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GANSEVOORT– This summer, Jeanie Barbera and Sarah Currier opened Custom Fitness, a unique 24/7 gym that provides its clients with everything they need for optimum health and wellness. The first thing you notice when walking in the door is how bright, clean and inviting it is, complete with new fitness machines and spacious exercise rooms.
“It’s the only fitness boutique in the area,” said Barbera, who began her fitness business in her garage 7 years ago. Many of Barbera’s clients have been with her since the beginning. “We just love the setup, we love what we do, and we love our clients. It wasn’t just our dream to expand, but our clients’ too.”
The name Custom Fitness is appropriate, since workout routines, classes and personal training are all designed for each individual member.
“We give our clients workouts and guidance, which a lot of gyms do not offer,” Barbera said. “Then they can refer to those workouts on their own, and even ask for more.”
Custom Fitness is perfect for those who are new to exercise or just want the tools to get in better shape the right way. Trainers will show members how to use the variety of machines and free weights, as well as give tips on better eating habits.
“We don’t sell supplements,” said Barbera. “We believe in teaching people how to eat and doing it the natural way. You’ll feel a lot better just eating the right way.” Custom Fitness has workshops that teach clients things like how to read labels, when to eat carbs or protein and how to avoid the pitfall of unhealthy restaurant foods.
Besides the wide range of free weights, cardio and strength machines, Custom Fitness offers classes such as spinning, cardio kickboxing, yoga, Pilates, Zumba and workout “boot camps.” One-on-one personal training is also available.
“You’re going to find an instructor that best fits you and your level of fitness,” said co-owner Sarah Currier. “It’s about finding what your lifestyle is and what you need to do to improve it.”
Custom fitness holds weight loss challenges, similar to “The Biggest Loser” competition. Over eight to twelve weeks, members compete to see who can lose the most weight. At the end of the competitions, the winners get prizes, such as gift baskets or gift cards. According to Barbera, the competition makes it fun and keeps the group on track for their goals.
Custom Fitness is not just for a certain type of person, either. Their motto is “all ages, all shapes, all sizes, and all abilities.” Barbera and Currier’s goal is lifelong fitness for everyone. There are even classes for kids that can help improve coordination, speed, agility and overall health, which is great for advancing sports performance.
For more information about Custom Fitness, including class schedules, membership fees and all member services, visit customfitnessgym.com.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – After its premiere success in April, Chase Con Expo is back, and this time for an entire weekend. The Saratoga Springs City Center will be hosting this unique pop culture convention on October 24 and 25. Without a doubt, there will be comics (and some of the best comic artists) at the expo, but there is so much to do and see that the description of “comic convention” just doesn’t seem to cover everything Chase Con has to offer.
“This is my universe,” said Chase Con Expo founder and organizer, Samuel Chase. “It has everything I love in a convention: movies, TV, comics and more. It’s everything pop culture.”
For those who love entertainment in all its forms, there is something at the expo for every interest. Here are just some of the weekend’s highlights to look forward to:
-Bonnie Piesse – An Australian actress and singer/songwriter, Piesse is most known for her role as Beru Lars in Star Wars Epsisode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
-Steve Lavigne – a comic book illustrator best known for his work on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. His artwork is seen on the majority of TMNT licensed merchandise. He is the inspiration for the character Michelangelo, according to TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman. Other notable comic artists include Michael Oppenheimer, Kevin Conrad, Bill Anderson, Dan Nakrosis and more.
-Brian Myers, former WWE superstar known as Curt Hawkins – Myers, who now fights for TNA Impact Wrestling, will be making a special one-day only appearance on Sunday, October 25, from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
-Jim Martin – a puppet performer, producer and director for over 35 years, Martin has performed on children’s television shows such as Captain Kangaroo, Eureka’s Castle, The Puzzle Place and Sesame Street. He went on to direct Between the Lions on PBS, Bear in the Big Blue House on Disney and has won 5 Emmys for his directing work on Sesame Street.
-Rika Muranaka – theme composer and producer of some of Konami’s most successful and award-winning game titles, including Silent Hill, Metal Gear Solid and its sequels.
-Damien “E/Love” Matthias – multiplatinum award-winning writer, producer and director who has sold over 35 million records. He has co-produced and performed with LL Cool J, and has helped launch the careers of Tupac Shakur and John Forte.
