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Niagara Falls man charged with DWI after driving into canal
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 August 2017 at 2:27 pm

Provided photo

MEDINA – A Niagara Falls man has been charged with driving while intoxicated after driving into the Erie Canal on Thursday evening.

Lee Farley was observed driving erratically on North Gravel Road from Ridge Road to the canal. He just missed hitting the lift bridge and utility poles by the canal.

He took out a traffic sign and plunged into the canal with a black pickup truck.

He had the window down in the driver’s door and was able to get out. He was standing on the truck as it sank into the water.

He swam to the shore and was helped out by Medina firefighters and then taken into custody by Medina police.

He faces additional charges of aggravated DWI and reckless driving.

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Medina has planted more than 1,000 trees past 14 years

Provided photo: Oak Orchard Elementary School students happily participate in an Arbor Day celebration in 2013. Medina includes elementary school students in the program every year, with students sharing essays and poems about Arbor Day. They also help plant some of the trees.

Posted 18 August 2017 at 10:25 am

Tree Board sees significant progress in Medina with more trees to be planted in coming years

Press Release, Medina Tree Board

MEDINA – 2017 marks an important milestone for the Village of Medina because the village has earned the designation of Tree City USA for ten years.

“We’ve come a long way and have accomplished many great things with urban forestry here in Medina.” said Christopher Busch, Chairman of the village’s Municipal Tree Board. “It’s so much more than planting a few trees. We have a comprehensive urban forestry program in Medina and are very proud of what goes into achieving our Tree City status.”

Busch has been the chairman since the board’s inception in 2005, authoring the village’s Municipal Tree Ordinance with the help of Dr. Nina Bassuk, Department of Urban Horticulture, Cornell University.

The Municipal Tree Board was formed as a response to a NYS Pass-Through Project: the reconstruction of Routes 31, 31A, 31E, and 63, including Main Street and other major thoroughfares within the village.

“Many trees were being removed in preparation for this massive road project prompting citizen concern,” said Busch.

“We had lost hundreds of mature trees over the last 30 years through old age, storm damage, and disease and were losing more with the pass-through project. Without an ordinance and a tree board, the village had little if any control over what was being done.”

With those concerns in mind, former Mayor Howard Lake gave the go-ahead to investigate a tree ordinance and formation of a tree board and with the help of Dr. Bassuk, an ordinance was researched, drafted, reviewed, and adopted in time to effect the final stages of the pass-through.

“We have made and continue to make incredible progress,” said Busch. “Throughout our community evidence of that progress can be seen along many of our major thoroughfares. The Mayor and Board of Trustees are very supportive of the Tree Board’s efforts, and are committed to the process of reforesting our community and maintaining Tree City status.”

Photo by Tom Rivers:  Chris Busch, the Medina Tree Board chairman, joins elementary school kids on April 27 during an Arbor Day celebration at Rotary Park. This was the 13th year Medina held an Arbor Day event. Busch and the Tree Board presented a “Friend of the Urban Forest” award to Oak Orchard Elementary School for their participation in the Arbor Day program. Busch said the Tree Board will keep planting about 50-60 trees a year in the foreseeable future.

According to Busch, citizens too have been supportive as well through Memorial Tree donations and by purchasing trees through the Village and donating them for right-of-way planting in front of their homes.

“Every year we have an increasing number of citizens who donate trees for planting via memorials or simply because they’d like trees replaced in front of their homes. Despite an aggressive planting program, some areas on side streets won’t be planted in the immediate future, so residents help us reach those areas of need via donations.”

Medina has had some large donors as well.

“In recent years, some community members have made extremely generous donations towards reforesting the village,” said Busch. “One of those people is long-time Medina resident, Robert Sanderson.”

Sanderson is vice president of marketing and a managing partner at Candlelight Cabinetry, and has been recognized two years in a row as a “Friend of the Urban Forest” in Medina.

At the 2016 Arbor Day Celebration, Bob Sanderson spoke to hundreds of school children as he accepted his award. “Both companies (Kitchen World/Candlelight Cabinetry) make their living in the woodworking industry; therefore it is fitting to be making this Tree Donation to State Street Park and the Village of Medina.”

