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Saturday, May 5, 2012 at 7:21 pm

GCC's fourth president praises college, looks forward to being part of 'legacy'

post by Daniel Crofts in education, Genesee Community College, SUNY

Today was the inauguration of Genesee Community College's fourth president, James M. Sunser, Ed.D. He replaces Stuart Steiner, who recently retired after serving as the college's president for 37 years.

Sunser is pictured up front and center in the above photo, along with the distinguished guests -- including GCC officials, members of the Genesee and Orleans county legislatures, officials from the SUNY system, private colleges and some representatives from the state government.

The fact that GCC has only had four presidents in the nearly 45 years of its existence made this a particularly significant event. Mary Pat Hancock, chair of the Genesee County Legislature and the third speaker at the ceremony, lauded the college's thorough and careful selection process during this "crucial transition."

In his speech, Sunser expressed his enthusiasm for the job.

"It is my honor and privilege to stand before you to reflect on this significant and special day," he said. "I am humbled and honored by the confidence you have shown in me, and I assure you that I will aspire toward the highest standard of excellence, for which this college is known."

He also said that he was proud to be part of a college with such a legacy of "resourcefulness, dedication and faith in the future," pointing out the ordinary citizens who "banded together against conventional wisdom and the community's expectations" to found GCC 45 years ago.

Sunser believes that not only meeting, but exceeding expectations is the challenge of education and anyone who wants to make a lasting difference in the world.

As examples of people who have done this, he talked about key historical figures like Albert Einstein (who grew up with a speech impediment) and Rosa Parks, as well as the aforementioned citizens who pushed for GCC's foundation and the pioneers who first came to this region 200 years ago, "pushing beyond expectations."

"I promise to meet and exceed your expectations at GCC," he said. "I believe there is no more powerful, no more enduring gift than education. (At GCC), we will develop programs and curricula that will bring the best to our work force and help shape the vibrant economic prosperity of the region."

Toward the end of his speech, Sunser also encouraged his partners in the community and ordinary citizens to make a difference.

"Each of us can help change our community," he said. "Let us leave a legacy that makes those who follow us proud."

Sunser is an alumnus of Onondaga Community College (OCC), Syracuse University, SUNY Brockport and the University of Rochester. Before coming to GCC, he worked at OCC for 22 years -- first as bursar, then as vice president of finance, and finally as vice president for continuing and extended learning.

OCC president Debbie L. Sydow, who was one of the greeters at today's ceremony, spoke of Sunser's passion for education and dedication to the service of others.

"He always puts the students' interests first (at OCC)," Sydow said.

She described Sunser as "no-nonsense yet good-natured, smart yet down-to-earth."

For more information on President Sunser, see his biographical page on GCC's website.

Photo courtesy of Kevin Carlson.

Thursday, May 3, 2012 at 2:55 pm

Richmond Memorial Library budget passes, Stich reelected to board

post by Daniel Crofts in batavia, budget vote, Richmond Memorial Library

On Tuesday, voters approved the proposed budget for the Richmond Memorial Library in Batavia. This will mean a 3-cent increase in the library tax per $1,000 of assessed property value.

The budget passed by a four-to-one margin:

Yes: 252
No: 63

Also, library Board Member Beth Stich was reelected to another five-year term with 293 votes. She was unopposed.

For more information about the library's services, visit www.batavialibrary.org.

Monday, April 30, 2012 at 4:05 pm

Richmond Library vote is today

This is a press release from the Richmond Memorial Library:

The Richmond Memorial Library vote takes place on Tuesday, May 1 from
9 a.m. until 9 p.m. in the Gallery Room of the Richmond Library, at 19 Ross St. in Batavia.

Any registered voter residing in the Batavia City School District is eligible to vote.

Saturday, April 14, 2012 at 9:56 am

Batavia's Richmond Library gives 'Friend of the Year' award to tri-county book discussion group

Members of the "Tale for Three Counties" committee were presented with the Richmond Memorial Library's 2012 "Friend of the Year" award today at a public reception in the library's Gallery Room.

This award is given each year in recognition of a person or group that has gone above and beyond in support of the Richmond library. According to Paula Haven, Teen Services librarian and staff liaison to the Friends of the Library, "A Tale for Three Counties" met the criteria.

"This is their 10th anniversary," Haven said. "Not all library programs enjoy such longevity."

"A Tale for Three Counties" began when a group of public librarians from Genesee, Orleans and Wyoming counties got together and proposed an idea for an area-wide book discussion program. Over the years, they have garnered the support of such organizations as Genesee Community College, GoArt!, the Genesee Valley BOCES School Library System, Wal-Mart and Time Warner.

Each year, participants read and discuss books that meet the following guidelines (taken from the program's website): 

  • It must be a work of fiction
  • It must appeal to both adult and teen readers
  • It must have literary merit as evidenced by professional reviews or awards
  • It must present the theme of rural family life or local history
  • It must have issues or topics to discuss
  • It must introduce a new or relatively unknown author to readers

Another perk of this program is that the authors come to the area to give talks every year (click to read an article on the Garth Stein visit in 2010).

Here are some quotes from authors who have visited Genesee County for this program:

"Call: My agent on the phone telling me that my book 'The Call' had been chosen as the one book for 'A Tale for Three Counties.'

"Action: Cheered and then gladly accepted.

"Result: Was greeted so warmly by all involved with the Tale I considered that the place was possibly enchanted and I had crossed over into a better world."

-Yannick Murphy, author of "The Call"

"I really had the sense, during the three days I participated in the Tale for Three Counties, that the program was reaching all sorts of people who otherwise would not be reading literature, opening their minds to its possibilities and encouraging future explorations of books while also uniting the community. It was a great honor to participate in such a worthy program."

- Hillary Jordan, author of "Mudbound

Thursday, April 12, 2012 at 3:53 pm

Big honkin' Super MAMMOTH garage sale is back -- and bigger!

post by Daniel Crofts in batavia, garage sales, st. joseph school, SUPER MAMMOTH

Mary Lea Caprio holds up a "sweet" little baby outfit in the "Baby Boutique" at St. Joseph School (more pictures at the bottom).

