Drue Sanders- Woman of Excellence, Excellence in Business

What is one thing that has inspired you in life that you think might have led you to be named a Women of Excellence?


It was my passion for art and creativity. Reflecting back in time, after completing my master’s degree in jewelry design, I took that passion of art and creativity with me, which led me to my career of designing, making and selling jewelry. For me, it’s the design that makes each piece special. I still have the joy of finding inspiration everywhere I am: from types of art, architecture both modern and historic, along with varying types of sculpture. Jewelry is wearable art. My jewelry runs from one of a kind creations, to full collections. I create jewelry that can be subtle and understated, to elegant and remarkable. Now, 46 years after opening my first store, I still live that same excitement and passion of art and creativity in jewelry. For me it is being responsive to each customer, listening and being sensitive to their budget, whatever it may be, and grasping the understanding what they want expressed in their jewelry item. Jewelry says a lot about a person. I provide a creative jewelry experience for every customer, whether for their personal use, or a gift for a special person or occasion. Jewelry items with my name, Drue Sanders, become a part of someone’s treasured life memories.

Sign up for the Women of Excellence event https://members.capitalregionchamber.com/eventcalendar/Details/30th-annual-women-of-excellence-307845?sourceTypeId=Website

For more information contact Debbie at derck@capitalregionchamber.com

The Food Pantries for the Capital District 10th Annual Harvest Evening Celebration Honorary Chair Announcement

The Food Pantries for the Capital District is excited to announce the Honorary Chair for the upcoming 10th Annual Harvest Evening Celebration is Kristen Diesel, Director of Leasing at First Columbia and board member at CIREB.

Throughout the month of October, The Food Pantries will present a series of virtual experiences in conjunction with this year’s Harvest Evening Celebration presented by Tri City Rentals, AOW Associates and Capital Financial Planning.  The Harvest Evening Celebration features well-known local chefs, food industry experts, and professional moderators. We expect over 1,000 people visiting our social media pages throughout the month of October (with an average monthly post reach of 5,000).  In addition, we will host an interactive virtual event and silent auction. There will also be an exclusive in-person event at Franklin Plaza with details to be determined.

“Each time I cook a meal for family or friends, or refuel my body after a workout, it is a reminder of how fortunate I am to be well nourished, healthy and active. This perspective draws me to be an active participant in The Food Pantries’ critical mission of abating food insecurity throughout the Capital Region. I am honored to be selected this year to work more closely with a wonderful source of assistance to those in need, and to encourage my network and our community – now more than ever – to increase our support of The Food Pantries’ efforts through awareness and participation,” said Kristen Diesel, Honorary Chair of the 10th Annual Harvest Evening Celebration.

The Food Pantries is seeking new Harvest Committee members! If you would like to join this year’s committee, please reach out to Kathy Marco 518-458-1167 x104 and/or kathy@thefoodpantries.org

Dr. Joanne C. Porter – Woman of Excellence, Distinguished Career

What is the one thing that has inspired you that might have led to your being named a Woman of Excellence?

“My inspiration comes from the many faces of patients – whether a child or senior – and their families whom I have cared for over my 28-year career.  Their stories motivate me to do my very best and hope that I make a difference.

I am the Director and Founder of the Pediatric Palliative Care Program, ‘Journeys’ at the Albany Medical Center. This program is the only pediatric palliative care program in the 25-county region and provides support for families with children who are facing a debilitating, life-threatening, or terminal medical condition. We offer complete medical, psychosocial, and spiritual palliative care aimed at lessening a child’s pain while focusing on their quality of life. We also provide emotional support to the entire family during this time.

Early in our development, I faced many challenges in building the program.  I found that so many people I approached, both lay and professional, had strong misperceptions about palliative care and confused it with hospice care.  We were turned away from many cases due to that misunderstanding.  It took a lot of education and persistence to broaden people’s view of palliative care.   When we started in 2009, many people doubted that we could be successful; however, I was fortunate to have Dr. David Clark, Chairman of Pediatrics, who gave me unwavering support. Moreover, he allowed me to research the models that already existed and gave me the financial cover to proceed.  Over the subsequent 11 years, we built a program that has served over 1000 families.  We filled a need that we didn’t even know existed.

Today, I am grateful to Dr. Barbara E. Ostrov, our present Chairwoman, for her strong endorsement. When COVID arrived, Dr. Ostrov supported my volunteering to help the Adult Palliative Care team with what we knew would be an uncertain and challenging time.  In doing so, I’ve been able to broaden my scope of practice and help support the many families who were unable to be together as their loved one suffered in the hospital.  We built teams to help cover the whole hospital and became indispensable to the medical staff being able to communicate with families daily. Also, we offered updated medical information and video visits when possible.  It was a difficult time for so many, and I have been privileged and honored to be a part of it.

