United Way kicks off ‘Neighbors Helping Neighbors’ campaign

Photos  by Tom Rivers: Kevin Foley, plant manager of Baxter Healthcare in Medina, accepts the “Award of Excellence” for Baxter’s role as the top fundraiser for United Way in recent years. Baxter also received a “Caring Company Award” for matching employee contributions.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 November 2019 at 12:58 pm

Bellavia gives keynote speech, praising Orleans as a caring community

Provided photo: David Bellavia is pictured with Kendall Junior-Senior High School Principal Carol D’Agostino and Kendall Boy Scouts – Brian Shaw, Jayden Pieniaszek and Ryan Barrett. Those Scouts, plus Noah Rath, built a war memorial in Kendall as part of the Eagle Scout projects for the four. They each took a different piece of the project, which was dedicated on Sept. 29. Scouting is one of the local programs that receives funding from the United Way.

LYNDONVILLE – The Orleans County United Way kicked off its annual fundraising campaign last week at the White Birch Golf Course in Lyndonville. There were 150 people at the event, which included a keynote speech by Lyndonville native David Bellavia, who was presented the Medal of Honor on June 25 by President Trump for acts of valor on Nov. 10, 2004 in Fallujah, Iraq.

He led an infantry squad clearing houses of insurgents, saving the lives of the members of his unit. He is the first living Iraq War veteran to receive the nation’s highest honor for military service.

Bellavia praised his experience in the Army. He now travels the country encouraging people to enlist and serve. He said military service brings together people of varying backgrounds, beliefs and skin color, uniting them in a common goal.

“It could be Philadelphia or Colorado or Medina, no matter where you’re from we are one team,” he said.

Bellavia said Orleans County has a history of people who serve willingly in the military and in their local communities.

“I’m super proud to be part of this community,” he told the crowd. “You raise patriots out here.”

Bellavia said Orleans County has always valued veterans and put them “on a pedestal.” He sees that pride in the country and for its veterans at the annual Fourth of July celebration in Lyndonville.

Bellavia said small-town Orleans County has hard-working people who strive for a greater good, despite differences.

“There is a standard here,” he said. “Democrats and Republicans we don’t hate each other much in Orleans County. We’re all neighbors.”

David Bellavia addresses 150 people at the United Way event. His photo is on a banner than includes another Medal of Honor recipient from Lyndonville, Forrest Vosler. Bellavia said Vosler was “an absolute stud” for his actions in the World War II. Vosler was assigned as a radio operator and aerial gunner aboard a B-17 Flying Fortress nicknamed the “Jersey Bounce Jr.” with the 358th Bombardment Squadron, 303rd Bombardment Group stationed out of England. On Dec. 20, 1943, the Jersey Bounce Jr. was on its 28th combat mission. Vosler was hit with an exploding shell in the chest, face and eyes while in flight. He continued to deliver defensive fire upon German aircraft until the attacks subsided. After the aircraft plunged into the frigid waters of the North Sea, Vosler crawled out of the aircraft onto a wing as other crewmembers pulled a fellow solider out of the craft. Realizing that the unconscious soldier would slip into the cold water, Vosler grabbed him by the waist and held him in place until inflatable dinghies were ready for use.

The neighbors theme was focus of the United Way kickoff.

Mary Yockel, retail floor supervisor for Main Street Store run by Community Action of Orleans & Genesee, said Community Action has been instrumental in her gaining job skills. She offered one of the testimonials during the kick-off rally last week.

“It’s neighbors helping neighbors, that’s what the United Way does,” said Dean Bellack, the United Way executive director.

“I want to add one more thing to that: It’s neighbors helping neighbors because you never know. You never know when your neighbor will be in trouble. You never know when you’ll be in trouble.”

He shared from a personal experience how a United Way-funded agency, Hospice of Orleans’s bereavement program, assisted his family with the recent loss of a loved one.

The United Way campaign directs funding to 14 agencies: 4-H, Arc of Orleans for Camp Rainbow and Meals on Wheels, Boy Scouts, the Community Kitchen at Christ Church in Albion, GCASA, the Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern, Hospice of Orleans, Orleans County Adult Learning Services, Orleans County YMCA, 2-1-1 WNY (which directs people in crisis to agencies), Senior Citizens of WNY, and the Town of Yates Recreation Program. (Other agencies can receive funding if the donor designates.)

Dean Bellack, executive director of the United Way in Orleans County, said the organization has more companies doing workplace campaigns to raise money for the United Way. Bellack said the organization also has increased its visibility in the community in the past year.

Bellack used the kick-off celebration as a chance to recognize businesses for ongoing support, and some for recently running workplace campaigns for the first time.

Baxter Healthcare was recognized with the “Award of Excellence” for running ambitious campaigns for several years. Baxter employees have been the leading donors for United Way.

Baxter was also presented with a “Caring Company Award” for matching those employee contributions.

Roush CPA PC in Medina also received the Caring Company Award.

The following were recognized with “Welcome Awards” for starting new workplace campaigns:  Lake Ontario Fruit, a packing house on Route 104 in Gaines; Orleans Ford in Medina and Bidleman Chevrolet, Buick GMC in Albion; Hinspergers Poly Industries in Medina, Saint-Goblin Adfors in Albion; and Pride Pak in Medina.

The Albion school district was presented with a “Commitment Award” for the school employees’ long-standing support of the United Way. Bullock said about 110 school employees give to the United Way.

David Green, the retired Orleans County sheriff, received the volunteer of the year award for his efforts to raise money for the United Way with 50/50 raffles at the Classic Car Cruises in Medina. Green has been helping with those events for many years.

The United Way also recognized Chris Leavitt, 14, of Medina as a top volunteer. Chris helped Bellack prepare floats to be in local parades this past year.

For more on the United Way of Orleans County, click here.

Some of the award winners recognized by the United Way at the kick-off celebration include, front row, from left: Dean Bellack, United Way executive director; Kevin Foley, plant manager for Baxter Healthcare in Medina – Award of Excellence and Caring Company Award; Chris Leavitt, Volunteer of the Year; Marlene Garza, human resources assistant for Lake Ontario Fruit, Welcome Award; and Melinda Edwards, human resources supervisor for Lake Ontario Fruit. Back row: Greg Budd, general manager for Hinspergers Poly Industries in Medina, Welcome Award; David Green, Volunteer of the Year; Holly Roush of Roush CPA PC, Caring Company Award; and Tina Moule, administrative assistant for Lake Ontario Fruit, Welcome Award.

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