Middle schools announce theatrical performances

23 Jan

You know that spring can’t be far behind when Webster’s middle schools announce their late-winter performances, which are always the first on the schedule every year.

Willink Middle School kicks everything off in just a few weeks when they present Disney’s Newsies, Jr. in three shows on 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 go on sale the week of January 30 on the Drama Club website. Cost is $10 for adults and $6 for students and seniors. Children 3 and younger are free.

Looking ahead to March, the Spry Middle School Drama Club is putting the final touches on their production of Footloose, scheduled for March 10 and 11.

Footloose tells the story of a young man who transfers to a high school in a small Midwestern town where rock music and dancing have been made illegal. As he struggles to fit in, he faces an uphill battle to change things.

The cast is led by 8th graders Rowan Murphy as Ren and Lilah Kastrinos as Ariel, supported by Rory Goodwin as Rev Shaw and Sarah Lowe as Vi. Ani Boller, Savannah Lane, Emily Berry, Grace Clayton, Abby Bielemeier and Evan Burdick round out the strong ensemble cast.

The performance features 80’s classics including “Footloose,” “Holding Out for a Hero,” “Almost Paradise” and “Let’s Hear it for the Boys.”

Footloose will take the Spry Cafetorium stage on Friday March 10 at 7 p.m., and Saturday March 11 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. More details to come about tickets.

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(posted 1/23/2023)

A toast to Barry’s, and a peek inside the new Woofs indoor dog park

22 Jan

Anyone who knows Barry’s Old School Irish knows how much Danny Barry likes to make toasts to just about anything, often handing out mini shots of whiskey to everyone in the pub when he does.

Last night was no exception, but the occasion was rather exceptional. Saturday night’s whiskey toast was to our Webster firefighters, and the occasion was to present a $1,000 check to the Webster Volunteer Fire Department (WVFD), a portion of the proceeds from last August’s Barry’s Irish Festival.

As an illustration of the bond between Barry’s Old School Irish and the WVFD, Danny pointed out the Barry’s-emblazoned firefighter jacket hanging just inside the front door. “It’s one of our favorite things in this pub,” he said, “a reminder of the friendship we’ve had for the 12 years we’ve been open.”

WVFD Chief Andrew Vorndran accepted the check and spoke for the many firefighters assembled last night, thanking Danny and Jessica for “being family and for always being there for us.”

Barry’s also donated a portion of their Irish Festival proceeds to the Ancient Order of Hibernians in support of their efforts to build an Irish Center in Rochester.

When I stopped into Woof’s Canine Club and Indoor Dog Park on Thursday, things were still in significant disarray. So I was pleasantly surprised on Saturday, when I went back for the grand opening celebration and saw an amazing transformation and an impressive facility.

There’s a very large, astro-turfed area for large dogs to run around in, which owner Christine Gigante had sprinkled with some agility equipment. Fenced off to the side is a smaller area for smaller dogs, and both areas have benches along the walls for the pups’ parents to sit while their dogs play.

But what I really liked was the nice little cafe area and social area, designed for pet owners to relax while they watch their dogs play, and maybe even get to know others. There’s a small work-out area, some retail, and even dog-friendly baked goods.

A steady stream of dogs and their people were coming and going while I was there, and the opening even got some attention from the local TV stations.

On her Facebook page last night, owner Christine Gigante couldn’t hold back her excitement. She wrote,

“Wow! Just wow. We cannot thank you all enough for such an AMAZING DAY! Thank you to 13 WHAM ABC and WHEC TV for coming to cover our grand opening event and to our phenomenal neighbors and partners for supporting us.”

Woofs Canine Club and Indoor Dog Park is located at 187 West Main St. in Webster, in the old World Gym building. Official business operating hours will begin on Wednesday, Jan. 25. Hours will be posted on the Woofs Facebook page, so check back there often for updates.

Here a look inside:

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(posted 1/22/2023)

Don Pedro Cantina is Webster’s new Mexican sports bar

21 Jan

I absolutely love Mexican food. So I’m probably more excited than most that not one, but two Mexican eateries have recently opened in our area.