Epilepsy Foundation of Northeastern New York Celebrates 40 Years of Service

The Epilepsy Foundation was very excited to welcome in 2021! Last year was our most difficult year ever.  Seizures didn’t stop during the pandemic and social isolation greatly complicated issues for so many of the people we serve.  In addition, we were unable to hold in person events, and our state contracts which support all of our services were reduced.  

We do, however, have another reason for being excited for 2021, as this year marks the 40th Anniversary of the Epilepsy Foundation of Northeastern New York providing essential services to individuals with epilepsy in our community.  Epilepsy is defined as having two or more unprovoked seizures.  It will affect one in 26 people in our lifetime, including more than 45,000 people in northeastern New York.  Our organization was founded by a mom, who had a child with epilepsy, and wanted to support other families who were on similar epilepsy journeys.   Her premise for starting our organization is still part of our mission today.  We are here to educate, advocate and empower individuals with epilepsy to lead the best life possible, 

We have recently unveiled our 40th Anniversary Celebration webpage which celebrates and highlights the generous donors and sponsors who support our mission and join with us in looking forward to planning for our future initiatives.  Philanthropic support from the generous businesses in our community accounts for 20% of our budget, and allows us to continue the programs that are needed by so many people with epilepsy including information and referral, service coordination, counseling, support groups, and professional inservice training.   Please view our list of sponsors who are being recognized throughout all of 2021 for their generous support: https://www.epilepsy.com/local/northeastern-new-york/40th-anniversary-1981-2021  

Many things have changed over the past 40 years.  Back in 1981, a postage stamp was $.18, a loaf of bread was $.54, and a gallon of gas was $1.13.  But two things have not changed.  First, we are still here for people with epilepsy providing education about this condition, and support to the families who are affected by it.  And, second, we still need your support to further our mission, expand our services and help increase awareness of this disorder.  I hope you will consider joining our list of Anniversary sponsors.  For more information, please contact Jeannine Garab at (518) 456-7501 or jgarab@epilepsyneny.org.  

5 Things You Can Use to Enhance Your Financial Literacy

April is Financial Literacy Month and begins a national campaign to raise awareness for financial education. As we near the end of April, we thought we would share a few tips from our Chamber members whose expertise lies in the financial field.

What Is Financial Literacy Month?

According to Forbes.com,

In the U.S., Financial Literacy Month is a national campaign organized by the Jump$tart Coalition to raise awareness about financial literacy and promote financial education. The Jump$tart Coalition and its partner organizations host events and initiatives throughout the month to improve financial literacy in America.

Financial Literacy Month’s mission has always been to promote, advocate for and support financial literacy efforts across the U.S., especially in schools for kids and teenagers. Jump$tart Coalition and other organizations promote the literacy campaign through special events, online and print content, school curricula, and more.

5 Things You Can Use to Enhance Your Financial Literacy

Many people are intimidated or unnerved when it comes to having a financial discussion. Understanding finance, whether personal or business, is critical to a healthy life or business. Financial stress is one of the leading causes of depression and anxiety amongst Americans. The pandemic has exacerbated this and the effect on mental health. So, let’s talk financial literacy and share a few tips

Sabrina Houser is the founder and owner of Capital CFO LLC and has recently joined the Capital Region Chamber. Sabrina shares three tips for personal financial health and budgeting.

  • If you get paid 26 times a year, budget for 24 and keep the additional two payments for savings.
  • If you get a raise or cost of living increase, do not budget for it. Create your budget around your living expenses from the previous year and keep the savings.
  • But the biggest one, a budget and monitoring expenses, are so necessary! 

Shawn Moodie is the President and Founder of Moodie Bluez Consulting,  based in Albany, NY. Shawn is also a chamber member and shares with us two tips for a healthy business.

  • Your credit score is basically your financial reputation. It’s important to protect it at all costs. Check your credit report regularly to identify possible errors and outdated information that may hurt your credit score. You can currently access all three credit bureau reports for free on a weekly basis at www.annualcreditreport.com.
  • Managing your credit cards strategically and responsibly can improve your credit score and cash flow. Spend within your budget and be a transactor (pay balances in full each month). If you have credit card balances, work to get each card under 10% of the limit. That will maximize your credit utilization which is 30% of your FICO score.

Teach Your Kids about Financial Literacy

It can start as simply as a piggy bank and progress to an introduction to your financial planner. Understanding money and finances help our children and, ultimately, our community.

Special thanks to Sabrina and Shawn for their tips and insights. Remember to visit the Capital Region Chamber’s Events page for more information and a list of seminars and events.

Karen Lombardo is the founder of Put Another Way LLC in Schenectady, NY. Karen has been designing websites and delivering copywriting services to small businesses and startups for more than a decade. The company culture is relaxed, our new office mate is a rescue English Bulldog named Tillie, and the philosophy is to listen first, create later.

