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September 8, 2022 - 5:03pm
posted by Alecia Kaus in accident, news, Darien, notify.


According to Deputy Robert Henning with the Genesee County Sheriff's Office, an SUV facing west on McVean road failed to yield at the stop sign at Route 77 and was struck by a box truck that was traveling south on Route 77.

The female driver of the SUV, in her late 70s, may have suffered a medical event and was conscious and alert, but transported by Mercy Flight to ECMC. The male driver of the box truck, in his early 60s, suffered cuts to the face and was transported to ECMC via ambulance.

According to Deputy Henning, the driver of the SUV will be charged with failure to yield.

PreviouslyPossible serious injury accident reported in Darien

Photos by Alecia Kaus/Video News Service.




September 8, 2022 - 1:02pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, Darien.

A two-vehicle accident with possible serious injuries is reported on Route 77 at Reynolds Road, Darien.

One person is trapped, unconscious but breathing.

Darien Fire along with Corfu Fire and Mercy EMS dispatched.

Mercy Flight out of Olean is on an in-air standby.

UPDATE 1:04 p.m.: Mercy Flight #6 out of Olean is dispatched.  A truck is involved that was hauling about 30,000 pounds.

UPDATE 1:09 p.m.: Mercy Flight will land at Darien's fire hall.

September 7, 2022 - 7:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Dollar General, Darien, news, notify.


The former Timberwolf Restaurant location at 1658 Broadway Road, Darien, dilapidated, overgrown, and vacant for many, many years, is likely to soon become the new location for the seventh Dollar General store in Genesee County.

The Genesee County Planning Board is being asked to approve a site plan review and area variance at its Thursday meeting to allow the project to go forward.

The planning staff recommends approval with modifications.

The requested modifications are that the signage complies with the town's zoning regulations and that the applicant gets State DOT approval for a driveway permit.

The applicant is The Broadway Group LLC based in Huntsville, Ala.

Dollar General is based in Goodlettsville, Tenn. and operates 17,000 retail stores nationwide.

The plan calls for the crews to demolish the Timberwolf building, which sits on a 3.08-acre lot, and construct a 10,640-square-foot store at a total project cost of $574,550.

Howard Hanna currently lists the property but with a sale pending. The listing price was $199,900.

The current owners are Johnson and Sons LLC.

Broadway Group is seeking an area variance to reduce the number of parking spaces outside the store from the required 73 to 35.  In a letter with the application package, Jade Haynes, Dollar General's plan coordinator for the Northeast region, the company says operating 17,000 has given the company a significant amount of data to understand a store's parking needs.  The stores average 15 to 20 transactions per hour.

"We have estimated and confirmed that 35 spaces will accommodate the customer flow rate that our business generates," Haynes states. "This standard has also been sufficient for traffic generated at peak Christmas season levels."

The application notes that the property is large enough to accommodate more parking spaces but that more spaces are unnecessary for the business. 

"Less asphalt improves drainage and allows for more green space," the application states.

A staff member with The Broadway Group wrote on the application that the project will "bring new life" back to a part of Darien that is currently marked by a building that has fallen into disrepair. 

"This is not a destination location," the application states. "The proposed development will serve traffic that already uses Broadway Road as a means of transversing to and from work or home."

The only other item on Thursday's Planning Board agenda is site plan review for a new contractor's yard at 9904 Alleghany Road, Darien. The staff is recommending approval with modifications.

The Planning Board meets at 7 p.m.Thursday in the large conference room of County Building 2, 3837 W. Main Street Road, Batavia.

Top photo: Via Google Street View.

August 29, 2022 - 6:22pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, news, Darien.

The following people were arrested by the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office during the Jason Aldean concert at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on Aug. Both were issued appearance tickets.

Chelsea E. Kirsch, 28, of Weimars Street, Buffalo, is charged with harassment 2nd after allegedly kicking another person in the head.

Tina M. Simmons, 40, of Schuster Road, Schenectady, is charged with harassment 2nd after allegedly striking a Live Nation security guard in the head.

August 29, 2022 - 6:17pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, Darien, news.

The following people were arrested by the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office during the Wiz Khalif concert at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on Aug. 25. All were issued appearance tickets.

Brook L. Garrett, 20 of Elmwood Avenue, Buffalo, is charged with harassment 2nd after allegedly striking a Live Nation security guard in the head.

Anthony J. Connolly, 18, of North Main Street, Angola, is charged with trespass after allegedly attempting to reenter the concert venue after being ejected and told not to return.

Kelly J. Norah, 20, of Main Street, Brockport, is charged with trespass after allegedly attempting to reenter the concert venue after being ejected and told not to return.

