can’t store the books he collects or doesn’t think he can sell them, he instead sells them to companies that then grind them up to make products such as paper, insulation or other paper products.
However, just as Keefe remembers books from his childhood that left an impression on him, “Horton Hears a Who” by Dr. Seuss and “My Side of the Mountain” by Jean Craighead George, he is kick starting the “Readers are Leaders”.
“I just ended up with so many books that were good,” Keefe said. His goal is now to help the younger generation find the authors and stories that move them.
After receiving a positive reception after opening the warehouse in Saratoga Springs a year ago, he started thinking “how can I really make a big impression,” he said, recalling the beginnings of the “Readers are Leaders” program.
For the next six months, ten thousand to 20,000 books equates to handing out about 300 books a day or 2,000 a week, for the lower limit (10,000), and at 3,000 a week the upper limit of his planned give away.
Saratoga Book Warehouse is open Monday through Friday from 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
While the first week of the month children can take with them one free book a day or more, Keefe said, the rest of the month 95 percent of the books at the store are prices at a dollar.
There are classics for adults and children to be found as well as many others worth a venture between the covers and into a subject to quench a forgotten or new-found curiosity.
Some customers, Keefe said, buy books to place around their house or restaurant for decoration as there are many large and lightly used textbooks and picture books.
Saratoga Book Warehouse is located at 68 Weibel Avenue. For more information, Saratoga Book Warehouse has a facebook page, or the store can be contacted at (518) 450-1122.
Committee on Open Government's Executive Director Bob Freeman is visiting Wilton Town Hall May 1 at 5:30.
The committee is a division of the NY Department of State devoted to government transparency.
All are invited to attend and learn how to build a stronger connection with your local government.
The Wilton Town Hall meeting is located at Wilton Town Hall, 22 Traver Road, Gansevoort.
For more information about the event, see the following link:
CORRECTION: TO CONTACT REBUILDING TOGETHER SARATOGA COUNTY, CALL 518 -587 -3315.
Rebuilding Together Helping Elderly, Low-Income Families Repair Their Homes
By Colette Linton
SARATOGA SPRINGS— Linda Kahn, whose welcoming personality is as warm and welcoming as her home in Saratoga Springs, turns 90 years young next month in a house that she’s lived in for 57 years.
She boasts its three rooms saying that they are “for when the kids come over to visit” which they will be soon to celebrate her birthday.
Also, after a volunteer crew with Rebuilding Together Saratoga installed a new bathroom, repaired the circuit breaker and electric wiring in her home, installed hand rails in the bathroom and going down the stairs leading into the basement, she is now prouder than ever of what the community is able to do.
“In the kitchen, I couldn’t use the microwave and the toaster oven at the same time. I’d blow a fuse,” Kahn said. “When we bought the house it was like a shell. It had wood floors that were rotted. It had nothing.”
Kahn sent an application to Rebuilding Together of Saratoga County after she heard from someone else of the quality of the home repairs and installations they complete.
Soon she saw the group’s workmanship for herself.
“I had a doctor’s appointment first thing in the morning, and I came home and there were dozens, at least 20 (volunteers),” she said. “It was fantastic. Off and on they would (be here) because these were volunteers, professional, unbelievable people. I didn’t even have to hang around for them. It was that kind of honest, nice caliber.”
Since then she’s helped to persuade others to consider applying.
The assistance Rebuilding Together provides helps to maintain a safe and comfortable atmosphere for its applicants. In this way, it may even help the elderly stay in their homes longer.
“That’s a lot of the work that we are doing now is helping elderly folks with their home repairs to keep them safe in their homes,” said Executive Director of Rebuilding Together Saratoga Michelle Larkin. “I’d like to say to people as an elderly person that I’m sure that throughout your life you’ve helped plenty of people; so, now is an opportunity for the community to help you.”
Sometimes the elderly may be a little more hesitant to reach out to an organization such as Rebuilding Together, Larkin said.
“Maybe they’re very independent. They’re used to taking care of themselves and the struggle is that they want to stay in their home but they just need an ADA toilet,” Larkin said. “That may be something where we could be really helpful so that they can stay in their home.”
