January 14, 2008


Group arrives home following humanitarian trip to Kenya

Local organization helps build school, hosts dental clinic


Photo provided by Greg Forrester
Members of Hope Unites pose with children in the city of Suna. Clockwise from top are Madeliene Forrester, Eleanor Polley and Alysha Camp.

Staff Reporter

While nine Cortland-area residents on a humanitarian mission in Kenya faced moments of fear and uncertainty during their recent trip, their conditions and connections kept them out of harm’s way.
“We were kind of in our own bubble from the whole world,” said Madeliene Forrester, a 10th-grader at Cortland High School.
The local residents gathered Sunday at the First United Methodist Church in Cortlandville to share stories about their trip. They arrived home safely Saturday morning, about two weeks after landing in Kenya.
The volunteers, all members of the Cortland-based humanitarian organization Hope Unites, included Cortland residents Greg Forrester, director of missions for the First United Methodist Church; his daughter, Madeliene; and Carol Janik, a semi-retired part-time math and computer science professor at Tompkins Cortland Community College.
The group also included East Homer resident Alysha Camp, a Homer High School ninth-grader; Cortlandville residents Frances Gutman-Chernow, owner of Fitness Island in the Riverside Plaza; Andrew Polley, a financial advisor with A.G. Edwards in Syracuse; his daughter, Eleanor, a Cortland High School 10th-grader; and Cincinnatus residents Lee Schaff and his wife, Irene, who are both retired but work at BOCES in the summer.
The group’s plan upon arrival in Kenya Dec. 30 was to travel to Suna, in western Kenya, to help build a school, work in an orphanage and host a small dental clinic.
But their plans were curtailed due to unrest resulting from a controversial Dec. 27 presidential election, and they had to stay in a guesthouse in Nairobi for three nights, followed by a hotel in Kisumu for two nights.
News reports, stories from Kenyans in the guesthouse and gunshots in the distance spoke of violence, looting and food shortages, but the Cortland County residents remained safe and nourished inside their lodgings.
“They told us they were sorry for us, and that they’re normally a peace-loving people,” Andy Polley said of the Kenyans they spoke with.
The group first glimpsed the destruction caused by civil unrest as buses drove them Jan. 2 to Kisumu, north of Suna.
“It looked like a bomb had dropped on the town,” said Madeliene Forrester, noting broken windows, trash everywhere and burnt storefronts.
For a couple of hours one busload of volunteers was stranded in the center of the destruction, as a result of an error by their driver, but they soon traveled to the proper hotel, away from the violence.
“We were a little nervous after a while,”  Janik said, who was on the bus. “We didn’t know how to get ahold of anyone else.”
One of the group’s closest experiences with the country’s political strife took place during a bus trip from Kisumu to Suna.
The group encountered about 200 blockades on the road, lengthening a two-hour trip to a seven-hour one.
Sometimes the volunteers removed the blockades, if they were stones or other materials easy to move, though much of the time they got help from village residents.
In Suna, the group did what it had set out to do.
The group’s dentist performed a dental clinic, using supplies donated by Dr. William Thoman, a recently retired dentist in Cortlandville, and Dr. Thomas Sangiacomo, a dentist on North Main Street in Cortland. Four boxes of over-the-counter medicine were given out.
Volunteers did some painting and finish work to Nyabisawa Academy and played with children from the orphanage and other children in the village.
The group gave little girls dresses women at the United Methodist Church in Cortlandville had made, as well as money for between five and eight bicycle taxis, a common method of transportation in Kenya.
Throughout their journey they were impressed by the generosity of the Kenyans. A Kenyan pastor in Kisumu helping take care of 482 Kenyans who had not had food or water in two days was still willing to help them out.
“That’s what we encountered all over the place,” Greg Forrester said.
The group left Suna Wednesday and went on safaris in the Maisa Mara reserve in the afternoon and the next morning. They flew from Nairobi to London Friday morning, arrived in New York City later that day, before getting home Saturday morning.
“Maybe I was scared and iffy about things, but I never felt my life was threatened,” Madeliene Forrester said. “We met a lot of interesting people we wouldn’t have met if we hadn’t been in that situation.”




