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Girl Scouts exceed their Blue Star Mothers goal

3 May

More than 200 deployed servicemen and women all over the world will be getting a little taste of Girl Scout goodness, thanks to the efforts of Brownie Girl Scout Troop 60344.

During this year’s Girl Scout Cookie season, which just concluded, the 13 second-graders of Troop 60344 set an ambitous goal: to encourage their customers to purchase 200 boxes of cookies to be donated to the Blue Star Mothers Rochester Chapter NY8, to be included in military care packages being mailed in June.

The girls not only achieved that goal, but blew it away, selling 220 boxes of cookies.

Last Monday night the troop held a pizza-and-cookie-cake-party to celebrate their successes this cookie season. Blue Star Mothers NY8 president Amy VanDerwerken was on hand to accept the cookie donation, to tell the girls more about the BSM mission, and to answer all their questions (and there were a lot of them). The girls were especially interested in what the care packages were going to include in addition to the cookies, and were surprised to learn that foot powder and beef jerkey were probably the most popular items requested.

As a special treat for all their hard work, the girls also got to plant a pie in the face of each of their troop leaders, Linda Meyers and Daniela Viavattine.

Thanks go out to all of the community members who stopped by the troop’s cookie tables this season and dropped some extra cash, and also to Canandaigua National Bank for helping put the girls over their goal by donating enough money to purchase 60 boxes.

Thanks also to sister troops 60867 and 60454, which donated some of their extra cookies to be distributed among our local first responder agencies.

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(posted 5/3/2023)

Blue Star Mothers honor military families with a baby shower

30 Apr

For two hours on Sunday, 13 expectant — or brand new — military mothers were showered with gifts, sweet treats and breakfast pizza when the Blue Star Mothers Rochester Chapter NY8 (BSM NY8) held their Baby Shower for Military.

The annual event, held at the Cottreal-Warner American Legion Post, is designed to recognize and provide for young mothers and expectant mothers in local military families. The event was open to active duty, veterans and military spouses of active duty service members, who were expecting or have children up to six months old. For many of these mothers, this may be the only baby shower they get, since they’re usually stationed far away from their close relatives.

Each mother left the event with three huge IKEA bags packed to the brim with age-appropriate clothing items, toys, bottles, baby wipes, hand-made boppies, hand-crocheted sweaters, booties, hats and blankets, and lots more. A fourth bag was filled with personal care items, lotions and soaps just for Mom, and for Dad, snacks and a book to read to the baby during those midnight feedings.

I mean, they thought of everyone!

I spoke with one young mother, Kat Welch, who was enjoying the event while cradling her 6-week old daughter Evelyn. She and her husband have only lived in the area a short time, and her folks live in New Zealand. So, “I didn’t have a baby shower or anything,” she said. “We didn’t have any kind of celebration.”

Kat found out she was pregnant with Evelyn, their fifth child, last August, only two weeks before her husband was deployed to Africa for a year. They’d pretty much given up on conceiving another child, so Kat had already gotten rid of most of her baby stuff. She went home Sunday with not only the four bags of clothing and baby necessities, but also a stroller, a Diaper Genie and a brand new bassinet.

She was especially grateful for the bassinet.

“We weren’t expecting (Evelyn) to be as small as she was (only four pounds), so she’s too small to sleep in her nursery,” Kat said. “She’s currently sleeping in my bed. So it’s a huge help because she can now sleep next to me in my bedroom.”

While the annual Military Baby Shower is organized and coordinated by the Blue Star Mothers Rochester Chapter, it truly is a community effort. The group’s members have been collecting items for months in preparation, fanning out to local businesses to solicit donations of food, baby products or gift cards. Individual community members went online to the Blue Star Mothers’ Amazon wish list and purchased larger-ticket items like Diaper Genies and strollers. And at the actual baby shower on Sunday, three local small businesses — Rosy Glow Maternity, Artistic Boutique and Studio, and Karen Reyes Massage Therapy — volunteered their time to make the day even more special.

