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July 8, 2015 - 8:15am
posted by Daniel Crofts in baseball, Challenger Sports, Special Needs Children.

On Sunday, "Challenger Sports," a joint program of Genesee ARC and the YMCA for physically, intellectually and developmentally disabled kids ages 5 to 21, marked its 10th season with an alumni baseball game at the Little League field in Batavia. Alumni players faced off against alumni coaches and volunteers.

Pictured: alumni volunteers, coaches and players; half of them are in this photo...

...and here is the other half.

Shelley Falitico, director of development at ARC, recalled the program's humble beginnings in 2006.

"When we started, it was 'Challenger Baseball,' " Falitico said. "A local parent expressed interest, and contacted ARC and the YMCA. We started recruiting volunteers, we sent out notices for kids with special needs, and we had 70 kids sign up. When it ended, parents came up to us and asked, 'What's next?' "

Since then, the program has grown to include indoor soccer, tennis, dance and, over the last year, basketball and swimming.

Many of the Challenger alumni, according to Falitico, have gone on to play softball in the Special Olympics.

"They've been learning and playing for 10 years," Falitico said. "I take some pride as the coach, helping them learn the fundamentals of baseball on a real baseball field."

From left, alumni volunteers Eric Houseknecht, Craig Houseknecht, Danielle Hirtzel, Brian Falitico and Mark Houseknecht.

Falitico also expressed great pride in the volunteers who have devoted their time to the players over the last decade.

"When we first started," she said, "we had coaches, but I needed more volunteers to help the kids learn different fundamentals of the game."

For that, she turned to area high schools. After recruiting young volunteers, she provided disability awareness training -- and the rest, as they say, is history.

"They volunteered with us all through high school," Falitico said. "What I found really touching was that when they came home from college in the summer, they would call me and say, 'Are you still doing that baseball program? I want to help.' And when I contacted them about a 10-year alumni game they said, 'Absolutely.' "

Some of these volunteers came from as far as Pennsylvania and Boston to participate on Sunday. One gentleman, according to Falitico, was home for the weekend from South Carolina, stopped by to congratulate the team, and then flew back home.

However great the difference the volunteers have made in the kids' lives, the impact has gone both ways.

"(The volunteers) see kids with a variety of disabilities just wanting to get out there and play the game and have fun," Falitico said. "Their perseverance and dedication taught a lot of them to appreciate what they had, and I've had a couple volunteers say to me that it changed the way they viewed themselves and the world."

Pictured current "Challenger Sports" baseball players, coaches and volunteers; half are in this photo, along with Assemblyman Steve Hawley...

...and here is the other half.

The alumni game was preceded by a regular Challenger game with current players. This game ended with the standard Challenger outcome, which is always a tie.

"(Our goal) is just to make it a fun game where everybody gets a chance," Falitico said. "Everybody gets an at-bat, everybody gets to swing -- no matter how many times -- until they hit the ball. We want the kids to learn good sportsmanship."

However, this did not stop Falitico, who coached the alumni players, from squeezing in a small boast about their 30-7 victory over the alumni volunteers.

"We mercy-ruled them," she joked.

For more information about Challenger Sports, call Genesee ARC at 343-1123 or the YMCA at 344-1664.

Additional photos:

Assemblyman Hawley throwing the inaugural pitch of the alumni game

"Hammerin'" Hank Stratton, a 10-year veteran player, up to bat.

Past Batavian coverage:

June 14, 2015 - 1:12pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in religion, St.James Episcopal, authors.

It is a bestselling book. It is a “template for religious dialogue,” according to one of the authors. It is required reading in high school and college religion classes. It is a scandal to some, and an inspiration to others.  Last but not least, it was adapted and performed as a play by folks in a Florida retirement community.

The phenomenon in question is the book titled “The Faith Club: A Muslim, a Christian, a Jew – Three Women Search for Understanding,” by Suzanne Oliver, Ranya Idliby and Priscilla Warner.

Oliver came to St. James Episcopal Church in Batavia Saturday to discuss the book, answer questions, and sign copies of the book at a reception afterward. An Episcopalian Christian herself, Oliver attends a church of the same name in New York City.

“Except we have an apostrophe after the ‘s,’ ” she said, eliciting laughter from her audience.

Her visit was part of St. James’ bicentennial celebration, which will include other events as well.

“When I imagine Batavia 200 years ago,” Oliver said, “I imagine a variety of Christianities, as well as native religions that must have been present. Diversity of religion is not really new. But we have to learn to approach it in new ways that affirm the humanity and divinity in all of us.”

This is what Oliver, Idliby (a Muslim) and Warner (a Jew) tried to do with their book, which was first published in 2006. 

Oliver sees this as part of a nationwide movement to foster interreligious dialogue and understanding in the face of much fear and violence associated with religion. One reason she feels this is especially important and timely is the increasing number of non-Christian immigrants to the United States.

“From 1992 to 2012, the proportion of Christians in the United States fell from 68 percent to 61 percent,” Oliver said. “At the same time, the proportions of Muslim and Hindu immigrants have doubled. It is important that we integrate these growing religions into our American communities.”

According to Oliver, the genesis of the project came in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

“I met Ranya (Idliby) at our daughters’ school bus stop the week of those attacks,” she said.  “Our girls had started kindergarten together, and 9/11 was supposed to be their school picnic day.”

At the time, Oliver was part of a book club that decided to read about Islam and the Middle East in order to explore who these Muslim terrorists were, and why they hated Americans. She invited Idliby to their talk on Thomas Friedman’s book “From Beirut to Jerusalem,” and found that she “defied my stereotypes about Muslim women.”

Prior to meeting Idliby, Oliver believed Islam was a violent religion that mistreated women. But she was surprised by Idliby’s personal independence and her ability to read the Koran (Islam’s principle religious text) and see connections with Judaism and Christianity.

It was Idliby who conceived the idea of teaming up with a Christian mother and a Jewish mother to write a children’s book consisting of a miracle story from each of the three Abrahamic religions – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Through a Jewish friend, Oliver met and recruited Warner, whom she described as “open-minded and curious enough” to join the project.

But when they pitched the idea to an agent, the agent wasn’t interested. Instead, she was interested in the relationship these three women had forged among themselves in trying to write what had seemed like a simple children’s book. How they handled their disagreements (some of them major), found common ground, and continued to work together despite tensions and differences were to become the “stuff” of their joint project.

“This was a bigger commitment than any of us had anticipated,” Oliver said. “We would have to be vulnerable, honest, and forgiving with each other. We would have to figure out how three people could structure one story out of a shared, yet individual experience. And we would have to be willing, ultimately, to share this story with the world.”

And this is what they have done. With more than 200,000 copies sold, “The Faith Club” has reached many people throughout the country and garnered much praise.

At the same time, Oliver acknowledged, there are people of all three faiths who have criticized the book for presenting a watered-down version of each faith. One fairly well-known religious leader even compared it to “the coming of the Antichrist.”