As the students applauded, he said, “We are very proud to have a part in keeping Medina’s reputation as ‘the Village with all the trees.’”

Photo by Tom Rivers: Bob Sanderson receives the Friends of the Urban Forest award during the Arbor Day celebration in 2016.

A big part of attaining Tree City status is establishing an annual Arbor Day observance. In Medina, Nicole Goyette is the Arbor Day Coordinator. Goyette is the Gifted and Talented Coordinator in the Medina schools and a member of Medina’s Tree Board.

“Local schools are a largely untapped community resource,” Goyette said. “From our students will come the next generation of Tree Board members, DPW tree planters, community tree organizers, homeowners, mayors and trustees. They are the future of the community’s’ urban forest.”

Medina bills its Arbor Day celebration as “the biggest and best in Western New York” and Goyette defends that claim.

“As a Tree City USA, we feel that our Arbor Day observance needs to be something very special,” she said. “Our celebration is attended each year not only by dozens of citizens, but by 500-600 hundred school children as well. There may be another community doing that in WNY, but if there is, I’m not aware of it. Our celebration is a big community event!”

For some time, the villages’ Municipal Tree Ordinance and Arbor Day Celebration have been a model for several other communities looking to establish a board and planting program.

“We receive contacts every year from municipalities across the state, seeking advice,” Busch said. “It’s gratifying to know that we’re doing something so well, that others have noticed.”

Busch notes that the Tree Board has been described as a “working board” and a “hands-on board.”

“We have a wide array of responsibility,” he said. “We work hand-in-hand with the DPW, Code Enforcement Officer, the Mayor and Village Board and together, I think we do a great job. There’s a lot involved in getting it done right. We earn our Tree City USA status every year.”

Busch said some of the responsibilities associated with an on-going urban reforestation program include annual planting/pruning/shaping, site assessment and plan development, planting coordination, mulching/weeding, identification and removal of dead/dangerous trees, training tree handlers, updating & maintaining Risk Survey and inspection of trees for disease, damage, etc.

The list of accomplishments amassed over the past fourteen years by “Tree City Medina” is impressive by any standard. As of summer 2017, the Medina’s Municipal Tree Board has:

  • Written and adopted a comprehensive municipal tree ordinance that has been a model for other communities.
  • Established a working Municipal Tree Board.
  • Established policies and procedures for the care, maintenance, and reforesting of the village.
  • Established a web site that has been held up by forestry professionals as an example to the forestry industry.
  • Reforested the major portions of the main thoroughfares and Central Business District in the village.
  • Participated as presenters in a Genesee-Finger Lakes Regional Planning Conference session on municipal trees.
  • Established a comprehensive risk survey of the village forest and subsequent maintenance priority schedule, resulting in a safer environment and minimal storm damage due to maintenance and removal of dangerous trees.
  • Established a comprehensive risk survey of the forest in Boxwood Cemetery,and subsequent maintenance priority schedule.
  • Established a viable memorial tree program with a memorial tree garden at City Hall.
  • Developed forms and process whereby residents can request a ROW tree planting at a reasonable cost.
  • Developed forms and process whereby a memorial tree can be purchased at a reasonable cost.
  • Annually undertaken site plan assessment, developed site plans, and selected plant material for planting of 60-80 trees.
  • Annually pruned several hundred young trees (Tree Board members do much of this)
  • Developed and disseminated press releases on the forestry related achievements of the Village of Medina.
  • Developed an informational brochure.
  • Established a widely recognized Arbor Day celebration with hundreds of school children in cooperation with the Medina Central School District.
  • Established Medina as a nationally recognized Tree City USA with annual recertification. • established Medina as a nationally recognized Tree City Growth Community.
  • Established Medina as an active annual participant in National Grid’s 10,000 Trees and Growing Program, often more than $1,000 in annual reimbursements for appropriate and approved underwire tree plantings.

Jack Feltz is the Senior Forestry Supervisor for the National Grid West Genesee Region and has worked with Medina’s Municipal Tree Board for many years. Feltz always points to Medina as a model Urban Forestry program wherever he goes.

“Over the last fourteen years, the Village of Medina has implemented an aggressive plan to remove and replace high-risk street trees. Silver maple was the predominant species in the village,” said Feltz.

