Outstanding Citizens worked for a better community in 2016
Orleans Hub is pleased to recognize several “Outstanding Citizens” who contribute to making a better community. Many of these residents have been volunteering or serving in community causes for many years.
They do their good deeds for little to no pay, driven by a love for their community and neighbors.
Here are our picks for Outstanding Citizens for 2016:
Medina woman is prolific fundraiser for Alzheimer’s
A Medina woman has proven a dedicated fundraiser in the fight to end Alzheimer’s disease. Nicole Tuohey, 26, each year sells about 1,000 paper “elephant links” and creates a chain that is used to kick off the annual “Walk to End Alzheimer’s.”
Nicole has Triple X Syndrome. She hasn’t let that disability prevent her from being a tireless advocate against a disease that took the lives of her grandparents, Don and Jane Bradley.
Alzheimer’s disease is devastating, debilitating the mind and body.
Nicole sells many of the links from her mother’s cookie shop in Medina. Mary Lou Tuohey owns Case-Nic Cookies.
Mary Lou’s father, a former engineer, withered away over 13 years to the point where he couldn’t recognize his four children. Her father died at age 65 from Alzheimer’s. Her mother also fought the disease.
Nicole worries her mother, too, may someday face Alzheimer’s. That is why Nicole pushes so hard to raise money for research.
Leader of East Shelby church dedicated to outreach
Every July for the past 25 years the East Shelby Community Bible Church hosts an “Old Tyme Day” celebration at their church, serving pie, lemonade and hot dogs for a penny. There are horse-drawn rides, candle-making, and other activities with an emphasis on fun – and old-fashioned technology.
About 2,000 to 3,000 people attend Old Tyme Day, a huge crowd for the tiny hamlet in East Shelby once known as West Jackson Corners. Church members have created a mini-village across from the church. That village also draws about 500 to 1,000 people for an old-time Christmas celebration.
The church has been growing ever since Olsen and an initial group of 40 people started the church at a former Methodist Episcopal building in 1989. That church building had been empty for 30 years. The East Shelby Community Bible Church has grown so much – about 275 members – it has put an addition on the building.
Olsen puts an emphasis on the Gospel message, and providing wholesome and fun activities for the community.
“The church has to do more than just have services,” Olsen said. “It has to reach out to the community.”
Kendall principal makes numerous community connections
Carol D’Agostino is principal of her hometown school, the Kendall Junior-Senior High School. She led the school through a major capital project the past two years and is committed to many community organizations, serving on the boards for the Orleans Economic Development Agency, the Orleans County United Way and the Human Services Council of Orleans County.
D’Agostino serves on the boards, often looking for ideas to bring back to Kendall to improve opportunities for students and the community.
Through the Human Services Council, she met Marc O’Brien, the county’s mental health director. D’Agostino and the school district welcomed a mental health counselor from O’Brien’s staff to have a satellite office at the school district. That way students don’t have to make the trip to the county Mental Health Department building in Albion. D’Agostino said transportation is an issue for many students and their families. Having the satellite site in Kendall also means less time out of classes.
D’Agostino helped start the Kendall Innovations Committee, which brings
together leaders from the school district, town government and county to brainstorm ways to promote Kendall.
D’Agostino said her position on the EDA showed her the municipal cooperation for the Pride Pak project in medina this past year. The county, Village of Medina, Town of Shelby and state all chipped in to bring in needed infrastructure for the new vegetable processing plant.
In Kendall, the student enrollment is dropping. But D’Agostino said opening up more building lots with infrastructure could draw more families to the town.
“How can we look at opportunities in Kendall to grow Kendall?” she said.
D’Agostino is visible at many community events, and also participates in the Kendall Lawnchair Ladies and the Kendall Corcordia Lutheran Church. Her husband Phil is also a member of the Lions Club and chairman of the Kendall Firemen’s Carnival.
ESL teacher helps students build a better life
In the past 20-plus years, Linda Redfield has helped about 400 farmworkers learn English. Redfield started going to labor camps in 1994, before a school built by the World Life Institute became the base for classes in 1999.
The school on Stillwater Road offers evening courses in English, as well as computer literacy, pottery and other programs.