Several members of the 209th Regiment of Cadets were also on hand to help set up tables, put all the bags out, and carry items to cars when the mothers headed for home.

Blue Star Mothers are mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers, foster mothers and female legal guardians who have children serving in the military, guard or reserves, or children who are veterans. The Baby Shower for Military is one of the most important service projects of the Blue Star Mothers Rochester Chapter.

Here are a few more photos from the shower:

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(posted 4/30/2023)

Host families needed for teen-age diplomats

20 Apr

The 2022/2023 school year is still far from over, but at least one organization is already looking forward to September.

The Association for Teen-age Diplomats (ATAD) is looking for Webster families to host high school-aged exchange students for the next school year. Now is the time to sign up, because students need plenty of time to get their visas.

ATAD was created after World War II by a group of Kodak employees. They wanted to come up with some way to foster world peace and thought that if the world’s young people got to know each other, there would be less war. They started bringing exchange students to Rochester in the 1950s.

Most years, ATAD will host five to ten students hailing from France, Italy, Germany, Russia, Peru, Poland, Spain and Turkey. Six are expected this year, four from Spain and two others from Italy. You can click here to see mini bios for all the students.

Becoming a host family is easy, and really requires very little more than providing room, board and love. The visiting student doesn’t even need a private bedroom or any spending money.

You can find answers to many questions on the ATAD website, but here’s some helpful info:

  • students bring their own spending money and have their own insurance
  • families generally include the visiting student on family trips, and the students sometimes have their own money to pay for it
  • ATAD hosts a few social gatherings during the school year so host families can meet other families
  • each student has a program chair assigned to manage any problems — large or small — which come up. The ATAD volunteer network is ready to step in and help with any issues that arise.
  • host families do not have to have any other children
  • all visiting students know English well
  • families are not provided a stipend for hosting a student
  • students do not pay room and board

For more information, visit the ATAD website or email Suzanne Isgrigg, Vice President for Host Families, at

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(posted 4/20/2023)

Veterans remembered again on Wreath Retirement Day

18 Mar

On Saturday Dec. 17 last year, precisely at noon, hundreds of adults, children, local officials, first responders, veterans and active-duty service members were gathered at Webster Union Cemetery. The occasion was National Wreaths Across America Day, and the volunteers were there to help lay more than 650 wreaths, one for every veteran resting in the cemetery. It was an incredible outpouring of support from the Webster community, a truly touching ceremony and a moving tribute to our veterans. (Click here to read the blog I wrote about that day.)

For three months the wreaths rested there among the grave markers, reminding every visitor of the great number of Webster residents who have fought for our country. It was a stunning sight, so many wreaths, adorned with bright red bows, spread around the snowy grounds.

Unfortunately, however, the wreaths couldn’t stay there forever. So on Saturday March 18, a much smaller — but no less dedicated — group of community members gathered again at Webster Union for Wreath Retirement Day. They included Boy Scouts from Pack 420, Girl Scouts from Troop 60344. and the 209th Regiment Cadets. Together, they gathered the wreaths, stacked them along the roadways, then tossed them onto a big pile at the back of the cemetery. There, WVFD Fire Chief Andrew Vorndran set them all ablaze. Afterwards, all of the volunteers sat down for a lunch provided by Mission BBQ in Henrietta, a big supporter of Wreaths Across America.

It was a sad day in some respects, as we literally saw months of nonstop planning and effort go up in flames. But it was comforting to know that, just like on the day they were placed, each time a wreath was removed from a headstone, a veteran was remembered once again.

Check below for a slideshow of photos from the day, featuring many of our friends and neighbors who came out to help.

Planning has already begun for this year’s Wreaths Across America Day. The Webster community was so incredibly supportive of our town’s very first Wreaths Across America Day on Dec. 17 that organizers hope to add at least one additional cemetery this year, and eventually recognize every one of the more than 3,000 veterans buried in Webster’s seven cemeteries. Which is why, months before that happens, the call is already going out for community members and businesses to sponsor wreaths.

