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New lotto winner, 30, is cancer survivor, mom of 3

Photos by Tom Rivers: Nichole Williams and her husband Rusty hold a ceremonial check for $1 million this afternoon at the Crosby’s in Elba, where the winning ticket was purchased on Jan. 11.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 February 2020 at 3:22 pm

ELBA — A Knowlesville woman who recently fought cancer said a $1 million winning lottery ticket will pay off medical bills and help her start a college or career fund for her three children.

Nichole Williams, 30, was introduced today as a lotto winner by New York Lottery personality Yolanda Vega. Williams didn’t actually buy the winning scratch-off ticket from the Triple Double 777 Red Hot game.

It was given to her by a friend from Pembroke for Williams’ 30th birthday. She celebrated with family and friends on Jan. 11 at the VFW in Medina. Williams said she had only bought two lottery tickets in her life – both duds.

Her friend bought her four tickets for her birthday. Williams scratched them off the next day at her home in Knowlesville. The first two weren’t winners. On the third one, Williams won $5 and that made her happy.

Nichole Williams celebrates winning the big prize with New York Lottery personality Yolanda Vega.

When she scratched off the fourth ticket, she was confused. She isn’t familiar with the scratch-off games. The rules said if you get a row of three symbols that all match, you win the prize next to the symbols. Williams scratched off three lightning bolts. Next to those symbols it said, “JACKPOT 1 million.”

She looked at the ticket, flipping it over several times, for about 20 minutes. Finally, she called her father, an Orleans County deputy sheriff and frequent lottery player. She asked him if he thought she had won.

Her father wasn’t familiar with the game, but he thought it sounded like a winner. She went to see him and he checked the game’s rules. They felt more convinced the ticket was a jackpot winner.

Williams took the ticket to the Crosby’s in Albion and received confirmation it won the biggest prize. The next day she went to the Lottery’s office in Buffalo to claim the jackpot.

“It’s definitely a blessing,” Williams told reporters today. “It’s definitely a huge weight lifted off my shoulders that I can provide college for my kids or if they don’t want to go to college we can put it towards a tech school or whatever else they want to do.”

Nichole Williams is interviewed by Yolanda Vega. Williams works at the Orchard Manor Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Medina and plans to continue in the job.

Williams and her husband Rusty have three children, ages 5, 7 and 11. About a year ago in January she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. After seven surgeries she was declared in remission. But that wasn’t before going into septic shock.

She appreciates the care she received at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo. She decided to pursue a career helping patients.

Williams is currently working at the Orchard Manor Rehabilitation and Nursing Center in Medina. She is a unit assistant and expects to be a certified nursing assistant in about month. She has no plans to stop working.

“I love my job,” she said. “I love taking care of the residents there.”

Her husband is a truck driver. They were living in Maryland before moving to Orleans County about three years ago to be closer to family and much more affordable housing. They said it was too costly to raise a family in Maryland.

Williams accepted a lump sum of $537,440. She is grateful for her friend buying the lottery ticket. Williams offered the friend some of the winnings, but the friend refused, telling Williams she deserves it.

“I told them right away,” she said about calling her friend to share the news. “They were extremely happy for me.”

(Click here to see a video of Nichole Williams with Yolanda Vega at Crosby’s in Elba.)

Williams’ winning ticket shows three lightning bolts in the top right line, followed by “JACKPOT” as the prize.

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400 attend benefit for motorcycle racer, who amazes with recovery from crash

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 9 February 2020 at 10:27 am

Jeremy Higgins urges people to keep working hard and not let setbacks discourage them

Photos by Tom Rivers

RIDGEWAY – Jeremy Higgins and his wife Amber are pictured on Saturday during a benefit dinner at the Ridgeway Fire Hall. About 400 people attended the Jeremy Higgins Road to Recovery Benefit which was organized by the Crusaders Motorcycle Club, where Higgins is a four-time track champion.

Higgins was badly hurt with a traumatic brain injury on Sept. 2 while racing at the Springfield Mile in Springfield, Missouri. He has made significant progress after being in a coma after the accident.

