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Geneseean of the Year

March 1, 2017 - 6:13pm

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Looking back at his formative years, lifelong Batavian Steve “Stump” Grice said the time invested by his buddies’ parents left a lasting impression and helped set him on a course of civic and charitable volunteerism.

“For me, I grew up doing sports and events, and was part of the Ellicott Avenue crew,” Grice said. “I noticed that the fathers of the kids that I hung out with were coaching us, and when I was done with college, I started coaching football.

“Then I got pulled in more and more, and it just kind of clicked. (Volunteering) is like paying a tab … honoring those before us.”

Steve’s wife, the former Lisa Grasso, said was introduced to community service as a Girl Scout and “junior fireman” while growing up in Cheektowaga.

“And after that, when we had our boys (Alex, 24, a special education teacher at Oakfield-Alabama Central School, and Casey, 21, a junior at Brockport State College majoring in Therapeutic Recreation for special needs persons), I started getting involved here,” she said.

Fast forward to 2017, and the Grices have made a tremendous impact upon organizations ranging from Batavia Youth Football to the John Kennedy Home School Association to Genesee Cancer Assistance to the Genesee County/City Youth Bureau to the Batavia Rotary Club to the Genesee County Volunteer Service Tuition Program.

For their efforts, Steve and Lisa have been selected as Geneseeans of the Year by the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce and will be honored at the 45th annual awards ceremony on March 4 at the Quality Inn & Suites on Park Road.

They were nominated by Chris Suozzi, who serves with Steve on the Board of Directors of Genesee Cancer Assistance.

“I am nominating Steve and Lisa for their combined volunteer efforts to the community for decades. Their tireless efforts go unnoticed and I feel it’s time for us to reward them!”

Both Steve and Lisa, who celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary last Nov. 2, will tell you that the reward is in doing what needs to be done to ensure that a particular organization reaches its goals.

“The satisfaction comes from the end result … knowing that you’ve accomplished something for the community,” Steve said during an interview at their Chase Park home. “Knowing what the dollar amount (raised) means, and that we had goals and hit those goals.

Steve said he was notified of the award on “Friday the 13th” (of January) during a phone call from Mary Blevins, a member of the selection committee.

“At first, I was thinking it was a joke. I was speechless,” Steve said. “When Mary asked me if I wanted to tell my wife or if I wanted her to do it, I said, ‘You better, she won’t believe me.' ”

Lisa said they are humbled by the recognition but admits to being a bit nervous about having to deliver a speech.

“I like to stay behind the scenes,” she said, noting that Steve is the “out-front person” and she handles the duo’s administrative and organizational responsibilities.

Her volunteer resume includes concession stand work for Batavia’s youth baseball leagues, fundraising for the Batavia Basketball Boosters, coordinating the JK Home School Association’s pasta night dinner for seven years through 2007, scheduling and bookkeeping for Batavia Youth Football, serving on the Batavia City Youth Bureau board for four years, assisting the Rotary Club’s Oktoberfest and directing the county volunteer tuition program since 1995.

“I really enjoyed the pasta dinners at JK, especially seeing the dads and moms as waiters and waitresses, and seeing all the kids who wanted to help,” said Lisa, a 28-year Genesee County employee who has served as principal clerk at the highway department for the past four years.

Steve has been involved with Batavia Youth Football for 30 years, has been a Rotarian for 19 years – he is a former Paul Harris Fellow Award winner – and has been with Genesee Cancer Assistance for 15 years -- six of those as a board member. He also coached youth baseball, volunteered for the Michael Napoleone Foundation and rang the bell for the Salvation Army.

A deputy clerk in the Genesee County clerk’s office following a 29-year career in the real estate title insurance/abstract profession, Steve was the Genesee County Adult Volunteer of the Year in 2013 and the City of Batavia Volunteer of the Year in 2014.

He credited his mentor, the late Joe Gerace, with “getting me into a lot of things” and was fortunate to spend time with Gerace.

“We became family,” he said.

Steve said he was glad to see that Gerace, who passed away last November, stayed involved with Genesee Cancer Assistance right to the end.

“Joe was the co-chair of our golf tournament last August, so we had all of our meetings at the VA (Medical Center) every Wednesday so he could continue to be a part of it,” Steve said. “And he made it to the tournament -- ran his putting contest and visited everyone riding on the golf cart.”

February 28, 2015 - 3:31pm

This is the seventh and last profile of the 2014 Chamber of Commerce Award winners. The awards will be presented at a dinner at the Clarion Hotel tonight.

