Important information about student substance use

22 Sep

There’s a group of folks in our school district who are hyper-focused on keeping our kids safe and substance-free.

They’re called WHEN, the Webster Health and Education Network, and they’re a team of Webster community members including businesses, parents, teachers, law enforcement and healthcare providers who have come together to educate our community about substance abuse.

I recently got a press release from WHEN announcing their newly redesigned website and suggesting some important signs parents should watch for in these COVID-19 days. I wanted to pass some of that information along today.

Here’s some of what that release said:

WHEN:DFCC, Webster Health and Education Network: A Drug Free Community Coalition, has launched a new, more robust website to further their efforts to “Empower Webster kids to grow up strong and substance-free.” The website features prevention information and current activities, along with opportunities for community members to get involved.

There are several COVID-19-related factors WHEN:DFCC would like to make Webster families aware of as kids return to school this month:

COVID-19 is associated with youth use of e-cigarettes. Encourage kids to quit and not to share Juuls, vape pens or cigarettes with others.

Be aware of the poisoning hazard that both liquid nicotine and hand sanitizer can present, and store these away from children and pets.

COVID-19 has raised levels of stress and anxiety for many, which can prompt negative coping strategies like misuse of prescription drugs, drinking, or smoking/vaping. Encourage positive coping strategies instead.

Mental health resources are available to those struggling to cope, or experiencing distress or depression. Please call the NY COVID-19 Emotional Support Hotline for free emotional support, consultations and referrals: 1-844-863-9314.

One of the best ways to protect your children is to make sure that all of your medications and alcohol are secured, and unused medications promptly and properly disposed of. WHEN:DFCC has made free drug disposal bags and medication lock boxes available to Webster residents while supplies last. You can pick them up at the Webster Chamber of Commerce at 1110 Crosspointe Lane Suite C, Webster during their regular business hours, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. And remember that there’s a pharmaceutical waste drop-box at Town Hall, just inside the doors to the police department. 

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NEQALS is finally getting a REAL home

21 Sep

It’s been years in the making, but NEQALS will soon have a beautiful new home to call its own.

NEQALS (Northeast Quadrant Advanced Life Support) has been providing emergency life support in Webster, Ontario, and Penfield for 35 years. The agency’s roots go back to 1985, when a handful of Xerox employees were trained to provide emergency services to the Xerox campus.

In the years since, NEQALS became a separate entity and expanded to meet the growing need for emergency services in our area. But they’ve never had a permanent home, bouncing around among several locations in town, each with varying amounts of space for staff members to sleep and have meals.

That will finally change, with the construction of a new, dedicated headquarters building on Jackson Rd. next to the Ukranian Cultural Center.

The land was purchased almost six years ago, kicking off a long period of fundraising. Thanks to community donations and a grant from Senator Pam Helming’s office, enough money was finally raised for the project’s down payment.

The handsome new facility will have space for ten fly cars and ambulances, office space, bunk rooms, conference rooms, a kitchen, and more. Construction should be completed by next April.

Our dedicated first responders deserve this space, and I’m thrilled to see they’re finally getting it. Most of us don’t think much about our local EMTs and ambulance service until we need them. But when we do, it’s comforting to know they’re just a phone call away.

I experienced this personally last month when I took that spill off my bike and had my first-ever ambulance ride to the hospital. We didn’t have our car, so knowing that transportation to get medical treatment was going to come to ME took away some stress during what was a pretty traumatic experience.

I hope you’ll never need to call NEQALS, never have to have one of their ambulances respond to your home or auto accident. But if that terrible day does occur, you’re going to appreciate having these dedicated first responders at your side.

Fundraising continues for the new facility. Please consider throwing them a a few dollars next time you have the chance.

Here are some more photos from the ground breaking:

Reconnecting with “the boys”

20 Sep

There’s very little that will get me to set an alarm before 8 a.m. on Sunday morning — or set an alarm at all. But if it meant a chance to reconnect with “the boys,” I was happy to make the sacrifice.

