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HHC Helps Community Members Experience Performing Arts Through "Summer Nights at SPAC" Program

Thursday, July 25, 2019 -- Hometown Health Centers (HHC), a not-for-profit, federally qualified health center in Schenectady County, will provide more than 120 residents in the neighborhoods it serves with the opportunity to experience the performing arts for the first time this summer thanks to a special outreach program offered by Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC).

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The program, called “Summer Nights at SPAC,” provides free transportation, a concession meal ticket and amphitheater seating to hundreds of children and family members from underserved communities at select classical performances. Now in its third year, the initiative is funded by The Wright Family Foundation, The Mercer Foundation and Bank of America.

“A collaboration between Hometown Health and SPAC isn’t something that you’d typically think about,” said Hometown Health Centers CEO Joe Gambino. “However, thanks to this special grassroots program, many neighborhood residents will have an unforgettable, first-time experience with the performing arts they might not otherwise have been able to afford.”

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HHC General Counsel Paul Jesep, a keen supporter of the arts who regularly attends The Metropolitan Opera and New York City Ballet, first initiated contact with SPAC earlier this year seeking free classical concert tickets for families and individuals living in the neighborhoods served by HHC.

“I’m delighted that we were able to coordinate these dates,” he said. “The arts not only change lives, but also bring joy, comfort, and happiness, which enhances wellbeing. There are also tremendous role models in the arts -- people who come from modest backgrounds who become incredible givers of joy and hope in our lives!”

On Monday, July 29, 14 excited families, including a grandmother with her 10 grandchildren, will board a bus at Hometown Health Centers’ headquarters located at 1044 State Street before heading to the Spa City to watch Fela!, a Tony Award-winning production that brings to life the music of Fela Kuti, the founding father of Afrobeat. The show begins at 8 p.m.

Then, five nights later, on Saturday, Aug. 3, another 12 families (totaling 40 persons) will experience the magical adventures of Harry Potter’s second year at school like never before. The 8 p.m. concert features the Philadelphia Symphony Orchestra performing John Williams’ Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets™ complete with high-definition film.

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“Children these days spend so much time playing video games,” said DeVora Fonder, a Hamilton Hill resident who lives on a fixed income. “I am so excited to expose my five grandchildren to some culture and beauty. What SPAC is doing is wonderful for the community. I hope that they continue to do this for many years to come!”

Attendees will be joined on the upcoming trips by HHC representatives Cristine Espinosa, chief medical officer, Lori Ody, case manager, and Nichele Darby and Rosa Rivera, board members.

“Live performances are very powerful and have the opportunity to transform people’s lives in so many different ways,” explained SPAC Director of Youth Education Dennis Moench. “This year more than 1200 people from Schenectady and Albany counties — folks who typically might not get the opportunity to enjoy a live classical performance — will have the chance to attend shows here.

“Whether they watch a classical performance with the Philadelphia Orchestra, or see the New York City Ballet or one of our global music programs, our hope is that these performances give children and adults an appreciation of these art forms, which sparks a creative interest in them, regardless of whether they decide to pursue that art form on their own,” he added.

In 2017, the program’s first year, 500 families from various non-profit groups such as the Boys and Girls Clubs, Northern Rivers Family of Services, Vanderheyden, CAPTAIN, and the Center for Economic Opportunity, took advantage of Summer Nights at SPAC, Moench said. Interest in the program continues to grow.

For more information about Summer Nights at SPAC, please visit https://spac.org/education/in-our-community/outreach/. For more information about Hometown Health Centers, please call (518) 370-1441 or visit hometownhealthcenters.org.

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