So stay tuned for more updates from Wreaths Across America in Webster, and let’s help make sure this incredible program continues to grow. Click here to see and follow the Facebook pageclick here to sponsor a wreath (or several), and click here to see the blog I wrote following Wreaths Across America Day on Dec. 17 to see what a moving and inspirational event this is.

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(posted 3/18/2022)

Blue Star Mothers hosting annual Military Baby Shower

3 Mar

Calling all local military families!

The Blue Star Mothers NY8 Chapter of Rochester are making plans for this year’s Military Baby Shower, and they’re looking for more families to shower with gifts.

The event, scheduled for Sunday April 30 at the Cottreall-Warner American Legion Post on Ridge Rd., will shower up to 20 babies with “Baby Baskets of Loving Care,” each filled with gifts for moms and their babies including baby clothing, handmade outfits, homemade blankets, sweaters, booties and hats, diapers, wipes, baby supplies, toys, and more. Last year, each family also received a Diaper Genie and bouncy seat.

Active duty, veterans and military spouses of active duty and veterans who are expecting or have children up to 6 months old are welcome to register for and attend the shower.

The Mothers have been pulling together donations for many months, but they’d love to get a lot more. If you’d like to help out, you can donate to their baby gift registry through this link.

Blue Star Mothers president Amy VanDerwerken said, “We love how the local community comes together to support this event. They allow us to provide diapers, clothes, wipes, bibs, blankets, bottles, toys, books, etc.” Last year, besides the many individuals who donated from the Amazon Baby Shower list, they also received donations from almost a dozen local business and community organizations.

This year Rosy Glow Maternity, is joining that list. The Webster-based business offers an experience that focuses on the mother by providing maternity and nursing wardrobe with beautiful preloved items.

Blue Star Mothers are mothers, stepmothers, grandmothers, foster mothers and female legal guardians who have children serving in the military, guard or reserves, or children who are veterans. The Baby Shower for Military is one of the group’s most important service projects. Each year BSM NY8 honors up to 20 local military families, and for some of these expectant mothers, it may be the only baby shower they get, since they’re usually stationed far away from their close relatives.

“We hope to continue growing and working with the community to be able to support our local military families,” VanDerwerken said. “We could not do this military baby shower event without that support.” 

The Military Baby Shower will be hosted by the Cottreall-Warner American Legion Post on Sunday April 30 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. To register to attend, or for more information, contact one of the Baby Shower Committee Co-chairs, Amy VanDerwerken and Jill Harris, at 1VP.NY8@BlueStarMothers.US.

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(posted 3/3/2023)

Spry Drama Club presents Footloose!

22 Feb

The talented performers of the Spry Drama Club will be putting on their dancing shoes in a few weeks when they present Footloose: Youth Edition in three shows, Friday and Saturday March 10 and 11.

Footloose! celebrates the exhilaration of youth, the wisdom of listening to one another, and the power of forgiveness. The youth edition is a one-hour show especially designed for young performers.

You undoubtedly remember the 1984 Oscar-nominated movie musical starring Kevin Bacon. The story follows a city teenager who moves to a small town where rock music and dancing have been banned.  The new kid and his rebellious spirit shake up the town as he tries to bring music back into their drab lives … and win the girl at the same time.

And I’m sure you remember the music. (I’ll bet the title song is dancing around in your brain right now.)  The production will revisit many of the songs in the Tony-nominated top-40 score, plus some new songs developed specifically for the stage musical.

Spry Drama Club brings this feel-good musical to the Spry Middle School stage on Friday, March 10 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, March 11 at 2 and 7 p.m. Reserve tickets are $8 each and will go on sale Monday, February 27. Purchase them online here.

Spry Middle School is located at 119 South Ave., in the Village of Webster.

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(posted 2/22/2023)

Webster community mailbag

15 Feb

I’ve heard about a couple of R.L. Thomas High School reunions coming up I want to start off with. Well, one’s a reunion, and the other is kind of a … birthday party.

