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Women of Influence 2010 Saratoga County’s Top 5

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Women of Influence 2010 Saratoga County’s Top 5

Friday, May 21, 2010

Change Agent:

Barbara Glaser Barbara Glaser “Real generosity toward the future lies in giving all to the present.” – Albert Camus

by Helen Susan Edelman for Saratoga Today

T

he epicenter of Barbara Glaser’s universe is in Saratoga Springs, but her boundaries stretch from the Adirondacks to Africa, from Manhattan to Minnesota. And always and everywhere, Glaser’s presence is a harbinger that something’s going to change – for the better. An advocate for civic involvement, Glaser’s wide-ranging commitments have materialized as projects, programs, physical spaces and personal relationships that have enriched her adopted hometown. These achievements are made possible by Glaser’s ability to galvanize the right mix of people to create, fulfill and nurture a vision. She is the exceptional spearhead who is happy to light a flame and pass the torch. “It’s about the strategic mobilization of diverse resources,” says Glaser from the Spring Street home where she has lived for almost half her life. “What I get excited about is finding creative ways to engage and empower people to address a variety of community, regional and global issues. And to have fun doing it.” Glaser’s contributions to the community are legendary. She is well known for founding the Saratoga Open Space Project in 1987 along with a small group of citizens who joined together to establish an independent, nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the “city in the country” that draws visitors from around the world to Saratoga Springs in all seasons. With a clear mission to sustain a vibrant downtown within a spectacular rural landscape, the Open Space Project became an effective voice for “smart growth,” protecting and providing public access to natural resources, and a dynamic advocate for preserving the quality of life in Saratoga Springs. Just last month she was confirmed by the New York State Senate to a seat on the SaratogaCapital District Regional Parks Commission. Glaser also served on the board of the Land Trust for the Saratoga Region and steered these two groups to merge in 2003 to become Saratoga

PLAN (Preserving Land and Nature). The merged organization provides direct land protection and stewardship services through the acquisition of land and conservation easements while simultaneously advocating for land conservation planning, strategies and funding with local governments, organizations, and individual land owners. PLAN is working to foster regional coordination and cooperation in land use, open space and recreational trail planning. Glaser remains involved as an emeritus board member. “When people take active responsibility, the quality of life in a community improves,” says Glaser. “Saratoga Springs now has an open space plan, hiking and biking trails, a farmers’ market because citizens worked to make those things possible.” Indeed, PLAN has protected more than 3,115 acres of farmland, recreational lands, natural habitats and water resources in Saratoga County since its inception. Warm and bright as the sun, sage, savvy and progressive, Glaser’s commitment to land and wildlife conservation extend from the Adirondack Park – where she serves on the board of the Adirondack Nature Conservancy and Adirondack Land Trust – to the intimate environment of her backyard garden, a sheltered oasis three blocks off Broadway. “I love my backyard though all the seasons,” says Glaser, gazing through the window to assess how the new buds are faring, “from the tulips to the lilacs, on through the summer perennials, the fall leaves and the winter holly and berries. Every week it’s different.” She has conceived “outdoor rooms,” she points out; a swing, a bench, a porch and cluster of trees define the contours and nooks of her in-town Eden that has been featured twice on the Soroptimist Secret Garden Tour and will be included in a soon-to-be-released book by Janet Loughrey, “Saratoga in Bloom.” It is no surprise that what Glaser appreciates most about the way her garden grows is its “sequential blooming.” As is in other areas within her sphere of influence, energy unfolds around Glaser and takes on layers of meaning as it grows.

But it’s not all about the outdoors. For many years Glaser was the codirector of Great Camp Sagamore, a National Historic Site and educational conference center in the central Adirondacks. There she oversaw both the educational programming of the site, and the efforts to restore and interpret this significant place in Adirondack cultural history. Camp Uncas, an Adirondack Great Camp that she shares with several other families, achieved National Landmark status the summer of 2009. Glaser also is president of Linell Lands, Inc., a small company dedicated to preserving historic buildings for contemporary use and to integrating environmental conservation priorities into land development projects. She is particularly proud of converting the old School No. 4 at 112 Spring Street into a center that houses nonprofit organizations and young entrepreneurs, for which Linell Lands received a Preservation League of New York State award. Next door to the converted school is Glaser’s 110 Spring Street property which houses offices for nonprofits and an art gallery-performance space. Famous in S a r a t o g a Springs for being a formerly dilapidated church which Glaser resuscitated with love and good taste, 110 Spring houses To Life, support services for cancer survivors; The

photo by Mark Bolles

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Women of Influence 2010 Saratoga County’s Top 5

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Spring Street Gallery, which features exhibits, events and performances; the charitable Nordlys Foundation; ACASE (Association for the Cooperative Advancement of Science and Education); and SVAN, the Saratoga Vital Aging Network. One initiative that Glaser helped shape and guide was the creation of The Community Hospice. Glaser chaired a Saratoga Hospital task force to bring hospice services to Saratoga Springs that resulted in Saratoga becoming a part of Capital District Hospice. While chairing the board of this Hospice, she oversaw its merger with St. Peter’s Hospice to become The Community Hospice that now serves Albany,

Publisher/ Executive Editor Chad Beatty General Manager Robin Mitchell Special Projects Writer Helen Susan Edelman Pre-Press Coordinator Sam Bolles Photographer Mark Bolles

Schenectady, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Columbia, Greene and Montgomery counties in upstate New York. During her long time and productive tenure, some of the hospice staff traveled to Africa to visit similar programs. “They came back wishing to do more to support the professionals doing extraordinary work under challenging conditions brought forth by the AIDS epidemic,” recalls Glaser. “Around the dining room table in 1999 we founded The Foundation for Hospices in Sub-Saharan Africa. FHSHA now has more than 80 U.S.-Africa partnerships.” Today FHSSA is headquartered in the National Hospice and Palliative