Rebuilding Together is nearly limitless in the ways in which its hired contractors and volunteers can assist a home owner at no charge to them. When an application is submitted, Rebuilding Together previews the applicant’s house to observe and make suggestions about where repairs can be made.
“Maybe they need a voluntary OT (occupational therapist) to go out and look at their home and make some suggestions,” Larkin said. “Maybe we could move some furniture. Are there trip hazards? Do they need a ramp? Do they need a low-threshold shower unit?”
“There are all kinds of things that could be looked at in the environment,” she said.
Since the renovations were completed at her home, Kahn has found even more reasons to be proud of her home and community.
“Oh definitely,” she said about the improvements and her increased independence. “I needed the high-rise toilets and the grab bars. I feel very secure there.”
“It’s a warm community,” she said. “There are so many lovely people who are caring and giving of themselves.”
Last year, Rebuilding Together completed 90 sites, or 80 homes and 10 nonprofit facilities. They had a total of 1004 volunteers, who worked a total of 5,592 hours. Since its inception in 2003, they have completed 559 projects and served 1026 people.
This year’s spring workdays for volunteers are approaching quickly and are scheduled for April 26 and 27, May 3 and 4, and May 10. For individuals interested in contributing, but are unable to volunteer this season, there is option of being the ‘pizza patron’. The pizza patron becomes the darling of the day by providing lunch for a volunteer crew for $25.
Rebuilding Together requires that applicants prove household income and that the applicant lives in Saratoga County. All applicants are previewed within a couple of months. Projects that are accepted are generally started within a year of the application.
Centennial to Kickoff Mayor’s Focus on Health
SARATOGA SPRINGS— Planning for the 100th anniversary of Saratoga Springs’ incorporation as a city, is underway.
The centennial celebration is to highlight the city's heritage, much of which had started taking shape when the city was still a village. Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen has appointed a centennial committee to highlight the milestones as well as the current accomplishments of the city, and to hallmark the city’s headline monikers: health, history and horses. The arts and education will also get its share as a mainstay of the city’s identity and represented on the board, with Skidmore College President Philip Glotzbach sitting in for education.
Everybody that will be coming together to serve on the committee will focus on a different aspect of the celebration, whether it’s Field Horne, a local historian with a book release scheduled during the centennial year (history), or Susan Halstead, owner of Family Vision Care Center and chair of the Saratoga County Chamber’s Health and Wellness council (health).
The committee’s honorary chairs are philanthropists and socialites Marylou Whitney and John Hendrickson in light of their enthusiasm for the city itself, Yepsen said.
“They will be wonderful leaders and assets to the celebration,” Yepsen said. “They were excited when I called them to ask if they would do this because they just love Saratoga Springs so much.”
Whitney and Hendrickson already have some “special ways to celebrate the city”, she said.
Attorney at Law Eleanor Mullaney and Steve Sullivan, who was previously a strategic advisor for the New York State Restaurant Association, will act as the planning committee’s co-chairs for the centennial.
There have already been many people and a lot of different organizations that have plans in motion for Saratoga Springs’ centennial. “It’ll be a matter of collaborating and coordinating ideas and activities and making sure that we touch on different aspects,” Yepsen said.
Looking ahead, of health, history and horses, Yepsen said that she is thinking of concentrating on the health and wellness aspect of Saratoga Springs to not only compliment the already growing interest in this area, but also to use the centennial as an event to further renew a focus on health.
What once revolved around the springs, health as a focal point has been gaining energy as organizations and businesses are finding new ways to channel interest.
“This health and wellness issue is bubbling up all around me and this is how things work in Saratoga Springs: they happen organically,” Yepsen said. “I think we can really focus on Saratoga Springs in the future as a healthy community and looking for the centennial to be the kickoff for that.”
Halstead echoed Yepsen in a separate interview that the city has a lot of organizations and plans to help promote the city as one of the healthiest in the country.
“I can’t believe what the county has already accomplished. We started making a list of what we already have, and what we need,” Halstead said. “Saratoga County is just packed with healthy stuff already.”
