All posts by Ashley M. Casey

Ashley M. Casey is the assistant editor of The Valley News. Previously, she was the associate editor of Today's CNY Woman magazine. She has also written for The Finger Lakes Vacationer. She graduated from Le Moyne College in 2012 with a degree in communications and Spanish.

Oswego County Opportunities received grant for housing for domestic violence victims

By Ashley M. Casey

As part of the Violence Against Women Act, the U.S. Department of Justice – Office of Violence Against Women has awarded a $300,000 grant to Oswego County Opportunities.

The grant will be used to provide transitional housing for victims of domestic violence.

The grant allots OCO’s Crisis and Development Services $100,000 a year for three years.

Eric Bresee, director of Crisis and Development Services, said OCO and the Department of Social Services applied for the competitive grant back in April.

OCO’s Services to Aid Families shelter provides a safe, temporary place for victims of domestic violence to stay before they can secure more permanent housing.

“One challenge for many women residing in the shelter is finding adequate, affordable housing to exit to,” Bresee said.  “Many times, survivors of domestic violence need to start over building resources as they pursue a life free from violence. Often, they do not have the financial resources to immediately secure housing on their own.”

In addition to housing help, the grant will provide domestic violence survivors with social and professional resources.

“This project will offer survivors a  case manager who can provide advocacy, transportation, supportive counseling and assistance with applying for Office of Victim Services compensation, as well as security deposits and rental subsidies to support housing,” Bresee said.

“The project will also offer job skills training and assistance with obtaining employment, including assisting participants in obtaining the National Work Readiness Credential,” Bresee said.

Rep. Dan Maffei, D-Syracuse, co-sponsored the Violence Against Women Act bill and voted for it in February 2013.

“Oswego County Opportunities serves as a lifeline to victims of domestic violence, and I am thrilled that this funding will support their work to provide essential housing services to some of the most vulnerable in our communities,” Maffei said in a press release.

If you or someone you know has been the victim of domestic violence, OCO has a 24-hour abuse and assault crisis hotline, 342-1600.

For more information, visit oco.org.

Faith United Church in Oswego unveils murals

By Ashley M. Casey

Instead of the usual processional out into the lobby for coffee, members of the flock of Faith United Church in Oswego filed into the children’s Sunday school wing to celebrate eight murals painted by a churchgoer.

The Rev. Roger Martin led a prayer to bless the rich paintings that depicted various scenes in the life of Jesus.

“We ask your blessing, O Lord, on these images of stories we have known for years and yet now perceive in new ways,” the congregation read. “May they stir our minds, both young and old, to see your Words in a new light.”

Barb Sheldon of Oswego, who has taught art at Mexico High School for 28 years, painted the murals over a period of about eight years. Students in Faith United’s Sunday school assisted in painting the doors and lettering the titles and Bible verses. Her husband, Craig, worked on the borders of the murals.

“One Sunday, people were talking about gifts they could give to the church,” Sheldon recalled of the project’s origins. She said that the original concept was to guide Sunday school students in creating the murals so they could better understand Bible stories, but it evolved into something more for her.

Sheldon said that she and her husband, Craig, adopted two daughters from China: Hannah, now 14, and Libby, now 10. After the passing of her own parents, Sheldon reflected on the legacy she wanted to leave her own daughters.

“I just thought about (my mother) and what she’d taught me. Even though she wasn’t around, she was there,” Sheldon said. “I wanted to leave it to Hannah and Libby.”

The other children of the congregation were on Sheldon’s mind too. Ever the perfectionist, she had to set aside her ideas about continually tweaking the murals.

“When I look at these walls, I see it’s for the kids. I see things I want to change, but I let it go,” she said. “It is for God and it’s not about me.”

Sheldon sought the advice of pastor Martin and other church members on which verses to depict.

“The first one she did was the manger scene, which is traditional,” Martin said. He said his favorite was “Stilling the Storm,” the smallest of the murals.

“It’s on its own little side of the door by itself. It’s a wonderful place to get kids to focus in on,” he said.

Martin called the process of watching Sheldon’s work interesting.

“Oftentimes, Barb will be in worship and all of a sudden she’ll just sneak out (to paint),” he said. “It’s wonderful to behold.”

Both Martin and Sheldon recounted the story that Pat Sivers, a petite churchgoer, requested the story of Jesus visiting Zaccheus, a similarly diminutive person. Sheldon included a small goldfinch in her painting to represent Sivers.

