The 2017 Compassion Awards

WHEN:  THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 6:30 – 9:30 pm


The Giving Circle Compassion Award commends the ideals and values of The Giving Circle, selfless compassion in action.  Honoring those individuals who go above and beyond demonstrating devotion, dedication, tenderheartedness, dependability and perseverance to the needy and suffering beings locally, nationally and internationally.

The Giving Circle Compassion Award recognizes that even the simplest act of kindness can have the greatest impact on the quality of life for the underserved and downtrodden.   This award encourages selfless acts and promotes altruism and compassion in future generations.

Honorary Chairs: Matthew & Robin Dalton

The 2017  Award Winners:

Local Individual Resident - Maggie Fronk of Wellspring
Local Individual ResidentMaggie Fronk of Wellspring
An individual who has through selfless compassion most influenced or touched people of the Saratoga region

Maggie Fronk has been the executive director of Wellspring since 2002. She has more than 25 years of experience working with vulnerable populations including: the mentally ill, individuals with HIV/AIDS, homeless families, and domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. She has held leadership positions on many multidisciplinary teams in Saratoga County,   advocating for youth, homeless persons, and those with disabilities, including the Healing Springs Recovery Center Advisory Committee, Saratoga Springs Housing Task Force, Empire State College, Institutional Review Board, Saratoga North Country Regional Housing Alliance Board, and the Saratoga County Partnership for Safe Children.  Maggie serves on the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence Advisory Task Committee by appointment under Governors Pataki, Spitzer, Patterson and Cuomo.

Community volunteerism is important to Maggie. She was the volunteer coordinator of AIDSWalk from   2001- 2013 and also volunteered locally for projects, such as Camp Bravehearts, EOC’s House to Home, Rebuilding Together Saratoga, and Habitat for Humanity and serves on the steering committee of Code Blue Saratoga. Maggie has been an active member of Soroptimist International of Saratoga County since 2006.

Local Business - Gary Dake of Stewart's
Local Business Gary Dake of Stewart’s
A local business that has through selfless compassion most influenced or touched people of the Saratoga region

Gary Dake, President of Stewart’s Shops in Saratoga Springs, NY, has 30 years of experience working for and now running his family and employee owned business. He joined the company in 1984 as Market Coordinator and in 2003 became President. Gary is quoted regularly in local news

papers, radio, and television when an expert is needed in dairy, gasoline or retail sales. In addition, Gary is on the Board of Directors of Saratoga National Bank and Arrow Financial Corporation. He further serves the community as a member of the St. Peter’s Health Partners Board of Directors, Safety and Quality Committee, Continuing Care Committee, and the Ambulatory Care Committee as Chairman. He is a 1982 graduate of St. Lawrence University with a B.A. in Economics. He has two adult sons.

Local Non-Profit - The Presbyterian-New England Congregational Church
Local Non-Profit The Presbyterian-New England Congregational Church
A local charity, social club, faith-based organization or service group that has through selfless compassion most influenced or touched people of the Saratoga region

The Founders Award - Jim Towne
The Founders Award –  Jim Towne
Awarded to the person who has dedicated a lifetime to acts of compassion

After his discharge from the Navy, Jim Towne came to the Capital District in 1972 to attend Albany Law School.  Having been born and raised in Connecticut, coming to the Capital District was in a sense coming home to where his father was born and raised at 150 Phila Street in Saratoga Springs and where Jim visited his grandparents as a child.  His career has been dedicated to representing the wide-ranging interests of individuals and businesses in all arenas.  Jim is proud to be a founding partner of Towne, Ryan & Partners, P.C., a NYS certified Women-owned Business Enterprise and the largest law firm holding that designation in Upstate New York. 

