Outstanding citizens made community better in many ways
Each year since Orleans Hub started in 2013 we have named a group of “outstanding citizens.” We want to recognize people for stepping up to bring a new program or project to the community, or who have been consistent contributors for many years.
Here are some people who stood out in 2017:
Retired sheriff keeps the classic cars coming to Medina
Dave Green, the retired Orleans County sheriff, has remained an active community member in his retirement. For nearly 20 years he has been a key leader in a classic car show, which runs about 10 weeks in Medina.
That car show typically attracts a few hundred people to the downtown. That “foot traffic” provides energy and customers for the Medina businesses, and the shows have been part of the Medina downtown resurgence.
The car shows draw about 100 cars on a typical Friday. The “Super Cruise” brings about 200-300 cars when Main Street is closed off and Elvis impersonator entertains. Green also sells raffle tickets during the Super Cruise with proceeds going to the Orleans County United Way.
There was some concern with the car shows earlier this year, with some merchants wanting to move the show away from the Canal Basin and Main Street, due to parking concerns. The shows went on as usual while the village considers how to resolve a downtown parking crunch – a good problem to have.
Green was diplomatic and didn’t lash out at anybody when the issue was raised just before the car show season.
The retired sheriff also remains an active volunteer with the East Shelby Volunteer Fire Company and helps organize East Shelby’s annual swap meet at fairgrounds, which usually raises $5,000 to $10,000 for fire company.
Pastor brings new ministry to historic building in Albion
A church building that is part of the historic Courthouse Square was feared doomed after the United Methodist congregation moved out of the building two years ago and the site then sat vacant with little interest from a new buyer.
The United Methodists moved out after being told by engineering and architectural firms the roof was failing and would need a $1 million repair, which included strengthening the structural supports for the building.
The church building is one of seven historic churches at the Courthouse Square, which is a nationally recognized historic district. Losing the church or having it sit empty would have been a blow to the district and one of the community assets.
North Point Chapel, a new congregation in Albion that was meeting at the Arnold Gregory Office Complex, felt God leading them to the church building on Platt Street. They purchased the building and a next-door site for $38,000. (They also took over a $22,000 contract for the roof support beams.)
North Point held services in a Sunday School classroom until the sanctuary was reopened in December. Outten, who ran a construction company, found the costly roof repair wasn’t necessary. Structural supports were buried in the insulation in the roof and weren’t seen by architects and engineers.
Outten and church volunteers repainted the sanctuary, replaced numerous lights (including high ones near the ceiling) and changed the sanctuary stage, adding space for the band.
Outten has insisted the past two years he’s been in Albion that he felt God had a plan for North Point to serve the Albion community. In addition to giving the church building new life, North Point welcomed two missionary teams for community service work in Albion this summer, which included a basketball camp, Vacation Bible School and work on the building.
Outten and the congregation also have handled the thankless job of garbage collection during the annual Strawberry Festival.
The church runs weekly Bible studies and a “Celebrate Recovery” program for people battling addictions.
Outten deserves praise for seeing the good in what often appears a hopeless situation, whether an old building or people struggling with overwhelming problems.
Holley veterinarian took the lead in bringing back community festival
Holley took a break from its June Fest in 2016. The festival needed more volunteers and funding. Often when a community festival takes a break, it doesn’t come back.
But the June Fest returned in 2017 with a big parade, 5k race, music and many other activities and vendors.
Krista Wiley-Neale helped bring back the June Fest, and also was a key organizer in an expanded Festival of Lights in December. The Holley Village Board named her the “Citizen of the Year” and insisted she flip the switch during a Christmas tree lighting.
Wiley-Neale, owner of Wiley’s Ark Animal Care, also serves on the Village of Holley Development Corporation Board which was able to complete the sale of eight “Diaz homes” in 2017. Those houses will be returned to the tax rolls after about 15 years of being vacant.
Wiley-Neale also is a member of the Holley Rotary Club, which tackles several community projects each year.
She has provided a “can-do” attitude and optimistic attitude in the village.
Long-time grocer supported many community organizations
Jerome Pawlak lasted much longer in the grocery business than most small-town grocers. The grocery business in Albion is highly competitive with Wal-Mart, Tops, Rite Aid, Dollar General and other stores selling groceries.
Pawlak endured all that competition, while being a generous supporter of numerous community organizations.
He also has served on the boards of directors for United Way, the Chamber of Commerce, the Orleans Economic Development Agency and many others. He has coached Little League, youth basketball and been an active member of his church.
Pawlak and his family have been “all in” with Orleans County for many years. They opened a Save-A-Lot store in Holley after the community was without a store for five years.
Pawlak closed that store in September 2016 and he announced the end of his Albion business this past October. He wanted to continue but couldn’t reach an agreement for the lease in the Albion plaza.
