Meet Caroline Bardwell, 2021 Philanthropist of the Year Finalist

Caroline Bardwell

Meet Caroline Bardwell, 2021 Capital Region Philanthropist of the Year Finalist

Caroline Bardwell is the owner of The Schenectady Trading Company, a general store of sorts filled with locally sourced groceries, gifts, and souvenirs that opened downtown in September 2019. She is primarily focused on fostering connections between producers and consumers within her community and making shopping "local" a convenient and rewarding experience. Her philosophy is that for-profit businesses have the most agility to influence and enact change within their communities. They are not dependent on government funding and are not obligated to get approval from multiple parties to act. 

Caroline graduated from Schenectady High School in 1997 and went on to earn a BS in Geology (Minor in Caribbean & Latin American Studies) from St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. After an 18-year career as an environmental geologist, she stepped away from it to pursue opening her own business - a dedicated marketplace to showcase the creative talent found in and around her hometown as it experienced new energy and growth. It seemed people thought they had to travel out of town to find interesting and quality shopping experiences in search of local art, food items, and handmade goods. After searching for opportunities to sell her own artwork, she decided it was much smarter for her to have a physical storefront where many people could sell their work and where people knew to shop for local goods.  

To date, The Schenectady Trading Company has carried products from over 200 individuals and businesses and has used space to host a variety of indoor and outdoor events intended to compliment the store's offerings and promote smaller local businesses that would not otherwise have an outlet. Caroline's goal is to highlight local businesses and do her part to strengthen the local economy so that a dollar spent in her store really goes a long way. She is passionate about showing the positive face of Schenectady to visitors and locals alike and currently uses her storefront to support a range of local initiatives. One of them is Street Soldiers Schenectady, a grassroots group that helps feed the homeless and hungry weekly. Caroline serves as a public collection point for donations of food pantry, hygiene products, and other basic necessities, including offering storage space. She collects monetary donations for the group and contributes a variety of dairy, meat, and produce. Additionally, Caroline is helping to incubate the Electric City Food Co-op, which is in its infancy as a virtual store. She is the pickup location for customer orders and is housing the limited operation until it is ready to move to a dedicated space of its own. 

During the pandemic, she wrote in-depth articles highlighting the minority businesses that she worked with, helped to host temporarily displaced vendors from the Schenectady Greenmarket, and other non-profit organizations with limited public access. She also offered paid opportunities for local musicians and performers to play outside at a time when most gigs were canceled and continued to feature local artists and makers when other opportunities were scarce. Most recently, she hosted a Baker's Showcase, which promoted four woman-owned, startup baking businesses that were only accessible to the public in a very limited capacity. 

Caroline currently resides in Schenectady, in her childhood home with her mother and two daughters. If she can make time, she enjoys photography and taking walks in one of the many beautiful trails in Schenectady County. She is active in her church, East Glenville Community Church, where she serves as Missions Board Chair.

United Way's Capital Region Philanthropist of the Year award recognizes an individual who has positively impacted our community. 

Join us on September 9, 2021, at the Albany Capital Center when we reveal this year’s Capital Region Philanthropist of the Year! 

Learn more about United Way's Annual Awards