“He amazes us everyday,” said Brian Hazel, the Crusaders president. “He’s like a walking miracle. We’re all so happy he has come as far as he has.”

Higgins, during a speech at the benefit, thanked his wife for her steadfast support the past five months.

“It was a scary time for me,” Higgins told the crowd at the Ridgeway fire hall. “I can’t thank my wife enough. She has been my rock solid anchor. She has stood by me the whole time. She has been a rock star. I appreciate you being so strong.”

Brandi DiMatteo helps serve the dinners with Seth Karas at right. The Crusaders planned to sell 382 dinners. They wanted to cap it at 382, to represent Jeremy’s racing number of 82.

Higgins, 27, of Batavia started racing at the Crusaders track on Culvert Road in Medina when he was 3. He turned professional when he was 16 and has competed the past decade at the top tracks across the country.

The benefit on Saturday included two officials from the Welland Motorcycle Club in Ontario, Canada. Joe Montorani, the Welland president, said the racing community is tight-knit.

“Being here is supporting motorcycling any way we can,” he said.

Doug Herman helped cook the spaghetti for the big dinner.

There were 150 items in a basket raffle. Kerry Lonnen, a Crusaders volunteer, led the effort to collect donations for the auction. Many of the Crusaders members, Jeremy Higgins’ family and friends, and Crusaders riders also secured many donations for the event.

“He is such a nice guy with a nice family,” Lonnen said. “The racing community is such a competitive sport on the track. Off the track it’s friends and family.”

Jeremy Higgins drops a ticket for one of the items at the auction. His father-in-law, Darryl Baer, is back left laughing at a joke.

Higgins thanked the people at the benefit for their support since the accident. That has been a huge boost as he has tackled physical therapy. He said it has been a difficult journey, struggling with his balance and needing a walker during the early stages of his recovery.

“Once I set my mind to things, I was determined to get it done,” Higgins told the Crusaders crowd. “I did whatever I had to do to get the job done.”

Higgins told the crowd he feels nearly fully recovered – “I have a little bit of vision issues and a little bit of memory issues.”

He is grateful for the progress.

“I’m 99 percent to where I was before this accident,” he said. “Which is insane because the brain surgeon and everybody were blown away that I even woke up. They could not believe the injuries I sustained and was able to live with.”

Hazel, the Crusaders president, praised Higgins for working so hard on his recovery.

“This kid is amazing,” Hazel said. “He is not a quitter. He is going places.”

Higgins urged people facing their own challenges to not let setbacks discourage them.

“I’m no motivational speaker or anything like that,” Higgins told the crowd. “I have down times and I have up times. The biggest thing when you are facing a life challenge like I have your biggest enemy is you. If you put your head down and you put in the work, things will happen. You have to have faith in that and keep going for your targets.

“I don’t care if it’s pasta dinner on Wednesday night or racing grand national on Saturday morning, it doesn’t matter what you do just put all of you into it and things will happen.”

The Front Porch Pickers performed during the benefit on Saturday.

Dave and Rhonda Waters welcome people to the benefit on Saturday. Jeremy Higgins raced on the Waters Autobody Racing team for several years.

The Crusaders also presented their annual awards Saturday. Ryan Wells was named the 2019 Track Champion.

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Ridgeway Fire Company installs officers, honors dedicated members

Photos by Ginny Kropf: Firefighters salute as Charles Smith rings the bell in memory of Royce Caleb, a 55-year-member of the Ridgeway Fire Company, and his wife Bev, who both died in 2019.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 27 January 2020 at 11:04 am

Harriet Petrie gets a hug from Ridgeway firefighters Tyler Luckman and Jason Bessel, after presenting them with a set of New York hooks and Haylo LED safety flares, in memory of her late husband Larry.

RIDGEWAY – Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Company installed new officers and recognized dedicated members at its annual banquet Saturday night.

David Green of East Shelby was master of ceremonies, and began the evening by introducing distinguished guests, which included local law enforcement, politicians and representatives from other fire companies.

