Women of Saratoga
The Fine Art of Giving
by Rayfiel Lavin
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The alarm goes off at 4:00 a.m. Nan Guslander rises before the sun to catch an early flight to San Francisco. She just returned from two weeks in Provence and, before that, had wintered in Austin, Texas, with a stop in Hawaii for the holidays. Jet-setting? No, much of Nan’s travel is in support of charity. (The walking tour of Provence was a welldeserved vacation.)

The trip to San Francisco is for a meeting of The World Presidents’ Organization.WPO is a global organization ofmore than 4,800 individuals who are or have been chief executive officers of major business enterprises. (Nan was the CEO and President of Hadley Fruit Orchards and Chairman of the holding company HFO, Inc. for 12 years.) She first became interested in microlending through her membership in WPO’s microfinance forum. As a Unitus Partner Expedition participant, Nan learned about microfinance firsthand in India in October 2005.

Nan learned of the work being done in developing countries to help people out of poverty by giving them very small loans to start businesses. Inspired by this, Nan joined with John Fay in 2006 to form a microcredit lending organization dedicated to abolishing poverty in impoverished villages of Senegal, West Africa. The SEM-Fund is now lending to over 2,000 poor but motivated individuals unable to borrow from commercial banks because they lack collateral. These loans aim to start or expand small businesses and enable the recipients to stay in their native villages. The repayment rate has been 99.5%.

Back from San Francisco at her summer home, Nan’s Rolodex reads like a Who’s Who of Saratoga Springs. She works tirelessly, serving on the Boards of Directors of The Saratoga Foundation and the Dance Alliance. Nan is currently President of the Dance Alliance, a 350 member non-profit organization of choreographers, dancers, teachers, students and lovers of dance, designed to support and promote dance in the Capital District. She served two terms on the Board of Proctor’s Theatre, as well as the boards of EOC and the National Museum of Dance and Hall of Fame. With Mary DiSanto, Nan mentored 3 girls with the Saratoga Mentoring program and was responsible for getting the mentees to a number of dance programs at the EGG and Proctor’s. She co-chaired the Palamountain Scholarship Fund Raiser Event for Skidmore College for two years.

Nan fell in love with the region for its beauty, and enjoys Saratoga’s proximity to many cultural venues. She especially enjoys dance performances at Jacob’s Pillow and the Egg. A vivacious woman, Nan chooses to work, often late into the night, rather than retire to the shores of her Hawaiian home. Her many social obligations are balanced with her charitable work.

Frustrated by slow response to Hurricane Katrina, Nan purchased an RV and outfitted it with the help of friends. She drove down to Mississippi and gave the RV to a young mother with 3 children who had lost everything in the hurricane and was living with 22 relatives in a 2 bedroom house in Mississippi.

The Saratoga Springs Rotary Club will recognize Nan at a dinner this fall for her community involvement. She will return from Senegal just in time for the event. Nan Guslander is the epitome of a Saratoga Femme.
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