Featuring clothes, toys and other babyware for newborns through 3-year-olds, the boutique is one of this year's added features for St. Joe's ginormous and burgeoning Super MAMMOTH Indoor Garage Sale.

Chairwoman Kathy Stefani and her committed crew of 127 volunteers have been working hard all year to prepare for the event, which takes place Saturday, April 14, at the 2 Summit St. school from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. and has something to offer for just about everybody.

Items for sale will include your usual antiques, furniture, upholstery, jewelry, paintings, etc. But for those of you manly men out there who don't much care for that stuff, another of this year's "newbies" is a "Tool Town." This will be outside and will include hand tools, power tools and a gas grill.

There's plenty of cool stuff for kids as well, like these Buffalo Bills binoculars that volunteer Colton Bellimer held up for the camera.

According to Stefani, the volunteers have been taking tip-top care of every item.

"Everything sparkles, because it's all been washed," she said. "Our toys are complete -- no pieces are missing, and everything works."

In keeping with the MAMMOTH tradition, the prices are extremely affordable. From a $2 Rolex quartz to 25-cent cat food to a $10 microwave, the merchandise reflects the prices that Stefani and the other MAMMOTH workers have long been proud of.

All of the merchandise will be restocked at 12:30 p.m., so nobody has to worry about missing out on the good stuff by sleeping in.

Some of this year's other new features will include:

  • Rib BBQ dinners from Clor's, in addition to their chicken BBQs
  • A "Winter Room" with Christmas models and decorations
  • Vintage quilts (including one from 1890, another from 1930)

The sale will be divided into two shifts -- one in the morning, the other in the afternoon. Each shift will have 23 cashiers ready to check customers out.

Baked goods and coffee will also be available inside, so bring your appetite!

Here are some more pics of available merchandise:

More pictures after the jump (click on the headline to see more):

Sunday, March 18, 2012 at 2:07 pm

GoArt! members and non-members display artwork -- some for sale

post by Daniel Crofts in batavia, art, artists, GoArt!, photos, senior center

GoArt! hosted its first GoArt! Members Exhibition on Friday, along with its first Digital Art Exhibit. Both are intended to become annual events.

The above ink-on-canvas painting is called "Fiscal Policy" and was painted by Kevin Hammon, who lives just north of Le Roy. It was on sale for $350.

Here is Hammon with another of his canvas works, "Moon Light Drive-In" ($125).

Below are some of the other paintings on display at Seymour Place.

Oil painting: "Wolf Creek at Letchworth" by Rick Ellingham ($275).

Oil painting: "Route 5" by Joseph Deni ($400).

Kevin Feary, of Batavia, stands beside his oil-on-muslin painting, "Short Order Cook" ($580).

Artist (and City Councilwoman) Rose Mary Christian stands next to her untitled acrylic (not for sale) with Linda Sforno (left) and Roelene Christian.

"Country Cottage Needlepoint" by Joan E. Rotondo ($238).

Watercolor: "Sinking Ponds" by Rita M. Hammond ($50).



Pencil: "Silent Communication" by Judy Wenrich ($175).

Glass art: "Dragonfly Wide Bowl" by Heather Whitney ($100).

Glass art: "Peacock Bowl" by Heather Whitney ($120).

Acrylic and paper: "Night Out" by Kimberly A. Argenta ($100).

Acrylic: "National Geographic: Stampede" by Carole LaValley ($225).

Oil on muslin: "Upton Monument" by Kevin Feary ($580).

Oil: "Rusted & Weathered" by Rick Ellingham ($200).

Connie Mosher, of Albion, stands next to her Arizona-inspired oil painting, "Rugs on a Railing Near Sedona, AZ" ($500).

Pastel: "Alzheimer's--the Ultimate Identity Theft," by Sharon Jahnke Long (not for sale).

Earthenware, slips, glaze: "Cityscape II" by Moi Dugan ($425).

Pastel: "Twoo Wuv" by Sharon Jahnke Long (not for sale).

Woodcut: "Angus" by Rita Hammond ($50).

Clay: "Covered Jar with Wheat" by Jean Grinnell (SOLD).

Long Stitch: "Tiger Walk" by Joan E. Rotondo ($238).

To find out which of these--and other--photos are still for sale, contact Robin Upson, administrative assistant at GoArt!, at 343-9313, or email info@goart.org.

As this was going on, a reception for non-members' digital art was held next door at GoArt!'s satellite gallery in the Batavia Senior Center.

"Study in Perspective" by Natalie Buczek ($10).

"Katie" by Byron-Bergen ninth-grader Katelyn Simmons (not for sale).

"Guitar Rock" by Susan Meier ($45).

"Let It Be" by Daniel Cherry ($40).

Cherry displays his work, "Broken Treaties," with his sons, Jimmy and Daniel.

The digital artwork will be on display until April 27 at the senior center, at 2 Bank St. in Batavia. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. until 4 p.m.

For information, contact Joe Langen at jlangen@goart.org.

Monday, February 27, 2012 at 11:04 am

LEGO and robotics aficionados invited to GCC maze race

post by Daniel Crofts in announcements, GCC, lego league, robotics, schools, tech wars

The following is a press release from Chantal Zambito:

Calling all NXT/RCX Robotic Clubs, Groups, Teams, and Enthusiasts!

If you are between the ages of nine and 14, you are invited to Genesee Community College, in Batavia, to participate in a friendly maze race. Whether you are a novice or an experienced user of the NXT/RCX Robotic software, this is for you.

The event will take place on Thursday, March 15, in conjunction with Tech Wars. Registration will begin at 9 a.m., with the events lasting from 9:30 a.m. until 12:30 p.m.

The teams will create a catapult to a launch marshmallows from a designated point. The three teams with the furthest launch will receive a prize, and all teams will receive a certificate of participation. The best distance will be taken from each group’s three launches.

Come and look at the 2011 FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Challenge Missions, projects, and presentations from local teams. Information on how to get a Robotics Club started at your school or in your community will be available at the event.

If you are interested, the registration deadline is Feb. 18.

