MILTON – The town will accept applications for town justice until Feb. 15, Supervisor Dan Lewza announced at Wednesday’s Town Board meeting.
MILTON — A ribbon cutting ceremony at the Ballston Area Senior Center (BASC) held on Thursday, Mar. 5 marks the culmination of a year’s work to cross the digital gap and bring our seniors into the 21st Century. [Read more…]
Local Rotary Club Sponsors Nonprofit Training Sessions
BALLSTON SPA – Local not-for-profit organizations gathered for a day’s training in nonprofit management at Gordon Creek Elementary School Saturday morning. [Read more…]
BALLSTON SPA- Sirapat “Noon” Konkham took three pieces of meatloaf, along with a side of chips and two cookies at the Rotary Luncheon today. Standing at about 5’5, weighing roughly 110 pounds, you have to wonder where he puts it all. Luckily, he spends his weekends casually cycling nearly 70 miles up to Lake Desolation on his bike that was donated by a local man who decided he didn’t need his bike any longer.
Noon is an exchange student from Thailand who is here through the Ballston Spa Rotary Club. He came to American roughly a month ago, and got off to a very rocky start. After landing in Newark Aiport on his first day in the country he was about to start calling “home,” both his wallet, containing over 500 dollars, and smart phone were stolen from him. Not only did the thief get away with it, but Noon missed his flight and had to wait nearly six hours just to get here to the capital district.
The closest Rotary Club, #7190, near the Newark Airport, helped Noon get on his feet after his belongings were taken.
Despite getting off to such an unwelcoming start in America, Noon is in good spirits and is enjoying his time here so far. He’s spending the school year over at Ballston Spa High School as a Senior, even though he’s technically a “junior” back in his hometown in Thailand.
He has high hopes for his future, too:
“It is my dream to be accepted to Harvard Medical School,” said Noon. “I would like to be a heart surgeon so that I can help people.”
Although Noon is an only child and doesn’t get to talk to his parents much, he’s not homesick and definitely doesn’t miss the food.
“I like the meat and the french fries,” said Noon.
He says his experience here in America is getting better, and that he’s making friends at the high school. He even hopes to join the Cross Country team. That, paired with his cycling hobby, should allow him to keep eating all the “meat and french fries” he wants.
Noon is the first exchange student from Thailand through the Rotary Club since 1969. The Rotary Club has been doing this program with students and countries from all over the world since 1965. According to John Cromie, a Rotary member since 1977, the first student to take part in the exchange program was a man named Ricardo Ungara from Argentina, in 1966. The Rotary hosts exchange students every year.
“For the first 25 years, we sent Ballston Spa kids every year all over the world,” said Cromie. “Mainly Europe, South America, Australia and Japan.”
Cromie says that “Noon is doing very well, he’s got a good command of the language, and he’s getting more familiar with the customs. He’s an excellent rep for his nation.”
Noon comes to the Rotary Luncheon at The Factory in Ballston Spa every Tuesday, only missing one class at the high school. Eventually, he’ll start participating in some of the events that The Rotary puts on.
Jere Blackwelder, the Vice President of the Ballston Spa Rotary Club, says that Noon is “remarkable.” Jere has even hosted students of his own over the years, including a girl from Brazil and a girl from Germany. The experience had just as much of an impact on the exchange student as it did his own daughters.
“She [his daughter] learned enough from them that she decided to go off to Montreal herself,” said Jere.
The Rotary club does the exchange program every year, and you just have to be between the ages of 15-19. If you’d like more information about the program, just head to the Capital District Rotary Website for more information.
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Sam and Mary Ann Becker love living the rural life in the town of Milton and they love their community, so the Milton Grange is a perfect fit for them.
Sam, who is president of the Milton Grange, talked about what the grange means to them.
“We love the history of the Grange, their belief in God, and especially their belief in protecting rural living,” he said.
Mary Ann likes the social aspect of the Grange.
“The Grange started out as a social life for the community,” she said. “It gets the rural community together. We have common goals and the town supports the Grange.”
The couple have been members since 1993 and are proud of the projects and events the Grange supports.
