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quick questions

Quick Questions with Chris Wylie

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 February 2015 at 12:00 am

Cerebral palsy doesn’t keep pastor from pulpit in Knowlesville and Millville

Chris Wylie

Photos by Tom Rivers – Chris Wylie shares the children’s message during Sunday’s service at The United Methodist Church of the Abundant Harvest in Millville. Wylie preaches there at 11 a.m., following a 9:30 a.m. service in Knowlesville.

Chris Wylie was born struggling to breathe. He had cerebral palsy and doctors said he would never walk. He was put up for adoption.

Wylie, now 46, was welcomed into a loving home as a young boy, and he would learn to walk chasing after his sister. He played lots of sports as a kid and went on to a career as a banker for 10 years in downtown Buffalo with HSBC.

He felt a call to the ministry about a decade ago and attended the former United Theological Seminary in West Seneca, a pastoral training program run through Houghton College. He would lead United Methodist churches in Hartland, Alden, and Pavilion before being appointed as pastor for the Millville and Knowlesville United Methodist churches almost two years ago. For more than two decades, the churches shared a pastor while maintaining their own congregations and buildings.

Under Wylie’s leadership, the churches have merged into The United Methodist Church of the Abundant Harvest. That merger became effective on Jan. 1, following approvals from each congregation, and the Upper New York Conference of the United Methodist Church.

“It ties the two churches,” Wylie said. “They have two distinct talents. By tying them together you can compound those talents for one great tool for God.”

Wylie leads a 9:30 service on Sunday mornings in Knowlesville at this church, which put on a new roof last year and also started a pie shop across Knowlesville Road at its fellowship hall.

Wylie built support for the merger by listening to members in both churches, and guiding the process, said long-time member Peter Beach of the Millville church.

“He tries to make changes without rubbing people the wrong way,” Beach said.

Wylie preaches while sitting down and uses a cane or a wheelchair to move around church.

“He’s overcome a lot in his life,” Beach said. “Things we take for granted are a struggle for him. What he does is inspiring.”

The Knowlesville church has about 40 regular attendees and last year completed a $15,000 project to put a new roof on the building at 3622 Knowlesville Rd. The congregation also started as coffee and pie shop at its fellowship hall from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. “That has taken off more than we expected,” Wylie said.

About 60 people attend the Millville location. Both sites have upgraded their projector screens, multi-media equipment and sound systems. Wylie enjoys using videos and pictures in his sermons.

(His wife Jennelle, director of academic support and training at Roberts Wesleyan College, helps with the church’s technology and multimedia issues. The Wylies have an 8-year-old daughter, Hope.)

Each church, or campus as Wylie calls the two sites, has its own service. Wylie leads church in Knowlesville at 9:30 a.m. and then goes to the Millville location at 11 a.m.

That hasn’t changed from before the merger. But Wylie said the congregations are doing more sharing, and will have a unified web site, social media presence and other collaborations.

The service in Millville on Maple Ridge Road starts at 11 a.m. on Sundays with a lunch to follow.

Wylie chatted for an interview on Sunday at the Millville site. The church was busy with its weekly luncheon after the service. Wylie is happy to see several families with young children stay for the lunch.

On Sunday, Wylie preached about “restoration,” a message that included photos of a beat-up El Camino that was repaired. He said there is symbolism in that vehicle and God’s restorative work in people.

Q: Is part of your ministry showing people that you shouldn’t hold yourself back and not let fears or limitations prevent you from trying?

A: I would say, and in fact I often say, ‘Don’t let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can.’ I try to live that way. That doesn’t mean that it’s easy and that doesn’t mean there won’t be times of discouragement, but that’s where the support comes in. That’s what we have, the community.

Q: It seems like these churches are not very accessible for people in wheelchairs or who may have challenges getting around?

A: This one (Millville) is, while Knowlesville isn’t so much. We’ve looked at making modifications for handicapped accessibility. I can get up the stairs, but certainly there are times of the year when that is a problem.

In Knowlesville there are people who come to a point in their life where they can’t come to church because they physically can’t get in. So we try to address these things as we go. Sometimes it’s as simple as railings, or other things that were never there that were put to help Chris, and then you see other people also using them.

Chris and Jennelle Wylie

Chris Wylie is pictured with his wife Jennelle inside the fellowship hall in Millville.

Q: I wonder too if people see you getting a little help then they realize that that is OK for all of us as human beings, that we don’t have to do everything on our own?

A: Yes, they see it’s great to lean on each other.

Q: I think some people might have too much pride and may not want help, especially in a public way.

A: I think there is absolutely that. I talk about this a lot. As people, especially as people get older (and I’m living some of that now), you want to do the things you always used to be able to do, and sometimes that’s not possible, sometimes that involves doing things a little bit differently, and other times that involves asking for help.

That was part of my message today at church that it’s not about Chris trying to everything, because Chris, even in an able body, can’t do everything. It’s about what we can all do together.

Q: What do you like about being a pastor?

A: The people.

I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me in my life and help me. I’ve had people help me who didn’t have to do what they did. They went beyond themselves to be connected to others.

Q: Do you think your condition has made you a more compassionate person and helped you connect with people?

A: I can see it. It gives me better understanding. I have not been through every situation, but I definitely have some understanding that maybe others might not have because they haven’t been there yet.

Q: (People are talking in background at fellowship hall.) I’m struck by the number of children and younger families that attend church here. You have a good intergenerational mix.

A: I connect with the older people because of the body in which I live. But I’m also, even at my age, fairly young for a pastor, and having the young daughter, and knowing that I like a different style of music and knowing that I sometimes experience things in a different way so we’re bringing in the multimedia, we’re connecting with younger people on a different level and being intentional about that.

We’re not only saying we want you to come, but we’re giving them a voice as part of the community. That’s so important because no matter what you’re doing, if you don’t have a voice you’re not going to be connected.

Knowlesville has teen-agers and here at Millville with have a lot of younger kids.

Chris Wylie leads the congregation at Millville in prayer during the service this past Sunday.

Q: So many of the rural churches seem to be struggling. What do you think has been working here?

A: It’s as simple as being part of people’s lives, just sitting down and talking with them. We did that when we first started. I don’t come and tell them what I wanted. I asked them, ‘What do you want to see here?’ So not having it be Chris-centered, but instead what do we want, what is our hope here, what to we want to be? So it’s listening and moving into that.

Q: Is the fellowship hall and food a big part of that, of doing life together?

A: That’s exactly what it is. If you look at the Book of Acts, Chapter 2, it says that they ate together, they worshipped together, they did life together. That’s what we’re trying to do. It’s connection.

That’s something the church here was doing before I got here. We also have had people in to the parsonage for dinners in smaller groups, from anywhere between 1 to 5.

Q: Do the churches work together on the popular Lenten fish fries?

A: We’re working on that. We’re still at the early stages of making us-and-them just us. That’s the hope here.

Sunlight pours through a stained-glass window at the church at Millville.

Q: You do basically the same service at both places?

A: I do, yes. The bulletin, in general, we keep the same. There is a choir here (Millville) but there is no choir at Knowlesville. But mostly it’s similar.

Q: You could see how having the choir in Knowlesville, if someone wanted to sing from Millville, they could be part of the choir. And maybe the choir would sing at Millville on some Sundays.

A: That’s exactly what we’re trying to do.

Q: It looks like you have to work harder than everyone to get around, especially in the winter.

A: Some days. We all have those challenges. Mine are just more visible. We all have challenges in one way or another. Some people have things you don’t readily see, and to me that’s harder because you look healthy. With me, everything that Chris is going through is on the surface.

I know my body is breaking down faster than I’d like, but I don’t know what it’s like to be an able body, so to speak, so I’ve always had to adapt. I’ve had to do things outside the box a little bit, but you still get them done.

Q: You mentioned you could have been on disability and not worked?

A: Nobody can deny I am disabled, just look at me. I could have done that, but as long as I can find a way to keep moving forward, I’m going to keep moving forward.

There will be a day for all of us, sooner or later, when we can’t do, but while I can do, I’m still going to do.