I hadn’t seen the boys in more than ten years. I first met them back in 2008. I had to drive my son to Schroeder very early every Wednesday morning for his chorus practice, and since I didn’t have to be at work that early, I’d stop over to Hegedorn’s and have a cup of coffee.

On those mornings, several guys would be sitting in a nearby booth, drinking coffee and having lively conversations. For a few weeks, I would just sit and listen to their conversations as I read the paper.

In my first blog about “the boys,” on June 6, 2008, I wrote:

The talk bounces from politics to the best hunting and fishing spots, from the weather to the stock market. The conversations are always animated, the opinions always presented with conviction and an “I-don’t-care-if-you-agree-with-me-or-not” attitude. And if I keep my ears open, I occasionally pick up a vital kernel of knowledge such as “Never argue with a proctologist.”

But before long, I started joining in the conversations myself, and unofficially became one of the gang.

I started really looking forward to Wednesday mornings, which turned into Thursday mornings the following year when my daughter entered Schroeder and started chorus.

But early that school year, the boys were displaced when Guida’s Pizza moved into Hegedorn’s. I found them only once or twice after that, hanging out at nearby Bill Gray’s, but soon lost touch.

Until this morning. Thanks to a chance meeting with Tony, one of the original boys, at yesterday’s NEQALS groundbreaking ceremony, I found out that the guys are still meeting every morning, most of the time at Burger King on Hard Rd.

So I got up early and headed on over. I hoped they would remember me.

I shouldn’t have worried. As soon as I walked in I saw the smiles and heard some delighted greetings. The group’s grown a bit — they don’t fit in one, or even two booths anymore — and we’re all ten years older. But the conversations have pretty much remained the same.

And, coincidentally, Doug has a proctologist appointment this week. Hoping he remembers that sage advice from years ago.

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Village beauty all around

19 Sep

I wanted to send a quick shout-out and thank you this morning to Jake Swingley, Webster’s Supervisor of Public Works, and his crew for making our village look beautiful these days.

I took a moment on my recent walk to really notice all of the flowers and growing things that line our downtown streets. When those big planters were originally introduced, I admit I was skeptical about how nice they would look, but have been pleasantly surprised by how lush and beautiful they are every year. The flower beds are bursting with color, and the hanging baskets are so artistically overflowing that I want to take one home — but I think it would be missed.

Maintaining all of these plantings takes a lot of time and effort; for example, I often notice the watering guy puttering around town in his golf cart in the morning when I walk, diligently poking a watering wand up into each and every planter.

If you haven’t been in the village recently, or just haven’t taken a moment to look around, make a point to do so soon, and really try to notice the beauty all around you.

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Village block party brought music to the streets

14 Sep
The Red Hot and Blue Band performed a porch concert for about 100 village residents Saturday afternoon.

I have come to realize that one of the main things I miss most during this pandemic is the opportunity to see live music.

Fortunately, those opportunities have begun to present themselves again in the last several weeks. For example, the Village of Webster held three Friday night concerts at the gazebo, and Barry’s Old School Irish is back to hosting its regular traditional Irish music sessions every Saturday night.

I consider yesterday’s live music event a bonus, however. It was a village block party held on Park Ave., just around the corner from my house (OK, two corners).

A portion of Park Ave. was blocked off for the party.

I’m not sure who organized the event, but I’m sure my Park Ave. neighbor Doug Pucci had something to do with it. It was on his porch that his rockin’ Red Hot and Blue Band performed for almost three hours to an appreciative audience of almost 100 adults and children.

The organizers distributed flyers all over the surrounding neighborhoods, but everyone in the village was invited, regardless of whether they got one of the “invitations” before they ran out.

The sun was shining, the children were dancing and making chalk drawings in the middle of Park Ave., and neighbors were meeting neighbors. It was a quintessential village experience.

Thank you to everyone who helped pull this together. It was exactly the thing all us music-starved and socially-deprived people needed.

At one point, almost 100 adults and children were watching the concert, dancing, or playing in the street.