-The 1967 Chevy Impala from the show “Supernatural” will be on display.
-5 famous cosplayers will be in attendance at Chase Con including Saraphina Cosplay, L’Homme Du Soleil, UndiesOfWondy, Kathrine Zan and Chelsea Von Chastity. The latter three will be judging this year’s cosplay contests.
-The adult cosplay contest will take place on Saturday, with the youth contest on Sunday. Guests are invited to dress in their favorite cosplay costumes to try to place in categories such as adult beginner, adult advanced, best overall group cosplay, best in show, best in performance and best craftsmanship.
-Cosfights, which will demonstrate an introduction to stage combat, basic techniques and fight choreography, will be performed by Coach Moses and Tico Flores Kyle.
-Gaming tournaments hosted by Dirty Goblin Games will take place throughout the weekend. Magic the Gathering, Warhammer 40K and Yu-Gi-Oh are just some of the table game tournaments offered.
-Super Smash Bros. tournaments will be hosted by Nicholas Warchocki of Arc Way Gaming and give gamers the chance to take home trophies by playing either Melee or Wii-U versions of the game.
“We try to do the best show we possibly can,” said Chase. “It’s a medium sized convention so we can give more to our fans. It’s not as crowded and congested, so you can see more. And the City Center is really nice and laid out well.”
Merchandise and art vendors are a big part of Chase Con Expo. Tables will be set up throughout the City Center selling books, comics, artwork, toys and games and much more. Franklin Community Center will have a table where guests can bring in food and goods for donation, as well as a raffle; all proceeds go toward the community center.
For those who are used to the pricey tickets of most conventions, the admission to Chase Con Expo will come as a nice surprise. One-day passes are $15 and two-day passes are $25. Group admission packs are also available. VIP passes range from $50 to $100 and include early admission to the expo to get an advantageous sneak peek, as well as a gift bag of merchandise.
“I want to see it succeed. I like seeing people happy, that’s something I really enjoyed about the first [convention]. I got great positive feedback,” Chase continued. With over 2,500 guests attending the one-day expo in April, Chase is estimating that this weekend’s Chase Con will bring in over 3,000.
A pre-party and a post-party at Bailey’s Cafe will bookend Chase Con weekend on Friday and Sunday night. Both parties begin at 5 p.m. and go until 9 p.m. Over a dozen guest stars appearing at Chase Con will be at the parties, which will also include prizes and giveaways. VIP ticket holders get into the parties for free.
Chase Con Expo begins at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday and ends at 7 p.m. On Sunday, doors open at 9:30, with activities going until 5 p.m.
For tickets and more information, visit ChaseCon.org.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Saratoga Children’s Theatre will be performing the Tony Award winning play “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” from October 23 to 25 at Saratoga Music Hall.
Directed by Bob Berenis, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee” is a sidesplitting musical comedy that follows a cast of quirky and eclectic characters as they navigate their way towards winning a spelling bee. However, each of the spellers has their own heartbreaking backstory that is told through flashbacks and dynamic songs. Audiences will enjoy the witty humor, clever musical numbers and the wide-ranging performance skills of these young actors.
The cast, made up of 17 high school students, has been rehearsing for several months and the actors are more than ready to show off their hard work.
“I’ve had a lot of fun with this show and I’ve learned a lot,” said Matthew Boyce, who plays the Mitch Mahoney, the rough-around-the-edges “comfort counselor” who is only at the bee as part of his community service. “Audiences will have a great time; everyone will think this show is hilarious. There are some jokes only adults will get. It’s been hard to keep a straight face a lot of the time during rehearsal.”
“I’m looking forward the most to the audience’s reaction of the different characters on stage. Everyone can relate to certain aspects of all the characters,” said Leigh Berenis, the Associate Executive Director of Saratoga Children’s Theater and choreographer of the play. She also notes that while there is a lot of goofy humor, many of the jokes are more for older audiences, so the show is rated PG-13.
Audience members will actually get the chance to directly participate in the play as well. Before the show, adult audience members have the opportunity to sign up if they are interested. Three random names are then chosen during the play and selected audience members get up on stage and join the cast of spellers. They act along with the cast, prompted throughout by the actors.