I haven’t had the chance yet to stop by Corona’s Mexican Restaurant on Ridge Rd., but a little while ago I did visit the new Don Pedro Cantina and talk to the owner, Mauricio Hernandez.

Don Pedro Cantina opened last November in BayTowne Plaza (which technically is in Penfield, to be accurate), in the former location of WhichCraft Brews. I know for a fact (’cause I heard it from my daughter, for one), a lot of people were saddened when WhichCraft closed. But from what I saw during my visit, those same people will probably like Don Pedro just as much, for a lot of reasons.

This is actually the second Don Pedro in Rochester. The first, now closed, was downtown on East Ave. That Don Pedro, however, was first and foremost a restaurant, whereas this new location is most definitely a sports bar. It’s a smaller, more intimate space than the 10,000-foot East Ave. restaurant, making it more amenable for friends to gather for a few beers and some wings and to watch the game. It boasts 11 large-screen TVs and a huge 40′ by 30′ screen at one end of the room. It’s the largest one I’ve seen pretty much anywhere.

Anyone who liked the food-truck-on-the-serving-floor concept that WhichCraft had will be pleased to know that Mauricio has embraced the idea and will continue to serve his Mexican-inspired menu from the food truck. However, instead of having to walk up to the truck and wait for your meal, a wait staff will take your order and bring the food to your table.

The menu offers a wide variety of Mexican specialties from tacos to burritos, quesadillas to fajitas. And for those who might not be a huge fan of Mexican, there are burgers, wings and nachos.

There are 16 beers on tap, and plenty more canned and bottled selections in the cooler. Plus, for anyone who misses WhichCraft’s craft brews, here’s some exciting news: very soon, Don Pedro will become the first Mexican brewery in Upstate NY and begin rolling out their own craft brews, so stay tuned for more news about that. Trivia fans will also be pleased to know that Mauricio is hoping to start hosting weekly trivia, like WhichCraft did, maybe some karaoke and regular live music.

Mauricio named the business after his father, Don Pedro, and is drawing from his memories of going to a sports bar with his father to personalize the experience.

“My father and I used to go and watch the games. At halftime … the owner would send out a lot of tacos and chips for free. I’m trying to do the same. I’m trying to get to where I can give something back. I think it’s always nice (for fans) when they come and you drop something for free. You feel like they’re taking care of you.” 

That “giving something back” is a big part of Mauricio’s business plan. He’s committed to giving back to the community and helping other small businesses and organizations.

“I try to help as much as I can in the community. My thing is helping out anybody who’s local, who’s maybe not involved in the restaurant world.”

“For example let’s say someone has a local gym. … If they want to buy new machines for the gym, it’s coming out of their pocket because they’re not part of a chain. So we work with them to do a fundraiser … We cut them a nice check so they can invest it in their own business. … I can give back to them and we all can help each other.”

That also goes for sports teams, he added.

“I can be doing some fundraisers for them so they can get some money for whatever they need. … They can spread the word, come in and I’ll do the rest of it. Anybody that wants to make an event so they can make money, my doors are completely open. We work with anybody.” 

“We try to give back a little to society from here.”

Welcome to the Webster/Penfield community, Don Pedro Cantina. Clearly you’re going to be a huge community supporter. (And serve incredible Mexican food, to boot.)

Don Pedro Cantina is located at 1900 Empire Blvd., Webster, in BayTowne Plaza. Click here for their Facebook page and here for their website.

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(posted 1/21/2023)

Woofs Indoor Dog Park is opening, and more mailbag news

19 Jan

Leading today’s mailbag is the exciting news that Woof’s Canine Club and Indoor Dog Park will be hosting its grand opening celebration this Saturday Jan. 21 from 1 to 6 p.m.

Woofs Canine Club is located at 187 West Main Street, at the corner of Barrett Dr., in the former World Gym. Like all good dog parks, it’s BIG (5,000 sq. ft), has separate areas for large and small dogs, and lots of agility equipment. But it has the added benefit of actually being INSIDE, on artificial turf, out of the rain, snow and cold typical of our Upstate New York winters.

But unlike your average dog park, Woofs will also offer a social component for owners, including a cafe, pool table and dart board, and even a small workout area. Visit this blog I wrote back in November to learn more.

