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Outstanding Citizens serve community in many ways

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 30 December 2014 at 12:00 am

‘Outstanding Citizens’ serve community in many ways

Several residents deserve to be recognized as “Outstanding Citizens” for their efforts to make Orleans County a better place this past year. They did many good deeds for little to no pay, driven by a love for their community and neighbors.

Orleans Hub is pleased to recognize the following:

Leader of Lawn Chair Ladies adds excitement to local parades, community events

Photos by Tom Rivers – Kim Corcoran leads the Lawn Chair Ladies at a local parade.

When the Town of Kendall celebrated its 200th birthday in 2012, Kim Corcoran and some of her friends decided to add some excitement to the local parade. Corcoran and her friends formed the Lawn Chair Ladies and had a dance routine on the parade route. The women, while wearing pink boas, choreographed a number with lawn chairs.

They were an immediate sensation and now perform at many community events during the year. The group has 18 members who practice regularly.

“I didn’t have any hopes beyond that summer,” said Corcoran, the group’s leader. “It’s been really fun getting all of my old buddies together.”

Corcoran grew up in Kendall and was in the marching band. After a 35-year career in New York City in the advertising and publishing business, Corcoran moved back to her hometown in June 2011. She attended the parade at the Kendall Firemen’s Carnival and thought it was missing some excitement that June.

The Lawn Chair Ladies formed to add some pep to the local parade and haven’t skipped a beat since, performing in Kendall, Holley and Brockport, with requests for other events. Corcoran also has been appointed the town historian.

Volunteer event planner adds much to Medina’s cultural life

A giant snowman makes its way down Main Street in a lighted float by MAK Plowing and Landscape in Medina on Nov. 29. Jim Hancock coordinates the parade that includes many businesses, civic groups and other organizations.

Since he retired as director of the Job Development Agency in Orleans County, Jim Hancock has been busy working for free for the Medina community. He heads the Medina Tourism Committee and makes sure a visitor center inside Medina City Hall is staffed during the summer.

He plans an annual concert by the Canal Basin, and has been instrumental in establishing the Medina Sandstone hall of Fame inside City Hall. Hancock visits all of the nominated sites, which stretch throughout New York State and to Erie, Pa.

Jim Hancock, a member of the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame committee, discusses the Million-Dollar Staircase in Albany, which was partially built with Medina Sandstone. The Staircase has been nominated for the Medina Sandstone Hall of Fame.

Hancock spearheads one of Medina’s most popular events: the annual Parade of Lights on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It has turned into a mega-draw for Medina, filling the downtown and some side streets with thousands of people. The number of glowing floats increases each year. It is a great display of community pride.

Resident does the research and convinces government to name creek for pioneer

Al Capurso is pictured on a pedestrian bridge over Gilbert Creek in the Town of Gaines.

For about two centuries Orleans County residents passed by a creek in Gaines and Carlton. The unnamed waterway has remained largely unspoiled and undisturbed.

Al Capurso wanted it to have a name and to honor a pioneer resident who lived next to the creek more than 200 years ago.

For more than a year he researched the 6.5-mile creek that starts near Brown Road and heads northeast to Marsh Creek in Carlton. Capurso pushed for the waterway to honor Elizabeth Gilbert, the first settler on Ridge Road in Orleans County.

Gilbert and her husband built their cabin in 1807. Mr. Gilbert died soon after they settled, and his wife was left to raise a family and make a life in the wilderness of the Niagara frontier.

It took Capurso a year of lining up local support, and gaining permission from the federal Bureau of Geographic Names. The agency on April 10 formally approved the naming request.

Capurso painted a wooden sign with the name, “Gilbert Creek.” It stands by Ridge Road, next to the Gaines Carlton Community Church.

During the May 24 dedication program, State Sen. George Maziarz praised Capurso for working through the bureaucracy to get the creek named for one of the county’s pioneers.

“There is no better title than a citizen who loves his community, who respects his community,” Maziarz said about Capurso.

Al Capurso’s son Dan unveils the sign for Gilbert Creek by Ridge Road during a dedication program on May 24.

Resident spearheads effort to feed the hungry in Medina area

Bilal Huzair stacks up some frozen pizzas on Dec. 20 during a Foodlink delivery in Medina next to the Old Mill Run Restaurant on Route 63.

About two years ago Bilal Huzair and his family opened the Old Mill Run Restaurant on Route 63, just south of Maple Ridge Road. Huzair met many local residents and had a sense that many were struggling to buy groceries.

Huzair and other members of the World Life Institute connected with Foodlink about doing a food drop-off in Medina the first and third Saturdays each month. Huzair didn’t know what to expect – just how many people would show up for fruits, vegetables and other food.

The program started in November 2013 and quickly drew big crowds with about 200 people standing in line, with many there two hours ahead of time. Another 200-plus are given food, with deliveries by friends and World Life Institute volunteers.