For a map of the launch pad, registration form, or more information about the NXT Challenge at GCC, contact Chantal Zambito at gcc.robotics2011@yahoo.com. For more information about Tech Wars go to http://www.techwarsgcc.org.

Friday, December 23, 2011 at 1:16 pm

GCASA executive director signs off after 11 years of service

David Markham has been at the helm of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism & Substance Abuse (GCASA) for more than a decade. Today, he retires from his job as its executive director.

Here the 65-year-old Markham introduces himself:

Since he started at GCASA in 2000, the organization has developed some notable new programs and won numerous national awards for both treatment and prevention programs.

The prevention efforts alone have received a government grant to head up a Drug-Free Communities Coalition (DFC) for Genesee County. In addition, they've received grants to mentor two other coalitions -- one in Orleans County and one in Lancaster/Depew.

They have earned such honors as: the Community Anti-Drug Coalition of America's (CADCA) Got Outcomes! Award in the category of "Coalition as a Whole" in 2006; the National Exemplary Award from the National Association of State Alcohol/Drug Abuse Directors ('07) ; and selection as Coalition of the Year by CADCA ('07).

Below, Markham answers some questions about himself and his career.

Did you grow up wanting to pursue a career in the social work/mental health field?

No. My college degree was in philosophy, with a minor in sociology. My first job was as a psychiatric social worker trainee at Kings Park in Rochester. At that time, the Department of Mental Hygiene (which no longer exists) was awarding grants for people to pursue careers in social work. So I went back to school on a grant from them and got a master's degree in social work from SUNY Albany. As I got into the field, I gradually held positions with greater responsibility.

I understand you have a private practice in Brockport. What type of counseling do you do?

As a licensed clinical social worker, I kind of do it all. Most of my clients deal with stress-related problems like anxiety and depression. They might have problems with their families, at work...sometimes they're dealing with grief, too. I also do couples and family counseling.

How did you get into the administrative aspect of the social work field?

Having been a clinician, I felt I had ideas about how services could be organized more effectively and efficiently. It has kind of been a dual career of mine, because I’ve continued to have my own practice. I’ve found the two (clinical and administrative work) to be interrelated in an intimate way. The way I see it, the manager is like an architect, and the clinician is the general contractor he hires to carry out the plan. There are key processes that govern the way services are delivered and develop the ability to implement those services. 

When and how did you come to GCASA?

I came in 2000. Before that, I had been the director of clinical operations at the Rochester Health Association, and about half of their programs were related to substance abuse. I left in 2000 and was looking for something else, and it just so happened that Sharon McWethy (GCASA's executive director at the time) was retiring.

What would you say has been your management philosophy during your 11 years at GCASA?

My overall philosophy is collaborative and participatory. I think it's important to understand what is important to all of the various stakeholders, whether these are clients, families, members of the community, etc. I guess I'd say I'm the opposite of an autocrat. I like to work in a way that elicits not just the cooperation, but the enthusiasm of the multiple stakeholders. That way, we can all work productively toward a common goal.

You are originally from, and currently live in, Brockport. Having worked in Genesee County through the DFC and through prevention, what has been your impression of the Genesee County community?

It's the most wonderful place I've worked in the world. And I'm not just sucking up -- I think it's the Garden of Eden. Everyone from the county executive to the Batavia city manager, to the schools to the legislature, has been great to work with. You get to know all of the officials on a very personal and collaborative level, and there's a great sense of overall collective welfare.

You don't get that in Monroe County--there's too much bureaucracy. It's more divided. There's not the kind of corruption (in Genesee or Orleans counties) that you see in Monroe County or Erie County, so it's easier to get things done. I think one of the reasons GCASA has won all these awards and been able to implement all these new programs is that the community is smaller and more tightly knit. The programs can be at a scale that's easier to design and implement.

The thing about both Genesee and Orleans counties is that even though these are rural communities, the people are very sophisticated. They're surprisingly well-educated. They have wonderful cultural opportunities because of their access to Buffalo and Rochester. So they have all the advantages of smaller, more tightly knit communities plus these cultural benefits.

The people I know (in Genesee County) are very good people. They have very good values and integrity. Working and living here has been extremely satisfying and fulfilling.

GCASA has been noted for giving employees the benefit of flexible schedules, as well as flexibility in how they manage their work projects. Some people in the business world would say this is the wrong thing to do, because it leads to a drop in productivity. How would you defend your workplace policies at GCASA?

At GCASA, we have created an atmosphere that I would like to believe is empowering to employees. And overall, it's been extremely effective. We get great outcomes, our employee satisfaction is pretty high, and we have one of the best workplaces in New York State. The fact that we've won national awards for our work says that we must be doing something right.

One thing that we, as managers, have to realize is that our employees are adults. They manage their own lives, and we should be able to respect their integrity and maturity. I don't understand why a lot of organizations feel they have to micromanage their employees. There is protocol (for workplace projects, etc.), sure -- but no one knows how to do the work better than the people who are actually engaged in it.

As a manager, my concern is with results -- which is why, when I started at GCASA, one of the first things I did was develop an outcome-based job description. A lot of job descriptions are output-based.

Our employees are adults, so we expect them to be able to get the work done (without having to micromanage them)...There are a lot of ways management works with employees to determine the "what." How they get there depends. Employees should always have opportunities to conduct themselves in a way that works for them, as long as they're getting their work done and as long as they're respecting their coworkers.

You had two young children who were killed by a drunk driver in 1993. How has that influenced your work in the field of alcohol and substance abuse?

Well, I was in the field beforehand -- that's the irony of it. It just goes to show that it can happen to anyone. I would have been doing the work I've been doing regardless. But has it influenced my enthusiasm and passion for the work? Absolutely. And I also think it has influenced my credibility when I speak at Victim Impact Panels. I try to be professional about it, but my personal experience is brought to bear.

A lot of these issues can be seen as academic, professional, or as policy issues, which they are. But these personal stories make it more real for folks. It's like (they say), "Reality is when it happens to you." Substance abuse is a lethal disease, whether we're talking about liver disease from alcohol abuse or silly nonsense like drinking and driving. Tragedies show the importance of a healthy and high-functioning community.