According to the Woofs Facebook Page, the grand opening celebration will include food by roc city empanadas food truck and BC’s Chicken Coop, dog treats by Buster Browns Snick-Snackery, doggy cupcakes by BONES BAKERY, and custom balloon decor by Balloons by Kenz.

Pups and their people are welcome to visit anytime between 1 and 6 p.m. Leashes will be required for this one-time only open house walk-through, and canine vaccinations will be required to enter. Proof of vaccinations can be submitted to forms@woofscc.com. A full list of required vaccinations can be found at WoofsCC.com.

Regular hours of operation for off-leash playtime will begin Wednesday, January 25. Find out more at the Woofs Canine Club Facebook page and website.

Rochester Challenger Miracle Field hosts Valentine’s prom

Challenger Miracle Field‘s annual Valentine’s Day dance has been scheduled for Friday Feb. 10 from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Webster Golf Club, 440 Salt Rd.

The Night to Shine Valentine’s Prom, open to Challenger participants, will include a DJ, dinner, dancing and a photo booth. Suggested donation at the door is $10. One chaperone per participant, please.

RSVP by Feb. 3 to secure a spot, and include the names of those who will be attending and any special diet requests. Email lindab@rochestermiraclefield.org.

Fall in Love With Webster returns

Do you remember last year’s Fall in Love With Webster event? The month-long community celebration, sponsored by the Webster Business Improvement District, featured daily discounts and special events at businesses all through the Village of Webster, all embracing the theme of love.

The goal was to promote a fun way to unify the village residents and business owners. But it was also all about helping community members get to know our village a little better, find out more about our many fine businesses, and encourage everyone to get more involved in all of the activities found here.

Basically, it encouraged people to … well, fall in love with Webster.

Last year’s Fall in Love with Webster event was so hugely popular, the BID will be doing it again, kicking off a month’s worth of special events and savings on Feb. 1. I’ll be posting weekly blogs here highlighting all of the fun things happening, but you can keep tabs on all the plans by “liking” the Fall in Love with Webster Facebook page, which will be regularly updated.

Stay tuned!

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(posted 1/19/2023)

Town Highway Garage, up-close and personal

17 Jan

I found myself the other day in a spot I never would have expected: face-to face with a 15-ton snowplow.

Actually, to be more accurate, I was face-to-face with MANY snowplows, parked so close together that I had to do some fancy maneuvering to get through and around them. The occasion was my recent tour of the Town of Webster Highway Garage on Picture Parkway, which I took to learn more about the plans Webster has to expand the current facility, which has become outdated and too small.

My visit early last week was the first in a series of tours the town is offering to community residents interested in getting a close-up look at the current facility’s condition and first-hand information about the Highway Facility Modernization Project. My tour guide was Webster’s Superintendent of Highways Supervisor Patrick Stephens, who walked me (and two other town residents) through the facility’s current equipment and materials storage buildings, the administration offices and the salt barn. On the way, he pointed out several specific instances of the buildings’ poor condition, like crumbling support beams and outdated electrical equipment.

The physical condition of the property aside, it became very clear during the tour that there simply is no longer enough room for all of the town’s equipment to be safely stored. As the town grew, administrators tried to keep up with the addition of new and much bigger equipment by adding onto the existing buildings bit by bit, to the detriment of efficiency. So right now, the main truck fleet is parked in multiple buildings, and are angled in, double-stacked and cross-parked one in front of another just to fit them all. In the main storage building, the trucks are parked nose-to-nose, which requires complicated maneuvers around other trucks, and backing out of narrow doorways to get out. Space is at such a premium that a lot of equipment is stored outside, unprotected from the elements.

The drivers do what they need to do, and have become rather adept at playing what amounts to a shifting-squares puzzle. But, “We’d like to spend our time on other things rather than being good at jockeying things around,” Patrick said.

A third consideration for replacing the current building are the staff facilities. Originally designed to accommodate a staff of 18, the break room, kitchen, small restrooms and limited locker space now must serve a full-time staff of 40, plus seasonal staff. The new facility would include separate men’s and women’s locker rooms, larger bathrooms and a break room that would comfortably and safely accommodate 50 to 55 staff members.