Thousands of senior citizens in Genesee County have gratefully enjoyed nutritious food prepared and delivered to their door because Margaret "Peggy" Lamb was key in launching Meals on Wheels here in 1974. Showcasing local farms beginning in 1989 with the annual Decision Makers' Agricultural Tour, underscoring the sector's economic impact, was her brainchild.

Although these two accomplishments are among her proudest achievements, she has helped out on many fronts.

Named one of two Geneseeans of the Year for 2014 by the Chamber of Commerce, she is all about serving the community. (The other Geneseean of the Year 2014 is William "Bill" Schutt.)

Her record of volunteerism spans 46 years, and the beneficiaries include: the United Memorial Medical Center Foundation; the YWCA Board of Directors; Oakfield Methodist Church, where she is trustee and has served in several leadership roles over the years; CASA for Children (Court Appointed Special Advocates); the Genesee Symphony Orchestra Board; the Muriel H. Marshall Fund Planning and Advisory Team; the Chamber of Commerce; Oakfield Betterment Committee; and the recently formed Richmond Memorial Library Foundation.

As the saying goes, "If want something done, ask a busy person." She stays active and gets things done.

And those who know her well, like Elba resident Lucine Kauffman, who nominated her, not only vouch for that, they also appreciate her honesty, wit, generosity, intellectual curiosity and just plain hard work.

Peggy and her husband, Gordon, live in Oakfield and have three grown sons, Craig, a veterinarian, and Jonathan and Matthew, who work in the family business -- Lamb Farms. It operates in three locations, mostly as a dairy farm, but they grow some vegetables, too. They have more than 100 employees.

She knew nothing about farming when she married in 1968, two years after earning a degree in Christian education at Keuka College. She grew up in Hamburg and her dad worked for a state utility company -- 8 to 5 -- and was "always home on weekends."

Not so with farming. The long hours were "a shock" she says, requiring a great adjustment. She, obviously, managed to balance things -- her duties on the farm, including being the bookkeeper, raising the boys, and giving her time and talent to worthy causes.

She keeps on giving.

As a court advocate for children with CASA, for example, she's had to learn the intricacies of the legal system and the mix of resources that are available or required to handle the caseload and assist families.

"It was a real eye-opener," Peggy said. "It's not for the weak of heart. I don't think the average person in Genesee County realizes all what happens. There's a whole group of people with needs -- that we had no idea there were so many of them or how extensive their needs were."

But helping them has been rewarding, she said.

"I'm working very one-on-one with the children and learning all about their backgrounds so I can give my best advice to the judge on what I think should happen to these children."

With age has come the realization that she can't volunteer to the degree that she once did.

"I feel I'm glad to help when I can," she said. "I'm glad to be doing what I'm doing now."

February 28, 2015 - 9:00am
posted by Billie Owens in Geneseean of the Year, bill schutt.

This is the sixth 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 tonight.

On the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2013, William ("Bill") Schutt wound up with lots of other emergency personnel at an icy Alabama swamp trying desperately to rescue a lone deer hunter who became stranded. Sometime after 2:30 that afternoon and into the cold of night, Alabama's assistant fire chief fretted and planned and coordinated as dozens of volunteers risked their lives, tempted frostbite, and went through plans A, B and C to haul Vermont visitor Colin Phillips to safety.

At 6:59 p.m., this was relayed over the scanner, "Alabama command -- all the men and equipment are accounted for. We're out." A grateful Phillips, Schutt and the other exhausted emergency responders could look forward to the holiday and leave what could easily have been a tragedy behind them.

As Schutt would later say, "This is what we do."

He has been handling emergency situations with quiet aplomb for more than two decades and is one of two people chosen as Geneseean of the Year for 2014 by the Chamber of Commerce. (The other is Margaret "Peggy" Lamb.)

"Howard (publisher of The Batavian) kind of summed it up when he said it's nice to see a volunteer firefighter is getting the award," Schutt said. "I'm not getting out of bed at 3 in the morning because I might win an award some day. I feel like this award is for all the volunteer firefighters and emergency responders."

The 52-year-old native of West Seneca has lived in the Town of Alabama for about 25 years. He's married and has a son, a daughter and a baby granddaughter ("She's got me in training," he said of the little one.)

He serves as the West Battalion coordinator for the Genesee County Emergency Management Office and is employed full-time as general manager of Mercy EMS, where he manages a staff of more than 60 and its fleet of vehicles.

