Archive | May, 2020

Four words … 40 years later

31 May

Here’s a nice story for you today, about how taking the time to offer a simple kindness can potentially come back around to brighten your own life.

Last week I posted a blog titled “We all have a story. This is mine.”  It told about my participation in a portrait/story project created by my friend and teaching colleague Linda Hayes.

In my story, I recalled something my high school English teacher said to me one day, four simple words that changed my life. When I shared that blog on Facebook, my brother Jim took notice and encouraged me to try to get in touch with the teacher and let her know the positive influence her words had.

Her name was Linda Yanchus, my junior-year English teacher at Owego Free Academy. I graduated from OFA more than 40 years ago, so I didn’t hold out much hope that I’d be able to track her down. Still, I decided to give it a shot.

Thanks to the wonders of Facebook, I very quickly connected with Linda’s ex-husband’s younger brother’s wife.  She was happy to pass along my phone number.

Early last week, I got a phone call from my former teacher.

She said that she actually remembered me and my writing and the fun way I would put things. We had a very nice conversation, but I didn’t tell her exactly what she had said to me. I wanted her to read the story for herself. I told her about my blog and invited her to read it there.

A few days later I got this note from her:

That IS quite a story and you ARE a good writer! Thank you so much for reaching out to me and sharing what is now an important moment for both of us. I am gratified to learn that I had a positive influence on you and wish you the very best with your writing, your work with elementary readers and your eventual retirement.

I guess the moral of this story is that you never know how something seemingly insignificant can have a life-long effect on someone.

Words mean a lot.

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Welcome Chris Bilow to Webster Parks and Recreation

30 May

chris bilowA hearty — albeit delayed — welcome to Chris Bilow, Webster’s new Commissioner of Parks and Recreation.

Bilow has replaced Mark Yaeger, who recently retired after 19 years with the department.

Bilow comes to Webster after working for almost 18 years at the Penfield Recreation Center, most recently as Recreation Director. He said that “it was the only I job I had any interest in leaving Penfield for,” mostly because it meant coming back to work in his hometown Webster, where’s he’s lived for more than 30 years.

During his 19 years with the department, Bilow’s predecessor, Mark Yaeger, oversaw  the creation of the new Parks and Recreation building on Chiyoda Drive, the First Responders Playground and water spray park, and helped spearhead the installation of Challenger Miracle Field.

“He did an awesome job setting the stage,” Bilow said. “His leadership really set this department up for the future with programs and space and meeting the needs of this community.” Now he’s looking forward to continuing that legacy.

“As a resident (of Webster) for 32 years, I’m obviously familiar with what’s gone in, and I see so much more that we have the ability to expand on.”

“I think we need to build on the relationship between this department and the community, become a greater presence.” To that end, Bilow hopes to improve the department’s communications efforts, doing things like posting weekly updates, and taking better advantage of social media.

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Virtual 5K Run/Walk to benefit civil rights

29 May


This little nugget is especially for runners and walkers who are trying to keep in shape during this no-races-spring. It was sent to me by my friend and former Webster teaching colleague Mary Heveron-Smith, who is helping organize the event.

It’s the 4th annual ROC Juneteenth 5K Run/Walk, which this year will be held virtually.

The race is a fundraiser for the Rochester Civil Rights Heritage Site, and is taking place in the aftermath of a shooting that killed an unarmed black man, Ahmaud Arbery, who was jogging Feb. 23 in a suburban neighborhood in Georgia, not far from his home. All funds raised will go toward funding construction of Rochester’s Civil Rights Heritage Park at Baden Park in downtown Rochester, which will honor local civil rights leaders throughout history.

Given the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s race is virtual. Participants can run or walk the 5K from home or from anywhere. It can be completed in one day or over several days. All running/walking should be completed by midnight on June 19, 2020.  The date marks an anniversary — June 19, 1865 — the day that 250 years of slavery finally ended in America.

Registration is only $10. Click here to sign up.  Every registrant will receive a commemorative poster honoring Harriet Tubman created by Rochester artist Amber Stokes.

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Webster Community Blood Drive returns — with a twist

28 May

The Webster Community Blood Drive is back — next Wednesday June 3 and Thursday June 4 at the Webster Recreation Center — but it’s going to look a little different this year.

You know this drive as the one advertised by those big white signs that are placed throughout town at crossroads and in front of some of the drive’s business sponsors. It’s the one where every donor is handed a bunch of raffle tickets, which can be used to try to win any of dozens of prizes.

In large part because of those raffle prizes, the two-day drive is always one of the most popular and well-attended drives of the entire year. But of course, business owners are clearly in no position to donate raffle prizes right now. So this year the drive’s organizers have decided to turn the tables.

To show appreciation for all the business owners who have so faithfully supported this annual drive, donors are encouraged to support them instead — and at the same time show some love to our first responders.