The R.L. Thomas Class of ’71 will be holding a 70th Birthday Bash on Saturday June 24 at Schutt’s Apple Mill from 5 to 7 p.m. Thanks to COVID, the class was unable to hold its 50th reunion, so they’ve decided to celebrate their 70 birthdays together instead.

The festivities will begin at 4 p.m. and will include a cornhole tournament, door prizes, a 50/50 raffle, hay rides and more. Dinner will be provided by Wraps on Wheels. There’ll be a cash bar with beer and wine, and live entertainment. Admission is free.

Organizers are asking for everyone to register by May 15, by emailing

The R.L. Thomas Class of 1973 will be holding their 50th reunion on the weekend of September 15 to 17. There will be a dinner on Friday and a casual picnic on Saturday. I don’t have a lot of information about this one, so to find out more, ask to join the “RLT73WebsterNY” private Facebook group or email

The Webster Public Library is hosting a Cat Food Drive to benefit Habitat for Cats. Any donations of dry food, canned food, litter and cat treats would be greatly appreciated. Donations can be dropped off during the library’s regular open hours. You’ll see the drop-off area across from the circulation desk.

The Webster Public Library is located at 980 Ridge Rd., at the back of Webster Plaza.

Here’s another reminder about the free Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper, hosted by St. Martin Lutheran Church on Tuesday Feb. 21 from 5 to 7 p.m.

The dinner is being served to thank the community for supporting the church’s missions throughout the year. The menu will include sausage and applesauce, unlimited pancakes and syrup. Beads will be handed out, and you can even make your own masks. You’re invited to come dressed in Mardi Gras style, too.  

This is an event for the whole family, and while the dinner is free to all, a free-will offering to support the church’s Little Free Pantry can be made, or bring boxed and canned goods.  

St. Martin Lutheran Church is located at 813 Bay Rd.

Got hazardous waste? The Town of Webster will be holding a Household Hazardous Waste recycling event on Saturday Sept. 16 from 7:45 a.m. to noon at the Webster Highway Garage, 1005 Picture Parkway.

Items that can be accepted are listed on the poster below. The event is open to Webster and Penfield residents, and appointments are required. Sign up online now to guarantee your spot.

Finally, the Webster Comfort Care Home has published their most recent wish list, which you can also see below. This amazing organization relies entirely on donations to keep the home running, so let’s help them out!

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(posted 2/15/2023)

Register now to display at Community Arts Day 2023

14 Feb

A few days ago when I was taking my morning walk, I couldn’t help but think that this unusually mild February weather we’re having this week feels a lot like April. So it’s fitting that on that same day I received my first email of the year from the Community Arts Day organizers.

I’m sure you already know about this great family event which takes place every April. It’s basically a show-off day for our district’s schools, showcasing the musical and artistic talents of our Webster School District K-12 students. It was created as a collaborative effort to raise money to encourage and enhance fine arts programs throughout the district. 

In addition to the art displays, it’s also a great opportunity for community groups to set up tables and spread the word about their organizations. That is what the email was all about. It read,

We invite you to join us for the Annual 2023 Community Arts Day sponsored by the Webster Central PTSA, Saturday, April 15, at Webster Schroeder High School, 875 Ridge Road, Webster. …Community groups that wish to exhibit are required to pay a participation fee of $30, which is payable at the time of registration. …Community groups/vendors can sell their goods with advanced approval from the Community Arts Day planning committee. A $55 vendor selling fee applies, which is payable at time of registration.

Clilck here to register. The deadline to register is April 1, with a $5 late fee applied after that date (if the registration is even accepted). All registrations and payments must be received by April 7 at 5 p.m.

It sounds like the committee has some exciting plans this year, including having Garth Fagan Dance as a headliner. Stay tuned for more information about Community Arts Day 2023. You can also follow the CAD website here or Facebook page here.