Every year the Grange has a garage sale to support their activities. This year they raised $1,278.25.
“It was a great turnout,” Sam said. “It was a big thing that there were a lot of members there working. It made a big difference. More hands meant less work.”
The Grange gave what wasn’t sold to the Old Stone Church, which is now their new home, Sam said. The Grange originally had a building in West Milton, but they could no longer afford it, he said. But he said the members are happy with the current arrangement.
“We love it here,” Sam said. “The church allows us to put up our charter plaque as well as our other plaques.”
Another project of the Grange is the sale of vegetable bedding plants, mainly to Head Start families, but also to any family in need. The plants are sold to the Head Start in Ballston Spa at a deep discount. They are then distributed to families the third week in April.
“This is a really good program,” said member Rob Pastore, who heads the project. “It exposes kids to home-grown vegetables.”
New for the Grange this year is their participation in a community garden at Ballston Spa High School, currently being started by Shannon Hansen of Friends and Neighbors of Ballston Spa (FANS).
The community garden will have 20 plots available for planting, and the Grange will be providing advice and labor for the construction of the raised beds. Sam said any excess food grown will go to local food pantries in the summer.
It is also hoped that students will help maintain the garden by watering and weeding.
“It’s a good plan,” Sam said. “Galway has a similar garden and the students have been taking care of it. It teaches them responsibility.”
Another activity the Grange participates in is Sundae on the Farm, which is held every year on Father’s Day to raise awareness of farming and the value of rural life. This year the event will be held at McMahon Thoroughbreds on Fitch Road in Saratoga Springs on Sunday, June 16.
Also this year, as in years past, the Grange will have an exhibit at the Saratoga County Fair. This year the Grange will be exhibiting with three other granges: Greenfield, Corinth and Pamona, some of the last in the area, a fact which saddens Mary Ann.
“There used to be so many more granges,” she said. “So many are gone now.”
Sam, who is also on the Milton Farmland Protection and Preservation Committee, feels the Grange will stay strong and continue to be involved on matters important to the rural and farming community in the town. He said the most pressing issue facing the community is protecting the farm land.
“The people of the Grange will get involved in activities like this,” he said.
Sam also said they will get involved in political issues if the Grange feels they have a detrimental effect on the community.
“We’re especially against heavy housing development,” he said. “We don’t want to see taxes go up.”
The Grange also has an interest in agricultural education in schools. In the past, area schools had Future Farmers of America clubs. Sam said that is no longer the case.
“We would like to see it return,” he said. “We would even be willing to be involved in mentoring such a program.”
The Milton Grange came into existence in 1890 and, according to their brochure, has been deeply involved in Milton’s rural life ever since. They work together within the community to ensure local laws and land use planning recognize the economic role of the rural resident.
This year the Grange recognized Mary Englehart and John Cromie for their 50-year membership, a milestone reflecting the determination of many of its members to remain a vital part of the community.
The National Grange was formed in 1867 as a “national organization with local focus,” according to the organization’s website. Although Milton Grange will not be holding a 145th anniversary celebration, Sam said they will nevertheless continue to do what they always have done: work to protect the rural life they love so well.
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BY JENNIFER FARNSWORTH
If you have ever said you want to help others out in some way, or you want to give back or pay it forward and just don’t know where to start, the upcoming Community Volunteer Expo might have the answers. The Expo, sponsored by the Rotary Club of Ballston Spa, may just be the perfect venue for figuring out how you can get involved.
The Community Volunteer Expo, for residents of the Ballston Spa area, will be held on Sunday, Feb. 24 at the Ballston Area Community Center. Rotary member and past president John Cromie said over two dozen community groups will take part, offering plenty of information about volunteer opportunities for those who want to become more involved in their community.
The village has a reputation for deeply valuing the power of community, and the Expo acknowledges just that fact. The event both celebrates community giving and hopes to help recruit citizens of all ages and from all walks of life, for whom traditional routes to volunteering are not available.
The Rotary believes hosting the event also brings a high level of recognition to the volunteerism that makes for a thriving community, benefiting everyone. Cromie said the idea grew out of a Rotary membership committee meeting.
