In fight with cancer, a deepening of faith

Aleka Schmidt appointed pastor at First Baptist in Albion

Photos by Tom Rivers

Aleka Schmidt has been serving as a guest preacher at the First Baptist Curch in Albion. She starts a one-year, part-time appointment leading the church in January.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 November 2014
ALBION – Aleka Schmidt was 28, married with a 2-year-old daughter when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2006.

It was a fight for survival, with surgery, chemo and radiation. After 18 months, Schmidt completed her treatments and made it through the fight.

“It was hard facing mortality,” she said. “There were body issues and the side effects. But it many ways it stripped away the distractions of life. I listened to the spirit and the God nudges.”

Schmidt said the battle with cancer brought her closer to God. She grew up in Kendall, and attended the Concordia Lutheran Church. When she married Scott Schmidt and moved to Albion, they attended the Barre Center Presbyterian Church. Scott played the organ and Aleka directed the church choir and hand bell choir for a decade.

After cancer, she shared her story at church, about her deepening of faith. She served as guest preacher a few times. Then other churches asked her to preach, including the First Baptist Church in Albion.

Aleka Schmidt when she was fighting cancer.

“I felt like God was preparing me to say something and to do something,” she said. “I want people to know there is hope in this lifetime and in the next.”

Schmidt, now 36, felt a calling to the ministry, and on Jan. 1 she will begin her first pastoral appointment at the First Baptist Church. Schmidt will serve in a part-time role while working on a seminary degree at Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester. She also works as a music therapist for The Arc of Orleans County and the Orleans-Niagara BOCES.

She officially starts on Jan. 1, but Schmidt already is preaching and maintaining some office hours at the church. She also is joined by new church organist, Gary Simboli.

Schmidt is a classically trained musician herself. She said music will be a big part of the church’s worship experience.

Her husband is continuing as the organist at the Barre Center church. Mr. Schmidt will be a guest organist at times for the Baptists.

The congregation at the corner of Liberty and West Park streets meets in a building that was constructed in 1860. The building includes a clock tower, numerous stained glass windows and a large pipe organ. The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Aleka Schmidt is pictured by the church, which is made of brick and Medina sandstone.

There are only about 15 to 20 regular attendees, but Schmidt said she is impressed by their faith and optimism that the church can make a big difference for the community.

While at the church on Wednesday, she noted that sanctuary was decorated for the holidays.

“They just did it,” she said about the members.

The church-goers also committed to appointing her for the year, while also hiring Simboli, a high school music and drama teacher, to play the organ.

“That is a sign for a hope for the future,” Schmidt said about the church appointments.

Besides preaching on Sundays, Schmidt will do home and hospital visits, program development and represent the church in community events.

She is thankful to be serving the Baptist Church, with a congregation of so many mature and welcoming Christians. Many of them, like her, have seen their faith tested and come out stronger.

“Breast cancer didn’t change me,” she said. “It just made me more of what was already inside.”

The church services start at 10 a.m. on Sundays.


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Lions will recognize Lyndonville homes decorated for holidays

File photo by Tom Rivers
This house at 8 Eagle St. was decked out for the holidays last year.


Press Release, Lyndonville Lions Club Posted 28 November 2014
LYNDONVILLE – Bright holiday lights and happy decorations will soon line the streets of Lyndonville, as they will in most towns and cities. In an effort to encourage and thank the residents for their decoration skills, the Lyndonville Lions Club will sponsor its annual “Spirit of Christmas” lights and decoration contest.


Plaques awarded to the homes that are picked as the winners of the contest. Residents do not need to pre-register their homes for contest entry. Committee members will be the judges of the contest.

In order to have your home included in the judging you need to have your lights and decorations turned on by 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 8. The judges will canvas the entire Lyndonville area.


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Artist is on site at Medina library, painting book-shaped entrance

Provided photos Posted 28 November 2014
MEDINA – Artist Judith Villavisanis has been working on a book-shaped entrance to the children’s library at Lee-Whedon Memorial Library this week. She is expected to be on site for about two more weeks, creating an entrance with words and illustrations.

“It is an invitation to enter the area and the world of imagination,” said Catherine Cooper, library director. “It will have rich and vivid colors.”

Villavisanis lives in a Florida and is a muralist. She has many Albion connections and submitted a proposal for the project.