Provided photo: This shows the West Center Street treescape.

Like many villages in WNY, streets were planted with hundreds of stately Silver Maple decades ago. While beautiful at maturity, they quickly degrade and become dangerous. Hundreds of 80-foot tall trees with weak wood and insect infestation is a tough problem. In Tree City Medina, National Grid has played an important role in mitigating that problem.

“In cooperation with National Grid Forestry, the village has removed hundreds of over-mature, at-risk trees, and done an outstanding job of backfilling those planting locations with site-compatible species,” Feltz said. “Chris Busch and the Village Tree Board have set the bar at the highest standard and have put a huge amount of thought and foresight into selecting a variety of species and cultivars, avoiding the historical practice of planting a monoculture.”

Over those 14 years, Feltz has also worked hand-in-hand with the village DPW and gives them high praise for their urban forestry efforts and Tree City USA status.

“A special thanks should be given to former DPW Superintendents Paul Nowak and Pete Houseknecht for their cooperative spirit in this lengthy process,” said Feltz. “I cover a large service territory and deal daily with our DPW Superintendents and our local government leaders. If they ever have a question(s) about how to re-forest there community, I vehemently suggest that take a ride to Medina, NY and put eyes on a forward and progressive Urban Forest Plan.”

The Tree City USA Program is sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters, and the USDA Forest Service. Tree City USA is awarded annually to those communities who qualify and is a national designation.

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Today is deadline to register to vote for Sept. 12 primaries
Posted 18 August 2017 at 10:00 am

Press Release, Gov. Cuomo’s Office

Today is the deadline to register to be able to vote in next month’s political primaries.

Applications must be postmarked no later than Aug. 18 and received by a Board of Elections no later than Aug. 23 for people to be eligible to vote in the primary.

New Yorkers can easily register to vote, or change their enrollment information, by using the state’s online voter registration application service on the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles’ website (click here).

“The more New Yorkers participate in the voting process the stronger and more vibrant our democracy is,” Governor Cuomo said. “I urge all eligible voters to make use of this resource so when the time comes, they can let their voice be heard at the polls.”

Customers must enter information from their New York State driver license, permit, or non-driver ID, their date of birth, current zip code, last four digits of their Social Security Number, and their email address. The information provided is validated to ensure accuracy and security.

Previously, New Yorkers needed to sign up to create a MyDMV account to register to vote online. Last year, a new site was created that allows applicants to simply visit the voter registration application page on the DMV website.

DMV does not approve or deny voter registration applications. Upon completion, DMV sends the voter registration applications to the County Board of Elections for review and action. Once processed, the county will notify the applicants either that they are registered to vote or that additional information is needed to complete the application. Additionally, New Yorkers can use the New York State Board of Elections’ website (click here) to check their voter registration status.

To be eligible to vote in New York, you need to:

  • be a United States citizen;
  • be 18 years old by December 31 of the year in which you file the form (note: you must be 18 years old by the date of the general, primary or other election in which you want to vote);
  • live at your present address at least 30 days before an election;
  • not be in prison or on parole for a felony conviction and;
  • not be adjudged mentally incompetent by a court;
  • not claim the right to vote elsewhere.

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It took 4 hours to find truck and get it out of the canal

Photos by Tom Rivers: Marine deputies with the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office – Jim DeFilipps, left, and Jim Burke – arrive in a boat about 9 p.m. That boat was at Lake Alice in Carlton.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 August 2017 at 9:28 am

MEDINA – There was no dive team available, or boat with a working sonar.

But law enforcement was determined to get a black truck out of the dark water of the Erie Canal.

It was a tough task done in front of a crowd of onlookers, some standing for five hours before the truck was finally pulled out of the water at 12:45 a.m. last night by Lyons Collision. It also was raining for much of the recovery effort, including a downpour at times.

Law enforcement wanted the truck out of the canal to limit the hazardous fluids leaking into the water. They were also concerned the bottom of a boat might hit the truck with the vessel becoming damaged.

With the Niagara County dive team unavailable, local officials turned to three experienced volunteer scuba divers, including John Olinger, left, his fiancé Laura Bentley and their friend Eric Watson.

