Marathon family honored for work on haunted houses


Joe McIntyre/staff photographer
ABOVE: Ellena Holl, 11, tries on an alien costume for size while moonwalking in a cosmic tunnel at a haunted house she and her family are constructing in Marathon. FamilyFun magazine has recognized the Holls for work they and other volunteers do on annual haunted houses for the community.
BELOW: Rich Holl and his son Evan, 13, open a door to one of the space-age attractions at the haunted house. haunt

Staff Reporter

MARATHON — Two years ago, the Holl family started up a public haunted house not only to scare people but to bring the community together.
“We wanted something kids could do as a family, so they could branch out their circle of friends and have a common experience,” said Ethanie Holl.
Now the family is being recognized for making that happen. On Sept. 18, FamilyFun magazine announced the Holls, who live in Marathon, won a grand prize in the magazine’s second annual volunteer contest. The contest recognizes families who give back to their communities, inspire others to take action and make volunteering fun.
The family — parents Rich and Ethanie and children Jacob, 18, Karolina, 16, Evan, 13, and Ellena, 11 — received $5,000 from the magazine for a charity of its choice. The family chose to give the money to the Peck Memorial Library on Main Street in Marathon.
Ethanie Holl said it just made sense to give the money to the library. She would spend time at the library as a child while her father worked at the First National Bank across the street. Her husband is on the library board and the family has benefited from the library’s story hours, craft hours and sign language glasses.
“The library goes way back in our family,” she said.
The Holls said they most likely won the contest because of their efforts with the haunted house. The family also does volunteer work through the Cortland County Young Marines Program, but the fun nature of the haunted house most likely won over the FamilyFun magazine officials, they said.
Two years ago the haunted house took place in the library’s opera house and last year it was held in the Marathon train station.
This year, it will take place in the civic building on the corner of Peck Avenue and Brink Street. The Holls started working on the house back in November, they said, when they measured out space in the building. Ever since, they’ve been planning for the Oct. 27 and 28 event, which will have an alien theme.
The Holls plan to have about 100 volunteers join them to build parts of the house, act as its inhabitants and sell food and tickets at the event. The money raised from food sales and sales of tickets will go toward the library, the Red Cross and the various organizations that sell the tickets and food.
“They’ll keep 100 percent of the profits,” Rich Holl said.
Two years ago the event raised $1,200 and last year it raised $2,000. This year’s house should raise even more money, he said. It certainly will be even better than the previous years’ events, he said.
“The rooms will be bigger and darker, with spaces for aliens to be,” Rich Holl said.
On Wednesday, Ellena Holl was testing out an alien costume and her alien dance for the haunted house. She said she wants to be the alien that escapes toward the beginning of the haunted house, only to reappear at unknown moments later on.
She said she has experience really scaring people. Last year she would make her friends think they had spiders in their hair, she said.
“I would kind of freak them out,” she said. “They really didn’t know it was me playing with their hair.”
The haunted house will not only have student volunteers but also adult volunteers. Those volunteers include Heather Dann, Michelle Mullen and Charlene Hill, Ethanie Holl said. The three women will be working as medical professionals who decontaminate visitors inside the haunted house.
“We don’t need a script for them,” she said. “They’re so crazy.”
The community donated many of the props for the house, the Holls said. Those include dozens of computer motherboards from the Cortland Recycling Center, which will be used in a battle scene. The Holls said that because of the donations, the volunteers and the fact that they don’t have to pay the town to use the civic building, only $300 is spent on the haunted house.
Rich Holl said he’s glad he can give back to the community with the haunted house. Hundreds of people will have fun going through it, and volunteers, especially young ones, will get a chance to exercise their creativity, he said.
“It works out well,” he said. “Kids nowadays don’t get to build tree houses and forts.”