“The audience volunteers make each show different. It really adds to the humor of the play,” said actor Sam Miller.
While the show is very funny, it does have a darker aspect when it comes to the lives of the spellers. They tell the story of their family lives throughout, which often allude to neglect, abuse and feelings of inadequacy.
“The play shows so much of how life is,” said sophomore Jackson Cassady. “It may not be what we always want, but it shows we can still always make it work."
Performances are Friday, October 23 and Saturday, October 24 at 7 p.m., with a matinee on Sunday, October 25 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for guests 18 and under. All tickets will be sold at the door. Saratoga Music Hall is located at 474 Broadway in Saratoga Springs.
For more information about the play or Saratoga Children’s Theatre, visit saratogachildrenstheatre.org.
SARATOGA SPRINGS — St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church recently welcomed its new associate pastor, Rev. Ethan Luhman. Luhman was ordained at the church mid-August after moving to Saratoga Springs with his family from the Midwest. Though he is only 26, Luhman possesses a humble wisdom that makes him seem like an old soul.
Growing up in a rural, farming community in a small town near Madison, Wisconsin, Luhman spent a lot of time outdoors in the country. He enjoyed the small town culture, something he also likes about Saratoga.
“I went to a small high school in a town where everyone knows everyone,” said Luhman, who graduated with less than 50 other students. “I appreciate that Saratoga isn’t so large you can’t know everyone and get to know people. We are overwhelmed by how great the community is here.”
Luhman has been part of the Lutheran church his entire life. His father, a district attorney, was involved in the church, teaching bible study and Sunday school. The church that Luhman and his family attended was built by his great-great-grandfather, a Norwegian immigrant. The church still stands today, and remains in the middle of a huge cornfield.
After graduating from high school as valedictorian, Luhman was set on going to college but wasn’t yet sure what he truly wanted to do. He initially considered the medical field.
“I was a biology major at first, but one day my pastor asked, ‘Have you ever thought about being a pastor?’ When you think about careers, you don’t think of ‘pastor’ as one of them,” said Luhman. “But then I started thinking about my own gifts and my abilities. I want to help people and I want to be able to use the gifts God has given me to be among His people.”
“I thought about being a chiropractor, a healer of the body, but I was like well, I will work at being a healer of souls,” Luhman said lightheartedly.
Luhman attended Concordia University in Mequon, Wisconsin, where he immediately changed his major to theology. While in college, Luhman learned to read ancient Greek and Hebrew, and had the opportunity to get involved in a number of ministries. When he was a sophomore, he started a tutoring program in inner city Milwaukee.
“That really expanded my experience because I came from a rural community, and now I was in an urban environment with a diverse group of people. I had a heart for them. It let me know how big the kingdom of God is. It includes people all over the world, people who don’t always look like me,” reflected Luhman.
After college, Luhman attended Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri, where he met men who were like-minded and on the same journey. He also learned a lot about his passions and what his strengths are.
“I learned to be a better listener. So often we get caught up talking or thinking that we understand what someone is saying, but to take the time to really give them the space to express themselves and be open, it can be a very healing thing. It is empowering to be heard,” said Luhman.
Luhman met his wife, Sherry, in his last semester of college while on a mission trip to Mexico to build houses. After dating for eight months and a brief engagement, they got married in 2012. Shortly after, they had their first son, Abram, who is now almost 3. Two weeks before arriving in Saratoga Springs, Luhman’s wife gave birth to their second son, Owain. His family has been by his side through seminary school, his ordination and now, his first placement as a pastor.
A group of pastors that oversee different areas across the country decided where Luhman would be placed. They decided the right fit for him is here in Saratoga Springs.
“We were ready for an adventure,” said Luhman.
St. Paul’s had been waiting for another pastor for five years, making Luhman’s arrival that much more significant and timely. Luhman works with head pastor, Rev. Adam Wiegand to help lead church service, teach bible studies and help with the church’s youth services.
“I’m excited to be a witness for Jesus here and to reach out to the community. I want to be there for the people. That’s why I became a pastor, to be with people and to be a guide of sorts,” said Luhman. “What brings me joy is being a part of and leading a community of people that are focused on serving Jesus in their lives.”