August 22, 2022 - 5:44pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, news, notify, Le Roy, Pavilion, corfu, pembroke, Stafford, Darien, byron.
Dean Gardner

Dean Gardner, Jr., 45, no street address provided, Pavilion, is charged with menacing 2nd, criminal obstruction of breathing or blood circulation, attempted arson 2nd, criminal possession of a weapon 3rd, and criminal possession of a weapon 4th. Gardner is accused of attacking a victim in a car on Warsaw Road at 3:16 p.m. on Aug. 20. According to Le Roy PD, Gardner is accused of choking the victim until she was no longer able to breathe.  He then allegedly grabbed a gas can from the back of his truck and poured gas on the driver's seat of the vehicle and attempted to light it on fire with the woman still in the passenger seat.  She attempted to call 9-1-1 but was too afraid that Gardner may have heard her talking with dispatchers. She hung up the phone and sent a text message to dispatchers requesting help. Officers John Ceneviva and Jordan Wolcott responded to the call.  Gardner was placed under arrest. He was arraigned in Town of Le Roy Court and released on his own recognizance, set to return to court on Sept. 15.

Kevin Weber

Kevin J. Weber, 51, of Batavia, is charged with assault 2nd. Weber is accused of beating a housemate during an argument over a beer at 7:31 p.m. Aug. 13. He was arraigned in City Court and ordered held in jail on an unspecified amount of bail.

Nakita N. Shook, 36, of Batavia, is charged with harassment 2nd. Shook is accused of hitting another person in the face during a disturbance at a rooming house on East Main Street, Batavia, at 6:51 a.m. Aug. 13. Shook was arraigned in City Court and ordered to return Sept. 1.

Kenneth S. Griffin Jr., 24, of Batavia, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, and aggravated unlicensed operation. Griffin was stopped at 3:30 a.m. Aug. 13, on Jefferson Avenue by a Batavia patrol officer. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Kimberly J. Grover, 56, of Perry, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th, DWAI-Drugs, inadequate exhaust system, and broken windshield. Grover was stopped by a Batavia patrol officer at 12:30 a.m., Aug. 9, on East Avenue. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Kimberly A. Fox, 44, of Vine Street, Batavia, is charged with harassment 2nd. Fox was arrested on a warrant. She is accused of physically harassing another tenant in her multi-unit dwelling. She was arraigned in City Court and released on her own recognizance. 

Adam B. Thomas, 33, of Batavia, is charged with criminal mischief 4th. At 4:35 p.m. on Aug. 14, police responded to a location on West Main Street to investigate a trespass complaint. While on scene, officers were informed that Thomas was suspected of ripping off the toilet seat in the women's bathroom and refused to exit the building. He was issued an appearance ticket.

Alicia M. Lyons, 42, of Batavia, is charged with harassment 2nd. Lyons is accused of kicking another person in the leg causing a minor injury at 11:38 a.m. Aug. 14. 

Eric P. Doleman, 52, of Corfu, is charged with petit larceny. Doleman is accused of stealing a Reese's snack cake from a gas station on West Main Street, Batavia, at 3:40 a.m. Aug. 13. Doleman was issued an appearance ticket.

Andrew A. Searight, 35, of Niagara Falls, is charged with failure to appear. Searight is accused of failing to appear in City Court as ordered on June 21. Searight was arraigned in City Court and ordered to appear on Sept. 7.

Justin Mark Davis, 31, of Chili Avenue, Rochester, is charged with felony DWI, felony driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, aggravated unlicensed operation, insufficient tail lamps, and driving without a court-mandated interlock device. Davis was stopped at 11:45 p.m. Aug. 11 on Clinton Street Road, Bergen, by Deputy Trevor Sherwood. He was processed at the Genesee County Jail and released on an appearance ticket.

Jay Michael Blatchley, 49, of Bank Street Road, Batavia, is charged with petit larceny. Blatchley is accused of stealing $82.06 in merchandise from a retail store on Veterans Memorial Drive, Batavia, at 7:01 p.m. on Aug. 16. He was processed at the Genesee County Jail and ordered to appear in court on Aug. 23.  NOTE: The Sheriff's Office withheld the name and address of the retail store.

Jamie Aaron Dutton, 30, of Buell Street, Batavia, is charged with burglary 3rd, criminal possession of a controlled substance, and petit larceny.  Dutton is accused of entering Walmart in Batavia at 7:55 p.m. on Aug. 18 with the intent to commit a crime. He was located at a different location by Deputy Andrew Mullen and K-9 Frankie.  He was arraigned in Genesee County Court and ordered to appear in Town of Batavia Court on Sept. 13. Deputy Zachary Hoy investigated the case.

Jonah Lee Epps, 20, of Elm Street, Batavia, is charged with driving while ability impaired by drugs. Epps was arrested on Aug. 20 and charged in connection with a property damage accident reported at 9:21 p.m. on June 16 following the return of laboratory results.  The case was investigated by Deputy David Moore and Deputy Nicholas Chamoun. Epps was issued an appearance ticket. 

