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Outstanding citizens recognized by Orleans Hub

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 24 February 2016 at 12:00 am

Photo by Tom Rivers

ALBION – Orleans Hub held a reception at the Hoag Library on Tuesday evening for the people and organizations we named “Outstanding Citizens” for 2015. We also recognized Randy Bower, the new Orleans County sheriff, as “Person of the Year.”

The front row, includes, from left: Joette McHugh, Randy Bower, Gail Miller and Melissa Ierlan. Back row: James DeFilipps, Marietta Schuth from Kendall Community Choir, Tony Hipes from Medina Area Association of Churches, Sue Metzo from MAAC, Lisa Stratton, and Thom Jennings (accepting on behalf of his nephew Peter Zeliff Jr.) Missing from photo includes Al Capurso and Bob Songin.

Bower was recognized as Person of the Year after being elected sheriff in one of the most competitive county elections in recent memory.

The sheriff told group of award-winners that he was honored to be recognized “with so many amazing people.”

The Outstanding Citizens were named by the Orleans Hub on Dec. 31. Editor Tom Rivers and Publisher Karen Sawicz weighed the contributions from people and organizations in 2015.

The Kendall Community Chorus has performed in numerous concerts since 2008. The group has been led by director Mary Campbell. Sixty-eight people have sung in the choir since it started, and many have become close friends through the group.

Joette McHugh has been an active volunteer with the Friends of the Orleans County Animal Shelter the past seven years, helping to adopt out 1,500 animals from the shelter. She knows all of the dogs and cats by name, and has an energetic group of volunteers looking after the animals. The Friends also raised $7,000 for the animal shelter last year, and those funds helped to have all dogs neutered at the shelter, and also paid for a new washer and dryer.

Medina Area Association of Churches has been together for nearly 50 years, running a Clothing Depot throughout the year, an annual holiday toy and food drive for about 150 children in the community, and a working together on other religious and community events. The depot generates about $30,000 to $35,000 annually that the churches give back to the community for many causes.

Bob Songin, a charter boat captain, lead a pen-rearing project from 1998 to 2014 until passing off the reins to a new group of volunteers last year. The pen-rearing volunteers helped to raise fish in the Oak Orchard River. Songin has given countless hours to improve the fishery through the pen-rearing project, where about 100,000 baby fish are nurtured each year in the Oak Orchard. The project has increased the survival rate of fish, and charter boat captains say more bigger fish return to the Oak Orchard for fall fishing runs since the pen-rearing, boosting the county’s top tourism industry.

Lisa Stratton, owner of the Hazy Jade Gift Shop in Albion, also spearheads several efforts in Albion, including the planting and watering of downtown flowers, and organizing the annual wine-tasting, Beggar’s Night the Friday before Halloween, and other projects to promote downtown businesses and the community.

Peter Zeliff Jr. turned an old farmhouse in West Shelby turned into hunting retreat for wounded warriors. Zeliff and a team of volunteers fixed up the house and connected with veterans’ groups to bring injured soldiers to the site for a few days of hunting. The property has been renamed The Warrior House. The site hosted its first hunt in September with 13 wounded veterans. Other groups have followed and The Warrior House will be made available to spouses and children of veterans as well.

Gail Miller stepped forward last year as volunteer coordinator of the new Canal Village Farmers’ Market in Medina in the parking lot across from the Post Office. Miller worked with vendors and lined up entertainment and exhibitors. Some Saturdays, 450 to 500 attended the market.

Al Capurso led a volunteer effort to save a cobblestone schoolhouse from 1832, a former one-room schoolhouse on Gaines Basin Road, just north of the Erie Canal. The schoolhouse was built in 1832 and is one of the oldest cobblestone buildings in the area. The building has been largely abandoned since 1944, until last year when it got a new roof. Boards were removed from windows and sashes restored. Junk was cleared out, and a historical marker put up.

Melissa Ierlan has given many faded historical markers a fresh coat of paint. She started that effort in 2014 when Clarendon was celebrating the 150th anniversary of Carl Akeley’s birth. Akeley grew up in Clarendon on Hinds Road and became one of the most famous taxidermists in the world. The historical marker on Hinds Road about Akeley could barely be read due to flaking paint. Ierlan took the marker down, stripped off the remaining paint and repainted it blue and gold. She has now worked on about a dozen markers around the county.

James DeFilipps was shot twice in a shootout at 3 a.m. on March 21 following a high-speed chase with James Ellis of Wyoming County. DeFilipps was the first police officer on scene when Ellis wrecked his vehicle in Clarendon on Route 31A. Police were pursuing Ellis after a 911 call when he threatened an ex-girlfriend in Shelby with a gun. Ellis had fled to a nearby wooded area in Clarendon and opened fire on DeFilipps and other deputies and police to arrive on the scene. DeFilipps, despite getting hit twice by gunfire, shot Ellis, killing him and ending his threat. For his acts of valor, DeFilipps was named Deputy of the Year for 2015 by the New York State Sheriff’s Association.