Category Archives: Other News

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Oswego AmeriCorps members recognized across Oswego County

AmeriCorps members Ian Mumpton (left) and Peter Sterbak are familiar faces at Fort Ontario State Historic Site. They are among the many AmeriCorps members who serve at sponsoring organizations across Oswego County.
AmeriCorps members Ian Mumpton (left) and Peter Sterbak are familiar faces at Fort Ontario State Historic Site. They are among the many AmeriCorps members who serve at sponsoring organizations across Oswego County.

Several organizations across Oswego County recognized the works of AmeriCorps members during AmeriCorps Week, March 9 through 15.

The annual event provides an opportunity to salute AmeriCorps members for their impact on the lives of children they serve and to thank community partners who make AmeriCorps possible.

At Fort Ontario State Historic Site, two AmeriCorps members funded by the Friends of Fort Ontario are familiar faces providing children’s programming and living history projects.

“Our AmeriCorps members have always been an invaluable asset,” said Paul Lear, superintendent of Fort Ontario State Historic Site. “Their enthusiasm, creativity and hard work have enabled us to share the story of the past with new audiences.”

Ian Mumpton is currently serving his third term of service. “Serving with AmeriCorps at Fort Ontario gives me the unique opportunity to positively impact people of all ages and backgrounds, both in my immediate community and from much further afield,” said Mumpton.

Peter Sterbak is serving his fourth term — the maximum allowed. He has found that “being an AmeriCorps member has been an incredibly rewarding experience. It’s great to see just what an important impact history can make here and now.”

“AmeriCorps members in Oswego County certainly fulfill the national motto of ‘Getting Things Done,’” said Kathy Andolina, Oswego County AmeriCorps program coordinator with the Oswego City-County Youth Bureau. “In the past program year, members mentored 170 youth for an hour a week during the school year and provided classroom assistance to 1,100 students, more than 5,300 youth participated in fitness activities, more than 2,900 youth participated in nutrition activities, and 956 youth and adult volunteers contributed 5,600 hours of service to their community.”

Members serving this program year in the Oswego County AmeriCorps Program are Kayleigh Adsitt, Leighton Elementary School; Morgan Batchelor, Mexico Elementary School; Jennifer Blanchard, Oswego Public Library; Jamie Colvin, Oswego Community Christian School; Katelyn Cusimano, Hannibal High School; and Michael DeMassey, APW Elementary School.

Also, Jessie Joss, APW Elementary School; Kathryn Justus, Fulton Public Library; Barbara Kelly, Palermo Elementary School; Anne Knutson, Hannibal High School; Aaron Lehman, APW Elementary School; Matthew McLaughlin, Oswego Youth Court; Kelly Mayer, Leighton Elementary School; Ian Mumpton, Fort Ontario; Melissa Parkhurst, Mexico Elementary School; and Niki Raymond, Palermo Elementary School.

Also, Sara Sheffield, Oswego YMCA; Joseph Shepard, APW Elementary School; John Snow Jr., Hannibal High School; Nicole Snyder, Fulton Family YMCA; Peter Sterbak, Fort Ontario;  Rachel Verdoliva, New Haven Elementary School; Gabrielle Vono, Lanigan Elementary School; and Karen Wing, New Haven Elementary School.

AmeriCorps is a national service program that provides opportunities for more than 85,000 Americans to give back to their community and country each year.

Since 1994, more than 775,000 AmeriCorps members have given one billion hours of service, mobilizing tens of millions of volunteers, and impacting the lives of countless citizens.

Legislature chairman delivers state of the county address

by Carol Thompson

Fiscal challenges lie ahead for the Oswego County Legislature in part because of the state’s unfunded mandates.

That’s the message Legislature Chairman Fred Beardsley delivered in his State of the County address last Thursday.

“Dealing with this dilemma will require many difficult decisions and bipartisan support, and recognition that the state must stop this practice,” Beardsley said.

“It is now my fear that the ongoing practice by the state of creating mandated programs and services with no funding stream attached is going to drive us to the point where we have to consider cutting services that our constituents have come to enjoy so we can operate mandated programs that may not necessarily be among our most needed or desired.

Beardsley encouraged the legislature to work together.

