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Public safety, peer advocates come together to help others through PAARI program

By Mike Pettinella

Deaths from drug overdoses, many of them involving fentanyl, are on the rise, and all neighborhoods – urban and rural – are at risk.

Officials of public safety agencies and the health department in Genesee County say they are united in their effort to provide the support needed to those struggling with substance use disorder through the Public Safety Assisted Addiction Recovery Initiative.

“The City of Batavia Police Department is determined to do our part in the fight against the opioid epidemic in our city and region,” Chief Shawn Heubusch said. “To that end we continue to partner with the GOW Opioid Task Force to support programs such as PAARI, where anyone suffering from addiction can come to our department, any time day or night, and get connected to a professional for assistance.”

The Genesee County sheriff, Le Roy Police chief, City of Batavia fire chief and Genesee County public health director echoed Heubusch’s sentiments – with each official affirming their agency’s participation in PAARI.

PAARI is a valuable partnership between local public safety agencies, Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse and the Genesee County Health Department. This resource is available so that residents who are suffering from substance use and want to seek help, can access a safe place in the community at all hours, without judgment or legal implications.

“The PAARI program provides residents with the support that they need when they are ready to seek help and treatment,” Public Health Director Paul Pettit said. “Our partners are trustworthy, compassionate people who want to get our residents that are struggling the help that they need and connect them to the resources available.

“We know that the holidays can be a difficult time for some, but know that you are not alone. There are people in the community that care about you and want to help you.”

Pettit said that 15 Genesee County residents died from an overdose in 2020, and in almost all of those cases fentanyl was involved.

“Since then, at least 17 additional community residents have died from an opioid overdose,” he added.

Sheriff William Sheron Jr. said his office “stands ready to assist in any way possible those individuals and families who are combatting addiction.”

“Addiction can affect anyone, anytime.  We are available; our doors are always open, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Please do not hesitate to reach out and together we can work to overcome addiction within our communities,” he said.

Batavia Fire Chief Josh Graham said his department will continue to partner with the other agencies in PAARI to provide a safe place where anyone suffering from addiction can come to help.

“When I first learned about the PAARI program within the City of Batavia Fire Department, I was immediately impressed with the idea,” he mentioned. “Doing everything we can to aid in the fight against opioids is imperative.”

Peer advocates at GCASA are available at all hours to assist those who utilize the PAARI program, said Melissa Vinyard, a certified peer recovery coach and someone in recovery.

“My fellow peers and I get the opportunity to go reach out and offer a hand to help those who suffer with SUD,” she said. “For that, I truly believe we are responsible. It is my privilege to give back to our community what was so freely given to me.”

Residents seeking treatment or prevention services can also access the GOW Linkage to Care App. The free app is available for download on the App Store and Google Play by searching “GOW Opioid Linkage to Care.”

The Genesee County PAARI locations are as follows:

  • City of Batavia Fire Department, 18 Evans St., Batavia, (585) 345-6375.
  • City of Batavia Police, 10 West Main St., Batavia, (585) 345-6350.
  • Genesee County Sheriff, 165 Park Rd., Batavia, (585) 345-3000.
  • Le Roy Police, 3 West Main St., Le Roy, (585) 768-2527

Disclosure: Mike Pettinella is the publicist at GCASA.

Genesee County granted $540k for Healthy Living project

By Joanne Beck

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Although it wasn’t as much as officials could have hoped for, a Restore NY grant has been approved to help with the expenses of the Healthy Living project in downtown Batavia.

In August, Genesee County Legislature agreed to serve as the applicant on behalf of the new campus to merge a portion of United Memorial Medical Center and GLOW YMCA services. The grant limit was up to $2 million, and Gov. Kathy Hochul announced Tuesday that a grant of $540,000 had been awarded.

Funds will be used to demolish the old 55,000-square-foot YMCA, and a 10,000-square-foot obsolete boiler house owned by Rochester Regional Health-UMMC, which will provide space to accommodate a new downtown park and parking.

The project was selected as a priority Downtown Revitalization Initiative project and is also supported by the Batavia Brownfield Opportunity Area plan. 

More than $102 million was awarded to 64 projects through the Restore New York Communities Initiative. Restore New York supports municipal revitalization efforts across the state, Hochul’s office stated in a press release.