Mary Zelazny has seen lots of changes in 37 years with Medina bank

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 February 2015 at 12:00 am

Quick questions

KeyBank branch manager retiring today

Photos by Tom Rivers – Mary Zelazny, fourth from left, is pictured with KeyBank staff in Medina on Thursday. The group includes, from left: Bob Rice, Evie Osborne, Sharlene Pratt, Mary Zelazny, Jacky Organisciak and Tina Sheeler. Two other employees, Laurie Newton and Kathy Kepner, were working at the drive-through on Maple Ridge Road.

MEDINA – Mary Zelazny was 18 and working at Jubilee when she was approached to work at Marine Midland Bank in Medina as a teller. That was 37 years ago. Zelazny also typed loan documents early in her banking career.

She worked her way up through the ranks and became branch manager about a decade ago. Marine Midland would become HSBC Bank and about two years ago KeyBank bought the HSBC sites in Medina at 514 Main St. and also a drive-through on Maple Ridge Road.

Today is Zelazny’s last day at the bank. She is retiring. She will still be a Main Street presence. She will join her husband, Michael Zelazny, across the street at his accounting business. The Zelaznys have two grown children: Jacob works with Michael at the Walter Zelazny and Sons farm and Nicole is the marketing manager for Smokin Joes in Niagara Falls.

The following interview was conducted on Thursday at Zelazny’s office at the bank.

Q: You started as teller and typed loan documents, and then what happened in your banking career?

A: I worked my way up. I didn’t like staying in one spot. I liked learning. I wanted to help the customers. If we were slow at one time and we were idle I would ask if there was something I could do and that’s how I learned.

Q: You’ve been in this building the whole time?

A: I have been here the whole time which is kind of unusual for banking. I raised here. I’ve been here my whole life and I’ve been here my whole career.

Mary Zelazny is pictured outside KeyBank’s historic site on Main Street, a site that was originally Central Bank of Medina.

Q: Were you thinking 37-year career in banking when you started?

A: Absolutely not. I had just turned 18, just graduated and I was working at Jubilee. Ken Sylvester came in and asked if I would be interested in putting my name in. I thought, “Maybe.” I didn’t really pursue it but he came in and asked me again. I thought I’d try it. I put my name in and got hired and I’ve been here ever since.

Ken used to go to the little grocery stores and that’s where he hired a lot of his people because they had cashier’s experience and customer service.

Q: What have you liked about this for 37 years?

A: My customers. I have to say I’ve made some great friends, great relationships along the way. I’ve been on all kinds of journeys of their lives, from going to school, graduating, going to college, getting engaged, getting married, buying a house, having children, going through everything in their lives. That’s been very exciting for me and now the next generation has come up.

It’s just knowing your customers, and not just waiting on them. It’s getting to know your people, building that relationship is what it is about. That’s where you get the trust from the people.

At this bank we’ve always been very family oriented. I don’t just treat them as a customer. I treat them as a family member because that is how I would want to be treated.

Q: It seems like there has been a lot of new technology in banking.

A: When I first started we had what you call scratch pads. You didn’t have adding machines and all that. It was a little scratch pad and you would write the customer’s name on and if they had a check and they were going to make a payment, you would write that down. You would actually do the adding and subtracting right in front of them.

The difference between then and now, you put the information in a computer and it tells you if you owe them money or if they owe you money. It tells you everything now. It was more manual back then.

Some of the other things that are different are your mobile banking today. You can take a picture of the check you are going to deposit, the front and back of it, and it’s automatically into your checking account.

Q: Do you mean take a picture with your phone?

A: With your iPhone. You have to sign up for the mobile banking. You just take a picture. Say you’re out of town and you can’t get to the bank. You just take a picture of it and it credits to your account immediately. That has become quite popular. It’s more for the younger customers.

ATMs, who would have thought years ago that you would drive up to a building and put a card in? You’re going to a wall and money comes out. Who would have thought that? ATMs are huge now.

Your on-line banking, internet banking, bill pay, transferring between accounts. When I first started here that had what they called a microfiche and it was like a screen. Everyday you would put in a fiche, and it would come up on a screen and give you the customer’s account number and the activity they did for the day.

Now you just put their name or account number in and it all comes up on a computer.

Bob Rice, the relationship manager at KeyBank in Medina, has an old piggy bank given out by the Central Bank of Medina, which used to operate out of the site at 514 Main Street. The piggy bank belonged to Rice’s father, Leonard. Technology in banking has evolved in a big way since Leonard Rice was a boy. (KeyBank still gives out piggy banks for kids.)

Q: With all the new technology, it seems like there would be fewer customers who actually come inside a bank these days.

A: There is a lot less traffic now, any bank will tell you that because they are using on-line banking and the ATMs, especially your younger generation.

Q: What do you see the roles being for the branches in the future, and the employees here?

A: They’re going to be here for a while. I’m sure as time marches on there will be changes. I still think you need that personal touch. If you got a problem, you have someone you can come in and see or call.

Banking is a lot different now. When a customer comes in, we look at the entire relationship. It’s not just a checking account. We look at the whole package. We talk to you about insurance, we talk to you about mortgages, refinancing. We’re trying to help you out and save you money.

It used to be you can in for a checking account and that’s all you got. Now we talk to you about your whole entire package: retirement, investing, everything.

Q: What are you doing for your husband’s accounting business after you retire from here?

A: I’m going to be smiling, filing and answering phones.

Q: It’s great that you’ve been able to stay and work here your entire career in the same building given all the changes in the banking industry.

A: I’m very happy I was able to do that.

Q: Do you sense a resurgence in Medina?

A: I think you can see in Medina, at least on Main Street with some of the new shops, you can feel that people are excited again. You have younger people coming in. I like the old in Medina with all of the history and believe it or not I think the younger people do, too. There are not many empty offices or buildings. There is some excitement. I think you will see more.

When KeyBank took off the HSBC sign about two years ago, the original bank sign was underneath.

Q: Wasn’t there something about the sign on the bank, a discovery of some sorts when KeyBank bought the building?

A: When they took off the HSBC logos, one of the engineers got excited to see the original Central Trust sign behind. We wanted to keep it. Key is very much into the community and the history, so we kept it and the people have been very happy about it.

Q: Any other comments?

A: I just want to say thank you, thank you to my staff and my customers.

Quick Questions with Larry Montello

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 January 2015 at 12:00 am

American Legion leader enjoys honoring veterans, connecting with community

Photos by Tom Rivers – Larry Montello is pictured with the memorial next to County Courthouse for victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Montello, the American Legion and county officials dedicated the memorial on the 10th anniversary of the attacks. The First Presbyterian Church is pictured in the background.

ALBION – Larry Montello has been an active community member and leader for the American Legion since he moved to Orleans County about 13 years ago after marrying an Albion woman. Montello, a Ridgeway resident, drives bus for Community Action Transportation System.

He grew up in the Adirondacks and joined the Army in 1979 after graduating from Fort Edward High School. He served 14 years in the military.

Montello, 52, is a past county commander for the American Legion, and a past post commander in Albion and Medina.

He organizes the annual memorial service for the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people. Montello has visited all of the memorial sites for victims of the attacks at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Shanksville in rural Pennsylvania.

He raised the funding to have Sept. 11 memorials in Orleans County by the County Courthouse, Legion Post in Albion and Rotary Park in Medina.

He is organizing an upcoming Feb. 1 service for the “Four Chaplains.” That 9:30 a.m. service will be at the First Baptist Church in Holley on Geddes Street. The Four Chaplains all were Army chaplains who gave their lives to save other civilians and military personnel as a troop ship sank on Feb. 3, 1943.

Montello assists with other Legion and community events, including the annual oratorical contest, flags on veterans’ graves and other events.

He was interviewed last Monday at Tim Hortons in Albion.

Q: Why did you join the American Legion?

A: I started out as a Son (of the American Legion) underneath my dad. My dad got me going along with my brother. I joined the service with my sister. We joined the Army together. She went to Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri and I went to Fort Dix in New Jersey where my dad went.

Orleans County Legislator Don Allport, left, teams with State Assemblyman Steve Hawley and Larry Montello in raising the 9-11 flag last Sept. 11 during a service at the Elk’s Club in Albion. Montello organized the memorial service.

Q: For a newcomer in Orleans County, you quickly made a mark and emerged as a leader.

