Meet Lydia Calabro of AmeriCorps Vista/The Food Pantries of the Capital District

Lydia Calabro has been with The Food Pantries for the Capital District for a year through the AmeriCorps VISTA program.  As a VISTA, she has worked on building the capacity of The Food Pantries filling the gap programs.  There are more than 89,000 people (including 27,000 children) who are food insecure in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady Counties.  Lydia’s work in filling the gap programs includes working on developing a sustainability model for our Food Connect: Mobile Outreach program that distributes thousands of pounds of fresh produce to people in low-access areas of the Capital Region and provides them with information about the basic needs resources available to them.  All services and products from our programs are offered at no cost to people.     

In May, shortly after Lydia graduated from graduate school with a degree in Educational Psychology from The College of Saint Rose, Lydia was recognized as the 2020 VISTA Changemaker of the Year by the Center for Academic Community Engagement at Siena College for her work with The Food Pantries.  Since mid-March, the priorities of Lydia’s role were adjusted to handle the volume of food assistance referrals we responded to, which has increased by 10 times the number compared to last year because of the economic distress caused by the coronavirus pandemic. 

The majority of the calls received through the Food Access Referral Line program have never used a food pantry before so the increased volume speaks to the rising demand that many of our local food pantries experienced in the last seven weeks.  Lydia’s work with the Food Access Referral Line program has been incredible throughout this challenging time.  She responded to as many as 19 people on the referral line in a single day, and over 80 in the month of March.      

As a network of more than 65 food pantries across four counties in New York’s Capital Region, The Food Pantries for the Capital District is working together to feed the hungry and support food pantries in our region.  Lydia embodies that spirit and we are grateful for her time with us.  Lydia is originally from Dutchess County and is currently pursuing fulltime employment opportunities in the Capital Region where she lives with her husband. 

Please join us in wishing Lydia the best success in her future endeavors!  

Virtually Network with the Capital Region Chamber

Even though most of us are still working remotely and in-person events are being held off for the foreseeable future – it doesn’t mean you can’t meet other business professionals in our community!

The Capital Region Chamber is still hosting its next Network by 9 – virtually. Meet people who are interested in meeting you and growing their business relationships in the Capital Region! Make new connections and expand your network of contacts in a fast, fun environment. Develop potential leads and build business relationships before the workday begins in a structured, fun environment. Who knows? You might have a new client before 9 a.m. Expand your network!

The next meeting takes place on Tuesday, June 2nd from 9:00am – 9:30am. June’s topic of discussion will be “3 Minute Moments.” “You will have the opportunity to share with a captive audience what your organization is thinking in regards to “opening back up for business. We know it’s not business as usual, but the Capital Region Chamber is here to help you make connections while social distancing.”

Registration is required! However, please limit your organization’s attendance to one session per month as spots are limited. You will receive a Zoom link the day before to join the event. Please contact Debbie Erck, Director, Signature Events at with any questions.

Here are the other upcoming Network by 9 Events:

Thursday, June 4th from 9:00am – 9:30am

Tuesday, June 9th from 9:00am – 9:30am

Thursday, June 11th from 9:00am – 9:30am

Tuesday, June 16th from 9:00am – 9:30am

Tuesday, June 18th from 9:00am – 9:30am

Friday, June 26th from 9:00am – 9:30am

If you are unable to attend networking events first thing in the morning you are welcome to attend the Chamber’s Virtual Business After Hours on Wednesday, June 10th. You can register here.

WBC Member Spotlight: Kim Siciliano, YWCA of NorthEastern NY

Kim Siciliano is the Chief Executive Officer of YWCA NorthEastern NY. Serving as the organization’s top leader since December 2016, she has been an employee of YWCA NENY since 2001. During her 19-year tenure at the agency, she has overseen all program areas, including child care, fitness, breast cancer awareness and prevention, housing, and domestic violence. As CEO she provides guidance and supervision to six Program Directors and 70+ employees. Siciliano firmly believes in YWCA’s mission work of eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. Outside of work she is currently the Secretary of the Schenectady Kiwanis Club and a Past President, the Immediate Past President of the Capital District Child Care Coordinating Council Board of Directors, the Vice President of Crossroads Center for Children, and a member of the Schenectady Business & Professional Women’s Club. Additionally, she is a member of the Schenectady County COVID-19 Coalition leadership team and co-chairs the Housing and Shelter Focus Group for moving forward/re-opening. 