But Oliver, for her part, is not only determined to continue the pursuit begun with “The Faith Club,” but also insists on the need to let go of “religious absolutes” and on the “obligation of contemporary religious leaders to prepare their congregants for the inevitability of interfaith encounter by teaching pluralist theologies of religion.”

In fact, that was the topic of her thesis at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, where she earned a master of arts in Interfaith Theology and Ecumenical Studies in 2012.

“I began to recognize (in my faith journey) that no religion had all the answers,” Oliver said. “As Ranya had said in our conversations, ‘Religion is only as enlightened as the human hands it finds itself in.' ”

For more information on "The Faith Club," visit the book's Amazon page.

March 12, 2015 - 3:06pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in children, cheerleading, leukemia.

A "bulldawg" fighting for her life is a powerful opponent; a "bulldawg" with a team behind her is even more powerful.

Emma Harris, age 4, was diagnosed with leukemia on Jan. 17. Local cheerleaders have teamed up with the community to help Emma and her family with a cheer-a-thon dubbed "Team Emma -- We Got This."

During the afternoon cheer-a-thon this Saturday (3 to 6 p.m.), 47 girls ages 4 through 12 will learn stunts, jumps and a dance routine, which they will then perform for the public in the Batavia High School gym at 260 State St. in Batavia.

BHS cheerleaders and dancers from local studios will also perform in addition to the cheer-a-thon participants.

School doors will open at 6 p.m. The gymnasium will open at 6:30 and the performances begin at 7.

It is free and the public is invited. But of course there will be a donation table for anyone who would like to contribute to help the family with medical and travel expenses.

A Chinese auction and 50/50 raffle will be held, featuring a variety of items ranging from Sabres' tickets to food, toys, gift certificates to local restaurants and businesses, purses, framed pictures, cleaning products, etc.

A student in Jackson Primary School's pre-school program, Emma is an avid cheerleading fan and honorary mascot of the Batavia Bulldawgs, a youth football and cheerleading program. Cheer director Sherri Wahr said that while Emma was not old enough to be a cheerleader, she "put so much effort" into showing up at practices and cheering them on that they "put her in a uniform and let her be our mascot."

"She was there longer days than most of the girls that cheered," said Wahr's daughter, Alexis (15), a JV cheerleader and an assistant to her mother with the Bulldawgs.

"She knew all the cheers just as well as the older girls," Wahr said. "And if they did something wrong, she told them."

She also became very close with Wahr's two daughters, Alexis and Lydia (12), even going so far as to name two of her stuffed animals after them.

When they found out about Emma's condition, Wahr and her daughters were understandably affected.

"I got a phone call from Emma's aunt," Wahr said, "and she told me about the diagnosis. My thought initially was, 'What can I do for them?' Then I picked Alexis and Lydia up from their cheerleading practice and told them the bad news. The first thing they said to me was, 'Mom, what are we going to do?' So brainstorming in the car, all three of us came up with the idea of doing a cheer-a-thon."

On the way to visit Emma at the hospital, they bounced different ideas off each other for a team name, a theme, etc. But it wasn't until they arrived at the hospital that the right idea hit them.

"We brought Emma a megaphone for everyone to sign when they came to visit her," Wahr said. "We wrote 'Team Emma' on it. And then we thought, 'That's awesome.' "

Then Emma's mother came in and showed them a headband someone had sent to the family. Written into the headband were the words, "We got this."

Cheer-a-thon participants were able to raise money for Emma by either submitting a $25 participation fee or obtaining sponsors.

Some, according to Wahr, have done both.

"I know there's been a request for another sponsor sheet," she said, "so somebody's out there getting a lot of sponsors."

Prizes will be awarded to the top three cheerleaders who bring in the most donations.

Whether in the form of sponsoring the cheerleaders, donating items for the raffle and auction, or donating equipment for Saturday's event, Batavia businesses have really come through for Emma.

"It's absolutely amazing the outpouring of support that we've had," Wahr said. "I would say almost half of the businesses in town have donated to Emma in some way, shape or form."

For more information, call or text Wahr at 356-0639.

Photo courtesy of Sherri Wahr.

February 23, 2015 - 9:46pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in awards, cancer, Genesee Cancer Assistance.

This is the second in our series of profiles of the 2014 Chamber of Commerce Award winners. The awards will be presented at a dinner at the Clarion Hotel on Saturday.

One of Genesee County's most active volunteer organizations is in for a pretty big year. Genesee Cancer Assistance is celebrating its 20th anniversary, and it's being honored with a Special Service Recognition Award from the Chamber of Commerce.

Consisting of two office staff and around 50 volunteers, Genesee Cancer Assistance was founded in 1995 after the American Cancer Society withdrew its services from Genesee County. The organization provides emotional, financial and practical support to Genesee County cancer patients and their families. According to office manager Patricia Arnold, they have helped about 1,700 families and given more than half a million dollars to cancer patients in the last 20 years.

Some of their most well-known annual fund-raising events include the Festival of Hope, 5K Walk, golf tournament and spaghetti dinner.

Their nomination came from Paul Figlow, a member of the Genesee Cancer Assistance board of directors and chairman of the Festival of Hope.

"The reason I nominated (Genesee Cancer Assistance) is that I really think we need to get the word out about what we do," Figlow said.

Three things that make Genesee Cancer Assistance special

If you talk to the people involved, they will tell you that there are at least three major factors that distinguish Genesee Cancer Assistance.

First, all of the money they raise stays in Genesee County and goes directly to those who need it.

Second, everyone involved with the charity has been personally touched by cancer in some way.  Figlow, for example, lost his mother to cancer in 2010.

"Probably about 99 percent of the people involved can give you a story," Figlow said. "Our organization really hits home to a lot of people."

Finally, the people of Genesee Cancer Assistance give their time and effort neither out of necessity nor personal gain, but because they have a passion for it.

“We're blessed with a very strong board presence,” said Steve Grice, board member and golf tournament co-chair, “people who are willing to put the effort in. But we're also blessed with a group of volunteers who don't go out and wave a flag, but are right there when we have an event.  They show up and ask, ‘What can we do? Where do you want me?’ Anything you ask them to do, they'll do.”

Volunteers will also help with technology, advertising, or other areas according to their interest and expertise.

“It’s like God brought them down here,” said Board Member Joe Gerace, who is chairman of the spaghetti dinner fundraiser. “They really are good people. And they don’t complain (about the work). This is really a big family.”

As for Arnold and Sue Underwood, the only two paid staff, Grice said that they go “above and beyond” for their positions.

How Genesee Cancer Assistance works

Each patient is given $400 upon application. This is to help with hospital visits, copays, mileage, hospital parking fees, etc.

"It may seem like a small gesture to some," Grice said. "The money sometimes might seem minimal; but it's really not minimal to someone who's lying in a hospital bed on chemo and just wants somebody to hold their hand, or just sit there and watch TV with them. The family might not have the funds, because of insurance and all that."