Danielle Katherine Kellogg, 24, of Pembroke, is charged with harassment 2nd.  Kellogg is accused of hitting another person causing a minor injury at 2:49 a.m. on Aug. 18, at a location in Pembroke. She was arraigned in Pembroke Town Court.  

Rachael Anne Gillespie, 31, of Main Road, Stafford, is charged with felony DWI and felony driving with a BAC of .08 or greater.  Gillespie was stopped at 8:14 p.m. on Aug. 19 on Sharrick Road, Darien, by Deputy Alexander Hadsall. She was issued traffic tickets and released.

Sandra Lynn Shifley, 39, of Bird Road, Byron, is charged with DWI, driving with a BAC of .08 or greater, and failure to keep right. Shifley was arrested following a report of a property damage accident, a vehicle had struck a road sign, at 7:17 p.m. on Aug. 20 on North Bergen Road, Byron. Shifley was transported to the Genesee County Jail for processing and issued appearance tickets. The accident was investigated by Deputy Jacob Kipler.

Fidel Vargas-Sondoval, 46, of Glenbrook, Rochester, is charged with criminal mischief 3rd. Vargas-Sondoval is accused of slashing tires on Washington Street in Le Roy on Aug. 15.  Vargas-Sondoval was arraigned in Town of Le Roy Court, an order of protection was issued, and he was released pending a future court appearance. 

Austin J. Kettle, 28, of Batavia, is charged with DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Kettle was stopped at 11:58 p.m. on Aug. 19 in the Town of Pembroke by State Police. He was issued an appearance ticket.  No further information released.

Blake R. Johnson, 37, of Canandaigua, is charged with DWI and driving with a BAC of .08 or greater. Johnson was stopped at 3:20 a.m. on Aug. 20 in the Town of Batavia by State Police. Johnson was released on an appearance ticket. No further information released.

August 15, 2022 - 6:16pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Darien Lake Performing Arts Center, news, crime, Darien.

The following people were arrested by the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office during the Outlaw Festival Concert at Darien Lake Performing Arts Center on August 14, 2022:

Anthony M. Digangi, 32, of Big Tree Road, Wales Center, is charged with trespass after allegedly attempting to reenter the concert venue after being ejected and told not to return

Cassandra M. Morales-Diaz, 32, of Orchard Road, Silver Springs, is charged with harassment 2nd after allegedly grabbing another patron by the neck causing a minor injury.

Donald K. Lasker, 53, of Springville Avenue, Amherst, is charged with harassment 2nd after allegedly pushing a Live Nation employee in the chest and neck.

August 15, 2022 - 8:53am
posted by Press Release in Six Flags Darien Lake, Darien, news.


Press release:

There’s something sneaking around the corner​... Fright Fest at Six Flags Darien Lake! ​We're hiring for over 200 ghostly and eerie individuals to join the ​Entertainment team as Scare Actors, costume designers, make-up artist,s and technicians! Applicants may apply online at www.sixflags.com/darienlake/jobs or by texting “SCARE” to 220MONSTER.

Potential candidates can also visit Six Flags Darien Lake’s Human Resources Building during office hours, Monday – Sunday from 9 a.m. to  5 p.m.. Applicants will need to provide two forms of ID.

Six Flags has more than just thrills… it brings on the CHILLS!


August 1, 2022 - 2:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, Darien.

A semi-truck and passenger vehicle collision is reported in the area of 9652 Alleghany Road, Darien, with minor injuries.

Darien Fire, Corfu Fire, and Mercy EMS dispatched.

July 26, 2022 - 3:30pm


July 26, 2022 - 8:10am
posted by Joanne Beck in news, Darien, darien town court, notify, gary graber.

gary_graber_headshot.jpegGary Graber seems like the kind of guy who’d fit in most anywhere.

The longtime Darien judge is also comfortable driving a commercial truck, teaching across the country, embracing the role of grandpa, serving on a variety of boards, charming honey bees, and mowing the enormous greens at Terry Hills.

Though he has already retired, his friends and colleagues want to wish him well with a retirement party next month.

He shared a piece of advice he received that seems to have worked well in his many endeavors.

“I had a fire chief one time, he told me when you're looking at that burning building, and you’ve got to figure out what kind of help you need as far as mutual aid, he always used to say, turn your back when you make the decision. Don't ever make the decision when you're looking at the fire,” Graber said during an interview with The Batavian. “I never forget that because, you know, it's just one of those things where it gives you a chance to take a breath and, you don't make that snap decision. So more than once during something, I just had to make sure that I did that.”