Care Organization’s office in Washington, D.C., where it works to promote comprehensive hospice and palliative care to the entire family and community where it is needed, including efforts that provide nutritional support, medicine, medical supplies, bedding and school uniforms for orphans and children, bicycles and vehicles for transportation and creating volunteer caregiver networks and youth-care clubs to engage and empower vulnerable youth in sub-Saharan Africa. The Community Hospice was the first hospice to get involved with FHSSA and is partnered with three programs – two in South Africa and one in Zimbabwe. Though Glaser has relinquished her position on the board of FHSSA, she continues to work with the local partnership and has traveled to Africa twice to learn from and work with the Saratoga TODAY Newspaper Community 5 Case Street Hospice’s partners Saratoga Springs, NY 12866 there. tel: 518.581.2480 Though modest fax: 518.581.2487 about her achievesaratogatodayonline.com ments, Glaser

Women of Influence 2010

Friday, May 21, 2010 admits she is proud of this one, which she feels has helped link local hospices with the larger global Hospice movement. It was no coincidence that Glaser was effective as a steward of the hospice reins. Thoughts of how to provide care for the dying have been on her mind for much of her adult life. When Glaser’s beloved father was dying from a brain tumor when she was in college, she moved home to help her mother and brother care for him. Then, she learned the value of home-based care, and how difficult it was to do it without any available services. She went on to receive degrees in education and clinical psychology, and as a volunteer in her 20s and 30s, she helped to design and lead hospice training programs. She wrote her doctoral dissertation in the Department of Family and Community Education at Columbia University on how children learn about death and dying and how their experiences have changed over several generations. After her own diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer, Barbara founded the Nordlys Foundation and included her daughter on the board of directors. “I wanted to share with her the experience of doing entrepreneurial philanthropy.” Nordlys has quietly and strategically

directed resources toward a variety of global, Adirondack and community initiatives. “We are willing to get behind unusual projects and give them a chance,” says Glaser, who is known for creating an incubator environment for initiatives, taking risks that encourage sustainable projects, but also supporting plans for a contained venture – like a performance – that makes an impact. Barbara was instrumental in working with farmers, the city and other community players to secure the site and resources to establish the High Rock Avenue Saratoga Farmers’ Market, which she describes as “not just a place to get food, but a place where consumers and producers meet, and where you see your neighbors. That’s an accomplishment I care very much about.” She similarly worked to ensure that The Arts Center on the corner of Broadway and Spring Street had a permanent home in the former Saratoga Springs Public Library – which almost became private offices when the library moved. Glaser recalls working with The Arts Center’s indefatigable, now-retired executive director Dee Sarno to secure the site. “Here was this beautiful space on


Women of Influence 2010 Saratoga County’s Top 5

Friday, May 21, 2010 a public park,” Glaser says, still impassioned. “It needed to remain open to the community.” Another quiet contribution Glaser has made to the Saratoga region was helping to acquire additional land abutting the new YMCA and ensure the inclusion of a bike trail to and through the site, which will make it accessible to Saratoga High School and, ultimately, to Saratoga Spa State Park, by bicycle. “Civic engagement is important and Americans have traditionally and uniquely been proactively involved in community life. We don’t sit back and wait for the government to do things,” Glaser says. “If Americans see that something needs to happen, we form a group and do it. This is part of the American spirit.” Glaser worries that the time and economic demands on families in these times puts a strain on the pool of volunteers available to participate. But she is optimistic that the scale and culture of Saratoga will continue to support a vitally engaged community. “I chose to live and raise my daughter, Kimara GlaserKirschenbaum, here because I believe that children who are raised in a place where one person can make a difference, go into the larger world believing that they can make

a difference.” Glaser-Kirschenbaum is now doing her medical residency in pediatrics and global medicine in Minnesota, where Glaser grew up. Barbara’s current interest was inspired by her reading of “Half the Sky” by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl Wudunn which highlights the world-wide abuse and exploitation of women and challenges the world community to work effectively to educate and empower women to help them overcome adversity. She has assembled a group of 28 women, ages 19 to 80, into a Women’s Global Giving Circle. Working in cooperation with the Community Foundation for the Greater Capital Region, the circle will meet four times a year for the purpose of learning about and funding initiatives that actively support women and children around the world. “For years I drove around with a bumper sticker on my car that said ‘Think globally, act locally.’ The Women’s Global Giving Circle is a tangible way to do that. It’s also a wonderful way to make sure that a great group of women get a chance to see and work with each other.” Glaser has spent much of her career engaging people in volunteer efforts of all kinds – from hosting volunteer work weekends at Great Camp Sagamore, leading trail-

building projects in Saratoga, or engaging people in raising awareness and resources for projects overseas. “I never tell people what to do or try to convince them of something. I find out what they care about, what they love to do, and what they’re good at and then try to link them with people and projects to honor

their interests,” says Glaser. “Individuals get involved with community initiatives for different reasons – it could be to meet new people, to build their résumé, for the love of a cause, or because they want to shape the community they live in for themselves or for their kids. “Why do I get involved? I was

raised in a family and in a community that valued and modeled contribution. It has allowed me to make creative use of my energy, life experience and academic training. I do it in memory of my father. I value being able to make a difference in the arenas I care about: I like being a small part of a bigger project – and, you know what? It’s really fun!”

Selected Honors Selected honors • Capital District Hospice, Hans M. Rozendaal Award, for impact on the Hospice program, 1991 • Soroptimist International, Saratoga Chapter, Woman of Distinction, for founding the Saratoga Springs Open Space Project, Sagamore Institute, Hospice of Saratoga and Next Steps and Beyond forum series on the future of the Saratoga Springs downtown, 1995 • Saratoga Springs Open Space Project, for extraordinary contributions as the organization’s founding chair to the preservation of Saratoga Springs as “the city in the country,” 2002 • Girl Scouts of the Adirondack Council, Woman of Distinction, 2003 • Community Hospice of the Capital Region, Founder’s Award, for leadership in

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researching, planning and overseeing the merger of St. Peter’s Hospice and Capital District Hospice to form Community Hospice, New York State’s largest hospice program, and for philanthropic and leadership roles in the Africa AIDS partnership program, 2004 • Preservation League of New York State, for the restoration of Public School No. 4, as an example of excellence in historic preservation, 2007 Boards • The Saratoga Institute • The Nordlys Foundation • The Saratoga Foundation • The Community Foundation for the Capital Region • Adirondack Nature Conservancy and Adirondack Land Trust • Community Hospice • YMCA Saratoga Board of Trustee