The Pawlaks have been a presence in Albion for 49 years. They started a store in Lyndonville 57 years ago before moving to Albion.
Pawlak showed resourcefulness in keeping his business going for as long as he did. In addition to the grocery store, the Albion site included The Video Station, Save-On Beverage Center and an outdoor food stand during the warmer weather.
Firefighter was key in design of new fire safety trailer
Fire departments in Orleans County have a new tool for teaching fire prevention and the importance of a fire safety plan. In October, a new trailer with smoke simulators and other features debuted in the county.
Pete Sidari, an Albion firefighter, was among the committee members that picked out a design for the trailer and trained firefighters in leading safety programs with the trailer.
Sidari brings more than a decade of experience from his job as a fire safety educator for the North Greece Fire District.
Sidari pushed for kid-friendly decals and characters on the trailer that would serve as a billboard, helping to reinforce the message of having a fire escape plan.
The trailer is being used in educating the community on proper fire safety. Local firefighters have already taken it to the five school districts in Orleans County for students to practice exiting through a window in case of a fire, and to learn about smoke in a building (the trailer has a fog machine) and also to not open a hot door (the trailer can heat up doors).
There have been 42 firefighters in the county trained to lead students through the trailer. Sidari said the public education program will be a work in progress. Many other communities with fire safety trailers have paid personnel who lead the program. In Orleans County, almost all of the firefighters are volunteers. Only Medina has paid staff.
Many volunteers were part of the committee with the fire safety trailer. Sidari was a key to “selling” it to the local schools. He attended several Board of Education meetings and provided insight on how the trailer should be used and firefighters be trained.
Holley dentist led effort to return ‘Diaz homes’ to tax rolls
It was a thankless task for Dan Schiavone: leading a village-created development corporation that take possession of eight homes from the federal Environmental Protection Agency and then resell them.
Schiavone, a Holley dentist, served as chairman of the Village of Holley Development Corporation. The organization had a big breakthrough in 2017, getting the EPA to relinquish eight houses that had been off the tax rolls for about 15 years. The EPA took ownership of them after a chemical leak in January 2002 at the former Diaz Chemical.
The houses were cleaned and deemed safe although the EPA wanted assurances of lead abatement at some of the sites before they were sold.
Schiavone worked with the EPA, a real estate company and the village officials to see the sales through completion.
The eight houses sold for $192,600 with the EPA getting 90 percent and the Village of Holley Development Corporation collecting the other 10 percent.
“It will be a big plus for the village to have them back on the tax rolls and not be eyesores in the neighborhood,” Schiavone said.
He also can be counted on supporting many community fundraisers and events. The Holley Board of Education recognized his efforts in December with a “Soaring to New Heights” award.
Medina resident led new toy collection effort to brighten Christmas for many local children
Andrew Szatkowski said he didn’t want any local kids to not have a present on Christmas day. Szatkowski had a brainstorm. He knew thousands of people would be in downtown Medina for a Christmas celebration, capped by the Parade of Lights, the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
He urged people to drop a present at Canalside Tattoo. If they donated a gift or $5, they would get a raffle ticket for one of 20“Medina Experience” packages. Szatkowski thought the raffle was also a way to promote Medina businesses and events.
The one-day toy drive on Nov. 25 resulted in 500 toys being donated plus about $700. The toys were dropped off at Canalside Tattoo on Main Street in Medina.
The toys were given to Community Action of Orleans & Genesee, which distributed them to families in Orleans County.
“In our county there are children that need toys,” Szatkowski said. “I think it’s important as a community that we step up. There are children that need help.”
Community Action officials said the toys were a big contribution for the agency that has 300 children on its list for Christmas.
Painted rocks bring smiles to community
An interesting phenomenon took hold in Albion and many communities around the country in 2017. “Kindness Rocks” are painted, often with inspirational words and messages, and left in the community for people to find. They are encouraged to then post a picture with the rock and rehide it.
Lori Laine loved the idea and organized rock-painting parties in Albion. She painted several hundred rocks, some in very intricate detail. Laine pushed the Albion “rockers” to paint rocks and take them to the local nursing home.
Laine said the rocks have brought more people to Main Street, Mount Albion Cemetery and other locations in the community. She sees families with young children on rock hunts.
“It’s great to see parents and their kids walking around looking for the rocks,” Laine said. “They’re having fun with it.”
Laine also has been an active promoter for Donate Life, urging people to be organ donors. She put together a Donate Life float for the Strawberry Festival Parade in June. Laine is committed to that cause because her husband, Tom, received a liver transplant in July 2014.
Laine also organized a first-time pet parade in October for Albion’s Fall Festival. She has a big heart and makes Albion a lot more fun.
Orleans Hub will recognize the outstanding citizens at an awards program, likely in February. More details will be announced.