What kind of person donates more than 25 years to a volunteer fire department -- chairing committees, recruiting members, serving as chief, assistant chief (his current rank), captain and lieutenant? What type of guy spends countless hours on training and offers to do both menial and heroic tasks for free, and does them with equanimity?

Not your average citizen, that's for sure.

"Bill manages to help people everywhere directly and indirectly, from rescuing them from a fire, to transporting them safely and quickly to a hospital," wrote nominator Wendy Allen-Thompson in a letter to the chamber. "Bill is a true hero every day."

Lynn O'Donnell, Mercy's local outreach coordinator, agrees wholeheartedly.

"When everyone else is running out of a burning building, you're running in," O'Donnell says of firefighting volunteers, which includes herself. "Nights of planned dinners, family functions, quiet evenings ruined by the sound of a fire pager telling you of some soul's plight. ... We have to be on our best game when those who call us are having their worst day."

Like Colin Phillips had a couple of years ago in that swamp.

After the incident, Phillips said of his rescuers -- volunteers from fire departments in four counties, "I owe them my life. If they didn't come out and get me, I'd be dead tonight. I appreciate every second of it. They're great people."

Asked by a reporter, what can you say to that? Schutt said the most you can say, really, is "Thank you."

He continued "These guys are out here in the cold for hours, but it's something you do for your community. When you're part of a volunteer fire department, somebody calls for help, it's not something you complain about. None of these guys are going to complain about being out here in the cold and away from home for hours."

Least of all, Bill Schutt. Thank you.

February 21, 2014 - 9:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in Bethany, Stafford, Chamber Awards, Geneseean of the Year.

Metal can be molded, shaped and welded together so that it becomes something stronger.

So can the youth of our community.

In a manner of speaking, Tim Adams does both.

As owner of Adams Welding and Manufacturing in Stafford, Adams makes and repairs farm equipment and commercial products.

As a community member who grew up on a local farm, Adams remains deeply committed to 4H and donates hundreds of hours of his time each year to the organization.

Adams grew up in 4H and even after turning 19, he remained involved.

"You don't realize right away the impact 4H has on you and the values it instills in you until later on," Adams said. "It's not that you're out of 4H at 19 -- you don't realize at 19 all the values that you've taken from 4H until later on. This last year really hit home that without people who are willing to volunteer there's not going to be organizations like 4H."

This commitment to our community, both as a volunteer and a local business owner, is the reason Adams will receive a Geneseean of the Year Award from the Chamber of Commerce on Saturday night.

"I'm surprised to be getting the award," Adams said. "That's not why I did it. I didn't do it to get an award. I do what I do to help 4H. It's truly an honor to get it, but I never thought what I did was that much more than anybody does. I just did what I did to get it done."

The son of Mike and Debbie Adams, Tim grew up on their farm in East Bethany, where he developed an appreciation for farm equipment that is in good working order.

"I was pretty meticulous about it," he said.

At first, the Adams farm was a hog farm (later adding replacement heifers) and Tim got involved with the 4H Swine Club, where he met the late Ron Komer, whom he said was a big influence on his life and his view of leadership.

"He was always there to help you if you needed something," Adams said.

In high school, Adams was taking a class at BOCES and a classmate, Jake Pocock, asked him if he'd ever tried welding. He hadn't. Jake had him put on the protective gear and weld two pieces of metal together.

 "All it took was one stick rod and I was hooked," Adams said.

Two years of welding classes at BOCES and two years of more study at Alfred State and Adams had a career, and with his connections to the ag community in Genesee County, Adams had a place to start to build a business.

In early 2012, Tim Adams and his brother Scott (Adams Trucking) took a big step together for the growth of both of their businesses and built a shop in Stafford on Route 5.

Adams' involvement with 4H includes leading the Swine Club, conducting the tractor safety courses, serving on various committees and taking charge on some key fundraising efforts.

This past year, he helped organize -- with John Duyssen, Keith Carlson, Heather Weber -- the Swine Club's first pulled pork BBQ, which Adams believes is the most successful fundraiser in the history of Genesee County 4H.

This was also the first year the Swine Club sold a club pig at the County Fair's livestock sale.

Among the most cherished contributions Adams makes to 4H is teaching the tractor safety classes. He took his first class from Bob Mullen at age 14 and has been involved in tractor safety ever since.

He said it's such a critical class for farm kids and does a lot to prepare youngsters to help out around their family farms.

"Being involved in 4H teaches responsibility, it teaches community service, it teaches you to take responsibility for an animal and be accountable, and it teaches a lot of life skills," Adams said.