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Friday, May 21, 2010

Giving Beautifully:

Natalie Sillery Natalie Sillery

“I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; I will not refuse to do the something I can do.”- Helen Keller

by Helen Susan Edelman for Saratoga Today

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atalie Sillery takes her goods on the road for good causes. The owner of Saratoga Trunk on Broadway – high-end, high-style ladies’ finery — Sillery has been choreographing charitable events that focus on fashion for decades. The ventures enable her to do what she loves, with love. “When a nonprofit organization calls and needs help, I get involved,” says Malta resident Sillery, who mounts more than a dozen events per year that feature couture for sale; a portion of each item’s sale price is donated to the sponsoring organization. “What it’s about for me is always

who is benefiting. And making it beautiful and fun, and involving other people who care,” she says. Last year, in one of the most successful fashion shows for charity she’s ever organized, Sillery put 103 outfits on 43 different models in front of a gathering of 500 fans at Saratoga Race Track. The day — Ronald McDonald House’s 11th annual fundraiser — garnered more than $100,000. (Ronald McDonald Houses around the world offer families a place to stay together, in proximity to the treatment hospital of their loved one, and be comfortable and cared for during their stay. For more information, visit http://rmhc.org.) This year, the Ronald McDonald House fashion show fundraiser is set for Thursday, August 26 at the track and Sillery

will be there with her popular Trunkettes, volunteer models she embraces – literally and figuratively – as “beautiful women, real people and my best friends.” “People look as much forward to seeing my Trunkettes as they do to the clothes,” says Sillery, herself an elegant and graceful fashion plate. “These women are bodacious!” When Sillery can, she also asks women associated with the nonprofit she’s helping to model. “Sometimes it’s members of an auxiliary or friends of the organization, or their daughters. It brings a connection to the event you could never get with paid models or outsiders.” Saratoga Trunk collections include creations by legendary and emerging designers, including Tadashi, Kokin, Betsey Johnson, Nicole Miller, Diane von Furstenberg, Eric Javits, Alberto Makali, Bazyli Studio, Teri Jon, Marc Bouwer, B a d g l e y Mischka, Nanette Lepore and Kay Unger. The store is also widely known for spectacular hats by Chetta B, Le Beau Chapeau, Mona the Mad Hatter and Zelda. (The boutique has been cited in USA

Today as one of the 10 best places in the country to buy a hat.) “It can be a bit daunting,” Sillery admits of the massive organizing required to coordinate a show, “but it’s for a good cause.” She also originated “Lend an Ear,” an imaginative fundraiser that solicits women to donate gently used earrings to be auctioned; 100 percent of the proceeds go to the sponsoring charity. Some of the beneficiaries of Sillery’s unsparing efforts have included CAPTAIN youth and family services in Clifton Park, American Heart Association, Saratoga YMCA, American Cancer Society, The Albany Academies, The Tulip Festival, Senior Services of Albany, Saratoga Bridges, Whitney Young Health Centers, Ronald McDonald House, Haven grief counseling center in Schenectady, Little Sisters of the Poor in Latham, Salvation Army, and Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. One success earlier this month was achieved in concert with Trunkette and professional marketer Kristina Krawchuk, who headed up The Memory Train, a campaign to raise money and awareness for leukemia and lymphoma research. “Kristine, who won the title “Woman of the Year” from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, undertook the campaign as a tribute to my cherished husband, Ted DiPonzio, who died last year of the disease. I was her campaign manag-

er,” says Sillery, who was her husband’s devoted caretaker and cheerleader to the end. “I did a lot of the public relations and put on two big shows — one with designer Kay Unger at the Palace Theatre in March, and the other, just last month, at the Universal Preservation Hall with three important designers, Don O’Neill, Kokin and Peter Ciesla.” The brainstorming for the triumphant events started last October, right after DiPonzio died. Krawchuk and Sillery were attending a Salvation Army benefit – a charity DiPonzio championed – when Krawchuck was approached to be one of candidates for the honor. She competed against 12 other nominees to see who could raise the most money in eight weeks. Sillery and the Trunkettes rallied and — with Sillery and Krawchuk at the helm — the team brought in more than $30,000 in the short timeframe. “I know how important it is to do what you do best and to draw the best out of it,” says Sillery. “It’s important to be original to attract attention. And the fashion shows can do that.” It all started for Natalie Sillery as a kid in Rensselaer who grew up knowing she was unconditionally adored by parents she adored in return. She attended Catholic schools run by rigorous nuns. From these adults, at home and at school, Sillery says she learned kindness and purpose. Her special role model was her father, a civic leader who visited the


Women of Influence 2010 Saratoga County’s Top 5

Friday, May 21, 2010 Women of Influence 2010

“When a nonprofit organization calls and needs help, I get involved” Natalie Sillery

poor and sick, was deeply involved in the community, and was always willing to listen to people’s grievances as well as their good news. “I think when you grow up watching gentle, thoughtful, giving people, it prepares you to be and have friends,” says Sillery. “I don’t select this role; it’s what I am deep down. I’m always the one people confide in.” But her father was also a realist. When Sillery was in eighth grade, he gave her “The Greatest Salesman in the World,” by Og Mandino. The book is a classic guide to a philosophy of salesmanship that weaves mythology with spirituality in a thoughtful message about how to succeed in the global marketplace. She left home at 17 to go to Boston College, where she studied philoso-

phy and religion as an undergraduate, and stayed for a master’s degree in psychology. The knowledge she absorbed as a student is crucial today in her encounters with a range of personalities, from creative and hard-core marketing types in the wholesale showroom to clients and employees whose needs, desires and quirks she has to juggle on the sales floor. She’s also adept at smoothing interactions with nonprofits run by impassioned individuals fervently protective of their cause. Sillery has to maintain her professionalism and good humor while she maintains straightforward and diplomatic communications with all parties. The next profound influence on her life was her cherished husband, who was a motivational speaker and a superior marketer. She met him when

photo by Mark Bolles

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Women of Influence 2010 Saratoga County’s Top 5

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The Trunkettes Tammy Margan Beth Smith Teddi Foster Mary Martin Fran Dingeman Joanne Finn Mary Ferguson Pat Brady

Amy Raimo Trina Lucas Mary Clark Sr. Mary Clark Jr. Ilene Kahn MaryAnn Delany Luci Cody, Suzanne Allrich

Jayne McCarthy Chris Harmon Tara Zablocky Elaine Laccetti Jaclyn Sillery Melinda Wilson Cathy Glasser Joyce Austin

Friday, May 21, 2010 up shop, Sillery recalls. “But I’ve always been able to address crowds of people and to co-mingle my talents and educational background on the Kristina Krawchuk Agatha Benton selling floor, and to get people to talk Beth Alexander Christina Fitzgerald about themselves.” Julie Johnson Cheryl Blaydon Combining those skills, genuine fasMichele Funiciello Kristi Roohan cination about and interest in the peoGayle Lasalle Deb Docyk ple around her, and extraordinary good Michelle Riggi sense, and an ability to stock extraordiJulie Bonacio nary inventory, Sillery has been able to Mary Gavin build a loyal clientele and a coterie of close friends. She has also generously he hired her to work with him helping down- mentored her staff, bringing each along from towns that contracted with him to gentrify. They new employee to self-reliant professional. fell in love and married. The couple lived in She says, “There is a rhythm to giving people New England. attention. A flow. I don’t like to interrupt it. It’s a “It was a happy, fulfilling and fascinating wonderful journey. I’m not just a person who life,” she says. “He always motivated and sells dresses. Women buying clothes feel vulnerinspired me. He gave me confidence.” able – it’s a counseling job. I tell them to put Referring to both the innate integrity and faith where the fear is. The fashion show intelligence of her father and her husband, fundraisers extend that reach so far.” Sillery sums, “It all rubs off.” Sillery walks that walk. She prays every day, Sillery and DiPonzio relocated to the Capital she says. “I get on my knees and surrender and Region in 1989 when she wanted to buy a home thank God for giving me the strength when I near her mother, who was ill, bringing their don’t feel I have any left.” skills, savoir faire and street smarts to the local Friends and family keep her going, says marketplace. Sillery, who misses her husband’s company and “I had told my mother I’d take care of her, and guidance constantly. “I’m blessed with amazing I did,” says Sillery, who worked seven-day people in my life.” weeks for seven years to pay for aides so her On reflection, Sillery describes herself as “a mother could stay in her own home. “Doing that harbinger, getting the word out about charitable was my incentive to be self-employed. I did end causes.” She adds, “I like taking the responsibilup in the retail clothing industry, and it may ity for doing that. I’ve learned a lot, like how to seem like it was an obvious segue in retrospect, take rejection and move on, and how to be a but it could just as easily have been books. There leader. And, yes, how to use my platform to raise was a business opportunity in Saratoga Springs, money when it matters.” and I chose it.” Sillery has taken stock of where she’s been But the inclination to be around fashion was and where she’s going, and she’s made some not wholly a coincidence. “The best-dressed decisions: “I would never leave here,” she says. men I ever knew were my father and my hus- “I have come home. But I’ll never stop taking band,” she says. “I would even describe my risks that put me in contact with nonprofits I father as having been an example of ‘sartorial believe in or the volunteers who surround me. I splendor.’ So it is a natural environment for me. know people are fundamentally good and generThat, and the fact that it is important to me to ous. If you ask, most people will contribute – if help people feel good about themselves.” not money, then time. Most people want to help, She didn’t know a soul in Saratoga — though they just might not know how. You have to ask she felt she had always had a flirtation with the and then to guide them. Every human being has energy of the city — and it was a challenge to set the potential for greatness.”


Women of Influence 2010 Saratoga County’s Top 5

Friday, May 21, 2010

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Community Connection:

Francine Dingeman Francine Dingeman “A healthy social life is found only when, in the mirror of each soul, the whole community finds its reflection, and when in the whole community, the virtue of each one is living.”– Rudolph Steiner by Helen Susan Edelman for Saratoga Today

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don’t like to be in the limelight,” says Francine Dingeman, general manager of Anastos Media Group in Malta, which comprises four radio stations, WUAM 900am, WVKZ 1240am, WABY 1160am and WQAR 101.3fm. “I like to make things happen behind the scenes for causes I believe in.” Fortunately for the extended Saratoga region, Dingeman’s passions are aligned with the best interests of the community where she has chosen to live, work, play and raise her three children for the past 17 years. “Variety, spontaneity, participation, creativity, sincerity and connection” are fundamental to what makes the lovely, gentle Dingeman tick. A self-described philosopher and poet at heart, she is also the consummate networker who leverages her alliances with businesses, individuals and organizations to serve every sector. She is particularly excited when cooperation leads to great outcomes.

For instance, she organizes the Anastos Media Group holiday song gathering at Saratoga Hospital Nursing Home and Wesley Healthcare Center, which is then enhanced by flowers donated by Dehn’s and cards from students at St. Clement’s School. In another surprising convergence, she borrowed mannequins from J.C. Penney to dress up as apostles for a church pageant. “My contribution is as a channel of feedback and information,” says Dingeman, whose days are spent talking to people in this area about what they want and need to sustain the high quality of life they have come to expect and desire for their children. Particularly in her work on behalf of the DBA (Downtown Business Association), Dingeman says her long-standing, continuing associations with local government, nonprofit and member organizations, and the merchant community enable her “to help meet the challenge to keep residents and visitors focused on the downtown as their first choice for dining, shopping and entertainment.” She adds, “Creating events that bring the local community together

as a form of recreation has been an effective way of directing their focus.” This is the philosophy that has driven Dingeman to aid in initiatives including the annual Christmas treelighting ceremony on Broadway, Victorian Streetwalk, First Night Saratoga, Hats Off, Mardi Gras, SaratogaArtsFest, Beekman Street Festival and Restaurant Week, among others. “You have to be intent on helping, as well as being imaginative,” says Dingeman, who plunges right in. Her involvement is as frequently handson as it is tactical: She is willing to make costumes, model in fundraising fashion shows, or ensure the good word about good works gets out to the public via STAR radio public service announcements. Dingeman is grateful that her work in promotions at the radio station can accommodate and promulgate her values, “like reaching out and being supportive and taking opportunities to affect many individuals through charity,” whether it’s raising money for Saratoga Hospital or encouraging kids to be confident in an art contest. (On the subject of Saratoga

