Aiming High with Infinite Energy
By: Kristen Penfield
Who are Serway and Seymour? Please, allow me to introduce you. Laura Serway and Cindy Seymour own Laci’s Tapas Bar and Restaurant in Syracuse. But know this: though the restaurant is extremely popular, that is only a small percentage of what they do in Syracuse. The married couple, who met in 1981 in Orlando, (Seymour grew up in Florida, Serway in Sylvan Beach, NY) realized immediately that they were meant for each other. Both have a heart that gives relentlessly.Both are filled with passion to help others. Both know their capabilities. Both put themselves on the line. Both continuously lead projects to help those in need.Both are making a tremendous difference in our community.
“We realize how blessed we are, and we are extremely thankful,” said Seymour. “We take the passion in our heart to help others. It doesn’t matter what race, color, etc. people are…we should never judge; only help one another,” she added. The warmth exchanged between the two is worthy of noting – they are as genuine as they are kind and without a doubt, the Syracuse community has been experiencing a steady incline of improvement from the work they do. They feed the community, build for the community and create opportunities for so many others.
The two have determination, passion and continue to be successful business women. “We clearly see the need for help out there, and even though we believe people are innately good; they don’t know how to help. Some discuss helping, but take no action. Laura and I choose to make a difference and ask almost daily of ways we can help,” said Seymour.
Seymour recalled after hearing about Hurricane Sandy and determined to help, she sat up in bed, put a message on Facebook that she was headed to assist, and that whomever wants to join her could – just be ready to work on whatever they need. The response was overwhelming. Serway jumped on the bandwagon to help, of course, and brought with her, 20 cooked turkeys. “We fed over 600 people. We worked hard and we also made people laugh at a time that it was so needed,” recalled Serway. Clearly, an example of their passion turned to action.
Seymour noted, “So many people in our community need help. There are facts that many people are not aware of. We must teach people what is truly happening out there.” Seymour, who spent time in the Air Force, holds a degree in electrical engineering and is also completing her second Master’s Degree with a focus on PTSD and Military Sexual Trauma. She was employed in Public Administration, a Commander in Law Enforcement and as a First Responder. Seymour has a lot of experience in male-dominated career fields.
“After years in the military, it was obvious that they don’t want us [women] there. There are a large number of women who are sexually assaulted in the military and even larger number of women who are sexually harassed,” explained Seymour. “Most people are not aware of the devastation of this because they simply don’t know the facts. Blissful ignorance is what hinders awareness and change,” she added.
‘If we don’t know about it, we’re good’ seems to be the stance many people take, unfortunately. Seymour said, “If we were all blind for a month, we would be surprised who we wake up with. We see with our souls. Help is needed all the time, even in our own community.”
Serway agrees with Seymour wholeheartedly. Though both Serway and Seymour are armed and equipped with education, experience, a plethora of community affiliations and awards, to see their heart in action better explains who they are. Their awareness and capabilities are proving to make such a positive difference.
“We are failing female veterans, but they didn’t fail us. They did their part”.
Sadly, a fact is that the percentage of female veterans who remain homeless is larger than people might be aware. The pair are currently rolling out a plan to help. They are women on a mission.
Serway is a highly respected entrepreneurial executive who has more than 30 years of experience managing and training consultative sales, marketing, communication and business development at the local, regional and corporate level for media companies. She exhibits a motivational management style with a record of building and retaining very driven sales teams as a consultant and a leader. She holds a BS in Business Administration, Economics and Business Management. She retired in 2012 in order to dedicate all of her time to the many projects they are leading. Most importantly, she too, stands with Seymour in tirelessly helping people in their community. The couple owns a nonprofit organization, Serenity for Women, which was created to help women who are facing day-to-day challenges or transitioning to life after the military. “We believe in women, and we believe that women matter,” said Seymour.
The couple has been successful with every venture they have tackled. Seymour and Serway said they began with a small café, and started their first business venture as Laci’s at the regional market. Seymour said, “Our first venture was great. From there we moved to the Palace Theatre, and then Laci’s Burger Joint on James Street. The road we are on has been tremendous. We have settled here in the Hawley Avenue neighborhood in Syracuse. We chose this area because it is very eclectic, the people are great and there is no opposition to the plans of continuous improvement.”
The reason they began Laci’s? When Seymour’s mom (who everyone lovingly nicknamed, Jimmie), became terminally ill, Seymour opened the café so that they could manage it together; a dream for both to fulfill. “I always cooked with my mom. She taught me a lot. I was able to spend nine great months with her – they were some of the best months of my life,” said Seymour. The couple still sells a great deal of Jimmie’s sauce: Laci’s Luscious Sauce at many locations; among them is Wegmans.