First Assistant Chief Kristin McAdoo presented training certificates to those firefighters in attendance, followed by presentation of awards for years of service. Service awards went to Dave Monagan, 50 years; Robin Gardner and Brian Withey, 40 years; Dell Stork, his son Ron Stork and Guy Scribner, 30 years (Dell also served 30 years in the Medina Fire Department); Francis Woodward, Tom Rushing and Kristin McAdoo, 25 years; and Matt Natale, 10 years.

Chantelle Blackburn chose April Fearby as recipient of the President’s Award.

“She’s here all the time and does things we didn’t even know needed to be done,” Blackburn said. “She deserves this award more than anyone.”

Fearby presented tokens of appreciation to several members who assisted her throughout the year.

Joshua Klotzbach, who was chosen Firefighter of the Year, was not able to attend because he was serving in the military with the National Guard.

Ladies Auxiliary president Tracey Hendrick announced Harriet Petrie as the Auxiliary Member of the Year.

“She is always here and really took over the reins,” Hendrick said.

Firematic officers of the Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Company for 2020 were sworn in Saturday night by Orleans I, Dale Banker (standing at rear). From left are Zachary Blackburn, EMS lieutenant; Chantelle Blackburn, EMS captain; Tyler Luckman, firematic captain; Matthew Natale, second assistant chief; Kristin McAdoo, first assistant chief; Jason Bessel, deputy chief; Donald Marchner, safety officer; Michael Kelly, fire police captain; and Rick Harmer, fire police lieutenant. Partially visible standing at rear is installing officer, Dale Banker, Orleans I.

Orleans I Dale Banker was the installing officer, who swore in the following officers:

Executive officers – Donald Marchner, president; April Fearby, vice president; Chantelle Blackburn, secretary; Samantha Raduns, treasurer; Zachary Blackburn, sergeant-at-arms; and trustees Paul Wengrzycki (three years), Kyle Morgan (two years) and Francis Woodward, one year.

Firematic officers – Patrick Kelly, chief; Jason Bessel, deputy chief; Kristin McAdoo, first assistant chief; Matthew Natale, second assistant chief; Tyler Luckman, firematic captain; Kyle Morgan, firematic lieutenant; Donald Marchner, safety officer; Michael Kelly, fire police captain; Chantelle Blackburn, EMS captain; and Zachary Blackburn, EMS lieutenant.

Officers of Ridgeway Fire Company’s Ladies Auxiliary were sworn in at their annual banquet Saturday night. From left are Harriet Petrie, chaplain; Joelle Brown, secretary/treasurer; Melissa Harmer, vice president; and Tracey Hendrick, president.

Officers of the Ladies Auxiliary were sworn in by Ridgeway town clerk Karen Kaiser. They are Tracey Hendrick, president; Melissa Hansler, vice president; Joelle Brown, secretary/treasurer; and Harriet Petrie, chaplain.

April Fearby thanks those who helped her during the year, after being named recipient of the President’s Award during the Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Company’s annual installation dinner Saturday night. Seated at left is first assistant chief Kristin McAdoo.

Charles Smith conducted a service paying tribute to 55-year member Royce Caleb. He and his wife Bev, who was a member of the Auxiliary, died during 2019.

Smith rang a bell three times, which signifies a firefighter has fallen.

Tracey Hendrick recognized Auxiliary members for their years of service. They were Effie McAdoo, 25 years; Donna Lockwood and Joleen Bessel, 10 years.

As has been customary each year since her husband died, Harriet Petrie has presented a gift in his memory to the fire company. Saturday night she gave firefighters Jason Bessel and Tyler Luckman a pair of New York hooks and a set of Haylo LED safety flares.

Don Palmer, a member of the fire company for 35 years, stood up to thank the department for allowing him to remain a member, in spite of the fact he cannot see.

“Even though I am totally blind, they accept me, and for that I say thank you,” Palmer said.

