Editorial: Giving thanks for those who dare to do good

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

Photos by Tom Rivers  – Al Capurso is pictured last month with a new historical marker for a former Cobblestone Schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road. Capurso has led volunteer efforts to save the building from ruin and find a new use for the structure from 1832, one of the oldest cobblestone buildings in the region.

Do-gooders get a bad rap. Look up do-gooder in the dictionary, and it says a well-intentioned person who is naïve and impractical.

We could use more people who don’t let practicality get in the way of effort. People who don’t sit on the sidelines and watch things crumble, deeming them a lost cause.

There are many recent successes in the county that probably seemed like pie-in-sky ideas in the beginning. I think of the group that built the replica lighthouse at Point Breeze, which has become a popular landmark in the past five years. I’m sure there were a lot of naysayers.

Community members and the trustees at the former Swan Library pushed for a new modern library for Albion. They set a fund-raising goal for $990,000. Some may have thought that too ambitious. The community gave more than $1.3 million for the new library that opened in 2012.

There are a lot of recent examples of the community rising above fund-raising challenges. The renovations of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Holley is the latest. Church leaders sought $300,000 for a new roof and other upgrades for the parish that includes St. Mark’s in Kendall. Parishioners came through with more than $585,000.

People have been generous with the new residence for Hospice of Orleans County, and the Education Center at the 4-H Fairgrounds.

This Thanksgiving, Orleans Hub wants to say thank you for a generous community, for the people with the ideas and those that bring projects to fruition. Many would say a bold project is impractical, a waste of money in a struggling community. But many people, thankfully, don’t give up. They dare to do good.

Here are some other examples that don’t involve big dollars, but nonetheless took a can-do attitude, a big heart and some support from the community.

A group of Christians from many different churches in the Medina area provided food for at least 141 families today for Thanksgiving.

Cindy Curtin of Medina is pictured last Friday at the First Baptist Church. Curtin has led the effort the past 11 years, and watched it grow.

People wanted to give, but the effort needed a leader. Curtin and her husband John organize the food drive, and make sure the families will have full stomachs today.

Mary Campbell, right, directs the Kendall Community Choir during last Friday’s concert to benefit the Kendall Food Cupboard. The choir performs at several community events throughout the year.

Campbell, a retired music teacher, wanted to give Kendall area residents a chance to sing together in 2008. She got word out about a community choir, but wasn’t sure how many would show up.

Fifty people joined and that number has been steady since then. The group not only provides fun and fellowship for the singers, but also entertains the community and raises funds for important causes.

For more than a century, the building on Gaines Basin Road, just north of the canal, was used as a one-room schoolhouse. The site was largely abandoned after decentralization in 1944.

Al Capurso of Gaines saw potential in the boarded-up building. This year he rallied the community to clean out the building, put in new windows, replace the roof and put up a historical marker noting that Caroline Phipps taught at the school. She went on to be a distinguished educator and ran the Phipps Union Seminary in Albion from 1837 to 1875. That spot later became the County Clerks Building.

There is more work to do at the building, which Capurso, the Gaines town historian, would like to see used as a meeting hall and a spot to display and store artifacts.

Ashley Wiegele’s mother Danielle Shulenburg holds a ceremonial check for $20,000 given by the West Herr Automotive Group during an Oct. 24 benefit. She is pictured with Scott Green, left, a guidance counselor at Albion High School and Rich Wilkinson, general manager for West Herr.

The guidance counselors and staff at Albion High School have been checking in with Ashley Wiegele and her mother Danielle Shulenburg since Ashley was paralzyed in a June 2014 boating accident, just days before she was to walk across the stage and get her high school diploma.

Scott Green, the high school guidance counselor, was talking with Shulenburg, who said a handicapped accessible van would help get Ashley to medical appointments and be more active in the community.

Green set out to raise $10,000 to buy a van. Green said that might only be a start towards buying the vehicle.

At a benefit on Oct. 24, more than $30,000 was raised with the West Herr Automotive Group giving $20,000 towards the van. The Albion Lions Club contributed $5,000 and many others pitched in.

Bill Lattin, retired Orleans County historian, leads about 30 people on a tour of the Millville Cemetery in September.

There isn’t much glory in preserving a cemetery, but a group of volunteers have been committed to the task in recent years. The Millville Cemetery is a grand site that is recognized on the National Regitser of Historic Places.

The cemetery was established in 1871 as an early Quaker burial grounds. Back then the graves were close together. The cemetery would take on the rural garden cemetery style, with bigger spaces between graves, towering trees and ornamental grave stones.

Volunteers and the Town of Shelby in September unveiled a new historical marker for the cemetery.

The volunteers also completed a big project this year: the chapel was repainted. An anonymous donor gave more than $6,000 to have that done.

Those volunteers, and the many others in the community, deserve thanks for their efforts to preserve our historic sites and take on other important projects in the community.