Freeville woman injured in SUV crash

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — A Freeville woman was injured this morning when her sport utility vehicle crashed into a tree off North Road.
Ramona Clarke, 45, of 387 North Road, was traveling south in her Ford Escape shortly before 8 a.m. when she lost control of the vehicle. The SUV slid off the road, flipped on its roof and the passenger side smashed into a tree near the corner of North Road and Mott Road, about a mile away from her home.
No one else was in the vehicle.
Mary Lou Taylor, who lives near the corner at 6 Mott Road, said she heard a sound while she was in the shower, but didn’t think anything of it until later, when a man came running across her yard and pointed out the accident.
The SUV’s passenger side had been crushed in the accident, with the front bumper and headlights lying nearby on the ground. The damage was extensive.
“It was just barely beginning to get light out, and I didn’t recognize what I was seeing,” Taylor said.
Clarke’s vehicle had overturned, pinning her against the ground and a tree near the side of North Road.
Taylor said she immediately dialed 911, and Dryden firefighters and EMS were on the scene within minutes.
Clarke was conscious and talking when emergency workers arrived, but was in obvious pain.
Assistant Dryden Fire Chief David Cotterill said it took about 40 minutes to pull Clarke from the wreckage.
She had injured her right arm and was taken to the trauma center at University Hospital in Syracuse for evaluation.
Firefighters on the scene speculated that the accident was probably weather-related, but said the accident will be investigated by the Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department.



Snowmobilers drag race in Cincy

Fire department, snowmobile club host event as joint fundraiser

Staff Reporter

CINCINNATUS — Kassandra Vosburg mentally prepared for her first snowmobile mud drag race on Saturday.
“You have to go a lot faster so you don’t get stuck in the mud,” said Vosburgh, 9, of Cincinnatus. “You have to push harder down on the throttle.”
About 50 snowmobile riders from throughout the region gathered Saturday on a Route 26 field just south of Dave’s Dairy Treat to compete at snowmobile drag races in the mud.
The event, which was the first time an organized snowmobile drag race event has taken place in Cincinnatus in six years, drew about 300 people.
Through admissions fees, participant fees and food sales the event raised at least $600 apiece for the Cincinnatus Fire Department and the TrailHounds Snowmobile Club based in Pitcher, with exact figures expected to be available Tuesday.
“We’re very pleased with how everything went,” said Dean Catlin, a member of the Cincinnatus Fire Department and one of the event’s main organizers. “They’re (snowmobile club members and firefighters) already talking about having more … Well they’re talking at least yearly and possibly another one this year later on in the winter.”
Catlin said the fire department and snowmobile club decided to finally hold the event again because of available space at an 18.5-acre field.
The fire department bought the field in the fall to serve as the location for a new firehouse. The department is expected to go out to bid on the project very soon, Catlin said.
Volunteers were prepared to hold the event in any weather conditions. They knew many snowmobile riders enjoy riding on the mud, despite the relative difficulty.
“You probably have a little less control (on mud than on snow,)” said Michael Whitt, a Greene resident who raced Saturday. “You can’t steer as well.”
Between 30 and 35 people helped put on Saturday’s event, including Thomas Mulherin IV and Joshua Byron, both Cincinnatus residents and members of the youth version of the fire department for 14- to 18-year-olds.
Just prior to the first race at 11 a.m. Mulherin and Byron were helping push water off the two 350-foot tracks. Mulherin said it was to prevent against riders losing control.
Many of the racers had modified their vehicles to handle the mud, by lowering them or putting pins in the snowmobile tracks for better traction.
They competed in one of 12 classes, depending on the modifications and size of their engines, and raced two at a time.




TC3 president to receive leadership award

Caryl Haynes to be presented with Paul A. Elsner International Excellence in Leadership Award

Staff Reporter

DRYDEN — For his impact on students, college employees, his community and international affairs, Tompkins Cortland Community College President Carl Haynes will receive an international leadership award in April.
“He thinks beyond his service area. He thinks globally, not locally,” said Gary Filan, executive director of the Chair Academy, the organization awarding the Paul A. Elsner International Excellence in Leadership Award to Haynes.
Haynes, 62, who has been president at TC3 for 14 years, will receive the award at the Chair Academy’s Annual International Conference for Organizational Leaders in Denver.
“Obviously, I’m very honored and feel humbled that an organization like the Chair Academy selected me,” he said, Tuesday.
Jerry Sue Thornton, president of Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio, will also receive the award. The honor is given to select leaders from throughout the world who exemplify and support academic and administrative leadership.
Filan said the award is often given to college and university leaders throughout the world and has been given out for 15 years.
The Chair Academy is an organization dedicated to advancing leadership for postsecondary leaders worldwide. The Paul A. Elsner International Excellence in Leadership Award is the Chair Academy’s most prestigious award, given to someone who “represents the highest degree of excellence in the field of educational leadership.”
Haynes said TC3 is active in the Chair Academy and he serves on its board of directors.
“He exemplifies the award so well,” Filan said of Haynes. He noted that Haynes’ leadership style is one of service.
Haynes said his focus has always been on “learning and the learner,” but he has not worked in a vacuum.
“What I’ve been able to do is hire really good people. When you have really good people, good things happen,” Haynes said. Haynes said the talent at the college is at every level, from support staff to administrators. “We really work well together,” he said.