He is also a member of a welding trade association, the Farm Bureau and has helped raise money for Crossroads House.

All of this community involvement has inspired Scott Adams to get more involved.

"It's something to see somebody actually carrying off and pulling off as much effort as he does," said Scott Adams, who's chairing the fair committee this year. "He actually cares about what he does. He goes that extra mile to get something done. From what he does with 4H, he's got me more involved with the fair and the ag society. He's motivated me to get involved more in the community. It's an eye-opening experience that one person can make a difference."

Clearly, making a difference is important to Tim Adams. He wants to make a difference in lives of young people the way people like Komer and Mullen did with him. Maybe today's 4H members will remember what Tim Adams did for them.

"I hope they look back like I did 10 years after I was out and look back and say, 'Hey, he was helping make me the person I am today,' " Adams said. "I'm hoping that's what they'll say."

February 20, 2014 - 2:30pm
posted by Alecia Kaus in batavia, Chamber Awards, Geneseean of the Year.

Volunteerism is a way of life for Laurie Mastin.

It is a way of life made possible because of two things. Her employer and her family.

Laurie has been working with National Grid (Niagara Mohawk) for almost 35 years. She started as a steno clerk in Dunkirk.

After transferring to the Batavia Office 31 years ago, and taking the necessary math and electrical theory courses needed to become a consumer representative, she says her life has come full circle.

"I believe in paying back," Mastin says. "That's how I was raised."

Her volunteer work in Genesee County all began with her kids, she says.

"In the 1990s I was the soccer mom."

With three boys playing in the Pavilion Amature Soccer Association and being heavily involved in Boy Scouts and a regular volunteer at St. Mary's in Pavilion, Laurie and her husband, Randy, were always on the go outside of their everyday jobs.

Laurie and Randy have been married for 31 years and their sons are, Gregory, 30, Andrew, 28, and Michael, 25.

Laurie, who is originally from Fillmore in Alleghany County, met her husband at the age of 15. They became friends after working a Rotary Camp in Pike with their fathers. They never dated until they were 21. They married at 22, and Laurie had their first son at age 23. Randy is originally from Dansville.

When they married, they decided that Pavilion would be a great place to settle down and live because it was located in between Randy's job in Dansville and Laurie's job in Batavia.

In 2002, Laurie's employer asked her if she would like to go through Leadership Genesee.

It's a 12-month course that works on team building and networking. She says this course was a pivotal, life changing time for her. It was also a springboard for Mastin.

"It makes you look at what is going on in your community. It makes you look at the mirror and at your strengths and weaknesses and what you want to change and how to get there."

Mastin says she did not feel very outgoing at the time and did not like to go outside of her comfort zone.

After completing Leadership Genesee, Mastin says she has taken some chances professionally and is a lot more confident. She joined the steering committee for Leadership Genesee and was the editor for their newsletter and helped with curriculum planning.

A classmate sponsored Laurie for Rotary in February of 2003.

"Rotary does so many things -- it's not just having lunch once a week, we raise a lot of money that goes right back into the community," Mastin says. "We fund 15 to 20 organizations for different grants they ask for on an annual basis."

Mastin is currently the Rotary board secretary and says over the years the Rotary Genesee County Nursing Home Christmas Party has become her favorite event. The event is in its 93rd year and began when the home was located in Bethany. 

All the nursing home residents who are able to attend are brought to the atrium and Bill Pitcher and the Ghost Riders entertain everyone while each resident in the facility gets a Christmas present. Mastin says, "Each time I've gone to this event and had someone say 'this is the only present I got this year, thank you so much.' "

Mastin has also been involved in the past four Rotary theatrical shows and is an active Rotary chairperson for the Youth Exchange Selection, Girls basketball tournament, Oktoberfest, Christmas at the County nursing home and the United Way Day of Caring.

In recognition of her tremendous Batavia Rotary volunteer efforts, Mastin was awarded the Paul Harris Fellow Award.

Membership in Rotary then led to her being asked to be on the board for the Genesee Orleans Regional Arts Council (GO ART!). She spent two three-year terms on the board and is very proud of the revamping of the GO ART! building at Main and Bank streets in Donwtown Batavia in 2005.

"It was a huge undertaking," Mastin says. "Getting the money and figuring out how to get it done, it was very meaningful." 

During her term at GO ART!, Mastin was then recruited as a Junior Achievment presenter at John Kennedy School in Batavia. She volunteered in the kindergarten class for seven years.