This year, donors are being asked to consider purchasing a gift certificate from a Webster business and bring it along to the drive, or make a cash donation, all of which will be collected and distributed to our local first responders as a thank you for all they’re doing.

Donation boxes will be set up outside the Recreation Center during the entire two-day drive, so even those who are unable to donate blood for any reason can still drive by and drop off their donations. Organizers will also have posters at the drop-off site, where people can write their personal messages of appreciation.

Checks may be made out to North East Quadrant Advanced Life Support, the Webster Volunteer Fire Dept., Inc., or the West Webster Volunteer Firemen’s Association.

This year’s Webster Community Blood Drive is scheduled for Wednesday June 3 and Thursday June 4, from noon to 7 p.m. at the Webster Recreation Center, 1350 Chiyoda Drive. Donors will need to make an appointment. To do so, visit and search for the sponsor code “WebsterCommunity,” or call 1-800-RED-CROSS.

For more information, you can also call Monroe County Legislator Matthew Terp at (585) 753-1922.

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Memorial Day celebrated in chalk

25 May

Happy Memorial Day!

Some friends from my old street, Anytrell Drive off of Hatch Rd., came up with a fun way to help all of their neighbors celebrate the weekend.

It’s a street-long chalk art project, organized by Jessica and Tim Ellsworth, my former across-the-street neighbors. Last Friday, Jessica and her three daughters trundled up and down the street with their wagon and delivered packages of chalk to 48 of their neighbors — pretty much every house on the street. Each package had instructions encouraging the residents to get out on Sunday and decorate their driveways.

Jessica said she came up with the idea as a way to encourage community during these difficult times. She wrote,

I just wanted to unify the neighborhood a little bit since we are so spread out. It would be a bonus to inspire other people in other neighborhoods to do something similar. We all need to be kind and support each other especially in a time like this.

By Sunday evening, almost 20 driveways had been decorated with flowers, rainbows, smiley faces and inspirational messages. Chances are, by the end of day today, several others will have joined them. Check out this slideshow to see them all:

What a great way to bring people together!

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We all have a story. This is mine.

23 May

My regular blog readers may remember a post I wrote in November about a wonderful exhibition created by my friend, teaching colleague and exceptional portrait photographer Linda Hayes of Hayes Photography.

It was called We All Have a Story: The Stories Continue. It was a follow-up to Hayes’ first We All Have a Story exhibit in spring of 2018.

You may have seen the exhibit when it was on display in December at the Webster Public Library. It took a closer look at the lives and stories of several Webster Central School District staff members to help illuminate the people inside the classrooms and offices who work with our children every day.

I was honored to be a part of the exhibit, and proud to be among a dozen other heartfelt and touching stories written by WCSD colleagues.

Linda is now posting those stories, and the beautiful portraits she took to accompany them, to her website and Facebook page. (You should go there and read the other stories!) At her suggestion, I shared my story recently on my personal Facebook page. It has received so many positive comments that I thought I should also post it to my blog. After all, it is all about how I became a writer, so this platform is rather appropriate.

The power of words

I was a junior in high school when my English teacher said four words that changed my life.

She told me, “You’re a good writer.”

I still remember exactly where I was standing after class that day, and how proud those simple words made me feel. But I didn’t realize then how powerful they were, how much they would shape my future. Because from that day forward, I knew what I wanted to do with my life: I wanted to write.

After graduating high school, I pursued that dream, studying communications at Cornell University and landing jobs in radio and public relations. Even as a stay-at-home mom, I wrote newsletters for my karate school, My Moms Club, and the Rochester Irish community.

Then, in 2008, my writing reached a new level when the Democrat and Chronicle invited me to write a Webster community blog, followed several years later by the weekly East Extra community column. I had finally found a place where my written words could reach a larger audience, giving them even greater meaning and purpose.

As a blogger and columnist for the D&C, I visit new businesses, post stories about community events, and spread positive news about our east-side Rochester towns, villages and residents.

My words have helped launch new businesses and shined a spotlight on inspirational people. They’ve helped our community through times of unbelievable tragedy and mourning. They’ve spread good news about good people in a time when positive stories are few and far between. They’ve prompted tears and laughter, helped old friends reconnect and new friends meet.

I am a busy, multi-faceted person. I’m a wife and a mother, and a full-time teaching assistant in two elementary schools. I’m a martial artist, a volunteer, a community activist. I enjoy sharing a pint with friends.

But writing defines my life. It’s my hobby, my outlet. Writing fills the empty corners of my day.

Four simple words. “You’re a good writer.” They transformed a talent into a passion, and now my words enrich others’ lives every day.

And as long as people keep reading, I will keep writing

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Schlegel teachers and students reconnect at drive-by

22 May
Even Whiskers, the Schlegel Rd. mascot, came to the event. Here he greets students with Schlegel Assistant Principal Robin Jennings,

Last night was a really fun night.