In retrospect of the changes that have taken place to make Saratoga Springs the city it is today, Deputy Mayor Joe Ogden commented: “The individuals that built the public and private sector have done a good job of keeping the soul of the city”.
Custom Clothier Helps Men Build Their Look
By Colette Linton
SARATOGA SPRINGS—Clothes shopping is more complicated than the conventional retail store lets on. The reality is, is that the range of body types isn’t so easily categorized into small, medium and large and preferences for patterns, colors and comforts are not to be taken for granted.
Dress clothes for work and professional flair are another make and model too, tending to be on the more expensive side and more difficult to fudge the shortcomings of the seams without making the additional trip to a tailor.
“For me and my height, it’s either the clothes are too short and I have to wear them low around the waist,” said Dr. Marc Johnson, a dentist in Saratoga Springs . “Or the sleeves are too short, and so I buy my shirts big.”
Aimee Taylor, clothier and stylist, brings to Saratoga Springs the J. Hillburn brand, a fast growing luxury men’s clothing company. She met with Dr. Johnson to build an order that would suit him with a measure-made product to reflect his tastes, lifestyle and his comfort needs.
“It’s frustrating because instead of buying what you like, you buy what fits,” Dr. Johnson said about his typical shopping experience. “In men’s clothing, we don’t have a lot of fun options: it’s usually blue suit, (and) white shirt.”
“As for dress shirts, yeah, I can find something that fits me, but something that’s tailor-made with colors isn’t going to happen,” he said. “So, it’s (building an order) opened up a lot more options for me.”
When Taylor meets with a potential customer for a consultation, she brings more than just her background in the fashion industry, she comes with swatch samples of the real make of the fabric, ready to take measurements and to discuss all the details of the first fitted shirt, which can be personalized with details including (and not limited to) collar, cuffs, pockets, pleats, patterns, color, stitch (color and type), shirt, suit, jacket and or trousers.
“It appeals to me that the styles and fashions are unique and that the patterns and fabrics are kinds that you can’t get off the shelf,” Dr. Johnson said. “Also, it’s that I can get clothes that fit me and my body instead of getting something and trying to make it fit.”
“There are a lot of men that are not ‘off-the-rack sizes',” Taylor said. “Men, just like women, come in all shapes and sizes and ‘off-the-rack’ just doesn’t necessarily work for everybody,” Taylor said.
Taylor grew up in the fashion industry with her grandfather and his siblings’ manufacturing plant. “As a child I have these fabulous memories of the cutting tables with fabric-layered ties and big patterns and them tracing it with the chalk,” she recalls.
Since then, not the entrepreneurial fire nor the fixation on fabrics ever left her she said. After graduating with a marketing degree from Bentley College in Boston, one of her projects was starting several fabric businesses that were more related to women and building customized purses and pocket books.
“It’s kind of like I’ve already done this,” she said of her expertise in the field of fashion and her confidence in creating a fitting match for her customer.
“With a client, my goal is to help them develop a professional and a social wardrobe that fits their personal style,” she said. “When it’s made for you it’s a completely different feel than an ‘off-the-rack’ shirt and that’s really what the difference is.”
J. Hilburn was founded in 2007 and its product categories include custom shirts, personalized suits and sport coats, made-to-measure trousers, and formalwear.
The ready-to-wear line includes sweaters, polo shirts, outerwear, ties, pocket squares, cuff links, belts, socks and the list goes on.
The custom experience begins with a consultation, when Taylor learns of the client’s preference and takes measurements to help him build the first custom shirt.
That first shirt is selected from hundreds of high-end fabric choices. Once the client has been measured, he can continue to order his custom shirts through in-person meetings or he can build and re-order his shirts online. Custom shirts are delivered in three to four weeks and prices range from $99 to $160.
“So those are the basic choices, but again that’s what really makes it custom and really makes it yours and any shirt that is made to your measurements for you, is going to fit for you,” Taylor said. “And the better it fits, the better it’s going to feel, the more confident you are for the day.”
Local Students Compete in Business Competition for Prize
SARATOGA SPRINGS—In its fourth year, the Kenneth A. Freirich Business Plan Competition is bringing six business-minded student teams to the final round today, Friday, April 10, at Skidmore College to compete for a first place prize of $20,000, and second and third places of $10,000 and $5,000, respectfully.
