Kendall lights community tree in a celebration with Santa
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 December 2023 at 9:39 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

KENDALL – Santa and Mrs. Claus led a tree-lighting celebration this evening at the Community Park Gazebo.

After the tree-lighting, the community was invited to the elementary school across the street for hot chocolate, cookies and a concert by the Kendall Community Band.

Santa and Mrs. Claus bore a resemblance to Kendall Town Supervisor Tony Cammarata and his wife, Sharon.

Three Kendall junior-senior high students and their teacher sang Christmas songs at the tree-lighting. Teacher Rebekah Scharf joined students Adrianna Schiavone, Lucas Jones and Karter May in singing “O Christmas Tree,” “Tidings of Comfort and Joy” and “Dashing Through the Snow.”

Kendall band students Maddie Hults and Marlie Clark also were joined by their teacher Meghan Pitarresi in performing some holiday classics.

Lori Cyr directs the Kendall Community Band in a concert at the elementary school.

Mrs. Claus hands out crayons and a Christmas coloring book.

Several of the Kendall Community Band wore Santa hats while playing Christmas music.

Dale Smalley, a retired Albion band teacher, plays the trombone in the community band.

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Panelists say Orleans County has long benefitted from work of immigrants

Photos by Tom Rivers: Retired Orleans County Historian Bill Lattin, center, speaks last week during a forum on immigration’s impact locally. Gary Kent, left, and Kim Remley listen while Lattin says the county has long needed immigrants, from the building of the Erie Canal to workers for the Medina Sandstone quarries to today’s agriculture.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 December 2023 at 6:23 pm

ALBION – Orleans County for about two centuries has benefited from the fruits of immigrants’ labor, from the construction and expansion of the Erie Canal, to the sandstone quarries to agriculture, the county has long needed the strong backs and determination from foreign workers.

Bill Lattin, the retired Orleans County historian, shared those sentiments during a forum last week about immigration, a two-hour discussion at Hoag Library. The event was organized by the Community Coalition for Justice and featured several panelists.

Lattin said there have been three big waves of immigration into Orleans County. First it was the Irish fleeing starvation from a potato famine. That resulted in many Irish immigrants coming to Orleans County to work on widening the Erie Canal from 1838 to the 1850s, Lattin said.

Workers were needed to expand the canal and the main tools were a pick, shovel and a wheelbarrow.

“They were doing work the established people didn’t want to do,” Lattin said.

The Medina Sandstone industry took off in the mid-19th century. Local quarry operators welcomed Polish immigrants in the 1880s and ’90s, and then Italians in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

“It was dirty work and no one else wanted to do it,” he said. “The stone quarries were dangerous places to work. There were explosions and dust, which caused medical problems.”

More recently, foreign workers come to Orleans County primarily to work in agriculture.

“Historically, immigration has been a great benefit to the overall mechanisms of Orleans County,” Lattin said. “I think it’s something we can be proud of.”

Wendy Oakes Wilson

The farmworkers now increasingly are here through the federal H-2A program which allows farmers to bring in legal workers who stay temporarily.

Wendy Oakes Wilson, general manager of LynOaken Farms in Lyndonville and president of Leonard Oakes Estate Winery in Medina, said many local farms used to be able to hire a domestic workforce, with many temporary workers coming up for a few months from the south from states such as Florida.

But those workers are pretty much nonexistent these days for the local farms. LynOaken hires 38 workers from Jamaica who are paid a minimum of $16.95 per hour. LynOaken pays for their travel to get to Lyndonville and back home, and provides them with housing. With piece rate, the workers can make as much as $25 per hour, Wilson said.

Those workers are integral to LynOaken Farms and the winery’s success, Wilson said.

“Without them we would have to close up shop,” she said.

The workers pick apples, which are heavy in the bags carried by the workers. The pickers need to show great care to not pull the stems from the apple when picking them off the trees, or too squeeze them too hard and cause bruising.

“This is skilled labor and it’s a good portion of the economy in Orleans County,” Wilson said.

Leonel Rosario

Leonel Rosario

Leonel Rosario started working at local apple farms when he was barely a teen-ager in the mid-’90s. He used to travel with his family to work in Florida, South Carolina and in New York.

They would pick apples, cut cabbage, plant vegetables and work in construction.

“We were happy to have a job,” Rosario said at the immigration discussion. “We were happy to go back home (to Mexico) and bring something.”

Rosario, his brothers and family members now own a grocery store, two restaurants, and several other businesses. Two of his brothers have their own farm. Other family have a tree-grafting business helping local farms who used to bring in people from Washington state for the service. The Rosario family also has a construction business locally.

Leonel Rosario said the Rosarios altogether employ about 120 people. They could use more employees.

He acknowledged it’s hard to find enough staff.

“We’re always looking for people to work,” he said.

Rosario said he is thankful for the local farmers who gave his family an opportunity. He worked many years for the Lamont Fruit Farm.

“Without the farmers there wouldn’t be any farmworkers coming here,” Rosario said. “All of the farmers have been great to work for.”

Cassandra Bocanegra, center,  is the manager of Organizing and Strategy in the Finger Lakes for the New York Immigration Coalition. Mary Rutigliano, left, is a member of the Rochester Rapid Response Network that tries to support immigrants facing detention or deportation. Wendy Wilson is one of the leaders of LynOaken Farms in Lyndonville and the Leonard Oakes Estate Winery in Medina.

Two advocates for immigrants spoke as panelists during the forum last Thursday. Cassandra Bocanegra is the manager of Organizing and Strategy in the Finger Lakes for the New York Immigration Coalition. Mary Rutigliano is a member of the Rochester Rapid Response Network that tries to support immigrants facing detention or deportation.

Bocanegra said Orleans County has been a high enforcement area, partly due to the 500-bed immigration detention facility in Batavia. Many local law enforcement will call ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) for routine traffic infractions due to a language issue, and those stops can lead to immigration or deportation proceedings for the immigrants, she said.

She said immigrants have revitalized the cities of Buffalo and Rochester, and they tend to open businesses providing jobs at a higher rate than native-born American citizens.

Bocanegra said NAFTA decimated the agriculture economy in Mexico and Latin American, causing an exodus of desperate people looking to come to the United States.

The U.S., however, has failed to update its immigration laws to reflect the reality near the border, and the need for workers in the United States, she said.

She bristled when someone in the crowd said he supports legal immigration, but doesn’t want “illegals” coming across the border.

“I don’t like the term ‘illegal,” Bocanegra said.

She said “undocumented” better reflects the humanity of people coming into the country without the proper documents. She faulted the U.S. for not providing more legal opportunities for immigrants to be in the country with permission.

“Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and the basic human dignity we all deserve,” she said.

Rutigliano said the Rapid Response Network tries to assist immigrants with language access, transportation, bullying in schools and other challenges locally.

Immigrants are good for Orleans County but is Orleans County good for immigrants?” she said.

The Rapid Response Network was formed in 2017 due to the heightened immigration enforcement in the local rural counties.

“What can we do to make the whole GLOW region safer for immigrants?” Rutigliano said.

Orleans County Sheriff Chris Bourke said there are far fewer issues with migrant workers these days from a law enforcement perspective. He said many of the farmers have buses and vans to transport workers to the store, bank and for other needs. That has drastically reduced the number of farmworkers driving without licenses, he said. Wendy Wilson, left, is LynOaken Farms general manager and Leonard Oakes Estate Winery president.

Orleans County Sheriff Chris Bourke, an employee of the Sheriff’s Office for 39 years, said farmworkers and immigrants seldom cause problems these days.

“We do  not see immigrants causing a disproportionate number of problems,” he said.

But the farmworkers in the 1980s and ’90s used to buy cheap cars and put license plates on them, operating without insurance and without driver’s licenses.

Now, many of the farms have buses and vans and take their workers to the grocery store, bank and other locations.

Bourke said the housing is much better now, too. He recalled when 20 to 30 workers were crammed into trailers.

“I see a much more organized system, a cleaner system,” he said. “We don’t see the traffic stops and problems like we did.”

Bourke said he has a deep respect for the farmworkers, who put in long hours often in extreme weather – cold, rain or intense heat.

“The people in the field are working people, they’re God-fearing people, they’re family people,” he said.

Bourke said the local law enforcement agencies are facing a worker challenge right now. The deputy sheriff exam used to get about 60 to 90 people, but now only gets 20, and half of those can’t pass the physical fitness requirements.

“Law enforcement are good-paying jobs with benefits and healthcare,” Bourke said. “But no one wants these jobs either. We’re trying to get more people to take the test.”

The sheriff said he would welcome more Spanish-speaking staff members, include among the deputies.

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Main Street store adds ‘Wishing Tree’ during holiday season in Albion
By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 6 December 2023 at 5:22 pm

Photo by Ginny Kropf: A new project at Community Action’s Main Street Corner Thrifts, Gifts and More store is a Wishing Tree, set up at the back of the store. Customers and community members are invited to make out a wish and hang it on the tree for others to see and grant the wish.

ALBION – Community Action’s Main Street Corner Thrifts, Gifts and More store has come up with a creative idea to help people at Christmas time.

Store manager Cassie Healy has announced the addition of a Wishing Tree, which is on display in a homey setting at the back of the store. The Wishing Tree will be available during the entire month of December.

“This is the first time we are doing this, but during the time I have been the manager here at the store, I have met so many great people in our community,” Healy said. “I think the Wishing Tree is a fantastic way to bring the community together during this holiday season and foster a sense of generosity and kindness toward each other.”

Customers and community members are invited to come into the front register at the store and ask to fill out a wish. Their anonymous wish ticket will be hung on the tree, where other members of the community can see it. If someone sees a wish they are willing to grant, they remove the wish and inform a store associate, who will tell them the process for granting the wish.

Once the wish is granted, the store will contact the individual to come in and pick up the gift.

For those who would like to help, but do not see a wish they can grant, the store has coupons at the front register which can be purchased. These coupons will be hung on the tree for those in need to choose. These coupons can be redeemed for socks, hats, gloves, winter jackets in the store or for money toward gifts or clothing they may need.

In addition to the Wishing Tree, the store will have cookies with Santa and a craft for children at noon on Dec. 16.

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Schumer tries to bring more doctors to rural NY with expanded J-1 Visa Waiver Program
Posted 6 December 2023 at 2:48 pm

Press Release, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer on Tuesday announced the launch of the Northern Border Regional Commission’s (NBRC) new J-1 Visa Waiver Program, an initiative the senator has long pushed for which can help recruit and bring more highly needed physicians to rural Upstate New York.

Schumer said the new program will help address the healthcare provider shortage in New York and beyond by easing the visa requirements for physicians who are trained in the U.S. and agree to practice in underserved areas of the Northern Border Region.

The northern border region of New York State includes 28 counties: Cayuga, Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Fulton, Genesee, Greene, Hamilton, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Livingston, Madison, Montgomery, Niagara, Oneida, Orleans, Oswego, Rensselaer, Saratoga, Schenectady, Seneca, St. Lawrence, Sullivan, Washington, Warren, Wayne and Yates.

Schumer said NBRC will recommend the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) waive their “two-year home-country physical presence requirement” for eligible physicians seeking to work at healthcare institutions and practices in New York and other states within the NBRC territory.

“This is just what the doctor ordered to help recruit more highly qualified physicians and a major step to helping address the national healthcare worker shortage we are seeing in rural communities across America and in Upstate NY,” Schumer said in a statement. “Rural communities from Penn Yan to Plattsburgh, know the struggles of healthcare worker shortages all too well. This long awaited initiative will help provide rural and underserved areas across Upstate New York with quality, affordable healthcare by working to address ongoing physician staffing shortages.”

The NBRC will consider recommending a waiver on behalf of eligible J-1 physicians who will work in Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) and Medically Underserved Areas (MUAs). Eligible physicians will work in primary or mental health care for at least three years and 40 hours per week within a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services designated HPSA or MUA of the Northern Border Region. The program is modeled, in part, after the Appalachian Regional Commission’s (ARC) successful J-1 Visa waiver program.

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Albion man sentenced to state prison for burglary, criminal contempt
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 December 2023 at 11:00 am

ALBION – An Albion man was sentenced today to 2 to 4 years in state prison for third-degree burglary and two counts of criminal contempt in the first degree.

Patrick Allen, 41, of Albion on Sept. 20 pleaded guilty to the charges and admitted to entering a trailer with the intent to commit a crime on West State Street on Feb. 21, 2023. He also twice had contact with someone who had an order of protection against him.

As part of a plea agreement, he was given a reduced sentence from a maximum of 3 ½ to 7 years in prison.

He was sentenced today by Orleans County Court Judge Sanford Church.

In another case today, Medina native Erika Poole, 43, was arraigned for criminal sale of a controlled substance in the second degree for allegedly selling more than a half ounce of cocaine, which makes it an A-2 felony.

District Attorney Joe Cardone said Poole should be considered a persistent felon for her prior criminal history, which includes criminal sale and possession of a controlled substance. Cardone asked for bail, and Judge Church set it at $5,000 in cash and $25,000 bond.

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STAMP court case between Orleans and Genesee pushed back
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 December 2023 at 8:41 am

ALBION – The court case between Orleans and Genesee counties, where Orleans is trying to block a sewer main from being built on Route 63 in Shelby, was scheduled for a court appearance on Wednesday.

The lawyers representing the parties were scheduled for a 2:30 p.m. court session before Judge Frank Caruso in Niagara Falls.

But the court appearance was cancelled and court officials are working with the attorneys to line up a new date.

Orleans is representing by Lippes Mathias LLP in Buffalo and contends Genesee didn’t have the county’s permission to install the sewer main in Orleans County. The sewer, at full buildout of the STAMP manufacturing site in the Town of Alabama, would direct 6 million gallons of treated water to the Oak Orchard Creek.

Orleans contends that would have a negative impact on the county’s fishing industry, which is a nearly $30 million economic boost to Orleans County. The additional water from STAMP could also hurt the economic development efforts in Medina by overtaxing the creek, Orleans attorneys say in the lawsuit. (The Town of Shelby has since joined the lawsuit as an intervenor.)

Genesee County in its court filings contend Orleans gave consent to the project, which was years in the making, by never objecting to it – until the very last moment. Its years of silence should be viewed as support of the project, say attorneys from Phillips Lytle LLP, which are representing the Genesee County Economic Development Center and others named in the lawsuit – G. DeVincentis & Son Construction Co., Inc., Genesee Gateway Local Development Corporation, and STAMP Sewer Works, Inc.

The attorneys called the lawsuit from Orleans “a baseless attempt … to obstruct or delay construction of a long-planned, duly-approved infrastructure project.”

The Genesee attorneys claim Orleans is making “obstructionist proceeding” in a last-ditch attempt to stop the project as part of an “extortionate” demand from Genesee for money to get the Orleans blessing.

At full build-out STAMP can accommodate up to 6.1 million square feet of advanced technology manufacturing, office and retail space. GCEDC projects direct employment of up to 9,330 full-time jobs with a regional economic impact for support companies serving the site.

The first two tenants at STAMP – Plug Power and Edwards Vacuum – would have a daily discharge of 50,000 gallons of treated wastewater, GCEDC said.

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Blissetts, Medina mainstay for more than 80 years, has new owner
By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 5 December 2023 at 8:49 pm

Sara Flansburg leads the store following Jaye Sullivan’s retirement

Photos by Tom Rivers: Sara Flansburg, left, is the new owner of Blissetts Speciality Shop at 447-449 Main St. The business started 81 years by Sullivan’s family. She is the third generation to own it. She said Blissetts is in good hands with Flansburg.

MEDINA – Blissetts Specialty Shop made it official with an announcement today: Jaye Sullivan is retiring and Sara Flansburg is the new owner.

Sullivan has owned the business that sells wedding and formal dresses since 2004. Blissetts also has a children’s boutique with clothing and gifts for infants and young children.

Flansburg, 37, has long been a customer of Blissetts – when she went to the prom, when she was married and when she served as a bridesmaid. Her sister Kaitlyn (Dresser) Miller worked at Blissetts when she was in high school.

“I feel like this is a staple in the community, not only in Orleans County but beyond,” Flansburg said. “Nothing is changing. We’re here to cater to the customer to help them find the perfect dress.”

There was a ribbon-cutting celebration today with Dave Gagne, president of the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce, joining Sara Flansburg and Jaye Sullivan. Assemblyman Steve Hawley also attended the celebration. He presented a citation from the Assembly to Sullivan in appreciation for her long career as a business owner and volunteer. Hawley also presented a Certificate of Merit to Flansburg as the new owner of Blissetts.

Sullivan said Flansburg will do a great job leading the business. The former Sara Dresser grew up in a farming family and Sullivan has known her since she was kid. Sara is married to Ben Flansburg and they have two children: Molly, 9, and Landon, 5.

Flansburg has worked the past 12 years for Western New York Energy in Medina, starting as a receptionist and leaving as a senior accountant.

Flansburg went back to college and earned an accounting degree. She first earned a degree in communications/journalism from St. John Fisher, where she also played softball.

She has enjoyed retail and connecting with customers since she was a teen working for the former Mrs. B’s ice cream and miniature golf business on Ridge Road in Ridgeway.

Flansburg heard Sullivan was interested in retiring, and called her last January. The deal closed last week, and Flansburg owns the business and the building which is at Medina’s main intersection in the downtown.

Sara Flansburg said Blissetts offers an experience in finding the perfect dress that can’t be duplicated by choosing from a catalog online.

Sullivan will stay on in the short term as a consultant. Michelle Lewis, a consultant for the past six years at Blissetts, also will continue at the store, helping people pick their wedding dresses and formal gowns.

Sullivan initially was planning to sell the business, but not the name “Blissetts.” Flansburg said the name has a sterling reputation in Western New York. People come to Blissetts for the “experience.” They don’t want to just order a dress online or from a big box store, Flansburg said.

As Sullivan got to know Flansburg better, she felt confident Flansburg would carry on the excellence and prestige that Blissetts is known for in the region.

“She understands the legacy,” Sullivan said.

Jaye Sullivan loved celebrating special occasions with community

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent

Photo by Ginny Kropf: Jaye Sullivan welcomes Sara Flansburg as the new owner of Blissetts Specialty Shop.

MEDINA – After more than 80 years as a family-run business, Blissett’s Specialty Shop has a new owner.

Jaye Sullivan this morning officially announced the sale of her business to Sara Dresser Flansburg of Medina.

“I turned 70 this year and decided it was time to retire,” Sullivan said. “I plan to stay on for a little while and help Sara. I can cover for her when she needs me.”

Blissett’s was started by Sullivan’s grandparents, Chester and Beatrice Blissett.

“My grandma and grandpa met in Rochester in 1941 at Michael’s and Stern Company which manufactured and sold garments,” Sullivan said. “That was a time when there weren’t a lot of stores selling ready-made clothing and people ordered their clothing custom made.”

After Chester and Beatrice were married, they moved to Albion and started a business in Albion, selling custom-made garments. Six years later, they decided to open a second store in Medina, located in the Cook Building on Main Street. That store also sold a limited supply of ready-made clothing.

Driving back and forth between Medina and Albion became a challenge, and one day the Blissetts were in a bad accident. Shortly after they closed the Albion site and concentrated on Medina.

The Blissetts had a son and daughter Glenyce, who married John Stillwell and had three daughters, Jann, Jaclyn and Jaye. When Jaye was 2, the Blissetts and Stilwells bought a farm on Route 31, just west of Knowlesville Road, where Jaye and her husband Tim Sullivan live today. Jaye said their daughter Mackenzie worked in the store during high school.

Glenyce took over the family business in the 1970s, and all three girls worked there at some point. It was Glenyce who took on the bridal business 43 years ago, which Jaye said was “a good move.”

“We all had to work growing up,” Jaye said. “You either worked on the farm or in the store, and sometimes, both.”

“I was the farm girl, but I’m the one who took over the business when mom was ready to retire,” Jaye said. “I was only 3 when I was allowed to make bows for packages in the store.”

She said they all have been on buying trips to New York City.

Photos by Tom Rivers: Assemblyman Steve Hawley presents an official citation from the State Assembly to Jaye Sullivan, declaring her an “exceptional person, who is worthy of esteem of not only the community but the entire State of New York.” Hawley said Sullivan not only has owned Blissetts Specialty Shop since 2004, but been dedicated to community causes. “Jaye has served as a pillar of the Medina community as an officer in the Medina Business Association and as chairperson of the Decorate Medina Committee which has culminated in countless hours of enjoyment for the citizens of Orleans County,” Hawley said.

Jaye said they bought the building at the corner of Main and East Center Street in 1996. Glenyce owned the business until Jaye bought it in 2004.

“I love this business, and I hope Sara loves it as much,” Jaye said. “You get to see everybody and you grow up with your customers who come here. You celebrate their births, their marriages, their proms and all their special occasions. I never got up in the morning and thought, “I don’t want to go to work.’”

Jaye said her husband Tim has helped with remodeling through the years and maintenance.

“Maybe now I can spend more time with him,” she said.

She is thrilled with the new owner.

“Sara couldn’t have been a better fit,” Jaye said. “It’s the same vibe.”

Jaye Sullivan is pleased Blissetts will continue as a store for wedding and prom dresses, and also as a gift and clothing boutique for children.

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Sponsored Post
Posted 5 December 2023 at 5:00 pm

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Generations Bank appoints new president and CEO
Posted 5 December 2023 at 3:27 pm

Press Release, Generations Bank

SENECA FALLS – Generations Bank announces today the appointment of Angela Krezmer as the new president & CEO, effective November 27.

Angela Krezmer

Founded in 1870 and headquartered in Seneca Falls, Generations Bank has nine retail locations, including Medina, Seneca Falls, Auburn, Union Springs, Waterloo, Geneva, Phelps and Farmington.

Ms. Krezmer’s appointment marks her as the 13th and first female president & CEO of Generations Bank.

Ms. Krezmer, in addition to her role as President & CEO, has been elected to join the board of directors, contributing her valuable insights and leadership to the strategic direction of the bank. Ms. Krezmer, who has been serving as the chief financial officer of Generations Bank since 2021, will continue to fulfill her role in this capacity.

“We are excited to announce Angela Krezmer as our new president & CEO. In a historic move for our Seneca Falls-based organization, a town renowned for women’s rights, Ms. Krezmer becomes the first female president & CEO,” said Brad Jones, chairman of the Board of Directors. “Her proven track record, strategic vision, and commitment to excellence make her the ideal candidate to lead Generations Bank.”

Ms. Krezmer served as interim principal executive officer since Oct. 16, after the passing of Generations Bank’s previous president & CEO, Menzo Case. He served in the role for 15 years until his passing in October.

“I am honored to take on the role of president & CEO at Generations Bank,” Krezmer said. “I am committed to maintaining the high standards set by my predecessor and steering our dedicated team toward a future that prioritizes community well-being and progress.”

Prior to joining Generations Bank, Ms. Krezmer served as chief financial officer of Prosper Bank, now known as Presence Bank in Coatesville, Pa. Prior to that role, Ms. Krezmer served for more than a decade at Fairport Savings Bank in Fairport, New York where she held various positions including chief financial officer.

Ms. Krezmer is a graduate of Rochester Institute of Technology and ABA Stonier School of Banking and has worked in the banking industry since 2008.

In addition to her professional achievements, Ms. Krezmer is active in the community, previously serving as the treasurer for the Verona Street Animal Society where she passionately exercised her dedication to rescuing and advocating for dogs and animals in need. Additionally, she recently joined the board of directors for Habitat for Humanity of Seneca County, an organization close to the heart of her predecessor, Mr. Case.

Ms. Krezmer is a native of the Finger Lakes region, having grown up in Farmington. Currently, Ms. Krezmer resides in Canandaigua, where she lives with her husband, Justin, and their two adopted dogs.

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Albion native’s award-winning documentary now available to public
Posted 5 December 2023 at 3:15 pm

“Just a Broadway Baby: Mary Ellen Ashley” is now available through Vimeo on Demand.

Press Release, Patrick Riviere

Albion native and Niagara University graduate Patrick Riviere’s award-winning short documentary film, Just a Broadway Baby: Mary Ellen Ashley, about the life and career of Mary Ellen Ashley (formerly Mary Ellen Glass), has just been released to a worldwide audience on Vimeo on Demand.

Patrick Riviere and Mary Ellen Ashley are shown at a film festival.

The film, which chronicles Mary Ellen’s start on Broadway at the age of five in The Innocent Voyage and her full run in the original Broadway production of Annie Get Your Gun starring Ethel Merman, to her work in Las Vegas, radio, early television and more recent theater film and TV, spans 8 decades.

Ms. Ashley, who now resides in California and is still working at the young age of 87, is thrilled to have the film reaching a wider audience.

“We did so well on the film festival circuit winning eight awards and five of those were Best Short Documentary awards from coast to coast! I continue to be amazed at the outpouring and love in support of this film and my story,” Ms. Ashley said.

The film won Best Picture at its World Premiere at The Oregon Documentary Film Festival and then went on to screen all over the country including Dam Short Film Festival, Boston International Film Festival, Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival and The Art of Brooklyn Film Festival.

It was also named a semi-finalist at Flickers’ Rhode Island International Film Festival, an Oscar eligible festival. It also screened at the Upstate New York Film Festival in Buffalo where it took home Best Documentary Short and Audience Favorite Awards.

“I could never have imagined the film would garner such acclaim,” Riviere revealed. “I owe much of the success to Mary Ellen herself because she is a remarkable storyteller

and has lived an incredible life that is inspiring to anyone who hears it. I also have my fellow Albion alum Laird Ogden (who I call my ‘magic man’) to thank for editing the film so brilliantly!”

The film can be rented or purchased through Vimeo on Demand by clicking here.

Riviere’s next film, Artists at the Edge, (which once again Laird Ogden is editor) is currently in post-production and slated to hit film festivals sometime next year.

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With peak flu season here, Health Dept. says still time to get vaccine
Posted 5 December 2023 at 10:51 am

Press Release, Genesee & Orleans County Health Departments

National Influenza Vaccination Week is December 4-8, 2023. This is the time of year to remind everyone that there is still time to get vaccinated against influenza.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every year to reduce the risk of getting the flu and lessening the symptoms if you get sick.

The best time to get vaccinated is before flu season has started, but it is never too late to get the flu shot. Flu usually peaks between December and February and can continue into May.

“It is important for those at higher risk, including young children, pregnant women, adults 65 years and older, and individuals with certain medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma or lung disease, to get the flu vaccine,” stated Paul Pettit, Public Health Director for Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments (GO Health). “It is also important for people who live with and care for people who are at higher risk and those who care for infants under 6 months old.

Below are the number of reported flu cases for Genesee and Orleans Counties since 2019 according to the New York State Department of Health. It is important to note that during 2020-2021 there were significantly less confirmed cases of flu partly due to a heightened awareness of practicing precautions like staying home when sick, limiting social gatherings and frequent handwashing during the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

In addition to the flu shot, the following practices are recommended to stop the spread of illnesses:

  1. Stay Home When Sick: If you develop flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, or fatigue, stay home to prevent spreading the virus to others.
  2. Practice Good Hygiene: Wash hands frequently with soap and water, and use hand sanitizer when soap is not available. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when coughing or sneezing. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  3. Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle: Eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly, get enough sleep, and manage stress to support a strong immune system.

To find a vaccine site near you, click here.

For the Wastewater Dashboard that tracks RSV, Covid-19, and flu in local sewersheds, visit the GO Health Wastewater Dashboard.

For more information on Health Department programs and services, visit or call your respective health department at:

  • Orleans County: 585-589-3278
  • Genesee County: 585-344-2580 ext. 5555
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Annual holiday community concert at Albion featured many alumni, local residents
Posted 5 December 2023 at 10:00 am

Photos and information courtesy of Susan Starkweather Miller

ALBION – Oliver Smith, left, and his brother Lucas performed “Joy to the World” on Sunday during the the annual Christmas in the Neighborhood holiday concert. This year’s theme was “Merry & Bright.”

The First Presbyterian Church hosted the concert that was attended by more than 200 people.

The concert is coordinated by the Albion High School Alumni Foundation and the First Presbyterian Church. It spotlights talented Albion alumni and community members.

Pastor Sue Thaine welcomed attendees and encouraged them to enjoy the exceptional and unique level of musical talent in the Albion community.

Steve Hicks, Alumni Foundation President, thanked the audience and donors for sponsoring the annual community event.

Bradeen Walders Erakare and her husband Sebastian Erakare sing “Christmas Valentine.” They also performed “Sankta Lucia” with Clarisonus Ensemble that also included Marrit Vaga and Darryl Smith.

The Community Christmas Choir performed “Hallelujah Chorus” from Messiah.

Albion High School Clarinet Choir directed by Mike Thaine performed “Wonderful Christmas Time.”

Men’s Christmas Choir sang “Deck the Halls”

(Left) Elliott Michki sang “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” while accompanied by Gary Simboli. (Right) Mike Grammatico and his grandson Nate Grammatico performed a saxophone duet “Angels We Have Heard on High.”

From left include Kailey Winans who sang “White Christmas”; Alec Sherman who sang “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm”; and Erin Moody who sang “Go Tell It On The Mountain.”