While meeting with Serway and Seymour, I noticed that even though they take their work seriously, they also know how to have fun. Between their playful banter and jokes, Serway said, “We have a passion for life. We give our time not only to our work, but to community organizations such as AccessCNY, Priscilla Mahar Animal Welfare Foundation, Salvation Army and many other organizations. Because of her success, she joined the Advisory Board of the WISE Women’s Business Center as well as an active member of the Women President’s Organization. Serway said, “I am working on an exciting project that will be a great resource for women. ‘Women United CNY’ will serve as an icon to connect all businesses owned by women and women focused in New York state to one place as a resource that will prove to be invaluable.” The couple also gives help to the New York State Brain Injury Association. Serway’s younger brother was involved in a car accident at the age of 20 and left him with a traumatic brain injury. For 23 years, Serway took care of him until he was diagnosed with cancer. He has since passed, but their close relationship will always be cherished by Serway. Both Serway and Seymour knew that what they began and continue to do would be a success.
As well, Seymour is beginning a new project, “She Served-She Matters” will help homeless female veterans in Syracuse. “Since the population of female veterans without permanent shelter in Syracuse is rising, we will be building three tiny homes to serve as transitional housing to support homeless female veterans wanting to renew, refocus and rejoin their communities by accessing the services they need to be healthy, whole and productive,” said Seymour. We will be doing most of the physical work ourselves. We located boarded houses and vacant lots close to our restaurant, received our permit and plan on breaking ground on November 11th, which is the date of the Ribbon-Cutting Ceremony. By improving our own community, we are drawing like people,” she added.
Serenity for Women (serenitywomenscenter.com) notes that this collaborative effort will be achieved through the innovativeness of the Rescue Mission’s Willing to Work program; a comprehensive proven, successful plan for individual safety, emotional support, skills building and an employment training model. Serenity will lead the construction of two new homes that will be a turnkey for the participants, and the couple contends that this can and will become a model project for other communities.
Seymour said, “We are very much in need of financial help, landscaping volunteers, furniture, from anyone who is able. We are estimating each unit to cost $25,000, completed. We are trying to raise $125,000 in donations to cover the cost of building all the homes. We could not accomplish this without the incredible help of many, including David Daino and Michael Desalvo of The Dorothy House in Syracuse and who owns Hairanoia across the street from us.”
Seymour said, “The number of homeless female veterans is on the rise. They need help, and most people are not aware. We are excited to join forces with the Rescue Mission with this project, and we know it will make an impact.”
Seymour said she expects each finished unit to cost $25,000. Including landscaping, fencing, plumbing, site preparation and other costs, the final tab will be about $125,000 for three, she said.
Serway and Seymour are not stopping there.
“We are also beginning a New York State chapter of ‘Armed to Farm’, which is agriculture training for militaryveterans. We will focus on female veterans and teach them how to sustain themselves and make a profit. We have an entire team, including help from agriculture specialists from Cornell and SUNY Adirondack,” said Seymour. “We will supply the land right here and create farms which will be run by female veterans, so they learn to work with their hands and grow their own food – they will never be hungry again.”
Two goals of ‘Armed to Farm’ are to train female veterans to operate a sustainable crop, create a network of female vets who can start careers in agriculture and to provide technical assistance to the group as they start and improve their farming operations.
“We are failing female veterans, but they didn’t fail us. They did their part,” claimed Seymour. “We are aware that there are hundreds of empty lots around Syracuse. We will continue to pursue neighborhoods who welcome change, assistance and improvement. We won’t force it on anyone. We will interview female veterans and chose who fits our criteria to be the first to move into the homes. We want to be sure they are willing to work hard, improve themselves and pay it forward,” she added.
Both Serway and Seymour know that they are merely part of a large team in helping those around them. They work hard; they constantly investigate what and where help is needed, and they turn desire into action. “Opportunities present themselves. We jump to help. It’s never I; it’s us. We are a team,” said Seymour. Serway and Seymour know that it is also important to make sure they have enough energy for the many projects in which they are involved.
Serway said, “Where we are [in life] is a blessing. When we become exhausted, we take the time we need to shut-off temporarily; we are only married to each other. We certainly work hard, but it is worth it. We like to create fun from where we are – fun has to come first.”
It is no wonder at all, that Serway and Seymour have been the honorees of countless awards. Their generosity, energy, loyalty, kindness, compassion and sense of humor was evident immediately. It was an honor to have listened to their story.
I urge you to follow the couple to learn more about their continuous projects and how you can help, too. You can always find Serway and Seymour at their warm, welcoming and delicious Laci’s Tapas Bar located at 304 Hawley Avenue, Syracuse.
Take a look at their website: www.lacistapasbar.com.