In 2008, Mastin was the recipient of the YWCA Fabulous Female Award. The award is given out each year to a female in the community who is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice and freedom and dignity for all people.

In addition to being a volunteer for education, the arts and business, Laurie shared her volunteer skills with those who are less fortunate in the community.

Laurie provided leadership to the Genesee-Orleans Ministry of Concern by serving on its board of directors from 2009- 2011. The Ministry of Concern works with people to provide emergency services for the poor and encourages needy members of the community to become independent and self-sufficient members of society.

When Laurie's mother became ill in 2011, she decided to step down with the Ministry of Concern and devote her time to taking care of her mom in Fillmore.

Mastin lost her mother this past year. Her 89-year-old father, who is also a Rotarian, still lives in Fillmore.

When Mastin's boss, Paul Kazmierczak, nominated her for Geneseean of the Year, she says she felt she did not deserve it this year.

"I am just doing Rotary now," Mastin says. "I feel uncomfortable about getting this award. I have worked with so many people on all these different avenues."

Kazmierczak says, "Laurie Mastin is a volunteer 'leader' who keeps on giving to all facets of Genesee County. She is a special person and a unique asset and ambassador."

"People are doing the work here in Genesee County," Mastin says. "I think that's what sets us apart from other counties across the state. Other counties don't see the collaboration we have here with local governments and economic developement.

"We have infrastructure here. We can disagree on things, but come to a table and hash things out and not stonewall things and that is how things get done here."

Over the last 31 years National Grid has allowed Laurie to do her job largely unsupervised, but if she needs help her bosses are always there.

"They kind of let me do what I do here to be successful not just in my job, but in the community, and I support that. I am very grateful." 

Photo by Howard Owens

April 8, 2011 - 1:35pm

This is our fifth and final installment of stories on the 2010 Genesee County Chamber of Commerce awards winners. The awards will be presented at a dinner tomorrow evening at the Clarion Hotel.

Among the many good works that 2010 Geneseean of the Year Joe Teresi has been active in over the years is the Challenger Sports program.

His involvement began when a local woman came to him with an idea for a program serving kids with special needs, giving them a chance to play sports, but wondering how to insure those activities. As vice president of Tompkins Insurance, he might have the answer. 

His plan, rather than burdening the upstart program with its own policy, was to get it under the umbrella of the YMCA.

With that insight, one of Genesee County's most enduring and endearing community activities was born.

Teresi said that seeing the joy on the faces of the kids in the Challenger program is reward enough for the volunteer work that he does, but he’s had to find the best way to balance nonprofit work with his career.

“Sometimes, I’m able to mix the two like with the Challenger Sports,” he said.

But other times, Teresi just donates his extra time to a cause he feels is worthy.

“Being able to give an organization 100 percent of my effort is great,” he explained. “But one thing about volunteering is sometimes the same thing gets old and when that happens, you’re ready to move on to the next challenge.”

Teresi has been an officer and director on the Genesee and Wyoming counties YMCA board and his knowledge of the organization was crucial when he helped found Challenger Sports.

According to Teresi, a lot of things in his life have led him toward volunteerism.

“It’s been instilled in me -- – probably through my parents, high school at Notre Dame where they make community service a big part, and also through my company here,” Teresi said as he sat in his office at Tompkins Insurance.

“We get so much from the community that we make it a big point for all of our employees to give back to the communities where we live and serve – both with some money if they can, but more importantly with their time and effort.”

But Teresi doesn’t volunteer his time just because it’s encouraged at work.

“It’s the smiles,” he said.

“For Christmas dinner this year we served over 300 people and probably over 100 of them were kids…seeing the smiles on their faces when they got not only a good meal, but when they received their present and had a taste of Christmas that they might not have had a full taste of before.”

Teresi worked with the Lions Club of Batavia for years to make a free Christmas dinner possible to those who might need it. He explained that his whole family gets involved and it’s a special time for each one of them.

“The Lions Club does a lot of good for the community that goes unnoticed and it was really my beginning of giving back as an adult,” Teresi said.

He thanked Rocco Della Penna for introducing him to the Lions Club, and the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce for choosing to honor him this year -- along with Rick Mancuso and Shelly Fallitico for nominating him – especially because being named Geneseean of the Year came as a surprise.

“I was in shock and awe,” he admitted.

“Then I realized that it would be a great thing to be recognized for some of the work over the past few years, but there are many other people who do good work that often go unnoticed."

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