photo by Mark Bolles Hospital, Dingeman, a foundation board member, waxes particularly delighted by the current fundraising campaigns to bring a new MRI machine to the facility, and to build a state-of-the-art orthopaedic unit.) “My career allows me to keep my thumb on the pulse of what’s happening in the area. It affords me the privilege and responsibility of being in contact with a tremendous variety of organizations and businesses and to tie them into each other’s community efforts. My career and my desire to get involved in the community

overlap,” she says. “I appreciate working for Anastos Media Group, which is privately owned and operated, and is a family-run business built on a foundation of commitment to the community, high standards and integrity, which reflect my own.” Indeed, Dingeman the professional and Dingeman the private person intersect at many points. One way she links her spheres is by making contributions to the organizations that have impacted her life, as Community Hospice did during her father’s illness. In turn, she has vol-


Women of Influence 2010 Saratoga County’s Top 5

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Selected Civic Commitments Catholic Charities Festival of Trees Community Hospice Malta Business and Professional Association Saratoga Downtown Business Association SaratogaArtsFest Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce Saratoga Hospital Foundation Southern Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce American Red Cross Epilepsy Foundation Double H Hole in the Woods Ranch Saratoga Bridges Ronald McDonald House St. Clements Church American Diabetes Association First Night Saratoga Ladies of Charity Saratoga Central Catholic High School St. Clement’s Regional Catholic School Alzheimer’s Association Water’s Edge Homeowners’Association

unteered to help raise money for the organization. In Dingeman’s opinion, “life is all about giving, at home, at work and in the community. I believe that what’s important. I’ve known this since I was a child going door-to-door to raise money for Muscular Dystrophy research. In high school, I worked with developmentally disabled children – that’s when I began to learn about challenge and accomplishment, which is basic to thriving.” Fostering “thriving” permeates Dingeman’s goals. “If we can stimulate business, our community thrives. More foot traffic on our streets means more prosperity – that’s why the DBA plans so many events to bring people out. We coordinate a lot of activities with the local Chamber of Commerce and the convention bureau. Here’s an example: Saratoga used to have fireworks on the Fourth of July – now we have two days of events. People crowd our streets – that’s good for business, good for the community.” The fervor Dingeman expresses for her public life is impressive, but she speaks about her children with even more zeal. A native of Secaucus, NJ, Dingeman graduated from Drew University with a degree in psychology, then spent more than a decade in New Jersey as a young wife and mother before she settled in Saratoga Springs. “My greatest joy in life is my family,” she says now. Brandon, 27, designs educational software for Cengage Learning in Clifton Park. Erica, 24, works for DZ Restaurants as director of marketing and sales for Chianti Ristorante and Forno Bistro in downtown Saratoga

Friday, May 21, 2010 Springs, and the new Pasta Pane in Clifton Park. Ashley, 20, is a junior at SUNY Geneseo, majoring in communications. “I love to spend time with my kids, cooking, playing Cranium, shopping, planning or just talking,” Dingeman says. “I have modeled in fashion shows for charity with each of my daughters.” She and Erica even go to Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce mixers together. She also writes each child a poem for every birthday. One of her favorite places to contemplate and create – write poetry and prose and draw in pencil, pen and ink (she illustrated a cookbook once!) – is Yaddo, a peaceful place where she yearns to be when she is feeling expressive. “I need to take a walk to think every day,” says Dingeman. “It keeps me balanced.” The focus on home life is a natural outgrowth of her childhood. Dingeman’s vivid memories of her tight-knit Italian family still inspire her to be a proud, encouraging, supportive parent, like hers were. She also has two brothers, both physicians, from whom she says she learned about setting and achieving a personal best. “We were surrounded at Sunday dinners by the incredible aroma of sauce cooking and a table full of hearty dishes,” says Dingeman, who tempers her appetite with vigorous outdoor activity, including running. “Above all else, family came first, and it still does.” Dingeman talks about her mother and father as the “basis of all my successes. They were my cheerleaders. They were the true model of unconditional love and taught me the value of respect for myself and others. Even strangers. I feel some of the most precious moments in life

are spent sharing thoughts with a person whose life you brush up against by accident. They taught me to pay attention to the people I interact with every day.” She continues, “I care about human beings and relationships. And it started with feeling that people cared about me, and I want to pass that on. The people I sell ads to for STAR are not just business clients; I really get to know them. They are my friends and neighbors. I know how their kids are and how their business is doing.” This approach toward family and friends, customers and acquaintances is reducible to Dingeman’s consistent “kindness,” a quality inherent in all her actions and attitudes. “It’s my own, internal system,” says Dingeman. “It has to do with my faith and hope, which I think is universal among human beings. We are not divided. We have to learn to stretch our limits, experience new things, grow, be curious, reach out, show compassion and genuine interest in others. My hope and faith in God keep me secure and optimistic about the future. Occasional strife and difficulties are a given in life. How an individual gets around the hurdles separates him from the rest. My parents imbued me with an instinct to survive no matter what the adversity and to always look up toward the sun.” Although Dingeman admits the person she is hardest on is herself, she is undaunted by even monumental challenges, whether it’s family transitions or slogging through a tough economy with merchants. “I believe it can be done,” she concludes. “A positive attitude creates positive results.”