Do you have any words of advice for your successor?

Well, it's an easy transition, because John Bennett (former director of GCASA's treatment services) and I share a lot of the same values. I guess what I would say to John is, first of all, to be understanding of our collaborators and have healthy, meaningful, positive relationships with all stakeholders. We work across systems. I think what has made GCASA so successful is its great collaborative partners. It's a lot of work, but if we work to maintain those relationships, we'll be okay.

What do you plan to do now?

I'm going to continue with my private practice on a part-time basis. I've been working two jobs for years, and I'm finally at a point in my life where I can work just one. I'm also involved in a lot of activities for the Village of Brockport and for my church. Finally, I plan on spending more time with family -- I have seven children and 13 grandchildren.

Markham's birthday is Christmas Day. He will be 66.

For more information on GCASA, visit the organization's blog, GCASA Cares, at www.gcasacares.blogspot.com.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011 at 10:29 am

Batavia Players close 2011 season with Dickens classic

What the Dickens are the Batavia Players up to now?

According to Patrick Burk, the popular local theater group's president, they "wanted to do a wonderful Christmas gift to the community for the support of our new Harvester 56 Theater" this holiday season.

So they're putting on their own rendition of Charles Dickens' classic, "A Christmas Carol," the story of Ebenezer Scrooge -- a greedy, bitter, lonely old miser whose whole way of looking at the world gets turned upside down by a series of ghostly visitations on Christmas Eve.

Burk described the show as "bright and colorful as well as technically magical."

"It has a classic storyline and has always been one of my favorites," he said. "I could never find where an original version had been done (in Batavia, at least). A couple of contemporary versions with modern day spins were done in the '70s and early '80s."

The Players, on the other hand, will be giving folks pure Dickens, without any modern spin. All costumes and sets are going to be traditional. The music will be "contemporary for the time (the early 1840s, to be precise)," but with a few newer carols, according to Burk.

Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, in addition to a matinée performance at 2 o'clock on Sunday. All performances will be at the Harvester 56 Theatre, at 56 Harvester Ave. in Batavia.

Sunday's performance will be held for the benefit of the Michael Napoleone Memorial Foundation.

"Many of (the foundation's) members have been very supportive of us," Burk said, "I am so happy to be able to do this for them."

For those who are not familiar with Dickens' story, one of its most well-known and endearing characters is a sick child named Tiny Tim. Burk felt the Napoleone Foundation would be a "good fit" for this story.

Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for children and seniors. They can be purchased through www.showtix4u.com.

Monday, September 26, 2011 at 7:45 pm

Community Action's 'Surplus Food Distribution' is back!

Community Action of Orleans & Genesee will once again be hosting their "Surplus Food Distribution" for low income residents of our area. It will be held at the Genesee County Fairgrounds, at 5056 E. Main St. Road in Batavia, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 5.  It will be in the Kennedy Building.

Anyone who plans on coming must bring the following items:

  • Proof of residence (water, gas, electric or phone bill)
  • Identification (driver's license, etc.)
  • Proof of income (Supplemental Security Income (SSI) grant award letter, Social Security Disability (SSD) award letter, social security end of the year letter, HEAP Grant award letter, WIC card, Department of Social Services budget sheet, or most recent income tax return).

People are allowed to pick up items for others, but they must have signed permission slips.

For more information, call Community Action at 343-7798, ext. 116.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011 at 8:00 pm

International pilgrimage statue comes to Batavia

St. Mary's Church, of Batavia, got a visit from the Blessed Virgin Mary Monday night. The church at 20 Ellicott St. was one of her last stops in Genesee County as she tours the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

The International Pilgrimage Statue of Our Lady of Fatima has been crisscrossing the Western Hemisphere for the past 64 years (there is another statue made for pilgrimages in the Eastern Hemisphere). It was sculpted in 1947 by Portuguese sculptor Jose Thedim, who based it on descriptions provided by one of the children who received visions of the Virgin Mary at Fatima, Portugal, in the summer of 1917.

According to Carl Malburg, one of the statue's custodians, the Bishop of Fatima commissioned the Pilgrimage Statue 30 years after the three children -- Lucia, Jacinta and Francisco -- received the visions.

"The idea came from the message," Malburg said. "It was meant for all the world, not just the people of Fatima."

"Fatima is not over," said Malburg's fellow custodian Patrick Sabat (pictured below), referencing Pope Benedict XVI. "There is a continued need for prayer and penance."

Addressing the people who attended Monday's service, he added: "Pope John Paul II said the message of Fatima is more urgent and more relevant now than it was in 1917."

Much of the content of the Fatima visions -- which began on May 13 and occurred on the 13th of every month until October -- deals with the harm that human sins do to the world, leading to war and destruction. The Virgin Mary reportedly told the children that if enough people carried out her instructions, there would be peace on Earth.

"Pope Benedict XV (who was Pope at the time of the Fatima visions) called Mary the Queen of Peace," Sabat said, adding that her intercession would work "when all human efforts at peace had failed."

Malburg, of Indiana, and Sabat, of the Philippines, escort the Pilgrimage Statue in its travels on behalf of the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue Foundation, which is based in Munster, Ind. With permission from Bishop Edward U. Kmiec, they are making a 21-day trip through the Buffalo diocese.

Interestingly, the Buffalo diocese was the first place the statue visited in the U.S. on her very first pilgrimage in 1947. One of her stops was Our Lady of Fatima Church in Elba.

"And we thought, 'Why not bring her back?'" said Sally Ross, Ph.D, a member of St. Padre Pio Parish (which includes Our Lady of Fatima in Elba and St. Cecilia's Church in Oakfield).

Ross was the one who came up with the idea of bringing the statue back to Western New York for a pilgrimage. It all started when she, as a member of Our Lady of Fatima, did some research into how her church got its name. She learned three interesting facts about the Elba church:

1. The Pilgrimage Statue's visit in 1947.

2. It is the oldest church in the U.S. to bear that name.

3. The knoll in front of the church on which the Fatima Shrine is now located was once used by the Ku Klux Klan as a place to burn crosses.