A Critical Move to Small and Rural 
A native of Lancaster, Graber moved to Darien in 1970. He remembers watching the nearby missile sites and hearing hydraulics lifting missiles into an upright position. He was interested in the fire department and joined Darien Fire Company at 16, moving swiftly to assistant fire chief by the time he was 21. His mom moved him and five siblings to Darien after a divorce, shifting his school experience from being in a class of 365 kids to less than a quarter of that.

“For me, this town was something special, because I really question you know, when I lived in Lancaster, whether I would even make it through high school. When I came out here I went to a school that had 74 in our class, so it was really a big difference,” he said. “Folks took me under their wing, got me involved in the fire company. I did well with that.”

At the still-tender age of 24, he became a town justice when another justice also ran for town board, and that was a conflict of interest to hold both roles. So the other justice went on the board, Graber was asked to run for justice, and he jumped in with both feet, campaigned hard and won the justice seat by 150 votes. That job and the fire company position gave him valuable experience beyond his actual duties, he said.

“My heart is for this community; it gave me opportunities I don’t think I ever would’ve had,” he said. “People were good to me, they taught me things. I learned to be an early riser … how to just work hard.”

Training, and Adjustment
Hands-on training was a main factor in learning the ropes, he said, and there were yearly mandatory training courses to keep up-to-date on legal matters. Darien was more of a sleepy little town before Darien became a Six Flags theme park. The community really began to change then, he said.

“When the park exploded, I handled everything,” he said. “There were plenty of jury trials.”

He stepped back in time to when Pantera, a famous rock band led by Phil Anselmo, had a court case that stemmed from performing at the amphitheater. Every time there was a court hearing, “every kid in the world knew who he was, and they were looking through the windows,” he said. Anselmo came up from New Orleans and fully participated in the case, Graber said. Apparently, a guard had gotten hit by a microphone during a show.

How to prevail amidst the commotion of celebrity? As with any other case, “make sure you stay up on your education,” Graber said.

“Stop and look it up, review procedure,” he said. “As time went on, it changed. I just had an active interest in what we were doing. I just had a job you have to work at.”

Of all of the legal training he had taken, it was Leadership Genesee that possibly taught him the most. He never saw himself as a teacher, and the leadership class — he’s a 2005 graduate — brought out some hidden talents that had been under wraps, he said.

“It helped me to dig in there more to teach,” he said. “It was such a life-changer; it pulled out things I never thought I had in me.”

A year later he was nominated for Outstanding Alumnus, sort of “fell into being a commercial truck driver,” and become a truck terminal manager in 2008. That hands-on work certainly equipped him to teach about commercial truck driving law, ensuring that convictions were being properly recorded.

That all culminated in teaching for National Judicial College, which took Graber to 15 states. As time went on, he said that it became apparent that the Court Clerks Association could also benefit from his lessons. As a member of the state Magistrate’s Association since 2003, Graber was appointed as vice president, president and director during his four-plus decades with the group.

“We did a lot of legislative work for the benefit of our courts,” he said. For 11 years, he had an issue in particular — focusing on underage drinking — that was never successful in a legal sense.

“All we wanted to do was to get those involved to take alcohol awareness classes,” he said. “I learned a lot with that; we wanted to be more restorative than punitive.”

One year there were 800 people cited for underage drinking, he said. Restorative justice, through Genesee Justice, and Drug Court evolved out of those efforts. Those underage kids weren’t put in jail, but had to pay a $50 fine and take the class, he said. Most of the time, “their parents would make sure it got done,” he said.

In his 42-year career, Graber never lost an appeal, and his decisions were always upheld. That is something he is proud of, he said. His constant objectives were to be open-minded, remain current on the law and keep up with related education, especially regarding commercial truck licenses and accidents.

A Busy Retirement
“I’m proud to serve my community. And I’m going to do that as an ambassador of the University of Nebraska. I just enjoy it, to go out and talk to these judges and clerks, I just absolutely love it,” he said. “This is all about reducing crashes and saving lives. Last year crashes were up by 13 percent. It gives us a chance to look at things a little differently. We want the public’s trust and confidence.”

"Education, education, education" is the most important thing to keep in mind, he said. Don’t try to take shortcuts.

“We’re the folks that people see more than anyone else; they’re going to remember that,” he said of town justices. “Just handle each case individually. Look at each defendant and decide their case individually, and not to be appealed in criminal cases.”

Graber, who has a partner, Kathy, lives on seven acres of property that blooms “lots of sunflowers,” zinnias and the like — anything that might keep his honey bees and butterflies happy. He has two sons, Matthew, a retired sergeant of the U.S. Army, and Jason, a battalion fire chief. There’s likely to be travel in the future, to visit Graber’s two grandchildren in Tennessee.