Devin Pahuta, a sheriff’s deputy, drags a rope with a magnet through the water, trying to find the truck. At first the magnet latched on to a rock. That proved to be a half hour waste of time as divers tried to find the truck in the dark water. The divers said they could only see about a foot underwater.

The boat search back and forth on the canal about 200 yards east of the lift bridge on Route 63. A current would push the truck about 100 yards from the lift bridge.

Eric Watson, John Olinger and Laura Bentley work together to try to find the black pickup.

A crowd stood for several hours watching the recovery efforts.

Medina firefighter Chris Seefeldt watches from the canal bank.

With no working sonar on the boat, deputies dragged this magnet through the water, trying to find the truck.

At 10:45 p.m., the deputies were ready to call off the search and resume this morning. But Jeff Lyons from Lyons Collision asked to have a chance.

Jeff Lyons is pictured on the boat at about 11 p.m. After Lyons got on board, it took about 25 minutes for Lyons and the deputies to locate the truck.

Then it proved difficult to attach cables onto the sunken vehicle. It was another hour before Lyons Collision could start pulling the truck to shore.

The truck was pulled out at about 12:45 a.m.

The driver has been charged with driving while intoxicated. Medina police haven’t released the driver’s name. The driver wasn’t injured and able to get out of an open window through the driver’s door.

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Truck pulled from canal after painstaking search
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 18 August 2017 at 1:58 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

MEDINA – This Dodge 1500 Ram was pulled out of the Erie Canal at about 12:45 a.m., more than five hours after it plunged into the water, just east of the lift bridge on Route 63.

The driver of the vehicle has been charged with driving while intoxicated, Medina police said. The department didn’t release the driver’s name last night. The driver wasn’t injured and declined medical treatment at the scene.

The driver was observed driving erratically on North Gravel Road (Route 63) from Ridge Road before driving into the canal. Rob Wagner, an Albion police officer, was off-duty and driving behind the pickup. He said the truck was in the opposite lane several times. He called the county dispatch to report the drunken driver.

Medina police officers and firefighters watch as the truck is pulled from the canal. One of the officers has worked for the department for 10 years and said this is only the second time he could recall when a vehicle went into the canal in Medina.

Lyons Collision pulled the truck out of the water. There was a strong smell of gasoline when the vehicle was pulled to the edge of the canal and then out of the water.

Several beer cans, a tool box, a wallet and other items also floated out of the truck.

Jeff Lyons has worked with Lyons Collision for 32 years. He said this was the fourth time he helped retrieve a vehicle from the canal water.

Lyons had to stop about every foot the truck was pulled higher to allow water to come out of the truck.

The Orleans County Sheriff’s Office sent its marine patrol with a boat that was at Lake Alice in Carlton.

The truck proved hard to find in the dark water. The Medina Police Department called for the Niagara County dive team, but that group didn’t come. Three volunteer scuba divers – Eric Watson, Laura Bentley and John Olinger – helped to search for the truck. They said they could only see about a foot in front of them in the dark water.

The marine patrol and the divers nearly called off the search at 10:45 p.m., following more than an hour of searching for the vehicle. Jeff Lyons went on the boat and used a magnet tied to a long string to finally find the truck about 75 yards east of the bridge, right in the middle of the canal. That was about 11:10 p.m.

It then took about an hour to hook a cable onto the truck to pull it close to shore.

A crowd of people stood through a downpour, with some staying about five hours, to watch the recovery effort with the truck.

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Driver OK after vehicle goes into canal in Medina
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 August 2017 at 8:23 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

MEDINA – The driver of a vehicle that plunged into the Erie Canal is OK after an incident about 7:10 p.m. in Medina.

The driver missed the lift bridge on Route 63, and took down a sign just east of the bridge before going into the canal.

The driver was able to get out without any injury. The driver swam to the canal bank and was assisted out of the canal, declining any medical treatment. The driver was then taken into custody by Medina police.

Tire tracks are visible just east of the lift bridge. The driver was headed south on Route 63 before going into the canal.

Officials are waiting on the dive team from Niagara County before the vehicle will be removed. Lyon’s Collision, the Medina Police Department, the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office and the Medina Fire Department are all on scene.

The driver went between the first arrow on the right and the Route 63 sign before hitting water.

The dive team is expected around 9:30 p.m.