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(posted 2/14/2023)

Third graders meet the Webster Public Library

13 Jan

In a program that brings the Webster community and the Webster Public Library (WPL) together, our school district’s third graders are getting a jump-start on their love for reading by getting a close-up look at the library and all the services it offers.

All of Webster’s third grade students will be taking field trips to the Webster Public Library (WPL) this school year as part of a get-to-know-the-library program that will run through June. The idea came from discussions WPL Outreach Coordinator Jason Poole and Schlegel Elementary School librarian Jamie Palmer were having last year about school visits. At the time, due to the pandemic, schools were not allowing visitors, but students could go on field trips. Classes were already visiting the downtown library; giving them the chance to see their local library as well seemed like a natural next step.

Earlier this year, Schlegel Rd. Elementary students were the first to make the trip, in a trial run of the new program. It “went pretty well but was a little chaotic,” Poole said. He added,

After discussion with the youth department, we changed our approach to the current system, adapting and combining elements of existing in-house programming (staff area tours, storytimes, crafts, etc.) to create four stations that offer students a little taste of all WPL has to offer them. A charcuterie board of library experiences, if you will.

It’s one of the few programs that touches all areas of the library.

In December, Plank North Elementary third graders visited and experienced the newly-tweaked program. During their tour, the students made a craft in the teen area, explored the Children’s Room, and sat for storytime. They even got a close-up, behind-the-scenes look at places usually hidden from the public, including the back offices and the receiving end of the outdoor book drop.

But teaching students how to use the library really wouldn’t mean much if they couldn’t actually check out books. So, working closely with the library’s circulation department, Palmer and Poole came up with an ambitious plan to also make sure every one of the visiting third graders could sign up for a library card, if they didn’t have one already. Allowing them to do so without a parent or guardian present meant adjusting the library’s standard policy, but it was definitely well worth the effort, Poole said. Using their brand new library cards, each student could actually check out a book before they left the library. For a child who’s never been able to do that before, it’s a pretty exciting experience.

“Third graders are pretty much at the perfect developmental stage to really begin to appreciate the value of having their own library card,” Poole said.  

As an added bonus, each student also received a coupon, redeemable on their next library visit for a goodie bag with lots of little gifts including a card holder, an activity booklet, a WPL pin, and several other fun items.

So far, Schlegel and Plank North are the only two schools to have made the WPL trip, but the rest of the schools will be visiting in the next several months. Still, the Webster Public Library has already touched the lives of 146 students. In the process, 90 new library cards were issued, 26 cards were replaced, and four account problems were resolved. A whopping 80% of these third graders did not have access to the library before the trip, and now they do.

It’s a proud feeling to be trusted with the responsibility of having a library card, and a thrill to be able to walk into the library and leave with your favorite book.

What an awesome way to reinforce the joy of reading, and start these young people on their journey to lifelong learning.

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(posted 1/13/2023)

Webster is getting a dog park

6 Jan

As you can see from the headline, our canine friends are finally going to have an outdoor dog park of their own.

A few weeks ago, Monroe County Executive Adam Bello announced that the county will be constructing a new dog park in Webster Park, which should be completed before the end of the summer.

The 1.5-acre park will be located in the large grassy area just south of Lake Rd., at the corner of Park Rd., which leads into the campground. It will include separate areas for large and smaller dogs, agility equipment and drinking stations.

According to the county’s press release, the project is being funded by a $250,000 grant secured by Assemblymember Jennifer Lunsford, part of the Go Outside Monroe Initiative, dedicated to modernizing the county’s parks system. The funds will also be used to repair and replace existing equipment on the nearby playground.

Chris Bilow, Commissioner of Webster Parks and Recreation, already knows that the park will be popular with town residents. He wrote,

I am excited that the county is making this possible for the Webster community. The request for dog park space is something we hear from residents quite regularly. As we worked with county staff on a potential location and operation it became clear that partnering with the county on the project and having the county operate their current system for dog parks made all sorts of sense.

Thank you to all of the people and agencies who are making this project a reality. It’s something we’ve needed here in Webster for a long time.

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(posted 1/6/2023)