What do you love most about what you do?

For 16 years, I was part of the YW team as a Program Director and as part of the Leadership Team steering the destiny of our organization. Now, in year 20 as the CEO, I work with an incredible group of professional staff members who all support the mission work we do at the YW every day. For 132 years, YWCA NENY has thousands of people who came together to support our community. The rich history of the YW reminds me that whatever I do, whatever we do, as a team and as individuals, creates our legacy and our place in history here. I am proud knowing how successful we have become in just three years of my assuming the core leadership role. Our team has struggled, been in despair, found solutions, succeeded and overcome challenges together. That is an amazing feeling. Walking in and being greeted by staff, residents and clients alike, is as if this is our home away from home and we are neighbors, friends and community change agents all in one. 

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

Stay sassy! Always be yourself. Never try to be anyone else. Your success in life is directly connected to channeling the person you are meant to be into everything that you do. Trying to fit into someone else’s picture or mold of what or who you should be will only stifle your growth.  Try new things, meet new people and stand up for what you believe, even if you’re the only one talking. This too shall pass.  Life is a series of ups and downs, good days and bad days, stay the course and know that wherever you are right now is temporary. Whatever you do, do it with pizazz!

What is the best advice you have ever received?

Can’t think of just one thing! Some of the best advice I have received is that remember how you affect others, as the things you say and do may change their life and yours.  Always give support, a listening ear, and an open mind to any discussion.  Leave behind negativity and toxic situations and focus on your goals, but find time to recharge.

For more information about the YWCA, please go to:

5 Things? Not this time.

From the desk of Karen Lombardo, Owner Put Another Way

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Since June 11, 2018, I have had the privilege and honor to blog for the Capital Region Chamber’s Women’s Business Council. I relish the 5 things series and I spend time gathering my thoughts for the blog post over a steaming cup of coffee or a piece of cheese and fruit late in the afternoon.

The events of past few months and the quarantine brought on by the coronavirus have taken a toll on my creative inner soul. I hear from my friends and colleagues; it has had the same effect on them.

I am not listing “5 Things” this month.

I love to write, and I am so fortunate to be active in this community with the Capital Region Chamber, and the Women’s Business Council. These relationships have fed my mind and soul for 2 years. I have written the 5 Things series on:

  • 5 Reasons for Coffee
  • 5 Things You Can Do to Feel Productive
  • 5 Reasons to Have Dogs in the Workplace
  • 5 Great and Creative Interview Questions
  • 5 Things You Should Know About the Membertini

I could go on and on, but I am sure you get the gist of it. Now sitting on the precipice of quarantine and an un-pause, I am at a loss to write just 5 things. As business people and human beings, we all have more than 5 things we can say about any aspect of this pandemic.

Take a moment, for me, and list your own 5 Things.

I will say, writing can heal, so take a pen to paper.

Before we close our laptops and tablets tonight, perhaps take a moment to pen your own 5 Things list. The options are never ending. I would love to hear your 5 Things list, should you feel the urge to share, .

Take care and I absolutely cannot wait to see you all again soon!

PS If you need to chat or have someone to virtually share a cup of Joe, reach out to me. I am always up for that!


Giving Tuesday Now Recap with The Food Pantries of the Capital District

From the desk of Matt Shaughnessy, Development Director at The Food Pantries of the Capital District

Staff Quotes:

“Throughout this crisis, the majority of our local food pantries have remained open and many continue to face a significant rise in demand. We at The Food Pantries for the Capital District have expanded our capacity and increased the amount of food delivered across our four-county footprint by approximately 50% in response to community need.”

