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Make a Difference Day is next Wednesday for BHS seniors and the community benefits from it

By Billie Owens

Press release:

Make a Difference Day for all Batavia High School seniors will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 16.

They will participate in the annual Make a Difference Day community service project in various nonprofit agencies throughout the community. 

Participating agencies include: All Babies Cherished, Arc of Genesee Orleans Rainbow Preschool, Batavia Agri-Business Child Development, Batavia Housing Authority, Batavia Peace Garden, City of Batavia Youth Bureau, Crossroads House, Genesee County Parks, Genesee County Youth Bureau, Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council, Habitat for Humanity, Holland Land Office Museum, NYS Veterans’ Home, Premier Genesee Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, United Memorial Medical Center, VA WNY Healthcare System of Batavia, YMCA, YWCA Children’s Center, and YWCA of Genesee County.

Batavia City Schools is dedicated to helping their over 140 seniors learn and develop the importance of giving back to their own community while helping to foster civic responsibility. This is an integral part of their Batavia High School academic curriculum, and is a component of their graduation requirements.

Batavia native helping students with reading and more in the Peace Corps in Jamaica

By Virginia Kropf
Liz Richards, a Batavia native, has been serving with the Peace Corps in Jamaica, where she is involved with a project called Camp GLOW – Girls Leading Our World. Pictured above are the young girls she worked with during the four-day camp this year. Richards will co-direct the fourth annual camp in Jamaica in August.


Joining the Peace Corps is something Liz Richards had always thought about.

A 2009 graduate of Batavia High School and a 2012 graduate of Brockport State College, Richards earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing at the New School in 2014.

She didn’t decide to follow her dream of joining the Peace Corps until she was working for a tech company in Manhattan, she said.

“While there, I was responsible for corporate responsibility and service initiatives and realized how important volunteerism was to me, and that I wanted to build a career out of community development,” Richards said. “Peace Corps was the best way to do that, and the experience so far has really been incredible.”

Richards is a Peace Corps volunteer in the education sector in Saint Andrew Parish, Jamaica. Her main project is literacy tutoring for struggling readers in grades one through six.

“But being a volunteer means so much more than that,” Richards said. “We learn about each others’ cultures, seasons and holidays, both inside and outside the classroom.

"So far, students have loved seeing pictures of Western New York snowstorms, learning about Thanksgiving and celebrating both countries’ Independence Days, where we talked about our shared history as former British colonies.”

Right now, Richards is working on two big projects, one that will bring a wide range of opportunities to her school and one that will benefit teenage girls all across the island, both of which she said are incredible passion projects.

Over the last year, Richards has been working with teachers to address some major needs at their school, including getting parents more involved in school life, giving girls safe and gender-equitable access to sports, and improving the overall quality of physical education classes, which right now are sparse due to lack of access to proper equipment, she said.

The result was a partnership with a Peace Corps Small Grants Program called “Girls Netting Success.” This project will address all of the needs above, and more, by helping them start a netball team for girls in grades five and six, Richards said.

It will also give students the opportunity to socialize with each other and regional schools through Jamaica’s national primary school netball league. In addition, Richards said it will help teachers guide the girls toward healthier lives; give parents an outlet to participate through extracurricular activities; and will be truly gender equitable by giving boys a safe place to play netball and football, too, and will allow teachers to give more comprehensive physical education classes.

Another project Richards is really excited about is Camp GLOW, which stands for Girls Leading Our World. The first Camp GLOW was hosted by Peace Corps volunteers in 1995 in Romania, and in August, Richards will co-direct the fourth annual Camp GLOW in Jamaica.

Purpose of this four-day camp, Richards said, is to empower campers with lessons about self-care and confidence, healthy living, healthy relationships and goal setting. Campers will then take these skills back to their communities and continue to empower themselves and others.

“We are excited to be partnering with a Jamaican organization called 'Young Women of Purpose', which specializes in career training for young women ages 13 to 25,” Richards said. “The most exciting part of this camp is watching campers see themselves in the women who facilitate workshops and learn from us the qualities that strong women have in common across borders.”

Richards said it is exciting to show the community that means the most to her – her Batavia community – some of the things happening in the Jamaican communities, which have opened their hearts and stories to her, and in some way have become her “home away from home.”

“Anyone is welcome to contribute, and even a dollar can make a big difference,” Richards said. “Jamaicans have a saying ‘wan, wan koko, full basket,’ that means ‘we fill our baskets one coconut at a time.’ But even sharing stories like these is a contribution.

"The most important thing Peace Corps has taught me is that we are one global community and we build friendships by sharing our stories.”