The Rev. Dan Thurber closed the evening with a prayer, saying how thankful he was, as a resident and pastor of the church just down the road, to have the Ridgeway Fire Company protecting them.

Executive officers of the Ridgeway Volunteer Fire Company who were installed Saturday night are, from left: Zachary Blackburn, sergeant-at-arms; Chantelle Blackburn, secretary; Samantha Raduns, treasurer; Francis Woodward, director for one year; Donald Marchner, president; April Fearby, vice president; and Paul Wengrzycki, director for three years.

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Ridgeway town officials take the oath of office

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 2 January 2020 at 5:49 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

RIDGEWAY – Duane Payne, a new member of the Ridgeway Town Board, raises his right hand and takes the oath of office this afternoon during Ridgeway’s organizational meeting. Payne was elected to the board in November.

John Olinger, the Ridgeway highway superintendent, signs the oath of office, which was administered by Town Clerk Karen Kaiser. Olinger was first appointed to position on March 23 following the retirement of Mark Goheen. Olinger was elected to the position in November. He has worked in the Highway Department since 2012, starting as a motor equipment operator.

Brian Napoli takes the oath of office for a new term as the town supervisor. He was re-elected in November in an election with two other candidates.

Mary Woodruff also takes the oath of office after being re-elected to the Town Board in November.

Town Board adopts new ethics policy

During the organizational meeting, the board approved several appointments and also adopted a new ethics policy. That policy states town elected and appointed officials shall not serve as a committee member, chairman, vice chairman or officer of a town political party.

Councilman David Stalker, a member of the Ridgeway Town Republican Committee, said he thinks the policy was drafted to target him. Stalker was endorsed by the Ridgeway Republican Committee last year for town supervisor. Napoli would defeat him in an election that also included Michael Maak.

Stalker noted that many elected officials across the county serve on the town and county Republican committees.

The Ridgeway policy will allow current town officials to continue in their roles on the Ridgeway Republican Committee, or be grandfathered in.

Stalker abstained in the vote for the new policy, while the four other board members approved it.

Brian Napoli, the town supervisor, said the nine-page policy is likely the most comprehensive among the 10 towns in the county.

Councilman Jeff Toussaint said he supports not having active Republican Committee members on the Town Board.

“Otherwise you try to serve two masters and there is the chance for conflict,” he said.

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Knowlesville congregation, with sadness, says goodbye to church building

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 20 December 2019 at 8:33 am

Congregation will continue to have events at fellowship hall, hold services at Millville

Photos by Tom Rivers: The Rev. Sara Merle, pastor of the United Methodist churches in Knowlesville and Millville from 2000 to 2005, attended a deconsecration service for the Knowlesville church building on Saturday. That service was a chance for people to say goodbye to the building and reflect on friendships and major life moments through the church.

KNOWLESVILLE – The congregation at the former Knowelsville United Methodist Church gathered on Saturday to deconsecrate the church building on Knowlesville Road.

The building needs capital improvements – a new furnace and handicapped accessibility, and is for sale. Saturday’s service declared the site is no longer and church building and has been released “for any honorable use.”

The congregation continues to use the fellowship hall across the street for Sunday school and events, including its popular pie shop, apple festival and fish fries.

The congregation also is part of the United Methodist Church of Abundant Harvest, which holds its services at 11 a.m. on Sundays in Millville.

The church at 3622 Knowlesville Rd. is for sale. It needs some capital improvements that church members found daunting.

Saturday’s service was like a reunion, with former church pastors coming back for the special service.

Sara Merle was the church pastor from 2000 to 2005. One of her first duties as pastor in Knowlesville was blessing the church’s beef booth, which church volunteers have continued to run during the Orleans County 4-H Fair for a week in late July.

She praised the church for its outreach ministries, and creative ways to connect with the community. Merle, who now attends a church in Hilton as a parishioner, said she is grateful for the chance to lead the Knowlesville and Millville congregations for the five years.

“It only enhanced my journey of faith,” she said.