“We were discussing how to contact folks who work from their home and don’t have many opportunities to get out into the community,” Cromie said. “We felt there are a lot of proprietors and professionals who could join Rotary and use their talents to better the local community and foster international goodwill. There are also potential members for our morning meeting who work outside the immediate area. There was no good way to reach these people.”
As the discussion evolved, the board realized the Rotary was not alone with this dilemma and that all other organizations have the same problem, Cromie said.
“It also seemed that a group effort to attract new members would create a critical mass of opportunities, likely to draw people from all walks of life to volunteer to better their community,” he said. “We began to envision an expo that would give a boost to area organizations and, by increasing community involvement, produce an even more vital and enjoyable Ballston Spa.”
The Rotary said they have gotten a great response from two dozen non-sectarian organizations. Each group will have a table at the expo describing their activities and programs in an effort to seek out new members and volunteers. There will also be door prizes and light refreshments.
“Just about every member of Rotary is involved in some way, planning or executing the event,” Cromie said.
The large variety of organizations in attendance will offer something for just about everyone. Attendees will be able to explore firefighting, hosting children from New York City, protecting the Kayadeross, or assisting the library, Brookside, and the Bottle Museum.
In addition to invitations to join the Ballston Spa or Malta Rotaries, people will also have the opportunity to become involved with the Elks, Lions, Masons, Milton Grange, Garden Club and the Senior Citizens. Veterans can speak to the American Legion and VFW and learn how they can support RPC’s homeless veteran program. Charitable groups such as BACC’s teen center, Ballston Community Allies, the Educational Foundation, Gateway House Hospice, and FANS will also have representatives seeking volunteers and supporters.
The Ballston Area Community Center is located at at 20 Malta Ave. The event will be held from noon to 4 p.m. For information visit the Rotary’s website at www.ballstonsparotary.com.
John J. Cromie is the current president of the Ballston Spa Rotary Club. He has been a member of the club for 35 years and served as president the first time in 1982. He has twice been named Rotarian of the Year.
Cromie has lived in Milton since 1949. After earning his bachelors degree from SUNY Albany he went on to simultaneously earn a masters in Public Administration from Maxwell School and graduate law degree from Syracuse University in 1973.
A member of the bar since 1974, Cromie has had a solo practice in Ballston Spa since 1977. That year he also married Victoria Blevins.
Cromie said what stands out from his years in Rotary are the experiences. He headed the youth exchange program for 13 years, interviewing American students who wanted to go away for a year and getting to know their families. He said he also “got to work with some great kids from Europe, Japan and Australia” through the program.
When a teacher from Lille, France contacted the club about an exchange program for middle school students, Cromie worked with the Middle School Language Department to ensure its success.
“Ballston Spa Central School District is very fortunate to have these language teachers willing to give so much to their students,” Cromie said. “As part of the Lille exchange, I traveled twice with the students, as a guest of the Lille Sud Rotary Club.”
Cromie has been a long-time member of many community groups, often serving as an officer. His membership includes the Milton Grange, Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation, Ballston Spa Area Seniors, Inc. and Milton Republican Committee.
He assisted in founding the Saratoga County Historical Society, Ballston Spa Business and Professional Association and National Bottle Museum. He also has served on the boards of several upstate New York organizations.
Cromie’s newest challenge has been working with Rotary members during the past year to organize the morning meetings. He said the whole club is tackling it with enthusiasm.
Cromie observed, “The best thing about Rotary is, if someone has an idea that will enrich life there is an organized group of people willing to help make it happen.”
BY BARBARA COOK
For 90 years, hundreds of men and women have served the local and international communities through membership in the Ballston Spa Rotary Club. The Rotary imperative, “Service Above Self,” is exemplified in their lives.
In April 1922, Jack Knickerbacker, a Ballston Spa resident and president of the Troy Rotary Club, proposed the formation of a Rotary club in the village. Village leaders agreed to the proposal and the Ballston Spa Rotary Club received its charter on May 1, 1922. Knickerbacker was named an honorary member.