The “Storybook Entrance” project is part of the interior renovations in the library. Lee-Whedon leaders expect the entrance will become an iconic part of every child’s experience at Lee-Whedon.

Here is how the entrance looked before Villavisanis went to work.


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Customers flock to Christmas tree operations

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 28 November 2014
ALBION – Black Friday isn’t just about buying Christmas presents. Many local residents find the day after Thanksgiving to be an ideal time to buy a Christmas tree.


In the top photo, Emily Bannister, left, and Kristin Pahl pull a Douglas fir tree through a baler at County House Christmas Trees in Albion. The site is located at Panek Farms, 13420 West County House Rd.

For many years Hugh and Eleni Dudley operated a Christmas tree farm on County House Road before their granddaughter Katie Klotzbach moved the operation down the road to her parents’ farm last year.

Bannister and Pahl both work at the site during the holiday season.


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Lack of state aid is why we’re among most tax oppressed

Photo by Tom Rivers
This photo shows downtown Albion after a storm barreled through the area in June. Albion is among the top 100 jurisdictions for highest tax rates out of 3,663 in the state.

Editorial By Tom Rivers Posted 28 November 2014
Orleans Hub reported on Tuesday that several of our local municipalities are among the most tax oppressed in the State of New York. Medina tops the local communities and nearly all of 3,663 jurisdictions in the state for highest tax rate. (Click here to see that article.)

Only Wellsville and a few other Allegany County towns and villages top the $54.13 combined tax rate in Medina. That ranked 13th in the state, according to the Empire Center's study.


Medina’s overall rate includes $25.63 for the school district, $15.52 for the village, $9.63 for county and either $3.35 for Town of Shelby, according to 2012 data.

Other Orleans communities are close behind Medina. The Village of Holley is 50th overall at $49.98 – $24.94 for school, $12.99 for village, $9.65 for county and $2.40 for town of Murray.


The Village of Albion is 77th at $47.77 – $18.06 for school, $15.92 for village, $9.60 for county and $4.19 for town of Gaines.

You see the report and it’s easy to point fingers at the villages, to blame the village officials for the crushing tax burden in these locales.

But it’s not the villages fault. New York gives the villages very little in state aid, while showering cities with funds. Cities get the lion’s share of Aid and Incentives to Municipalities, state funds designed to help preserve the population cores by helping to maintain aging infrastructure and keep up with critical services such as police and fire protection.

Villages have these same issues, but the state turns its back on these communities. To keep police officers, patch pot holes and maintain parks and cemeteries, villages have to pass nearly the full cost onto to village taxpayers. That’s why these tax rates in the villages are so sky high.

Villages get about $5 to $10 in per capita AIM funding. For Medina, that totaled $45,523 for 6,065 people or $7.51 a person. That is far cry from what a similar size city gets. Consider the City of Sherrill in Oneida County. That city actually has half the people as Medina. The city gets $372,689 in state funding or $121.35 a person. Sherill’s combined tax rates are only $32.66, more than $20 less than in Medina.

Cities also have the added benefit of being spared a town tax. Villages not only are deprived of state aid, but a village resident gets double taxed by towns. In Orleans County, if you live in a village you will pay a double-digit tax rate and then pay about $3 to $4 more per $1,000 of assessed property to a town.

It is a crushing burden. These villages are at a major competitive disadvantage in attracting and keeping residents and businesses. Move to a small city or out in the country and you’ll pay far less in taxes.

Consider the City of Batavia. That city of 15,465 receives $1,750,975 in state funding. That helps drive down the city tax rate to $10.52 per $1,000, about half of the combined village/town rates in Medina, Albion and Holley – our local villages that are high on the tax oppressed list.

The bigger the city, the more generous the state is in helping those municipalities provide services and ease the tax burden for residents, who are often senior citizens and lower-income people – the same situation in villages.

Consider the City of Buffalo, which receives a whopping $161.3 million in state AIM funding for 261,310 residents or $617.22 per person. Buffalo’s combined tax rate is only $27.74 per $1,000 of assessed property, about half the rate in Medina.

I fully support the aid for cities, but the state needs to direct similar funding to the villages, or else they will continue to see property values fall and tax rates jump, creating a vicious spiral.

Our local officials need to sound the alarm about this situation and demand equitable treatment from the state. By propping up the cities, the state is picking winners and losers. It’s particularly destructive in small rural counties like Orleans and Allegany where there are no cities. These counties don’t have any population centers with reasonable taxes. Every village is a high-tax environment.