Chris Wylie was the church’s pastor beginning in 2013. He led efforts to bring multi-media technology into the Millville site and pushed for the pie shop at the Knowlesville fellowship hall. Wylie, who has cerebral palsy, guided the Knowlesville and Millville congregations into a merger, effective Jan. 1, 2015, as the United Methodist Church of the Abundant Harvest.

Wylie now lives in Lewiston.

“Sometimes with ministry you don’t know where God will take you,” he said. “Ministry isn’t about the location where you are, it’s about the people coming together.”

Erica Wanecski shared how the church has long tried to build people’s faith while having fun.

“Throughout the years they’ve had their arms open to the community in a wonderful way,” she said. “It’s a building we won’t have anymore. But we’re going to go on with our arms open like we have through the years.”

Phil Lilley was married at the Knowlesville church about 30 years ago. He said the church has offered many children’s programs and activities for the community.

The congregation also has been fortunate to have so many “fantastic pastors,” he said.

Brenda Busch spoke during the service. She lives close by the church and has been attending frequently since 2005.

“I wanted to find a church where I feel comfortable,” she said. “Here everyone is friendly.”

Lorraine Luckman said the church has been part of her life for many years. Two of her children were married at the church building.

“It was always family,” she said about the congregation. “I just felt at home in that building.”

The Rev. Garry McCaffery, who became pastor July 1, acknowledged it can be difficult for a congregation to say goodbye to a building that feels like a home. He said the Knowlesville site has “provided refuge and hope for God’s people.”

The congregation will continue to carry out a noble mission.

“God continues to bless, continues to move and work among the people who gather in this place,” he said.

About 50 people attended the deconsecration service at the Knowlesville fellowship hall for the church building across the street.

The read the following declaration of purpose:

“The time has come for this congregation of Christ’s holy Church, under God’s leadership, to take leave of the church building. It has been consecrated for the ministry of God’s Holy Word and Sacraments. It has provided refuge and comfort for God’s people. It has served well our holy faith. It is fitting, therefore, that we should take our leave of this consecrated house, lifting up our hearts in thanksgiving for this common store of memories.”

The group then read this declaration of deconsecration:

“The building located at 3622 Knowlesville Road, having been consecrated and named the United Methodist Church of the Abundant Harvest, Knowlesville location, formerly known as the Knowlesville United Methodist Church, together with the land on which it stands and all objects remaining in it, we now deconsecrate and release for any honorable use. We declare that it is no longer the place of meeting of a United Methodist Congregation.”

Robin Watts said the church is a welcoming community.

Nate Johnidas, an acolyte, extinguishes the candles at the alter. He spoke during the service and thanked the church members for their support over the years.

“I’m thankful to everyone who helped me along the path of my life,” he said.

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Construction starts on new Ridgeway water district

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 17 December 2019 at 7:53 am

RIDGEWAY – Construction started on Monday for Water District. No. 14. Sergi Construction of East Aurora is the contractor for the project.

The Town Board on Oct. 21 accepted Sergi’s bid to construct the water district for $735,964. The district serves about 30 homes and covers about 4 miles or 19,000 linear feet. It includes property along Culvert Road, between Route 104 and Portage Road, and Porter Road, from Culvert Road to Knowlesville Road.

The town has been approved for funding through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development for the project. Rural Development approved a $334,000 loan and $720,000 grant for the project.

Construction is weather dependent. John Olinger, the town highway superintendent, said the district will be subject to Health Department tests after construction. He is hopeful the district will be in service by March.

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Knowlesville residents ask town to shut down boarding house

Photos  by Tom Rivers: Orleans County Undersheriff Chris Bourke attended this evening’s Ridgeway Town Board meeting to hear concerns from residents about a property where there was a standoff that lasted until nearly 3 a.m. on Dec. 4. Bourke said there has been 29 calls to 911 for service at the location this year.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 16 December 2019 at 11:25 pm

Multi-tenant residence was scene of standoff; town says property is single family, and is out of compliance

Undersheriff Chris Bourke says the Sheriff’s office will track down the owner of the property and serve him papers from the town. Registered mail to the owner has been returned to Ridgeway Town Hall.

