In the late 1970’s, a group of concerned community members stepped up to help local women who were experiencing domestic violence. This “help” was in the form of shelter, food and money. For the next four decades, the needs of the victims were further understood, launching legal support efforts, family counseling, and programs to help foster self-sufficiency. With the evolution of these programs came the realization that we must be proactive in preventing domestic violence and relationship abuse.
Years later, the next generation of concerned community members stepped up to advance Wellspring’s mission even further. The minimal space available at the organization’s previous location made it impossible to provide the community with the support it needed. The vision became clear: to build a mission-based building that gave Wellspring adequate space to both serve clients and provide educational and preventative programming for the community.
COVID FUELS THE FIRE
Now introduce an unexpected pandemic. We all experienced anxiety from just the health consequences of the covid virus. The added stress of paycheck losses and shortages of food in some households created an incredibly caustic environment. Add a history of partner aggression, just about NO where to flee to during lock down, and it was the perfect storm. A storm that made the Wellspring mission more relevant AND more urgent.
In true Saratoga fashion, a few volunteers were busy ramping up the fundraising effort. Behind their backs I call them the dream team. Each bringing a different set of skills to the table, but all equally ready to take on the challenge of raising the funds to build an 8000 square foot facility that would forever change our community. Together with their visionary leader (Executive Director Maggie Fronk) and support from an engaged Board of Directors and generous community, they set out on a mission.
THE DREAM TEAM
When Erica Fuller stepped onto Wellspring’s board of directors in 2016, she was immediately behind their mission and incredibly impressed by the dedication of the staff. As she learned more about the needs of the community, Executive Director Maggie Fronk’s visions seemed to make perfect sense, and in 2019, Erica agreed to take on the role as Board President as they discussed the details of expansion. She wouldn’t have predicted at the time that she’d be campaigning through a pandemic, nor the elevated need that the pandemic would bring. But she DID know that she would need a powerhouse of a team to raise the 3 million dollars needed to build the new facility.
Stephanie Collins joined the board in 2015, while they were scouring the county for the right location and time to launch the campaign. In an attempt to do her part in ending domestic violence in Saratoga County, Stephanie agreed to lead the campaign. Stephanie’s past volunteer experiences include her role as co-chair of the Saratoga Hospital Gala, Beagle School Board President and participation on many other local fundraising committees. These roles not only gave her the building blocks to run a successful campaign, but also the connections to many local community members. But Stephanie knew that the help of a co-chair, and one in particular, could maximize the chance of this campaign being a success.
Enter… Linda Toohey. The player that everyone wants on their team. In addition to her current role on the board of Wellspring, Linda has spent most of her adult life serving on boards like SPAC, Skidmore College, Saratoga Hospital, among many others. Her participation and leadership on other local capital campaign committees at the SRYMCA, Saratoga Hospital and Emma Willard has been instrumental in allowing these organizations to live out their missions. When agreeing to co-chair alongside Stephanie, she was agreeing to leave her next fingerprint on our community.
WELLSPRING’S NEXT CHAPTER
How can you raise money during a pandemic? Well with the right people and skill sets, a dedicated board and staff, and community that’s ready to help, you surely can. I had the privilege of visiting Wellspring’s new building, and to say I was impressed is an understatement. With the leadership of these women and their commitment to rallying so many other generous individuals and businesses, THIS is now available to our community.
Two things stood out to me at the new facility. The first, being how bright and comfortable each space was. The peaceful lounge area with welcoming seating, an abundance of sunlight, and coffee station almost had me finishing my day’s work right there. And then there’s the sweet children’s play area, providing a much needed escape from what may be chaos at home for many victims. A play area that my kids would pay major allowance money to enter.
The second thing that stood out was the vast amount of meeting and training space. With varying size conference areas and a fully functional training room, I could visualize the collaborative programming that was about to impact our community. And as I soon learned, programming which has ALREADY begun.
Linda shared that she looks forward to providing a welcoming space for the victims to receive the services they need with dignity, compassion and hope for the future. Erica is excited to take the space a step further, and create an outdoor space to further help families heal. Stephanie pointed out that “This building is more than a building. It is the means to ending abuse in our county.”
One thing that they ALL mentioned was the incredible generosity of our community. One that has proven time and again that it’s ready to step up when needs emerge. And one that’s so full of inspiring individuals like this dream team, whose dedication to Saratoga continues to pave the way for so many future community leaders.
Want to learn more about the truths and myths behind domestic violence? Click to watch me and the Wellspring Board of Directors debunk some common misconceptions like: