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Albion HS senior nominated for Air Force Academy by Gillibrand

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 January 2020 at 5:15 pm

Mariah Plain

ALBION – Mariah Plain, an Albion High School senior, has been nominated for the U.S. Air Force Academy by U.S. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Plain has been a first-team Niagara-Orleans soccer selection as a forward/midfielder for the Purple Eagles. She also represented Orleans County American Legion Auxiliaries for a week last summer at Empire Girls State at The College at Brockport.

Gillibrand, Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee, today announced her nominations for candidates for three of the nation’s leading service institutions: the United States Military, Naval, and Air Force Academies.

“Our nation’s service academies cultivate exceptional officers, and it is a privilege to nominate some of the best and brightest students from the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region to attend these distinguished institutions,” Gillibrand said. “These future leaders have outstanding academic records and a passion for service. I look forward to watching the successes of all of our nominees as they further their education and serve our nation in the armed forces.”

A selection committee formed by Senator Gillibrand chose the nominees from a large group of qualified applicants. Decisions were based on criteria including academic record, leadership potential, and overall achievement. Final acceptance is determined solely by the service academies.

The United States service academies offer a first-class education as well as a chance for young people to serve our country upon graduation as commissioned officers in the United States Armed Services.

Other candidates from the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region nominated by Gillibrand for the service academies include: Leslie DeGroff (Warsaw, Wyoming County) – United States Military Academy; McKenzie Schaertl (Shortsville, Ontario County) – United States Naval Academy; and Sydney Higgins (Pittsford, Monroe County) – United States Naval Academy.

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Several from Orleans County on President’s List at GCC

Staff Reports Posted 22 January 2020 at 10:28 am

Several Orleans County residents have made the President’s List at Genesee Community College or the fall semester. The students are full-time with a quality point index of 3.75 (roughly equivalent to an A) or better.

GCC said the following made the President’s List from Orleans County:

ALBION – Daniel Behrend, Kastriot Bela, Mckenna Boyer, Jacob Ettinger, Katelyn Farone, Delaney Ford, Amanda Gillette, William Gregoire, Morgan Haak, Allison Howard, Jayden Neal, Madison Papaj and Jacob Weller.

LYNDONVILLE – Emalee Houseman.

MEDINA – Laurie Marchner, Brianna Meyers, Chantel Montalvo, Amanda Nottingham, Ariana Pluskwa, Camille Pollock, Debra Regan and Michelle Wright.

HOLLEY – Rena Blanco, Courtney Strickland and Abigail Willis.

MURRAY – Trevor Dona.

KENT – Darcey Pszyk.

WATERPORT – Jenifer Santiago Garcia and Samantha Stewart.

Genesee Community College serves over 5,000 students with more than 65 academic programs and certificates.

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Several from Orleans on Dean’s List at Alfred State

Staff Reports Posted 21 January 2020 at 5:15 pm

ALFRED – Dr. Kristin Poppo, provost at Alfred State College, has announced the dean’s list of academically impressive students for fall 2019. To be listed, students must have completed at least 12 credit hours for the semester and earned a 3.5 grade point average (GPA) out of a possible 4.0.

The following Orleans County students were among those recognized:

Erik Balys of Holley, majoring in Heavy Equipment Operations; Melody Purtell of Holley, majoring in Radiologic Technology; Jessica Sedore of Holley, majoring in Nursing; John Ramsdell of Kent, majoring in Building Trades-Building Construction; and Keegan Bayne of Lyndonville, majoring in Machine Tool Technology.

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After 2 years of study, Albion woman earns American citizenship

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 21 January 2020 at 9:15 am

Mother of 4 works as supervisor at Intergrow Greenhouses

Photo by Tom Rivers: Rosa Santiago, in back, is joined by her daughters during a celebration on Monday after she passed her American citizenship test. Rosa’s daughters include, from left: Tiffany, Michelle and Alexis.

WATERPORT – Rosa Santiago was celebrated on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, for earning her American citizenship.

Santiago, an Albion resident the past 13 years, passed the citizenship test last Wednesday. She will be sworn in as a new American during a ceremony on Feb. 27 at the U.S. Courthouse in Buffalo.

Santiago, 38, started taking English classes at the World Life Institute in Waterport about two years ago. She also studied American history and prepared for the civics test she needed to pass to become an American.

Her teachers and classmates threw a party for her at the school on Stillwater Road, where she has taken classes on Monday and Wednesday evenings the past two years.

Santiago, a supervisor at Intergrow Greenhouses, said she was motivated by her four children to learn English and pass the test. She has a son, 18, and three daughters, ages 9, 12 and 14.

She has been in the area for the past 13 years, working in agriculture. She was at Lake Ontario Fruit, an apple packing facility in Albion, before going to Intergrow.