That ultimately chases businesses outside the county, which results in fewer jobs and retail establishments. That means less local sales tax for the counties, which further drives up our property taxes. The vicious cycle continues, with no end in sight unless that state can be fair with the AIM dollars.


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Lyndonville’s Christmas celebration is back and bigger this year

Provided photo
Terry Woodworth, Village of Lyndonville DPW superintendent, and his granddaughter Haley put up trees in Veterans Park last Saturday along with assistance from the Lyndonville Fire Department, Carla Woodworth and Teri M. Woodworth (Village Clerk-Treasurer).

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 November 2014
LYNDONVILLE – There are 42 Christmas trees in Veterans Park, and they will be decorated with lights and other themes in time for a Dec. 6 Christmas celebration in Lyndonville.


The Village of Lyndonville is teaming to put on the event with the Lyndonville Fire Department/Auxiliary, Lyndonville Lions Club and Lyndonville United Methodist Women.

Lyndonville debuted the celebration last year with 27 trees. There are 42 this year.


The events on Dec. 6 begin from 8 to 11 a.m. with a community breakfast at the Presbyterian Church. Other activities are planned throughout the day, including games and crafts at the library, horse-drawn carriages, a mini mall at the United Methodist Church, a wine tasting at Sixes & Sevens Spirits, caroling at Veterans Park, and Santa’s arrival and the lighting of the trees at the park at 5 p.m.

Santa will then move to the Village Hall to greet children from 5 to 7 p.m. The day will be capped with a Christmas choir “LaLaPalooza” at the Lyndonville Presbyterian Church at 7 p.m.

For more information on the day’s events, click here.

Photo by Tom Rivers
Community members gather around the decorated trees during the debut celebration last December at Veterans Park.


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Medina mayor will take questions about village dissolution

Staff Reports Posted 28 November 2014
MEDINA – Medina Mayor Andrew Meier will host a series of office hours to provide constituents an opportunity to ask questions about the village government dissolution plan and the upcoming dissolution vote scheduled for Jan. 20.


Office hours will be at Village Clerk's Office, 119 Park Ave. in Medina. The first set of office hours will be as follows:


Wednesday, Dec. 3 from 3 to 5 p.m.

Tuesday, Dec. 9 from 4 to 7 p.m.


Residents seeking clarification or who have general or specific questions regarding the dissolution of village government are welcomed and encouraged to attend. The format will be informal and conversational, and no appointment is necessary.


The dissolution referendum will be Jan. 20, 2014 with polls open from noon to 9 p.m. at the Senior Citizens Center on West Avenue in Medina.


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7 arrested for DWI with stepped up Thanksgiving patrols

Press Release, Albion Police Chief Ronald Nenni III Posted 27 November 2014
The Albion Police Department hosted and supervised a multi-agency Orleans County Wide DWI Saturation Patrol from 9 p.m. Wednesday to 3 a.m. today.

This type of detail has never been done in Orleans County and combined the law enforcement efforts from every law enforcement agency in Orleans County along with state and federal resources.

The agencies involved consisted of the Albion Police, Medina Police, Holley Police, Orleans County Sheriff’s Office, New York State Police, Orleans County Probation, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the U.S. Border Patrol.


The detail results are as follows:

• 7 DWI Arrests (4 in the Village of Albion, 1 in the Village of Medina, 1 in the Village of Holley and 1 in the Town of Yates).

• Traffic Stops: 45

• Tickets Issued: 31

• Other: 1 Unlawful Possession of Marijuana Arrest, 1 Probation Violator and 1 Warrant Suspect wanted by Livingston County taken into custody.

The Albion Police Department and the other law enforcement agencies are committed to making the roadways safe for all those who travel upon them.
Intoxicated drivers do not follow jurisdictional lines so we decided that we would not either.

The commitment and dedication by the officers who worked the detail undoubtedly saved lives in Orleans County.


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Give thanks, and then shop

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 27 November 2014
ALBION – Most of the close parking spaces at the Albion Walmart were occupied, but there will some to be had at the far end of the parking lot at about 6:30 p.m. today.


The store was open for Thanksgiving and offered its doorbuster deals between 6 and 7 p.m., bargains that included 50-inch flatscreens TVs for $218.