Orleans Hub will update the story when more information is available.

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Albion welcomes new teachers
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 August 2017 at 4:08 pm

Photo by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Six new teachers are having their orientation this week. They stopped by the Albion Rotary Club for lunch at Tillman’s Village Inn today. The first day of school is Sept.7.

The group includes, from left, front: Jessica Rushlow, pre-kindergarten teacher; and Melody Vanacore, long-term sub as elementary school librarian.

Second and third row, from left: Sawyer Green, high school English; Dave Skrip (2008 Albion graduate), high school social studies; Josh Green, middle and high school social studies; and Matt Coniff, Latin.

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Tiffany window at Pullman gets new storm window for protection
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 August 2017 at 3:48 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Workers from Rochester Colonial were in Albion today to put in a new storm window at Pullman Memorial Church for the Christ the Consoler window, which was made by the Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company in 1895.

The main section of the previous storm window blew off during the powerful wind storm in March.

In addition to have a new storm window put on today, the church recently hired Pike Stained Glass Studios in Rochester to clean the window and reattach a piece that had come loose.

The church in 1895 wanted a window with outstretched arms of Christ to fit the denomination’s welcoming tradition. The church has more than 40 windows made from Tiffany.

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Big crowd in Clarendon to hear from author trapped in Nazi Germany almost 80 years ago
By Kristina Gabalski, Correspondent Posted 17 August 2017 at 11:19 am

Photos by Kristina Gabalski: Marlies Adams DiFante describes her harrowing experiences of being trapped in Nazi Germany as a young child.

CLARENDON – A talk by Rochester author and Naples native Marlies Adams DiFante drew a large crowd to the Clarendon Historical Society meeting Wednesday evening.

DiFante made those in the audience both laugh and cry as she discussed her book, Queen of the Bremen, an autobiographical account of her childhood experience of being trapped in Nazi Germany with her family during World War II.

In 1939 at age 5, Marlies traveled with her parents and brother to her parents’ native Germany. The family wanted to visit Marlies’ dying grandfather. Marlies’ mother was pregnant with her third child at the time and Hitler invaded Poland shortly after they arrived, closing German borders and ports. The Adams were not allowed to leave the country due to the fact Marlies’ mother was so close to her due date.

The family endured what Marlies describes as a seven-year “living hell” during the war, suffering starvation, homelessness, abuse, bombings and constant fear.

“I never intended to put it into a book,” Marlies said. She began taping her story only as a way to preserve her first-hand experiences for her grandchildren.

The Clarendon Historical Society Museum Barn meeting room was filled Wednesday evening for a presentation by local author Marlies Adams DiFante.

Marlies’ daughter-in-law transcribed the tapes, typing everything down for her Master’s thesis, but at the time, Marlies said she was not ready to share the story with anyone other than family. Eventually, her feelings changed and she decided to publish the book.

She described the horrors of the war, including severe food rationing, being bombed out of her home, and the British dropping of dolls and fountain pens embedded with explosives.

“Children were maimed and killed,” she said. “The German people had nothing but fear in them…. Hitler took everything, the German people had no control at all. I felt sorry for the German people, that they let that monster take over like he did.”

Marlies also detailed an especially harrowing year she spent with an aunt, who was a Nazi informant. She suffered horrific neglect, and turned to the animals on the farm for companionship. She became attached to one of the cows, in particular. “That cow was my best friend,”

Marlies said, and added that she believes the cow was really an angel whose comfort helped her survive the ordeal.

She also discussed the power of forgiveness and how their strong faith in God helped her family to cope and survive. “If you don’t believe God watches over you, He does,” Marlies said.

“I’m so proud that God let me be born in this country,” she said of her native United States.

Marlies Adams DiFante speaks with Clarendon residents following her talk.

Marlies mentioned the recent violence at protests in Charlottesville, VA. “When I see the swastika… it’s a good thing I am not in that town,”  she said, and called the swastika a symbol of evil. “It’s the worst symbol that ever came out …… (the Nazis) destroyed everything…. we can’t let that ever happen again.”

Marlies’ son, Tom DiFante, who serves as Clarendon town justice, attended the presentation with his family.

“She does a fantastic job,” he said of his mother. He noted the book, “has given her a new purpose. It makes me proud and I appreciate what she’s endured.”

