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VOA celebrates mothers in a special way

28 Apr

It’s unusual these days for me to receive a notice about an event I’ve never heard about. But here’s one that’s been going on for 30 years, honoring some of the most important people in our lives: our mothers.

Every year for the past three decades, the Volunteers of America (VOA) have brightened Mother’s Day weekend for senior women throughout the Rochester area. It’s their “I Remember Mama Celebration,” during which they deliver hundreds of gift baskets, filled with flowers, corsages, treats and gifts, to women who have outlived their families or are separated from them.

What a great way to help ease the loneliness these women feel on Mother’s Day.

Volunteers of America works with assisted living communities and senior centers to identify elderly women who are alone. As part of the celebration this year, VOA will be delivering 50 gift baskets to residents of Cobblestone Place in Webster. Other baskets will be delivered to the Catholic Family Center, Family Services of Rochester, Montgomery Neighborhood Center, Jonathan Childs Apartments, Darnforth Towers and Jordan Health. Deliveries begin May 11 and will lead up to Mother’s Day.

VOA is asking community members for their support. With a donation of $45, individuals can sponsor a senior woman, $90 will sponsor two women, or $450 will sponsor ten ladies. Click here to learn how to support the event. Community support is a key component of making this event a success each year. 

Here are a few photos from previous deliveries:

About Volunteers of America Upstate New York: Volunteers of America Upstate New York (VOA) is a local non-profit human service organization that serves more than 6,000 men, women and children annually in Rochester and throughout Upstate New York.  The agency’s mission is to empower people to rise out of poverty, move toward self-reliance, and reach their full potential. VOA offers a wide array of programming in four key areas; early childhood education; supportive housing for homeless and low-income individuals and families, and reentry programs for individuals who are or have been incarcerated, and housing for frail seniors. Visit to learn more.

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(posted 4/28/2023)

Webster resident celebrates 100th birthday

14 Mar

A very special celebration was held last Saturday when St. Stanislaus Kostka Church in Rochester held a grand 100th birthday party for two of their parishioners, Sister Mary Dismas and Webster resident Ludwika Kardela.  

Ludwika was born on March 8, 1923 and raised in Poland where she married and began her family near the city of Nysa in southern Poland. She and her family emigrated to the United States in 1963 and settled in Rochester. Ludwika has volunteered and cooked for events at the St. Teresa’s and St. Stanislaus Kostka parishes, and has been a fixture at parish events for decades. If you’ve ever been to the St. Stanislaus Polish Festival, you’ve enjoyed her delicious pierogies and cabbage rolls, and definitely got one of her wonderful smiles. Ludwika still cooks for some events to this day. Family from all over the country and Poland came to town to help celebrate her milestone birthday.

Sister Dismas was born on March 11, 1923 and in 2021 marked 80 years of service with the Sisters of Mercy. Sister Dismas spent her school years at St. John the Evangelist and Our Lady of Mercy, where she graduated in 1941. The influence of the Sisters of Mercy led her to enter the order and led her to becoming a teacher for 41 years. Sister Dismas also volunteered with a number of organizations throughout her years and she still resides at the St. Stanislaus convent. 

Along with celebrating Sister Dismas and Ludwika’s birthdays, the parish also celebrated the birthday of Father Roman Caly with a buffet lunch gathering for friends, family and fellow parishioners. 

Many thanks to Ursula Zamora for this great report and photos.

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(posted 3/14/2023)

That’s Webster entertainment!

1 Feb

For anyone who enjoys stage performances, song and dance, you’re gonna love these first few weeks of February. No fewer than four stage and concert performances are scheduled, beginning this coming weekend, when Willink Middle School presents Disney’s Newsies, Jr. in three shows on Thursday and Friday Feb. 3 and 4.