His hobby of mowing at Terry Hills golf course puts that early riser in him to good use: from 3 to 7 a.m. three days a week, and periodically with a couple of baby foxes keeping him company; a new role as a board member of GCASA, plus remaining on the County Parks Advisory and Tonawanda Valley Federal Credit Union boards ought to occupy some of his remaining free time.

He doesn’t consider any of it work: it’s just “giving back.” Graber’s philosophy, as an elected official, has been to remember “who we’re doing these jobs for.” “We’re public servants,” he said.

He enjoys his community and has appreciated working in Genesee County with “a good group of criminal justice agencies like Genesee Justice,” he said.

“Because of the options, maybe someone could take a plea when otherwise they would have gone to court. I was just happy to be in this county,” he said. “Tomorrow, I’m going fishing for the first time since I was a kid.”



File photos of Gary Graber in his Darien Town Justice role being sworn in with the state Magistrates Association and laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. 

Snippets from Gary Graber's Bio ...
Justice Gary Graber has served as the town justice for the Town of Darien, New York, since January 1980. He is a past member of the Town and Village Court Education Curriculum Committee and has taught criminal and administrative courses for the New York State Judicial Institute and the New York State Office of Court Administration.

Justice Graber continues to be very active in the development and training of topics relating to commercial driver’s licenses and commercial motor vehicles, including the development of sentencing charts that assist the New York courts in properly disposing of cases that involve commercial motor vehicles equipment violations. As an alumnus and faculty member of the National Judicial College since 2008, he continually instructs judicial personnel both in their home states and virtually on all matters related to the commercial driver’s license.

He is an honorary member of the New York State Magistrates Court Clerks Association. He has received many awards, including the Leadership Award from the Genesee County Magistrates, the 2005 Magistrate of the Year Award, the 2006 Criminal Justice Award from Genesee County Alcohol and Substance Abuse, the 2006 Leadership Genesee Outstanding Alumnus Award, and the 2013 Kevin E. Quinlan Award for Excellence in Traffic Safety.

July 19, 2022 - 1:14pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in news, Darien.

Erie County emergency crews are working a propane leak at 820 County Line Road, Alden, and Darien Fire has been requested to assist with an evacuation within a half-mile of that address.

Traffic is being shut down between 7 Day Road and Alley Road Road.

There are about 20 residential homes that will be asked to evacuate.

UPDATE 1:15 p.m.: Residents from 400 7 Day Road to the west will be asked to evacuate. Corfu Fire dispatched, mutual aid.

UPDATE 1:24 p.m.: State Police are assisting with the evacuation. 

UPDATE 2:12 p.m.: The valve has been shut off.  All residents can return.

July 15, 2022 - 7:43pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Darien, news, notify, religion, Freedom Fellowship, rehabilitation.


On 55 acres of land in the far southwest corner of Genesee County is -- at least for some people who are at their wit's end -- a little slice of heaven.

The land is scenic, of course, but more importantly, for people who think they've exhausted their opportunities for escaping addiction or other behaviors that have seriously messed up their lives, there is an open door and yet one more chance for them to get things straight and find some peace.

Freedom Fellowship has been at 254 Broadway Road, Darien, for more than a decade. It was founded when John and Victoria Kula, with a deep desire to help people find God and overcome their destructive behaviors, came across an old motel and barn for sale on 50 acres of otherwise open land.

"I was helped 20-some years ago and my life changed completely," John said. "So my purpose was to help others. This was our vision way back and we ended up out here in Darien. The Lord led us out here and we purchased this property."

Victoria said she and John had been seeing each other for about two months when a friend invited him to a conference. 

"The conference was about spiritual things and he came to know the Lord there," she said. "I knew about the Lord before but wasn't really a follower.  Once John changed it was just natural for both of us to want to serve the Lord. We feel because of our experiences in life God has called us to help people with the same struggles we experienced ourselves."

Freedom Fellowship is a non-profit that offers a path to faith-based redemption for anybody struggling with destructive behavior, whether it's drugs, drinking, gambling, eating disorders, or any other behavior a person feels has gotten out of control.

Total Freedom, on its website, calls it a "one-step program."  That step is Jesus Christ.

The Program
Those who enter the program live on Total Freedom's campus for nine months of discipleship. 

"There's a curriculum that's set up by Total Freedom in Florida," John said. "It's a biblical curriculum that guides you through a healing and deliverance process. (The curriculum) is normally three to four months. The curriculum is put on an iPad and each individual works at their own pace. It's all videotape teaching. It's all about healing and transitioning and growing as who we are and being able to transition back into society."

John doesn't pretend it's easy.  It's not for everybody and some people walk away.  The day before John spoke with The Batavian, a man traveled from Oklahoma after being accepted into the program.  He was there for a couple of hours and then turned around and went back home.