Tom’s wife, Amy, agreed. She said it is remarkable that the Adams family was able to survive their ordeal and move on with their lives.

“They stepped beyond it. I’m amazed at how strong she is,” Amy said, and noted Marlies’ story is inspiring. “She shows that it doesn’t matter how hard it gets, there’s still a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Tom and Amy’s daughter, Marlayna, and son, Mitchell, also attended the presentation. Mitchell, 13, enthusiastically promoted his grandmother’s book. He said his grandmother has taught him much.

“It’s hard to explain how much she’s gone through,” Mitchell said. “She’s spectacular. I thank God for all the blessings we’ve had and she’s had.”

He said his grandmother’s experiences make him more appreciative of what he has.

“It makes me realize how much I take for granted and that I might need to re-focus.”

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Albion approves school tax warrant with 9-cent tax rate increase
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 August 2017 at 10:18 am

ALBION – The Board of Education has approved a tax warrant that will raise the tax rate 9 cents, from $15.43 to $15.52 per $1,000 of assessed property.

That is 5 cents less than the school district was projecting in May when the community approved the school district’s $34,796,676 budget, with a 526 to 123 vote.

The district was then projecting a 14-cent increase in the tax rate.

The school budget includes a 1.4 percent increase in the tax levy, only the second time school taxes have gone up in last 11 years. The tax rate is up by 0.6 percent.

Albion’s $15.52 tax rate remains the lowest in the four-counties of Orleans, Genesee, Monroe and Niagara counties.

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Verizon will pay county $18K annually to lease space on cell tower
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 August 2017 at 9:18 am

ALBION – Verizon will pay Orleans County $18,000 annually to lease space on the county’s cell tower at the Emergency Management Office at 14064 West County House Road.

Verizon will pay $18,000 in the first year of the five-year contract, and then 2 percent annual increases.

The agreement, approved recently by the County Legislature, also gives the county the option of renewing the agreement in four additional 5-year extensions.

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Swan freed from beer can has been accepted by its family
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 August 2017 at 8:21 am

Photo courtesy of Pam Brown

WATERPORT – This family of swans is all together on Wednesday on Oak Orchard Creek.

One of the swans had a beer can stuck on its beak and had been shunned by the family. The afflicted swan was able to stay close to the family, but wasn’t fully accepted while a Budweiser can was stuck on its beak, preventing it from eating.

A group of five residents were able to locate the swan on Monday evening, and removed the beer can.

They wondered if the swan would be accepted back into the family.

On Wednesday, Pam Brown, one of the rescuers, was out in a canoe with a friend and spotted the family, which includes two parents and six juveniles.

Brown was thrilled to see the family intact and the shunned swan back into the fold.

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Celebrating 20 years of welcoming war orphans for summers in Orleans County

Photos by Tom Rivers: This photo shows supporters of Project Life gathered Sunday for a 20th anniversary party for the program. The program has welcomed 131 children, including three that have stayed longer term due to medical issues. Two of the children in the program are pictured in front center. Fauzia Aajan arrived in 2004. She graduated No. 7 in Lyndonville's high school class sin 2014. She is entering her final year at the University of Buffalo where she is majoring in early childhood education. Mohammad Meer is entering eighth grade in Albion. He plays on the soccer team and is vice president of the middle school student council. He has a life-threatening blood disorder that requires blood transfusions every three weeks.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 August 2017 at 12:08 am

Project Life has embraced 131 children from Bosnia, Afghanistan, Chechnya and Sri Lanka

WATERPORT – It was 20 years ago when five boys from Bosnia arrived to spend the summer in Orleans County. The boys had all lost fathers to war.

They arrived shy and a little underweight. They left 10 weeks later, knowing English, more confident and with some added pounds from being so well fed.

The World Life Institute has run Project Life for 20 years, welcoming 131 children for summers of respite. The children have all lost parents to wars in Bosnia, Chechnya and Afghanistan. Project Life also welcomed orphans after the tsunami in Sri Lanka.

This photo from 1997 shows Amel Lipa of Bosnia, who was part of the first group of war orphans to come to Orleans County. The photo appeared in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle and was displayed on Sunday during a 20th anniversary celebration for Project Life at the World Life Institute.