Women of Influence 2010 Saratoga County’s Top 5

Friday, May 21, 2010

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Real Healer:

Karen Dake Karen Dake

“Hope arouses, as nothing else can, a passion for the possible.” – William Sloan Coffin

by Helen Susan Edelman for Saratoga Today

S

ometimes Karen Dake has to say the hard stuff to parents and kids. “A doctor will send a child here because he seems to be having trouble running or is clumsy when he moves, and I’m the one who ends up telling the mom that his symptoms are consistent with cerebral palsy. Or a young girl has dreams of getting up and walking out of here, and nobody has told her that she’s probably going to end up in leg braces,” says Dake. “Part of how I love them is by helping them to be realistic so they can start thinking about the right kind of help” A physical therapist (PT) and pediatric certified specialist who serves patients from newborn to age 21, Dake was also the founder in 2002 of Minor Improvements on West Avenue, an exclusively pediatric and adolescent physical therapy practice established to provide outstanding physical therapy services to children with disabilities – temporary or permanent – at all capability levels. Some come to her for a month after an injury, some for their short lifetime. Some of her original patients are aging out as they approach 21. “Our philosophy is that children require different therapy than adults,” Dake explains. “Our focus is on specialized treatment for the distinctive characteristics of growing bodies.” That her services are unique, outstanding and were badly needed in the region is borne out by the incredible growth of the practice, which has served close to 900 patients since its inception, some of whom travel from as far away as Vermont for care. “I have wanted to be a physical therapist since very early,” Dake explains. “When I was as young as in kindergarten, I used to watch the muscular dystrophy telethons on TV and would see kids in wheelchairs who could stand up and walk with the help of physical therapy. I wanted to be the person who could help them stand up.” A Schenectady native whose fam-

ily relocated in Saratoga Springs when she was a youngster, Dake graduated from St. Peter’s High School, then went off to college. But her path took a detour when she met Gary Dake – now president of Stewart’s Ice Cream. The two married and began to raise a family. They have two sons, Zach and Charlie. “When the youngest was going off to elementary school, Gary and I went out to dinner. He asked me what my plans were for myself now that I would have more time,” Dake says. “We talked about me going back to school to be a physical therapist and he couldn’t have been more supportive. We had two kids and I went back to school full time for four years. He cooked dinner every night. Literally, I could not have done it without Gary. He is my best friend as well as my husband.” Karen Dake is the quintessential role model for a young mother who wants to finish her education and start a career. While she co-parented young boys, she attended Russell Sage College in Troy where she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Therapy. She also has specialized training in pediatric aquatic physical therapy and developed and presented a New York State Physical Therapy Associationsponsored aquatic PT course at Sunnyview Hospital. Additionally, she completed a neuro-developmental certification course in the treatment of children with cerebral palsy. She has been an adjunct faculty member at Franklin Pierce College in Franklin, N.H. and is continually refining her own knowledge base through education and research. And Dake has a strong commitment to the clinical instruction of PT students to ensure the exchange of experience and new information within the profession; she welcomes Russell Sage PT students as interns at Minor Improvements and lectures at the college. She also mentors high school students through the New Visions program who are interested in her profession. Her vast and diverse experience spans pediatric brain injury rehabilitation, work with school districts, and special education and early intervention

program settings. “You can’t wing it in this profession,” says Dake. “You have to have a passion, but you also have to be aware of the science. I put pressure on my students to understand neurology as well as to treat kids respectfully. And when my interns leave here, I make sure they know I am available to answer their questions. I hear from them a lot – even years later. It’s important to me to pass on the torch.” The environment Dake has created for her patients evinces tenderness for the children as well as scientific research on what works and a playful vision of what might evoke delight as well as determination in a kid. The main therapy room is a joyful, stimulating, vivid space filled with hula hoops, board games, balls in every size and every color, exercise mats, a treadmill, a standing bicycle, a weight machine and shelves of toys to engage developing minds and inquisitive fingers. There are smaller rooms as well, one specially designed for babies, and one that is ideal for a distractible child who needs a calming environment. Every room features music, because Dake thinks it’s important as a childhood experience and because it introduces and supports rhythmic movement. On the other end of the building is the indoor physical therapy pool, a perfect place to

photo by Mark Bolles


Women of Influence 2010 Saratoga County’s Top 5

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Karen & Gary Dake Foundation for Children The Karen & Gary Dake Foundation for Children was founded to provide children with disabilities with the tools they need to become as independent as possible. (The organization was originally named the Colburn National Foundation in 2003, in honor of a young man who sustained a permanent disability, but the name was changed in 2009 to represent its commitment to local families.) The foundation’s goal is to provide children with disabilities access to equipment and services that will enable them to reach their fullest potential for participation within their families and communities and with their peers. Children who have these fundamental opportunities when they are young have the best chance to reach maximum health, mobility and independence in adulthood, as contributing members of their communities. Disabilities may be from birth-related or accidental traumas, neurological impairments, bone and joint disorders, acquired brain injury, congenital anomalies and metabolic and growth disorders, among other sources. The foundation’s major fundraisers include an annual stationary bike race in the spring and a fall mixer. All proceeds from the bike race go to the purchase of adaptive bicycles for local children with disabilities. The foundation has a board and medical advisory panel comprised of individuals devoted to its mis-

sion. Each brings unique expertise to the foundation, representing developmental pediatrics, social work, law, finance, pediatric physical therapy and pediatric psychiatry. Parents, guardians and professionals involved in the care of a child under age 21 with disabilities, from a financially challenged family, are eligible to apply for funding from the foundation. Successful applicants will reside within a 50-mile radius of Saratoga Springs. Applications are available at www.dakefoundation.org or at 518-226-0252. Applications will be accepted by mail or fax and all sections must be complete prior to review. Essential components of the application include: • The request • Family financial history • Proof of denial from insurance agency • Letter of medical justification from a relevant medical professional The Karen & Gary Dake Foundation for Children relies on public contributions for funding. Individual and corporate donations are taxdeductible and essential for the foundation to achieve its mission. Checks may be payable to Karen & Gary Dake Foundation for Children and mailed to 270 West Circular Street, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. The Karen & Gary Dake Foundation is a registered 501 (C) 3 nonprofit organization.