Those efforts to help remove blight, reinvigorate downtowns and generate economic opportunity in communities statewide. The program, administered by Empire State Development, is designed to help local governments revitalize their communities and encourage commercial investment, improve the local housing stock, put properties back on the tax rolls and increase the local tax base.

Once approved, the grant is to “flow through the county,” County Manager Matt Landers had said during the application process.

The grant is to go toward some of the demolition costs of the GLOW YMCA site between Wiard and Bank streets. The county can charge up to $10,000 for administrative costs, “which should be more than enough for us to cover our costs,” Landers had said.

"These Restore New York grants will help to reimagine downtowns across our state and transform vacant, blighted, and underutilized buildings into vibrant community anchors," Hochul said in the release. "Thanks to $102 million of state investment, we are breathing new life into communities from Hudson to North Hempstead, jumpstarting new economic activity, and ensuring that New York State continues to be a place where people come to live, work, and raise their families." 

New life for downtown Batavia is to come from the partnership of RRH-UMMC and GLOW YMCA to develop a $33.5 million, two-story, 78,000-square-foot regional health and wellness facility. The new site will integrate a new YMCA facility with state-of-the-art medical space for the Healthy Living program.

"Restore NY invigorates our urban centers and is a vital tool in the economic development tool kit for rebuilding communities that need it most,” Empire State Development President, CEO and Commissioner Hope Knight said. “This funding will help local governments find solutions to blighted buildings so they can move forward towards a more vibrant future."

As for the county’s sponsorship as applicant, there is no county match, and no county cost aside from administrative expenses, Landers said.

The plan is to have the new building constructed at the former Cary Hall and Elks Lodge space so that YM members can use that during the demolition of the YMCA.

At the time of application, Rob Walker, CEO of GLOW YMCA, said there shouldn’t be any downtime for members, as they will transition over to the freshly completed site while the older YM building is taken down, he said.

“And continue operations without hurting the community and our services to the community — that was important to us, both from a mission standpoint and service standpoint,” Walker said.

The facility has previously been outlined — a pool, updated exercise equipment, and brand new amenities alongside Healthy Living’s teaching kitchen, classrooms and offices — and Walker described the outside space being “a nice streetscape park area” with benches, trees, lighting and an open grassy area for some outdoor activities, plus additional parking space.

File Photo of the beginnings of a new Healthy Living campus in downtown Batavia this August, by Howard Owens.

Byron-Bergen Holiday Giving Project assists 42 local families

By Press Release

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Press release:

On Dec. 13, eight Byron-Bergen staff “elves” loaded shopping carts with one goal: Help ease the holiday stress for members of the Byron-Bergen community. These holiday helpers filled over 40 shopping carts with $8,500 worth of merchandise to assist more than 100 kids from 42 local families in need.

For many years, District teachers, staff, and administrators have worked together with local partners to make the season brighter in the Byron-Bergen area. This year’s Holiday Community Service Project collected over $8,500 in donations from faculty, staff, and individual community members.

“As we continue the important tradition of the Holiday Giving Project at Byron-Bergen, I would like to acknowledge that it is a community effort involving faculty, staff, administration, and community groups,” said Byron-Bergen Faculty Association President Ken Gropp. “I hope we are brightening the holidays for many families in our district.”

The holiday items were each wrapped and labeled by Byron-Bergen staff volunteers. It took four days of hard work, but on Saturday, December 17th, staff members delivered black contractor bags filled with brightly wrapped presents to individual cars in the High School bus loop. In addition to the gift items, the High School Student Council collected funds and non-perishable foods so that each family will also receive a holiday meal.

“I am thankful to work in a district that prioritizes supporting students and families,” said Superintendent Pat McGee. “Thank you to everyone who participated in the Holiday Giving Project, and a very happy holidays to our entire community.”

Submitted photos.

Top photo: Byron-Bergen staff shopping for Byron-Bergen community members 

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Byron-Bergen Athletic Director Rich Hannan wraps gifts for the Holiday Giving Project Photo credit: Gretchen Spittler 

Notre Dame beats Elba on night McCulley notches 1K career points

By Howard B. Owens

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It was a big night of Notre Dame's Amelia McCulley but a bigger win for the Irish as the girls beat Elba 45-42.