Jim’s dedication to the legal field has been evident throughout his 42-year career.  His 19 years on the Board of the Legal Aid Society, twice a recipient of the Legal Aid Society’s Distinguished Services Award; his current role as an Advisory Board member for The Legal Project and the recipient of The Legal Project’s Champion Award in 2015; and a nominee for the ABA’s national Pro Bono Publico Award are a testament to his passion for affording access for all to the legal system.   He chaired the successful fundraising efforts to underwrite Legal Aid’s acquisition of its first LAS-owned facility in Saratoga County in 2014.   In 2015 Jim partnered with The Legal Project to address his long-standing desire to increase the availability of legal services for domestic violence victims located in underserved and unserved remote regions of upstate New York who are hampered by transportation and limited resources.  The collaboration produced the William E. Byron Technology Center, named in honor of his father-in-law, that is a regional network hub providing access to legal advice for victims of domestic violence, also serving as a technology training center for The Legal Project’s other outreach efforts.  Jim has also been recognized professionally by appearing on the list of Upstate New York Super Lawyers for eleven consecutive years, being named as a Top 25 Attorney in the Hudson Valley and Jim was selected for a Lifetime Achievement Award among America’s Top 100 Attorneys® in Upstate New York.  In a nod to his knowledge of the equine industry, Jim was selected to serve on the Franchise Oversight Board for NYRA in 2013 and is now into his second term on the board. 

Jim has responded to the needs of many humanitarian organizations and not-for-profits throughout the Capital District and beyond, devoting countless hours of personal time and funds, championing innovative ideas for new services, methods of delivering needed assistance and enhancing fundraising efforts.  In addition to service on local boards such as Saratoga County’s Youth Board and the Town of Ballston’s Ethics Board, Jim also served on the boards of the Multiple Sclerosis Society and as a member of its Executive Committee for 18 years and the Leukemia Lymphoma Society for 12 years, advocating for local funding and local services to support survivors and families in the Capital District.  Jim was a recipient National Multiple Sclerosis Society Angel Achievement Award in 2006 in recognition of his years of service.  He currently serves on the board of Saratoga P.L.A.N., Inc. whose mission is the conservation and preservation of Saratoga County’s natural environment and unique open spaces.

  Another local affiliation which means a great deal to Jim is his association with Skidmore College.  In recognition of his family’s long association with Skidmore and his belief in the essential role a liberal arts education plays in enhancing the fabric of society, Jim worked with Skidmore’s administration and faculty to develop and underwrite a documentary studies program at the college and in the creation of Skidmore’s Storyteller’s Institute. Named in honor of his step-father, the John B. Moore Documentary Studies Program “is becoming a national leader in how to embed and advance the documentary arts within a liberal arts curriculum.” Jim helps fund the college’s First Year Experience in bringing the authors to campus and supports a number of summer internships for Skidmore students with local and regional businesses and non-profits.  His connection with Skidmore’s Friendship Family Program has offered Jim and his wife Sue priceless opportunities to develop lasting relationships with international students as a local friend, mentor and in providing a needed support system to facilitate their successful transition from their home countries to Skidmore.

Jim is founding board member of the Loisaba Community Conservation Foundation (LCCF), a 501 c.3 not-for-profit headquartered in Saratoga Springs.  This is project has been a true labor of love for Jim since its creation.  LCCF supports the educational and health needs of more than 19,000 Masaai and Samburu tribes people living in an extremely impoverished area of Kenya called Laikipia.  For nearly 20 years, Jim has spearheaded fundraising and hands-on operations for the Ewaso and Koija villages in Laikipia through:

Land and wildlife conservation and animal husbandry

Education – built nursery schools, primary school classrooms, student housing, dining facilities and a library bringing computer technology to the school, providing essential school equipment and supplies, underwriting conservation training, in refurbishing existing and building new teacher housing, and funding teacher, library and computer training salaries.  LCCF support encourages continued education for girls and boys by providing scholarships for secondary and university education, including underwriting 2 students who have become doctors and a third slated to graduate this Fall who is the region’s first female to obtain a medical degree.  In the current year LCCF underwrites 32 scholarships and the educational needs of Ewaso students who are attending 14 secondary schools, and 8 college and university programs throughout Kenya.

