MAP in Medina eager to help businesses connect now that Covid restrictions lifted

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 25 March 2022 at 10:17 am

Photos by Ginny Kropf: A group of business people share conversation during Thursday’s networking event. From left are Kelly Kiebala, director of Orleans County Job Development; Kellie Schrader of Waterport with SeeNewYorkWithUs; Skip Helfrich, director of Leadership Orleans; and Peter Bartnik of Waterport, founder of SeeNewYorkWithUs.

MEDINA – Now that restrictions have been lifted with the Covid pandemic and businesses can return to normal, the Medina Area Partnership is planning monthly events throughout the Medina area for its members.

On Thursday night, MAP sponsored a business card and networking event at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery.

“We want to keep the business community together,” said Bonnie Heck, chair of MAP’s membership committee.

Prior events include a holiday mixer at Harvest Restaurant in December, and similar themed events are planned for various other holidays.

Thursday’s gathering focused on Leadership Orleans, whose leader Skip Helfrich shared the program’s success. MAP recently started to sponsor two individuals to the class, and one, Catherine Holland, shared how the class helped her.

Former Assemblyman Charles Nesbitt from Albion and Kelly Kiebala, director of the Orleans County Job Development Agency, were instrumental in starting Leadership Orleans in 2018. Kiebala is a graduate of Leadership Genesee and helped facilitate a focus group to form a class in Orleans County.

The fifth class is in progress and each class has included about 25 members.

At left, Bonnie Heck, chair of Medina Area Partnership’s membership committee, welcomes guests to a business card exchange and networking event Thursday night at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery. Clockwise, with Heck, are Cindy Robinson, Barbara Outten from Maple Ridge Storage and Heather Smith, director of Orleans Community Health Foundation.

Nesbitt shared about helping to get Leadership Orleans off the ground and what it does for participants. It is an active group of people who come through a leadership program, learning how to interact with each other to get results when opportunity comes along, he said. Leadership Orleans helps people who are potential or current leaders become better.

“This is a great program and well supported by the county,” Nesbitt said.

He said more than 30 businesses and individuals contribute to make the program a success.

“It is well managed and skillfully directed by Skip,” he said.

Helfrich said the class meets on the second Thursday of every month, beginning in January. There is a different theme each month, which gives a variety of learning. To date, 99 people have been through the program.

“That means we have 99 alumni who can now make a different and apply their learning to make this county better,” Helfrich said. “Sixty-one businesses have been involved, 10 of them new this year.”

Former Assemblyman Charlie Nesbitt of Albion talks about Leadership Orleans at MAP’s networking event Thursday night. With back to camera is Barbara Outten and at right are Skip Helfrich, Leadership Orleans’ leader, and Gloria Brent, owner of Modern Mercantile in Medina.

Catherine “Kat” Holland was introduced to share her story of taking the Leadership Orleans class. Holland is the retail manager at Leonard Oakes Estate Winery. She was encouraged to pursue Leadership Orleans by Wendy Oakes Wilson, president of winery.

“Wendy handed me an application and said to fill it out,” said Holland, who was born and raised in Hamburg, lived in London and worked in Oregon. “Going to Leadership Orleans each month resulted in making a professional friend. I’m excited about what I can do. I found it so enriching.”

Holland and Medina trustee Tim Elliott are the two sponsored by MAP. Elliott is in the current class.

“We appreciate MAP’s support,” Helfrich said.

He said each Leadership class starts with a two-day retreat. Anyone interested in joining a class may contact Helfrich at (716) 417-3533 or on the program’s website.