“To my colleagues here in the legislature, I continue to have faith that we can set our political differences aside and that together, we can accomplish our task of providing the people of Oswego County with an efficient, effective, and friendly government,” he said.

Both Republicans and the Democrats worked in harmony to pass an acceptable 2013 budget, however, the Democrats now allege that promises were broken.

One of those promises was to begin making cuts at the first of the year. Minority Leader Mike Kunzwiler said that it has yet to happen.

Kunzwiler said that he respects the olive branch that he agrees everyone must work together.

To read the rest of the story, pick up a copy of The Valley News or subscribe today by calling 598-6397

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Fulton resident’s ‘Blood Hex’ to be published in April

Erin Butler, a soon to be published author, writes at her antique spinet desk in her Fulton home. Butler’s first young adult novel, “Blood Hex,” will be published by Evernight Teen in April.
Erin Butler, a soon to be published author, writes at her antique spinet desk in her Fulton home. Butler’s first young adult novel, “Blood Hex,” will be published by Evernight Teen in April.

by Nicole Reitz

Fulton resident Erin Butler will become a published author in April. She recently signed a contract with publisher Evernight Teen for her debut novel, “Blood Hex.”

Butler was born in Louisiana, but moved to Phoenix during elementary school. She graduated from John C. Birdlebough High School in 2000 and earned a bachelor’s degree, studying literature with a minor in writing.

Butler has a master’s degree in library and information science and works part-time at the Central Library in Syracuse. At her job, Butler works mostly with teens.

Butler began writing her novel in 2009. The idea sprung from watching a piece on the history channel about ancient prophecies. Butler was fascinated by prophetess Mother Shipton, a contemporary woman who published her prophecies in rhyme and verse.

“I kept thinking about Mother Shipton and how cool her story was and my own story just bloomed from there,” said Butler.

Half of “Blood Hex” takes place in the past while the other half is set in the future. The story is about a curse that spans four centuries.

The original title for the book was “The Desk,” because an antique spinet desk inspired Butler to start writing her first novel-length work four years ago.

Butler went to an estate sale with her husband at the Battle Island Inn Bed & Breakfast and spotted an old spinet desk.

Knowing she wanted it, her husband went back to buy it for her.

Butler writes on the desk in her reading room. In the first drafts of “Blood Hex,” the desk was written into the story, carrying the essence of a witch’s curse.

At one point, the novel was also temporarily named “Cursed.” Ultimately, Butler chose the title “Blood Hex” because the curse in the novel has to do with family ties. Another word for “ancestry” is “blood,” she said.

The first draft of Butler’s novel was 55,000 words and was written in third person.

After querying agents and getting mixed feedback, Butler reworked her story in first person. She has also opened up the ending to a sequel.

When she started writing the book, the young adult market had not started blossoming yet. Butler decided to change the age of the main character from a college age woman to the voice of a teenager.

“I think I’ve rewritten ‘Blood Hex’ ten times,” said Butler.

Over the process of a few years, Bulter received three contract offers for the book. She decided to join with Evernight Teen, a newer publishing company that wanted her novel to promote their teen line. With Evernight Teen, Butler was able to release her novel sooner and was glad to be with a company who was willing to work with her.

It will be released in April for the Nook and Kindle. It will also be sold in paperback online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

“I can’t wait to get a physical copy of my book and be able to hold it,” said Butler. “I’ve only ever seen it on a screen.”

To read the rest of the story, pick up a copy of The Valley News or subscribe today by calling 598-6397

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RSVP begins annual free tax preparation in Oswego County

The Retired & Senior Volunteer Program will again offer free annual income tax preparation, e-Filing and counseling services in the cities of Oswego and Fulton and by appointment in the villages of Constantia and Phoenix. Pictured are Betty Talamo (Fulton and Phoenix sites) and Fred Wall (Phoenix site).
The Retired & Senior Volunteer Program will again offer free annual income tax preparation, e-Filing and counseling services in the cities of Oswego and Fulton and by appointment in the villages of Constantia and Phoenix. Pictured are Betty Talamo (Fulton and Phoenix sites) and Fred Wall (Phoenix site).