This year is the first year that all participating teams have started their projects either before or during the initial stages of the competition.
“That’s why this year will be absolutely the most competitive,” said Paula Tancredi Penman, coordinator of this year’s competition. “They’ve actually all shown already that they have viable ideas and that they can carry them out.”
Thirteen teams met for the first round of the competition on February 7, and six moved on with the judges of the first round adopting a team and becoming mentors ahead of the final presentation.
“Primarily what they’re doing is trying to win money to put into their business,” Tancredi Penman said. “But the other piece of it is anybody who has a business idea, it really forces them to think it through. Then they can even see how committed they are to it.”
“They talk to the judges and get really valuable feedback,” she said. “Think about all their time spent with these mentors. What they’re really doing is starting their business.”
The competition was founded by the college’s first Skidmore College Entrepreneur in Residence, Kenneth Freirich. Freirich, a graduate of 1990, as a Skidmore student started his own publishing business and is now president of Health Monitor Network.
Last year, as he did this year, he contributed $20,000 toward the first prize. Other alumni have contributed to the pot of prize money as well.
The final presentations of the Fourth Annual Kenneth A. Freirich Business Plan Competition is Friday, April 11, at 2 p.m. in the Payne Presentation Room of the Tang Museum. Be advised: last year because of the excellent attendance, the event was standing-room only. Tancredi Penman said that she expects a similar turnout this year.
Meet the Teams
Leaf Pile Media
The Team: Walter Barber (2014), Ian Van Nest (2014) and Andrew Zimmermann (2014)
The Plan: These three created a an “original fictional universe” that they aim to turn into a protibable board game, graphic novel and app. Future plans would include the eventual expansion into online games and animation.
The Mentor: Christine Juneau (1982), principal of Christine Juneau, LLC.
Double Dee’s LLC
The Team: Stella Langat (2016)
The Plan: To register Double Dee’s LLC in Kenya as Langat said would be Kenya’s first undergarment production company dedicated to making reasonably priced intimate apparel for the modern African woman.
The Mentor: Laurie Giddins (1982), senior vice president of The Partnership Fund for NYC.
The Team: Ezra Levy (2015) and Marcella Jewel (2015)
The Plan: Web-based common ground that matches college students with businesses offering real-world, short-term projects that students can later showcase in their portfolios.
The Mentor: Geoffrey Citron, founder and president of Nomia Inc.
Munchi Heaven Agri
The Team: Adam Beek (2015)
The Plan: To grow an organic farming enterprise in Jamaica to produce celery, lettuce and other produce.
The Mentor: Jim Rossi (1982) managing partner of Saratoga Polo Association.
Rum Dog Inc.
The Team: Alexander Nassief (2016) and Zach Rohde (2014)
The Plan: After having taken second place last year, they are competing again with their business developing a luxury rum brand based in Dominica and a patent-pending aging method, during which the barrels of rum are submerged in the Caribbean Sea.
The Mentor: Andrew Eifler (2007), chief of staff at AppNexus.
East Coast Lacrosse
The Team: Seth Berger (2014)
The Plan: Berger was the third-place winner in last year’s competition. He is bringing to the table his East Coast Lacrosse apparel, which he had established in high school and last year generated sales upwards of $73, 000.
The Mentor: Michael Stein (1989), founding partner of Pensam Capital LLC.
Peer-minded posters to promote safe, friendly environments on the Internet
By Colette Linton
SARATOGA SPRINGS— The Internet is nearly an extension of the classroom. Curiosities fuel web searches, social interaction and creativity, but they don’t always lead to a place where children are safe.
Kat McLain, a fifth grader at Division Street Elementary School in Saratoga Springs, recently won the “Kids Safe Online” New York State Poster contest for creating a message to resonate with her peers about online safety.
Her winning poster depicts a cautionary scene of a familiar childhood story. Kat said that she used the widely known tale of “The Three Little Pigs”, combining her interest in reading, writing and drawing, to help relate the concepts of Internet safety.