Project Life leaders have visited many of the children years later when they were adults. They also connect often through Facebook and social media.

The children are leaders in their communities, and they remain thankful for the chance to come to Orleans County, learning English, visiting Niagara Falls and other tourist sites, and spending time with local host families.

“We try to help them very intensely,” said Chris Wilson, international director for the World Life Institute. “We can feel proud in our own small way we’ve done something good. I personally don’t think it’s small. There is so much evil in the world that any good should be celebrated.”

Wilson was among the speakers during a celebration on Sunday at the World Life Institute on Stillwater Road in Waterport. The WLI building has been used for numerous art classes and other programming for the children the past two decades. There have been numerous intense soccer games also played in the backyard.


Chris Wilson

‘We can feel proud in our own small way we’ve done something good. I personally don’t think it’s small. There is so much evil in the world that any good should be celebrated.’ – Chris Wilson


Linda Redfield, the program’s director, thanked the community for welcoming the children the past 20 years. Community members have stepped up as host families, and volunteers. Numerous churches from different faiths also have supported the program, donating supplies, clothes, money and taking the kids on trips.

“Project Life has brought together Christians, Muslims, Jews and people from a variety of backgrounds,” Wlson said. “It’s been an interfaith enterprise.”

Wilson has visited Afghanistan, connecting with the children’s loved ones and the embassies, helping to work on the arrangements for the children to come to Waterport. He is amazed by the good-hearted people who have made the program a success.

“Through this small, beautiful program we’ve brought together people of different faiths and from across thousands of miles around the world – all here in Waterport, New York,” Wilson said.

A display at the World Life Institute includes the names of all 131 students in the WLI, as well as photos of them learning in the classroom and having fun on trips and with their host families.

Lisa Ryan of Albion hosted Adela from Bosnia in 1999 and remains in contact with her today.

“It was life-changing to reach someone from around the world,” Ryan said at Sunday’s 20th anniversary party.

Mickey Treat and his wife Diane of Hamlin hosted two girls from Chechnya. The experience brought the family together, and radically broadened their world view, Treat said.

“It was one of the best things we’ve ever done,” Treat said at the celebration.

The two girls have returned home. One is studying to become a lawyer, Treat said.

He praised Linda Redfield, who volunteers in leading the program.

“Thank you to Linda for your dedication,” Treat said. “She is a servant.”

Mickey Treat of Hamlin said he is thankful his family hosted two of the children in Project Life.

Chris Wilson and his wife Deborah also have served as host families several times. The first time in 1997 their son Samuel was only 3 and they welcomed two boys from Bosnia. Samuel would become an active volunteer in the program when he was older.

There were initial challenges with a language and cultural barrier, but Deborah said war orphans felt like family by the end of the summer. The differences seemed to melt away.

“They get over their homesickness, they relax and they enjoy their learning,” said Deborah, who is now the program’s assistant director.

She hears from some of the children through Facebook and they say the program has been a turning point for them. Their families also say their children returned much stronger and more confident. She hasn’t heard from all of the children because some of them do not have Internet access.


The Rev. Alan Dailey

‘It’s one of the best-kept secrets in Western New York.’ – The Rev. Alan Dailey


The Rev. Alan Dailey, interim executive director of Greater Rochester Community of Churches/Faith in Action Network, learned about Project Life during an event at Nazareth College. Dailey, former pastor of the Brockport Presbyterian Church, said Project Life has brought together many churches in a humanitarian mission.

The program deserves more acclaim, he said.

“It’s one of the best-kept secrets in Western New York,” he said.

Project Life last welcomed children to Orleans in 2014 when three orphans came from Afghanistan. Wilson and Redfield said WLI wants to welcome more children next year. They were close to having a group of kids from Afghanistan this summer but all the agreements didn’t come together in time from the US Embassy and the Afghan courts.

One of the Afghan boys from 2014 has stayed in Orleans County. Mohammad Meer was 12 three years ago. He is one of three of the 131 children who is staying long term due to serious medical issues.

He has a life-threatening blood disorder, thalassemia major, that requires blood transfusions every three weeks. Children with the disease cannot produce enough healthy red blood cells to provide their bodies with oxygen. They require regular blood transfusions and without advanced medical treatment they do not survive long.