McCulley scored 24 points, among those points, her 1,000th career point.

Emma Sisson scored nine points and snared 10 rebounds. Avelin Tomidy had 12 rebounds to go with her four points. Sisson also had four steals.

For Elba, Sydney Reilly scored 13 points, snagged 12 rebounds and had four assists. Kennedy Augello scored eight points.

The Irish are now 5-1 and Elba is 2-2.

Photos by Kristin Smith.  For more photos, click here

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Bells are a-ringing, but not on time at BHS; repairs approved for the high school and RM

By Joanne Beck

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Bells are a-ringing, or so the holiday song goes, but at Batavia High School they’re not doing it as efficiently lately.

City Schools Business Administrator Scott Rozanski reviewed the needs of a 19-year-old clock and public address system at the high school, and security updates at Robert Morris this week.

“So the first item, our project is the PA, public address and clock system … it’s been rapidly failing for the past year or so. The bells, the PA itself and the clocks, are integrated into one system. And so the clocks are affected at the high school, they do not track the appropriate time. And it's not even aligned with the satellite systems,” Rozanski said during the Board of Education’s meeting Monday. “So we're making the adjustments on a weekly basis, we lose about four or five minutes a week. And the bells aren't ringing as scheduled. They're inconsistent and have variable times, and it's difficult to determine if a student's late or not.”

The district is therefore looking at a full replacement of that system, he said. There are no health, safety or code concerns, and the estimate falls under state contract pricing, and would not need to go through the state Education Department for approval.

A total of $118,860 is expected to get the job done, he said.

The second project is at Robert Morris, which has been a flurry of activity since reopening the doors to pre-schoolers this fall. The site closed down the elementary school in July 2012, but due to increased enrollment numbers, the district opted to use the building again for its own education programs.

There has been no significant door hardware replaced in that decade, Rozanski said. A mantrap — that square of space that can contain a visitor between the outer door and door leading into the building — is also needed in door entry number two to provide extra security, he said.

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“So it's a manual process versus an automated process to close doors in case of a lockdown. This aligns with the other upgrades that we've done with the smart school project about four or five years ago in the other buildings. We would also create a man trap, and the electronic door locking equipment is needed to do this,” he said. “This will provide additional increased security. We do currently secure the exterior of the building automatically. A mantrap will further enhance any interior potential threats.”

The Robert Morris project estimates have come in at $35,543, he said, and it may need to go to the state for approval. 

His request is for a total of $244,000 from the repair reserve to the general fund to ensure enough cushion for possible change orders and unexpected items that come up during the repair, he said. If all goes as planned, that would leave $89,597 in the fund.

“We have currently met all safety and security measures to get Robert Morris up and functioning from the beginning of the school year in September,” he said. “We know what the cost is; it should only be $35,543 … if the $89,597 is needed, that allows us flexibility if we run into problems.”

He reminded the board about the elevator repairs at the middle school, and how extra work and materials were needed, causing him to go back to the board for approval of extra spending.

The repair reserve — set up to pay for repairs that don’t recur on a yearly basis — would be left with anywhere from $90.87 up to $89,687.78 if no unexpected costs arise during repair at both schools.

“And we will replenish funds as they’re available,” he said.

Board member Alice Benedict wanted to confirm that “you’re saying you just want to use that $89,000 as a cushion?” Yes, Rozanski said.

“We will only spend what we need to spend,” he said.

No one spoke during the public hearing about the expenditure. The board approved the repairs and transfer of up to $244,000 to pay for them.

Top File Photo of board members and Superintendent Jason Smith taking a tour of the revamped Robert Morris building earlier this year before the fall season began, by Joanne Beck. File Photo of school Business Administrator Scott Rozanski, by Howard Owens.

Structure fire reported on Perry Road, Pavilion

By Howard B. Owens

A structure fire is reported at 915 Perry Road, Pavilion.

Pavilion Fire dispatched. 

A second alarm is called with Bethany, Le Roy, Stafford, and the City's FAST Team requested to the scene.

UPDATE 6:11 p.m.: The Pavilion chief on scene cancels the second alarm.  "We believe we have it knocked down," he tells dispatchers. All other responding units can stand down.