Patient advocacy is also a big part of the mission. Staff at Genesee Cancer Assistance will answer, to the best of their ability, questions about any issues or concerns patients bring to them.

"Say a patient calls and says their utilities were shut off," Arnold said. "We will step in and tell them how to go about contacting the utility companies and what has to be done for their heat, for example, not to be shut off."

She said that oftentimes, if a patient can present proof from a doctor stating that the loss of electricity or other utilities would cause him or her harm, then the company cannot shut them off. But there are specific procedures people must go through in cases like these, and Genesee Cancer Assistance can guide them through such procedures.

Other services include referrals to other agencies when necessary (for example, when people have used up the services Genesee Cancer Assistance is able to provide), sharing educational materials with the community, and free Biblical counseling through Grace Baptist Church in Batavia.

"Simply Beautiful"

One of Genesee Cancer Assistance's best-kept secrets is the "Simply Beautiful" program, which is Gerace's brainchild. He runs it with the help of dedicated volunteers Carol Grasso, Joyce Meisner, Karen Roland and Amy Nichols, as well as others.

It is sort of a cross between cosmetic aid and a support group. The first thing Gerace does for everyone once they arrive is try to make them comfortable.

"When they come in, they're very nervous," Gerace said. “And I try to help them out. I give them coffee, or donuts, or fruit. It depends. (Once they feel relaxed), if they don't have a wig, I put a wig on them to show them what they look like."

Patients -- both men and women -- get free makeup and wigs (or hats, if they are not interested in wigs) up to $200 in value, over and above the $400 they receive upon application. Makeup includes artificial eyebrows and eyelashes for those who have lost these as a result of chemotherapy.

"Simply Beautiful" meets on a monthly basis as a general rule, although sometimes this is impossible due to treatment schedules or illness. In those cases, Gerace will do his best to accommodate people's needs.

"They'll either call me up, or call Patty from the office, who says: 'Joe, we got a woman who needs a hairpiece and can't wait. Would you let her come to the office and see if it's what she wants?' I've done that many times."

Gerace started "Simply Beautiful" after being involved with a similar program in association with the American Cancer Society, "Look Good, Feel Better."

When American Cancer Society services diminished in Genesee County, he and his fellow volunteers "had to start from fresh." He was asked to come up with the name for a new program, and was told to "keep it simple."

"And I said, 'Yes, that's a good name -- "Simply Beautiful.” ’ ”

A community effort

Another ingredient in the success of Genesee Cancer Assistance is their ability to form productive partnerships with people in the community.

"There are many people that we have helped who take it on themselves to do their own fundraisers,” Figlow said. “And they basically do it all themselves. These are quite the events -- I'm sure they spend months working on them. (In each case) they tell us about the event, they take care of everything, and then we receive a check every year."

Some of their partners include Paul Berardini of Big Pauly's Pizza, T.F. Brown's, Kiwanis of Corfu-Pembroke, Toni Funke and her "Zumba in the Sand" program, and Michelle Shade, who puts on a "Christmas Angel Festival and Basket Raffle" at Calvary Baptist Church in Batavia every November.

"All the service clubs in Genesee County help us some way somehow," Gerace said, "whether it's the Lions Club, Zonta, Sertoma Club (and others). And Patty Arnold is very good about making sure everyone who helps us gets a thank-you."

For more information on Genesee Cancer Assistance and what they do, call 345-0417.

Photo: Dr. Kevin Mudd, president of Genesee Cancer Assistance Board of Directors.

February 7, 2015 - 10:32am


In celebration of its 50th anniversary, the Landmark Society of Genesee County is teaming up with the Genesee Symphony Orchestra for a special concert 4 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 8. 

The concert will feature two slideshows of Genesee County's historic and architectural gems, each set to a different musical piece.  Photographers whose work will appear include Howard Owens, Genesee County Historian Larry Barnes, Landmark Society President Lucine Kauffman, Laurie Baker Oltramari and others.

"It's partly a nostalgic look back," Kauffman said. "There are pictures of buildings that have been lost (as a result of urban renewal). But it ends on a positive note. There is still a lot left in Genesee County that is historically and architecturally significant."

Kauffman said one of the goals of this event is to raise awareness of and pride in this heritage among Genesee County residents, and to encourage good stewardship of what we have.

First, the audience will be treated to Ottorino Respighi's "Church Windows" and a slideshow of windows from various Genesee County churches -- including, among many others:

  • St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church (Resurrection Parish), Ellicott St. in Batavia
  • Temple Emanu-El, Bank St. in Batavia
  • St. James Episcopal Church, Route 5 in Batavia
  • Our Lady of Good Counsel Church, Route 20 in Darien Center
  • North Bergen Presbyterian Church, North Bergen Road in Bergen
  • Indian Falls United Methodist Church, Route 77 in Corfu
  • St. Peter's Roman Catholic Church (Our Lady of Mercy Parish), Route 19 in Le Roy

Next, they will enjoy Charles Ives' "Three Places in New England." The first movement of this song will be set to a slideshow of various Genesee County barns, celebrating the County's agricultural roots. The second movement will accompany images of old Batavia and of buildings being knocked down during urban renewal. Finally, the third movement will score a slideshow of Genesee County sites listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including:

  • Stafford Four Corners Historic District
  • Historic Batavia Cemetery
  • Alexander Cobblestone Town Hall
  • Richmond Memorial Library
  • Augustus S. Tryon House (Le Roy)
  • Batavia VA Medical Center
  • Gifford-Walker Farm (Bergen)

The concert will begin at 4 p.m. at Genesee Community College's Stuart Steiner Theater, at 1 College Road in Batavia. Tickets are $15 for adults, $7 for students, $10 for seniors and $35 for families (parents and children 12 and under).

People may purchase tickets at the door or in advance at the following locations:

  • GoArt!, 201 E. Main St. in Batavia
  • Roxy's Music Store, 228 W. Main St. in Batavia
  • Batavia Senior Center, 2 Bank St. in Batavia
  • Bank of Castile, 29 Main St. in Le Roy
  • Online at

Photos: Friday's rehearsal. By Howard Owens.

To purchase prints, click here.

January 26, 2015 - 8:37pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in volunteer, Catholic Charities, senior citizens.

Many older adults live alone, can't get out of the house, and have no family nearby. This can cause frustration, anxiety and just plain loneliness.

And that's where the “Volunteer Home Visitors Program” comes in.

Run by Catholic Charities of Western New York, this outreach program has been in place for several years in Genesee County and, according to coordinator Jim Morasco, is now getting started in Orleans County after three years of existing in the form of the “Friendly Phones Program” (which has volunteers check in on seniors by phone rather than by visitation).

The program is run through the Office for the Aging in both counties; it is funded by the Muriel Marshall Fund in Genesee County and by a private funder in Orleans County. Available to adults 60 and older, it matches each senior participant with a volunteer who will come into his or her home to provide company and to socialize.