Fact number three is especially interesting if you think about the Fatima message.

"Our Lady wants all her children to live together in peace and harmony," Malburg said. "She said that if we follow her instructions, there will be peace."

To that end, Sabat called everyone to be "Prayer Warriors."

"This is a different kind of war," he said. "It's a war of reparation for the sins of the world."

According to a pamphlet from the International Pilgrim Virgin Statue Foundation, fighting this war includes making each of one's daily sufferings a sacrifice in atonement for sin, praying the Rosary every day, and wearing the brown scapular as a sign of consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

Miracles and favors have been reported in areas the statue has visited over the years. One of the most famous of these miracles is the "Miracle of Tears," which refers to reports of the statue crying human tears in more than 30 instances.

While there may not have been any tears in Western New York so far, people have been affected by the statue. The pilgrimage isn't over yet, and Ross has already gotten some follow-up calls.

"I wish I could have recorded them, (as they talked about the message)," she said. "Even just the timbre of their voices...it's just incredible."

As much of an impact as the statue has had, Sabat and Malburg were both very clear that Catholics do not worship Mary or statues.

"A statue's just a piece of wood," Malburg said. "And the person it represents (Mary) is not divine. But we do talk to her and ask her to pray for us."

He also said that he sometimes meets fundamentalists who object to giving this type of honor to Mary. To this he replies, "You have a guardian angel, don't you?" His point is that Catholics talk to Mary the same way most Christians might talk to their guardian angels.

"Mary is still the greatest catechist (teacher of the faith)," Sabat said. "She's a role model for all Christians, and we continue to imitate her virtues. Our goal is to be as close to Christ as possible, and she was the closest person to Christ there ever was."

St. Joseph's Church welcomed the Pilgrimage Statue at Mass this morning. It is heading to Orleans County today, but will return for a visit to the New York State Veterans' Home on Aug. 19. All total, it will make seven more stops throughout the region before the pilgrimage concludes on Aug. 22.

For more information, go to www.pilgrimvirginstatue.com.

Supplemental Video: Malburg and Sabat on local news show in Cincinnati

 

Friday, August 5, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Grassroots group aims to save the arts and music in Batavia schools

post by Daniel Crofts in arts, education, music, Parents, schools

The Batavia Music and Arts Advocacy Group (BMAA) held its premiere meeting Wednesday evening at the GoArt! building in Downtown Batavia. Cheri Kolb, seated, and Lauren Picarro-Hoerbelt formed this organization in response to the cuts that the Batavia City School District's arts and music programs have endured as a result of current economic woes. 

Kolb and Picarro-Hoerbelt both have children in the Batavia schools who are involved in music programs. They started this group out of: 1) concern for where they see the district going, and 2) a desire to maintain programs, teachers and the quality of arts/music activities for the kids.

Picarro-Hoerbelt said her hope is for this group to have a presence in both good times and bad.

"(We want) to help out in the bad times, and to remind everyone why these programs are important in the good times."

Kolb envisions BMAA as a "forum for parents (and others) to express their concerns and be a voice for their children."

Five parents were in attendance -- a scant turnout, but understandable, since it "fell in the middle of several vacations" (Kolb's words). A number of other people who were not able to attend the Wednesday meeting have expressed interest in joining.
 

The issue at hand

Over the past few years, art and music programs have taken some major hits, funding-wise. There has been particular concern about this at the elementary level, where art and music are not mandatory subjects.

For that reason, Kolb said, part of BMAA's mission is to "help create an understanding of how these subjects affect the ones that are mandated."

Part of the night's discussion centered around research showing that the more exposure kids get to these programs early on, the more they will contribute to brain development. Susan Dickenson, one of the parents at the meeting, noted that research has proven the beneficial effects of arts and music programs on reading, math and study skills.

Frank DeMare, another parent at the meeting, said part of the problem is that "it's all about test scores" in the education system right now.

"They want to get test scores up," he said, "and they think the way to solve the problem is to throw money at it. Well, if they're going to throw money at it, the place to throw it is music and the arts."

He noted that students from low income and minority populations are of special concern to the State Education Department in terms of test scores. Children from these populations could stand to gain a lot from the benefits of music programs, but don't have the money to purchase instruments. This is one area where additional funding resources could come in handy.

In spite of their zeal for the arts and music in the schools, Kolb and Picarro-Hoerbelt are not insensitive to taxpayers' concerns.

"People are worried about how their money is being spent," Kolb said. "But they need to know how (their decisions) affect the kids, who will be the next citizens of this community, and also to understand that trying to send a message by voting down budgets might not be the most productive message to this generation."

In the recent past, people have responded to this by arguing that it is the district employees who are "hurting the kids" by demanding unreasonable benefits, etc. Kolb addressed that concern.

"I think there was a time when New York State was in a period of prosperity," she said, "so they put into place a lot of benefits for teachers' unions. Now that the state is in greater economic need, they have had to accommodate the benefits that were in place before. But that's not the fault of the teachers."

She further noted that the teachers she knows "work an incredible amount of hours and contribute (a good amount of) their own money to purchase supplies they can't otherwise get because of budget cuts."

Teachers under pressure, students shortchanged

"The original spark (behind the idea of forming this group) stemmed from (the school board's discussions about) restructuring of the strings program," Kolb said. "That was our first public indicator that there was something going on, budget-wise, that could affect our kids."

Following this "original spark" was a major catalyst: A statement from one of the board members, quoted in The Daily News, about the need to look carefully at non-mandated programs in the wake of state budget cuts. At the elementary level, these include the arts and music.

"We knew they probably weren't going to be cut," Picarro-Hoerbelt said, "but they would be restructured to the point where the kids get less."

This "restructuring" has entailed staff cuts and increased workloads for remaining teachers. For example, the position of chorus instructor at Batavia High School has been eliminated, and the chorus teacher at Batavia Middle School must now pick up the slack by teaching grades six through 12.

Picarro-Hoerbelt's husband, Mark, who was also present at the meeting, has the exact same position (chorus teacher for grades six through 12) in Alexander, which is a smaller district with fewer students.