Major retailers used to be closed on Thanksgiving but that has changed with many of the stores open today.

There were threats of boycotts from shoppers, but by the looks of the Albion Walmart several hundred people took the opportunity to jumpstart their shopping.

Peebles in Albion also is open today. The store advertised its holiday hours with this sign by Route 31 in Albion.


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Log cabin creations are a tribute to pioneer settlers

Photo by Tom Rivers
Al Capurso of Gaines has created several mini log cabin scenes as tributes to pioneer residents in Orleans County. He is pictured with his latest creation. He has donated the log cabin dioramas to the Cobblestone Museum, Clarendon Historical Society and the Holland Land Office Museum.


By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 November 2014
GAINES – In the spring Al Capurso was out in his backyard with a knife, cutting down thick grape vines that were wrapped around trees.

Capurso studied the thick vines and noticed they bore semblance to mini logs. His mind and hands started working, and began building a small log cabin. It sits on a shelf in his kitchen, a tribute to pioneer residents who settled in the area about 200 years ago.


Capurso has a strong interest in the county’s pioneer history. He and his family put up a historical marker on the Courthouse Lawn last year for William McAllister and his wife, who were Albion’s first settlers in 1811, building a log cabin where the current County Clerks Building stands.

Capurso also did the research and convinced the local and federal governments to name Gilbert Creek in Gaines and Carlton in honor of another pioneer.

With the grape vines, Capurso cut them in 7 and 9 inch chunks and created a mini log cabin. He notched the wood, made a roof out of bark, and put in windows and doors. He added corals for livestock, a swing for children, and a wood lot. He even planted trees around the sites.

It takes Capurso about a month to make the scenes, and he has donated three of them to historical organizations. As he makes them, he finds himself transported to about 200 years ago, when the area’s first settlers were tasked with surviving in the wilderness.

“Everything back then was ‘make do,’” he said. “You made do with what you had.”

Capurso has given log cabin dioramas to the Holland Land Office Museum in Batavia, the Clarendon Historical Society and the Cobblestone Museum.

The Clarendon cabin (above) bears the name of the town’s founder, Eldredge Farwell, who discovered Clarendon in 1810 while looking for his brother Isaac’s lost horse. He traced Isaac’s footprints along the border of Sandy Creek and was impressed with the waterfalls in Clarendon.


Farwell saw the waterfalls as a potential source of power for business. He moved his family to Clarendon in 1811 and built saw and grist mills. The town was originally named Farwell’s Mills but was renamed to Clarendon. Farwell was from Clarendon, Vermont.

Farwell also had six children when he moved to Clarendon. Capurso added a swing by the miniature cabin.

“I dedicated this one to children who grew up as pioneers in the wilderness,” he said on Tuesday at his Gaines home on Route 279.

Capurso is a volunteer at the Cobblestone Museum. He gave the museum a cabin that made in honor of John Proctor.

John Proctor is often referred to by historians as the Paul Revere of Ridge Road. On a December night in 1813, he rode by horseback on the Ridge from Gaines to Clarkson to warn of the approach of British and the Indians after the burning of Lewiston.

The following morning he joined a regiment that was headed to Lewiston. The regiment would capture the enemy quartered at Molyneaux Tavern. A historical marker on a large stone on Route 104 shares the story of Proctor. The stone is on the south side of Ridge Road, a few houses west of the Route 98 intersection.

Capurso would like to build a full-size replica cabin as a tribute to the pioneers. That would be about 20 feet by 20 feet. He would need to find a site and volunteers for the project.


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2 face drug charges in Medina

Staff Reports Posted 26 November 2014
MEDINA – After a several-month investigation into the possession, sale and distribution of marijuana in the Village of Medina, two people were arrested and jailed on Tuesday, the Orleans County Major Felony Crime Task Force reported.

The Task Force, along with the Medina Police Department and the Orleans County Multi-Agency Swat Team, executed a search warrant on Tuesday at 915 South Main St.

Police seized approximately 6 ounces of marijuana, cash, scales, packaging and other drug paraphernalia. Police also encountered three young children in the presence of marijuana.


The following were arrested:

Marcus Warren


• Marcus S. Warren, 31, of 915 South Main St., Medina. He was charged with one count of criminal possession of marijuana in the fourth degree, and three counts of unlawfully dealing with a child in the first degree.