"It's generally for an hour," Morasco said. "When people sign up, they give us times that are convenient for them. We try to match them up with volunteers who have that time frame open."

Coordinators attempt to look not only for time frames convenient for both volunteers and seniors, but also for hobbies and interests that they might share.

Morasco stressed that the program does not entail hospice work -- bathing, driving to appointments, or similar responsibilities – although referrals can be provided for such things.

“(We work in conjunction with) just about anybody that works with people -- anyone with a connection to the elderly,” Morasco said. “So for example, say we go into someone’s home and they need something fixed. We can call Community Action or the Office for the Aging, both of whom have a handyman program. Not long ago, we helped a woman whose furnace stopped working at the beginning of winter get a new one through the Veterans Association.”

The main purpose of the “Volunteer Home Visitors Program” is to foster friendships.

"It's to break up the monotony of being alone," Morasco said. "I always say to people, 'Think about how busy you are when you're younger. You always have something to do, and you probably have a family. And then when you get older, sometimes they move away. People pass away. And all of a sudden you're frail, you can't go out, you can't drive, and nobody's around anymore.' That's where a lot of folks find themselves."

He described these home visitations as "socialization, and also wellness."

"You get to know people, and sometimes they start to look like maybe they need some help. I went into the home of a person I was visiting once and found her lying on the floor. Who knows how long she would have been there if she hadn't had that visit?"

In Genesee County, 52 seniors are signed up for the program at this time. There are 41 volunteers, and six people are on a waiting list. Orleans County currently has around 20 volunteers, about evenly matched with senior participants.

Morasco said he sees both seniors and volunteers benefitting from the home visits.

"A lot of (senior participants) say they look forward to their visitor or their caller," he said. "And the volunteers tell me that they get just as much out of this, if not more, than the seniors. When you give, you receive."

For more information, call Catholic Charities at 343-0614, ext 23.

Photo courtesy of Danette Weaver.

December 8, 2014 - 10:36am
posted by Daniel Crofts in Gilmartin Funeral Home, Soldiers.

The holidays have just gotten started, and Timothy J. Woodward is already overwhelmed.

Overwhelmed by generosity, that is.

Woodward is the owner and director of Gilmartin Funeral Home & Cremation Company in Batavia.  He is pictured (left) along with funeral assistant Matt Meyer.

The funeral home is wrapping up its first "Stockings for Soldiers" campaign, an idea that Woodward said came from Veterans & Family Memorial Care, of which Gilmartin is the sole provider for Genesee and Wyoming counties.

Genesee and Wyoming county residents picked up stockings provided by Gilmartin at its three locations (Batavia, Attica and Perry), stuffed them with "goodies," and brought them back to be shipped out to men and women in uniform serving in all military branches and at all ranks. 

Woodward had hoped to have the stockings shipped out by the weekend, but said that may not happen until Monday because of the large number of drop-offs that have occurred since the Dec. 1 deadline.

"That's great, and we don't want to discourage it," Woodward said. "But we do want to make sure that we have all of the drop-offs in so that we can ship them together."

The contents of the stockings range widely and include powdered Gatorade, non-perishable food items, toiletries, batteries, books, magazines and hard candy.

While the sum total of returned stockings have not yet been counted, Woodward said they have somewhere between 500 and 600.

"We want to say thank you very much to everyone who helped us with this enormous project," he added.

He wanted to offer a special thank-you to Tim and Linda Landers, of Byron, who donated $300 to help with the shipping cost.

"The response has been pretty overwhelming," Meyer said. "We look forward to doing it again next year."

August 31, 2014 - 1:29pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in genesee county, family, youth.

From left: Iris Hatcher, Jessica Polk, Jessica Simmons and Kenyetta Reese.

Leave it to a group of mothers to figure out what their community needs, and then to do something about it.

Pictured are the four founding members of "Mothers Supporting Children and Families" (MSCF), a new nonprofit designed to "provide inspirational support and positive direction to children of all ages" and "empower children and families" (per their mission statement.)

Polk, the WSCF president, said she conceived the idea during a dinner party at her Batavia home.

"There were a bunch of us mothers there," she said. "We got to talking -- Jessica (Simmons) had had the idea for a long time about doing something for the youth in the community to get them off the streets and doing something productive."

Polk and her friends were concerned about what appeared to be an increase in instances of local youth getting in trouble -- "and at a younger age" -- in recent years.

In order to help address this problem, she and her fellow MSCF moms are joining forces with Care-A-Van Ministries, a local Christian street ministry.

"They were extremely instrumental in giving us spiritual guidance from the very start," Polk said.  "They've taken us under their wing, and they've given us advice on how to start a nonprofit. We ask for their advice all the time."

Elsewhere in their mission statement, they name an important aspect of how they intend to address the problem of troubled youth: "MSCF lends a helping hand to the community so there are fewer children in unhealthy home dynamics."

Ways of positive self-expression, adult role models, and trusted adults that kids can come to with their concerns if, for whatever reason, they cannot go to their parents or legal guardians, are among what they seek to offer young people.

"And I hope that we, as an organization, will be able to show them the different resources available to them that they may not know of," Hatcher said." We want to guide them into whatever they need to relieve that pressure that is causing them to get into trouble."

But their mission is not limited to kids; rather, it is founded on "the concept of parents helping parents" and "promotes positive parenting, and healthy families."

MSCF is open to all families in Genesee County. Despite the group's name, Polk wanted to make it clear that men are welcome to be involved as well (they just cannot be official members).

Hatcher said that eventually, they would like to be able to arrange for situations in which families and children can get together for fun and socialization.

"We just have to get on our feet first and get our name out there," she said.

For more information on MSCF:

Web site:
Facebook: M.S.C.F. Mothers
Email: [email protected]

People can also contact Polk at 300-3804.

Photo submitted by Jessica Polk.

August 13, 2014 - 8:46am
posted by Daniel Crofts in batavia, business, The Vac Shop.

Bob Youll's business sucks -- in a good way.

A lifelong Batavia resident, Youll has been running "The Vac Shop," at 329 Ellicott St. in the city, since 1991. He attributes the longevity of his business to perseverance, word of mouth and steady business.

"Off the top of my head, I'd say I get between 30 and 50 regular customers," Youll said. "Though it does fluctuate from year to year due to people moving, changing jobs, etc."

Youll will take care of anything from major motor repairs to changing belts and cleaning out clogging.

From time to time, he will repair other household items -- such as blenders, lamps and heaters -- as well. He also sells used and rebuilt vacuums, as well as the occasional new vacuum.

Formerly employed by a Batavia catalog store (now closed), Youll got his vacuum repair training from The Vac Shop's former owner, Joe DeFazio.

"Joe taught me about basic vacuums," he said. "At that time, most of it was self-taught. You would get a machine, take it apart, and see where everything was. Now the Internet also helps in locating parts and the like."

Basically, Youll approaches his work not only with a view to the customer's immediate need, but also with the average consumer's perspective on vacuuming in mind.

