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Libraries, Leadership Orleans make funding pitch to county legislators

Photos by Tom Rivers: Betty Sue Miller, director of Hoag Library in Albion, said the library runs many programs for the community, including a summer reading program that attracted about 2,000 people.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 4 October 2019 at 10:43 am

ALBION – It’s budget season for the Orleans County officials, and two groups made pitches for the importance of their programs to the County Legislature.

Leaders of the four public libraries in the county met with the Legislature last week. They touted their summer reading programs, internet access for the public, and numerous other resources and services.

The libraries would like to see $1 per resident in the county budget. That would be $42,883.

The county currently provides $10,087 to the four libraries – Albion (Hoag Library), Holley (Community Free Library), Lyndonville (Yates Community Library) and Medina (Lee-Whedon Memorial Library).

Sandra Shaw of the Community Free Library on Holley said the library connects with people of all ages in the community.

The county was giving $29,914 to be shared among the four libraries as recently as 2002, but that dropped to $7,480 in 2003. Since then, the amount was raised to $12,587 in 2007, $13,617 in 2010, and then was cut to $10,087 in 2011. It hasn’t changed since then.

“We serve everybody,” said Emily Cebula, director of Yates Community Library. “We’re here to get you what you need.”

She told legislators the library organized several programs over the summer with a space theme for a “Universe of Stories.”

Tom Bindeman, executive director of the Nioga Library System

Catherine Cooper, director of Lee-Whedon, said the Medina library had 2,500 participants for 64 summer reading programs.

Betty Sue Miller, director of the Hoag Library, said the county support for libraries is a small percentage of the libraries’ budget. The dollars help provide services, and also send a message to the community that legislators value the four public libraries, Miller said.

Tom Bindeman, director of the Nioga Library Sttem that serves Niagara, Orleans and Genesee counties, said libraries will have a bigger role in the upcoming Census 2020. An accurate count is critical for the local municipalities in their aid from the state and federal governments, Bindeman said.

The census can be filled out electronically for the first time. Bindeman wants an accurate count, because so much government aid is tied to population.

The libraries, with their high-speed internet, will be important spots for the census to be completed.

Leadership Orleans asks county to maintain support

Skip Helfrich, Leadership Orleans director, leads a retreat for the second class of Leadership Orleans this past January.

The county was instrumental in providing funding support for Leadership Orleans. The new program became a reality in 2018 after the County Legislature set aside $33,000 in 2017 to get the program off the ground.

The county contribution was reduced to $22,000 in 2018 and is slated for $16,000 in 2019.

The class has had about 25 members each of the first two years. The year-long program meets monthly and the members comes from a cross section of the community, including government department heads, farm leaders, agency directors and other business officials. The program picked residents who have demonstrated leadership abilities, interest in community affairs, and a commitment to Orleans County’s future.

Each month the group learned about a different sector of the community, including government, arts and culture, volunteerism and non-profit organizations, community health, tourism and recreation, agribusiness, economic & workforce development, and education.

Skip Helfrich, Leadership Orleans director, said the program made 56 site visits last year, and 22 more so far in 2019.

“We’re getting out there experiencing the community,” Helfrich told legislators. “We’re creating countywide exposure in the county with the shakers and movers.”

The program is mostly funded through sponsorships, tuition and other fundraisers. Through its connections with local organizations, Leadership Orleans learned the groups could use more volunteers.

That’s why Leadership Orleans is leading a volunteer fair on Nov. 14 at Hoag Library for community members to meet many of the agencies and service organizations that want more volunteers.

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