Resources- https://www.forbes.com/advisor/banking/national-financial-literacy-month-celebrate-learn-share/

Shaloni Winston, Women of Excellence, Excellence in Management

What is the one thing that has inspired you in life that you think might have led you to be named a Woman of Excellence?

“My philosophy in life is that I study people and look at what they do well, and I learn from them.”

In 1987, I came to the United States from India to attend college at SUNY Plattsburg. My father and I looked it up on an atlas, and he thought the letter must be a mistake that it should be Pittsburgh! My parents instilled in me the value of education and opportunity, and when I was able to come here for school, I knew that I must make the most of the great opportunity that was being offered to me.  I had never seen snow, I had never been in a small rural town in upstate New York, but I was given a chance to learn and grow with family support back in India and from relatives living here in the States.

My parents made sacrifices gave me the strength and determination to learn as much as I could.  I took nothing for granted and worked to excel at the things I was good at and learn about the things I knew nothing of or had no experience with. While attending school, I was fortunate to have a student advisor and a professor from India take me under their wings, have me over for holidays, and help with the adjustment to my new surroundings and culture.

Moving to Gloversville to work at Lexington ARC, being a single mom of a special needs child, was challenging. The community and the people of Lexington became my family. This level of support has helped me and my daughter thrive in the community. I would not have become successful without them, and I feel blessed to be part of this community and the Lexington family. I have learned from my many influences that you need to be positive about your job.  Do what you are passionate about and excel at that, realizing that there will always be things you don’t necessarily like about your job. You will know you are successful when you see how your decisions have positively impacted someone’s life.

Each step in my journey has allowed me to grow and learn from mentors, being a mom to my daughter, and the people we support at Lexington.  If there is one thing that has inspired me, it is people; my parents, my daughter, and most of all, the Lexington family.

Coumba Ndoye- Woman of Excellence, Emerging Professional

What is one thing that has inspired you in life that you think might have led you to be named a Woman of Excellence?”

“The drive to prove myself right (and not prove others wrong) and assure myself that I am capable of achieving what I set my mind on, when I apply myself, follow my strong work ethics and have faith in my thought process.

“All of which are inspired by the environment I was raised in, parents that encouraged me to dream big, keep growing and the network of support I have now built.”

Sign up here for the Women of Excellence event on May 21 here https://capitalregionchamberofcommerceny.growthzoneapp.com/ap/Events/Register/ep0wXver?sourceTypeId=Website&mode=Attendee

For more information:

Email Debbie: derck@capitalregionchamber.com

Stress: Let’s be honest; we all experience it, but what are we doing to create change?

Stress, six letters that evoke various emotions depending on our mood, day, week, or heck the past year. Stress is a dear friend that occasionally wakes us out of a dead sleep to remind us of an upcoming event. Or the friend that sometimes whispers in our ear; are you sure you can do that? Or better yet, the one that triggers butterflies in every part of our body when we are excited.

Many of us have or are experiencing stress in our personal or professional life, and we hear about the negative impacts all the time. Additionally, we are always sharing how stressed out we are, but what are we doing to create change? What are we doing to get proactive in taking care of ourselves and managing our stress levels, the negative and positive stress?

Feeling defeated by stress from time to time, I’ve found learning and understanding that I can impact and influence how I perceive stress and build skills and tools to help me navigate stress in healthy ways. Studies have shown that stress and wellness are connected, and it’s best when we focus on both and the interaction that they have on one another within ourselves, rather than just trying to get rid of one and increase the other. 

Over the years, I’ve learned the impacts that stress can have on my mood, relationships, success, mindset, motivation, not to mention my overall health. However, despite the unpredictability of stress, everyone can do things to manage and reduce the impacts of stress. Keeping it as simple as creating and maintaining social supports, staying active, and getting enough quality sleep, how many of you could only imagine a good night’s sleep? 

A Canadian research found that 51% of our health status is based on our lifestyle and 20% on our environment. The good news, we can impact and make changes to our lifestyle to help manage stress.  

Creating change to manage stress has always been a work in process, but a few things that I’ve found helpful in my quest to maintain my wellness and serving as a self-check are:

Creating boundaries, both personally and with others. Personal boundaries include how many times will you pick up the phone from that one family member or friend that sucks the energy right out of you? Boundaries with others are the most difficult to maintain, especially with those closest to you. How about those professional boundaries? Do your colleagues know what those boundaries are and how to respect them? A boundary that I’m very clear on is no social media or work emails on the weekends unless, of course, there is an event. This allows me to recharge and reignite my creativity, and my team knows and respects this. 