Sheldon said her favorite mural is the one that depicts Jesus’ baptism.

“It’s all from here,” she said, tapping her head. She said the other murals were inspired in part by depictions from other artists. “I didn’t take bits from things I’d seen. I like how he’s reflected in the water.”

She included a basket of fish and a basket of bread in this painting as an allusion to Jesus’ other stories. “I put those things there so they could share with the kids and teach them how Jesus provides,” she said.

As for future murals, Sheldon is taking a break. She and the children are currently working on a depiction of Noah’s ark for one of the classrooms, but she has slowed work on that because she wanted to take a different direction with it.

“At this point, she really needs to have an opportunity to stop for a bit, take a step back and have a look-see,” Martin said. He expressed a desire for more murals in the future, however. “Our Sunday school is beginning to grow. I’m hoping that someone will say, ‘Barb, we need a picture of this to reinforce this idea.’”

As for Sheldon, she said she is grateful that her faith has helped her throughout the hardships in her life. She hopes her paintings inspires the same in those who see them.

“They’re not the Sistine Chapel, but hopefully somebody can learn from them.”

Faith United Church is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America and the United Church of Christ. It is located at 12 Mark Fitzgibbons Drive in Oswego. For more information, visit faithunitedoswego.com.

List of murals:

Manger – Matthew 8:23-27

Jesus in the Temple – Luke 2:41-50

Baptism – Luke 3:21-22

Stilling the Storm – Matthew 8:23-27

Good Shepherd – Luke 15:3-7

We Are Blessed, a silhouette of Jesus

Zaccheus and Jesus – Luke 19:1-10

The Names of God

CCC Fulton students learn to ‘Arrive Alive’

By Ashley M. Casey

Students at Cayuga Community College’s Fulton campus learned about the dangers of texting or drinking while driving in Arrive Alive’s virtual reality driving simulation on Sept. 17.

UNITE International, a national distracted driving prevention organization, sends the Arrive Alive tour to high schools, colleges and other places around the country.

After answering a survey and signing a “Fight for Life” pledge to not drive distracted, participants took a “spin” in a Kia Soul outfitted with sensors on the steering wheel, brakes and gas pedal while wearing virtual reality goggles that showed a busy road course.

Drivers could choose between a program that simulated the effects of driving while drunk, or a program that allowed them to text using their own phones while attempting to drive.

Once the simulation was over, Arrive Alive team leaders Patrick Sheehy and Marty Burke, both of Myrtle Beach, S.C., presented the driver with a “citation” of his or her infractions, ranging from not driving the posted limit to vehicular manslaughter, and asked them to take a follow-up survey.

For Sheehy, the issue of distracted driving is personal. At the age of 18, Sheehy ran his car off the road into a tree while changing the radio station. He later joined the Arrive Alive campaign to prevent other drivers — especially teenagers and young adults — from making the same mistakes.

“A lot of people don’t realize you’re actually four times more likely to get in an accident while texting and driving (than drinking and driving),” Sheehy explained.

He and Burke spend the school year driving their virtual-reality-outfitted Kia Soul across the country. They also show informational videos on alcohol- and texting-related car accidents and their tragic, lifelong consequences. UNITE compiles the surveys they administer to present to schools and for a nationwide research project.

“When I realized how many people this really needed to reach, that’s when I decided to stick with it and get the word out. It’s an epidemic,” said Burke, who has worked with Arrive Alive for about three years.

A few CCC students who tried the simulation shared their thoughts on the eye-opening experience.

Ricky Colón of Oswego said that he was familiar with the dangers of texting or drinking and driving through safety courses he took while in the Army.

“It’s something that happens way too frequently, so we have to have more severe laws,” Colón said. “It’s a good reminder.”

New York state announced in August that the penalty for texting while driving is five points on one’s license and a minimum $230 fine.

After trying the simulator himself, Devon Thomason of Fulton encouraged his friends and classmates to do the same.

“I’m a new driver as it is. I’m not invincible and I know it,” he said. “I’m not going to put my life at risk to send a text message. It’s stupid.”

Caroline Braley of Oswego vowed to stop texting while driving.

“I knew it was dangerous but I didn’t realize how much more dangerous it is. It was hard to focus on the road, keep my speed, watch out for pedestrians and send a text message all at once,” she said of the simulator.

Arrive Alive also visited CCC’s Auburn campus Sept. 18. This was their first visit to the Fulton campus.