"I'm busy," he said. "I can't imagine what it's going to be like for him (the BMS chorus teacher)."

Meanwhile, recent retiree Cindy Baldwin's position as a districtwide strings instructor has also been eliminated. Students will now receive string lessons from staff at each of their respective elementary schools.

So at John Kennedy Elementary, for example, the music teacher is going to have to take on 55 string lessons per week. Keep in mind that this is in addition to his role as director of the school's vocal music programs and his regular classroom responsibilities.

Baldwin was also the music department chair for the district; that role will now be assumed by Jane Haggett. Haggett was hired as the high school band director several years ago and, since the band director position at Batavia Middle School was cut, has had to add grades seven and eight to her list as well.

DeMare expressed worry about the prospect of Haggett becoming department chair -- not because he doubts her capabilities, but because she is already overburdened with current responsibilities.

Fewer teachers available and more work for the teachers who remain in the district mean less time and energy to dedicate to the students.

"We're worried about our kids falling through the cracks," Picarro-Hoerbelt said.

Additionally, DeMare noted that the restructuring of programs leads to larger groups of students.

"Some kids get lost in big groups," he said. "They lose interest."

What about the cost?

Right now, the immediate goal of BMAA is to make sure nothing else gets cut. It's about maintaining programs rather than adding to them.

Kolb and Picarro-Hoerbelt stressed that parents and community members are going to have to assume responsibility and find creative ways to keep these programs going.

"There's a tendency to blame the state when things are so dire," Kolb said. "I think we're at a point where the state can't do any more. The districts have to take the initiative."

Dickenson presented the Royalton-Hartland School District in Niagara County (where she used to live) as proof that this can be done.

Royalton-Hartland has received media recognition for its sports programs in addition to having thriving arts/music programs.

"There's something for every student," Dickenson said. "(Royalton-Hartland) is a small district, just like we are. But they really make use of the resources they have available."

When she moved to Batavia, she found that there was "such a different mentality."

"There's almost an attitude in the community that, 'Oh, they're doing the best they can, so we'll leave it in their hands,'" Picarro-Hoerbelt said, "until things get really dire like this. Everyone has to step up."

Game plan

BMAA welcomes all community members with a passion for arts and a desire to see keep them kept alive and well in the schools. The only people who would not be accepted into the group are those who are currently teaching art and music in the Batavia schools, as this would create a conflict of interest.

People with various talents and skills are invited to join and to help out in whatever way they would like.

One way to help BMAA is to do research on various topics, such as:

  • what music/arts programs are in school districts comparable in size to Batavia and how they are maintained;
  • data and charts demonstrating the importance of music and the arts in relation to core subject areas and brain development;
  • rules of conduct at school board meetings;
  • and even something as simple as finding out which locations the school board will use for upcoming meetings and letting everybody else in the group know.

If you have a gift for public speaking, there is also room for people who would like to speak at board meetings or other events.

And that's another thing: BMAA is designed to foster a positive relationship with the school board, as opposed to the community vs. board mentality a lot of people seem to have.

"We are being reassured that they are looking at everything," Kolb said.

In other words, the board is examining options for making necessary cuts more equitable, keeping in mind that the arts and music have suffered disproportionately for a few years.

Other ideas

Another one of the key ideas presented at Wednesday's meeting was that of giving school arts and music programs more visibility in the wider community. Someone raised the question of how, for example, student art shows could be opened up so that it's not just the students and their parents who come, but also school board members, legislators, etc.

DeMare said that in many of the wealthier school districts, local businesses support arts and music programs. Batavia businesses already sponsor sports programs, and everyone agreed that this could be extended to the arts and music as well.

One of the most fundamental questions raised was this: "How can we get people out there to vote?"

A very small percentage of those eligible to vote in school board elections and budget votes actually vote. Picarro-Hoerbelt and Kolb feel it is important to encourage everyone to recognize their role in the lives of our community's children.

"Even if you no longer have a child in the district," Picarro-Hoerbelt said, "please come out and support the programs that meant a lot to your kids 20 years ago."

BMAA is drawing on information from the NAMM Foundation on how to effectively implement grassroots organizations in support of music in the schools. For more information, go to www.nammfoundation.org.

For more information on BMAA or to get involved, e-mail artsadvocacy14020@yahoo.com. The group's next meeting will be held at the GoArt! building, on the corner of Main and Bank streets, at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 14.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 at 12:56 pm

Batavia band ready to rock Dwyer Stadium Friday night

post by Daniel Crofts in batavia, Batavia Muckdogs, dwyer stadium, music

Get ready to rock and roll at Dwyer Stadium Friday night with Batavia's own "In Plain View."

Pictured above in the band's poster are lead guitarist Joe Lambert (top left), drummer Mark Assenato (top right), bass player Mike Burns (bottom left) and singer Pete Cecere.

"In Plain View" has roots in the players' high school days, but officially got its name last year -- during 4th of July weekend, to be exact.

Burns, a graduate of Batavia High School, said his class celebrated its 26-year reunion -- that's right, 26-year reunion -- at that time, and the band got back together to play for the occasion. They were asked to play again the following night at a private party, which was held at Haul 4 Less.

"(And we thought,) 'Here's four guys who haven't played in 26 years,'" Cecere said, "'and what people see is what they get, in plain view.'"

Included in the group's repertoire are rock songs from almost every era, from the '60s to the present. They play songs that multiple generations will know and appreciate, as evidenced by the fact that Cecere has received positive comments from his daugthers and from some of his aunts and uncles.

"(We'll play) anything from The Kinks to Jimmy Eat World," he said. "We like to pick songs that are interesting and out of the ordinary, but still popular."

"Our goal is not to be the typical bar band," Burns said.

Dedication is a key ingredient in the work that "In Plain View" does. Lambert, who lives in New York City, flies into Batavia for every gig, which is followed by a good five, six or seven hours of rehearsal.

Cecere and Burns, for their parts, have been able to manage this while working full-time jobs. Cecere works in sales at Diamond Packaging. Burns is a manager of client services at the Rochester Institute of Technology -- and coaches a girls soccer team through a season of near total victory.