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A modest but important remembrance

12 Sep

Friday marked the 19th anniversary of the awful events of Sept. 11, 2001, the day when the world changed forever.

On that day, 2,977 people lost their lives, including 412 first responders. Among them were 343 firefighters from the New York City Fire Department.

Every year since that awful day, the Village of Webster has held a remembrance ceremony on Sept. 11 at Veterans Memorial Park. But like pretty much everything these days, that ceremony was canceled this year. But there was no way that Chief Robert Boutillier was going to let the occasion pass unnoticed.

So he organized a small event of his own, asking all of his WVFD firefighters to gather at the Enderlin Station on South Ave. last night for a short ceremony.

The occasion was not about “pats on the back, speeches, etc.,” he said. “It’s about the sacrifice that was made responding to an alarm as we do each and every day.”

The Chief reiterated those thoughts last night at the station. It was “appropriate and necessary” that we continue to recognize the sacrifice those 343 firefighters made that day.

Chief Boutillier saying some words before inviting all to share a moment of silence.

“We’re not here for speeches or to look sharp in our class A (uniform)s,” or “for people to say ‘thank you for your service,'” he said. They gathered simply to honor those who lost their lives and to offer a moment of silence in respect.

The event was not widely advertised, so only a handful of community members attended. But the fact there were no large crowds did not minimize the evening’s significance. It was just an opportunity for our local firefighting brothers and sisters to honor their own: dedicated New York City firefighters who went to work that morning. not knowing they would not make it home that night.

Among the gear placed outside the station last night in honor of the fallen firefighters was a helmet, emblazoned with the number of firefighters who lost their lives. It was commissioned just a few months after 9/11.

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The best gifts a teacher could ask for

9 Sep
Plank North Principal “Mr. B” greets a young student

“This is like Christmas Day, and the presents are going to keep coming until 3:00.”

That’s the way Plank North Elementary School Principal Craig Bodensteiner put it yesterday morning, as he greeted students arriving for the school’s pre-opening-day meet-and greet, a chance for the kids to drop off some supplies and check in with their new teachers.

That feeling was evident in room after room as teachers enthusiastically welcomed their students back into their classrooms. You could almost feel the entire school heave a huge sigh of happiness as rooms were — finally — filled with laughter and chatter once again.

Some of Plank North’s youngest students check out their new kindergarten room.

As Plank North Assistant Principal Heather Balsamo said, “We’ve been waiting for this day since March 16.”

Teacher and student smiles were so big, they almost burst through the masks. Clearly the students were as excited as the teachers to be back.

Things are going to be different this year, in so many ways. But one main thing will not have changed: how much our teachers and staff members love our students, and how dedicated they are to making sure every single one gets a quality education this fall, whether they’re in a classroom or studying remotely.

Plank North’s kindergarten students even got a chance to check out a school bus during their visit.

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Stories in the bandshell!

5 Sep

Count on the Webster Public Library to come up with yet another creative idea to bring the excitement of reading directly to young children.

Their latest brainstorm is outdoor, in-person storytimes at the amphitheater at Harmony Park on Phillips Rd. This month, the library will host six storytimes — three on Tuesday afternoons and three on Thursday mornings — each lasting a half hour. The event is geared to children up to age 5, but all are welcome.

The storytimes are scheduled on Thursdays Sept. 10, 17 and 24 from 9 to 9:30 a.m. and Tuesdays Sept. 15, 22 and 29 from 2:30 to 3:00 p.m. The events are free, but registration is required, and spots are limited.

The Harmony Park amphitheater is better known as home to our Webster Village band.

Social distancing guidelines will be enforced at each storytime. Please bring a blanket that is large enough for all family members to sit on. Masks are required for all adults and children over 2. Please register all children in your group, including babies. Walk-ins will not be permitted.

These special events are being made possible in large part through the support of our village trustees. Usually the Village of Webster charges $50 each time a group wants to use the amphitheater, but the village has waived that charge for the library.