Friday, May 21, 2010 free a young body constrained by paralysis or spastic movement. Photographs the talented Dake took are posted around the room – indeed around the whole PT clinic – and show buoyant, safe children experiencing pure pleasure in a comfortable, comforting movement. The trust in their faces is a tribute to her connection with her young patients. “Even children who will not recover, children I know will die, benefit from physical therapy. I can improve their quality of life while they’re here,” says Dake, who works 12-hour days to bring as much relief as possible to as many patients as she can. One way Dake ensures that her work extends beyond the walls of Minor Improvements is through the Karen & Gary Dake Foundation for Children, a nonprofit organization that helps to procure therapy or equipment for children with disabilities that is not covered by insurance companies, Medicaid or community service agencies or programs. Grants made through the foundation are for such equipment as adaptive bicycles, standers, wheelchairs, mobility aids, positioning equipment and strollers. Additionally, each spring the foundation hosts a “bike day” when participants are able to try different makes and models of adaptive tricycles for the

best fit. “Kids without the right equipment are tremendously isolated,” explains Dake. “I want the foundation to be able to give them things to be members of their families and community and, later, contributing adults.” Dake is on the medical advisory panel that reviews what is appropriate for applicants. She is especially concerned about the safety of a piece of equipment for a particular individual; for example, will a specific adaptive bicycle hold the weight of a specific child. “There’s a real gap between what insurance will pay for and what these kids need,” she says. “I want insurers to be accountable, so before we buy something for a child, we approach the insurer for it. Sometimes, things besides medical equipment are necessary – like an adaptive bike. The world has changed. Kids with disabilities are not ‘sent away’ any more. They’re everywhere and they need to be able to participate with their peers. A walker or a stander might be the crucial difference between being able to do that and not being able.” Dake speaks from a place of power, not pity, when she discusses the patients she refers to as “my kids.” “We don’t have the luxury of feeling sorry for kids around here –


Women of Influence 2010 Saratoga County’s Top 5

Friday, May 21, 2010

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Women of Influence 2010

“Our philosophy is that children require different therapy than adults. Our focus is on specialized treatment for the distinctive characteristics of growing bodies.” Karen Dake especially in front of them. I cry behind my closed office door sometimes, and I have attended their funerals, but I also watch a patient who’s afraid to get out of her wheelchair walk across the room, kick a ball or play hopscotch. I love my work and I wouldn’t be anywhere else, even when it’s very, very hard,” says Dake. Her main goal is to get her patients and their parents to raise their expectations of what their abilities are. “I do a lot of education here,” she says. “I guide families through the process of thinking about a preteen with a disability as a person. You have to be real. Kids always know it when you’re faking.” In addition to the foundation she helps head, Dake supports numer-

ous other charities, including the March of Dimes, St. Jude’s, The Epilepsy Foundation, American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine, and the AIDS Foundation. She also is a donor to Jacob’s Pillow, The Museum of Modern Art, Russell Sage College and Pop Warner. “And if a patient here is in a school play, Minor Improvements will advertise in the program,” Dake says with a grin. “I like to give quietly. I don’t require thanks – people don’t always have the words and they don’t always have to know where something comes from.” When she’s not on the floor with patients and their parents, Dake is managing the business or out buying light bulbs. “Everything and anything,” she

photo by Mark Bolles says, adding, “This business is a combination of my bleeding heart and Gary’s business savvy. He helps me problem-solve, sometimes talking to me about a situation he resolved at Stewart’s and how it can apply. Besides, he’s smart, kind and generous.” To refuel, Dake tries to make time for making pottery (she has a wheel and a kiln) – in fact, one annual project is inviting kids from the community to an annual open house where they paint tiles that

she fires herself and hangs on Minor Improvements’ walls. “I like to bring children in from our neighborhoods,” she explains. “They’re otherwise not able to come in and the building is a mystery. The open house helps solve the mystery.” Her rare personal time is busy, too. She and her husband recently built a new handicap-accessible home in Greenfield Center, which has been time-consuming, but fun to decorate, especially deciding

how to exhibit their dearly loved art collection. The other pure happiness in her life comes from summer weekend get-aways with Gary in Ogunquit, Maine, and Sunday dinners with her family. But the conversation always veers back to work, and Dake recalls her childhood wish to be a physical therapist. “And I’ve been the one,” she concludes with a satisfied sigh. “I have been the one to help a child get out of that wheelchair and walk.”


Women of Influence 2010 Saratoga County’s Top 5

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Survivor and Thriver:

Sandy Foster Sandy Foster “Every woman should know how to use a stick shift, a plunger; understand the difference between ‘don’t tell a soul’ and ‘don’t tell a soul, I mean it’; know her mind, change it; have protection handy, but not too handy; use special china and special underwear for no special reason; overcommit; come through; refuse to do it again, do it again; be able to discuss ‘first and ten’; have better things to do; set boundaries; go camping; grow something; dance crazy all alone; stare at the phone; get dressed in five minutes; be a princess; get over it; read; walk; flirt; shock; listen; sing; thank God; be single, and like it a lot; raise a child, or not; see a wrinkle and be reminded of her youth, not her age. Please get a mammogram.” – Poster in the ladies room at The Village Pizzeria, Galway

by Helen Susan Edelman for Saratoga Today

W

hen Sandy Foster was diagnosed with breast cancer at 50, she never asked, “Why me?” “I knew this challenge was given to me so that I could help someone else,” she says now, nine years later. “When you have the energy to spend time with someone having a hard day, to make them smile, the same comes back to you.”

Vivacious, gregarious and canny, Sandy Foster opens her arms wide in welcome, and her life fills with people – at home, at work and in the community. The owner with her husband Joe Guerrera of The Village Pizzeria & Ristorante on Route 29 in Galway, Foster has pulled every string she can as a restaurateur to raise money for the Avon Foundation Breast Care Fund that links medically underserved women to breast health education and screening services across the United States. Through wine-tast-

ing events throughout the summer on the pizzeria patio, by accepting donations, and by finding sponsors for her team of walkers (Toast-tothe-Ta-Tas) in the 39-mile Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in New York City, Foster has raised an incredible $75,000 in four years. (The 2010 wine tastings are set for May 20, July 15 and August 16. Visit www.villagepizzeria.com for more information. The walk in NYC is in October. To learn more about The Avon Foundation walk, check out http://www.avon walk.org/.) The need for research and services for women with breast cancer is urgent, Foster emphasizes: “I’m happy to be a sur-

photo by Mark Bolles vivor, getting older, but what’s scaring me is to see that survivors are younger and younger – women in their 30s with young children are being diagnosed with breast cancer. The statistics are heart-wrenching.” A Waterbury, Conn. native, Foster was familiar with Saratoga Springs from years of visiting Saratoga Race Course with her family. She and Guerrera relocated here two decades ago so they could raise their daughter, Jessica Mancinone, in a beautiful, beloved place. Foster finds a reason to drive the 12 short miles into Saratoga Springs nearly every day, to go to

the YMCA to exercise, do her banking, and – in season – to cheer at the track where she and her husband own and run horses (and have sold two at the Fasig-Tipton sales). Before the move, in Connecticut, Foster was a hairdresser – the first female men’s stylist in the state. “It was the age of rebirth, the age of Aquarius,” recalls Foster with a laugh. “I decided to be a woman in a men’s field and I trained many other women to do the same. I was a pioneer.” That same indomitable spirit drives her now. “Ambition and motivation…,” she explains. “It’s

