Teaming up to provide Peace of Mind

After years spent working in nursing homes around the Capital Region as an aide to the elderly, Karen Backus felt it was time to get closer to her work.

The South Glens Falls resident recently teamed up with Rayeanne Morin, of Queensbury, to open Peace of Mind Home Care, a private home care business serving the elderly in Saratoga, Warren and Washington counties.

“We have both been doing elder home care for 20 years but decided to go into business for ourselves,” Backus said. “Every time I left the nursing home, I felt like I never finished my job. You couldn’t do enough to help them because you have 15 other people to take care of. If you really want to give someone 100 percent of your time, the only way to do that is in their home.”

Backus is a past-certified elder care aide who has also trained in massage therapy. She grew up in Kingston and Lake George, learning home care skills from her mother, who ran their house as a state home for mentally and physically handicapped individuals.

Now, at 51, Backus is doing the training. Along with Morin, 41, she has hired about 12 aides and is matching them up with local clients to provide a variety of non-medical services: everything from total bed care to transportation to and from appointments, running errands, making meals, housework and wheelchair assistance.

Because Peace of Mind is a private small business, as opposed to a nursing home or assisted living facility, there is no certification requirement for her newly hired aides, Backus said. Instead, they learn through on-the-job training.

“We set the houses up, put teams in each house and supervise them,” Backus said.

Most clients are homebound individuals 65 or older who are ill or need companionship. Some have disabilities such as multiple sclerosis, dementia and Alzheimer’s, all of which her crew is trained to handle, Backus said.

“Private care is just wonderful care because you really get to know the person and their family,” Morin added. “It takes compassion, kindness and patience.”

Peace of Mind Home Care services cost $20 to $30 an hour. Call 708-9732 or 338-8769 for more information.


Saratoga Arts' Gallery Shop a forum for artists

A tiny gallery downtown is quietly serving the local artists’ community from under the umbrella of the established nonprofit Saratoga Arts Center.

The Gallery Shop, a sort of consignment store for fine art, has existed in the Saratoga Arts Center at 320 Broadway since the center took over the former library building in 1996.

Saratoga Arts relaunched the shop about a year ago and has been displaying for sale a variety of handmade pieces created by local artists throughout the Capital Region and the North Country. Each month, about 50 artists are represented in the shop, which simply consists of a few bookshelves in a corner of the larger art gallery.

Director of Grants and Community Services Adrianna Flax runs the Gallery Shop while Exhibitions Coordinator Elizabeth Dubben runs the actual gallery.

“I saw the Gallery Shop as an untapped resource to drive membership and give the artists a display for their work,” said Flax, who joined Saratoga Arts about three years ago.

In the shop, there are silkscreen printed pillows, glass wear, ceramics, jewelry and silk scarves, as well as original recordings, stationary and books by local authors.

Formerly, the Gallery Shop accepted arts and crafts from artists at any level, but Flax now facilitates a submission process. She often sources art from Art in the Park events locally and on www.etsy.com, and typically accepts items that are priced for less than $100.

“These pieces are all handmade and there are no reproductions because we want the buyer to have a feel for the artists’ hand,” she said.

To submit work, artists must apply for a $40 annual membership at Saratoga Arts. Artists take 70 percent of each item’s sale and Saratoga Arts takes 30 percent. Those proceeds are used to run the gallery.

For information about submissions to the Gallery Shop, e-mail Flax at aflax@saratoga-arts.org. For more information about Saratoga Arts and its classes, exhibits and programs, call 584-4132 or go to saratoga-arts.org.


Dance Factory settling into new home

A local dance studio is blossoming under a new roof, but you wouldn’t know it from the looks of the sterile office building it is hidden inside.

The Dance Factory, owned by Dianne Carola, has relocated to the professional building at 24 Hamilton St., where it shares space with medical and insurance offices, a public relations firm and a salon.

Dance Factory founder Dianne Carola, right,  instructs 9-year-old Grace Alberti, of Milton, who has been Carola's student since she was 2.  The studio is gearing up for its second year in a new, private space at 24 Hamilton St.

It’s an unlikely place for youngsters to be practicing tap, hip hop, ballet and jazz — the studio has classes for children of preschool age and older — but Carola has made it as child- and parent-friendly as possible, with cheerful green walls and art supplies on hand for the creative arts summer camp she holds. Parents like to hang out on the plush couches in a living room area while their children dance, she said.

“I wanted it to be a happy, safe, clean and cheerful place for kids,” said Carola, who founded the Dance Factory in Pennsylvania in 1978 and moved it to Saratoga Springs in 1980.

The studio floated for years between temporary rented spaces, including the National Museum of Dance on Route 9, before Carola moved to Hamilton Street last fall.

Now heading into its 33rd year of operation, Carola said the studio is finally settling more permanently into the private, second-floor space. There, she has the freedom to offer more classes and stay open six days a week, as opposed to the limited time she had while sharing studios at the dance museum.

Enrollment has doubled to about 200 students since the move, Carola said. She is taking on a new instructor to teach Zumba classes, in addition to the help she gets from local high school students, ballet instructor Ann Adler and her daughter, who is a professional dancer.

While many of the students aspire to be professional dancers, and some have gone on to do so, the studio has a less competitive spirit than other area dance schools.

Instead, its founder and primary instructor aims to share her love of dance with students while allowing them to be as well-rounded as they want to be.

“My students are athletic children who do lots of different activities,” she said. “They do drama club and chorus and band and sports. But they would rather be here than anywhere in the world. I want to inspire them to dream big.”

Open houses for fall classes will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Aug. 24 and 26.

For more information, call 587-1455 or 253-1433.