On Thursday, April 8, 2021, at 9:00 a.m., I met up with Ryan McMahon, Darryl Leggieri, and Deann Devitt on the City Center’s surface parking lot. We were meeting with Peter and Cole Gailor, of Gailor Landscaping. They had generously agreed to help us move concrete blocks to support the local restaurants on Henry, Caroline and Phila Street.
One year ago, D.A. Collins had donated and installed these concrete blocks in the same places. Over the winter, the City Center had stored them so that they could be reused. With several new restaurants participating this year, D.A. Collins would again help us out. Standing there looking at the blocks before they were moved, the four of us reminisced a little bit. Not one of us ever thought we’d still be doing this a year later. But the virus had other ideas.
Last March, we formed a partnership with the Saratoga County Chamber, Discover Saratoga, the Downtown Business Association, the City Center and the Saratoga County Prosperity Partnership. We had been meeting every week since. We had been talking, texting and collaborating nearly every day since. We had help as well from Samantha Bosshart, from the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation, and Martin Mbugua, from Skidmore College.
We said that if you called any one of us, we’d all come to help. We did this. We are still doing this. It was this Saratoga Crew that gathered information that all of us shared via email and social media to help local organizations to stay informed about EIDL and PPP loans; reopening protocols; special promotions and events. We coordinated on a range of advocacy efforts. We created and distributed hundreds of recovery kits filled with PPE to area employers as they reopened. We were the ones that drafted and then implemented the Saratoga County Economic Recovery Plan. We organized Saratoga County’s reopening ribbon cutting and the Save Our Locals campaign.
We’re all great friends now as well as colleagues. We were there to help everyone in our community as well as each of our organizations. This work was not without stress. We struggled too at times. We always knew we could count on each other. Sometimes we offered advice. Sometimes we offered a joke or a reason to laugh. We lived the mantra we had pushed out across our community. One year later, we know that WE are Stronger Together.
I learned recently that while our groups were collaborating in an extraordinary fashion, so were others. The leaders of a group of local impact sector organizations have been collaborating to create and implement a comprehensive effort to help those who are homeless in our community. The leaders of a group of arts organizations and local venues have been collaborating to create an extraordinary series of events we’ll all be able to enjoy later this year. This gives me hope.
As we recover and reopen, I hope we find joy not just in gathering again but also in collaborating like never before. Let’s do our best to not just meet together but to take action together. Let’s not just collaborate together but celebrate together. We’ve been living, working, learning, and doing alone for too long. I’ve witnessed the power of collaboration at what might have been our darkest hour as a nation and a world.
Our small businesses are not out of the woods yet. Our civic institutions continue to be challenged. We have people living in poverty whether that is defined by the absence of income, food, a place to live, a job, health, personal safety or someone to care for them. We’ve got more work to do. There are more people who will need our help. To really help them, we will need to always be Stronger Together.