Still, John said that about 95 percent of the people who enter the program have stayed clean or otherwise avoided the destructive behavior at the end of their two-year Total Freedom journey.  Participants are not tracked after completing the two-year program (that includes 12 months of after-care). It's not possible to independently verify the rehabilitation claim.

"It's a lifestyle change that we're really teaching," John said. "It's putting God in the center of your life and letting Him lead in everything you do."

For those who can't afford rehab, the first four months of the program are free. During the next phase, participants are expected to take a job to learn a skill, either at one of the ministry's businesses or off campus.  At that point, they pay $125 a week for room and board.

"They start learning how to save money, the basic skills of life, living," John said. "That is how the process goes through nine months. Then there's a year of aftercare where the test comes on how you're gonna handle your life and what you've learned."

Building a ministry
John is retired after 33 years of working, and he draws a pension.  Neither John nor Victoria are paid by the ministry.

"It has always been very important to us to not take an income from the ministry if it wasn’t necessary," Victoria said. "So far we haven’t needed to, so we don’t."

Tax records, as of 2020, show Freedom Fellowship, a 501(c)(3), has $1.4 million in assets.  Most of that appears to be the property the ministry owns. The main campus, 50 acres, is assessed at just over $1 million, and an adjoining property, acquired in 2019, is assessed at $247,000.

"The younger generation is earning an income through the various businesses that the ministry runs, and they need the income to make a living," Victoria said. "We do have some very generous donors and we did receive a large donation in order for us to purchase the properties."

What attracted John and Victoria to the first parcel that comprises the campus was a former motel that was being used as a residential rental complex.  That former motel now houses family members of people going through the program.  John and Victoria have added on, building a dormitory, recreation and meeting rooms, and a kitchen in a separate structure.

That most recently acquired property, on the west side of the campus, includes a two-story house built in 1880 that houses women going through the program.

The acquisition of the house, John said, allows the ministry to keep the men and women separated by the length of the campus. 

Total Freedom can provide a residence for eight women and 12 to 15 men at a time.

Campus life
While there, residents can make use of a fitness center and sauna, play foosball, ping-pong, basketball, and other sports, help in the garden and with the goats and chickens, and each Sunday enjoy fellowship with family before and after services.

Services are held in a chapel built in a converted barn.

And then there are the lush hiking trails through the heavily wooded, creek-laced back portion of the expansive property.

"The program is mind, body, and spirit," John said. "The menu we have, there's no sugars or carbs.  The trails are here for exercise.  Every morning, as far as the body is concerned, for a half-hour, we come back here (on the trails) and either walk or run, or whatever you want to do, but there's got to be a movement back here on these beautiful trails."

There was one person a while back, John said, who entered the program weighing 500 pounds. He needed a walker to get around.

"He walked the parking lot until he could walk these trails and eventually he lost the walker and he lost 140 pounds," John said.

There are also chores for residents.  They clean the grounds and help with maintenance.

The Entrepreneurial Spirit
As for employment opportunities on campus, Freedom Fellowship established four businesses:

The businesses are intended to provide training and work experience for residents going through the program, an opportunity to earn money to help pay their rent and help them learn about managing finances, and generate revenue for the ministry to supplement donations, however, the print shop took a couple of years to start turning a profit and the auto shop is not yet profitable.

The auto shop is a Napa-certified training facility.  It's run by Mark Snow, who entered the program in 2016 and has stayed clean and sober since.

"I personally had been through 10 different rehabs over the course of 20 years of drug addiction, and I came through Total Freedom and I'm set free from it," Snow said. "The difference is Jesus Christ. That's all there is to it. The difference is a relationship with God. There's no other way to explain it."

For Mike Raymond, it also took putting all of his faith in God to finally put him on the right path, he said.

He first experienced Total Freedom in Florida, his home state, but soon found himself struggling with alcohol again.

Raymond had a pretty successful life in the restaurant industry.  

"I kept being offered more, more and more opportunity in the field," Raymond said. "So as much as I didn't particularly like it, I stayed with it because the money was good. I worked in various capacities over the course of my career, anywhere from starting out at the very bottom to working as a regional training director. I worked as a regional vice president. I worked as a food and beverage director, as a general manager."

The good money led to the high life and when that wasn't working for him any longer, Raymond wound up at Total Freedom in Florida. After going through the program, he tried returning to the restaurant industry but fell back into old habits.  He joined Total Freedom in Darien in 2019 and has been part of the program since, running the kitchen for the ministry.

"What's worked for me is submitting, realizing that -- to really come into the knowledge of the truth -- that this is not my home, that I'm a sojourner, and that I have a purpose and that Jesus died for me," Raymond said. "What I need to do is glorify Him in what I do and not look to the things of the world -- the money, the fame, all the things that I looked at as positives in my former life."