Health – partnering in 2002 with AMREF for the creation and funding of a medical clinic, recently funded, built and furnished a dental and maternity wing, this clinic provides the only resource for medical assistance in the region. Since the clinic’s creation, LCCF has provided the funding for the salary of the clinic’s nurse in addition to providing medicines, medical supplies and medical equipment and for more than 10 years developed and underwrote a program to bring in visiting doctors, nurses, PAs and dentists to the clinic.  Four years ago LCCF initiated a community health outreach program after training and supplying essential medical supplies for 15 community health workers which LCCF underwrites. 

Empowering Women and Girls – providing a broad range of support from creating an independent source of income and pride for women by underwriting beading projects and assisting in finding markets for their sale, underwriting job training for older women and creating additional employment opportunities, and serving as a co-founder of the region’s first anti-FGM education and training efforts allowing for alternate rites of passage for young girls.

In 2014 The Nature Conservancy (TNC) established a massive regional conservation undertaking to preserve the region’s unique wildlife habitat in an area of more than 10 million acres, including the area served by LCCF.  In recognition of the foundation’s ongoing successes, TNC proposed a partnering with LCCF to expand its reach in providing needed educational, medical and social support services to match TNC’s new conservation footprint inhabited by more than 120,000 people.  While photos can’t impart the whole story, it’s easy to see how the people of this remote area of Kenya have stolen Jim’s heart. 

The Giving Circle Courage Award - Don Petersimes
The Giving Circle Courage Award – Don Petersimes
This award is provided to a local resident who has, through the courage of their convictions, demonstrated the will and determination to overcome obstacles to either improving their own life or the lives of others in our community.

Life takes funny, strange, complicated twists and turns. My life is no different.

At the age of 10, I was placed in South Texas children home in Pettus, Texas. That’s where I lived for the next seven years.

I moved back in with my mom in 11th grade. I stopped going to school and started working. At 20,  I moved to Illinois, got married and had my first son Zack. During this time I was working at various jobs and become an alcoholic.

At 30, I had my daughter Jamie, but I didn’t know she was born until she was 12 years old. Drugs and drinking had become my whole life.   I even did time in prison because of this.

At 40, I moved to Maine to take care of my mom who was dying of cancer. I stopped drinking the whole time I took care of my mom, it wasn’t easy but I wouldn’t ever drink in front of my mom.  She died several years later.

From there, I moved to Vermont and then to Saratoga.  During this time, I started drinking again and doing odd jobs.

It’s at this point in my life I officially became homeless. For a number of years I continued to drink and play guitar.  This is one of those funny strange twists…had it not been for the children’s home, I would’ve never learned to sing and play guitar. That is how I spend my days: drinking and singing and playing on Broadway. I did this day after day all while living on the streets.

After meeting a special group of ladies and they taught me that I could love myself again and that I had the courage to once again stop drinking.  I checked into detox for a number of days. From there I started living at Shelters of Saratoga. Not one day of that was easy, but I knew in the back of my mind that all the hard work, in the end, would pay off and that this was going to be my road to recovery.  After months, days, and many hours, I finally found my own apartment. I had lived at the shelter and finally was ready to move out on my own.  I am living in my apartment on my own and today, standing here, I am almost 2 years sober!

Being a wanderer, homeless and an alcoholic, I lost all contact with my kids. Today through hard work and dedication, I have the best relationship with both my children and my grandchildren.

My path was a long, hard and twisted, but eventually led me to the happiest place and time in my life. Not one step of this process was easy, but with a little bit a courage and amazing support, I stand before you today and couldn’t be more proud of myself.

TGC Team Awards:

The Serge Shishik Memorial Local Team Member of the Year - The Mann Family
The Serge Shishik Memorial Local Team Member of the Year – The Mann Family (Ernie, Andrea & Will)
A Giving Circle volunteer who has through selfless compassion most influenced or touched people of the Saratoga region

Altogether there are eight of us. This award is given to us as a family which makes it very special. We have all been volunteers of one kind or another most of our lives. We can never do enough. We thank The Giving Circle for providing us with more ways to give. We are inspired by those who came before us, those we work beside and the teens and young adults who are The Giving Circle’s future. It is a family affair. Some of The Giving Circle projects we have enjoyed include: local projects, cleanouts and flood relief; and the development of small businesses, installation of solar panels and most recently a preschool playgroup startup in Uganda.