When asked how they found the time for rehearsals, Cecere replied: "Very carefully."

If you're going to be part of this band, he added, "You've got to do your homework."

"In Plain View's" pre-game concert will start at 5:30 p.m. and last about 45 minutes.

Anyone who purchases tickets to the Muckdogs game will get to see Friday's show at no extra cost.

The band's expenses are being covered by the Juliano Allstate Agency, but they themselves are not getting paid for the concert. As huge Muckdogs fans, all four members are more than happy to donate their time.

"We are extremely blessed to have the Muckdogs," Cecere said. "It's cheap (price-wise) family fun."

"We went by (Dwyer Stadium)," Burns said, "and Joe said, 'This is where we've got to play.'"

For more information on "In Plain View" and their upcoming concerts, visit www.inplainviewband.com.

Bottom two photos taken by Stephen Ognibene.

Sunday, July 31, 2011 at 2:03 pm

Local girls soccer team finishes season with 11 wins, 1 tie, and no losses against Rochester teams

post by Daniel Crofts in batavia, Girls Soccer, soccer, sports

When you try to put together a youth sports team here in Batavia, you're usually lucky to get more than 30 kids on board -- let alone 30 of the most most athletic kids, like in the larger districts near Buffalo and Rochester.

That's why it's all the more impressive that Batavia's U12 (under 12) soccer team won 11 out of 12 games and suffered no losses -- the exception to the winning streak being a tied game, which was played on a 92-degree evening -- during the 2011 season.

Led by Head Coach Pete Cecere, along with assistant coaches Mike Burns and Steve Moore, the team of 11- and 12-year-olds competed against several Rochester area teams, including: Penfield, Victor, Webster, Churchville-Caledonia, Livonia and Bloomfield (that was the tied game).

On Friday night, Cecere and Burns -- who, in addition to coaching the team, are also on the board of directors for Genesee Amateur Soccer Association (GASA) -- took time to answer some questions for The Batavian at Cecere's home, where the team had a pool party to celebrate their successful season.

Cecere gave a lot of credit to the girls for the effort they put into the games.

"A good core of the team played with me year-round (in preparation)," he said. "We had tremendous defense, great goalies," including Paige Hamiester, Courtney Burns and Maggie Cecere.

"Pete has taken the girls a long way," Burns said.

Up until now, U12 was more of a recreational league than anything else. Cecere, along with other GASA board members, wanted to take it up a notch.

As an assistant coach for the Batavia High School varsity team, he understood the challenge that awaited these girls as they approached the age where they would get into modified sports. Soon, they will match athletic prowess with top-notch athletes from some of the region's bigger districts, where coaches have a much larger pool of players from which to draw.

For that reason, the board wanted to take this "rec" program and make it more competitive.

"About half the girls on this team are going to be playing modified in the fall," Cecere said. "And we (the GASA board) decided that the only way they were going to get better was by swimming with the sharks."

Passionate as he was about this prospect, he was also realistic.

"I said, 'Rochester teams have 150 girls when we're beggin' to get 30, so we probably won't do very well. But the girls (our kids) will be playing now are the same girls they'll be playing in modified, and the only way they're going to be prepared is if they actually get out there and play."

To him, it was about how to make the kids better players rather than how to get more kids on the team.

So what did he and the other coaches do to guide these young ladies through this surprising streak of impressive games? Basically, the strategy involved getting them excited about the game of soccer -- including the whys and wherefores of the game's rules and mechanics.

According to Burns, "you could definitely see the spark in their eyes" as they grew in their knowledge of the game.

"One of the beauties of soccer is that it's a game that teaches itself," Cecere said. The girls were able to "learn by doing," as they say.

Cecere, for his part, made sure that there was always activity on the fields during practices.

"I'm a firm believer that there shouldn't be a lot of standing around at practice," he said. "I try to keep them moving, change up activities so they don't get bored, and be supportive. (It's important to) accentuate the positive."

And whenever he does point out any given player's mistake, he phrases it in the form of a question (for instance, "Can you tell me where you went wrong here?")

"And nine times out of 10, they know the answer."

You could say he's a tough coach. He had his girls play the tough teams, and he definitely kept them movin' during those practices. But as a coach, he is also encouraging and fun.

"He has a great rapport with the girls," Burns said. "It's fun to watch someone who can connect with them, both on a game level and on a fun level -- whether it's goofing around on the sidelines or teaching them about how the game works."

For Cecere, it's all about passion for what he does.

"There is literally nothing I like better than coaching these girls," he said.

For more information on GASA, visit www.gasabatavia.org.

Photo taken by Barbara Paserk

Friday, July 22, 2011 at 12:28 am

Ghost Riders and Ghost Riders both set to perform at Jackson Square

post by Daniel Crofts in batavia, concerts, Ghost Riders, Jackson Square, music

It turns out there are two sets of Ghost Riders in town, and both will play at Jackson Square tomorrow night.

Batavia resident Dough Mellenthine, one of the directors of the "other" Ghost Riders, describes it as a miniature drum and bugle corps and a "brass choir." They play everything from patriotic tunes to chorales to "fun-filled, good time music" (as worded in a press release).

Formed in 1996 to compete in the Drum Corps Associates (DCA) "World Championship," which is held every year at various locations throughout the country, the Ghost Riders have distinguished themselves numerous times. They have appeared in championships for 15 consecutive years, won the New York State American Legion Crown, and, last year, won the Silver Medal and position of first runner-up at the DCA World Championship with a score of 98.0.

Mellenthine co-directs Ghost Riders along with Rod Keppel. Music is arranged by "World Drum Corps Hall of Fame" and "Buglers Hall of Fame" member Donny Allen. Group members are professional musicians whose experiences range from education to judging music competitions.

"This is not beer tent stuff," Mellenthine said. "I believe we're Batavia's best-kept secret."

Ghost Riders will perform from 8 until 8:30 p.m. at Jackson Square tomorrow night. Mellenthine said they've been practicing all year for this performance, so it ought to be good!

To learn more about Ghost Riders, visit their Facebook page.