The first president of the 24-member group was Irving Wiswall, a Milton native. Mrs. William H. “Ma” Mann was engaged as pianist for the club’s meetings. She led the group in song for more than 25 years. Margaret Wiswall was among the women who cooked the meal for the group’s noontime meetings. She presided over the kitchen from 1933 to the late 1950s.
A young reporter named Charles Grose covered the club’s inaugural meeting for his father’s newspaper, “Ballston Daily Journal.” Grose later joined the club and became its first district governor.
A victim of polio, Grose took part in Rotary International’s campaign to eradicate polio. The disease is now limited to three countries worldwide, thanks to efforts by Rotary and its partners in the fight.
A year after its formation, the Ballston Spa Rotary sponsored creation of the Rotary Club of Saratoga Springs. It later helped with starting the Malta Sunrise Rotary in 1988.
In the early days of the club, most of its resources were used for youth projects. Awards were given at high school graduation and financial assistance was given to college-bound students.
Young men were sent to American Legion’s Boys’ State, and Boy Scout and 4-H programs were supported. The club also sponsored the New York Tribune’s Fresh Air Fund in the Ballston Spa area.
Through member efforts, four village children received treatment and were cured of crippling deformities. The project was part of a Rotary District cause that led to state legislation to provide money for the care and treatment of disabled children.
In 1957, the Rotary club became a liason between the Ballston Spa High School and American Field Service. Jim King, son of Rotarian Carl King, was the first local student to go overseas through Rotary International.
In the mid-1960s, school Superintendent George Osterwise and Lou Gagne, a professional musician, decided that the club needed a signature song. Borrowing the tune from “76 Trombones,” Lou composed the lyrics for the club’s welcome song.
In the early 1960’s, Ballston Spa Rotarians started doing some serious fund raising. For about 15 years, the club’s major money-maker was an annual Rotary Ball, which became the village’s social event of the season. The extra money allowed the club to make greater contributions to community groups, and by 1972 it had given $22,000 to scouting alone.
In the winter of 1972 the club sold a few Christmas trees for $3 to $6 each. The sale was so successful that it was held again the next year and soon replaced the Rotary Ball as the club’s major fundraiser. The event now raises more than $10,000 a season through the sale of 800 trees.
By the summer of 1988, the first three women had been welcomed to Ballston Spa Rotary. Eleanor Reese, Patricia Rutland and Nancy Sausville joined the group and Reese became the first female president in 1994.
In 1990 a teacher from Lille, France contacted the Ballston Spa Rotary to establish an exchange program for young teenaged students of College Carnot. By 2001 more than 165 American middle schoolers had visited France and more than 252 French students had come to the Ballston Spa and Saratoga Springs school districts for two weeks. The program was halted by international events in 2001.
The high school International Student Exchange has continued since 1966, sending Ballston Spa students to Germany, England, Spain and Brazil for a year. Youth from Brazil, Sweden, England, Argentina, Spain, Japan, Bolivia, Finland Germany, France, Italy, Thailand and Venezuela have been welcomed into Ballston Spa area homes.
During the 1971-1972 school year, Marcio De Melo of Brazil visited Ballston Spa as an exchange student. In 2006 his daughter, Natalia, took the same opportunity.
In 1996, Mike Palma, who was the high school principal and Rotary president-elect, suggested formation of an Interact Club for high school students. The group engages in community and school service projects.
The club has continued its tradition of giving awards at the high school graduation, supporting the 4-H program and sending young people to Boys and Girls State.
Additionally, the club has supported community causes including the National Bottle Museum, Brookside Museum, Guardian House for Homeless Veterans, Ballston Area Community Center, Junior Baseball and Maplewood Manor.
In March 2011, the Ballston Spa Club became one of only 123 throughout the world accepted into a pilot program allowing it to conduct meetings in the morning and midday. Members may either attend the noon meeting on Tuesday at the Factory or the Wednesday gathering at 7:15 a.m. at the D-Line. The convenience has already attracted five new members.
To celebrate the club’s 90th year, members, past members and the public are invited to attend an evening of dinner and memories at The Factory, Upstairs Speakeasy, Tuesday, May 29 at 6:00pm. The cost is $35 per person. Reservations are required. For more information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.