A native of Mexico, Santiago said earning her American citizenship gives her security to stay in the country with her family. She also looks forward to voting and having a US Passport.

Cheryl Lieberman, one of Santiago’s teachers, praised Santiago’s persistence in learning English and preparing for the citizenship exam.

“Do not be fooled by this tiny, shy, young lady,” Lieberman said during a celebration for Santiago on Monday. “She has tremendous strength inside of her and a determination.”

Santiago went to her classes on the two evenings each week after a full shift at work.

“Rosa maintained the strong desire to pass this test and she let nothing discourage her from achieving that goal,” Lieberman said. “She fought for it and never gave up.”

Santiago is the 12th student from the World Life Institute to earn American citizenship since 2010. She said seeing the other students reach that goal was a strong motivator and encouragement for her.

WLI runs the program with support from the Orleans-Niagara BOCES Continuing Education. Sue Diemert, a literacy specialist for the program, said the World Life Institute staff are dedicated and caring teachers. She praised Santiago for her success with the program.

“We celebrate out students and our new citizens,” Diemert said.

Provided photo: The staff at the World Life Institute in Waterport celebrated Rosa Santiago on Monday evening. Pictured from left include Linda Redfield, a teacher at WLI; Monica Beck, a teacher; Rosa Santiago; Rosa’s daughters, Tiffany, Michelle and Alexis; and teachers, Gejlana Carter, Harris Lieberman and Malvy Rivera.

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Orleans woman honored by Catholic Charities as ‘Hero of Hope’

Staff Reports Posted 14 January 2020 at 4:54 pm

Provided photos from Catholic Charities: June Seager speaks last week at East Pembroke during a kickoff event for the 2020 Catholic Charities appeal. Next to her is Kelly Grimaldi, Catholic Charities Tri-County district director.

EAST PEMBROKE – An Orleans County woman was honored last week by Catholic Charities for her “unwavering commitment to helping those in need in the community.”

June Seager received the “Hero of Hope Partner Award.” She works as the coordinator for the Orleans County Office of Children and Family Services. In 2018 she was named the Orleans County Employee of the Year.

She has worked the 16 years as a caseworker for the county. She was recognized in 2018 as the county employee of the year for her work as an adult protective caseworker with residents 18 and older. Most of the cases involved elderly residents at risk. They may be financially exploited, or suffer from a physical disability or mental health issue.

This photo includes, from left: Deacon Steve Schumer, Catholic Charities president and CEO; June Seager, county coordinator for the Orleans County Office of Children and Family Services; and Kelly Grimaldi, Catholic Charities Tri-County district director.

“June really goes above and beyond the call of duty for her clients,” said Kelly Grimaldi, Tri-County district director for Catholic Charities. “She truly cares about them, not just as clients, but as individuals, and it continuously shows in her work. When we try to reach her at her office, more times than not she isn’t there because she is out taking care of someone. She genuinely cares.”

About 40 Catholic Charities appeal parish volunteers, clergy, and staff attended a volunteer training workshop on Jan. 8 at St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church at East Pembroke. The event helped kick off the $10 million Catholic Charities and the Fund for the Faith in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

The patron saint for Appeal 2020 is Saint Joseph. Working under the theme “Think of Me,” Appeal volunteers from Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties will begin reaching out to individuals and businesses in the community to encourage their support of the Appeal, which helps fund Catholic Charities’ 51 programs and services across 43 sites in Western New York, along with a number of programs and ministries through the Fund for the Faith.

“Funding is vital not only for Catholic Charities to continue its robust mission of serving those most in need in Western New York, but for the Fund for the Faith to provide its important ministries for parishioners in our diocese,” said Rick Cronin, chair of Appeal 2020. “This marks our 96th Appeal, and we know that we couldn’t have come this far without prayers, dedicated volunteers and generous donors. As we begin our climb to $10 million, we will once again rely on this combination, and will remain committed to ensuring that Catholic Charities is a beacon of hope for those in need in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties.”

Catholic Charities provided assistance which impacted more than 160,000 individuals, Catholics and non-Catholics alike during the past year, including more than 3,600 individuals in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties. Donors from these three counties contributed $418,727 to the 2019 Appeal.

Catholic Charities provides a range of services in Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties. These services include basic assistance; counseling for individuals, couples and families; Domestic Violence program for men; Our Kids: Parent Education and Awareness Program; and outreach to homebound seniors through Friendly Phones in Orleans County and Friendly Phones and Home Visitation in Genesee County.

Catholic Charities’ offices are located at 25 Liberty St., Suite 7, Batavia, 243 South Main St., Albion, and 6470 State Rt. 20A Bldg. 1, Perry.