The Retired & Senior Volunteer Program, a division of SUNY Oswego’s Office of Business and Community Relations, will again offer free annual income tax preparation, e-Filing and counseling services in the cities of Oswego and Fulton and by appointment in the villages of Constantia and Phoenix.

RSVP supervises its program in cooperation with the AARP, the IRS and the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance.

Taxpayers should have with them last year’s completed tax forms, W-2s, 1099s, unemployment compensation statements, all forms indicating federal income tax paid (for example, estimated payments), dependent care provider information — including name, employer, provider identification or Social Security number — all receipts or canceled checks for itemized deductions and a Social Security or individual identification card for the taxpayer, spouse and dependents.

Now through April 15, the following sites will be open to serve county residents.

Rarely will sites close due to bad weather.

To avoid a long wait at the walk in sites, consider delaying your visit to those sites until mid-February.

RSVP sites:

• Constantia:  St. Bernadette’s Bistro, 1667 St. Rte. 49; Thursdays by appointment.  Call 623-9803 Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday to schedule.  Lunch is optional. Feb. 7 through April 11.

• Fulton: Municipal Building, 141 S. First St.; walk in site; Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon and from 6 to 8 p.m.  Feb. 6 through April 10.

•  Oswego:  McCrobie Civic Center, 41 Lake St.; walk in site; Tuesdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. from Feb. 5 through April. 9.

• Phoenix:  Public Library, 34 Elm St.; Weekdays by appointment. Call to schedule: Fred at 695-2553, Bill at 458-1465, or Betty) at 934-4333.  Feb. 1 through Apr. 15.

YMCA offers adult competitive basketball

AA038144-2The Fulton YMCA will be offering a new adult competitive basketball league starting Jan. 19.

The league will continue until April 27. It will be held Saturdays from noon until 5 p.m.

The season will run a maximum of 15 weeks including playoffs and championships with one or two bye weeks being added depending on the number of teams participating.

Registrations are now open for those 18 years of age and older. A maximum of six teams will be in the A division for 18 and older and a maximum of six teams in the B division 25 and older with a minimum of five teams needed in order for the leagues to run.  The divisions will be combined if five teams or under register.

Registration is on a first come first served basis. Applications and forms can be picked up at the YMCA at 715 W. Broadway or can be downloaded from its web site at www.fultonymca.org.

Those seeking more information may call the YMCA at 598-9622.

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Local agencies still in need of Christmas toy, food donations

toyWith Christmas just days away, area human service agencies are making their list and checking it twice.

The economic challenges that many families and individuals in Oswego County are facing has resulted a record amount of requests from families in need this holiday season.

In an effort to meet these requests, several agencies have partnered with the United Way of Greater Oswego in an attempt to form an Oswego County Christmas Bureau, and while they have received numerous donations of toys and food there are many more Christmas wishes to fill.

“Our partners have done an excellent job gathering donations and the response that we have received from the community has been encouraging,” said Melanie Trexler, executive director of the United Way of Greater Oswego County. “The Department of Social Services is once again doing a remarkable job with the Children’s Fund, and the efforts of our partners, including Catholic Charities of Oswego County, and Toys for Tots are helping to expand the success of the Children’s Fund.

“To date we have enough toys for 1,600 children and 500 food baskets, however, we are in need for additional donations as we have 400 children on the Christmas toy waiting list and many more families in need of food baskets.”

Trexler added that those wishing to donate unwrapped toys, non-perishable food items, or money for food baskets, may contact Helen Hoefer at 598-3980 or drop them off at Catholic Charities of Oswego County, 301 Beech Street in Fulton.

Monetary donations for the Children’s Fund Christmas toy drive may be sent to the United Way, attention Doreen Clark, 1 South First Street, Fulton, NY, 13069.

Additionally, those who would like to Adopt-a-Family for Christmas may do so by contacting Deanne Myers of Oswego County DSS at 963-5246.

“Sharing our good fortune with those in need reflects the true spirit of the season,” said Trexler. “I’m confident that the generosity of our community will shine this Christmas.”

Vigil and awareness campaign held for lung cancer victims

by Tami S. Scott

For Edna Case of Fulton, a smoker for nearly 40 years, taking advantage of a deeply-discounted lung cancer screening program was a no-brainer.

