Shared from the 7/28/2017 The Daily Gazette eEdition

N-CAP volunteers make community a better place



Bill and Denise Leader have spent decades giving of themselves for the betterment of the community. They volunteer at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore, with N-CAP and with other organizations as well.

NISKAYUNA — In June, N-CAP recognized groups and individuals who gave of themselves and volunteered their time last year.

There was a lot to recognize: Niskayuna residents logged 18,597 hours of community service with a total economic benefit of $438,145.32.

Volunteers coach our kids, facilitate the sale of Girl Scout cookies, sit on the school board, organize PTO craft fairs, collect shoes for the needy, fight cancer at the Relay for Life, build homes, perform financial oversight for nonprofits — the list goes on and on.

Over the next year, we will shine a well-deserved spotlight on community volunteers without whom Niskayuna just wouldn’t be the same. If you see them, thank them. Better yet, ask how you can get involved and give back to the community you love.

Who: Bill and Denise Leader

Where to find them: They primarily volunteer at their church, N-CAP and at Habitat for Humanity Re-Store

Volunteer hours in 2016: Bill — 533 Denise — 386

Pop quiz: Who organizes and puts on Niska-Day, Niskayuna’s annual community celebration? A. The town B. The schools C. All of the above D. None of the above

The correct answer is: D. Neither the school district nor the town host the annual event. Rather, for the past 36 years, the volunteers at N-CAP (Niskayuna

Community Action Program) have met, sought out vendors, set up tables, ordered tents and arranged food stalls and rides for the community to enjoy.

For the past 26 years or so, Bill and Denise Leader have been part of N-CAP’s efforts to improve the lives of people who live, work and learn in Niskayuna. They chair the Niska-Day committee, Denise has been president twice and heads the grant oversight committee, while Bill uses his financial background to watch the books and paperwork.

They have always found a way to be involved. Denise served in the schools when their children were small. She organized fundraisers, served on and was president of the PTO and coordinated the high school craft fair for 12 years.

Bill has coached Little League and softball. He led an Indian Guides group (the YMCA has renamed the program Adventure Guides) and has volunteered at Mohawk Golf Club for decades, serving on the greens committee, board of governors, treasurer and last year chaired a golf tournament.

They are perhaps most invested in N-CAP because the Leaders are invested in Niskayuna.

“N-CAP is here,” said Bill. “It’s our community.”

N-CAP is a community organization that places a heavy emphasis on substance abuse prevention among middle and high school students. There are two student clubs at Niskayuna High School — SAPE and B.A.S.E — focused on healthy lifestyles. The Warrior Project, headed up by John Furey, is also sponsored by N-CAP.

“The data shows there’s a need for substance [use and abuse] prevention,” said Denise. “In areas, we’re outpacing the national average for marijuana use.”

N-CAP administers a study to middle and high school students who report their own drug and alcohol use. Marijuana use among Niskayuna High School seniors is higher than the national average, while the percent of high school seniors who report having consumed alcohol is 75 percent, nine points higher than the national average.

“A lot of times our parents are the problem,” said Denise. “They provide the alcohol.”

The Leaders hope to see more parents step up and get involved in N-CAP and its programs for the sake of the kids.

“We don’t even have kids in the district anymore, but I’m starting to worry about my grandkids,” said Bill. “We do it because we care.”

That caring translates into countless community programs and ongoing resources, plus a festive Niska Day, which was May 20 this year.

When they talk about their volunteer work, three themes emerge: volunteerism is important for the future; volunteering with a spouse or friend is lots of fun; and come join us, raise your hand and give it shot. “If you’re going to take what community people offer you in terms of activities, you have to give back, take a turn,” said Denise. “Somebody needs to raise their hand and say, ‘I’ll do that.’” Bill and Denise acknowledged that adults are busy and often running kids to sporting obligations in multiple directions. Nevertheless, the need for volunteers does not abate and the ways to get involved are as varied as Niskayuna residents themselves. Here is only a partial list of ways to volunteer with N-CAP. Whether you have an hour or want to do more, there’s a place for you. uOn Niska Day, N-CAP needs volunteers to, among other things: monitor parking, put signs out, and set up and take down tables and chairs. uHelp organize ahead of time or lend a hand the day of the annual Niska Game. uServe on an N-CAP committee. u Take on projects in the elementary schools such as the Teddy Bear program.

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