"Vacuuming is usually an afterthought," he said. "People want to get it done, and quickly. (When working on repairs) I try to set the machine up for that use."

He also knows the extra details that are better to take care of right away -- such as putting a new belt on the machine -- so that the equipment will not need to be sent back at a later date.

Store hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and Saturday, 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. For more information, call 343-7754.

Photos by Howard Owens.

July 11, 2014 - 9:10am
posted by Daniel Crofts in YWCA, domestic violence, candlelight vigil.

City residents gathered at the front lawn of the YWCA Thursday night for a candlelight vigil in memory of Nicole Sheehan. Sheehan, a former Batavia resident, was murdered by her boyfriend in Chautaqua County in June. She was 29 years old.

Roula Alkhouri, pastor of Batavia's First Presbyterian Church, called Sheehan's murder a "senseless loss" in her address to the crowd.

She noted that domestic violence is "ancient," and cited victims mentioned in the Bible -- including Dinah, the daughter of the patriarch Jacob, and Tamar, the daughter of King David.

Additionally, she called attention to the need for more awareness of domestic violence in our own times by sharing some startling statistics. According to Alkhouri, research shows that one in every four women will become the victims of domestic violence.

"How many relationships begin as stories of love," she said, "and then become stories of fear."

But she also had some words of hope -- and a call to action.

"Yes, there is ugliness and cruelty in the world," she said. "But the goodness and love in the community often outweighs this."

As the candles began to die out, Alkhouri encouraged everyone to "keep the candles lit in (their) minds, because bad things can only hide in the darkness."

"It's in changing who we are as a community that we'll make a difference in the world," she said.

As an example of the "light" she was talking about, she mentioned the YWCA. She expressed gratitude that Genesee County has a "safe place" where victims of domestic violence can come to hear that they are cared for, that it's not their fault, and that there is hope.

In addition to Alkhouri's address, the night included some brief comments by YWCA Executive Director Jeanne Walton and Domestic Violence Crisis and Prevention Services Director Cindy Earl, as well as some music and light refreshments.

For more information on the YWCA and its services to victims of domestic violence, call 343-7513 or visit their Web site.

May 29, 2014 - 9:44am
posted by Daniel Crofts in batavia, cancer benefit, Ascension Parish.

Adam Figlow is a single father of four and a maintenance man at Ascension Parish in Batavia. Fellow parishioner and parish volunteer Sue Hartrick describes him as very humble, quiet, and "an extremely hard worker."

"You can ask him to do anything and say it doesn't have to be done right away," Hartrick said, "and then you turn around and it's done in a half hour."

But he has fallen on hard luck. In December, Figlow was diagnosed with a rare form of soft tissue cancer called spindle cell sarcoma.

Figlow said he first knew something was wrong one day in late summer, when he noticed a strange growth on his left arm.

"It never hurt or anything," he said. "It was just cosmetically annoying."

Since being diagnosed, he has undergone two surgeries and radiation therapy. His aunt and uncle, Kathy and Nick La Farnara, drove him to all of his appointments and stood by him through the surgeries, for which he expressed deep gratitude.

Figlow is set to return to work next month, but will have been out on disability for six months at that point. New York State disability payments have not been enough to keep up with Figlow's hospital bills and everyday living expenses.

That is why Ascension Parish will be hosting a spaghetti dinner, theme basket and 50/50 raffle on Saturday, May 31 from 5 until 7 p.m., with theme basket and raffle drawings starting at 7 p.m. The event will be at the parish's Slomba Hall, at 17 Sumner St. in Batavia.

Each meal will include spaghetti, meatball/sausage, salad, bread, dessert and a beverage.

Presale dinner tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for children, or $8 at the door. Takeout will be available.

Hartrick, who has spearheaded the event from day one, has been overwhelmed by the generous response.

"I thought it would be fabulous if we could get 30 baskets (for the basket raffle)," Hartrick said. "As of now, we have 79 baskets and 33 gift cards."

A variety of theme baskets -- including dog and cat, camping, gardening, children's toy and lottery baskets -- have been donated by individuals and businesses in and around the Batavia area.

"We've gotten more generosity than I could ever imagine," Hartrick said. "I was hoping the parish would rally around Adam in his time of need. They have not rallied...they have soared."

"The heart of Batavia and the parish community is unbelievable," Figlow said. "I can't thank them enough...I'm just so appreciative of everybody."

Basket ticket costs are as follows:

  • 25 tickets for $5 for the less expensive baskets
  • 25 tickets for $10 for the more expensive ($25 or more in value)

Additionally, someone donated a handmade quilt depicting an outdoor scene. It has a value of about $200, and will be the object of a 50/50 raffle. People can buy tickets $2 apiece or three tickets for $5.

For more information, call Hartrick at 786-8198.

Figlow is pictured with his sons, Joe (13) and Noah (5). His daughter Ashanti and son Nicholas were unavailable for a photo.

May 15, 2014 - 12:15pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in fundraisers, dance, Suzanne's School of Dance.

On New Year's Day, 26 lucky young ladies will ring in the new year in the Outback -- that is, in the stadium at the Outback Bowl half-time show in Tampa, Florida.

All 26 girls, ages 8 to 18, are students at Suzanne's School of Dance at 33 Center St. in Batavia. Most are from Genesee County, though there are a couple from Monroe County as well.

Sponsored by Outback Steakhouse and always held on January 1, the Outback Bowl is an annual, nationally broadcast college football game featuring teams from the Southeastern and Big Ten Conferences. The 26 dancers from Suzanne's will be representing Genesee County and Western New York in a performance featuring around 500 youth from all over the United States.

If this is an exciting opportunity, it is also going to be a test of skill and focus. The girls will spend a week in Tampa leading up to the big game, and their schedule will be packed with daily rehearsals to coordinate their choreography with the other 500 dancers.

Each participant faces a cost of about $1,300 for room and board, so the group is asking individuals and businesses in Genesee County to help offset the expense. Various fundraisers will take place over the next several months, and private donations are welcome as well.

According to Jennifer Vislay, the mother of one of the participants, the girls were selected as a result of an audition video that they wanted to do as a group rather than individually.

"They do everything as a team," Vislay said. "The older girls help the younger's just a very team-oriented project."

The first fundraiser will be a chicken barbeque this Sunday. It it set to start at 11 a.m. in the parking lot across the street from the studio, and will continue until sold out. A bake sale, basket raffle and 50/50 raffle will be included.

For more information, call Vislay at 737-5314.

The 26 dancers are, in alphabetical order by first name, Alexis Vasciannie, Allison Kropf, Alynn Franclemont, Amber Fitzsimmons, Ashley Johnson, Ashlyn Puccio, Aubrey Puccio, Cianna Kusmierski, Elizabeth Barcomb, Ella Bridges, Emilee Schroeder, Emily Thompson, Emily Verdaasdonk, Emma Richardson, Gyna Gibson, Haley Sweet, Kali Markek, Katie Raziano, Kendall Senko, Lily Senko, Maddie Phillips, Megan Currier, Micheala Misiti, Mikey Lullo, Mollie Heale, Rylei Odessa and Sarah Whitehead.