Case, who works for University Radiology Associates in Syracuse, learned about the program designed for long-time smokers, through her supervisor. Offered by Upstate Medical University and launched in September, it is the first comprehensive lung cancer screening program in Central New York.

For those eligible to participate, it includes a low-dose CT scan to rule out early stages of lung cancer, along with a personalized follow-up Phone call to the person who gets screened and his or her primary care physician.

A referral will be made if anything abnormal is discovered, as well as more follow-up if necessary. Additionally, eligible participants may participate in a smoking cessation program as well as personal smoking cessation counseling.

“I knew right along that smoking wasn’t good so when I heard about the screening, I wanted to have the test to know where, at 63 years old, I was physically,” said Case, whose family has had a history of cancers: her aunt had a lung removed due to lung cancer, her uncle was diagnosed with stomach cancer and her mother was treated for cancer of the esophagus.

“I was a little nervous but quickly found there was absolutely nothing to be afraid [of],” Case added. “The test itself is a breeze — you lay down in the machine and in less than 10 minutes the scans are complete…I would recommend the scan to anyone who has abused their body like I did.”

November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month. To mark this occasion, Upstate Medical University, along with more than 100 locations across 40 states as well as in Australia, Brazil and Egypt, participated in the fourth annual national vigil on Nov. 13. The event was held at the hospital where survivors as well as families and friends of victims of lung cancer gathered.

According to Dr. Leslie Kohman, medical director of the Upstate Cancer Center, lung cancer kills more women and men than breast, prostate and colorectal cancers combined.

The five-year survival rate for lung cancer is only 16 percent, compared to 90 percent for breast and 99 percent for prostate.

“We really have to pay attention to this major killer,” Kohman said. “We see the success of the huge emphasis every October on breast cancer and the success of turning this into a survivable disease. The same attention needs to be paid to lung cancer, which is actually a much more fatal cancer.”

There are many misconceptions about lung cancer among the general public, one of them being that only smokers will get it. The reality is that nearly 70 percent of new lung cancers occur in former smokers or people who have never smoked, said Kohman, blaming second-hand smoke as the primary factor contributing to the latter.

Another misunderstanding — perhaps the most damaging — is that it’s the person’s fault; that They brought it on themselves or deserved to get lung cancer.

“Most people who smoke have done so through addiction introduced by intensive, skillful marketing,” Kohman said. “It’s nobody’s fault that they get lung cancer, and we ought to do everything we can to prevent it and to help discover cures for the patients who are unfortunate enough to get lung cancer.” Case, who began smoking at age 18, said she attempted to quit many times. She was finally successful five years ago.

A third misconception Kohman noted was that lung cancer is not curable. “Although the majority of patients who are diagnosed with lung cancer will die of it, there is a significant segment of people who will be cured, so it’s not a death sentence in all cases by any means,” Kohman said.

New evidence from a large trial involving 50,000 people in the United States showed that low-dose CT scans can detect early lung cancers before they cause symptoms and when they are still mostly curable.

Symptoms of advanced lung cancer include cough, shortness of breath, weight loss, fatigue, coughing up blood, pain and occasionally lumps. “Early lung cancer has no symptoms just like early cancer of all other kinds,” Kohman said.

Federal funding for all cancers has dropped over the last eight years, however, money committed for lung cancer research has always been a significant percentage less than for breast or prostate. Only $1,362 annually in research dollars per death is federally allocated compared to $28,543 per death for breast cancer and $12,580 per death for prostate cancer. “These dollars have made a difference in survival for breast and prostate cancer,” Kohman said. “Now we need to match that effort for lung cancer.”

Case said that though the result of her CT scan caused her to have other follow up tests – all which ultimately turned out normal – she was still very glad to have had the screening done for peace of mind. “Quitting or never starting [to smoke] is the best, but if neither happened then I highly recommend the CT scan,” Case said. “The sooner the cancer is discovered the better chance the person has for treatment.”

To learn more about Upstate Medical University’s lung cancer screening program and eligibility requirements, call 315-464-8668.

At the heart of the DSS Children’s Fund are committee co-chairs, from left, Deanne Myers, Marcia Birdsell, and Carol Lee. Maria Downey is absent from the photo. For almost 30 years, the DSS staff has organized a toy giveaway for needy families. More than 1,600 children received gifts last Christmas.