A: I was the commander in Albion for four years, the commander in Medina and also the county commander. I went up the chain.

Q: What is your role right now?

A: Right now I am sergeant of arms for the county because I want to go in rank in the district. I gave up some of the county duties, but I don’t want to totally give something up.

Q: How long have you been organizing the 9-11 services?

A: I started in 2005, not long after I first got here.

I’ve put a lot of time working on the memorials. I got a nice surprise from the county when they put in a new flag pole and big cement base for the stone.

I do it partly because my sister was working down there (in Manhattan) in Building 7 near the Twin Towers. By the grace of God her boss sent her out on an errand so she wasn’t there when it happened.

When I was in the Sons (of the American Legion) I went down there when it was pretty much cleaned up and when they dedicated the new 9-11 building (The Freedom Tower). The year before last we went down to New York and I actually got to go in Building 7 where my sister worked. It was emotional.

Q: Why do you keep the local memorial service going and try to include many of the first responders?

A: I get them all involved (local and state police departments, COVA, fire departments, Mercy Flight) because they were all involved.

Q: I remember you also did a Pearl Harbor service.

A: Hopefully this year we will do it again.

The Orleans County Legislature was presented an official 9-11 flag on Sept. 24, 2014, from Larry Montello, past commander of Medina’s Butts-Clark American Legion and also the coordinator of 9-11 memorial events in Orleans County. The flag given to the Legislature was the first one to fly in front of the courthouse about four years ago. Montello, left, presented the flag to David Callard, Orleans County Legislature chairman.

Q: Why do the Four Chaplains service?

A: I did it back home. It’s part of history and it shouldn’t be forgotten just like 9-11. I started it with Jean Johnston, who has since passed away. I’ve been doing it in her honor since.

At the service we bring in all of the colors. It’s in Holley this year so we’ll bring in Holley’s colors, the county colors, the auxiliary county colors, the VFW county colors, the POW flag and then the Canadian flag and American flag.

We have a Color Guard to bring it in. And then we have members get up and do a part of each of the chaplains, sharing their biographies. When they are done, they go down from the podium where I have a wooden box with each of the chaplain’s names. They lay a rose down on it and a light a candle.

We carry an American flag in for everybody that went down on the ship and a wreath. After that we play Taps.

We go to different churches (every year) in the community, a Catholic church, a Protestant church, a Baptist church.

Q: How is the Legion membership doing, locally and nationally?

A: It has ups and downs. Right now we’re down a lot. On average we lose 10 to 15 World War II veterans a day nationally.

Q: I think people might think, with the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, there would be a new group of veterans who could join the Legion. Do many of them join the Legion?

A: No. When they get home they go back into society and that can take a long time.

Q: How much worry is there about the future of the Legion and VFW?

A: I don’t think there is worry, we just have to promote what we do. We’re not just a bar. Everybody thinks we’re just a bar. We do a lot of things for the community. Since our county is so small, I put all of the posts together to work as one. We get more out of it that way.

Q: I know you do the oratorical contest, and the Honor Guard at funerals.

A: Each Legion has its own Honor Guard, but the Posts and the VFW will join together. You get more people that way. They’re all people from the older generation. For a lot of the younger generation when they get out of the service the first thing on their mind is to get a job. That’s what was on my mind.

A lot of the ones on the Color Guard are all retired.

Larry Montello, front center, waves while he joins other walkers at the start of the “Making Strides Against Breast Cancer” at Watt Farms in October 2013. Montello was part of a team from Community Action that walked in memory of Kathy LaLonde, a former Community Action employee.

Q: Why have you stayed active with the Legion?

A: I like working with kids, I like working with the community, and I like working with the veterans. I’ve always said if I knew back home in high school what I know now I would have aced history. I have friends of mine in the Albion Post that were in the Death March. I have a friend from back home who was a POW.

Listening to their war stories is unreal. A lot of people don’t realize this is part of history.

I enjoy doing the 9-11 service because it’s part of history. The community can’t forget that day. When it first happened everybody in town had a flag up. Now, it’s hardly ever.

Q: What else do you want to say?

A: I wish more of the public would get involved with our events, and don’t just think the American Legion is a bar. There are a lot of other things the Legion does. We make sure all of our veterans have flags on their graves for Veterans’ Day.

I just wish more of the public would get on the ball with us and know that when we’re going out for donations we’re not using that for the bar but for flags, the 9-11 service and for veterans.

Quick Questions with Lora Partyka

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 August 2014 at 12:00 am

Kendall woman has grown roadside stand to multi-faceted farm market, and community hub

Photos by Tom Rivers – Lora Partyka is pictured on a tractor at Partyka Farms, 1420 County Line Road (Route 272). Behind her is a quilt block, Farmer’s Daughter. Partyka has maps for the Country Barn Quilt Trail of Western New York.

KENDALL – Lora and Jeff Partyka have built a popular farm market in Kendall at the corner of routes 18 and 272. They have been farming together since they were married in 1985.

Their two sons, Scott and Steve, are now partners in the business. They sell sweet corn and fruit from their farm market, and also go to several farmers’ markets and supply Wegmans.

Mrs. Partyka grew up on a beef, cattle and hog farm in Niagara County. Her husband grew up on a dairy farm in Churchville. A friend introduced the two.

Mrs. Partyka spearheaded the barn quilt trail in Kendall, and has a block, The Farmer’s Daughter, at Partyka Farms. The business also has maps and hosts bus tours for the barn trail.

The family is involved in numerous community events, and will host a “Sundae Smack Down” on Sunday from 3 to 5 p.m. Teams from the Town of Kendall will square off with eaters from the Town of Hamlin. The winner is the town that finishes a 7-scoop ice cream sundae in the quickest time. Proceeds will go to charities in the towns.

Lora Partyka is pictured with her sons, Steve, 28; and Scott, 25. They are partners in the business with their mother and father, Jeff.

Partyka was interviewed recently by Hub editor Tom Rivers inside the farm market.

Q: This started when you had a wagon by the road. Did you ever think it would turn into this?

A: I didn’t really think about it. I was originally from Niagara County. I worked at a beauty salon. I grew up on a family farm, my parents’ farm in Barker. Then I worked at a beauty salon in Lockport. Then I worked a night job because I was young and wanted to make money.

Jeff and I met through mutual friends. He worked for a farm in Knowlesville. That’s where I met him. He had just purchased this farm (in Kendall). We were going to get married. I moved over here. I didn’t know anybody or even where to start to go back to work.

Within a few months I was pregnant so it wasn’t like I was going to go out and get a new job. I grew up selling produce. My father had a big beef and hog farm and we sold tomatoes and sweet corn by the road. My grandparents went to market in North Tonawanda. Their farm was in Ransomville. Growing up, sometimes I went to market with grandma. We all did that.

So we had some produce here from the all of the fruit. I had a table under a tree first. Then Jeff built me a wagon and then I needed another wagon. This used to be orchard all up to the road. We needed to get cars off the road so we took out some trees.

Q: The community responded to the Partyka produce?

A: We had a good year in ’91. Jeff wanted to build an apple storage to store some of our apples so in ’92 we put up this building as an apple storage. I said to Jeff, ‘Why don’t you put a front on it and I can put the produce under there?’ I never thought we’d go any further with it.

We are very conservative. We had just enough money for the building. The next year we laid a little cement and I put tables out there. And in here was just dirt. Our boys were babies. They dug ponds and played with their Tonka trucks. I had a little cooler in here to feed them, and I worked out of the front. That’s how they grew up.

My husband said, ‘Why don’t we put ice cream in?’ I didn’t want ice cream. I wanted greenhouses. But we went with the ice cream. It was smaller then. We made our own cider and that was here. Over the years we just did a little bit more. We never wanted it to get real big because we don’t feel in our area you could maintain it. You’d have to have so much labor and everything else.

We’re at a nice size where everything just kind of flows together.

Partyka added these signs showing the distance of Kendalls and Holleys in other states, as well as other distant towns that share names with local communities.

Q: You’ve steadily grown?