Photo taken by Jennifer Vislay

April 17, 2014 - 9:26am
posted by Daniel Crofts in charity, Pavilion, firefighters.

Bill Kegler, left, spent 22 years in the military and has been fighting fires since he was 18. Now he is fighting a different enemy, and hoping his winning hand gets dealt next week.

Kegler is a Pavilion resident and six-year member of the Community Fire Company; he is pictured above with Vice President Nick Wright. He is battling myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), a disease that causes poorly formed or dysfunctional blood cells.

"I found out that there was something going on with my blood through the (Batavia) VA back in 2011," Kegler said. "They told me to see a hematologist (blood doctor), who diagnosed what I had through a bone marrow biopsy."

He has since been receiving treatment -- first from the Batavia hematologist who diagnosed him, and now at the Wilmot Cancer Center at Rochester's Strong Memorial Hospital. In addition to chemotherapy, his treatment includes experimental drugs that are part of a national clinical test.

"I get chemo treatments every month," Kegler said. "It lasts for seven days straight, and then I'm off for 21 days. Then it starts all over, and that will go on forever until they find a bone marrow match."

To that end, at the instigation of Secretary Kathy Wright, the Community Fire Company is hosting a bone marrow drive for Kegler from 5 until 9 p.m. on Tuesday. It will be at the Pavilion Fire Department Hall at 11302 Lake St. in Pavilion.

Anyone age 18 to 44 and in good health is encouraged to participate. There is no cost, and it only requires a few moments of people's time and a mouth swab.

"I would be very grateful to anyone who comes out," Kegler said.

Until then, he stays in high spirits.

"I think the biggest thing is all the support and prayers I'm getting from everybody I know," he said.  "And people I haven't even met are coming up to me and saying they have me on their prayer lists. My own spirituality is also going a long way in keeping me on an even keel."

Originally from Alden, Kegler has resided in Genesee County for more than 40 years. He and his wife raised their six children in Batavia, sending their two oldest to Notre Dame High School and the younger children to the Batavia City School District. Kegler has also lived in Oakfield and served as a member of the Oakfield Fire Department.

For more information, call Nick Wright at 813-1288.

April 9, 2014 - 9:00am
posted by Daniel Crofts in music, entertainment, schools, education, Batavia HS, Talent Show.

This is Batavia High School student Ross Chua busting out with his beatboxing talent at the 2014 "Batavia High School Talent Show" last night, which aimed to raise funds for Thomas Ackley, a former student of the Batavia City School District who is fighting cancer (see April 7 article).

Masters of Ceremony Amanda Schelemanow (member, BHS chapter of the Tri-M Music Honor Society) and Spencer Hubbard (Mr. Batavia 2013) introduced 16 entertaining performances by students and faculty. Here they are (all performances are vocal unless otherwise specified):

Tim Martin and Lauren Dunn, piano/vocal performance of "Little Talks"

Steven O'Brien doing yo-yo tricks (which the event's faculty supervisor, BHS chorus teacher Dan Grillo, called the best he has ever seen in person).

Darneisha Thomas, "Bound to You"

Mason Russ, "Boss of Me" (theme from the TV show "Malcolm in the Middle")

Nephy Williams, "Beautiful"

Kesa Janes, "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again" (from "The Phantom of the Opera")

Justin Baiocco, "My My, Hey Hey" (from the Neil Young album Out of the Blue). Baiocco's talent consisted not only of the vocal performance, but also his ability to play the guitar and the harmonica at the same time.

Laura Guiste, "Hallelujah"

Marissa Carbonell, "Oh! Darlin' "

Andrea Gilebarto, "Nightingale" (vocals and piano)

Hannah Bluhm, "If I Die Young"

Dan Grillo, "Good Bye Yellow Brick Road" (piano and vocals)

Rachel Flint and Ashley Williams, "There You'll Be"

McKenna Dziemian, "Set Me Free" (sung in both English and Korean)

And finally, there was the "Faculty Dixieland Band" playing "Down By the Riverside" and "Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue"

Dan Grillo (drums), Stuart McLean (bass)...

Sean Krauss (clarinet), Brandon Ricci (trumpet) and Jane Haggett (piano)

April 7, 2014 - 2:10pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in music, pediatric cancer, Batavia High School.

Thomas Ackley, pictured right, was one of the younger students in Debra Wolff’s kindergarten class at Jackson Primary School last year. He was a little bit smaller than most of the other kids, and it took him a bit longer to catch onto the lessons. But his determination left a deep impression on his teacher.

“Once you showed him how to do something,” Wolff said, “then he wanted to do it all on his own. It was an absolute joy to see his spirit.”

So much of a joy, in fact, that Wolff presented Thomas with an award for his determination at the end of the year – even though he and his family had moved to Akron in March.

Something else happened toward the end of the school year as well. In late May, Thomas was diagnosed with cancer.

Thomas has Stage 4 neuroblastoma. He is now in remission, but has about six months of treatment ahead of him to make sure the cancer does not return. Emotionally and financially, he and his family continue to struggle.

That is why Batavia High School students, under the supervision of chorus teacher Dan Grillo, are giving all the proceeds from their upcoming Talent Show to the Ackley family.

The Talent Show, which features performances from both students and faculty, will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Batavia High School auditorium. The school is located at 260 State St. in the City of Batavia.

This annual event is run by students from the BHS chapter of the Tri-M Music Honor Society. 

“They’re the ones who run everything behind the scenes,” Grillo said.

According to Grillo, they run it like a musical – complete with a stage crew, a tech and lighting person, escorts for the performers, etc.

Each year, the Tri-M students aim to raise funds for a different charity or cause.

Grillo’s son, Sam (pictured with Thomas above), was good friends with Thomas. Knowing about the Ackley family’s situation, Grillo suggested them to his students as this year’s beneficiaries.

“They (the students) liked the idea,” Grillo said.

Most of the performances will be musical/vocal in nature; but there are a few surprises as well, including someone who plays the guitar and harmonica at the same time and a young man who does what Grillo calls “some pretty amazing yo-yo tricks.”

“I’ve never seen anything in front of my eyes (with yo-yos) as good as this young man is,” he said.

At the end of the night, everyone involved hopes to have raised enough funds to give Thomas some much needed help in his ordeal.

“He is a fighter,” Wolff said. “And he does it with a smile – it’s incredible to me.”

The show is open to the public. A donation of at least $3 is requested from each attendee. For more information, call the high school at 343-2480, ext. 2000.

Photo submitted by Dan Grillo

March 10, 2014 - 6:03am
posted by Daniel Crofts in batavia, Local Authors, Lisa Scott.

Pictured Lisa Ann Scott with her children, Jack (13) and Riley (10)

It all started with a conversation with a 5-year-old.