TGC Uganda Individual Member of the Year - Hope Stevens Neikirk and Caren Baker
TGC Uganda Individual Member of the Year – Hope Stevens Neikirk and Caren Baker
A Giving Circle volunteer who has through selfless compassion most influenced or touched people of our Uganda projects

After reading Half the Sky by Nicolas Kristof and Cheryl WuDunn, we were inspired and motivated to work on behalf of women and children in need, but didn’t know where to start. The World Health Organization International states:
Maternal health is not a “women’s issue.” It is about the integrity of communities, societies, and nations, and the well being of all the men, women, boys and girls whose own prospects in life depend upon healthy women and mothers.

We learned what a difference a few dedicated individuals can make and we committed to do something. We researched many volunteer organizations in hopes of finding those that were making a measurably sustained difference. We eventually found ourselves in the Bertrand’s living room with the intention to simply learn about The Giving Circle.

Mark and Kelly graciously and selflessly described the origins and growth of the Giving Circle and it’s subsequent expansion to Africa, specifically Uganda. Mark explained that the next step in Kagoma Gate at that time was to hire a midwife​,​ but they needed the funds for her salary. At that first meeting, we said, “We’re in!

This was a perfect fit for an RN and a Midwife. We were welcomed into the Giving Circle Africa team and within months The Midwife Project, whose mission was to raise funds for the salary and supplies of a midwife, was founded.

We traveled to Uganda in 2014 and enjoyed the love of the people first hand. We met and worked alongside a dedicated practicing midwife, Elizabeth Arikoba. We were able to understand her vital role in the community and appreciate the many needs she would have in order to meet the demands of her position. This trip solidified our commitment to TGCA. The competence of the African team and the direction of Moses Wambi was impressive. Despite the pressing present needs at that time, Moses was able to articulate a vision for the future with plans to sustain the progress that had been made.

Since then, we have enjoyed maintaining our focused role in TGCA. Thanks to our sustainers and donors, we have raised money for the annual salary of Elizabeth, have purchased a “boda-boda” and a storage cabinet for medical supplies, and have raised funds for supplies and medicines every year since that first meeting in 2013. We have also developed a system (“sustaining membership”) to assure that the income will be on-going. ​We continue to welcome and need more sustainers!

We look forward to going to Uganda again in January ​2018 and to learn what more The Midwife Project can do.  We are indebted to TGCA for the opportunity to be a part of an organization that is making a significant difference in easing suffering in our world.

In Peace,
Hope and Caren

TGCA Uganda-based Individual Member of the Year - Emma Walubi
TGCA Uganda-based Individual Member of the Year – Emma Walubi
A Giving Circle Africa volunteer who has through selfless compassion most influenced or touched people of our Uganda projects

Our Sponsors:

Lily Pulitzer Team – 4/15/2015 – New York, New York – LILLY PULITZER for TARGET Launch Event held at Bryant Park Grill, NYC. Photo Credit: Neil Rasmus /BFAnyc *** Please Use Credit from Credit Field ***



Ticket and Sponsor Levels:

Sponsor Level Description Price
Paul Newman Single Event Ticket $ 100.00
Andrew Carnegie Receive 1 event ticket and listing in official event poster $ 200.00
John Hopkins Receive 1 event ticket and ¼ page official event poster $ 250.00
Martin Luther King Receive 2 event ticket and ½ page official event poster $ 500.00
Mother Teresa Receive 4 event ticket and ½ page message in official event poster $ 1,000.00
Mahatma Gandhi Receive VIP Table for 8, 2 bottles of wine, full official event poster $ 2,500.00

To view the 2016 awards click here.

To view the 2015 awards click here.

The Giving Circle is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit.  All donations are tax deductible.

2017 Compassion Awards

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November 9th, 2017 6:30 PM through  3:09 PM
Event Fee(s)
Event Fee(s)
Regular $100.00
Silver $600.00
Gold $1,200.00
Platinum $2,500.00