Natasha Pernicka, executive director of The Food Pantries for the Capital District 

“As Program Coordinator, I have been given the opportunity to manage our food assistance referral line.  Right now, I would say our Food Access Referral Line is the best resource for those that find themselves in need of help.  This program connects people with their nearest food pantry and basic needs resources.  Since the crisis, we have experienced a 900% increase in the volume of calls seeking food assistance compared to last year at this time.”

Here is a note we received from the relative of one of the community members we coordinated a delivery for: she was crying tears of joy when I called her, she said she’s trying to eat one meal and feels so uncertain about life.  My heart is so happy that she’ll have food and won’t suffer.”

– Dan Vaughan-Cherubin, program coordinator at The Food Pantries for the Capital District


“Thank you to The Food Pantries,” we called one of our clients to let them know that we would be coordinating the delivery of food tomorrow for her, she was so excited and we are thrilled that she’ll be able to start eating some nutritional food and hopefully be able to maintain her weight during this time and not get sick.  The client said, “God bless all of you for all the wonderful work that you do in our communities. I can’t even imagine us not having you people to lean on when we need to!”

Quotes from Our Members:

“Thanks to The Food Pantries for the Capital District, our pantry…has been restocked with 1,550 lbs. of food. We will be expanding our food pantry hours to meet the needs of our community.”

– YWCA-GCR’s Food Pantry

“We are appreciative to have The Food Pantries’ Food Express so we are able to get large quantities of food we need.”

– St. Clement Food Pantry

“Today we want to recognize the incredible work of The Food Pantries for the Capital District. We are proud to be part of this coalition and grateful for their valuable work. As we have seen demand increase on our food pantry- for some guests, it’s their FIRST TIME accessing a food pantry- The Food Pantries for the Capital District has stepped up the delivery frequency, making it possible for us to work with less staff and maintaining social boundaries while we work as an essential service. Thank you to Natasha and all her crew.”

– Unity House of Troy’s Food Pantry

For more information on how you can help The Food Pantries of the Capital District, visit here.

We are a network of more than 65 food pantries in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady Counties, working together to feed the hungry.  Our mission is to address hunger in the Capital District through our member food pantries.  Our vision is a hunger-free Capital Region.  We support local food pantries by funding, purchasing, collecting, and delivering food.  We provide a forum for networking, coordinating services, educating, and training pantry staff and volunteers.  We provide direct relief to people in low-access areas of the Capital Region and connect them to their nearest food pantry and basic needs resources.  We are a voice for the local hungry.

Coronavirus disruptions weigh more heavily on women

From the desk of Hannah Stenzel of Godfrey Financial Associates, Inc.

Woman working while sitting with daughter at table in house

This past weekend, my social media feeds filled with pictures and heartfelt notes of gratitude to mothers everywhere. I never ceased to be amazed at the beauty, resiliency, and individuality that women embody every day. Yet, at this moment, so many women are struggling with the increased demands that the Covid-19 pandemic has incurred.

We’ve known for a long time that chronically struggle under the stress of bearing the unequal weight of household work, caretaking roles, and lower wages. So what happens during a pandemic when they have even more stresses, and even less support?

This article in Biz Women by Caitlin Mullen was helpful to begin understanding the scope of the problem because it uses specific numbers and examples of how women are affected in greater capacities; not just with higher stress, but also with increased exposure rates to possible infection, lower healthcare, and more job complications. All of this leads to compounded worry and stress.

Mullen states, “Given women’s tendency to shoulder more of the concern and preparation, it’s not surprising women are more likely than men to report coronavirus worry or stress has had a major negative effect on their mental health. More than one-third of women said these worries have had some effect on their mental health, per the Kaiser Family Foundation poll.”

Moving forward, I’m hopeful that we can explore how we can provide better support systems for women while being safe (and socially distanced).

You can read the full article here.

#GivingTuesdayNow with The Food Pantries of the Capital District

You’re invited to join The Food Pantries of the Capital District next Tuesday, May 5th for #GivingTuesdayNow. Throughout the day, they will be sharing some of their most recent ‘mission moments’ of the #here2help campaign with you.