Amy Thompson named Hope Center of Le Roy program director

By Press Release

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Press release:

The Hope Center of LeRoy is pleased to announce the appointment of Amy Thompson to a staff position as its Fresh Start Tutoring Program Director.

Having retired in November after 26 years at the Elba Central School, Amy has been involved on a volunteer basis with the Hope Center since it became a nonprofit. Their first planning meeting was in October of 2017.

"We began serving our first students in January of 2019," Amy says. "I was drawn to this mission because I believed it was just another extension of the ministry God had given me. I love helping students learn!"

Community outreach programs are the focus of the Hope Center, and Amy has formed a partnership with the LeRoy Central School Reading Specialist, Helene Beswick, who provides valuable feedback on how the program can best help students.

The Fresh Start Tutoring Program welcomes anyone with a heart for teaching and making a difference in the lives of our next generation. Training is provided for volunteers who will assist students in math and reading, once per week for approximately half an hour. The Hope Center currently has twelve students and that number will be increasing as there is an increase in volunteers.

Amy is excited about the future.

"I would like to keep expanding our program at the Hope Center. I know there is a need to assist both high school and adult learners, and perhaps even second language learners. The possibilities are endless if we can get enough volunteers."

When asked for her advice on how parents can contribute to school success, Amy states," It's important for parents to read to their kids, even as they get older. I also believe that it's important to talk with your kids and help them to build their conversation skills and vocabulary."

Director of Development, Diane Sia, is very pleased that Amy has decided to continue her life's work at the Hope Center. "What's so wonderful about Amy's retirement is that she can now ignore the alarm clock, yet at the same time pursue something she loves to do. She is a gifted, kind, and compassionate leader and we are so blessed to have her on our team!"

For more information on the Fresh Start Tutoring Program, which is currently offered to K-6th grade students, or for questions regarding volunteering as a tutor, please contact Amy at fs.hopecenter@gmail.com. Retired teachers, and high school or college students are encouraged to apply. This much-needed program is available at no charge thanks to funding from the United Way of Greater Rochester and the Finger Lakes, the Victor L. and Maudaline L. Blood Charitable Foundation, and through the generous support of the community.

Submitted photo.

Grand Jury Report: Child sex abuse case charged

By Howard B. Owens

Kevin T. Kaminski is indicted on two counts of sexual abuse in the first degree and two counts of endangering the welfare of a child. Kaminski is accused of having sexual contact with a child less than 11 years old in December and with another child less than 11 years old in January.  Both incidents were reported in the Town of Alabama.

Law and Order: Convicted child sex predator accused of possessing control substance in jail

By Howard B. Owens

Melvin Andre Huntley, 41, of Wilkenson Road, Batavia, is charged with promoting prison contraband 1st, promoting prison contraband 2nd, and criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th. Huntley was accused of possessing and bringing a controlled substance into the Genesee County Jail at 7:35 p.m. Nov. 16. He was arraigned in City Court and released back into the custody of the jail. Previously: Child sex predator convicted by jury, faces possible life in prison

Brett M. Holt, 32, of West Center Street, Medina, and Kelly M. Holt, 46, of West Center Street, Medina, are each charged with petit larceny. On Dec. 12 at 5:20 p.m., dispatchers received a report of a theft in progress at Sally Beauty Supply on Veterans Memorial Drive. Patrols eventually located two individuals matching the description of the suspects inside of Kohl's Department Store. The suspects were returned to Sally's, where a witness identified them as the individuals suspected of stealing $400 in products. Both suspects were processed at the Genesee County Jail and released on appearance tickets.

Dustin Travis Forkell, 31, of Hulberton Road, Holley, is charged with falsifying business records, 1st, criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th, and criminal impersonation 2nd. Forkell is accused of possessing narcotics while being arrested on separate offenses in the City of Batavia on Dec. 11 at 6:30 p.m. He is accused of attempting to conceal his true identity while being processed at the Genesee County Jail. Forkell was released on an appearance ticket.

Alyssa Michele Harnish, 34, of Main Street Road, Batavia, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th. Harnish was arrested on Dec. 14 as the result of an incident reported on Nov. 16 at 9 p.m. at a location on West Main Street Road, Batavia. She was issued an appearance ticket.