Featuring a cast and crew of 100 sixth, seventh and eighth graders, the show is based on the real-life newsboy strike of 1899. It tells the story of Jack Kelly (Nicole Eggleton), a rebellious newsboy who dreams of a life as an artist away from the big city. After publishing giant, Joseph Pulitzer (Jeremiah Fischer), raises newspaper prices at the newsboys’ expense, Kelly and his fellow newsies take action. With help from reporter Katherine Plumber (Evie Aiezza), the newsies learn that they are stronger united and create a movement to fight for what’s right.

The show is packed with high-energy songs which have become well known to theater-goers and non theater-goers alike, including “Carrying the Banner,” “Seize the Day,” and “Santa Fe.”

Shows are Friday, Feb. 3 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, February 4 at 1 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. at Willink Middle School, 900 Publishers Parkway, Webster. Tickets are on sale now on the Drama Club website. Cost is $10 for adults and $6 for students and seniors. Children 3 and younger are free.

Also this weekend, on Sunday Feb. 5, our very own Chorus of the Genesee and Rochester Rhapsody will participate in a free concert at the Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre called “A Taste of Song.”

The concert, presented by the Greater Rochester Choral Consortium, will feature 16 area choral groups. More than 600 singers from local choirs/choruses of all sizes and musical styles will sing in this unique, 75-minute collaboration.

Each chorus performs for five minutes or less in a “prism” arrangement, with ensembles singing from various locations throughout the theater. Groups perform continuously without a break or applause between ensembles.

The Chorus of the Genesee and Rochester Rhapsody will be joined by the Eastman Rochester Chorus, the Genesee Valley Orchestra and Chorus, First Inversion, Madrigalia, the Oasis Community Chorus, the Rochester Gay Men’s Chorus, and many more. For a complete list and more details, click here.

The concert begins at 4 p.m. at the Eastman Theater, 26 Gibbs St., Rochester.

Next weekend, on Thursday, Friday and Saturday Feb. 9, 10 and 11, Webster Schroeder Musicals will present the ABBA-inspired jukebox musical Mamma Mia!

Chances are you’re familiar with the story, but here’s a short synopsis for those who aren’t:

Young Sophie is readying for her marriage to her fiancée, which will be taking place on a beautiful Greek island where she lives with her mother, Donna. She’d like to invite her father to the ceremony, but problem is, she doesn’t know who he is. After reading her mother’s diary, she invites three men, one of whom she believes is her father. When Donna discovers they’re all on the island, she naturally becomes a little distressed. Emotions run high, but everything works out in the end.

The play features tons of popular ABBA songs, including “Money, Money, Money,” “Thank You for the Music,” “Dancing Queen,”  and of course “Mamma Mia.”

Mamma Mia! will be presented on Thursday, Friday and Saturday Feb. 9, 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m., with a matinee performance on Saturday at 2 p.m. Reserve tickets are $14 each and are available now. Click here to purchase.

Webster Schroeder High School is located at 875 Ridge Rd.

And last but not least, also on Feb. 10 and 11, the Webster Theatre Guild will present “The One-Act Play that Goes Wrong” as part of a dinner theater at the Penfield Recreation Center.

Both the Saturday and Sunday shows will begin with a pasta dinner at 6:30 p.m., followed by the performance. Tickets are $25. The event is a fundraiser and proceeds will help fund scholarships for graduating high school seniors and support the staging of upcoming musical theater productions.

I wrote a much more complete blog about this yesterday, so click here for more information.

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(posted 2/1/2023)

The case of the mystery ornament

5 Jan

Yesterday, as I was dragging my Christmas tree to the curb for the Village to pick up, I was reminded of a nice story that happened seven years ago this week.

In the first week of January 2016, My husband and I had decided to take a winter hike at Helmer Nature Center in Irondequoit. It happens that Helmer is the location where the Town of Irondequoit collects Christmas trees every year for recycling. We noticed that someone had placed an ornament on top of a post near the pile of trees. Clearly, some family had left it on their tree, a kind person had noticed it and put it somewhere obvious in case the family came back looking for it.