Make a plan, figure out what your schedule looks like, and take control of it. Do you control your schedule, or does it control you? I’ve found being intentional about everything I put on my calendar helps me to know exactly when I need to say no. 

Stress management, learn to recognize what it looks like when you begin to feel overwhelmed and have tools and resources available. When I can identify things that increase my stress levels, I can build in activities that I need to maintain balance—recognizing things that increase my stress and finding ways to tailor my lifestyle. Don’t like going to the store or just finding time to do it all makes you feel overwhelmed, outsource or eliminate! 

Focus on wellness, think about your wellness first, and build it into your routine, especially around events or situations that could increase your stress levels. Look at your schedule. Does it excite you? For each event or engagement on your calendar that might present stress, do something that focuses on your wellness, which can be as simple as taking 10-minutes to go outside.

Treat yourself, self-care is not selfish! Find ways to create excitement, even for little things like getting ice cream, a physically distant dance party, or meeting up with friends and family. In moments of increased stress, negative or positive, having things to look forward to within the week, month, or year provides us something to refocus on. 

Stress doesn’t have to be daunting or overwhelming if we are in the driver’s seat in taking care of ourselves, and if you happen to find yourself in the back seat from time to time, that’s okay too. We can always recognize and reset!

Lead by example,

Joelle M. Monaco

Women in Business Spotlight : Connie Medina

Connie is a wife & a mother of 3 beautiful children ages 25, 22 & 5. She has always worked since the age of 16 and before opening her business, she worked as a Banker for 14 years before her department was relocated out of state. She took that time to re-imagine herself and figure out what she wanted to do next. When the opportunity came to open her own CBD store she jumped right on it. She had been using CBD for a couple of years and was seeing the positive effects it had on her, and so, she wanted others to join in on the experience as well. 

When you have 30 minutes of free time, how do you pass the time?

30 minutes of free time is very rare but having a glass of wine and sitting outside on my deck regardless of the weather. But then my 5 year old finds me and my time is over

What do you love most about what you do?

I love helping people find themselves again! I hear so many stories of how they couldn’t do certain things because of pain or anxiety and that I was able to get them back to their “normal” I hear it all the time. I love being a part of their healing journey. Every time I hear 1 of their stories it just reminds me to keep going no matter how hard it might be to operate a brick and mortar business these days.

What would you most like to tell yourself at age 13?

“I know life seems rough but stop trying to be an adult and fix adult issues.Go be a kid!”

What have you gained from being a member of the Capital Region Chamber?

Meeting so many people! I’m quite an introvert so just being able to meet others was out of my comfort zone but they have helped me get out there (pre covid) it’s hard now but knowing that if I need anything there’s someone I can contact.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

You can’t do everything by yourself! Ask for help when you need it, I’m still stubborn that way but I’ve been able to ask for help a little more.

Elizabeth Smith-Boivin, Women of Excellence, Excellence in Business Development

“What is one thing that has inspired you in life that you think might have led you to be named a Woman of Excellence?”

“First, it is such an honor and so special to me to be nominated by my senior staff. It hasn’t been easy to lead an organization through the pandemic so it means so much.

It is interesting because it is hard to think of one thing. Siena College, where I went to college for a degree in Social Work, was impactful and special to me and instilled in me a spirit of serving.  As I thought about the twist and turns of life, the one thing that inspired me and my journey in this work is the Alzheimer’s disease caregivers that I saw in my work.  It is easy, it’s the one thing. 

When I graduated, I took a temporary position as a nursing home/geriatric social worker to cover for a woman going on maternity leave. I thought if the person returns, I will move on but luckily for me, she did not, and I absolutely loved it. The nursing home is where I met people who cared for their loved ones with Alzheimer’s for five years, ten years at home, and then so reluctantly turned over their care to the nursing facility where they continued to be so active and so concerned.  This was in the early 80s and we did not know much about the disease so I became determined to know more.  

As an entry-level social worker, I became a member of the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter, one of the first in the nation.  I joined for $10.00 a year to get the typed newsletter in the mail!  Shortly thereafter, I became a volunteer educator for the local chapter and then a board member.  I loved the board so much that my Vice-Chair on the board, also a Siena alum nominated me to be on the national board and I absolutely couldn’t believe that I was elected to the board. I was with them traveling around the U.S. as a volunteer for eight years and I was still working in the social work field and delivering care to people who were affected by this disease. It was at this point that I knew I wanted to do more.  I wanted to learn more about the brain to advance research and to advocate for change so I went to graduate school to get my Master’s in Health Services Administration from Sage which led me to get leadership roles like the Director of the Alzheimer’s Center at Albany Med and now the Director of the Alzheimer’s Association Northeast.

Absolutely, unequivocally that journey all started because of having met such spectacular people who devoted their lives to Alzheimer’s caregiving.”