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Daughter of youth center founder 'comes home'

GLENS FALLS | Molly Congdon has seen the bright lights of Broadway, but that doesn’t beat the corner of Montcalm and Mission streets in her hometown.

Congdon, a graduate of Union College and the master’s degree magazine program at New York University, got a full-time job out of college at The Daily Gazette in Schenectady as the start for her journalism career.

Recently, she decided to leave that job behind, take a pay cut and join her father, Matt, at the Greater Glens Falls Youth Center. She is expected to take over for him when he retires.

“This has been a second home to me,” Congdon said, standing in front of a bookcase of books her father asked her to pick out for the center. “It’s like a family.”

The books include a shelf of Barnes & Noble classics, along with some more contemporary titles, including the “Hunger Games” series.

Perhaps someday, Congdon’s own books will be on the shelf. She is working on children’s books, including a series that focuses on the youth center.

She and Sara Lanoir, who left Glens Falls for North Carolina but also came back, are the two full-time employees at the center, along with Matt Congdon, who founded the center and continues to run it despite losing both legs to diabetes.

“I knew this was my baby, and it was what I wanted to do with my life,” Matt Congdon said. His daughter, now 25, has been coming to the center with him since she was a child.

Now, she’s one of the people making a difference for the students between fifth and 12th grade who attend the center.

Kendall Dean, a fifth-grader, is a fan of hers.

“She’s really fun,” Dean said. “She’s like the older sister I never had. She really helps a lot.”

Elizabeth Adamites paused during a game of pool with Dean to say much the same thing.

“She really helps us all the time. She’s like an older sister,” Adamites said. “She’s great with talking with us, and she runs the center really well.”

Matt said he was happy with his daughter’s decision.

“I didn’t want to cramp her style. I knew she wanted to be a writer,” he said. “When she said she would be able to freelance, I thought that would be perfect.”

Beyond working on her books, Congdon is writing for the Union College alumni magazine and is looking for other outlets.

Before she left The Daily Gazette, Congdon wrote an article explaining her decision.

“I am a writer. I have yearned for this title since I was a little, devouring books like other kids downed candy,” she wrote.

Then she talked about the youth center.

“I was a youth center kid. Each day after school, I rushed through the doors, laced up my basketball sneakers and jumped in on the pickup rotations. It was my sanctuary.

“When you first step into the Glens Falls Area Youth Center, the effect is similar to when Dorothy walks out of her front door into Oz and experiences Technicolor for the first time,” she wrote. “The once-barren white walls are full of life, dotted with paintings crafted by the artful hand of Bob Congdon, my uncle and the assistant director at the center for so many years ...”

While Molly and Sara do well working with the teens, they’re going to have to take on other tasks, like raising money, Matt said.

Over the last several months, the center has been working to replace money it didn’t receive from a regular donor this year.

The two young women say they are ready.

“It’s been awesome working with her,” said Lanoir, who attended Long Island University. “The kids all know her, and they are comfortable with her. For me personally, it’s been something special. It’s a great partnership.”

You can read Bill Toscano’s blog at poststar.com/app/blogs or his updates on Twitter, @billtoscano_ps.

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