At my husband’s suggestion, I snapped a photo of the ornament and posted it on my Facebook page. I was still writing a weekly column for the Democrat and Chronicle at the time, so the page had a lot of readership. Someone at Channel 13 saw the post and did a short piece on their newscast. That caught the attention of the Irondequoit family who had lost the ornament, the Rusters.

Turns out the photo is of (then) 22-year old Teigan Ruster, who was just a year old when it was taken. The family returned to Helmer Nature Center the next day and was thrilled to get the ornament back.  

The whole story was picked by by Channel 13 reporter Matt Molloy, who actually came to interview me at the Webster Thomas High School library where I was working at the time. Click here to see his report.

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(posted 1/5/2023)

Where to recycle your Christmas tree

2 Jan

According to the metrics I’m seeing on my blog page, a lot of people are searching Google for information about how and where to recycle their Christmas trees, and the search results are directing them to Webster on the Web.

Unfortunately, I’ve learned from experience that people don’t look at the dates posted next to their search results, and don’t notice when the information they’re seeing is two years — or more — old. So I figured it might be a good idea to put some updated information out there so I don’t get any more angry emails.

Here’s where you can recycle your Christmas tree (2023 edition)

Village of Webster: The Public Works Dept. will collect your Christmas tree as part of their normal brush pick-up runs, which take place during the first full week of every month. The next two scheduled runs will begin Jan. 9 and Feb. 6.

Put your tree at the curb no later than the Sunday night before pick-up week, because the crews will be making only one pass through the village.

Town of Webster: According to the Town’s website, you can drop your tree off at the Town Highway Department, 1005 Picture Parkway. Follow the signs for the drop-off location when you get there, and make sure you’ve removed all the lights and decorations.

Penfield: According to the Town of Penfield website,

The Department of Public Works is accepting non-artificial trees for recycling at the Highway Garage located at 1607 Jackson Road. Trees can be dropped off at any time, being placed just to the right side of the facility gates. Look for the sign labeled “X-Mas Trees.” All trees will be ground up and made part of the mulch pile, which is available on the westside of the Town Hall complex. 

Irondequoit has a Trees for Trails program, which is described on their Facebook page:

Holiday Tree Recycling at Helmer Nature Center! Starting December 26, bring your trees to our parking lot for recycling. The trees will be transformed into wood chips to control erosion on our trails. Volunteers will be on hand to help unload your tree and load them into the chipper on Saturday January 14 from 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.

Make sure to remove all ornaments, lights, twine, string, wire, or bags from your tree. And note that they cannot accept any trees after 1 p.m. on Jan. 14.

Helmer Nature Center is located at 154 Pinegrove Ave.

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(posted 1/2/2023)

My first Nutcracker will not be my last

20 Nov

I know that many will find this hard to believe, but in all my 60-plus years, I had never seen a complete version of the Nutcracker ballet. That changed a few nights ago when my friend Denise Baller of Dancing With Denise hooked me up with some excellent tickets to Friday night’s production of Nutcracker! Magical Christmas Ballet at the Auditorium Theater, so I could sit right in the middle of the auditorium to experience this magical performance for the first time.

Any of you who have had the pleasure of seeing Nutcracker know that I don’t use the word “magical” lightly. From the bright Christmas-Eve-celebration colors, costumes and staging in the first act, to the sparkling wintry scenes in Act II, I sat enraptured through the whole show.

The dancing was magnificent, of course, presented by an international cast at the top of their game. But the stars of the show? That would be the 40 local children who played the parts of mice, party kids, snowflakes and several other characters. Those little dancers included 35 Dancing With Denise students, including two with special needs.

I had to feel a little sorry for the professional dancers when the kids were performing. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one, for example, paying more attention to the little rats scurrying around the stage than the pitched battle taking place between the Rat King and the Nutcracker.

Adding to my wonderful experience, Denise was kind enough to take me to the backstage dressing rooms, where she introduced me to her young cast. I took some great photos of the kids, which you can see below.

It’s safe to say I’m already looking forward to attending this glorious production again next year.