RIDGEWAY – Town officials were asked by Knowlesville residents this evening to take action against the owner of a single-family residence that has illegally been operating as a boarding house.

The site at 3634 Knowlesville Rd. was the scene of a standoff that started at 4:46 p.m. on Dec. 3 and continued until about 3 a.m. Dec. 4. That incident closed traffic on the road and forced many neighboring residents to stay with friends and family, or at the Ridgeway firehall.

Residents say the site is a concern in the neighborhood, due to many people coming and going, people fighting at the house, shooting air rifles and alleged criminal activity.

There were about 85 signatures from Knowlesville residents on a petition turned into the Town Board, asking for the boarding house to be shut down. The petition was handed in at Monday’s board meeting.

Dan Wolfe, the town code enforcement officer, said the 2,211-square-foot house is zoned for single family, but has been used as boarding house with multiple tenants. That is against the town code for that zoning.

“I’m citing him for operating a boarding house,” Wolfe told town residents at the Dec. 16 meeting. “We’ll do whatever we can to hold his feet to the fire.”

Dan Wolfe, the town code enforcement officer, said he has red-tagged the house due to zoning violations and people should leave the building.

Wolfe said he red-tagged the house last week, putting signs on the house that the tenants should vacant the building. People seem to be ignoring the directive, Wolfe said at the Town Board meeting.

He told residents he doesn’t have the authority to force them to leave. The town needs to start a court proceeding against the owner of the property, Wolfe said.

He has previously sent letters to the owner, James Rodgers of Sycamore Street in Rochester, notifying him of citations with the property. Those certified letters have been returned unopened.

Undersheriff Chris Bourke attended the Town Board meeting. He said the Sheriff’s Office can locate Rodgers and serve him with a letter from the town.

Bourke told residents the location has been a concern to law enforcement officials. There have been 29 calls so far in 2019 to the 911 center for law enforcement to go to the site, including six times to serve papers to a resident there. Six calls were for disturbances. There have been calls for officer assistance, larceny, obstructing governmental administration, trespassing and for a person locked out of their vehicle, Bourke said.

Neighbors said they want immediate action with the house because they don’t feel safe in the neighborhood. They said they have been concerned about the Knowlesville house since 2017.

Town Attorney Kathy Bogan said she will work to get the court process started, seeking relief for residents in the neighborhood.

“We’re not here to complain about people living there,” one woman told the Town Board. “We just want it safe.”

Bourke said the residents can’t be kicked out unless there is a court process with a court order. The state has changed the laws making it more difficult to remove tenants, Bourke said.

He told the residents he would speak with officials from the State Parole to make sure no state parolees were staying there. He said he spoke with the County Probation Department, and no one on probation is staying at the house.

Town Attorney Kathy Bogan told the residents she is also working with the District Attorney’s office about addressing concerns from the residents.

“We have to go through the court process,” she said. “We don’t have a choice.”

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DOT discusses $2.65 million bridge replacement on 104 in Ridgeway

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 December 2019 at 5:23 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

RIDGEWAY – The state Department of Transportation met with local residents and Ridgeway town officials during a meeting from 3 to 5 p.m. today at the Ridgeway Town Hall.

The bridge over Oak Orchard Creek on Route 104 in Ridgeway is shown in this photo from October.

The DOT in 2021 is planning to replace a bridge on Route 104. The $2.65 million project is 80 percent funded by the federal government with the state paying the other 20 percent.

The new bridge will replace one from 1954, which is 65 years old. The new bridge is a single span multi-girder bridge featuring two 12-foot-wide travel lanes and two 6-foot-wide shoulders. New approaches will also be constructed as part of the project. The new bridge is expected to last at least 75 years.

Culvert Road, just to the east of the bridge, and Oak Orchard River Road at the west, will remain open to traffic. However, larger trucks will need to use a detour on Route 63, Route 31 and Route 98.

Construction is expected to start in spring 2021 and take about six months with the project being complete by Labor Day that year, DOT officials said.