Lisa Ann Scott, of Batavia, had just lost her job as a news anchor for Channel 4. Understandably, she was very upset.

With a determined look on her face, Scott's daughter, Riley, came into her bedroom to talk to her.  The conversation went something like this:

"Mom," she softly said, "you need to stop being so upset. This is just a job."

"Yes, but it was a job I really loved," Scott said.  "I kind of feel like I was in a party bus, and they kicked me off without food, water or a map."

"I'll be your map."

"All right, 'map,' what do we do?"

"Go chase the bus."

"Honey, they don't want me on the bus."

Riley had to think about that one for a minute, but then she shrugged and said:

"Wait for the next bus."

Then she patted her mom on the head and said:

"Put that in your imagination and dream about it tonight."

Today, Scott describes these as "just the right words at the right time."

"She made realize, 'Of course this is not the end of my life. Something else that's great is going to come along.' "

That "something else great" turned out to be writing fiction. HarperCollins recently published Scott's "School of Charm," a novel for middle-grade readers.

"School of Charm" follows Brenda "Chip" Anderson, an 11-year-old girl who has recently lost her father, as she adjusts to a new life in Mt. Airy, N.C., after relocating from Upstate New York with her mother and two sisters. As an outdoorsy, nature-loving, tomboy explorer "in a family full of beauty queens" (quoted from the book's front flap), she is struggling to find a sense of belonging. 

Her fortune changes when she stumbles across Miss Vernie's "School of Charm," an unconventional beauty school, in the middle of the woods.

Scott answered questions about the book at her home:

Tell us about your protagonist, Chip.

She's an 11-year-old girl, and she's always been daddy's girl. She and her father always went on adventures together and played in the woods, whereas her two sisters are more girly-girl types who hang out with their mother. 

Chip is definitely the odd one out; she's not certain how she fits into the family. In fact, she trains in secret to enter a beauty pageant because her family is so convinced that she's not a pageant girl.  That's why she goes to this unusual school she finds. And the lessons she learns aren't quite what she thought they were going to be.

Can you talk a bit about the book's setting?

I picked Mt. Airy because it's where the Andy Griffith Show was filmed, and it's supposed to be the best little town in America. Chip is super unhappy about being there, because she doesn't want to move. So it's sort of ironic that she's moving to the "best little town in America." Plus I have a writer friend who lives there. After reading some of her work set in that area, I fell in love with it vicariously. I just loved her description of the area.

I also wanted Chip to have to face a big change, you know, a totally different setting, where they have Southern accents...something very different and unsettling from where she had lived.

Tell us about your first inspiration for the story.

I woke up from a very vivid dream of this elderly woman, with a knowing look on her face, in this woodland setting where she was holding class with these girls. I think that if you're a writer, when something intrigues you, you can't stop thinking about it -- what it means, what these people are doing there, etc. And so I just kept thinking about it and thinking about it, and it grew into "School of Charm."

Nature and the outdoors play a huge role in Chip's life -- how realistic do you think that will seem in a time in which children do not play outside as much?

That's why I chose to set "School of Charm" in the 1970s. I did a lot of exploring when I was a kid.  I grew up in Marilla, NY, which is in Erie County, and I was in the woods a lot of the time. When I imagined this girl out exploring and finding this school, I just couldn't conceive of really don't play outside too much, and they certainly don't get to disappear for the whole day like we did when we were kids. So I knew I needed to set this story in a different time and place. And I picked 1977 because there are a lot of unique things about that of them is that Chip is expecting something magical to happen on July 7, or "7/7/77."

But the outdoors are really big in Chip's life. She looks for signs in nature -- she's looking for a "sign" from her father that everything is going to be all right. Plus a lot of the School of Charm's lessons are held outside in the woods.

Your first children’s story was turned down. What did you learn from that experience?

I only sent that one out a little bit. It didn't get any interest. When I took another look at it, I knew it had a lot of plot problems that I just wasn't sure how to fix. The next shiny idea is always more interesting than trying to fix what you've written that isn't working.

I've been to a lot of writer's conferences and groups, and I've read a lot of books, so with time I've understood more about plot, how a character needs to change over the course of the story, and how the story really needs to be propelled by the characters' choices rather than by the things happening to them.

Did you borrow either from yourself or from anyone you have known for the character of Chip?

I guess there's a little bit of me in her. I used to catch turtles all the time and run around in the woods. 

When I'm writing a book, I go on really long walks. I think about the story and who the characters are, and they slowly reveal themselves. As a writer, you start to understand why your characters are a certain way and what they want. 

What are you hoping readers will carry away from this story?

I would hope that after reading this and seeing Chip's strength, they will think, "Do I have this strength too?" Also, throughout the book I've tried to leave little wisps of magic to sort of make you look at the world differently, (to see that) magic is all around us if you're looking for it. I like to think that it's a book filled with hope and heart, and I just hope that when somebody closes the cover on the book their heart will feel full and happy.

Scott plans to hold book signings and appearances, but the details of those are still being worked out. People can keep up to date on this by visiting Scott's Web site,

"School of Charm" is Scott's first children's book. She is the author of a self-published romance novel and a number of romantic short stories for different magazines. She also works as a voice actor.

December 11, 2013 - 10:34am
posted by Daniel Crofts in batavia, concerts, Christmas, first presbyterian church.

Batavia's First Presbyterian Church will be alive with rousing holiday spirit when "Christmas with Vox, a Festival of Carols" comes around on Friday, Dec. 20.

"Vox Lumine," a professional chorus group made up of 25 members from all over Western and Central New York, is performing for the public free of charge at the church, at 300 E. Main St. in Batavia.

Ann Emmans, minister of music at First Presbyterian, says this is going to be "the church's gift to the community."

"We had ('Vox Lumine') at the church for a concert in May," Emmans said, "and it was delightful.  We thought, 'What would be more wonderful than to have them back for Christmas?' "

Costs are being covered by the church's memorial donation funds from the last few years.

The concert starts at 7:30 p.m. and will probably run about an hour and a half, according to "Vox Lumine" first tenor Mark Ross.

A reception with Christmas cookies and punch will follow in the church's fellowship area.

The performance will feature 17 Christmas songs, including classics such as "Carol of the Bells" and "Joy to the World" and lesser know works, as well as pieces with different ethnic backgrounds (including Polish and Italian).

Emmans stressed that the music is "non-commercial" and has a "sacred character."

"It's more about the joy of the season," she said.

"(The Christmas season) is a time when people appreciate music even more than they normally do," Ross said, "because it's associated with the events of the holiday."

"Vox Lumine" was formed in March 2010 by founder and director Brandon Johnson, D.M.A, director of choral activities at Houghton College.

Ross, of Batavia, said they have done concerts as far east as Ithaca and as far west as Orchard Park.

Because members live in scattered locations (the member living at the farthest distance from Batavia is from Syracuse), Johnson sends the music to each of them individually. They will come together in two rehearsals between now and Dec. 20 to "meld" (in Emmans' words) what they have learned together. So each will quite literally bring his/her own voice to the performance.