Redfield is the driving force behind the educational program. Her students have improved their English, allowing many to get promotions at work and be more active in the community.
Many of her students have earned GEDs. Ten of the students have earned their U.S. citizenship.
“She always encouraged me and said, ‘You can do it,’” said of her students, Gloria Jasso, who planned a surprise party for Redfield on July 16. “She is so special and is just wonderful not only to me but to everybody.”
Redfield is well regarded around the state as an ESL teacher. In 2013, she was honored in Albany as “Teacher of the Year” by the New York State Association of Adult Continuing Education Programs. Five of her students have won “Student of the year” by the association.
Jose Iniguez was one of Redfield’s first English as a Second Language students in 1994, when Redfield went to a labor cap on Densmore Road to teach English to farmworkers.
Iniguez only spoke Spanish at the time. After a long day of work in the fields, Iniguez would study English. Redfield was always patient, always encouraging, Iniguez said. She was also flexible. Farmworkers might not get to the camp until 8 p.m., and Redfield would be ready to help them learn.
Iniguez said learning English helped him to get promoted at the LaMont farm. Today, he is co-owner of Lamont Fruit Farm, a 500-acre farm based down the road from the WLI school.
“She has changed a lot of lives,” Iniguez said at the party for Redfield. “She is the type of person who will almost always never say no. She will extend a hand to anyone.”
Fireworks chairman likes to enliven Lyndonville
Lyndonville is the place to be on July Fourth with thousands of people flocking to Orleans County tiniest village for one of the biggest fireworks shows in Western New York.
Wes Bradley is chairman of the annual fireworks show and he spends all year raising money on the big show, which tops $20,000. He starts raising money for the fireworks on July 5 and is collecting funds on July 4th during the Independence Day festival in Lyndonville.
Bradley deserves credit for his diligence with the annual spectacle. He also is popular with Young Explosives, the fireworks company, because he brings the crew water and a chicken barbecue. He also stays with them until 2 or 3 in the morning with the cleanup from the fireworks.
Bradley, a retired teacher, is active in the community in many ways, from serving on the Yates Town Board, to 37 years with the Fire Department and serving as finance chairman for the Lyndonville United Methodist Church.
He also serves on the Lyndonville Area Foundation Board of Directors, which distributes more than $100,000 a year to community causes.
Bradley also helped start Lyndonville’s annual Christmas celebration in 2013, where residents, businesses or organizations decorate Christmas trees in Veterans’ Park. That has now grown to 61 trees with the community welcoming Santa and singing Christmas carols.
Bradley said many people help pull off the events in Lyndonville. He said he’s happy to be part of all the projects.
“I’m retired and I enjoy being active and helping to make things happen for the community,” he said.
Leader of new ministry shares message of hope
Jack Burris and a team of volunteers debuted “Clifford” on Jan. 30. The former red delivery truck was transformed into a place for prayers. Burris and the new ministry, Hands 4 Hope, also distribute bags of groceries, about $20 worth per person.
Burris, owner of a cleaning business, felt a calling to start the ministry, which is modelled after the Care-A-Van ministry in Batavia, which has been operating for 17 years.
Burris and the volunteers are out every Saturday, except the fifth Saturday each month. They are in Holley and Medina once each month, and twice a month in Albion, locating in what Burris said are neighborhoods considered “tough spots.”
They give out about 30 “shares” or bags of food. An anonymous donor has covered most of the cost of the food this year.
Burris and the Hands 4 Hope team welcome people to share prayer requests, and the group is willing to pray – right in the truck. Burris writes down the requests and keeps the people in his prayers.
Burris said the past year has been an eye-opener while also strengthening his faith.
“Unfortunately in Orleans County there is a lot more heartache out there than I thought there was,” Burris said. “There are a lot of people in tough circumstances.”
He estimates Hands 4 Hope has given out about 1,500 shares of food, many coats and other supplies. Hands 4 Hope isn’t a mobile food distribution program.
“We are focused on the ministry and giving hope,” he said. “Many are coming for prayers as much as anything else.”
