“(That's) when they found out it was the 375th anniversary of the National Guard,” said Col. James Pabis, a member of the National Guard and former board member of the Chamber of Commerce.
To find the service members, a website was put together by the Saratoga Convention Bureau, which listed the available rooms from participating hotels. Pabis then worked to get the word out to National Guard members throughout the state. In total, 156 families signed on, with limited space available for those still wishing to participate.
“From the Guard members, I’m sure I can speak for most of them when I wish all of [the local businesses participating] a heartfelt thank you,” said Pabis.
Portions of the program are still in the development stages.
In 2002, each first responder was partnered with a local host family. The family volunteered to meet the first responder at their hotel with the gift basket and acted as a point-of-contact throughout the trip. Romeo said she was unsure if they would ask for host families to volunteer this time around, despite the success.
U.S. Rep. Chris Gibson was unable to attend the event but a member of his staff went in his stead.
According to his District Director Steve Bulger, as a former Army paratrooper and combat officer, it was an honor for Gibson to recognize the Saratoga Chamber for all of its efforts on behalf of the first responders and National Guard service members.
“This is a team effort that exemplifies the best qualities of our people — respect, compassion, appreciation and charity,” read Bulger. “The Saratoga business community and Chamber doesn’t just pay lip service to these ideals, but rather are stepping up in a very real and meaningful way to bring these words to life in a manner which is both thoughtful and caring.”