Schenectady County

Charity helps out Guard families

Through the New York National Guard Family Programs, a Guard family can obtain money to cover unexpe
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Through the New York National Guard Family Programs, a Guard family can obtain money to cover unexpected medical bills, pay for a broken water heater or cover a rent payment if an emergency arises.

“It’s stressful when one spouse is deployed and you’re already trying to do everything by yourself,” said Staff Sgt. Stephanie Spanton.

But federal regulations make it difficult for the Family Programs to actually raise money to distribute.

“Because of current Army policies, they could not solicit money. Only under certain circumstances could you walk into their meeting and say, ‘Here’s some money,’ ” said Susan Taluto, president of the New York National Guard Family Readiness Council.

Taluto’s nonprofit group, the Readiness Council, was formed in March 2007 to raise funds for the National Guard Family Programs. As a 501A-non-profit organization created to benefit families of National Guard service members, the group can accept donations, including corporate and cash, that can be used for family grants, needed academic awards, etc., said organizers.

Members of the National Guard come under unique pressures when they are activated for federal or state duty in times of emergency, organizers pointed out. Unlike active duty military members, citizen soldiers do not live on or near military bases that can provide the range of support services to families during periods of separation.

It held its first fundraiser, the Hometown Heroes Run, on Saturday at The Crossings park on Albany Shaker Road in Colonie, and raised close to $4,600 for the day.

The Readiness Council plans to make the 5K run an annual event and repeat it in the communities of the state’s four other National Guard bases.

“Then, it’ll have a multiplier effect,” she said.

Most of the money raised on Saturday will go into the coffers toward helping Guard families, because most of the supplies were donated for the event, Taluto said. The Readiness Council already has $14,000 in its bank account, she said.

“We’d like to have somewhere between $25,000 and $30,000 as a ‘nest egg,’ if you will.”

The New York National Guard has more than 2,500 soldiers and air personnel deployed or preparing to deploy to Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as performing homeland security duties here in the state.

The 5K race and youngsters’ one-mile fun run attracted 250 registered runners and walkers, double the number of expected participants, said Spanton, of Joint Force Headquarters.

“It was very much a success. That was due very much to the community,” Spanton said.

Many runners who have no connection to the National Guard turned out to race, she said.

“My friends from my team ran,” said Emma Risler, 16, who clocked the best female time on Saturday. “It was a good cause.”

Her fellow Shaker High School classmate, Chris Manico, won the race overall.

“I missed out on making states for track, so I decided since I was still in shape, I’d run a race,” said Manico, 18, a graduating senior.

National Guard Major Dana Brewer runs nine miles a day, so the 5K run was just a little jog for him.

“The National Guard is a family affair,” he said.

Saturday was also the birthday of the American Army, first formed as the Continental Army in 1775.

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