April 02, 2007

Bowlers try  to ‘strike out’ hunger

Homer bowl-a-thon raises money for food pantries, Meals on Wheels


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer    
Kierra Cranston, 8, of Cortland, bowls with her family in the “Strike Out Hunger” bowl-a-thon at Hi-Lanes in Homer Saturday. Donation boxes for nonperishable food items were placed at Hi-Lanes for the month of March and collected by the Cortland County Nutrition Program.

Staff Reporter

HOMER — Residents old and young attended a bowl-a-thon Saturday at Hi-Lanes Bowling Center to raise money for local food pantries.
Patty Armstrong, Nutrition Program director for the Cortland County Area Agency on Aging, said 68 bowlers came out to show their support.
“We are just so pleased with the support that we got here today,” Armstrong said. “We got support from the Rotary Club, we got senior support represented and we also have agency staff and their families.”
She said the money would be used to help fund the Meals on Wheels program and three food pantries that the agency’s Nutrition Program operates.
Homer’s newly re-elected Mayor Mike McDermott was also on hand to bowl a few strikes for the cause.
“I’m trying to support them and have a good time,” McDermott said. “It’s good that everyone sees what good this (Agency on Aging) program does.”
Armstrong said some of the funds from the bowl-a-thon will be used for the March for Meals campaign, which is sponsored by the Meals on Wheels Association of America.
“They wanted us to partner with somebody, like a local business and so we contacted Dave and Carla Bowling,” she said. Dave and Carla Bowling own Hi-Lanes bowling alley.
The Bowlings gave participants a discounted rate and made the bowling alley available between 2 and 5 p.m., Armstrong said.
She said she would like to see the bowl-a-thon become an annual event.
“I think it is well represented by all the age groups,” she said. “We have seniors, we have children, we have adults. We are just pleased with the participation.”
Hanna LaBaer, 72, a participant from the McGraw Senior Center, said she has been a bowler for 50 years. LaBaer volunteers for Meals on Wheels and the Nutrition Program. She pledged $50 for the bowl-a-thon.
“This is great,” LaBaer said of the event. “I get so much satisfaction out of volunteering at events like this. I really enjoy it.”
Organizers set a conservative fundraising goal of $1,500 since the event was new, Armstrong said.
The group exceeded the mark, with people pledging hundreds of dollars. Armstrong said that so far about $2,000 has been received and pledges can still be submitted until April 15, which would add to the total.
Bowlers had to pay a registration fee of $5, which included bowling shoe rentals, pizza, soda, music and prizes. The top fundraiser was eligible to receive a $100 gas card donated by Jim Terwilliger of Town and Country Plumbing and Heating.
Second place would receive dinner for two at Friends Food and Spirits in Homer. Area businesses such as Linani’s Bakery and the Community Restaurant donated prizes for raffles at the event.
“I think it is wonderful and very, very, important that we try to feed our families here,” Armstrong’s daughter Katrina Cranston said.
Kierra Cranston, 8, was in rare form. She beat her mother, brother and aunt with a score of 98. She said that her brother Addon Jon Cranston usually wins.
Kierra was excited she won her game, but she said she was happy for people who would benefit from the event.
“This is for people who can’t pay money to go to the grocery store and buy things to eat,” Kierra said. “Lots of people are here trying to help out.”
The Agency on Aging operates food pantries in the Cortland County Office Building in Cortland and the Willet and Truxton senior centers that on average assisted about 240 households per month over the past year. The Meals on Wheels program provides meals to the homes of 185 to 205 people each day.
Armstrong said the Agency on Aging gets approximately $10,000 in funding for food pantries from the state Department of Health and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The program depends on the community and individual donations for remaining costs.