His job now is heading up Freedom Fellowship's newest business venture, The Table, a Mexican-themed curbside pickup restaurant on the campus.

"Mexican food has always been my cup of tea," Raymond said. "I worked for a Mexican concept for a long time. We made everything from scratch. It was real, and it's one of my favorite foods. So when I came here, it was not, obviously, the intention but when we started talking about (starting a restaurant) originally, that was the first thing that came to my mind. We prayed about it and decided, 'Hey, let's go with it and open a concept that was similar to what I knew."

The Table opened to the public earlier this month. The restaurant's menu is available online, along with online ordering.

Because New York doesn't sanction faith-based rehabilitation, most of the residents who join the program do not come to Total Freedom through the court system (though a couple of judges in Western New York have authorized it, John said). Instead, people at their wit's end hear about Total Freedom from churches and community centers.

"Once people know who we are and what we do -- and I'm going to be honest with you -- basically, sometimes it's the last resort for them because we don't charge and a lot of places want insurance or they want $1,000 up front," John said. "We just want to bring them in and when they can eventually pay, that's fine. If not, that's fine, too. We believe in and trust in that (idea), and that's definitely a blessing."

Photos by Howard Owens



Mike Raymond


Mark Snow


A room in the men's dormitory.


Part of the hiking trails.


The Batavian visited Total Freedom on June 25, the day the ministry hosted a car show, chicken BBQ, basket raffle and a bit of a carnival.  Retired pastor Richard Gritzke, pictured above with his Rolls Royce, won the prize for most classic car. The photos below are all from June 25.






July 15, 2022 - 3:21pm
posted by Press Release in Sumner Road, Darien, infrastructure, news.

Press release:

County Highway will be closing Sumner Road approximately 1,000 feet east of Route 77 for a culvert replacement from 7 a.m., Monday, July 18 through 4 p.m., Wednesday, July 21.  This is adjacent to Darien Lake Theme Park and between Route 77 and the Darien Lake Employee entrance on Sumner Road.  The culvert replacement has been coordinated with Daren Lake and the Genesee County Sheriff’s Office to hit a gap in the busy concert schedule at the park.  It is expected that the road will be reopened by Wednesday evening. Use caution once reopened as the culvert crossing will remain a gravel surface until paving can occur once the concert season slows down.


July 14, 2022 - 1:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, Darien.

An SUV and semi-truck have reportedly collided in the area of 254 Broadway Road, Darien.

The location is between Countyline Road and Harlow Road.

Possible serious injury with entrapment.

Mercy Flight is on ground standby. 

Darien Fire, mutual aid from Corfu, and Mercy EMS dispatched.

UPDATE 3:03 p.m.: When a first responder arrived on scene shortly after the accident was reported, the semi was off the road and the roadway was not blocked. The driver of the SUV was out of the vehicle and walking. The driver of the tractor-trailer was conscious and alert but trapped because the cab was up against a tree.  Alden was requested to respond to assist with extrication but then the scene commander said the driver could be extricated with just a ladder. Alden's ambulance requested to the scene. Mercy Flight not required.  The SUV driver is likely a signoff. The right saddle tank on the truck was ruptured, about 75 gallons. DEC arrived on scene at 3:19 p.m.

July 10, 2022 - 1:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Darien, news, accident.

A two-car accident is reported at Colby and Sumner roads, Darien.

Multiple injuries are reported.

Darien Fire, ambulance, Mercy EMS and Corfu Fire dispatched.

June 20, 2022 - 6:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in crime, batavia, Darien, news, notify.


Mary E. Dorman, 36, of Batavia, is charged with DWI, failure to keep right, and moving from lane unsafely. Dorman was involved in a head-on collision at 10:45 p.m., June 4, on Bank Street, Batavia, with a Batavia PD patrol vehicle. Her vehicle also struck a parked car. Dorman was arraigned in City Court and released on her own recognizance.

Thomas Michael Busch, 45, of Willow Street, Lockport, is charged with possession of a sexual performance by a child. Busch was arrested following an investigation into digital images on an electronic device in his possession at 4:30 p.m., May 29, at a location on Alleghany Road, Darien.  He was released on an appearance ticket.

Corey Amber Knapp, 20, of North Avenue, Medina, is charged with criminal possession of a controlled substance 7th. Knapp was arrested on a bench warrant out of City Court.  She was arraigned in Town of Batavia Court and released on her own recognizance.

Constance Christine Pocock, 48, of undisclosed residence, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Pocock was arrested by Deputy Jeremiah Gechell in connection with an incident reported in Stafford at 11:38 p.m., June 18.  The specifics of the incident were not disclosed.  She was arraigned in Town of Stafford Court and released on her own recognizance.