From left include Ron Albertson who performed “Wasn’t His Child”; Gwen Ferchen who sang “The Manger”; and Lonnie Froman who sang “Please Come Home for Christmas.”

The Albion Presbyterian Choir sang “Christmas is Coming.”

Some other performers included Gary and Jim Simboli who sang “Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth”; Denise Thomas who performed a piano solo to “Away in a Manger”; the Albion High School Select Choir which sang “Snow”; Gary Simboli who sang “Christmas Vacation Theme Song”; and Sarah Hill who sang “Love is Christmas.”

More than 200 people attended the concert at the First Presbyterian Church.

Every year the Alumni Foundation gives scholarships to graduating seniors during Class Night.  In 2023 the Foundation handed out $140,000 in scholarships.  In 2024 the Foundation will distribute over $160,000.  This is made possible by the generosity of the Albion community.

If you are interested in learning more about the Albion Alumni Foundation or how to create a scholarship, please contact Steve Hicks at

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A’Cappella Choir performs at Medina Senior Center

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Rachel Trillizio, director of Medina High School’s A'Cappella Choir, greets members of the Medina Senior Center at the seniors’ annual Christmas luncheon on Monday. These members of the Select Choir entertained with a number of Christmas songs.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 5 December 2023 at 8:19 am

MEDINA – The Medina Senior Center welcomed a full house to its annual Christmas luncheon on Monday. As has been customary for more than 20 years, the luncheon was followed by a visit from a portion of Medina High School’s A’Cappella Choir.

Choir director Rachel Trillizio explained the Select Choir is made up of students in 10th to 12th grade, who excel in voice and have to audition to be chosen for the choir.

“I love, love, love how I get to spend my time with these kiddos,” Trillizio said.

She also said it was evident the students also were having a good time.

She reminded the audience of the A’Cappella’s annual Christmas Concert at 7 p.m. Dec. 17 at St. Mary’s Church, during which they will perform 15 different pieces. They will also present a concert at school on Dec. 22, to which the public is invited.

Monday was also the Senior Center’s monthly meeting, which included raffles of money, gifts and poinsettias.

Center director Kelly Shaw reminded the seniors of the large basket raffle , starting at 9 a.m. Saturday. The public is invited to support this event, which is one of the Center’s vital fundraisers.

Shaw also announced membership has risen to 300. She encourages any senior to join for only $10 a year. Benefits include exercise classes on Wednesday, cards three days a week and free day-old baked goods from Tops almost daily.

The Medina Senior Center had a full house Monday for their Christmas lunch and entertainment by the Select Choir, part of Medina High School’s A’Cappella choir.

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Rudy’s in Medina hosting Christmas party on Sunday for children with disabilities
By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 5 December 2023 at 8:06 am

Best of Tymes will send several costumed characters to entertain

Provided photo: The Grinch and Cindy Lou are two of the characters Best of Tymes Party Rentals is sending to entertain children with special needs at a party on Sunday at Rudy’s in Medina.

MEDINA – Children with special needs are being invited to a first-time Christmas party designed just for them.

Angie Coon of Medina, whose son has autism, knows how challenging being around crowds can be for a child living with disabilities.

“I got this idea to do a Christmas party geared especially for children with special needs,” Coon said.

She reached out to Christina Nenni, an owner of Best of Tymes Party Rentals in Albion, who offered to send costumed characters to entertain for the event.

Brody Hoffmeister, owner of Rudy’s Café in Medina, agreed to open his restaurant for the party, which is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Coon explained there will be activities suitable for children of different ages and disabilities. Activities will be segregated in separate areas of the restaurant so as not to overwhelm children with challenges. She suggests the party is suitable for children from 2 to 12, but older children will also be considered.

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be there, along with Jolly Jingles, Frosty and the Grinch and Cindy Lou. Best of Tymes Party Rentals will also have their Christmas selfie station set up for photos with the characters. Activities will include cookie decorating. Children who may not interact well in a crowd can come to the door and Coon will give them a gift bag and cookie decorating kit to take home.

Coon asks that anyone with a disabled child who would like to attend to text her at (585) 283-9114 with the child’s disability and if they have any special dietary needs.

Breakfast pizza will be served.

Coon said some of her friends have made donations toward the event, but she is footing most of the bill herself.

“This is one good deed I can do this Christmas,” she said.

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