Photo submitted by Doug Mellenthine.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011 at 7:25 pm

National Night Out a big hit for Norris Avenue

post by Daniel Crofts in batavia, National Night Out, Neighborhoods, Norris Ave.

Faith Smith, 8, cooled off with an ice cream sandwich on Norris Avenue yesterday...

...or maybe she was warming up in preparation for the donut-eating contest that came later.

Treats and games like this one kicked off the seventh annual National Night Out -- a yearly event designed to bring neighborhoods and community police together -- in Batavia. Last evening's event on Norris Avenue was the first of three "National Nights Out" this year. August will feature two more -- one at Birchwood Village, the other on Pringle Avenue.

This is a big change in the way National Night Out is done. Traditionally, it has been geared toward the community as a whole and held at public venues like Austin Park.

According to City of Batavia Youth Bureau Director Toni Funke (pictured right, with Lydia Schauf), who's in charge of National Night Out this year, there's a "different spin."

"We want to try and enhance relationships within neighborhoods," she said. "People can get out, meet their neighbors, and talk to their department heads in the city."

In other words, it has become a way to revive the lost art of the block party.

Saturday, July 16, 2011 at 8:44 pm

Landmark church vies for Pepsi Refresh grant

Judy Essig and her two daughters, Jenna and Nicole, were texting away in front of St. James Episcopal Church yesterday.

St. James is in the running for a Pepsi Refresh grant -- the same grant that Robert Morris and Byron-Bergen elementary schools won for the construction of new playgrounds earlier this year -- $50,000 each.

If the St. James community wins the grant, they will use the money for the restoration of the church's bell tower, a project that is still in its early phases.

Laurie Oltramari, president of the Landmark Society of Genesee County, said that the church is getting ready to choose a contractor, and that the Pepsi Refresh grant will fund masonry repairs, architectural and engineering fees, and promotion of the overall project.

Oltramari applied for the grant on behalf of the church out of a desire to preserve one of Batavia's most impressive landmarks. Built by Robert North in 1908, it is based on the Gothic architecture of churches North studied while living in England.

Unfortunately, the tower has been slowly deteriorating over the last 10 years due to water infiltration and very hard mortar in its structure. As you can see in pictures below, parts of the stonework have actually fallen off.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011 at 6:28 pm

Kids get hands-on history lesson at Harvester Cemetery

Even the fierce, sizzlin' heat couldn't keep this crew inside yesterday, as Holland Land Office Museum kicked off its eight-day "History Heroes Summer Program" at Harvester Cemetery. 

Program coordinator Ann Marie Starowitz (pictured below) took a group of 7- to 11-year-old kids to the cemetery to sketch the gravestones of famous Batavians. Afterward, they went to the Richmond Memorial Library to learn more about these people.

Starowitz said the tour was expanded to become an eight-day program this year. Last year, it only lasted three days.

Between now and July 22, the kids will learn about local history through research and hands-on activities like making their own butter, a mini-archeology dig, candle making and building a miniature log cabin home.

Here are some photos of the kids sketching gravestones (in most cases the photos are of the student and the gravestone he or she is sketching):

Courtney Biegasiewicz, 11, sketches the tombstone of William Morgan.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 2:28 pm

'Tick, Tick...Boom!' will be Genesee County's first taste of new theater group

post by Daniel Crofts in Harvester 56 Theater, performances, rent, theater

Jon used to think of himself as a promising composer, but...

"Instead, I've been promising for so long I'm afraid I'm about to break my promise."

That's the paraphrased line of the main character in "Tick, Tick...Boom," a semi-autographical musical by Jonathan Larson, the writer of "Rent." It will be performed this weekend at Harvester 56 Theater in Batavia.

Directors Shellene Bailey and Thorin Vallentin are members of the newly formed local theater group, JNS Productions -- named after the founders: Joel, Shellene, and Nick. They look forward to bringing this lesser known work of Larson's to the local stage.

"The music is very similar (to the music in "Rent")," Vallentin said. "It has some of the same styles, with roots in rock music but including various other styles as well."

"Rent" fans may be interested to know that Larson worked on this play first. When listening to the music, according to Vallentin, they might notice the seeds of a style that will further develop in the tunes of "Rent."

While it is similar to "Rent" stylistically, it has what Vallentin calls a "lighter feel."

"It's not as heavy," he said. "It does deal with emotional issues, but it's not as in-your-face."

The show also doesn't have as much R-rated material as "Rent," although there is some bad language (including the f-word) and a somewhat provocative dance number.

Pictured are Amanda Taylor and Drew Williams, the actors in the roles of Susan (Jon's girlfriend) and Jon, an aspiring Broadway playwright

A little information on the story: Jon is approaching his 30th birthday, and he is having what Williams calls a "pre-midlife crisis."

"His career isn't where he thought it would be by the time he turned 30," Bailey said.

At this pivotal point in his life, Jon has to decide whether he wants to continue to pursue a career in musical theater, which is his true passion, or choose a safer and more realistic path in life, as Susan and Michael, Jon's friend since childhood and an executive in corporate America, advise.

"He doesn't want to give up his dream," Bailey said.

Williams said he sees a couple of similarities between himself and the character he's portraying.

Like Jon, Williams is also about to turn 30.

"Also, he has a real passion for music," he said, "like I do. So I can kind of relate."

"Tick, Tick...Boom!" will have four performances: this Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and then a matinée at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

General admission tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at www.showtix4u.com (through the Batavia Players, Inc). People can also buy tickets at the door.

At this point, there are still tickets available for all four shows. The Harvester 56 theater seats about 110 people.

For more information, e-mail Nick Russo at nickrusso224@gmail.com

Tuesday, July 12, 2011 at 2:23 pm

Picturesque home gardens showcased in 'House & Garden Tour'

On Sunday, 12 homeowners -- nine from Batavia and three from Corfu -- opened their homes as part of the Landmark Society of Genesee County's "House & Garden Tour," the proceeds of which went toward the restoration of St. James Episcopal Church.

For $20, self-guided tourists travelled to all of these beautiful homegrown gardens and then enjoyed a reception and dessert at St. James in the evening.

Here are some pictures from a few of the gardens:

 

 

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