With the transfusions and medication, Mohammad has excelled in sports and school, said Wilson who serves as Mohammad’s medical guardian.

Mohammad Meer has rebounded with his health since coming to Orleans County three years ago. He is active at Albion Central School, playing soccer and serving as vice president of the middle school student council.

Fauzia Aajan and her brother Sabir both have stayed in country for more than a decade after arriving with life-threatening illnesses.

Sabir struggled to get off the airplane when he arrived with a rare form of hemophilia. He would stay for medical treatments, and would later graduate from Lyndonville Central School. He earned a bachelor’s degree in political science at the University of Buffalo and is now pursuing a degree in nursing.

His younger sister Fauzia is entering her senior year at UB as an early childhood education major.

Wilson referred to the three as “our stars.” The siblings were young when they lost both of their parents.

Sabir and Fauzia arrived malnourished. Fauzia hadn’t been to school before and didn’t know her birthday.

“They both came here at very difficult times in their life,” Wilson said. “It’s fantastic how much they’ve grown and become beautiful young people who have enriched our lives.”

Linda Redfield serves as the program’s director. She thanked the many volunteers locally for embracing the Project Life children.

Redfield praised the local community members for opening their hearts to the children, who have all lost fathers.

“The program had a calming effect on the children,” Redfield said. “The community has poured kindness into them.”

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Medina library will host eclipse event on Monday afternoon
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 August 2017 at 4:28 pm

MEDINA – Lee-Whedon Memorial Library will host a viewing of the eclipse on Monday afternoon.

The library has 40 pairs of eclipse glasses and all have been claimed through a preregistration process.

“It’s a rare occurrence,” Catherine Cooper, library director, said about the eclipse. “There is no school and this is a chance to observe a natural phenomenon.”

Lee-Whedon will start its program at 1:30 p.m. on Monday.

“We are going to make Nebula Jars and Galaxy popcorn plus go over what the eclipse is and why we need special glasses before the eclipse reaches its maximum around 2:30,” said Kristine Mostyn, the library’s assistant director.

At 2:30 p.m., the group will go outside to observe the eclipse with their special glasses. (People shouldn’t look at the eclipse without the proper glasses or else they could injure their eyes.)

Nebula jars are sealed containers with water, paint, glitter, and cotton balls mixed together to look like a nebula. Galaxy popcorn is regular popcorn covered in candy melts in the colors of the sky with edible stars.

Monday will be the first total eclipse since 1979.

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Cuomo signs law banning unauthorized filming of neighbors
Posted 16 August 2017 at 2:18 pm

Press Release, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Office

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed legislation to crack down on the unauthorized invasion of privacy by video surveillance.

Following reports of cameras being installed to unlawfully videotape neighboring private property, this bill (S.870A/A.861A) establishes a private right of action for damages for an unlawful invasion of privacy in an individual’s backyard.

“Everyone should be able to feel safe in their own home and in their own back yard,” Cuomo said. “This legislation will crack down on disturbing behavior and give New Yorkers legal recourse and peace of mind in order to protect their privacy and potentially their own personal safety.”

Unlawful surveillance was made a crime in 2003, however, it only establishes criminal penalties for unlawful video surveillance when the videotaping occurs in a setting with a “reasonable expectation of privacy” (i.e., a bathroom or changing room), or if a perpetrator had to trespass on property to videotape or install a camera.

This bill provides additional protections for homeowners, giving them the ability to sue a neighbor for invasion of privacy if the neighbor secretly records recreational activities in their backyard.

Senator Catharine Young said, “Protecting the privacy of New Yorkers is paramount to ensuring a sense of security for individuals and families on their own property. This legislation will extend protections for an individual’s right to privacy in their own backyard while cracking down on illicit invasions of privacy that may occur on their property. I applaud the Governor for signing this important bill into law today.”

Assemblyman Edward C. Braunstein said, “It is disturbing that some individuals have been purposely filming their neighbors, including young children, in their backyards. Since I introduced this legislation in the Assembly, I have heard from people around the state who have been victimized by this practice. This law will provide families with legal recourse in the event that someone tries to invade the privacy they deserve in their backyards.”

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