“The requirements were to think of something good enough that could help kids with online safety,” Kat said. “I loved reading; so, I was thinking about all the things I’ve read and stuff like that. I thought of the three pigs and the big bad wolf. I thought: ‘well, that would be a good way to explain how to be safe online.’”
The contest is run through the Division of Homeland Security in New York State for grades kindergarten to 12 and promotes increasing awareness among students to encourage their peers to use the Internet safely and securely, according to the New York Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services.
This is the second year that Library Media Specialist Sarah Seniw has included the poster contest as part of her curriculum.
She said that her task during this particular program is to explain to students that treating people online is the same as a face-to-face interaction.
“I feel that there’s a disconnect in a way,” Seniw said. “A lot of times kids think that interactions with other kids or other adults online somehow aren’t the same as one’s (interactions) that are in person. Although, they are the same.”
“What I try to drive home the most to this age group is that there are consequences for treating others poorly, but there can be consequences if you do the right thing,” she said. “When you treat other respectfully, you can create respectful environments where you’re stopping others from doing the wrong thing. The same way you could do that in your school environment.”
Kat’s poster is now being judged at the national level, and Kat and her family are anxiously waiting for the results. Statewide, her poster topped 287 other submissions and she received a certificate and an engraved glass plaque with an image of her poster through the glass.
“I’d just like to say that I’m very proud of you, Katie (Kat),” Kat’s mother, Leslie McLain, said. “Not only that you have a good angle on Internet safety, but I’m also proud of you for how you treat your friends and what a good ambassador you are here at the school.”
Restaurant At Pavilion Grand Hotel To Intermingle Unique Cuisine With Local Tastes
By Colette Linton
SARATOGA SPRINGS— With about a month to go before opening in May, Jose Filomeno’s Korean fusion-styled cuisine restaurant will be the first floor installment of the Pavilion Grand Hotel, offering a unique taste and way of business to mingle and mix with the local palate two blocks from Saratoga Springs’ bustling Broadway.
The restaurant is not only to catch the eye of passerby, but it is to also function as part of a full-service hotel concept. This means that the appetites of the 17 events currently booked at the boutique hotel, as well as the fifth-floor patio dining, the 48 suites and 111 indoor restaurant seating could be fulfilled by Mingle.
“As far as our restaurant goes, it has many different faces,” Jose said, Mingle on the Avenue’s owner. “Whether you’re on the roof or on the first floor, it’s the sexiest bar in Saratoga Springs.”
Mingle’s appeal is not just about flair; however, it has utility too. Broad windows along the perimeter will bring in natural light in the dining area as well as providing for air and ample space for the working core of the restaurant, the chefs. With a large open kitchen visible from the dining area, “you’re right there, and you’re part of the show,” Jose said. “You’ll see the fire kicking up and the world is open right here.”
Korean fusion-styled cuisine is an adapted flavor that took shape over the course of Jose’s life when moving with his parents between military bases around the world. His mother, Un-Hui Filomeno, is Korean and cooking became an art of adding a local variety to her already well-versed culinary repertoire. This intermingling of culinary characteristics is the mainstay of Jose and Un-Hui’s first restaurant established three years ago in Albany and includes entrees from Five Cheese Mac, Chicken Jambalaya, meatloaf, pork schnitzel, Roasted Jerk Wings and Korean Style Bulgokee, to name a few.
“We make it our own,” Jose said. “It’s taking something you’ve known and adding our twist to it. We’re known for our big flavors as well as spice.”
“When speaking about foods, it’s a canvas, and in order to appeal to different people you need many different paints,” he said.
Each visit is intended to create a different experience for locals and visitors alike from the two-tiered row seating, the varied area lighting and colors around the restaurant, a thirty three-foot long bar, discretely placed outlets beneath the bar top for visitors to recharge their appliances to the year-round pricing on food and drinks.
“We want to be the neighborhood place with different cuisine, different feel and different vibe,” Jose said. “Our goal is that we will not raise prices for the season. It is absolutely do-able if you make a year-round business. We’re a restaurant of a busy street.
“We’re going to be the place where the bartender knows your favorite drink,” he said.