Luhman’s daily life as the new associate pastor consists of a lot of catching up and getting familiar with the church’s programs. He meets with members of his congregation, helps with the church’s preschool and visits Saratoga Hospital regularly to meet with patients.
When he is not at St. Paul’s, Luhman is busy being a dad to two small boys. He enjoys taking his son, Abram, to the library and to Congress Park to feed the ducks. The family also recently went apple and pumpkin picking at Saratoga Apple.
Luhman adds with a smile, “We can’t imagine a better community to be a part of. We don’t have plans of leaving anytime soon.”
SARATOGA SPRINGS – According to the United Nations, 25,000 people die daily from starvation, thirst or diseases related to malnutrition. This is approximately the population of Saratoga Springs. Be a part of the solution for world hunger with Saratoga Springs’ thirty-sixth annual CROP Hunger Walk on Sunday, October 25.
There are 2,000 local CROP walks around the country. The walks raise about 25 percent of the $81 million dollar budget that funds Church World Service (CWS) projects. CWS is an interdenominational organization founded in the late 1940’s to provide aid to Eastern Europe after WWII.
Today, CWS has dozens of projects in virtually every corner of the globe, both in the United States and abroad. Projects serve refuges from wars and disasters, and provide hunger relief and access to fresh water in nations where people are starving. CWS has been actively involved in current refugee relief efforts in the Middle East and in southeastern Europe.
CROP stands for Communities Responding to Overcome Poverty. CROP walks were initially introduced as an educational and funding tool in the 1960’s. Now, CROP walks are supported by many churches and synagogues, as well as schools, businesses, community organizations, and other secular groups committed to fighting world hunger.
CROP walks funded hurricane relief after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and more recently provided aid for victims of flooding in Colorado.
25 percent of funds raised from local CROP walks are returned to the local community. For Saratoga, a portion of the funds raised will go toward Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council.
“We are a community that cares about other people. The CROP walk is just one of the many ways the community comes together to express concern and thoughtfulness about this problem in the world and in our country,” said Ken Klotz, local organizer for the CROP walk in Saratoga.
The CROP walk on October 25 will cover about 3 miles, but walkers can do as much or as little of the full walk as they wish to. Beginning at the Spirit of Life statue in Congress Park, the walk will follow a route around downtown, mostly on Broadway. After an initial short loop, there is a rest stop at the Presbyterian New England Congregational Church on Park and Circular Street. A longer loop extends to the City Center before walkers return to Congress Park via the west side of Broadway.
Though Saratoga’s is relatively short, CROP walks in other communities are sometimes marathons of 15 miles or longer. The biggest CROP walks in the area are in Hudson Falls and Schenectady, taking place in the spring.
The CROP walk is free and open to the public, but donations are accepted online and at the day of the walk.
For more information, or to donate, visit cropwalk.org or call 518-587-1534. For more information about Church World Services, visit cwsglobal.org.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Local filmmakers are collaborating with the Saratoga Film Forum for an exclusive “Meet the Filmmakers” evening event on Saturday, October 17.
Director/screenwriter Nicole Coady of Ballston Spa and Director of Photography Marty Hardin of Troy are partnering to produce a retelling of the classic Brother’s Grimm fairytale, “Twelve Dancing Princesses,” which they plan to begin shooting in 2016. The trailer for the movie was filmed in and around Saratoga Springs, where Coady wants to shoot the entire film.
“Saratoga feels like a fairy tale to me. So it’s the perfect location to actually shoot the film,” said Coady. “It will cost more to film here; that’s why our Indiegogo campaign is so important.”
Coady and Hardin are raising funds for the new film through Indiegogo, a popular crowdfunding engine online. They estimate they will need $1.8 million to complete the film, which is small change for Hollywood, but a big sum for independent filmmakers.
The movie trailer and Indiegogo campaign launch will preview at Saratoga Film Forum on October 17, at 7:30 p.m.
“We are premiering our trailer at this event because we want our community to be a part of our filmmaking journey,” Coady continued. “We are 100 percent invested in making this film a success, but we can’t do it without the support of our fans and our community.”
In addition to the exclusive preview of the “Twelve Dancing Princesses” trailer, the party will feature finger foods and a cash bar, as well as a one-time only screening of “La Belle et La Bête,” the brilliant 1946 French film adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast” by Jean Cocteau.