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(posted 11/20/2022)

Across the bay on Indigenous People’s Day

15 Oct

A very meaningful event took place on Monday at the Bay Outlet Bridge, honoring the indigenous people who have lived on and cared for this area since long before Webster’s earliest settlers arrived.

The ceremony definitely flew under my radar, but thankfully my friend Kathy Taddeo was there, and submitted this report and photos:

It wasn’t exactly Webster, but it could be… someday.

Last Monday, October 10, some 50 bleary-eyed people of all ages gathered at sunrise on the bridge that soon will again span the Irondequoit Bay Outlet between Webster and Irondequoit. They came from far and near to celebrate the first Indigenous Peoples Day in the United States and to honor in particular the Haudenosaunee who have long been loyal stewards of this land.

The organizers of this celebration introduced native language speakers, storytellers and musicians, calling the area surrounding the bay a sacred space, the likely landing for the Peacemaker who came here to heal and unite the warring hearts of the Five Nations. A local wampum belt artist marked this historic day by creating a belt symbolizing the peaceful alliance of all people, native and non-native.

The audience respectfully listened and learned, perhaps absorbing the peace of the dawning day and the presenters themselves. After refreshments, the group headed to the lake for a beach clean-up, symbolically continuing the work of the Haudenosaunee.

I had come representing my 25 fourth/graders at Iroquois School who in 2001 had persuaded the Irondequoit Town Board to erect the marker that has stood near the west side of the bridge for 21 years. Designed by the children, the marker honors the Haudenosaunee and their stewardship of the land and water we call home. (Yes, you guys, I brought your banner, so you were there in spirit!)

Irondequoit Town board Councilwoman Patrina Freeman had spoken during the ceremony of her determination that our indigenous peoples continue to be honored with historic markers in Irondequoit. We later talked of our mutual interest in making that happen in our respective towns and a collaboration was born on the spot.

It’s our hope that through “Hands Across the Waters,” Irondequoit and Webster will have more to celebrate come Indigenous Peoples Day 2023.

(submitted by Kathy Taddeo)

Here’s a closer look at the text and illustrations on that historical marker, from the original artist’s rendering. I’ve never seen this marker, despite the many times I have been up at the bridge. I’m definitely going to seek it out next time I’m in the area.

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(posted 10/15/2022)

Happy news from some happy feet dancers

10 Oct

Every once in a while I hear from Denise Baller, the high-energy director of Dancing With Denise, about the interesting things happening at her studio.

Most recently, I blogged about how her “Happy Feet Dance Crew” makes regular visits to nursing homes to cheer up the residents. More recently, Denise and professional ballerina Bogdana Kopiy visited Dewitt Rd. Elementary School, St. Rita School and Bishop Kearney to talk about Rochester’s upcoming production of Nutcracker! Magical Christmas Ballet.

Ukranian-born Bogdana Kopiy, a professional ballerina, choreographer and dance teacher, was visiting the Dancing With Denise studio to audition young dancers for this year’s production.

At the assemblies, Bogdana talked about the dedication, discipline and perseverance it takes to become a ballerina. Following a question and answer period, Bogdana then led the school students in a short dance class. At Bishop Kearney she also talked some about her home country, the Ukraine, and what’s happening there now.

The assemblies were a follow-up to a weekend of auditions and rehearsals held at the school to cast some of the 40 children who will play the parts of mice, snowflakes, party kids, snow maidens and variations. The school will be well represented in next month’s production; 35 Dancing With Denise students will have parts, including two students with special needs.

Enjoy this charming holiday favorite for yourself, and watch these young dancers perform their hearts out when Nutcracker! Magical Christmas Ballet returns to the RBTL on Friday Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. Tickets purchased online cost $42.50, but contact Denise for a discount code to get the tickets cheaper.

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(posted 10/10/2022)

Webster resident reflects on cemeteries in her new book

25 Sep

I’m a sucker for cemeteries. They’re so peaceful. I love to just wander through them, enjoy the solitude, look at the epitaphs, and think about the lives they’re trying to sum up in just a few words.