Harmony Park and the amphitheater are located on Foster Drive, off of Phillips Rd. just south of Ridge. For more information and to register, click here.

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Webster community mailbag

3 Sep

It pains me just a little bit to post this first notice, because it’s a tacit admission that winter is not too far off, but it’s a very important message.

The Webster Public Library is hosting its second annual COAT DRIVE, to benefit Homeless Connect Rochester.

A large box has been placed in the library’s lobby, where you can donate your gently used (and clean!) coats of all sizes and types. The collection will run through Sept. 15 and the coats will be distributed to those residing in shelters and on the streets of Rochester.

For more information, visit the Homeless Connect Rochester website, and if you have any questions, email webster.reference@libraryweb.org.

Beginning Sept. 8, the Webster Public Library will have new hours, Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Here are a few other updates/reminders about the library’s services:

  • Curbside Service continues to be available whenever the library is open. Contact the library with questions by email at webster.reference@libraryweb.org or by phone at 585-872-7075.
  • Online programs are being offered. Check the website calendar for details. Any updates will be posted on the website slider and the WPL Facebook page.
  • Donations of books, DVDs, and music CDs are being accepted, but NO magazines, textbooks, or computer books. Two boxes maximum per day.
  • NO DMV at the library for the remainder of 2020.
  • Remember to wear your mask!

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Webster Parks and Recreation has cooked up a fun way to say goodbye to summer. 

It’s a socially-distanced food truck picnic on Wednesday, Sept. 9 (the day before school starts) from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Miracle Field playground, 1000 Ridge Rd., Webster. Kid-friendly meals will be available from The Meatball Truck and Wraps on Wheels. The playground will be open, so you can buy lunch, relax on your last day of summer freedom, and play. 

Picnic tables will be socially distanced or bring a blanket to sit on. All ages are welcome and registration is not required. Please note: Masks are required, however, while ordering.

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More good food will be on the menu when St. Martin Lutheran Church hosts its fall drive-through chicken BBQ on Saturday Sept. 19 from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Dinners of half-chicken, salt potatoes, coleslaw, roll, and butter are available for $10. The event this year will be drive-through only. Cars will enter the parking lot, follow the signs, and purchase tickets using exact payment. Cars will then proceed to the front entrance to pick up boxed dinners. Dinners will be assembled according to CDC recommendations. Due to current health restrictions, pie slices and other desserts will not be available.

Proceeds will support St. Martin’s our Christmas Stocking Project, which reaches more than 500 local youth in Monroe and Wayne counties.

St. Martin Lutheran Church, is located at 813 Bay Rd. in Webster. 

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A visit with my new Webster Village eye doctor

2 Sep

I could probably fill a small notebook with everything I love about living in the village. But no matter what’s on that list — music, shops, pubs, neighbors — one underlying theme ties them all together: people.

That fact was reinforced yesterday when I went for a long-overdue eye appointment.

We were in between optometrists when we moved to the village last year, so we decided to sign on with Webster Eye Care Associates. The office, at 81 East Main St., is about an 8-minute walk from my house. (I LOVE being able to walk to places!)

The place was bustling with activity, and much larger than it appears from outside. The staff members were friendly and efficient, and Dr. Hochreiter, who handled my exam, was very professional and thorough, and patiently answered all of my questions.

But I especially enjoyed my time with the big teddy-bear of a technician who helped me choose my new pair of frames and took the appropriate measurements. We laughed and joked throughout our entire visit. We even discovered at one point that we both used to live in small-town Owego, in the Southern Tier, and shared memories of our old hometown.

My new friend Mike Gustin and me

Only toward the very end of our time together (after learning that I was a new customer) did this very friendly and jovial gentleman introduce himself. All that time, I had been joking with Webster Eye Care co-owner Mike Gustin.

It’s not often that you can walk into a medical office for the first time and leave an hour later feeling like you’ve joined a family. That’s how the folks at Webster Eye Care Associates made me feel yesterday. That’s what small-town hospitality and neighborliness is all about.

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