He was arraigned by Town of Yates Judge Donald Grabowski and committed to Orleans County Jail on $2,500 bail. He is to appear in Shelby Town Court on Dec. 11 at 9 a.m.

Additional charges for sale of marijuana are pending against Warren, the Task Force reported.

Ashlee Waters


• Ashlee J.P. Waters, 25, of 915 South Main St., Medina, was charged with one count of criminal possession of marijuana in the fourth degree, and three counts of unlawfully dealing with a child in the first degree.

She was arraigned by Judge Grabowski and remanded to Orleans County Jail on $1,000 bail. She is to appear in Shelby Town Court on Dec. 11 at 9 a.m.


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State troopers will have big presence over Thanksgiving holiday

Press Release, NY State Police Posted 26 November 2014

The New York State Police will have a Thanksgiving traffic safety initiative in an effort to prevent highway tragedies during this holiday weekend.

The New York State Police will initiate special traffic enforcement efforts today through Sunday.


The State Police, under the direction of Superintendent Joseph A. D’Amico, will supplement regular patrols statewide focusing on speed enforcement, impaired driving, underage drinking, and distracted driving.

The effort will also incorporate fixed sobriety checkpoints, an underage drinker initiative and the “Operation Hang Up” initiative, which targets distracted drivers by utilizing Concealed Identity Traffic Enforcement (CITE) patrol vehicles to better locate drivers talking or texting on hand held devices. These unmarked vehicles blend in with every day traffic but are unmistakable as emergency vehicles once the emergency lighting is activated.


The highest traffic volumes of the year typically occur during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. It is also a time when alcohol consumption is widespread. During the 2013 Thanksgiving holiday period, troopers arrested 181 drivers for DWI, issued 4,459 speeding tickets and 854 tickets for distracted driving.


“During this Thanksgiving holiday weekend I encourage all New Yorkers to drive safely, take your time and designate a sober driver,” said Superintendent Joseph D’Amico. “As we drive throughout the state to see our family and friends this holiday season, we need to focus on safe travel. Our troopers will be out in force to handle the problems that this travel period brings and their efforts will be focused on enforcing highway safety and avoiding tragedies from occurring.”


State Police are reminding all motorists to avoid being victims of highway emergencies by making a commitment to not text or talk on mobile phones while driving, to drive the speed limit, and to buckle up all occupants.


Motorists are also reminded to not drink and drive, call a sober driver before getting behind the wheel. Travel preparation should include plenty of rest before departing, a check of your vehicles tires and fuel level, and anticipating busy roads and highways.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in 2012 there were 301 people killed in traffic crashes across the nation.

The New York State Police and NHTSA recommend these simple tips to prevent drunk driving:

• Plan a safe way home before the fun begins;
• Before drinking, designate a sober driver;
• If you’re impaired, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation;
• Use your community’s sober ride program;
• If you happen to see a drunk driver on the road, don’t hesitate to contact local law enforcement;
• If you know someone who is about to drive or ride while impaired, take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.


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Holley will celebrate new fitness center on Monday

School district will discuss capitol project on Tuesday; Vote is on Dec. 9

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 26 November 2014
HOLLEY – Holley Central School welcomes the community to check out a fitness center on Monday during a celebration beginning at 6 p.m.

The district used an $800,000 federal Carol White grant for the project. The grant will also pay for an initiative to promote good nutrition among students, staff and families, said Robert D’Angelo, district superintendent.

The new center, located in the elementary school, will be open to the community on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m. with certified staff on hand. If there is demand for more hours, the district will try to accommodate the need.

Holley will also host an informational meeting on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the middle/high school auditorium. That meeting will include a presentation on a proposed $8.9 million capital project. The vote will be on Dec. 9 from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The capital project include includes roof top HVAC units, windows, radiators, flooring and exterior doors. The district also wants to improve the student drop-off area and the playground at the elementary school and move the tennis courts.


The district already has $2.5 million set aside in a capital reserve account to cover the local share of the project, which will be mostly paid for from the state.


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Bell ringers return for holidays

Photos by Tom Rivers Posted 26 November 2014
ALBION – The Rev. Wilfred Moss was at Pawlak’s Save-A-Lot this morning ringing the bell for the Salvation Army kettle drive.

Moss is a member of the Albion Lions Club, which is manning the kettle today at the Albion store.

The kettle drive typically raises about $25,000 to benefit Community Action programs in Orleans County.


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