This year’s Appeal Week will take place March 28-April 5 throughout the eight counties of Western New York to celebrate the support of those who have made contributions to the Appeal, and to encourage those who have not already donated to do so. Volunteers will continue to work to achieve the final goal until the conclusion of Appeal 2020 on June 30.

To make a donation to Appeal 2020 or for more information contact Catholic Charities at (716) 218-1400 or go to, or follow on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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Root Brothers Farm wins state soybean yield contest

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 11 January 2020 at 10:18 am

ALBION – Root Brothers Farm in Albion has won the New York State soybean contest with a yield of 80.56 bushels per acre.

Root Brothers grew the top yield with a FS HiSoy seed, number HS 18X70.

Verratti Farms in Gasport had the second and third highest yields in the state, with entries of 76.40 bushels and 74.56.

Root Brothers Farm is the second farm in Orleans County to win a yield contest in the state in 2019.

Adam Kirby of Albion won the corn yield competition with an entry of 277.44 bushels per acre.

For more information on the competitions, click here.

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Image of harness shop at museum wins first place for Bruce Landis

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 10 January 2020 at 1:50 pm

Photo courtesy of Bruce Landis, Photos by Bruce

GAINES – Bruce Landis took this photo – “You want it when?” of Dave Clark working in the harness shop at the Cobblestone Museum in Gaines. This was taken on Sept. 14 during the Old Timers Fair at the museum.

The image earned a first place award at the Professional Photographers of America International photo competition, and will be on display at their annual convention in Nashville Tenn., from Jan. 18-21.

Landis has worked as a professional photographer locally since 1974. In 2017 he was honored by the Orleans County Chamber of Commerce with a “Lifetime Achievement Award.”

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2 local residents promoted in Army National Guard

Staff Reports Posted 28 December 2019 at 9:00 am

LATHAM – Major General Ray Shields, the Adjutant General for the State of New York, announces the promotion of members of the New York Army National Guard in recognition of their capability for additional responsibility and leadership.

Samantha Harvey of Kent received a promotion to the rank of sergeant. She is assigned to the Company D (Forward Support Company Reconnaissance, Surveillance and Target Acquisition), 427th Brigade Support Battalion.

Victoria Moreland of  Medina received a promotion to the rank of Private First Class. She is assigned to the Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, Recruiting and Retention Battalion.

Army National Guard promotions are based on overall performance, attitude, leadership ability, and development potential. These promotions additionally recognize the best qualified Soldiers and attract and retain the highest caliber citizen soldiers for a career in the New York Army National Guard.

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GLOW Workforce board honors 2 workers in Orleans, Medina floral business

Photos by Tom Rivers: Timothy Roath, a building and grounds worker with the Orleans County Highway Department, accepts an award on Dec. 13 as the participant of the year for Orleans County through the GLOW Workforce Development Board. He is joined up front by Jessica Sutch, left, and Pamela Chatt, who are both employment and training counselors with the Orleans County Job Development Agency.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 December 2019 at 3:20 pm

BATAVIA — The four-county GLOW Workforce Development Board recently held its annual meeting and honored businesses and workers in Genesee, Livingston, Orleans and Wyoming counties.

Jay Lazarony is director of the GLOW Workforce Development Board.

The GLOW program has six sites in the four counties, including two in Albion – the Orleans County Job Development Agency at 14016 Route 31 (County Administration Building) and the Orleans Center for Workforce Development at 458 West Ave. Those six sites in GLOW served 25,000 people, helping people with job searches,  resume and job interviewing preparation, and helping to connect them to classroom and job training programs.

About 300 businesses listed 1,300 job openings in the program, and 1,900 people were able to find jobs through the program during a time of very low unemployment in the region, said Jay Lazarony, executive director of the GLOW Workforce Development Board.

Norb Fuest is chairman of the GLOW Workforce Development Board.

“Their work guidance and sometimes tough love is exactly what is needed,” Lazarony said on Dec. 13 during the GLOW Workforce Development Board annual meeting at Terry Hills Restaurant in Batavia.

The four counties also served about 300 youth through a summer job program.

Lazorony praised the adult and youth participants in the programs for showing resilience and determination. Some have needed to overcome homelessness, car accidents, learning disabilities, financial hardships and other challenges to find and maintain employment.

Norb Fuest is chairman of the board for the GLOW organization. He praised the Job Development staffs and the people they serve.

“What this program is all about is helping people meet their goals,” he said.

The region needs more workers of all different skill sets, especially in the trades. The GLOW Workforce Development Board is partnering with local school districts to promote careers in the four counties.

“There’s a lot of needs throughout our region,” Fuest said. “We need to educate our youth about the careers that are available in our region.”

The GLOW board supported a first-time event for the region on Sept. 24. The GLOW With Your Hands event brought 800 students to the Genesee County Fairgrounds to get hands-on experience laying bricks and sampling other jobs in the building trades. The program will continue next year.