A: We just did a little bit at a time as we had money. It’s grown into a solid business but we’re very diversified. You’re not going to live off ice cream. You don’t make a lot of money with ice cream. But we have the grills and the gift shop and the produce. As far as produce, there is a wagon on every corner now. People have to like your stuff. We’re kind of known for our sweet corn and peaches. For our little area in the middle of nowhere, we’re doing pretty good. But we have different events. We have Christmas in July. On Father’s Day we had a beef on weck with 230 people. We’re trying to do a different event to be a little different.

Q: You also have a nice playground here.

A: It’s the same thing where we’ve done a little bit at a time. The pavilion we just put up three years ago. We’ve had different birthday parties here, and wedding receptions and showers. We make it really relaxing.

Q: Besides this market, you go to farmers’ markets as well?

A: I go to Batavia two days a week and North Chili one day a week.

Q: You physically do it?

A: Oh yeah. I load the trucks and go with my help. I always feel when your owners get off the trucks, they go in half. The customers want to know what’s coming next. I’ve seen people get off their trucks and the trucks go down.

On Thursday nights Jeff goes to Irondequoit and on Sundays he goes to Brockport. I’d like to see him not go anymore because he’s busy and I’m busy. On my trucks people are so used to me being there. I have some customers who will wait for me to wait on them.

Partyka Farms includes a gift shop with ice cream and baked goods.

Q: What is the secret to making this work over 25 years?

A: I was born one of 8 children and I had fantastic parents. They never handed us anything. We were pretty much on our own. We’ve all done pretty good. I don’t need material things to say I’ve done good. I feel I’ve done good with my family and my business. I feel very blessed with everything.

You’ve got to believe it and go after it. You have to try.

Q: You’re involved in many community projects, including the barn quilt trail. Wasn’t that initially just going to a block on your greenhouse but it definitely grew from there?

A: It’s grown. I think it’s up to 90. I read an article about another community doing it and I decided we needed to do it in Kendall. It’s worked out well. It’s kind of quieted down because they have been around for a while. However, we printed 250 maps this year and we’ve gone through that many. It’s amazed me from the beginning that so many people are interested in it.

I think ours was the first one done out in the country. Now a lot of them are. The people picked out their own things and meanings. In other places they were picked out by committees. It’s been good for the community and Kendall.

I give Kendall so much credit for being supportive of it. They didn’t make us get permits. I told them to let the people clean up their properties. It’s not a written word. It’s not a sign. Let them enjoy their town.

Steve Partyka, 28, works the land at the corner of routes 18 and 272 in Kendall.

Q: It’s great that it worked.

A: I hate to say I never sat down and planned it all out. They say you should have a business plan and this and that. I would be driving in my market truck and would think, ‘This thing is getting crazy and I think we need a headquarters. Well, the Town Hall won’t work because they’re not open on weekends and that’s when most people would be out. Well, we’re open seven days a week so I guess it’s us.’

The first time a bus company called me I said we could put a guide on for them. Jean Hart and Cathy DeMarco said they would do it. They went around and took pictures and got a book together. It wasn’t all planned but it worked out.

Q: Did you design and paint the blocks?

A: The people picked their own design. We painted them. I painted them, my employees painted them. Any time we had extra time we went back and painted them. I’m not a gridder as far as putting the design on. Cathy DeMarco, Kathy Kast and Jane Ferris took their time to come and do it. They were awesome. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them or my employees.

Q: What else do you want to say?

A: I feel really blessed to have such an incredible family and to live in a great town. I have great employees. I couldn’t ask for better employees. I was given a chance so I went with it.

Quick Questions with … Jennifer Stilwell

Posted 4 August 2014 at 12:00 am

Olde Dogge Inn owner caters to pets

Photos by Sue Cook – Olde Dogge Inn owner Jennifer Stilwell sits out front of the business with Frank the pug.

By Sue Cook, staff reporter

GAINES – Since 2000, the Olde Dogge Inn has been a staple in the community as one of the only stand-alone pet stores in the county. Jennifer Stilwell opened the business on Route 104 in Gaines.

The store carries a wide variety of pet products to help keep pets healthy and happy. Olde Dogge offers an assortment of services to assist owners with pet care and boarding. Some small animals are also for sale including several species of fish.

The business will be featuring its pet festival on Saturday, which Stilwell plans to make an annual event. Stilwell is excited to see how far the business has come in its 14 years.

Stilwell holds William. Some of the birds that Olde Dogge Inn sells are behind.

Q: Tell me a little about yourself.

A: I have four kids. They’re 15 to 20. I live right here in Gaines about 2 miles from the kennel. I grew up in Albion. I’ve been here since 3rd grade. I graduated from Cornell University with an Animal Science degree and started dog grooming out of college. That’s kind of what led me to this.

Q: Did you always plan to open a pet shop?

A: When I was 15, I worked for Starrview Kennels (in Barre). I remember saying, “This is what I want to do with my life.” They looked at me and said, “You’re crazy. It’s a 365-day-a-year job.” I said, “I don’t care. This is what I want to do.” So since I was 15, I wanted to open a kennel.

Q: Was this business originally yours?

A: I opened this business in 2000. Right out of college, I bought a kennel in Rochester called Lakewind Kennels. I still own it, although I’m in the process of selling it. In 2000, when I started having children I wanted to be closer to home when I worked. This was just an old rundown building. It hadn’t been opened in probably 15 to 20 years. So we renovated it and opened The Olde Dogge Inn.

Q: What sort of services do you offer here?

A: We have boarding for dogs, cats, small animals and birds. We also offer grooming and training, then we have the store on top of that.

One of the back rooms contains the aquariums, as well as fish care products.

Q: What are some of the types of products you offer here?

A: We have premium foods, some small animals like birds, all kinds of pet health products, plus lots and lots of dog and cat toys. There are items like leashes, harnesses, even some outfits and we have plenty of treats! We have tropical fish and all sorts of aquarium products, too. We have 23 tanks of aquarium fish and I think a lot of people aren’t aware of that.

Q: Do certain breeds present a challenge for the groomers?

A: The huge hairy ones are time consuming, but not especially difficult. You’d be surprised because sometimes it’s the smallest dogs that are difficult. It might take three people to calm down an upset little poodle. For grooming, if it’s a difficult dog, we will assign two groomers, or even three, and help to distract the dog or help to hold it. We try to make it as easy as we can on both the pet and the groomer.

Groomer Lindsay Moore is giving a bath to a happy little customer.

Q: How do you handle some of the naughty or scared animals for boarding?

A: For boarding, our runs are set up so that we don’t have to touch the animal if it doesn’t want to be touched. We would prefer to give it attention, but there are some dogs that just do not want us touching them. They can get outside on their own, we can feed them and clean their runs without touching them.

A lot of people have a fear about boarding their dogs and think it’s terrible, but the dogs usually settle in within a couple hours of coming here and the people worry the whole time they’re on vacation. I’d like people to know the dogs are almost always settled and calm. We’ll send videos to people or pictures on cell phones to show them how well the dogs are doing. A woman called her dog from England and we held the phone up to the dog’s ear so she could talk to the dog. A lot of people worry about the whole boarding thing, but the dogs do great.

We provide lots of blankets so it’s nice and cozy. We also have an “uptown area” of upscale runs where they can watch TV. They’re very quiet runs segregated from the rest of the dogs. They have raised brass beds. They’re a kind of fancy area.

We also the puppy room, which is for small dogs, not necessarily just puppies. It’s for the small dogs who would be nervous about the big dogs barking in the regular runs. They can play together with other small dogs and there’s a big yard they can all go out in. Senior dogs could go in there, too.

We try to make it as comfortable as possible for the dogs they are. So nervous dogs or older dogs can be separated.

This is just one of the many kennel areas at Olde Dogge Inn.

Q: How many employees do you have here?

A: I have 10 employees. The sales clerks are also kennel attendants. Anybody that runs the desk has the job of making sure animals are okay in the back. We have groomers that also are kennel attendants when they are not performing grooming duties. Everybody that works here knows how to do just about everything, so if there’s a question, people can come in and ask almost anyone.

Q: What about the trainer?

A: We have a trainer that comes from Harmony Dog Training and has years and years of experience. She does it on her own and rents space when she comes here.

Q: How did you choose and hire your groomers?