Stephanie Lynn Salcido, 33, of Ellicott Street Road, Batavia, is charged with felony DWI, moving from lane unsafely, uninspected motor vehicle, unregistered motor vehicle, and aggravated unlicensed operation. Salcido was stopped on Dec. 15 at 2:38 a.m. on Lake Street Road, Le Roy, by Sgt. Matthew Clor. She is also accused of driving without a required interlock device. Salcido was issued an appearance ticket.

Kevin Quinn Widzinski, 29, of Hubbard Drive, Chili, is charged with DWI, moving from lane unsafely, and speed not reasonable and prudent. Widzinski was arrested by Deputy Zachary Hoy following the report of a motor vehicle accident on Dec. 15 at 7:24 p.m. on Warsaw Road in Le Roy. Widzinski was released on an appearance ticket.

Micahel Gilbert Hoskins, 50, of Rochester, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, driving an uninspected vehicle, and driving with an open alcohol container. Hoskins was stopped on Dec. 4 at 12:10 a.m. on Seven Springs Road, Stafford, by Deputy Ryan Mullen. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Tatiana Makarevic, 55, of Maple Road, Alabama, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .18 or greater, and moving from lane unsafely. Makarevic was stopped on Dec. 15 at 8:48 p.m. on Alleghany Road, Pembroke, by Deputy Jacob Kipler. Makarevic was processed at the Genesee County Jail and released on an appearance ticket.     

Karrie Ann Morrow, 40, of Alexander Road, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Morrow on Dec. 14 in connection with a theft reported at 2 a.m., Oct. 11 on Genesee Street, Pembroke. She was issued an appearance ticket.

Arthur James Brown, 48, of State Street, Batavia, is charged with sex offender failure to register a change of address. Brown is to report a change of address within the required 10 days for a registered sex offender. He was arraigned in City Court and ordered held without bail.

Bryan D. McEwan, 36, of Darien, is charged with criminal mischief 4th and endangering the welfare of a child. McEwan was arrested by State Police in connection with an incident reported at 10:10 p.m. on Dec. 18 at a location in Darien. McEwan was released to a third party. No further information released.

Winter storm watch issued for holiday weekend

By Howard B. Owens

A winter storm watch is to begin on Friday morning and will remain in effect through Monday morning.

The National Weather Service predicts a rapid switch from rain to snow with sharply falling temperatures into the teens that will result in a flash freeze on Friday.

From Friday afternoon through most of the weekend, forecasters predict strong winds, and heavy lake-effect snow, resulting in significant blowing and drifting snow.

Wind gusts could reach 65 mph, with localized blizzard conditions possible.

Travel for the holiday weekend will be difficult to impossible at times, according to the weather service. 

Areas of blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility, with whiteouts possible. 

The most persistent and worst conditions will be where lake effect snow is most
widespread, which is still uncertain at this time.

Strong winds could cause tree damage and power outages.

Wind chills could drop to 10 to 20 degrees below zero, which can cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 30 minutes.

Cookies & Crafts Thursday at The Recovery Station

By Press Release

Press release:

A gift for the entire family awaits participants in the Cookies & Crafts with Santa event on Thursday at The Recovery Station, 5256 Clinton St. Rd., Batavia.

“We’re celebrating the holiday season with Jolly Old St. Nick, himself,” said Harry Rascoe, director of the social club, a program of Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse. “All are invited to join us.”

The event will take place from 3-6 p.m.

Each family will receive a free printed picture with Santa and a Christmas book to take home.

For more information, call 585-815-5248.

Is Girls Flag Football on the horizon for spring? Sign-up for interest to be available

By Joanne Beck

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Endorsed by the Buffalo Bills, Nike and the state Public High School Athletic Association earlier this year, Girls Flag Football has emerged as an up-and-coming spring sport that just might land on the city school district’s playing field.

Batavia’s Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics Mike Bromley, presented the idea during Monday’s school board meeting. A while ago, he began to receive emails from prospective female players about the possibility of adding flag football to the city school district, he said. Ten girls from grades nine to 12 sent those notes asking if the sport would be offered in the spring.

