OCALS recognizes students, teachers and supporters of literacy program
MILLVILLE – Orleans County Adult Learning Services celebrated another successful year during its annual dinner meeting Thursday night at Millville United Methodist Church.
Barry Flansburg, speaking on behalf of Assemblyman Stephen Hawley, summed it all up when he congratulated OCALS on its 12 years and all the positive things reported at the meeting.
“It’s a great night when I can attend a meeting and not hear one complaint,” Flansburg said. “You’re growing and doing more all the time.”
Outgoing president Mary Lee Knights said it was a record year, with tutors spending 575 hours with 25 people. More than 400 hours were spent helping students in Medina, Albion and Lyndonville school districts.
During the official board meeting, officers elected for next year were president, Nicole Goodrich; vice president, Don Colquhoun; secretary, Pam Foss; and treasurer, Keith Ward.
Goodrich and Georgia Thomas were re-elected to a second term on the board, and new member Carolyn Wagner was elected for a three-year term.
In the absence of Keith Ward, Colquhoun gave a financial report, saying their main source of income was from United Way of Orleans County. He also acknowledged support of $4,500 a year from the Lyndonville Foundation for the past two years, and the invitation to apply for a third year of funding.
Volunteer Barb Dunham said OCALS is beginning to get referrals from more organizations in the community, including Pathstone, the Arc of Genesee Orleans, Iroquois Job Corps, social workers and teachers.
“The community is realizing we are out there,” Dunham said.
Knights said while the organization is keeping up with the needs of the community, OCALS still needs tutors, especially in Albion.
Cindy Blosenhauer, who developed the Little Blue Book Shelf reading libraries, has been out in the community spreading awareness of OCALS. She attended the annual birthday party at ABCD Daycare in Holley and would like to expand to ABCD Newfane next year.
Childrens’ books and books in Spanish are needed for the Little Blue (Community) Book Shelves, which are placed in a dozen strategic locations throughout Orleans County.
She also said OCALS has been involved for three years in the Farmworkers’ Coalition, which works with the migrant population.
“This was an eye opener,” Blosenhauer said. “The families are those known as ‘dreamers,’ whose children, 5 and 6 years old, were the ones who had to walk to the country store because their parents were in fear of being spotted.”
She also said she has tutors about to start in Newfane and has another at the Holley Community Center.
Colquhoun reported on the Workplace Literacy Program, which he has been trying to market to local businesses for the last three years. Its purpose is to help people who are in danger of losing their jobs learn the skills they need to keep their job. The program has been slow to interest local businessmen, so Colquhoun said they are going to offer it free for one year.
He also said Lyndonville churches are making a serious effort to identify people in that area who might need help with literacy issues. Blosenhauer has attended a Parents’ Night at Lyndonville School and will go again the spring, Colquhoun said.
Knights said OCALS has only one major fundraiser a year – a bake sale during the fall at her pumpkin farm on Knowlesville Road. She said they sell baked goods, some for just pennies, and yet they make more than $1,000.
Recognition was given to Peggy Dollinger, who was named Student of the Year; Neeven Boulos and Jan Meland, Tutors of the Year; Jackie Keller, Employee of the Year; and Don Colquhoun, Volunteer of the Year.
Special Key Contributor awards were presented to Terry and Kevin Novak of Byron and Donna and Shane Seyler of Corning. The women are both daughters of Don and Rose Ruck of Byron, and it was their donation to the Hoag Library’s building fund which has assured OCALS a permanent reading room in the Albion library.
“They gave us money when we were down and out and didn’t know if we could keep going,” Knights said.
She also thanked Joe Gehl, a former tutor, whose family in Texas sends a donation every year.
Dollinger was ecstatic with her award, kissing Knights and saying “I love you.”
The student spent more hours studying than Knights could ever imagine, she said.
Dollinger was tutored by Adrienne Daniels of Albion.
In another presentation, Margie Eason, Limited English Proficiency coordinator and instructor at Iroquois Job Corps, gave a plaque to OCALS, and received a certificate of appreciation from Knights for cooperating with OCALS.
Boulos and Meland are the first to teach English as a Second Language as a team, Knights said. Boulos, who speaks a foreign language, was able to figure out what the people needed most, in terms of doctors, prescriptions or goods at the store. Then he would tell Meland, who could get what they needed.
The Employee of the Year award is not given every year, but Knights said Keller was more than deserving.
“I have dealt with Jackie every year I’ve been involved with OCALS, and she never fails to go above and beyond in anything I ask her to do,” Knights said.
In naming Colquhoun as Volunteer of the Year, Knights said he was the missing key OCALS didn’t have.
“His guidance has brought us to the top,” she said about the retired director of the Arc.
A dozen organizations and individuals received certificates of appreciation, including Hoag Library; Lee-Whedon Memorial Library; United Way of Orleans County; Lyndonville Foundation; Albion, Lyndonville and Medina school districts; Millville United Methodist Church; Virginia Kropf; Farmworkers’ Coalition; Iroquois Job Corps; and Community Bookshelf business owners.