Youth Board honors students, adult advocates
MURRAY – The Orleans County Youth Board honored 20 youth for outstanding commitment and service to their community, school and families. The youth were nominated for the awards presented Thursday during the 34th annual Youth Recognition Banquet.
Some examples of outstanding service by youth include:
Randy Eblacker of Albion created a garden walkway for Hospice as part of his Eagle Scout project; Kenzie Galletta of Kendall has volunteered numerous hours the past three years at PAWS Animal Shelter; Allyson Irwin of Albion has been a busy volunteer with the Albion Fire Department and the Masonic Lodge; Jessica Mandigo of Holley volunteers at the Special Olympics and delivers candy canes to a nursing home;
Cassandra Sargent of Medina helped coordinate the unified volleyball team that introduces students with disabilities to school sports; Ian Smith of Lyndonville and Natalie Mrzywka of Holley are both active in 4-H and with the 4-H Senior Council; Joseph Velez of Medina interned at the Orleans County YMCA in the summer day camp program.
In addition to recognizing the youth, the Youth Board honored two adults – one in a paid role and one a community volunteer – for their service to young people.
Bob Brice of Holley has been a dedicated volunteer with the Holley Sports Boosters the past 20 years, working in concessions and supporting the teams in many ways. His commitment started two decades ago when a Holley team needed a baseball coach. Brice stepped forward even tough he didn’t have a son on the team.
The Kodak retiree works as a teacher’s aide with the school. He praised the commitment of the Sports Boosters, who raise funds for the athletic programs, as well as scholarship and plaques for senior athletes.
“He truly loves the students, the athletes and Holley, New York,” school guidance counselor Samantha Zelent said in presenting Brice with the award at Hickory Ridge Ridge Golf Course and Country Club. “He exemplifies what a small community is all about.”
Brice has stayed active with the Boosters even after his youngest son, Robby, graduated in 2012.
“I just love doing it,” Brice said. “The kids should really be getting the award. They have given me a purpose.”
Gerry Golden has worked 26 years as a caseworker with the Orleans County Department of Social Services. He has made a positive impact on many children, welcomed by many of those children and their parents as an extended part of their families.
“It is common for people to resent the caseworker who has come into their lives, but it is very rare for anyone to complain about Gerry,” the Youth Board said. “If a child calls with a crisis, Gerry will drop whatever he is doing to attend to their needs. He attends school meetings and extracurricular events and will travel hours to make sure a child can get home for a visit with their family.”
Golden initially wanted to pursue a career as a sports journalist. He was drawn to public service in his home county, where his mother Margaret Golden was a public health nurse and his father Bob Golden was Probation director.
Golden praised the kids and the families he works with for their success stories. He also urged others, including the youth receiving awards, to volunteer as mentors in the Just Friends program through the Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern.
Jeremy Babcock, an Albion volunteer firefighter who is currently is the Executive Director of Housing at the Rochester Institute of Technology, was keynote speaker for the evening. Babcock, 39, oversees a staff of 24, the residential halls and 1,000 apartments. He deals with everything from keys, pest control, furniture, laundry facilities and many other issues.
Babcock, an Albion graduate, lives an active life despite being born with birth defects in both arms.
He urged the youth award-winners to have a humble attitude while working hard.
“That drive and determination has to come from within,” Babcock said. “Only you can truly motivate and push yourself. Only you can determine the path you want to take in life.”