A line of female students stood next to him as proof of that initial interest.

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“Here are six future flag football players,” Bromley said. “There are 14 male sports, one unified sport of bowling for both boys and girls, and 13 female offerings. This would bring us into balance if that’s what we decided to do.”

In early 2022, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association sanctioned the sport, and eight teams in Section V were piloted this year, with 22 other regional districts indicating that they may form a team, Bromley said. Rules dictate a minimum of seven girls to a team, and Bromley believes 12 to 15 players would be a good starting number.

Games would cover a football field, and play would consist of two 24-minute halves plus a five-minute half-time. Equipment would include certified flag belts and youth-sized football.

The difference between regular football and one using flags is the lack of physical contact. While tackling is a huge part of the American game, flag football does not allow it. Players can kick, carry, and throw the ball to move it up the field. A defender may knock down a pass that’s in the air. If the player with the ball has his -- or, in this case, her -- flag pulled or if she goes out of bounds, she is called “down,” and the ball is dead.

Anticipated costs include a head and assistant coach, uniforms, officials’ services, two chaperones and a clock/video board operator, and transportation for four away games. The estimated total adds up to $9,391, which Bromley said could be offset with unexpended funds.

Board member Alice Benedict asked how many young women are interested in dual sports, and all six students raised their hands. They said that track is the other sport and that is first on their list, prompting Bromley to add, "so we have some challenges."

How can it work here? Bromley suggested that dual sport participation is possible and doable, with late practices, Saturday contests and two to three practices per week. He’s also cognizant of spring coaches’ concerns that adding a spring sport may be a conflict for girls already in one of the other two offerings, he said.

With the season to begin in March 2023, there’s not much time to waste, Board President John Marucci said.

“Get your sign-up list going and see if there’s an interest,” he said.

The matter will return for a board vote in January.

Top 2020 File Photo of an impromptu flag football tournament at Williams Park in Batavia, by Howard Owens. Photo of Mike Bromley from the city school district website.

Aging in place is not impossible, but answers should be in place as well

By Joanne Beck

You’re getting older, feeling those achy joints a bit more, cursing the stairs each time you need to use them, and wishing that perhaps you had better equipped the house to accommodate the future you.    

An unlikely scenario, you say? Not for countless senior citizens locally and across New York State, according to Rebecca Preve, executive director of the Association on Aging in New York.

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“We all know that New York State is fourth in the nation in the over-60 population. In addition, census data indicate that the fastest-growing segment of the population is individuals over the age of 80. We know that the state's overall population is predicted to grow by 1.3 percent through 2040. But the 80-plus population will see growth of 42 percent,” Preve said during a Dec. 12 Senate hearing on aging-related needs. “Additionally, 70 percent of the older population will need some form of home care during their lifetime … The master plan on aging has instituted a division within the Department of Health for aging and long-term care. We are all enthusiastic about the opportunity to ensure we are looking at aging as a lifelong process, not just starting at the age of 60.”

Genesee County Office For the Aging Director Diana Fox and staff are working toward that end. The county Legislature just approved Fox’s request this past week to renew two grants with Caring Environments J&H, Inc. to assist older folks wanting to remain at home. The grant money helps seniors with expenses related to stair and vertical lifts, wheelchairs and bathroom modifications, such as revamping a bathtub into a shower. In fact, the last grant assisted six people this past year with that type of bathroom modification, she said.

A current contract with Caring Environments will extend the company's services as an installer at a cost of $140 per hour through March 11, 2024.

Your 'Future Self'
With the convergence of the largest age group to hit retirement age by 2030, issues of aging are right around the corner. And it’s about more than merely where to live, Fox said.

“It’s never too late to have those conversations, but what do you want it to look like as you age? To be able to think about where are you currently living? Where are you now to meet the needs of your future self?” she said. “How big are your doorways and hallways, can you get in and out? What is the lighting like, how do you get around, what will you need to get around? Talk to family members. Are there things you can plan for ahead of time?”

Other potential issues are maintaining the home and yard — will you need a landscaping service or at least someone to mow the lawn? Is your place too big; perhaps you need to downsize, she said. Are you near cultural, social and recreational sites to interact with the community? And last, but most importantly — are you taking care of yourself by making doctor visits, being socially connected, keeping active, eating well, and retaining healthy physical and mental well-being?

