Saratoga County

Saratoga Springs group gets in groove

Saratoga Springboard, a new volunteer group, will give Caffe Lena a free boost this year.


Saratoga Springboard, a new volunteer group, will give Caffe Lena a free boost this year.

The folk music venue celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and Saratoga Springboard will help the cafe organize a fundraising concert to mark the occasion.

“Their focus is to make a really great anniversary party for us on the weekend of our 50th,” said Sarah Craig, executive director of Caffe Lena.

Saratoga Springboard formed last year as a group of volunteers with varied backgrounds who aim to help not-for-profit organizations raise money and market themselves.

The group was born at Universal Preservation Hall and was originally called the Steeplechasers. It promoted the building and raised $150,000 to renovate the former church into a music hall from 2003 to 2008.

When that work was done, members sat back and regrouped.

“We took a year to kind of define ourselves,” said Betsy Boland, co-chairwoman of Saratoga Springboard and co-founder of Steeplechasers. “Steeplechasers was pretty specific to UPH because it was a restoration project and UPH is Saratoga’s tallest steeple.”

The 10 active Saratoga Springboard members are in their 20s and 30s, although older members are welcome.

“We’re also not all professionals in the professional working world,” Boland said.

“The group has really been absolutely amazing because of the dedication and commitment of all the members,” she said.

The group consists of involved community members who work in a range of fields, including Web site and software development, marketing and public relations, fundraising, design, writing and economic development.

Each year, the group will pick a new nonprofit to help with fundraising events, community outreach or volunteer coordination.

Boland, a Saratoga native who works in donor relations at Empire State College, co-chairs the group with Alysa Arnold, a birth and postpartum doula, or professional who supports mothers before, during and after birth.

Members are Gabe Anderson, director of consumer advocacy for Articulate, a technology company; Jordan Baker, owner of a flower business, Heavenscent Floral Art; Stephanie Corp, associate director of annual giving at Empire State College; Andrew Elder, manager of technical support for HAPPY Software in Saratoga Springs and a musician; Jennifer Joseph Perry, a stay-at-home mom who serves on the Board of Directors for the Domestic Violence Rape Crisis Services Center of Saratoga County; Elisa Sheehan, owner of Lis Design, a graphic design firm in Saratoga Springs; Ashley Terwilliger, member services coordinator for Successful Practices Network; and Ben Zimmerman, an economic development specialist for Camoin Associates.

Last fall, Springboard sought applications for its first project.

“In Caffe Lena’s case, we had fantastic proposals. And it just happened to be their 50th anniversary, and that sort of swayed us,” Boland said.

“We wanted to make sure it was a nonprofit that had some roots in the community, but also had a lot of opportunities for people to be part of that culture,” she said.

Caffe Lena on Phila Street fit the bill with its open mic night, poetry readings, black box theater and volunteer opportunities in addition to music performances.

Saratoga Springboard volunteers will put together a May 21 fundraising concert on the actual anniversary date with an indoor/outdoor festival afterward. “We have yet to announce who the headliner will be for that,” Boland said.

“We’re going to be working on an open house, a cafe,” Boland said.

Craig from Caffe Lena is looking forward to the perspective the new volunteers will bring.

“Saratoga Springboard is a whole new fresh set of people that we’ve never worked with before,” she said.

While Caffe Lena is good at bringing in folk artists and creating a memorable experience in its cozy venue, marketing outside its community is new territory, Craig said.

“That’s the skill and connection that Springboard is bringing to us,” she said.

A May 22 concert will be organized by Caffe Lena at the new Arthur Zankel Music Center at Skidmore College, she said.

“I think it’s going to be promoted exceptionally well, and it’s going to involve a lot of the community, and not just people who have been regulars at Caffe Lena.”

Caffe Lena is recognized as the oldest continuously operating coffeehouse in the United States, and is the place where many songwriters got their start, including Bob Dylan, Arlo Guthrie and Ani DiFranco.

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