A: Right now in New York state there’s no certification or licensing requirements. All of the groomers here have been trained personally by me. They started out interning by bathing, grooming and brushing and slowly worked their way up to clipping and learning the styles. All of them have learned this from me. Most of them have been here since day one. So we’ve been open almost 15 years and three out of four of them have been here since day one.

Q: Who are the store pets?

A: We have Edward the white cat who is pretty well known to customers. He was a stray that we brought in. We also have Carlisle, the black and white cat, who was left on our doorstep. He was left on Christmas Day about six years ago. He and Edward just fell in love immediately so we kept him. We have Bob the pitbull. He’s just a big doof who’s very sweet. We have Ruby, a chow mix. We also have Present, a pitbull corgi mix. All of these dogs are rescues. I also bring Frank, William and Josephine with me to work every day and then they go home with me. Frank is a pug, William is a Chinese crested and Josephine is a Boston terrier.

Q: On Valentine’s Day, Edward was pink on his ears and tail! How did he end up like that?

A: We tell Edward that he has to pay rent to live here. He does our grooming advertisement and on holidays we use our pet dyes on him. He’s been lots of colors like green, purple and pink. He’s been red, white and blue for the Fourth of July, too.

The pink lasted a long time. You can’t wash it out, so we wait for it to grow out. We kept saying we’d pick a new color for Easter, but he was still pink so we left it.

Stilwell and Josephine show off one of the walls of dog toys in the store.

Q: What sorts of events does Olde Dogge have throughout the year?

A: We did a free toenail trimming clinic in January. We usually do holiday photos, too, around Christmas time. We’re going to do them again this year with an old-fashioned vintage Santa and vintage costumes.

Q: You have the pet festival coming up on Saturday, Aug. 9. What will be happening there?

A: It’s the second time we’ve had the pet festival and we want to make it an annual event. We’re doing old-fashioned dog photos during that. My son is a photographer and he’ll be doing those. Cindy the Pet Psychic is coming. The Orleans County K-9 Unit will be here doing demos with their dog. The 4-H kids from Orleans County Heelers will be doing agility, obedience and flyball demonstrations and they’ll be selling some concessions. There’s going to be pet costume and talent contests.

From 1 to 2 p.m. there will be a power hour sale! There’s also going to be a $5 nail trim clinic. Rescue groups will be there with adoptable pets. We’ll have food companies with info and free samples. We’re also going to have $5 pet ID tags, too. There’s going to be lots of stuff going on throughout the day and the festival runs from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Petpalooza Magazine’s Petmobile will even be there!

Q: So I thought the psychic sounded like kind of a cool thing. How did you get in contact with her and what are her readings like?

A: We had a pet psychic here our first year of the pet festival. A friend had recommended her to come. She had done a reading on my English bulldog. She said that we were going to have a litter of puppies coming up and that Annabelle wanted to make sure we kept one of her babies. Shortly after that, we did have a litter. The psychic had said it would be five puppies and we had five puppies. We kept one of the babies for Annabelle and they were best buddies. I was at a Petpalooza event in Rochester and Cindy the Pet Psychic was there and she did some readings for some of my employees. They said they were dead on. We had her come to our Christmas party and she did readings for all of us. She was really really accurate. She just seems to tell you what your dog is thinking, so we wanted her here for this festival.

Q: So what are future plans for Olde Dogge Inn?

A: We work alongside PAWS animal shelter adopting cats out for them. We’ve adopted 12 or 13 cats out for them. We’d like to continue that. We’d also like to continue our free toenail clinic every six months. For people who can’t really afford it, we don’t want their dogs suffering. We’ve talked a little about expanding. This building is huge and we thought we’d never run out of space, but now we actually are running out. Maybe down the road we’ll talk about it more. We want to focus more on community-based events that are helping dogs out and keeping them healthy at reasonable prices. I’ve found a lot of people in this area can’t afford a lot of the services, so we try to make costs reasonable and give them options.

To learn more about Olde Dogge Inn or the pet festival, click here.

Quick Questions with Amy Sidari

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 7 July 2014 at 12:00 am

Dance Studio owner has embraced arts and music

Photos by Tom Rivers
Amy Sidari has given her dance studio a dual purpose as the cabaret with live entertainment and desserts.

ALBION – Life-long Albion resident Amy Sidari opened her own dance studio in 1997 at the corner of West Bank and Liberty streets. She and her dance instructors work with hundreds of children (and some adults) each year.

Sidari, 46, expanded the scope of Gotta Dance last July, opening the Cabaret at Studio B. More than 20 different acts have been in Studio B in the past 12 months and Sidari will debut a variety show this Saturday. (The site at 28 West Bank St. has professional sound and lighting.)

Sidari will be one of the performers, along with high school music teacher Gary Simboli and Gloria Lear, one of Sidari’s dance instructors. Marcy Downey will join the variety show in the beginning and other community members will perform with the group in later dates.

Marcy Downey, left, and Amy Sidari pose in front of the curtains at the Cabaret at Studio B in this photo from a year ago, when Downey was the debut act in the Cabaret. They will be part of a new variety show starting this Saturday at the Cabaret.

The Cabaret Variety Show will be a throwback to the variety shows of the Dean Martin and Lucille Ball era. Sidari wants to bring humor and showcase local performers in the new show.

She talked with Orleans Hub editor Tom Rivers on Thursday about the latest venture and career with Gotta Dance.

Q: I remember when you started here. It was the former DA’s office.

A: We just had the one room. There wasn’t even a waiting room. Blessings to my dad (Ace Caldwell) for all of his craftsmanship. I tell him I’m the creator and you’re the builder so let’s do it, and we do it.

Q: Why is this fun for you, working with all of these kids and some adults?

A: I think it is what God wants me to do. I just think my gift is loving people. I love them through any way that I can and music seems to be the easiest way to love people.

Q: It seems like there are a lot of dance options with several studios. I wonder why it’s so popular because when I was a kid I don’t think we had any dance places.

A: It was a different time when we were kids. I think it’s because we have good teachers. No matter where you are dancing kids are being more inspired to take on the performing arts.

I think our school programs with the dynamic music and drama inspires the children as well. When they come to me they already understand music. There is sense that this is a passion for them. I think it’s a credit to all of the studios. Everybody is doing a good job.

Some of the Gotta Dance students perfomed on Main Street during the Strawberry Festival Parade on June 14.

Q: What is the benefit for a kid to do this?

A: There are a lot of benefits. When they’re in that awkward age, their puberty time, it doesn’t appear when you’re a dancer. There is a sense of grace, centering, elegance that comes through.

I would say that mathematically, the right side of the brain, it’s been proven it’s a little more engaged. There is memorization, patterns, muscle memory. There is a fluency and things become more natural to put yourself and your mind into the sequence.

These kids are sharp. When they’re coming in they’re not just doing dance. They have other clubs and other activities. They might come in and go through four different dances flawlessly. Their minds are working.

You know what if they’re here with me they’re safe. They’re not doing things that aren’t good for their body or good for them. The environment is only a positive, acceptable environment. They learn a lot of respect for each other and how to work through relationships here that maybe are uncomfortable because we all have to work together.

Q: I know you have the dance studio, but you also started the Nicholas Kovaleski Hometown Christmas.

A: That’s been four years. That was really God.

Q: You’ve added more besides the dance studio. You added the Hometown Christmas and then the Cabaret last year. The Cabaret seems to be working, don’t you think so?

A: There is a need. When I see people walk through my door for the first time, and the puzzled look on their face, and then they walk through this door. You watch their face and there is a sense, ‘Wow, this is Albion?’ You watch them leave and they have tears in their eyes because they are so happy they came. It’s a good, good feeling.

Q: You took a leap trying the Cabaret?

A: I wanted something more in my life. It was very peaceful once I decided to do it.

Seamus Kenney, a 1993 Albion graduate, returned home for the Christmas holiday and also put on a concert in December at the Cabaret. Kenney, a professional musician, lives in Durham, North Carolina. For a decade he traveled and performed with the band SNMNMNM.

Q: Can you talk about the new variety show?