Anyone wishing to support Richards efforts in Jamaica can log on to Camp GLOW Jamaica 2019 Peace Corpshere and make a donation. 

Submitted photos courtesy of Liz Richards.



Navy vet gets the outside of his house scrubbed by young volunteers in Byron

By Billie Owens


(Photo and story submitted by Pat Lamon.)

Byron’s Summer Rec Program not only was founded by volunteers, but last week children attending that program did their own volunteering project. The children were under the watchful eye of "Miss Emily" Van Eenwyk, their rec leader from the very start.

The idea of giving back to the community started with founder, Laura Platt. The rec program was a vision of Platt’s who saw a vital need for some organized activities and fun for the children in her little town of Byron. Eight years ago and with the help of Debra Leaton, town clerk, Platt’s idea was realized.

“The program has benefited from so much community support,” Platt said.

The town’s children, most of whom are able to walk to the program, which is located in the park behind the Fire Department in Byron are engaged in organized activities from 10 a.m. - 2 p.m. Monday – Friday.

“This year we were lucky enough to offer free lunches to the kids!” Platt said.

The Byron-Bergen School cafeteria received a grant allowing them to provide the meals and Platt calls in a count in the morning and then picks them up at the school. She delivers the healthy meals to the site at noontime.

In addition to the usual supervised activities, the children also attended several field trips including, visiting the Erie Canal, the Genesee County Park, and Fantasy Island. They also went bowling and made a few walking trips to the park in town.

“Volunteerism got this program up and running, and it’s important to me that children experience the joy of giving back,” Platt said.

So every year she and Miss Emily find a worthy project. On Aug. 6, 19 children ranging in age from 5 to 15 and three rec leaders walked a quarter mile to Byron Mobile Home Park. On the way they passed through the cemetery where they spotted a frog, and lots of snails and slugs which they all examined.

They finally came to the home of Charles Lyman, a Navy veteran in his 80s. Once there the group proceeded to clean the moss and debris from the siding of his house. When the group took an ice cream break Jordyn Platt, one of the rec leaders, explained that she had once lived in that same house. Mr. Lyman couldn’t make it home due to a late running appointment, but he later called Platt to thank everyone for such a great job.

DWI Victims Impact Panel Recognition Dinner June 18th

By Laura Russell Ricci

GCASA's Annual DWI Victims Impact Panel Recognition Dinner will be held to honor local law enforcement and volunteers who continue to help reduce the number of people impacted by DWI related crashes. Please join us at Bohn's Restaurant on Friday, June 18th at 5:30pm. For more information or to reserve a seat, please call Laura Ricci at 585-815-1883.

Event Date and Time

April 18-24 is National Volunteer Week

By Billie Owens

This is a press release from Beverly L. Mancuso, executive director Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County:

National Volunteer Week 2010 is April 18-24. This year's theme, "Celebrating People in Action," honors those who dedicate themselves to taking action and bettering their communities.

It’s also about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities — to put themselves at the center of social change. It’s about demonstrating to the nation that by working together, we can meet our challenges and accomplish our goals. National Volunteer Week is about...discovering and actively demonstrating our collective power to promote positive transformation

Established in 1974, National Volunteer Week has grown exponentially in scope each year, drawing the support and endorsement of all subsequent U.S. presidents, governors and other respected elected officials, including our own Genesee County Legislature.  National Volunteer Week embodies the energy and power volunteers evoke on a daily basis as they lead by example — not only encouraging the people they help, but motivating others to serve as well. 

Well-known humorist and author Erma Bombeck is quoted as saying “Volunteers are the only human beings on the face of the Earth who reflect this nation’s compassion, unselfish caring, patience and just plain love for one another.”

Cornell Cooperative Extension of Genesee County is one of the many organizations that depend on volunteers every day. For almost 100 years, we have counted on thousands of volunteers as we provide programming throughout our community, To each and every one of you, thank you – whether Agriculture, Board, 4-H, Leadership Genesee, Master Gardeners, Nutrition, each and every program we have been fortunate enough to provide over the years, please know that we could never do it without you. In these challenging economic times, it is more important than ever to realize, recognize and remember our volunteers. 

I would like to take this opportunity to recognize Denise Chatt on her nomination for the 2010 New York State 4-H Salute to Excellence Volunteer of the Year award. Thank you, Denise, for sharing your time, talent and efforts and for living the 4-H motto “To Make the Best Better." Denise received honorable mention for efforts in the 4-H program in Genesee County, and will be one of a dozen 4-H Volunteers of the Day at the 2010 New York State Fair.

Let me close by once again thanking all our volunteers, and all volunteers throughout Genesee County. Thank you one and all for sharing your time, talent and efforts in furthering our mission. You truly do make a difference.

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