The administrators at Schlegel Rd. Elementary School got permission from the district Powers That Be to hold a drive-through event at the school so that staff members and students could reconnect.

The event officially began at 5:30, but staff members started showing up a good hour early to festoon their cars with signs and balloons and set up bubble machines and music. By the time families started driving in, cars were lined up around the school’s parking lot and bus loop. More than 80 staff members were there, representing pre-K through 5th grade, OWL, custodial staff, paraprofessionals, band and orchestra, secretaries and district sentries.

Everyone practiced proper social distancing — parking at least 6 feet apart and staying with their cars — and everyone wore masks. The masks made it hard to see all the smiles, but the distance didn’t damper the excitement at all as family cars streamed by for a full hour and a half.

Schlegel is one of the two schools where I work as a library teaching assistant, so I got to be there. Let me tell you, it was a delight to see all those little faces again in person (not on Zoom) and it was heartwarming to see those faces light up when they saw us.

It was a perfect way to ease the ache in our hearts from not seeing our students every day, and was something that both students and teachers desperately needed.

The slideshow below doesn’t capture the party atmosphere completely, but you get a good sense of how many people were there and how much everyone misses everyone else.

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Great news from the library

20 May

webster library

This is gong to help a bit with some of the boredom many of us are experiencing.

Beginning tomorrow, Wednesday May 20, the library will once again be offering their contact-less Drive-Up, Pick-Up Service. 

The way it works is that you email the library at with your request for a book, movie, audiobook, music, videogame, or whatever you need. Include your name and library card number. You’ll receive an email confirmation when your items have been pulled and are ready for pickup, with instructions on how to do so.

The service will be available Monday through Saturday (except for the holiday this coming Saturday) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. At this time, patrons are asked to limit requests to 10 items or less. Also, the library cannot accept book and materials donations at this time.

Also, today, Wednesday May 18, the library’s book drop will be open again to accept all returns. Due dates for items currently checked out are still June 29, so don’t feel the need to rush to return your items. They’ll take them whenever you’re done with them.

Items returned in the book drop will not actually be checked in for three or four days — they have to be quarantined themselves first — so don’t expect them to come off your account immediately.

If you have any questions about either of these services, you can call your friendly library staff members at (585) 872-7075 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

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Facebook group dedicated to celebrating Webster’s senior class

18 May

Three Webster friends have come up with a great way to help recognize our Webster High School seniors.

It’s a Facebook group called Adopt a Webster Senior, and it’s dedicated to bringing a bit of celebration back to the Class of 2020.

The group’s organizers — Shanna LaDelfa, Jenn Birdsong-Ng and Janice Richardson — are all Webster residents with students of their own at several Webster schools. Although none of their kids are seniors, they understand what a huge disappointment it’s been for the class of 2020 to lose out on the last three and half months of their high school career.

They explain on their page,

This year has been very challenging for everyone, especially our graduating class. They have missed out on many traditional high school experiences such as sporting events, spending time with friends with whom they will soon be leaving behind when they go off into the world, senior ball, walking the stage at graduation, and sadly, graduation parties that have not yet been celebrated.

The Adopt a Webster Senior group hopes to help soften the blow.

The idea is to “adopt” a senior and surprise him or her with a care package or some other memorable gift. There really are no guidelines, no minimum or maximums and no mandatory purchase items. It’s all about having fun and bringing a smile to a senior’s face.

Shanna, Jenn and Janice originally began their effort after hearing about similar groups being organized in Greece and East Irondequoit, where two of the friends are teachers. They started small-scale, first surprising some of their Webster friends. Once they got it going, however, word spread and “it became a hit,” Janice said.

“We literally went from 20 members to almost 300 in two days,” Jenn added.

It has been extremely rewarding to see all the proud and hopeful parents sharing their children with us. Not to mention how emotionally comforting and encouraging it has been during these challenging times for families and communities. The teachers and retired teachers who have so graciously jumped in to help is heart warming.

It’s easy to join the effort. Simply go to the Adopt a Webster Senior Facebook page and leave a note that you’d like to help. You can also go there to nominate your own senior to get adopted.


Webster Schroeder senior Maggie Nagar with the surprise basket she received.

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Fireman’s Carnival and parade have been canceled

18 May

… and another one bites the dust.

It is certainly no surprise, but this morning the Webster Volunteer Fire Department announced that this year’s parade and Fireman’s Carnival will not happen.

Here is the official announcement:


This must have been a very difficult decision, as the carnival is the department’s biggest fundraiser. When their fund-raising campaign kicks in a bit later this year and donation envelopes start appearing in our mailboxes, we need to remember all that they do for us, and all the birthday parades they’ve participated in lately, brightening people’s lives.

For more information, visit the Webster Volunteer Fire Department Facebook page.