“Coady’s film and ‘La Belle et La Bête’ are quite different from the animated versions that our patrons may be familiar with,” said Carol Maxwell, Saratoga Film Forum president. “This is a very old tale that explores classic themes: internal versus external beauty, and the redemptive power of love. We rarely show older movies, but this film is significant, and we are honored to screen ‘La Belle et La Bête,’ especially in collaboration with these filmmakers.”
“Our patrons love independent films. This event provides our community a chance to get to know rising filmmakers, and to dig deeper into the significance of this classic story,” Maxwell concluded.
Tickets are $10 online and $11.50 at the door, and include admission to the launch party, an exclusive viewing of the “Twelve Dancing Princesses” trailer, plus the viewing of “La Belle et La Bête.” Doors open at 6:30 p.m., with the launch party beginning at 7:30 p.m.
For more information, or to reserve tickets online, visit 12dancingprincessesfilm.com/events/.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Stephan Pastis, the cartoonist and creator of the comic strip, “Pearls before Swine,” will be visiting Northshire Bookstore for a discussion and book signing on October 14 at 6 p.m. He will be promoting his newly released book, “Timmy Failure: Sanitized for your Protection,” the fourth installment in his “Timmy Failure” series.
Despite his success in the comic world, Pastis didn’t start out as a cartoonist. He was a litigation attorney for almost ten years, but disliked it so much that he knew he had to make a change. His passion for cartooning began as a kid, but he didn’t pursue that dream until 1996, halfway through his law career. He finally found success with “Pearls before Swine,” which appears in over 700 newspapers across the country daily, and has a wide fan base.
“It’s like I don’t have a job. I get paid to do what I love. If anybody can get money for a hobby, they should, it’s fantastic,” said Pastis.
Pastis came up with Rat, one of the main characters in “Pearls before Swine,” when he was sitting in a class in law school. Pastis felt that Rat was too “overwhelming” by himself so he paired him with a sweet character, Pig, to balance it out. Pastis finds that using animals in his comics works as an advantage.
“I like working with animals because you get away with a lot more. There is a different level of scrutiny,” explained Pastis. “I can show Rat juggling knives, but if I show a young kid doing that, it makes it too real.”
Though using talking animals gives the cartoon an unrealistic element, “Pearls before Swine” has received its fair share of criticism and controversy. Comics about George W. Bush, ADHD and a llama named Ataturk that was perceived by many as racist towards Turks, have all received negative attention for their questionable messages. Pastis insists they are simply cartoons that give a frank, edgy view of the world, and he is no longer bothered by ruffled feathers.
“When you first start out, it shakes you up, then after a while, it just comes with the territory. People will always complain and a complaint free script would just be bland,” said Pastis.
While “Pearls before Swine” has contains humor more suited for adults, Pastis is breaking out of the box with his book series for kids, “Timmy Failure,” about an inept kid detective and his sidekick polar bear. The first book in the series, “Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made” spent over 20 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list. The fourth installment, “Timmy Failure: Sanitized for your Protection” was released Tuesday, October 6. “Timmy Failure” is now published in over 30 languages worldwide. “[Timmy] is geared toward reluctant readers, between the ages of 8 and 12. In the age group, kids are reluctant to read, particularly boys,” said Pastis. “Hopefully, it’ll make them laugh, and if they laugh, they’ll turn the page. It is somewhere between a novel and a comic, so it is not too dense. This is a wide genre that has taken off.”
Pastis has received positive feedback from teachers, parents and librarians, about how “Timmy Failure” has gotten their children to read.
WILTON - Grant Cottage is hosting an exciting and educational Civil War encampment on Sunday, October 11, from 12 to 4 p.m. Mt. McGregor, the highest point in Saratoga County and where Grant Cottage is located, is the perfect place to see the fall foliage and enjoy a picnic lunch, all while learning about history.
Set up to look like a real Civil War camp, Grant Cottage will take visitors 150 years into the past. One of the most inventive features of the day is the “press conference” with 11 Union Generals. Visitors will have the opportunity to question the generals about their strategy and tactics in famous Civil War battles. Professional re-enactors in their Civil War regalia will portray generals Sheridan, Chamberlain, Sherman, U.S. Grant, and many others about the “what ifs” of their battles.
