Volunteers make our corner of the world a better place

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 22 June 2014 at 12:00 am


Photos by Tom Rivers – Gary Kent climbs a ladder to check on a kestrel box on June 10 in the town of Albion. He volunteers with the Orleans County Bluebird Society and Albion Betterment Committee.

June has been a busy month so far in Orleans County. Both Holley and Albion had their big annual festivals, and many other community projects are in full swing.

Many of these betterment efforts are organized and pushed forward by dedicated volunteers. They deserve our thanks.

The sixth annual Murray-Holley June Fest filled Holley with music and fun on June 7. A core of volunteers ran a 5K race, organized a parade, drum corps show, family entertainment and fireworks display. The town of Murray and village of Holley also directed manpower and money to help make the event a success.

Sandy Heise, race organizer for the Jim Ferris Memorial 5K in Holley, presents Jack Richardson with an award on June 7.

A week later, Albion put on its 28th annual Strawberry Festival. The village of Albion and a big group of volunteers make that event a reality.

These are local people working to make their communities a better place. But there are lots of others finding ways to improve our county.

Here are just a few that have been highlighted recently in the Orleans Hub:

Oak Orchard Open: When a fishing tournament discontinued after last year, four Point Breeze stakeholders decided to organize a new tournament. They said the events are too much of a benefit to the Point Breeze economy to not have a tourney.

Three charter boat captains – Richard Hajecki, Bob Songin and Paul Czarnecki – and fisherman Mark Lewis were the driving force behind the new Oak Orchard Open. The tournament drew 36 teams to Point Breeze who reeled in more than $20,000 in prizes, as well as lots of good publicity for the local fishery and sales for businesses.

Birdhouses: Gary Kent of Albion has assembled a small army of volunteers who set up new bluebird houses and kestrel boxes in the county.

There are about 45 kestral boxes and 150 bluebird houses, with more in the pipeline. Kent, leader of the Orleans County Bluebird Society, said the birdhouses will promote wildlife in the county, which he sees as a principal asset.

He has been climbing 15-foot-high ladders to repair kestrel boxes and install new ones. He connects with many residents, finding ways for them to give back to the community through Habitat for Humanity, pumping gas for senior citizens and other projects.

Log cabin at fairgrounds: The walls were rotting and the site had the potential to become a dangerous eyesore at the Orleans County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Bob Fox chips away mortar in the log cabin. He is one of several volunteers working on the project. David Callard is behind him.

The Orleans County Sportsmen’s Federation 40 years ago worked to build the log cabin. It is used for many conservation programs, including hunter-safety classes.

But the three of the wooden walls were falling apart from rot. The Federation rallied to rebuild two of the walls about two years ago, with the third to be rebuilt in June and July this year, in time for the fair.

Volunteers have done the bulk of the work. The County Legislature deserves some kudos for contributing $5,000 to help buy some of the replacement wood. Without some county help, the project would have lingered.

Legislature Chairman David Callard was at the site last week, helping to chip out old mortar between the logs. He sees the cabin as “living history” that helps make the fairgrounds unique.

The Cost of Freedom Tribute: For many months, local veterans groups raised money and helped organize four days of events in Pembroke for The Cost of Freedom Tribute. The Tribute includes a replica of the Moving Wall in honor of Americans who died in the Vietnam War.

There are other displays for other wars, including the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Tribute was in the area from June 12-15. The American Legion in Oakfield-Alabama took the lead in bringing the Cost of Freedom Tribute to the area, but several Orleans County veterans groups provided donations and manpower for the event.

A member of the Special Forces Association Parachute Team descends with an American flag near the Pembroke Town Park on June 12.

Patriot Guard Riders: There is power in presence, and motorcyclists in the Patriot Guard Riders show tremendous strength by their numbers.

They provided an escort for Sgt. Shaina Schmigel when more than 100 motorcyclists led the hearse carrying her body into Medina on June 9. Schmigel, a paratrooper at Fort Bragg, was killed in a night-time training accident.

Motorcyclists lead a motorcade for Sgt. Shaina Schmigel into Medina on June 9.

The Patriot Guard and Hogs and Heroes Foundation send a message of respect, love and loss every time they honor a fallen soldier. They were at calling hours for Schmigel on June 10 and then at her funeral and burial on June 11.

Volunteers are making their presence felt locally, with some people giving of themselves in many ways. Be sure to join them, giving some of your time and expertise to make the community stronger.