“Every corner of the restaurant will have a different look and feel,” Interior designer Valerie DeLaCruz.
“We (DeLaCruz and Jose) are trying to have it stand out from other restaurants not only in Saratoga,” she said. “[..] And mingle is going to have a combination of some really luxurious finishes as we as more natural and rustic finishes, and rustic metal juxtaposed with crystal and chrome.”
“We’re doing some amazing things,” she said. “Some touches that give a feel of historic Saratoga just like with the rest of the hotel: modern with a touch of history.”
Naval Base Pursues More Community Support
SARATOGA SPRINGS—The Naval Nuclear Power Training Unit (NPTU) in Ballston Spa is the third stop on a sailors’ journey to becoming a part of the Navy fleet. It's about a six to eight month visit for this most difficult stage of training for enlisted sailors.
This leaves a short window for Saratoga Springs resident to become acquainted with the next class that eventually becomes nuclear operators; however, Commanding Officer of Naval Support Activity (NSA) Saratoga Springs Vince Garcia said that it's important they do.
“We have a very demanding program, and we ask a lot of them. Going out with the community is kind of letting them know that there are people there that are counting on them,” CDR Garcia said. “Building that relationship that will help them understand the big picture in the Navy, the big picture in our country, what they're doing that they may not recognize.”
Rear Admiral Dixon R. Smith made his first visit to Saratoga Springs on Tuesday at a Meet and Greet hosted by The Saratoga County Chamber during which he recognized the win-win attitudes of both on the part of the sailors and the community to build a stronger relationship.
On any given day about 1,800 to 1,900 active duty sailors are living in upstate New York, about 1,100 of that community students. Annually the NPTU graduates 10 percent of the sailors that go on to replenish the Naval fleet, and 50 percent of all the Navy's nuclear engineers are trained at the site.
The relationship between the community and its sailors has been a work in progress in the past decade, and most notably in the past year. CDR Garcia has been working toward ensuring that, even though a sailor’s time in Saratoga Springs is usually short – only lasting the duration of their training, that the relationship goes beyond fulfilling daily necessities to one that is capable of motivating sailors, and the community embracing the transitory nature of the sailors’ training for lasting friendships.
“Maybe they're not used to having friends just for a short period of time and they're gone,” he said. “That's our culture, the Navy culture. We meet people in and out. We're ships passing in the dark, but you know what, we're shipmates to the end. And maybe, in a lot of ways, we're asking to become shipmates with Saratoga.”
Not only are the sailors training to be nuclear operators residents, but their families are too. This contributes to the economic impact the base has in the area - approximately $500 million annually, according toa study that the US Navy commissioned in 2010. By comparison, Skidmore generates about $400 million annually followed by the Saratoga Racecourse at $200 million, according to the college’s economic report a year ago and an economic report conducted by Saratoga County IDA, respectfully.
“My own base is small compared to other bases, it just wasn't built up much over the years, I have to leverage facilities out in town. The chamber has been instrumental in that,” CDR Garcia said.
A year later CDR Garcia approached The Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce with a presentation about the Naval base and its impact on the community as well as the needs of its sailors that could be better served with the help of the community.
“I commented after he finishes: 'that was probably the best, most informative breakfast I have ever attended'," said Todd Shimkus, president of The Saratoga County Chamber. I'm fairly certain that everyone there has been in touch to contact him and see what they could do to help....So, his leadership and his willingness to engage the community really inspired the change we are now seeing in the business community to support the Navy.There was this chart in one part (of the presentation), where there would normally be services at the base that the base would normally provide, but here the community should provide.”
“Most Navy bases have a fitness center. We don’t, so we go to the YMCA. Most Navy bases have a canteen. Not here, so the sailors go to local stores for everything. Housing, furniture, everything is something they have to go offsite for,” Shimkus said.
Saratoga Springs Port Call on June 14. Parade begins at 12 p.m. followed by festivities at Congress Park.
Movie screening of “Comedy Warriors: Healing Through Humor” to be held June 20 at 6 p.m., at Saratoga City Center. It is a fund to raise awareness for the Peer-to-Peer program hosted by the Veterans Business Council of The Saratoga Chamber of Commerce.