Kids can learn about Morse code on a real telegraph key and can play with Civil War era toys. Visitors can also talk with America’s first nurse, Clara Barton. Live music will be provided by “Iron Jacks” and “Run the River.”
Civil War book authors will share their multiple points of view on battles. One of the authors is Chris Mackowski, who recently wrote the book, “Grant’s Last Battle: The Story behind the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant.” Mackowski is a writing professor at St. Bonaventure University and has authored more than a dozen books. Mackowski’s familiarity with the former president as a general and as a writer brings “Grant’s Last Battle” to life with new insight, told with engaging prose. Mackowski’s book signing and presentation will take place from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
At the encampment, there will be firings of black powder rifled muskets at the Overlook, as well as a demonstration of an 1885 train whistle. A Sutler’s Tent will be set up, so guests can see what the civilian merchants sold to soldiers in the field.
Guests are welcome to bring a picnic lunch or eat at the Hard Tack Café.
Admission is $10 per person, free for kids ten and younger.
For tickets or more information, visit GrantCottage.org or call 519-584-4353
SARATOGA SPRINGS – The sixteenth annual Community Service Awards Brunch hosted by the Saratoga Springs Rotary Club took place Sunday, October 4 at the Saratoga Springs City Center.
The brunch was a fundraiser for the Saratoga Springs Rotary Education Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to assist students from the greater Saratoga community to advance their education and training by raising and managing funds in support of scholarships and general educational needs. In June, $53,000 in scholarships was awarded to 12 local students.
The fundraising brunch featured a silent auction, food donated by Longfellows restaurant, as well as musical performances by the chorus group “Dynamics” from Skidmore College.
Philip W. Klein and Reverend Jay and Judy Ekman were honored for their humanitarian services in the community.
Klein is currently vice president at Adirondack Trust Insurance in Saratoga Springs. He has lived in Saratoga Springs for more than 35 years and spent 18 of them as a supervisor for the City of Saratoga Springs. He also served as past chair of Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce, past board member of Saratoga Care, and past president for Saratoga YMCA. He is the current chairman of The Wesley Foundation and sits on the Saratoga Springs Planning Board.
When he was accepting his speech, he mentioned how he felt the most reward working with the board at Saratoga Hospital. “They have experienced well-paced growth, and medical care is of the utmost importance,” Klein said.
Klein inspired the crowd at the end of his speech by saying, “Volunteer. It’s good for you.”
Reverend Jay and Judy Ekman have been married for almost 50 years. Together they helped start the Rural Food Delivery Program and have been involved in youth-centered activities for many years. Judy helped start the Child Abuse Task Force (now the Center for the Family), while Jay chaired OASIS, a drug counselling effort. They both have organized many interfaith activities over the years in the community.
“If you’re trying to make the world a better place, going at it alone is not an option,” said Judy Ekman.
In regards to his wife, Jay Ekman said, “We have a shared purpose and a shared memory.”
For more information about the Saratoga Spring Rotary Education Foundation, visit saratogaspringsscholarships.org.
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Domestic violence is the number two violent crime in Saratoga County, the primary cause of family homelessness, and one of the top two causes of homicide. In fact, from 2010 to 2013, 100 percent of homicides in Saratoga County were because of domestic violence.
According to Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, one in four women and one in seven men will be the victim of domestic violence at some point in their life. As October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, it is key to look at the statistics and learn about how domestic abuse affects our loved ones, our society and even ourselves.
Wellspring is a fully comprehensive relationship and sexual abuse service for Saratoga County. Previously called Domestic Violence and Rape Crisis Services for Saratoga County (DVRC), Wellspring helps victims of domestic violence, while simultaneously providing prevention education for the community.
“We have so many services that can help people before a crisis and that can avert a crisis,” said Maggie Fronk, the Executive Director of Wellspring for the past 14 years. “With our other name, it said “crisis” so many people didn’t think they could come in until after the crisis. Wellspring is really promoting all of the things we do to help people be safe, and ultimately, avoid that crisis.”