Renaissance chairman worked to bring famed tenor to Medina
Chris Busch isn’t afraid to aim high and reach for the stars. Busch has been an active Medina community member for many years, leading the Tree Board that has helped Medina plant about 1,000 trees in recent years.
Busch is chairman of the Medina Planning Board, insisting on design standards in the historic district that have preserved Main Street’s look as if it was a Norman Rockwell painting. Those standards have attracted investment in the downtown from numerous businesses.
Busch also leads the Orleans Renaissance Group, which strives to bring high-quality entertainment to the county. (The Renaissance Group also runs the farmers’ market in the downtown and is working to restore the Bent’s Opera House.)
The Renaissance Group on Sept. 17 welcomed famed Irish tenor Ronan Tynan for a capacity concert of 650 people at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. Busch was the point man for Tynan, ensuring the sound and accommodations met Tynan’s standards.
Tynan’s powerful voice filled the church, and he had the audience laughing with some of his stories.
Busch, who works full time as a teacher in Lockport, is an enthusiastic booster of the Medina community. He recently designed the interpretive panels in Medina’s downtown and also pushed for a historical marker in honor of Frederick Douglass’s speeches in Medina in the mid-1800s.
Busch also helped spearhead the first-time Farm-to-Table Dinner event in Medina on Aug. 4 that attracted 137 people for a fine dining experience on a closed off section of Main Street.
These types of dinners are more typical in trendy urban areas, but Medina proved an ideal setting with a vibrant downtown with well-maintained buildings.
Carlton woman compiles mammoth book on local farmers
Holly Ricci-Canham worked two years on one of the most ambitious local history books in many years. Ricci-Canham interviewed 150 farmers for a 300-page book about “mom and pop” farms. The book includes about 400 photographs and includes reminisces about simple days with lots of hard work.
The farms were part of a close-knit community with neighborhood schools and churches. Ricci-Canham grew up on a “mom and pop” farm in Kenyonville run by her parents, Pete and “Mike” Ricci. They would relocate the fruit and vegetable farm to West Avenue in Albion. Her upbringing on the farm made her want to tell the stories of local farms.
“You see the gigantic farming tractors now, which is so different from the farming I grew up with,” she said earlier this month when the book came out.
The book covers farm operations throughout county with sections about muck farmers, dairies, fruit and vegetable farms, canning companies, migrant labor camps, “ladies accounts,” technology changes as well as country schools, “kids play” and fairs and celebrations.
“Farm people are a deep, kind, loving people,” Ricci-Canham said. “They have an unconditional love of helping each other.”
Bill Lattin, the retired Orleans County historian, wrote the forward of the book, and praised Ricci-Canham for an “invaluable” book of local history.
“These are first-hand accounts relating to a lifestyle which has all but vanished,” Lattin wrote.
Monumental effort nears finish in Medina
Bill Menz has been determined the past decade to have a fitting tribute for the Company F men who trained at the Medina Armory. Menz was instrumental in getting a monument erected in 2008.
That stone monument base includes the names of 550 local soldiers who fought in wars on behalf of the United States. The soldiers enlisted and trained at the Medina Armory for conflicts from 1898 to 1945 including the Spanish-American War, Mexican-American, World War I and World War II.
When the monument was dedicated on Oct. 14, 2008, some of the widows and family members of World War II soldiers and other veterans in Company F attended and expressed their appreciation.
Menz didn’t feel the monument was complete. He wanted a bronze statue on top of the base, a statue resembling a young soldier, someone who looks between 18 and 21. That was typical of Company F.
For the past few years Menz has been leading the fund-raising efforts for a 7-foot-high statue.
The Company F Memorial Committee met its $65,000 goal this year, with Menz sending out letters, knocking on doors and making numerous phone calls.
“It just started adding up,” Menz said. “It snowballed and got bigger and bigger.”
There were numerous donations with $10,000 from the VFW in Medina the largest.
The committee is working with artist Brian Porter. Menz is hopeful the statue could be in place in the next year to 18 months. It will be the first bronze statue in Orleans County.
“We put a lot of dedication into it,” said Menz, who trained at the Armory. “Once you get into it, you can’t quit. Things kept falling into place.”
The Outstanding Citizens will be recognized at a reception in early 2017.