A: Gary (Simboli) will open with an original jingle that he did lyrics and orchestration for. Gloria (Lear) is kind of like the Ed McMahon on the Tonight Show to me. She is there to help my transitions run smoothly. Gloria is really funny. The three of us with Gary included have a really good chemistry. We’ll do a little comedy, the three of us, with what’s going on in real life.

We have skits involving the community. I’ve got a hilarious skit that Gary can hardly play the music through because he gets too hysterical. That’s with Jill Albertson, Mary Dunham, Sandra Monacelli McNall, Danny Monacelli, June Schuck and David Sidari.

Later on in the evening Jim Babcock comes out, but you won’t recognize him. He closes my show.

We have a special guest appearance with Marcy Downey, and it’s something that’s on her bucket list. She’s always wanted to do a dance with me, and I’ve always wanted to sing with her. We’re doing a little trade-off and it’s pretty funny.

We’ll have comedy skits with Kyle and Gina (Sidari’s children). I told Mr. Simboli don’t be shy this time and hide behind the piano when you sing your solo. It’s center stage, spotlight on Gary and I want to hear something deep from your soul.

There will be audience participation. If you’re in the audience you don’t know what your job may be. You may be on that stage helping me do something pretty funny. It will be good and I’ll try to feel them out ahead of time so I don’t traumatize them.

We’re going to go back to old-fashioned live commercials and Brown’s Berry Patch is my first business. We’re going to interview each business that presents with us and to see what’s new in their business.

We have a ventriloquist act, a special visitor or a character from the Laugh-In Show. We’ll share some family secrets and take questions from the audience.

A: All in 1 hour, 15 minutes.

Q: It will be a brisk pace, but with enough time to laugh until you can’t control yourself. I want my audience, my community actively engaged in it. I want them to send me videos of their talents. I want to pull in people with different acts and varieties.

My future plan is I would like this to go all year. I feel more than anything it’s time to have a joy in laughter.

(Reservations are required and may be obtained by calling Ticket Team 585-354-2320.)

The Reverend Mother kept a crowd in stitches last August at the Cabaret at Studio B. Phyl Contestable is the comedian. She passed out buttons that said, “JESUS LOVES YOU, but I’m his favorite.”


Quick Questions with … George Kiefer, owner of Lakeside Karate

By Orleans Hub Posted 3 July 2014 at 12:00 am

Quick Questions with …
George Kiefer, owner of Lakeside Karate

Sensei says karate teaches confidence, helps overcome fears

Photos by Sue Cook
Sensei George Kiefer encourages students to kick high. Sensei is the title for someone with a 3rd degree black belt.


By Sue Cook, staff reporter
LYNDONVILLE – Sensei George Kiefer began his training in Hilton in 1989. He joined the Hilton karate school at age 19 during his first year of college. He saved his own to learn karate.

His mother questioned where he was going off to, concerned he was getting himself into trouble. Despite living in a small town, there were plenty of easy opportunities to make bad choices. His mother finally dragged the answer out of him. He was sneaking off to karate classes. He was afraid to tell his father who might be angry about the way he was spending his money.

His mother was far from upset and explained that he needed to keep doing what he was doing. She had noticed in the six months since his mysterious disappearances began that he was the best-behaved kid she knew. He never stopped his pursuit of the martial art.

Kiefer and his students stand in front of Lakeside Karate on South Main Street in Lyndonville.

Today, Kiefer passes on his training to students in his dojo or school. He wants students to benefit from his teaching, even after one class. Teachers and parents notice changes in behavior after their kids begin a class with Kiefer. Students also come away with more confidence in their day-to-day lives.

The karate style that Kiefer teaches is called kyokushin, which is a style that incorporates most of the body. Other martial arts tend to focus on one portion of the body and train with mostly kicks or mostly punches. Kiefer’s chosen style is much more like a full-body workout.

Q: Tell me about your life outside of your dojo.

A: I’m a father of four girls – two teenagers, 15 and 16, and two preteens, 10 and 11. They all go to school here. We live in Waterport. I originally come from Hilton in Monroe County. I work for Baxter Healthcare in Medina. I’m a Senior Purchasing Agent.

I think the most important thing I can say is I strive very hard for balance. I have a big family and it’s a lot of responsibility. I love my family, so the dojo, the school, is secondary to my family. We’re only open two nights week because the other nights of the week we’re running kids around. My wife Barbara works, too, so we juggle, juggle, juggle.

Q: Did you start Lakeside Karate?

A: I am the one who started it. My wife and I own the business together.

Q: When did you start the business?

A: In 2004 I started teaching in the Lyndonville Presbyterian Church. There’s not a lot of real estate in Lyndonville. I taught there for a couple years and then at the Crosby-Whipple building, the old gas station (in Lyndonville).

Crosby-Whipple went out of business, so I took that as a sign that I needed to find another place, so I found this place.

Q: What was it like to open a business here in rural Lyndonville?

A: It was interesting. I wasn’t sure how it was going to go, to be honest, but I’ve been involved in martial arts since 1989. Twenty years or so ago we moved to Waterport. I did a self-defense class in school the first couple years I was here. When my kids were grown up and started going to school, I wanted to do something here.

Kiefer (center) warms up with the students.

Q: So it was a conscious choice to open a school in Lyndonville?

A: This was a conscious choice to be in a small community, to give my kids and other kids an opportunity to do something that they don’t have to travel miles and miles to do. I want to be part of this community. I’m not interested in conquering in the world with my karate.

There’s a dedication up on the wall that says a little bit about it. I stopped doing karate for a little while and my wife saw that I was very restless and that I needed to do something other than work. My wife was like “Just do it.” So in my dedication to her, I say she’s the one that gave me the faith in myself to do it.

I also mention my dad in it because he helped out. Most of us would agree our fathers play a big role in who you become and what you do. If there’s anything my father taught me it was perseverance. I was one of four boys and he worked himself to the bone to support us, and my parents stayed married all those years. It was the discipline to see it through that came from him.

And then obviously my instructor. My instructor was at times my biggest friend and at times he was my father. His name was Sensei Jim Grafe (1954-2002). He was kind of a teddy bear kind of guy. He had a special way with kids which was unbelievable. He had a very big heart.

Q: Is your training for your students similar to how you trained?

A: Martial arts is different today than it was even 20 years ago. Our style is a very hard Japanese style. When I trained it was more of the Japanese mentality, which is very militaristic. We didn’t ask questions or raise our hands and we did what we were told. We fought hard, we trained hard. You learned by throwing yourself out there.

When I first got my black belt, I was nasty. I didn’t care if you were five or 55, if you couldn’t hack it then get out. With my instructors’ help and other people’s help they showed me that’s not always the best.

So we have a very different approach. We still train hard, we still fight hard, but we encourage questions and discussion.

Kiefer explains why blocks are performed at 45-degree angles. It is to cause the attack to slide off the arm instead of getting hit in the head.

Q: What is the philosophy of the dojo?

A: (Senpai Ken Anderson, Assistant Instructor) For me, I started karate when it was at the Presbyterian Church with my son. He was seven years old and I figured I should get him into something where he could learn to use his body and get a little discipline. My philosophy was I should take it with him. Seeing and feeling everything within this dojo kept me going.

I started out older than my sensei, but I took a joy to it and saw how much I could ever better myself at the age of 39, so much that my daughter started it a year later.

My body can’t do what the young kids can do, but there is still a chance for me to learn enough and utilize how my body works to defend myself. My goal was I wanted to teach and learn how to give that back to the students.

A: (Kiefer) The main philosophy is that I don’t care if somebody is my student for an hour or nine years, I want them to get something out of it. Karate isn’t for everybody. Everybody finds their talent in something. The goal here is they learn something that they can take with them and help them sometime later in their life.

Q: How many students do you have on average?

A: I probably average 25 students at a time. They come and go.

Q: How young is your youngest student?

A: The youngest I will take is a mature 4-year-old. We have a Tiger Cubs class for 4- to 6-year-olds. That class is geared toward motor-skill development. It’s what the kids need at that age. Balance and coordination, that type of stuff. We mix in some martial arts and sprinkle in things to get them ready to transfer to the other class.

Q: How old is your oldest student?

A: (Ken Anderson raises his hand) I’m 48.

A: (Kiefer) I’ve had older students before when I’ve taught.