So when I heard about a recent book about cemeteries written by Webster resident Jane Hopkins, I sat up and took notice. Then I started reading it, and realized that Hopkins and I are of the same mind when it comes to the power of cemeteries to touch us deeply.

The book is titled Cemetery Reflections, and it was sparked in part by a single, simple headstone. Hopkins was taking a walk in a historic cemetery in Canada a few years ago and came across the grave of a young child. The epitaph read, “Step Softly, Here lies a dream.” A much larger monument which stood nearby detailed the death of four children three weeks apart, and their father several months later. Hopkins writes in her book, “I thought about the dreams of these parents for their children, and the harsh reality that comes to many of us who experience an early death in the family.”

As Hopkins continued to wander the cemetery, she contemplated the deep grief expressed in the words on the child’s headstone. It compelled her to explore more cemeteries, perhaps, she wrote, “looking for a workable philosophy of loss and afterlife ─ including my own death ─ and how to  make it easier for those left behind.”  

The result of those wanderings is the new 206-page book, Cemetery Reflections, a visual journey through notable cemeteries, illustrated by stunning black and white and color photos. Historic poetry and beautiful prose accompany the photos, giving the book a free-flowing feel similar to what one would experience on a cemetery walk. 

You can meet Hopkins yourself and learn more about her book at a talk she’ll hold on Saturday, Oct. 1 at 2 p.m. in  the Gleason Auditorium at the Central Library of Rochester and Monroe County, 115  South Ave., Rochester. The talk is free and open to the public.

Copies of Cemetery Reflections are available for $44.95 at   

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(posted 9/25/2022)

Webster community mailbag

23 Jun

I’m going to lead today’s mailbag with a fun event especially for baseball fans, but also anyone else who would like to support a great local organization.

The Rochester Ridgemen will be playing one of this season’s games at Frontier Field in just a few weeks.

On Tuesday July 5, beginning at 6 p.m., the Ridgemen will take the field against the Cortland Crush. Best news of all is that admission is free, parking is free, and you can just walk into the stadium without a ticket. There will even be some concessions open so you can get dinner and a snack. What a great way to spend the night at the ballpark!

The Rochester Ridgemen are part of Athletes in Action Baseball and compete in the New York Collegiate Baseball League. The NYCBL, founded in 1978, is a summer wood bat league sanctioned by the NCAA and partially funded by Major League Baseball.

Five Webster players are part of this year’s team: James Bolton, Daniel McAliney, Braden Pumputis, Matthew Sanfilippo, and Ian McNabb. They play at Webster’s Basket Road field. (Their full schedule is below.)

The Ridgemen is a great local organization whose members are not only skilled, but committed to their community. Recently they helped out at Miracle Field of Greater Rochester’s Disability Dream & Do Clinic, sharing their love of baseball with children and young adults with disabilities.

The Village of Webster’s first Tuesday Night Movie at the Gazebo will take place next week, Tues. June 28, beginning at dusk, probably around 9:30.

The first movie this summer will be Trolls, brought to you by the Webster BID and sponsored by the Webster Health and Education Network (WHEN). They’ll be handing out free snacks, so stop by early to get yours, and remember to bring lawn chairs and blankets to sit on.

This is WHEN’s first village-sponsored event, and the organization is looking forward to playing a regular part in this summer’s activities. Registration is not required for the movie, but if you let WHEN know you’re coming, they’ll send you a reminder the day before. Click here to sign up!

If you ask me, I think the folks at the Webster Recreation Center are a little excited about the second annual Mud Run coming up in September.

Last year’s first-ever Mud Run was so well received, they started making plans almost immediately for this year’s event. They promise it’s going to be even bigger and better (that might mean messier) than the first. It’s scheduled for Saturday Sept. 17, with the first wave going off at 10 a.m.

It’s only $5 per person and you can register for it here.

Here’s a little teaser they put together:

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(posted 6/23/2022)