Joel D. Prouty 36, of Bergen, is charged with strangulation 2nd, attempted assault 3rd, and petit larceny. Prouty is accused of fighting with a woman at 6:18 p.m., June 8, at a location on Oak Street, Batavia. He was arraigned in City Court and ordered held without bail.

Johnnie M. Waston, 39, of Batavia, is charged with trespass. Watson is accused of returning to a local business on East Main Street, Batavia, at 5:54 p.m., June 13, after being barred from the business.

Megan A. Gregg, 28, of Batavia, is charged with endangering the welfare of a child. Gregg is accused of leaving prescription pills and drug paraphernalia in an area accessible to children at a residence on Ellsworth Avenue, Batavia. She was released on an appearance ticket.

Christopher P Thomas, 38, of Batavia, was arrested on a warrant. Thomas turned himself into Batavia PD. The charges, not released, stem from an incident reported at 1 p.m., May 31.  He was processed and released.

Amanda L. Huber, 40, of Batavia, is charged with disorderly conduct. Huber is accused of fighting in public at 7 a.m., June 3, at a location on East Main Street, Batavia. She was released on an appearance ticket.

Erik R. Motquin, 40, of Batavia is charged with disorderly conduct. Motquin is accused of fighting in public at 7 a.m., June 3, at a location on East Main Street, Batavia. He was released on an appearance ticket.

Tarrence Y. Williams, 22, of Batavia, is charged with criminal contempt 1st, harassment 2nd, and endangering the welfare of a child., Williams was allegedly involved in an incident reported at 10:10 a.m., June 9, at a location on Porter Avenue, in which he had physical contact with a person who is subject of an order of protection while in the presence of a child. He was arraigned in City Court and released on his own recognizance.

McKenzie N. O’Connell, 19, of Batavia, is charged with two counts of endangering the welfare of child. O’Connell is accused of providing marijuana to two juveniles and allowing them to smoke the cannabis in her house. She was issued an appearance ticket.

Andrew J. Carr, 40, of Pavilion, is charged with felony DWI, felony driving with a BAC of .18 or greater, and moving from lane unsafely. Carr was stopped at 2:12 a.m., June 11, on Harvester Avenue, Batavia, by a Batavia patrol officer. Carr was issued traffic tickets.

M. Compson Summerfield, 24, of Holley, is charged with DWI and reckless driving. Summerfield was stopped at 8:55 p.m., June 13, by State Police in the Town of Batavia. He was released on an appearance ticket.

Paula A. Kingdollar, 53, of Covington, is charged with petit larceny. Kingdollar is accused of a theft at 8:04 a.m., June 15, in the Town of Batavia.  She was arrested by State Police and released on an appearance ticket. No further information released.

Top photo: Photo of a head-on collision involving a Batavia patrol vehicle. Photo by Alecia Kaus/Video News Service.

June 18, 2022 - 6:15pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in accident, news, Darien.

A woman is reporting trouble breathing after an automobile accident at Broadway Road and Harlow Road, Darien.

There are also two possible neck injuries and a possible rib injury.

The accident is not blocking.

Darien Fire and Darien ambulance dispatched.

June 17, 2022 - 6:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in Freedom Fellowship, Darien, news.

Healthy spirits and healthy bodies is part of the goal of a planned curbside eatery on Route 20 in Darien, according to leaders of Freedom Fellowship.

The non-profit organization is seeking a special use permit for the planned establishment, which did get the blessing of the County Planning Board last week. 

The restaurant will be called The Table Latin American Grill and serve salads, rice bowls, and burritos.

"Part of our program is to eat healthy," said John Kula. "We don't really have sugars or a lot of carbohydrates in our menu. It's a pretty basic menu."

The staff for the eatery will be people who are going through or have been through Freedom Fellowship's addiction recovery program, which the ministry has been operating at 254 Broadway Road for a decade.

There's no new construction planned for the project.  The ministry will use existing structures.

The addiction program helps people in a faith-based atmosphere deal with a range of addictions and related issues, such as depression and anger.

The restaurant is the latest non-profit business for the ministry, which already operates an auto repair shop and a print shop.  The work in these businesses helps raise money for the non-profit but it is also part of the recovery process.

"It's outpatient therapy, really, for a lot of people," said Joshua Klenke, an operations manager. "It shows them a different way of life beyond what they know."

One of the managers of the new restaurant is a former regional manager for Cracker Barrel.

"He had an alcohol problem," Kula said. "The program changed his life. The Lord changed his life. And now he's paying it forward with this. And it's a blessing."

Freedom Fellowship's second annual Car Show and Chicken BBQ begins at 11 a.m. and runs until 2 p.m. on June 25.  There is a basket raffle and prizes and awards for various classes of cars in the show.  The location is 254 Broadway Road, Darien Center.

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