Kiefer watches the students kick to ensure correct form.

Q: What are the different classes you teach here?

A: Our main classes are 4- to 6-year old Tiger Cub karate and then our traditional karate classes for 7-years-old to adult. Throughout the year we’ll do a self-defense seminar. I’m a certified trainer for a program called Just Yell Fire, which is young women’s self defense.

Q: Most kids probably want to come in doing crazy ninja stuff on the first day, so what is the first day like for an older child?

A: It’s the same as everybody else. I’m lucky and graced to have other black belts. The beginning base of our classes is all the same. We bow in, we stretch and then we do basic techniques. The second half of class is where we get into specific belt-rank curriculum. We split into groups. It’s important that white belts get a chance to train with upper belts so they know what they need to achieve and aspire to.

A: (Sterling Allis, 19, green-belt student) I remember a little bit from when I was a white belt. The reason why I joined was I was really sick in middle school. I was 40 pounds underweight. I joined with a friend of mine. We walked in and we didn’t know what was going on. Now I’m used to the routine. My parents are pretty strict. My mom is super strict, which I’m fine with. What had scared me was that it was new. I didn’t know if Sensei was scary or not.

But I liked it. It’s lots of fun and I remember really liking it. It was one of the few things that actually got me to sweat. I can remember I could run around the yard, climb trees and be fine. The first day of karate I was sweating my face off.

A: (Kiefer) Every September, we have an open house. We invite anybody that wants to come in to take class. It’s basically an open class. This September is also going to be our 10-year anniversary.

Kiefer guides the students through punches during the warm-up routine.


Q: Does your school participate in tournaments?

A: Yes, we do. We don’t chase them. There’s a couple of local tournaments that our style of karate. Some schools are trophy hunters. I believe tournaments are a learning experience. I want everyone to go to a tournament because where else can you go at a young age and be challenged in front of a gazillion people.

In the big picture of things, it doesn’t really matter. Twenty years from now, no one can remember what you won. It’s all personal. It’s about getting over your fear and going up there and performing. Getting over your fear of performing exudes into every piece of your life.

At some point you have to get a job, or you go to college and have to do a presentation. At some point you’re going to be put on the spot where the only person you can rely on is you. It’s the learning experience that I want them to have.

A: (Senpai Caitlyn Anderson, Assistant Instructor) I don’t think without doing those, I could have done any presentations.

A: (Kiefer) A lot of what we’re about is being able to build some confidence in yourself and the things you do and how to carry that confidence over.

Q: I understand your dojo also performs charity work.

A: We did Kicks For Megan, which was for a young girl that had cancer. We did a thing for Camp Rainbow. We helped a hospital give an ultrasound one year. This past year, Lyndonville had a Christmas tree-decorating event. We did that, but we put a spin on it. We made it a hat-mitten-scarf tree. We had everybody donate that type of stuff and when we were done with it, we donated it to Community Action.

For kick-a-thons, the students get sponsors for how many kicks they do. People can choose to donate a lump sum or they could encourage the student and say a nickel for every kick. It’s a good thing some of them did lump sums. We had some students that were doing hundreds and hundreds of kicks. They would have broken the bank.

Q: What are your future plans for Lakeside Karate?

A: The same as it’s always been. Make sure that people have a place to come, learn the art of karate and learn something about themselves. At the end of the day, if I see the kids walking out smiling and it helps them, then that’s enough for me.

In our other groups with other schools, you consistently hear “Those are Sensei George’s students,” and they say that in a good way, not because they’re goofing off. They have the discipline and the technique.

A: (Caitlyn Anderson) A lot of our students get pulled up front in the middle of testings to demonstrate stuff.

Q: Anything else you want to add?

A: (Kiefer) We don’t just give belts away. They have to work for it. That’s a key principle. You have to work and you have to perform. I think martial arts taught the right way is one of those lasting things that you really have to work at. You make the link between hard work and achievement.

I think too often nowadays in organized activities, kids get a trophy for showing up. Honestly, that doesn’t cut it in the real world. You have to do some hard work and perform.


Resident says dissolution has been studied enough, and should go to a vote

By Orleans Hub Posted 1 July 2014 at 12:00 am


This letter is addressed to the Medina Village Board. It is time to let the people of Medina vote on the question of dissolution.

Much research has been collected and analyzed. A committee made up of community leaders was named to study the question and make a recommendation. The committee studied and recommended.

The question to dissolve the village government has been discussed ad nauseam. It’s time to let the people of Medina decide. Those opposing the dissolution need to do just one thing: delay the vote. The longer the vote is delayed, the longer the status quo remains, and the longer the people of Medina have no voice.

There is no need for more study or more debate. It is time for a vote. After the vote is counted, local officials from the towns and the village must live with the results of that vote, work together, develop a plan, and do what they are elected to do: provide the best possible services at an equitable cost to both town and village residents.

The Medina area has much to offer and is a great place to live. There is a great school system that has shown it can adapt to change. In the surrounding towns the family-owned agribusinesses carry on a rich agricultural tradition. There are recreational and tourist destinations like Oak Orchard Creek and the canal. The village has a beautiful downtown that is beginning to revitalize. There are neighborhoods with beautiful new and older homes.

But the community’s future is in jeopardy. Blight is spreading in areas you would least expect. Just drive down West Avenue to see once beautiful homes, with architectural features that will never again be duplicated, deteriorating more and more each day.

Eliminating a level of government or two, centralizing services that can be centralized and spreading the tax burden evenly isn’t going to cure all of the area’s ills, but it is a step in the right direction.

Edwin Weider


Medina will hold off on dissolution vote until it meets with towns

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 June 2014 at 12:00 am

Mayor will seek joint session with town leaders

Photos by Tom Rivers

Ridgeway Town Supervisor Brian Napoli said promised state aid for a village dissolution shouldn’t be counted on. "A state guarantee means nothing," he said.

MEDINA – A dissolution plan won’t be going to a vote by village residents until the Village Board can meet with town leaders in Shelby and Ridgeway.

“I don’t think at this point the public is ready for that,” said Village Trustee Mark Kruzynski at Monday’s board meeting.

Kruzynski and Michael Sidari pushed for a joint meeting with the towns, noting the dissolution discussions have been polarizing in the community and haven’t included the town officials.

Sidari first suggested the meeting among village, Shelby and Ridgeway officials exclude Mayor Andrew Meier, and town supervisors Brian Napoli of Ridgeway and Skip Draper of Shelby.

“There is a lot of butt-heading going on and a lack of trust,” Sidari said about the trio of leaders.

Meier said the mayor and town supervisors should be a part of the discussions because they are the chief executive officers with a big knowledge base of their respective governments.

“That would be a pretty big doughnut hole to have them be absent,” Meier said.

Village attorney Matt Brooks said it wouldn’t be legal to ban elected officials and residents from such meetings. The full Village Board authorized Meier to extend an invitation to the Town Boards to discuss the dissolution plan.

Village Mayor Andrew Meier said the current village government with high tax rates and a shrinking tax base is "unsustainable." He is pictured next to Village Trustee Marguerite Sherman.

Meier welcomes the conversation, but he doesn’t want dissolution to be dragged out. He wants village residents to have a say on the issue in a public referendum.

Town leaders from Shelby and Ridgeway attended the Village Board meeting on Monday and urged the Village Board to look at ways for more shared services with the two towns, rather than just dissolving and having village functions passed to the towns, taxing districts or local development corporations.

The village tax rate is about $16 per $1,000 of assessed property. Dale Stalker, a Shelby town councilman, said about $10 of that rate is driven by emergency services – police, fire and ambulance – with the other $6 in services that are duplicative of the towns.

Stalker said there are ways to share those services and reduce costs to the community.

Ridgeway Town Councilman Jeff Toussaint also urged the Village Board to look closer at its budget and services to find ways to reduce costs.

Meier said the village has cut positions in DPW and police in an ongoing push the past 15 to 20 years to run a lean government. Meier said DPW has half the staff it did two decades ago.

The village faces an “unsustainable” model: its tax base is shrinking while its tax rate escalates, he told about 50 people during the board meeting.

Medina’s combined village and town tax rates are about $20 per $1,000. With dissolution, it would fall to $14.30 in Ridgeway and $13.10 in Shelby.