For more information about Arrive Alive and UNITE’s mission to end distracted driving, visit arrivealivetour.com.

Budding authors debut work at Fulton Municipal Building

Fulton Memoirs Writing Project

Participants of Jim Farfaglia’s memoir writing workshop will present “The Stories from Our Past that Inspire Our Future” at 6 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Fulton Municipal Building, 141 S. First St.

Refreshments will be available.

For more information, visit jimfarfaglia.weebly.com or call the Fulton Public Library at 592-5159.

By Ashley M. Casey

Local author Jim Farfaglia teamed up with the Fulton Public Library to get the people of Fulton to share their stories of living in the city through the Fulton Memoirs Writing Project.

More than 40 locals participated, and will read excerpts from their work aloud at 6 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Fulton Municipal Building.

Made possible by a grant from the state Council on the Arts, Farfaglia led a series of writing workshops to draw memories out of his participants for the project, called “The Stories from Our Past that Inspire Our Future.” The memoirs will be collected for a book, the profits of which will benefit the library.

For the rest of this story, pick up the Sept. 14 edition of The Valley News. Call 598-6397 to subscribe.

United Way kicks off 2013-14 fundraising campaign with soul

By Ashley M. Casey

Campaign Cabinet members of the United Way of Greater Oswego County donned fedoras, suits and sunglasses in a creative effort to present the organization’s 2014 fundraising goal of $800,000 at the 2014 Campaign Kick-off Breakfast.

Rob Rolfe, recently named the sole chair of the Campaign Cabinet, explained they were inspired by the 1980 movie “The Blues Brothers,” in which Jake and Elwood Blues reunite their band to raise money for the orphanage in which they grew up.

“We put the band back together for each and every one of you,” Rolfe said at the breakfast, held Sept. 11 at the American Foundry in Oswego.

For the rest of this story, pick up the Sept. 14 edition of The Valley News. Call 598-6397 to subscribe.

‘It’s Cool 2B in School’ seeks to raise awareness of absenteeism

By Ashley M. Casey

Last school year, students in the Fulton City School District missed 48,576 instruction days – that’s an average of 14 absences per student. To combat the absenteeism epidemic, the school district has joined Attendance Works, a national campaign to boost attendance rates.

As part of this campaign and Attendance Awareness Month, the district is hosting “It’s Cool 2B in School: Every Day Counts Celebration” Sept. 15. The event will feature children’s games and activities, contests, food vendors and presentations for parents from community organizations.

The goal of this campaign, said Geri Geitner, director of student support programs, is to “raise awareness in the community that attendance is a critical issue.

“We need students to be in school on time and to stay in school all day, every day,” Geitner added.

Geitner said that although missing a couple of days a month may not seem like a big deal, an accumulation of absences negatively affects a student’s learning and social development.

For the rest of this story, pick up the Sept. 11 edition of The Valley News. Call 598-6397 to subscribe.

School is in session: Fulton students and teachers foresee excitement and challenges.

By Ashley M. Casey

With the implementation of the new Common Core state educational standards and a shuffling of elementary school principals, the 2013-14 school year is bound to be a challenging one for the Fulton City School District. But students and staff alike are diving into their routine with an unquenchable optimism.

Students at Granby Elementary School, Volney Elementary School, Lanigan Elementary School, Fulton Junior High School and ninth graders at G. Ray Bodley High School began the year on Wednesday, Sept. 4. Sophomores, juniors and seniors returned to Bodley on Thursday, Sept. 5.

Granby Elementary School invited the Valley News to its first day back.

“I’m most excited for the kids to come back,” said Heather Perry, principal of Granby Elementary School. “We’ve worked all summer and that’s what we’ve worked for.”

For the rest of this story, pick up the print version of The Valley News. Call 598-6397 to subscribe.

Groomer publishes tale about plucky pup

By Ashley M. Casey

When Connie Evans met her puppy Charlotte, she couldn’t even tell what color the sickly little dog was.

Charlotte, then estimated to be 9 or 10 months old, was suffering from severe demodectic mange, yeast and bacterial infections on her skin.

Evans, co-owner of Dayle’s Dog Grooming in Fulton, responded to a call from Granby dog control about a very ill rescue dog. Upon meeting the mixed breed puppy, she could not resist taking the animal home.

For the rest of this story, pick up the print version of The Valley News. Call 598-6397 to subscribe.