“We have staff available to have those conversations,” Fox said. “You want to have those conversations and be thinking about those things, ideally, before you hit a crisis.”

One such crisis could be the realization that those stairs are more a hindrance than a help. The grant money can go toward the related costs of a stair lift, or for a wheelchair, ramp, and bathroom modifications to, for example, install a shower when a bathtub is too difficult to use.

The Costs of Aging
The state’s masterplan needs to address the impacts of prevention, education, and accessibility,” Preve said.

“It also needs to ensure that all state government organizations are not working within silos to ensure we're an age-friendly state. As you are aware there's a rapidly growing aging population and, in conjunction with a significant rise in inflation, impacted older residents and increased demand for aging services by over 70 percent,” Preve said. “We continue to see significant waiting lists. For services, we're dealing with huge increases in the cost of raw materials, significant workforce shortages and increased customers.”

Those issues are also prevalent here, Fox said, with the home healthcare workforce being heavily dependent on a soft skill: they typically love what they do. Otherwise, the job usually requires anything from shopping and food prep to hands-on skills of dressing, toileting, eating, and such tasks to take care of one’s personal needs; strength to assist someone out of a chair or bed and when in the shower or bathroom; certification; and an acceptance of low pay in this field.

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“I think you have to have a passion for the people,” Fox said. “I think our society doesn’t really value this; it is hard work you’re doing.”

And the Office For the Aging — which uses three different agencies for home health aides — can attest to the ongoing shortage of help, she said. Either there aren’t enough workers to begin with, or they are shuffled to fill in for another staffer who is sick or takes days off. Complaints about being unable to find someone has become constant murmurs in the community.

“They have trouble with being able to fulfill the requests. I hear that people are looking for someone,” she said. “Part of it is the pay; it has been historically low, and it has been something that there has been a lot of advocacy on to increase.

“We might authorize someone to have a personal aide come in for six hours a week. We might authorize it, but then there’s not someone to provide the care; they say all of their staff is full.”

Aging in Place
That’s why the “unmet needs” grants are so crucial, she said.

Genesee County is ripe with older, two-story homes that wreak havoc with inflamed knees and stability concerns. So the question is how are people going to live out those much-touted golden years? Can you renovate the home to accommodate physical needs, search for a one-story home or apartment, be able to hire a home health care aide, or purchase some equipment to make for easier access, such as stair lifts and wheelchairs?

“It really makes a difference for people to be able to stay in their homes,” she said. “To serve this aging population in order to serve the needs of people; it’s much cheaper to keep people in their homes. I feel like it’s something we in our country don’t particularly value.”

Preve also emphasized that point. Society looks at prevention measures within alcohol and substance abuse, but not so much when it comes to one’s long-term future and services such as Medicaid.

“We don't talk enough about preventing having people spend down to Medicaid or institutional care, and that's really what we want the master plan to focus on. Aging is a lifelong process. How can we make sure that we're targeting people in their 30s with high blood pressure because we know that that's going to impact Alzheimer's disease when they're in their later years?” Preve said. “So it really needs to be a cohesive thought process to ensure that we allow individuals to age in place and that we keep them off Medicaid because we know Medicaid is not sustainable at the current level.”

Mastering the Aging Process
To assist with aging in place, the OFA’s services include retirement planning seminars, tax help, and a Handyman Program, plus an Aging Mastery program twice a year — with the next one scheduled for February.

This program focuses on how to plan for getting older and living comfortably in one’s post-retirement years, Fox said.

“We spend a lot of time in our older years,” she said.

To learn more, sign up for the OFA’s newsletter by going HERE or calling 585-343-1611.

Top Photo of Rebecca (Becky) Preve, executive director of the Association on Aging in New York, from an online post; and File Photo of Diana Fox, director of Genesee County Office for the Aging, during a county meeting, by Joanne Beck.

Families, community treated to holiday cheer this weekend in Batavia

By Joanne Beck

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Despite some typical wintry weather Saturday, participants, including Patricia Hurd, above, bedecked their vehicles and took a drive through Batavia in memory of Bob Zeagler, who was the epitome of holiday spirit with his highly decorated vehicles and even himself.