Some of the award winners from the four counties gather for a group picture at the conclusion of the GLOW Workforce Development Board meeting.

The GLOW board recognized the following in Orleans County during the annual meeting:

Timothy Roath was named the “Participant of the Year” from Orleans. He had been a long-time employee at Community Action. He started with the Orleans County Highway Department in buildings and grounds by giving people rides in a golf cart while the County Administration Building was undergoing an addition. He helped keep visitors to the building safe while many contractors were working on the addition.

Provided photos: Creekside Floral in Medina was recognized by the GLOW Workforce Development Board with a Business Recognition Award. Pictured from left include: Hans Rosentreter, owner Mary Lewis, Jamie Wagner and Sue Fuller.

Roath went on to get his driver’s license and secured a full-time position with the Highway Department as a custodian. Highway Superintendent John Papponetti praised Roath for being an excellent addition to the staff, bringing a friendly demeanor and strong work ethic to the job.

Roath praised the Job Development staff in Orleans County for their motivation and helping him to overcome some of the obstacles to getting a full-time job.

“I want to thank Job Development  from Orleans County,” he said during the awards program. “They’ve been the backbone I just didn’t have.”

Creekside Floral in Medina received a “Business Recognition” award. The floral shop has been owned by Mary Lewis since 2006. Creekside participated in the summer youth employment program for the first time this past year. Lewis proved to be an enthusiastic mentor to the youth worker, and accommodated the student’s schedule for classes.

Creekside taught the youth participant floral décor and how to prepare and maintain flowers, as well as teaching other job skills such as customer service, communication, time management, responsibility and patience.

Autumn Dercqu received the “Youth Recognition” award for her work at Creekside Floral in Medina. Autumn impressed Creekside so much she was offered a job after the summer program ended.

Autumn also is working towards earning her high school equivalency diploma and plans to attend Genesee Community College in 2020 in the Veterinary Technology program.

Autumn Dercqu received the Youth Recognition Award for her work at Creekside Floral.

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Elizabeth Babcock, maker of ‘the finest Santa suits in the world,’ going into Santa Claus Hall of Fame

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 December 2019 at 10:16 am

Courtesy of Santa Claus Hall of Fame

The International Santa Claus Hall of Fame announced today that an Albion woman will be inducted with the Class of 2019.

Elizabeth Babcock made Santa Claus suits at Christmas Park, which was run by Charles Howard, the founder of a Santa Claus school. After Howard’s death in 1966, Babcock continued the Santa suit business.

Howard was inducted in the Santa Claus Hall of Fame in 2010 (Click here for more about Howard from the Hall of Fame). He was one of the charter members. The Hall of Fame is located at Santa’s Candy Castle in Santa Claus, Indiana.

Babcock’s Hall of Fame inscription reads:

“For over thirty years, Elizabeth Babcock made Santa Claus Suits that were worthy of the Howard name. Before she took over the suit business, Elizabeth worked at Christmas Park for many years in many roles. When the suit business became available, she was the perfect person to keep the tradition going. Elizabeth knew business, book-keeping, customer service, and most importantly, she could sew.

“She never strayed from the original concepts of the suit and was loyal to the Howard philosophy to the end of her life. She made the finest Santa Claus Suits in the world. She used the finest materials. She sewed them to specification to keep the high standard. But the component she added that was the most important to the suit was … Elizabeth Babcock’s Santa Claus Suits were made with love. Elizabeth Babcock passed away in 2006 at the age of 92. She left behind her own legacy of integrity and quality for the sake of keeping Santa looking like he should.”

Babcock is one of 13 inductees in the Class of 2019. Click here to see more on all the new members of the Hall of Fame.

Photo by Tom Rivers: This Santa suit made by Babcock is on display at the Christmas Cottage in Lockport.

Babcock is the third person connected to Christmas Park to go into the Santa Claus shrine. After Howard was inducted in 2010, George Cond went into the Hall in 2016.

Cond, a Holley resident, was trained as a Santa by Charles Howard. Cond was so good at portraying Santa that Charles Howard embraced Cond to be the Santa at Christmas Park in Albion, Howard’s entertainment venue at Route 31 on Phipps Road. (Click here to see the Hall of Fame’s write-up on Cond.)

The International Santa Claus Hall of Fame is an ongoing project that celebrates, studies and preserves the historical documentation of the many men and women who have greatly contributed to the Legend of Santa Claus, the organization states on its website.

A 15-member Hall of Fame committee reviews the candidates and considers their overall career, service to their community, range of appearances, contribution to the Santa world, length of service, uniqueness of career, originality, and charity.

Profiles are reviewed with a point value in each standard. The top 21-point value profiles are submitted for a 1 through 21 percentage vote. Those candidates who receive 75 percent are elected to the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame.

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