Your donation on this day will support local food pantries and the 65,000 people they serve. As you all know, there is no donation too small ($1 is equal to 6 pounds of food for local people in need).

We hope you will continue to make a #localimpact with us and join The Food Pantries and the entire Capital Region next Tuesday ❤️

Positive Steps to Building Your Team COVID-19 Crisis Communication Connection Plan of Action

From the desk of Sharon A. Burstein, President and CEO, Sharon Burstein International

People respond to crisis situations in a variety of ways. How you respond
to situations is how you recover. When you look at a glass of water do you think of it as half full or do you see it as half empty? One looks from the view of an optimist, while the other is a pessimistic viewpoint and attitude.

In the wise word of Winston Churchill, “A Pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; and an optimist see the opportunity in every difficulty.”

During this time of the COVID-19 outbreak, lives have been turned upside down. We are spinning in new ways and experiencing new words like social distancing and shelter in place. Throughout everything, hope is important to find and latch on to. It may take some intentional effort, but having hope and seeing possibilities ahead and beyond, sets the framework for a positive mindset. Staying in a mental place of seeing hope and possibilities is great for your mental mindset, which has significance in helping to keep you healthy.

Keep your eyes on the road looking forward. There will be hills and
turns throughout the journey, but learn to move with the swaying turns and obstacles in your path and stay on the road. There may be times to shift gears to pass, accelerate or slow down, but keep your eyes looking forward ahead, know where you are headed and your destination. If you do not know where you are headed, you will never know if you have arrived.

Throughout the past months, much has been written about how companies, organizations, and not for profits of all sizes around the country are reacting and responding to COVID-19. What is interesting is that companies, organizations, and not for profits have shown huge diverse ranges
as to how they view where we are and their future. Now is the time to look beyond where we are, to have a vision, and think from a viewpoint of innovation as to how to grow, thrive, and be relevant moving forward. This is not the time to wear blinders, be controlling, have tunnel vision, and silo mentality ways of thinking.

While money is a key component of a business’s success, it’s not everything. During these unchartered times, relationships and building a culture of caring are essential. Now is the time to reach out to clients, customers, colleagues, friends, neighbors, family, and the community and
simply show that you care. Yes, difficult decisions are being made by everyone, but now is the time to show and demonstrate through your words and actions that you care about. Creating, growing, and maintaining connections in all aspects of our life is significant and relevant.

Here are 2 of the greatest things that you can do during these times and 2 of the worst things that you can do.

2 Great Things to Do: Create a Positive Mindset and Discover Ways to Be Happy

2 Worst Things to Do: Hibernate and Freeze

Be the architect of your mindset and attitude. When you allow the power of positivity to flow, you will find greater satisfaction. These are times when many existing leaders stumble and fall and a time when new leaders emerge and shine. When you hibernate and freeze, you are not helping yourself or others around you and are closing everyone and everything out. This rigid approach is a hindrance and helps nothing and no one. By creating a positive mindset and discovering ways to be happy, you are being open, keeping an open mindset, and looking forward.

Relationships are vital keys to success in every industry and all aspects of life. Now is the time and opportunity to forge closer relationships with clients, partners, sponsors, supporters, and the community. Now is the time to build stronger alliances and communication. Now is the time for everyone to think and to be more creative using the word “HOW” and being more flexible with events, situations and relationships.

Your success in life begins with you! It all starts with how you think about who you are, what you are doing, where you have been and the direction you are headed. How you perceive and believe in yourself is up to you. The universe is open with no boundaries. It will bring to you what you wish to attract and believe. When you open your mind up to possibilities and opportunities to grow, you will find that they surround you, but you have to believe in you first.

So what are suggestions to help build your team and Board during these times? They truly are not complicated. Here are five key ways to build communication, connection, and success. These are timeless, will propel you forward now, and be relevant for your tomorrows ahead.