After the small car parade, many families gathered inside of Batavia's First Presbyterian Church to enjoy some refreshments, a visit with Santa Claus and a special treat of a toy.

Founded by Jenn Noon and Cortney Dawson, the event organizers thanked the community, which included the church, organizations, emergency responders, Boy Scouts and various donors, including The Little Free Pantry and several local businesses, for making the event possible.

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Top Photo by Howard Owens. Above from the Little Free Pantry's online post about the event.

Veterans honored in day of remembrance and reflection at WNY National Cemetery

By Howard B. Owens

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The men and women interred at the WNY National Cemetery were honored on Saturday as part of a national effort, Wreaths Across America.

Family members and community members placed a wreath on each headstone in the cemetery.

Wreaths were sold by members of the Veterans Outreach Club at Pembroke Junior-Senior High School, led by teacher Matthew Moscato.

Genesee County's veterans' services officer, Bill Joyce, was the keynote speaker during an opening service that included placing a wreath for each branch of the military by either a veteran or an active member of the Armed Forces, a 21-gun salute and the playing of taps.

Joyce recalled a speaker he had heard previously at another ceremony honoring veterans.  That speaker noted that when we are at a headstone of a dead service member, we tend to look at the birth date and the death date but rarely stop to consider the space between those dates -- the dash.  It is the dash that matters most.

"How did they live their lives? How did they live, in other words, the dash? We know how these individuals interred here at the Western New York National Cemetery lived part of their lives, serving in every military service. They served this great nation honorably," Joyce said. 

Joyce called the service a day of "remembrance and reflection," noting that he was honored as a retired Army veteran to be the day's featured speaker.

Families of service members buried in the cemetery were given several minutes to place wreaths at their loved one's headstones. Then community members were given numbered wreaths to place at the remaining headstones.

They were instructed to salute after placing the wreath if they were an active service member or a veteran, or place their hand over their heart if not, and say the service member's name.

"When we read the names on the headstones today, it symbolizes acknowledging the sacrifices that service members made on behalf of the country," Joyce said.

Photos by Howard Owens.

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Bill Joyce

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Matthew Moscato

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Members of Notre Dame's Varsity Basketball team volunteered to place wreaths. Photo submitted by Susan MacPherson Woodruff

Photos: Arc GLOW's annual Chili and Chowder Fest

By Howard B. Owens

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There was more than Arc's famous chili and chowder being served up Saturday and Sunday at Arc GLOW's Woodrow Road campus. There was also grilled cheese.

And baked treats.

And basket raffles.

The event is one of Arc's more significant fundraisers in Genesee County.

Photos by Howard Owens

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TAKE NOTICE THAT The Town of Elba is requesting Bids for the 2024 Cemetery Mowing season, with extra clean-up and trimming of trees/bushes. This will include three (3) cemeteries, Pine Hill Cemetery on Chapel Street, Maple Lawn Cemetery on Maple Avenue and Springvale Cemetery on Edgerton Road. Bids are for a 1-year contract and the successful bidder must provide their own $500,000.00 Liability Insurance certificate. A complete list of specifications/properties can be obtained by contacting the Town Clerk’s Office at (585)757-2762, ext. 10. Sealed bids should be clearly marked “Elba Cemetery Mowing Bids” and submitted no later than 4:00 p.m., Thursday, March 7, 2024 at the Town Clerk’s Office, 7133 Oak Orchard Road, Elba, NY 14058. Bids will be opened at 1:00 p.m. at the Town of Elba Town Hall on Monday, March 11, 2024. The Town Board reserves the right to accept or reject any or all bids that do not comply with their specifications. By Order of the Town Board, Trisha Werth Town Clerk
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Crossroads House is a comfort care home for the dying. We are a non-for-profit organization that provides its services free of charge. We run on a supportive community and selfless volunteers. With out both of those we would not be able to serve our community. If you have a caregiver's heart and 2 to 4 hours a week, we would love for you to become a part of our Crossroads House family! No experience required, we will train you and provide mentors and experienced volunteers to guide you. Please go to Crossroadshouse.com to apply, click on volunteer tab to complete application or email Ashleymanuel@crossroadshouse.com
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