DSS annual Children’s Christmas Project is a community effort

DSS annual Children’s Christmas Project
At the heart of the DSS Children’s Fund are committee co-chairs, from left, Deanne Myers, Marcia Birdsell, and Carol Lee. Maria Downey is absent from the photo. For almost 30 years, the DSS staff has organized a toy giveaway for needy families. More than 1,600 children received gifts last Christmas.

For almost three decades, employees at the Oswego County Department of Social Services have been helping families in need during the holiday season.

The annual Children’s Christmas Fund has grown from a toy giveaway initially aimed at foster children to include more than 1,600 children in 600 families last Christmas.

“I am extremely proud of our DSS staff and their commitment to this project,” said DSS Commissioner Gregg Heffner. “The Children’s Christmas Fund first began by providing gifts to foster children, but now has expanded to provide gifts to any child who may otherwise receive little or nothing for Christmas. The project is supported entirely by community donations. No federal, state or county funds are used.”

Staff members Deanne Myers, Carol Lee, Maria Downey and Marcia Birdsell are at the heart of the project.

For Myers, the Children’s Fund is a family commitment. “There are many nights my daughters and I shop for the Children’s Fun,” she said. “They help pick out items children might enjoy for Christmas. I find giving my time very rewarding and my family is right there by my side. I like to think that what we do will make a difference for a child who will have that smile on their face on Christmas, or the parent who may be a little less stressed out over the holiday season because we were able to help them.”

The committee credits DSS retiree Connie Day with doing “a ton of work” to get the program off the ground more than 20 years ago. Altogether, about 15 to 20 staff members and their families work year-round to organize the project, searching for bargains and shopping throughout the year to make sure there are appropriate gifts for every child in need.

“The committee gives much of their own time each year to make this project happen,” said Lee, a senior typist who has been involved in the program since 1989. “The staff members coordinate the number of toys with the numbers of kids in need to make sure we have enough for each age group. It is very rewarding to know that we are helping to make Christmas possible for families who otherwise might have to go without gifts for their children.”

“Although this project consumes a lot of our personal time, I don’t think twice about volunteering each year because it is extremely gratifying,” added Birdsell. “The generosity of the community as we collect donations of money and toys makes me proud to be a resident of Oswego County. And I have spoken to so many parents that break down and cry with gratitude because they didn’t know how they were going to provide toys for their children for Christmas. I can just picture the children on Christmas morning, finding the toys that the project provides under the Christmas tree. That is what makes the time commitment worthwhile.”

With difficult economic times, the list of families has grown each year. DSS staff hold fund-raisers throughout the year to support the children’s Christmas project.

“Every year we think we won’t have enough items for all the families to get something,” said Myers. “Yet each year, we are totally amazed at how much comes to us from the community, workers here at DSS, and companies that donate either toys or monetarily. I’m in awe to see how generous people are to complete strangers, when all they know is that someone needs help.”

The program would not be possible without the help and support of many businesses and organizations across Oswego County.

“Every toy that is given to a child is purchased by members in the community, including workers right here at DSS,” said senior typist Maria Downey. “We are totally amazed how much comes to us from the community, workers here at DSS, and companies that donate either toys or monetarily.”

Toys are distributed on a referral basis only. Families needing assistance may contact the Department of Social Services at 963-5000, or fill out an application form at the DSS office. Families are screened for eligibility requirements.

The deadline to apply is Monday, Nov. 26. This year’s toy distribution will be Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 15 and 16. Families will receive an appointment letter informing them of the time and location to pick out their toys.

“It gives you a really good feeling to be able to make Christmas a little brighter for so many of Oswego County’s families, especially in this difficult economic climate,” said Birdsell. “Regardless of the economic hardships people are confronted with, the community still stands by each other to provide a helping hand.”

Monetary donations and new, unwrapped toys are needed. To arrange for delivery or pick up of toy donations, call Birdsell at 963-5396, Lee at 963-5246, Myers at 963-5305 or Downey at 963-5361.

Checks should be made payable to United Way/Children’s Fund and mailed to the Oswego County United Way, c/o of Doreen Clark,1 S. First St., Fulton, NY 13069.