Health building focus of Legislature meeting

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — It’s been more than three months since the Cortland County Legislature voted to purchase property along south Main Street with the intent of building a county health facility.
It also has been about two months since the Legislature voted to rescind that initial decision, and just over two weeks since the first property owners involved in the aborted deal filed suit against the county.
Tuesday, for the first time since January, the full Legislature is scheduled to publicly discuss the repercussions of its decisions and whether the county should purchase all or some of the property to avoid a legal battle.
At the special meeting, which will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday in legislative chambers, legislators plan to review and discuss the recommendations of the special committee reviewing the land deal and will, presumably, decide how the county should proceed.
“I’m hoping some decision will be made, one way or another, especially now that we have a lawsuit out there,” said Legislature Chairman Marilyn Brown (D-8th Ward).
The Moose Lodge, which owns the property at 157 Main St. that is central to the deal, has filed suit against the county requesting that it go through with purchasing the land at the agreed price of $250,000.
The Moose Lodge claims that the county’s initial decision to purchase the property in December represented a binding agreement, and that the decision in January to overturn the first vote in favor of the purchase was improper.
Three of the other five property owners involved in the $894,000 land deal also have threatened to follow the Moose Lodge in filing suit.
Regarding how the county should respond to legal challenges, the special committee offered a handful of possibilities, including purchasing all or some of the properties to avoid the lawsuit and either reselling them or seeking a scaled-down project, or not purchasing the properties and either battling the lawsuit or trying to negotiate out of the purchase agreements.
Residents of the neighborhoods surrounding the proposed project — whose vocal opposition to the original $5.5 million, 30,000-square-foot building was instrumental in convincing legislators to overturn the deal — have made it clear they do not want any sort of county project.
However, some legislators have said that a scaled-down project is the county’s best option at this point.
“I don’t think we should take the residential properties, but I think the best thing now is to buy it and try to put something a little smaller in there,” said Minority Leader Danny Ross (R-Cortlandville).
Brown said she still supported purchasing the properties.
“I think we have to try to work with the neighbors down there, and come up with something that’s going to be good for the community,” Brown said.
One key recommendation from the special committee — and an issue that persistently has been brought up for discussion — is the desire of many legislators and community members to see a comprehensive master plan that looks at all of the county’s land needs, including needed space for a Motor Vehicles Office and a County Jail.
Such a plan could be discussed at Tuesday’s meeting, along with a number of other recommendations from the special committee, including ways to develop a master plan and other ways the county can improve its land purchasing process in the future.


‘He hit a grand slam in life’

Friends, colleagues recall life of Bill Griffen at ceremony in Center for Arts

Staff Reporter

HOMER — Nat King Cole’s song “Unforgettable” played as family and friends gathered Saturday at the Center for the Arts to remember and honor Bill Griffen.
“Today is not just some day,” said Stephen Bailey, friend and former student of Griffen, a longtime SUNY Cortland professor. “It is a very special day. One where we will celebrate the life of a man that has impacted all of us.”
About 100 people came to relive memories and share their experiences of Griffen.
Griffen was a professor in the college’s Foundations and Social Advocacy Department, and the longest-tenured professor at the college and in the SUNY system when he retired in August after 51 years.
Griffen died in February after an 11-year battle with prostate cancer.
Aside from being a professor, he was a father, husband, activist, Mets fan, jazz drummer and photographer. Griffen made two bids for the U.S. Congress, in 1968 and 1990.
“The lessons I learned from Dr. Griffen, my teacher, are these: one, give all you got in life because all you give is all you are going to get back,” said Josephine LoCascio, a longtime friend. “Two, even though you don’t see eye to eye with someone, you should always walk with them hand in hand.”
The list of people who shared stories about Griffen ranged from next-door neighbors to people who went out into the trenches in the 1960s to conduct voter registration drives of blacks in the South.
BettyAnn Biermann, a next-door neighbor and former student, wrote a poem for Griffen, which read in part, “I loved him for the humor that he used instead of force. … I loved him for the music he held within his soul.”
She went on to say she would always remember the example Griffen set and his courage.
“Bill Griffen was my teacher and my friend,” Biermann said. “I shall think of him as last I saw him, smiling face and spirits high, looking to the day before him, never thinking that he would die.”
During the memorial service Genevieve Herrling wiped away tears from the edge of her eyes. For 18 years she had worked across the hall from Griffen in the office of the dean of the School Education at SUNY Cortland.
“I have a lot of respect for him,” Herrling said. “He was a man who walked the walk as well as talked the talk. He was down to earth.”
For LoCascio, Griffen embodies the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty.
“The Statue of Liberty is a symbol for freedom,” said LoCascio. “What do the Statue of Liberty and Bill have in common? Everything. The words stand for humanity, reason and justice. They are for the little guys, for people like me and my family.”
One after another people stood at the podium and spoke of the mutual love and respect they shared for Griffen.
Carl Hayden, former chancellor of the New York State Board of Regents, had Griffen as a seventh-grade teacher in 1958.
Griffen taught seventh grade at Marathon Junior High for two years after graduating from SUNY Cortland.
“My first memory of him is that he spoke oddly, “Hayden said. “We thought he was from a foreign county. It turns out he was from Long Island.”
Saturday’s event was a celebration of the life of Griffen, Bailey said. While many people talked about Griffen being their teacher or co-worker they all called him friend.
“If there was a hall of fame for friendship I know that Bill would have his name right on the top,” LoCascio said. “Billy Baseball not only hit a home run in life, he hit a grand slam in life. He has touched every base and now he is finally heading home indeed.”