Outside-village residents in Ridgeway currently pay a $6.71 rate for town, lighting and fire protection. That would rise 46 percent to $9.83 if the village dissolves and services are picked up according to the dissolution plan.

Shelby residents would see a 10 percent increase with dissolution with the current rate for outside-village residents going from $8.36 per $1,000 of assessed property to $9.17.

Toussaint said the towns shouldn’t have to subsidize the village, but Meier said the current system makes the village subsidize services to the towns with village residents double-taxed for many services. Dissolution would make the rates more equitable and fair, narrowing the gap between the village and outside village, Meier said.

Ridgeway Town Councilman Jeff Toussaint said the Village Board can reduce village taxes with better management of its budget and village staff, including making some hard choices about services already provided by the towns.

Village Trustee Marguerite Sherman was elected in March. She doesn’t see dissolution as the answer. She sees more taxing districts if dissolution goes through, with less representation on the boards for the taxing districts and LDCs.

"I don’t want to give up on this village yet," she said.

Meier said the dissolution plan shouldn’t be viewed as the village giving up. The plan brings balance to the tax rates, making Medina more affordable and attractive for residents and businesses, he said.

"I’m certainly heavily invested in the village," he said. "I’m far from giving up on it."

Toussaint also said the projected savings with dissolution aren’t very much. The plan identifies $277,000 in savings spread over three budgets that total about $11 million. That’s less than 3 percent. Toussaint said those savings would only be achieved if everything went according to the plan perfectly.

Toussaint and Brian Napoli, the Ridgeway town supervisor, questioned the $541,000 in additional state aid that has been identified for the dissolution. They doubt the money will be long-lasting. Napoli said the state has reduced promised funds for highway maintenance and assessing services.

“A state guarantee means nothing,” Napoli said about the additional aid with a dissolution.

About 50 people attended the Medina Village Board and many aired their views about a possible village dissolution.

Sherman said there is no certainty for residents that the dissolution plan, as proposed, would be followed by the two towns. She worries about service cuts for villagers.

“There’s no guarantee services will continue year to year,” Meier responded. “If we do nothing there is no way we can continue our level of services, unless we tax our residents into oblivion.”

Nathan Pace works as a local attorney. He was chairman of a previous committee that looked at shared services and consolidation among the village and two towns. The group favored dissolving the village and then merging the two towns.

He was critical of all the bickering among the village and towns, and their reluctance to sit down and discuss how to strengthen the overall community.

“It’s irresponsible,” Pace said. “Please come together. We have to sort this out. It is not that hard to sit down and come together.”


Lyndonville senior is a grateful graduate

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 June 2014 at 12:00 am

Fauzia Aajan was an orphan in Afghanistan

Photo by Tom Rivers

Fauzia Aajan will graduate on Friday, ranked seventh in her class at Lyndonville.


“She has inspired a lot of kids to work harder. She sets the bar higher.” – Lyndonville teacher Shane Price


LYNDONVILLE – She arrived a decade ago – shy, malnourished and without a birthday.

Fauzia Aajan spent her first seven years in Afghanistan. When she was 1, her mother died. Her father died when Fauzia was 6.

She seldom attended school, staying with her aunt to help care for a brother suffering from hemophilia.

This Friday Fauzia will graduate from Lyndonville Central School, ranked number 7 in her class. She will attend college this fall at Daeman to major in early childhood education.

Fauzia, 17, may be one of the most grateful graduates to walk across the stage on Friday. If she had stayed in Afghanistan, she would have few opportunities, especially as a girl.

“I have a different perspective because I come from a country where girls don’t get an education,” Fauzia said during an interview at Lyndonville school last week. “In Afghanistan the women are housewives.”

Provided photo
Fauzia Aujan and her brother Sabir came from Afghanistan to Orleans County as part of the Project Life program. Here they are pictured in 2004.


She arrived in Orleans County in the summer of 2004 with her brother Sabir. They were participants in Project Life, a program at the World Life Institute in Waterport that gives orphans some respite in the countryside. Most of the children come from war-ravaged countries such as Chechnya, Bosnia and Afghanistan, as well as Sri Lanka after the devastating tsunami hit.

The kids stay with host families for the summer, learn some English, take art classes, get medical and dental checkups, and have lots of fun.

Idris Salih and his wife Stella Gresham hosted Fauzia and Sabir, who was 9 at the time. Sabir had to be led off the airplane in a wheelchair. He received immediate medical care for his hemophilia.

Nearly all 131 of the Project Life children have returned to their home countries. Fauzia and Sabir have stayed, with Salih and Gresham serving as their guardians.

Photo courtesy of Idris Salih

Stella Gresham and Fauzia have fun at Niagara Falls.

The two siblings played soccer at Lyndonville, made many friends and inspired students and staff with their drive to excel in the classroom. Sabir, 20, just graduated from Genesee Community College. He played soccer for GCC and plans to study mechanical engineering at the University of Buffalo.

“You never see ‘give up’ in either of these kids,” said Shane Price, a Lyndonville earth science teacher who worked with Sabir and Fauzia with a college prep program called AVID. “A lot of other kids might give up, but that’s not in their vocabulary.”

Fauzia struggled early with English. She has had to put in extra time to make sure she understands her school work.

“She has inspired a lot of kids to work harder,” Price said. “She sets the bar higher.”

Lyndonville’s principal, Dr. Aaron Slack, said Fauzia and Sabir broadened the students’ horizons, showing them there is a big world.

“They’ve brought a lot to the district, helping us to recognize and appreciate diversity,” Slack said.

Fauzia speaks about the conditions in Afghanistan in some of her classes, especially public speaking. She talks about the poverty of the country, the limited opportunities for girls and many children who are orphaned.

“She has done speeches about her heritage and her story,” said Elissa Smith, a Spanish and public speaking teacher, as well as coordinator of the college prep program. “She does not take for granted any of the opportunities. She has been a reminder that there are children in other places and what they would give for this education.”

Photo by Tom Rivers

Fauzia Aujan appreciates the education and caring atmosphere at Lyndonville Central School.

After Fauzia delivers a speech, her classmates will have their hands up to ask questions about burqas that are worn by some Muslim women, some of the foods in Afghanistan, and other cultural differences.

Fauzia is happy to answer the questions. But she admits she doesn’t have all of the answers, including about herself. She doesn’t know her birthday. It is listed as Jan. 1 on her Passport and official documentation.

Her mother died when Fauzia was 1, and her father died five years later. Fauzia doesn’t know what caused their deaths. She remembers living with her aunt, who worked in a factory.

The factory owner was connected with Project Life. He heard about Sabir and Fauzia.

Idris Salih and Stella Gresham agreed to be a host family for the two siblings in 2004. Sabir’s untreated hemophilia was life threatening. He received needed medication that wasn’t available in Afghanistan.

Salih and Gresham welcomed the two siblings into their family, which includes their daughter Lyuba.

Fauzia was in elementary school at Lyndonville in first and second grade. She attended school at Sandy Creek Academy in Holley for three years and was home-schooled a year before rejoining Lyndonville for eighth grade.

She admits she often felt overwhelmed with her school work. Not only was she playing catch up from attending very little school before age 7, but she was learning in a language that wasn’t her native tongue.

“The teachers have been very helpful,” she said. “They’re always there when I need something.”

Photo courtesy of Idris Salih

Fauzia played soccer at Lyndonville and also ran track for one season, doing the 100 meter sprint and the long jump.

She played all over the field in soccer – “wherever the coach decides to put me.” And she worked on stage crew in school musicals before joining the cast this year for “Into the Woods” and the senior play.

“It was kind of scary, but I like to push myself,” she said about being on stage.

She is a regular volunteer at the World Life Institute, teaching English and art to war orphans, and chaperoning trips. She also volunteers at the WLI in other programs, working with the children of farmworkers in crafts, art and English activities.
Fauzia’s goal is to become an elementary school teacher.

Salih doesn’t doubt she will achieve that goal and that her brother will become an engineer.

“Fauzia and her brother have both grown tremendously,” he said. “They’re good kids, and they both have a drive to succeed. They have such a positive outlook.”


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