A Houghton graduate, a member of First Presbyterian Church for 41 years and currently commissioned lay pastor at Stone Church Presbyterian in Bergen, Ross is very happy to be a part of the upcoming performance. It coincides with his retirement from New York Central Mutual Insurance, where he worked for 27 years as an insurance adjustor.

"It's a wonderful combination," he said with a smile on his face.

For more information, call the church at 343-0505 or e-mail Emmans at [email protected].

Pictured Emmans and Ross at the First Presbyterian Church sanctuary.

Top photo submitted by Mark Ross.

December 3, 2013 - 11:55am
posted by Daniel Crofts in batavia, Richmond Memorial Libary, chess.

Batavia resident and avid chess player Kevin Larsen has had some free time on his hands lately, so he decided to start a chess club in Batavia.

This comes just as the game of chess seems to be making a comeback. According to a recent article in The New York Times, the game lags in popularity in spite of a record number of players worldwide -- possibly due to the absence of an appealing personality to represent it.

A promising candidate is 22-year-old Norwegian player Magnus Carlsen, who is the top-ranked chess player worldwide. Larsen has not followed Carlsen too closely, but he agrees that an appealing personality as the "face of chess" might, in part, be what the game needs.

"If people see someone young and cool playing chess," he said, "they might be more interested."

Furnished with United States Chess Federation regulation boards, clocks, and scorebooks, the "Batavia Community Chess Club" is for novices and chess buffs alike. 

"As long as people have fun with it, it's fine with me," Larsen said. "But I do hope to get people who are interested in coming every week and want to get better at chess by studying and competing."

He would like people to use clocks so that competitors have equal playing time, as well as scorebooks so they can keep track of their progress in the game and discover what they need to work on.

So far, 13 people have said they will come to the first meeting this Thursday from 6 until 8:30 p.m. at the Richmond Memorial Library, at 19 Ross St. in Batavia.

Club meetings will take place every Thursday during that time frame. All ages are welcome, but young children should be accompanied by their parents.

Larsen said it will be easier if everyone who is interested comes at the same time, since otherwise people might have to wait 30 minutes to an hour for someone to play against. But people are welcome to walk in at any time between 6 and 8:30.

Because "Batavia Community Chess Club" is being run with the support of the library, it is open to the public at no cost. However, Larsen said he will accept any donations to pay for equipment upgrades, clocks, and funding for the NIOGA Library System so they can purchase more chess-related books.

Chess has been touted as a tool for helping people to sharpen their concentration, build patience and perseverance, develop critical and analytical thinking, and improve planning and management skills.

Larsen rejects the stereotype that you have to have a high IQ in order to do well at chess.

"It helps," he said, "but if you have a good teacher and are willing to study, you'll do fine. I've read scientific literature about people who had below-average IQs but were high-ranking chess players."

Right now, Larsen has only a couple of volunteers helping with the club. When he gets more, he would like to have people available to teach the game.

For more information and to contact Larsen, visit

October 26, 2013 - 12:03pm

What if you could enjoy Vegas-style casino games without having to leave Genesee County, for only a small fraction of the cost, without risking any money, and all for a great cause?

Friends and relatives of the Reis family, who lost their lives in a tragic fire at their home in Byron in 2008, invite you to "Reis Family Memorial Casino Night" on Saturday, Nov. 9.

The event will be held at Polish Falcons, at 123 Swan St. in Batavia. Doors open at 6 p.m., and the casino will be open from 7 until 9:30 p.m. Drinks and hors d'oevres will be included.

Games such as blackjack, craps, and Texas hold 'em will be played. If you don't know how to play, the dealers will teach you.

Players will be "cashing in" for Chinese auction tickets instead of money. The Chinese auction will take place at the end of the night and include baskets donated mostly by local restaurants -- although there are some surprises as well, such as a flight for two around Letchworth State Park.

"That's one of our high-roller gifts," event organizer Brendan Lougheed said. "We're hoping for others as well."

Lougheed said there are about 60 tickets left. People can buy them at the door, but are encouraged to pre-order.

Tickets are $65 each. While this seems like a lot, Lougheed puts the cost in perspective.

"You can learn and play new games that would cost a lot more at a casino," he said. "You get to enjoy all you would enjoy in Vegas for less money and without having to worry about losing your money."

Proceeds will be used to fund the scholarship created by the Reis kids' grandparents in honor of the family. It is awarded each year to multiple Byron-Bergen High School students who plan on attending two- or four-year colleges, are involved in the community, and are in need of financial assistance.

Unfortunately, the funds for the scholarship have diminished. That's where "Reis Family Memorial Casino Night" comes in.

Lougheed was a classmate of Emily Reis, one of the children. Through her and her younger brother, he became close with the family.

"They were wonderful people all around," he said. "They worked very hard (since they were raised by a single mother). And their grandparents are the sweetest people in the world."

To pre-order tickets or request more information, contact Lougheed at 721-8955 or e-mail [email protected].

Photo courtesy of Brendan Lougheed.

October 25, 2013 - 7:14pm
posted by Daniel Crofts in Announcements, theater, GCC, GCASA.

Press release:

In celebration of Red Ribbon Week, Genesee County Drug Free Communities Coalition, a program of GCASA, presents the North American tour of the new hit stage play “Pass It On…An Evening with Bill W. & Dr. Bob.”  The production is a dramatization of the early history of Alcoholics Anonymous, delivered with a message of hope, help and the miracle of recovery.

This highly acclaimed two-man show comes to Batavia for a one-time engagement on Tuesday, October 29th at 6:30pm, at the Stuart Steiner Theatre at Genesee Community College.

This unique, inspirational and often hilarious theatrical production celebrates sobriety and serves as the centerpiece for an international recovery education project, raising awareness about the solution to North America’s number one public health issue – the disease of alcoholism and addiction.

“Pass It On…An Evening with Bill W. & Dr. Bob” has created excitement among audiences and recovery communities.  The show travels across the United States and Canada, appearing in such cities as Phoenix, Sacramento, Tucson, San Antonio, Delray, Ottawa, Little Rock and now Batavia.  Audiences experience an unforgettable evening of inspirational entertainment that aims to enhance recovery, inspire hearts and reach people who cannot be reached in any other way.

The show transports audiences to the late 1940s to meet Bill W. and Dr. Bob, the beloved cofounders of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA).  They tell their stories, share their experiences, strength and hope, and dramatize key events – such as their legendary drinking sprees and the extraordinary night they met in Akron, Ohio in 1935.

Audiences will be regaled with fascinating and hilarious yarns about the early history of AA – including the writing and publication of "The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous," the creation of the "12 Steps," and how the protagonists overcame tremendous obstacles as they struggled to develop their new recovery program and pass it on to others.

Reservations are suggested; call Diane at 815-1883 or e-mail [email protected].  A $5.00 donation is recommended.




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