Many of the people in line are senior citizens on fixed incomes. They see their income consumed by medical bills, prescriptions and other bills.

“We didn’t have an expectation,” Huzair said about how many people would seek the food. “We just knew there was a need.”

An anonymous donor has been paying Foodlink for the food that is given out. Huzair manages the volunteers and keeps the program running smoothly.

“These are people who genuinely need things,” he said.

Assemblyman leads veterans on trips to DC

Provided photo – State Assemblyman Steve Hawley, lower right, is pictured on Sept. 19 with a group of veterans in Washington D.C. on seventh annual Patriot Trip. About 100 people travelled to the nation’s capitol with Hawley to tour war memorials.

Many politicians say they value veterans, but Steve Hawley may be the only elected official in the country who leads about 100 people each year to Washington, D.C. Veterans from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War can tour the war memorials.

It is a meaningful trip for veterans and their families and Hawley and his staff deserve praise for all of the effort. Hawley has coordinated the Patriot Trip for seven years with about 750 people travelling to the nation’s capital.

“The Patriot Trip is a token of my appreciation for the men and women who have served our country with courage and honor,” Hawley said in September, when the group headed to DC.

Hawley isn’t an Orleans County resident. He is from Batavia. He has kept his district office in Albion, even when redistricting shifted the district south with more of Genesee County. He has shown his commitment to Orleans County residents.

Historian helps awaken Clarendon to celebrated past

Melissa Ierlan, the Clarendon town historian and president of the Historical Society, unveils a historical marker on Sept. 21 for Hillside Cemetery, which last year was named to National Register of Historic Places.

In recent years, Melissa Ierlan has helped save the Old Stone Store in Clarendon, erect historical markers, and get sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Ierlan has also been good about forming partnerships and connecting with residents and preservationists. She scored a big win in 2014 by celebrating the life and legacy of Clarendon’s native son, Carl Akeley.

Last spring the Clarendon Historical Society was brainstorming programs for the upcoming year. The group considered famous people from Clarendon’s past to feature. Someone mentioned Akeley, one of the most acclaimed taxidermists in the world.

It just happened to be his 150th birthday on May 19. The Historical Society decided to throw Akeley a big party. They invited author Jay Kirk, who wrote a biographical novel about Akeley called “Kingdom Under Glass.”

Provided photo – Carl Akeley is pictured with a leopard in Africa that he killed with his bare hands after it attacked him.

Prominent taxidermists also joined 150 people at the May 21 bash for Akeley. The celebration would link Ierlan, the Historical Society president, with prominent taxidermists who have long wanted to honor Akeley. The taxidermists gave Ierlan several Akeley mementos, including a gorilla death mask, to display at the Town Hall. The taxidermists also started raising $8,000 for a monument to be set in Hillside Cemetery in Clarendon in honor of Akeley.

Akeley was also a prolific inventor and world traveller. He died of a fever in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1926, and is buried there.

Ierlan has travelled to New York City with other Historical Society members to see The Akeley Hall of African Mammals, which showcases large mammals of Africa that Akeley killed and stuffed. She and members of the Cobblestone Society Museum are working with a taxidermist to restore a stuffed fox done by Akeley as a teen.

The Historical Society also is working on Akeley’s 151st birthday party in 2015.

Albion couple teaches 4-H’ers about science through Legos, robotics

Erik Seielstad has volunteered as mentor in the Lego program since it started in 2012. He is pictured with Dan Squire, 13, of Medina in this photo from early November.

Four years ago Erik and Marlene Seielstad pushed to start a robotics program through 4-H in Orleans County. High schoolers program a robot to perform tasks, including picking up and shooting a basketball.

“Joe’s Average Slackers” were born, and they have competed in regional events. The Seielstads serve as mentors and their son Morgan is a senior in the program this year.

Many parents pushed the Seielstads to start a Lego team for kids in elementary and middle school, and the Seielstads three years ago agreed to coach the team. The The First Lego League proved popular and expanded to three teams last year and a fourth team this year. There are about 40 kids under the guidance of the Seielstads with some help from parents.

Marlene Seielstad, right, talks with members of the Prehistoric Robots team during a competition at Churchville-Chili on Nov. 15.

The Seielstads have been honored for their volunteer efforts by the FLL regional leaders. Most teams are led by paid staff in school districts.

Mr. Seielstad works as a systems engineer in Rochester. He said the students are all learning math and science skills, as well as teamwork.

“The kids get the opportunity to work together and accomplish things,” Seielstad said during a November practice.

His wife is a member of the Albion Board of Education. She keeps the teams organized and funded. She has numerous businesses backing the robotics and Lego teams.

The Seielstads believed the program could work in rural Orleans County. They have been the drivers of its success.

“I find it overwhelming that this has occurred,” Mrs. Seielstad said. “Our uniqueness is we have people from all over our county, as well as kids from other counties.”

Orleans Hub plans to honor the “Outstanding Citizens” during a reception in early 2015.