The DOT has a public comment period open until Jan. 9, 2020. Comments should be sent to Joel Shepard, project design engineer, at

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Knowlesville church building for sale with deconsecration service on Dec. 14

Photo by Tom Rivers: The Knowlesville United Methodist Church has been put up for sale by the congregation. The church needs a new furnace and the building isn’t handicapped accessible, prompting the decision to sell the building.

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 8 December 2019 at 8:14 pm

KNOWLESVILLE – The decision to sell the former Knowlesville United Methodist Church, now called the United Methodist Church of Abundant Harvest, was not an easy one, but one members understand was necessary.

According to the Rev. Garry McCaffery, who just became pastor July 1, said after the furnace went out, the decision was made at a church conference the end of June to sell the building.

Photo by Ginny Kropf: Ruth Higgins, left, a lifelong member of the Knowlesville United Methodist Church, Lorraine Luckman, also a longtime member, and Kathy Leuscher prepare vegetables in the kitchen of the recreation hall which the church owns.

The church had already come to the conclusion four years ago more could be done with two congregations meeting as one, and they began holding services with the Millville location for the United Methodist Church of Abundant Harvest, the Rev. McCaffery said.

The Knowlesville church had purchased the recreation hall from Ridgeway Fire Company across the road about 25 years ago, so they are able to hold church events there.

Because the church is not handicapped accessible, and so many of their members are aging, attendance has been dwindling. The cost of making the church accessible, coupled with the need for a new furnace, made the decision to sell the most logical one, although not easy to accept for some of the longtime members.

Nancy Smith and her brother Ron Schompart are lifelong members of the church. Smith recalled growing up in the church and how active their youth group was. Its leaders included Smith’s aunt and uncle, Verona and Don Pritchard, then Butch and Charlene Seitzer and lastly, Nelson and Rose Schlegel.

She especially remembers the hay rides, the active women’s group, the Mother and Daughter, and Father and Son banquets.

“The year I was a senior, we did a skit, pretending we were the Beatles,” Smith said.

There were also dances, pot luck dinners and scavenger hunts. Later, the church started an Apple Festival, making apple butter and other homemade apple treats, an event which they still carry on.

Smith said she was upset they were selling the church, but understands it’s for the best.

Ruth Higgins, who started attending the church when she and her husband moved to Knowlesville in 1977, has been one of the most active members. She feels selling the church is the only chance the congregation has with the building.

“The church used to be the center of people’s lives, but not any more,” Higgins said. “I actually liked worshiping in the Fellowship Hall. It was kind of cozy.”

The Knowlesville congregation now has adult Sunday School at 9:30 a.m. in the Recreation Hall, then travels to Millville for worship at 11 a.m.

“Selling the church gives people the opportunity to say goodbye to one chapter of God’s work in our lives and to receive and open the next chapter,” the Rev. McCaffery said.

The church is planning a ceremony of deconsecration for the Knowlesville church building at 2 p.m. Dec. 14 in the Fellowship Hall.

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DOT to replace bridge on 104 in Ridgeway over Oak Orchard Creek

Staff Reports Posted 23 November 2019 at 10:07 am

Photo by Tom Rivers: The bridge on Route 104 in Ridgeway is shown last month. The bridge over Oak Orchard Creek is scheduled to be replaced in 2021.

RIDGEWAY – The State Department of Transportation is planning to replace a bridge on Route 104, with the work to start in 2021.

The DOT will have a public information meeting on Dec. 12 at Ridgeway Town Hall in Medina to discuss the project. The open-house style meeting will be from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Ridgeway Town Hall, 410 West Ave. in Medina.

DOT staff will be on hand to share project information, receive public comments and answer individual questions. No formal presentation will be made as part of the meeting

Those interested in attending may arrive at any time during the scheduled meeting to review project details, including the scope of work and planned traffic detours during construction, which is slated to begin in 2021.

For further information, or to request a sign language interpreter or assistive listening system, please contact Katherine Fragale at 585-371-9245 or

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