  • Stay Connected – Maintain Open Lines of Communication
  • Create Innovation Mindsets
  • Show Through Your Actions How You Are Helping with Acts of Kindness and Deeds
  • Dedicate Specific Duties – Grow effective teams, and work together
  • Build a Culture of Thanks, Appreciation and Gratitude

Think and build an innovation mindset. If you are at the helm, lead and bring people together. Create open lines of communication through every possible source. These are times when great leaders rise to the top. Great leaders understand how vital open lines of communication are crossing all departments, locations, and roles. They listen first, learn, understand, and then take action. Similarly, there are those who presently hold leading roles, who will sink their ships with struggles of power as they work to overthrow those who can help right the ship. Weathering a storm, let alone a pandemic requires all hands on deck. Those who yell and scream orders put everyone in jeopardy and risk.

When everyone moves forward working seamlessly as a team, overcoming challenges, obstacles, and discovering new solutions, that is creating an innovation mindset. Those organizations and companies that pull together today, will be stronger tomorrow.

The Food Pantries of the Capital District is Here2Help!

According to Feeding America, in Albany, Rensselaer, Saratoga, and Schenectady county, over 89,000 people are food insecure. Out of that number, 27,000 are babies and children. With the occurrence of COVID 19, the Food Pantries of the Capital District is now more than ever motivated to help. They are working hard to ensure that our local food pantries are prepared for these circumstances that are devastating to our most vulnerable community members. Please consider helping this amazing organization by one of the following:

  • Make a cash donation 
  • Donate food, personal hygiene, household products, and diapers to your neighborhood pantries.  Find your neighborhood pantry here. Please call ahead of time – that way they can tell you exactly what they need.
  • You can find their donation link here :
  • Volunteer
    • ​They ARE still accepting individuals and groups looking to support our work via volunteering.  Individuals can submit your volunteer application here.  
    • Corporations, organizations or other groups looking to lend a hand, you can connect with Kathy Marco at 518-458-1167 x104.

If you’d like to learn more about the Food Pantries of the Capital District, please visit

5 things you can do to feel productive during this pandemic

From the desk of Karen Lombardo, Owner Put Another Way

Stress is everywhere. It is a sad reality for all of us from those who work retail, or Wall Street, it is just difficult right now. After working through 9/11 and the Recession of 2008, I am finding this is an entirely different animal.

How To: Stay Present | EternalLifestyle

So how do we stay present and engaged?

That is the $100,000 question. I speak with small business owners every day. The interaction and face time, albeit over Zoom, keeps my heart and soul alive. People are social beings and we thrive on the hustle and bustle. Streets are quiet, phones are quiet, businesses may be quiet, but here are 5 things we can all do to feel productive.

  1. Keep as much ‘normalcy’ as possible. We all crave consistency. Those ‘sure thing’ moments keep us grounded when life adds a wrench to the works. Keep your schedules and in the absence of a work schedule, make a new home schedule.
  2. Reach out to your coworkers and clients. Whether you are the one still at work, or the person furloughed, engagement is important, and it brings a semblance of normalcy to everyone. Encourage each other as best you can.
  3. How about a project? I know I have completed projects that have lingered for literally years. How many years do I need to save my 2009 tax returns; or how about every Franklin Planner I have used since the year 2000? (No lie). I cleaned out old files, redecorated my home office and invested in candles to set the atmosphere to be relaxing. My Pug Izzy sleeps in her bed next to my desk. Perfection!
  4. Volunteer or donate. We all have a gift, a talent, or a service that we can offer to someone who needs help. Donations do not always need to be in the form of money.
  5. Breathe. Yes, find a way to inhale and exhale. The stress levels are elevated and in New York, we are on pause for another month. It is not easy, and I am not a relaxed kind of gal, but I am trying.

When all else fails….

At Put another Way, we believe in the power of a Zoom meeting with a steaming hot cup of coffee. (OK tea or hot chocolate work too). Reach out, I would be honored to share life in my home office and how we can all get through these upcoming weeks.

Be well.