As he conducted our tour, Patrick patiently answered all of the questions I had, no matter how ignorant I thought they sounded. But that was exactly what the tours are all about, Patrick said.

The purpose of the tours is to give as much information to the community as possible at the beginning of this process, in as many first-hand, face-to-face meetings as possible. …  Once we get into the budget process, a lot of people will have concerns. We want as many people as possible to understand why (we need a new building), that it’s not just for convenience.  

When we say ‘need,’ they understand what that need is.

The final design plans are mostly complete, but some financial details still need to be hammered out. Town officials hope to be able to present a preliminary cost proposal to the Town Board in February. In the meantime, community members are encouraged to learn more about the project by signing up for one of the half-hour tours. They’re offered two or three times a week through March 3. They’re a half hour long, and are limited to ten participants, 18 and over. The Town Highway Garage is located at 1005 Picture Parkway, off of Hard Rd.

If you can’t attend one of the in-person tours, you can watch a virtual online tour here.

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(posted 1/17/2023)

Library helps make donating easy

16 Jan

There are so many great causes and community agencies in our area that desperately need community support to continue doing the great things they do. For folks who really want to help out by making some kind of donation, sometimes it’s hard to sift through all the opportunities out there.

The Webster Public Library has found a way to help with that dilemma.

They’ve recently created what they’re calling a “Donation Station” right next to the circulation desk, with information about three local organizations, including a list of what they need, and a box for each where you can deposit your donations.

Currently, the Donation Station is collecting items for:

  • Bella’s Bumbas: packing material (bubble wrap, air pillows, packing paper) that Bella’s uses to ship their chairs to recipients around the world
  • Hope House: non-perishable foods, toiletry items, cleaning supplies, new underwear and socks for all ages, gently used clothing

The station is also collecting used cell phones, ink cartridges and eyeglasses.

If you’d like to ask the library to include your non-profit organization to be featured at their Donation Station, click here to fill out a form. Space will be considered on a case-by-case, first-come, first-served basis.

To learn more about the Webster Public Library’s new Donation Station, click here.

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(posted 1/16/2023)

Webster Baptist Church: some history and a call for donations

15 Jan

If you know the Village of Webster even a little, then you’re probably familiar with the Webster Baptist Church. This beautiful cobblestone church on South Avenue, with its stately bell tower, has stood proudly in our village since the mid-1800s.

What you probably didn’t know is that the Webster Baptist Church is actually famous for precisely the reason it’s so beautiful: it’s the only cobblestone building in the country that’s still being used for its original purpose.

According to Webster Through the Years by Esther Dunn (1971), the church was originally established in 1832, in a frame meeting house built on the site of the current church. In 1855 the old frame building was moved to Corning Park and used as the Webster Academy until it was destroyed by fire in 1872.

The new cobblestone building was built on the same site and dedicated on Jan. 1, 1857. Most of the field stones were donated by citizens of the community, and the cobblestones were gathered by members of the congregation along the shores of Lake Ontario. Each was passed through a hole in a board to make sure it was of a certain shape and size.

In recognition of its rich history, the Webster Baptist Church was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. That designation alone illustrates how important this building, and its history, are to our village.

Now, it needs our help.

It’s been a long time since the Webster Baptist Church has seen any major renovations, and it’s really beginning to show its age. The stained glass windows all need repairing, to the tune of $8,000 to $10,000 each. In many places, the cobblestone facade needs some professional attention. And the church entrance has to be updated with a ramp or new sidewalk to accommodate handicapped parishioners. And all of these expenses are piled on top of the regular costs for upkeep and utilities.

To help raise money, the Webster Baptist Church is holding a year-long fundraiser. Community members are invited to purchase individual bricks to show their support for this historic church. Bricks cost $150 each (but larger donations are more than welcome) and they can be personally inscribed. The bricks for now will be placed near the front of the building in a small area currently filled with white stones. If enough bricks are purchased, the hope is to use them to build a new sidewalk leading to the front door. It’s estimated that would take about 1,500 bricks.