The vision for Wellspring is a Saratoga County free of abuse, and awareness is vital to that vision. Domestic violence is more prevalent in the community than anyone realizes, and it’s much more than physical abuse. Domestic violence can manifest as emotional abuse, sexual abuse, isolation, economic abuse and psychological abuse. These many forms of domestic violence often occur together.
“I think one of the biggest myths is that domestic violence is only physical. It can be, yet there can be highly abusive relationships that have no physical abuse at all,” said Fronk.
A stereotype exists that domestic violence only happens to certain people. In reality, all socio-economic groups, all races, all religions and all genders are affected by domestic violence. According to Fronk, this stereotype may exist because domestic violence is a crime that happens in the home, outside of public view.
It is never easy to make the first step in reaching out for help, but Wellspring tries to make it uncomplicated and nonintimidating.
“Just call and make an appointment, or if need be, just walk in the door. All our services are free and confidential,” said Fronk. “We respond to what your needs are. One person might come in and be ready to leave the abuse, go to a shelter and get an order of protection. Another person may just want to talk about what’s happening and find out if it is an abusive relationship. It is driven by the needs of whoever is walking in our door for help.”
Helping over 1,000 people per year, Wellspring prioritizes what each individual needs and wants at that time, acknowledging that it is different for everyone. No one is going to be rushed to leave their abuser or pressured into steps they are not ready for. The only commonality for everyone is that they are going to be talked to about safety options, so they can be safe with whatever choice they make. There will be customized, individualized safety planning for anyone who comes into Wellspring.
One anonymous survivor who has been helped by Wellspring said, “[Wellspring] supported me and helped me when I was going through a very tough moment in my life. They were there for me when I needed someone to talk to, to advise me how to get help, supporting me during the court days. The staff was also always nice and helpful with my son. They made our stay as easy as possible. They supported us with summer camp for day care when I could not afford it so I could keep working.”
The array of services Wellsprings provides is vast. Whether someone needs counseling, legal counseling or case management, the resources are available. There are even advocates that can accompany victims to the police or to court.
Financial security is a terrifying thought for many who want to leave a violent relationship. Victims are afraid they won’t be able to support themselves and their children after leaving their abuser. Wellspring offers an eight-week financial literacy program that covers everything from knowing your assets and rights with money, to budgeting, to getting a job and growing in that career. It also helps people apply for public assistance, such as SNAP, for temporarily relief during a difficult period to get survivors back on their feet.
Wellspring has shelter and housing opportunities readily accessible. The shelter is in an undisclosed location in the county, ensuring safety and privacy.
“Some people might be coming in [to the shelter] for a few days, letting things settle down at home. Other times, they might be ready to totally change their life and have no idea where to start. Either one of those is fine,” explained Fronk. It is important to note that children and parents stay together in the shelter.
If victims still need help with housing after leaving a shelter, there is an affordable housing program with subsidized rent and support services.
Shelter is not only provided for people, either. Pets are often used as tools of coercion and control, keeping victims trapped in abusive situations. Abusers may threaten to harm or kill pets if the victim tries to leave. In turn, Wellspring developed the Safe Pet Partnership, which provides loving foster homes for all pets while a victim goes into a shelter and receives the help they need. When they are ready, families are then reunited with their pets. This program has fostered hamsters, fish, cats, dogs, and even horses, taking away the worry about pet safety when escaping domestic violence.
While Wellspring deals directly with healing and supporting victims of abuse, as well as their family, friends and pets, they are very much involved in preventing domestic violence in the first place. Wellspring’s awareness programs visit local schools, businesses and community organizations to teach about domestic violence, including what to look for and what to do if you think you or a friend may be a victim. An emphasis is put on being an active bystander, saying or doing something about it when you see violence happening.
“When you start at the high school level, you can stop this behavior from progressing into adulthood and escalating. The point is to get ahead of this,” said Fronk.
Wellspring makes getting help comfortable, inviting and shame-free. By providing a wide range of awareness, education and victim services, they are making help for domestic violence more accessible to everyone. Fronk says it perfectly: “You are not alone in this.”
If you or a loved one is a victim of domestic violence, or even suspects abuse, call Wellspring’s 24-hour hotline at 518-584-8188. Wellspring is located at 480 Broadway, downstairs in the Collamer building, next door to City Hall. For more information or to donate to Wellspring, visit Wellspringcares.org.