Selected Community Efforts In the past, Sandy Foster has worked on behalf of Saratoga Bridges and Racing for the Cure, and has assisted the backstretch workers at Saratoga Race Course. Although she focuses her advocacy efforts on the Avon Foundation for now, Foster still brings food to the men and women who work at the track, and makes significant donations of gift certificates for the Village Pizzeria and custom gift baskets of the restaurant’s products available through Sausations to numerous youth organizations, historic preservation societies and local charities. • Sausations is a line of quality, allnatural pasta sauces now available at many local Price Choppers and several gourmet grocers. Made from fresh, locally grown ingredients, Sausations is a Pride of New York product. The label on Sausations products – a painting of Foster holding a tomato by the

artistic Mancinone – bears a pink ribbon, the symbol of breast cancer awareness, because the sale of each and every jar results in a donation to breast cancer research and services. • Sausations custom gift baskets include Village Pizzeria sauces, and imported Italian pastas, meats and cheeses. - Keynote speaker at a fundraising event hosted by Amsterdam Memorial Hospital - Keynote speaker at Riverview Cancer Center to celebrate Cancer Survivors’ Day - Volunteer caregiver for six years for Mary, an elderly neighbor with no children, to honor Mary’s wishes to remain in her own home. Sandy was at Mary’s side when the older woman died at 99 years old.


Women of Influence 2010 Saratoga County’s Top 5

Friday, May 21, 2010

photo provided how I got empowered when I was diagnosed. I had no one to call. I became a maniac, turning over every stone. I made it loud and clear to anyone I was dealing with that I was facing cancer. And now I let everyone know that I’m a survivor. But I wish there had been someone who had been there to help me through. That’s why I’ve decided to use my resources for this cause.” Foster has created the safe space that she had yearned for herself as a cancer patient: in addition to raising money for The Avon Foundation, she donates the use of her upstairs dining room one Wednesday night per month to a group of people whose lives are being touched by cancer. “The faces change. Anyone who needs to talk and share stories can come and be here,” she says. “Sometimes there’s laughter, sometimes there are tears.” She expects – and can handle – either one. The group, a Gilda’s Club outreach post, is headed by Melissa Pilkey, whom Foster credits for its success. (For more information about Gilda’s

Club, a global network of hope for individuals living with cancer, visit http://www.gildasclub.org/.) She also donates to breast cancer research a portion of the sale of every jar of gourmet pasta sauce sold through Sausations, a family business that has introduced the pizzeria’s exclusive sauce recipes to the retail market. The passion Foster cultivates to fight breast cancer is conveyed creatively and captures everyone in her orbit, whatever their role in her life. She has merged her personal and professional worlds to achieve her goals: long-acknowledged for offering one of the area’s most extensive wine lists – The Village Pizzeria has been honored by both Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator magazines – Foster has been able to parlay her excellent relationships with sales representatives and distributors into a lifeline for charity. “They all contribute in the summer to the wine tastings,” she says. “Through this aspect of my life I have met many wonderful people who know how to enjoy life and

who are very generous.” In fact, Foster and Guerrera have travelled to Italy (especially Tuscany) as invited guests during the grape harvesting season, which she laughingly refers to as “research.” “We have developed great personal relationships through the restaurant and our interest in serving distinguished wines,” she notes. “Our business contacts are genuinely involved beyond the work day. With their help, I get the word out and I raise important funds. And, I enjoy myself.” It is no surprise that Foster has been able to garner support. She was a powerful advocate in her own fight for life, and that’s the savvy she wants to pass on. “I took control early on,” she says. “I found

the doctor I wanted to see, called for appointments, made my own decisions. I even cancelled the first surgery that was scheduled because I felt there was more to learn. I wasn’t comfortable yet. Now, I want to guide other people as they go through the maze. When you survive cancer, you look at the world through a different window. You need someone who understands that, and you need to be someone who understands that for someone else.” Two sentries who guarded Foster on her own path through cancer are Guerrera and Mancinone. “My mom is inspirational to me,” says Mancinone, who accompanies her mother on the Avon Foundation walks and manages Sausations. “It’s both humbling and motivating. I have big shoes to fill. I have come so far, learning the lessons of her accomplishments. She is a strong businesswoman, but her life really revolves around family and helping others facing cancer.” “I am so proud of Sandy, a human dynamo,” Guerrera adds. “The whole experience of her cancer was surreal for us. But when you have your back up against the wall, you start fighting. My wife is a one-of-a-kind.” Indeed, a one-of-a-kind who

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does the work of three: one in the marketplace, one at home, and one as a volunteer. The inexhaustible Foster – who seems to cram 48 hours into her day – is truly the source of nourishment for many bodies and souls, and she takes that mission seriously. One approach she takes to securing her own wellness, and which she can affect in others,’ is healthy eating. “We keep our ingredients fresh and local whenever possible,” says Foster. “In fact, we grow what we can right here. We’ve increased the size of our gardens to sustain our kitchen – farm to fork.” Additionally, consistent with her desire to be sensitive to other people’s health needs, Foster’s kitchen also cooks up gluten-free pizza. “This is natural to me, the encouragement, the hugs, the concern for other people. It’s in my blueprint,” says Foster. “And I see where the money I raise is going – to hospitals, to women with no insurance, to help for their families, to research. I am refueled by my faith and by my garden, and by the people I come into contact with whom I have helped, or who have helped me. So long as I can breathe, I can walk for the Avon Foundation. So long as I can walk for the Avon Foundation, I am doing my part.”


Women of Influence 2010  

Saratoga County's Top Five Women of Influence for 2010

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