Church Moderator Diana Marchner hopes that the entire community — individuals as well as businesses — will pull together to help save the church by purchasing bricks, or just donating any amount they’d like. 

“(The church) is historical,” she said. “It should be important to the Town of Webster and the Village as well as just our church.”  “We need everyone’s commitment to make this possible.” 

Ultimately, Marchner added, the goal is to “get to a point where we don’t have to worry about the money, just worry about the people.”

“I don’t want to get people to church because we need their money. I want them to come to church because we love them.”

Click here for more information and a form to fill out to buy a brick or donate any amount to the Webster Baptist Church. You can also visit this GoFundMe page to donate online.

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(posted 1/15/2023)

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 community mailbag

12 Jan

I’m going to lead this mailbag today with two great opportunities to give back to our community through volunteering.

Webster HOPE, located at 1450 Ridge Rd., is looking for volunteers to help stock their food pantry, work in the gardens, organize the clothing closet and work with their clients. They’ve also noted several items on their January wish list which they need to keep their food pantry stocked. Check out the flier below for more information.

The mission of Webster HOPE is to serve the needs of residents in the 14580 zip code area, by providing food, clothing, household goods, furniture and financial assistance to those in need.

Webster Comfort Care Home, at 700 Holt Rd., is also in need of volunteers and nurses to help them with their mission to provide compassionate end-of-life care for terminally ill patients. For more information, visit webstercomfortcare.org.

This from the school district:

Webster CSD Parents/Guardians Invited to Family Engagement Roundtable

The Webster Central School District invites parents and guardians to a Family Engagement Roundtable. The evening will feature discussion with Dr. Robert Chalwell, Webster CSD Executive Director of Family & Student Services & Inclusivity, Janine Sanger, Webster Health & Education Network Executive Director, a Webster CSD parent, and a Webster CSD student.

The roundtable will be held on Thursday Jan. 19 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at Spry Middle School, 119 South Ave. Please RSVP and submit questions by clicking here. Questions may also be submitted via email or audio file to robert_chalwell@webstercsd.org or in-person to Lindsay Young at the district office, 119 South Ave., Webster.

If you can’t attend and would like to watch the roundtable online, you can do so at websterschools.org/familyengagement.

The annual Knights of Columbus Free Throw Championship has been scheduled for Saturday Jan. 21 at Webster Thomas High School, 800 Five Mile Line Rd. Registration begins at 3 p.m. and the contest begins at 3:30. It’s open to all boys and girls ages 9 to 14.

Webster Parks and Recreation will host Rich the Magic Man on Monday Jan. 16, when he brings his amazing show to the Webster Arboretum Lodge from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. There’ll be magic, bubble fun (including big enough bubbles to put a kid inside), and a mini dance party.

Cost is $10 per ticket. Sign up through the Webster Recreation Center online or call 585-872-7103.

And since we’re talking about Webster Parks and Recreation, believe it or not, they’ve opened registration for summer camp.

This year, the Rec will be offering camps for children from preschool through 5th grade. Check out the flier below and visit the Webster Recreation Center website for more information.

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(posted 1/12/2023)

Planning begins for Wreaths Across America Day 2023

10 Jan

You would think that following the very successful Wreaths Across America Day at Webster Union Cemetery in December, the effort’s organizers would take a well-deserved break and recharge their batteries before jumping right into planning for Wreath Day 2023.

They did. For about … maybe two weeks.

If you follow the Wreaths Across America – Webster Union Cemetery Facebook page like I do, you’ve probably noticed an uptick in activity as plans are already ramping up for this year. 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. Which is why, 11 months before that happens, the call is already going out for community members and businesses to sponsor wreaths.

There’s actually a great incentive right now, too. Through Jan. 17, for every wreath sponsored through the Gold Star Mothers, Webster will get two wreaths for our fallen heroes. (Click here to sponsor.) This is an excellent opportunity for our community to get a huge head start on this year’s event. Sponsoring a wreath costs just $17.

The national Wreaths Across America organization has also recently announced the theme for 2023. This year, the focus will be on the storylines of veterans and military families who’ve found success through their own service, while also highlighting local volunteers across the country and the success that comes from serving their communities.

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 page, click 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 1/10/2023)