Purr Fect World president arraigned in deaths of 49 cats

Staff Reporter

CORTLAND — A second woman was arraigned this morning on charges of neglecting dozens of cats in a home and clinic on Wheeler Avenue.
Lisa Alderman, 45, of 503 Third St., Liverpool, was arrested and arraigned this morning in city court on 49 counts of failure to provide proper food and water to a harbored animal, an unclassified misdemeanor.
According to a city court document, the charges are against Purr Fect World Inc., a nonprofit organization of which Alderman is president. Eugenia Cute, 54, of Sweeney Road in Homer is a co-defendant in the case, and was arraigned on the same charges Wednesday.
Police said each count could bring up to one year in jail or a $1,000 fine.
In front of Judge Thomas Meldrim and represented by her attorney, Eileen Walsh, of Syracuse, Alderman pleaded not guilty on all charges.
A Sept. 1 raid that discovered 275 cats in the home and clinic at 7 Wheeler Ave. prompted the arrests.
Since the raid, former Purr Fect World Vice President Suzan Mix has come forward and said she left the organization in April because of philosophical reasons. Mix, a medical technologist at Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine, said personal problems kept her from being more involved in the company. Police would not say whether they plan to charge Mix.
Cute was living in the house and running what was supposed to be a spay and neuter clinic in a building next door for Purr Fect World.
Although there were hundreds of cats found on the property, where conditions were described as “deplorable” the day of the raid, Alderman and Cute were only brought up on criminal charges for the animals that were found dead or have since died, police said.
Of the cats found, 23 have since been euthanized because they were found to be “dangerous” and several others have died. Authorities said there were also 21 cats found dead in a freezer the day of the raid.
Cortland County District Attorney David Hartnett is prosecuting the case but was not present for today’s arraignment. It is his policy not to comment on ongoing cases.
The city is still holding the other cats at the former Cortlandville Fire Hall on Route 281.
Alderman and Cute are both scheduled to reappear in City Court Wednesday for a pre-trial conference.




Grant will fund homeowner counselor

Staff Reporter

The Cortland Housing Assistance Council will be able to hire a full-time housing counselor with a $300,000 federal Department of Housing and Urban Development grant awarded Friday.
The money is a HUD Rural Housing and Economic Development Program grant, and is intended to help pay the start-up costs for housing or economic development projects, and also help organizations hire and train staff members, develop strategic plans, and acquire office space and other needed facilities.
About $17 million was awarded around the country.
The CHAC, which provides counseling services, affordable apartments, home-ownership programs, no-interest loans, and other services to low-income and handicapped individuals and families, as well as seniors, sees about 1,000 cases per year, according to Executive Director Gary Thomas.
The funding will help the council shoulder that load.
“Right now we have three part-time counselors who are just filling in the gaps trying to help all of the people who need it,” Thomas said, noting that the part-time workers also have other full-time jobs. “This money gives us the chance to expand a little bit, and gives us enough manpower to help more people.”
The CHAC will soon hire a new, full-time counselor who would assist potential homeowners and renters with issues such as mortgages, foreclosures and landlord-tenant law, Thomas said.
For instance, he said, reverse mortgages, in which elderly homeowners can draw cash equity from their homes without having to give the home up, are a growing trend that require counseling.
Having a full-time counselor should save residents a good deal of money, Thomas said.
“In the past we’ve leveraged a lot of money every year, and that should go up now,” Thomas said. “If you keep somebody out of a foreclosure, help them out of a bad situation by teaching them how to deal with it, it’s going to save money.”




Host of state, federal candidates stump at senior center

Staff Reporter

On Saturday, candidates vying for state and federal offices came to Cortland to reach out to potential voters at the Port Watson Street senior housing tower.
“I am the antiwar candidate,” said Howie Hawkins, Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate. “I do believe I give a voice to the majority of New Yorkers.”
Democratic and Republican representatives were also in attendance trying to persuade Central New York constituents they were the right choice.
Michael Arcuri, Oneida County District Attorney and Democratic candidate for the 24th Congressional District, has hit the campaign trail hard.
“We have just hit the 24,000 mile mark (on the campaign trail), we have knocked on 1,500 doors and I have been to more than 24 communities,” Arcuri said.
Rachel Treichler, a Green Party candidate who wants to succeed Eliot Spitzer, said she was interested in protecting New Yorkers’ rights.
“We need an attorney general who would fight for our basic rights,” Treichler said. “Protecting our basic rights would be my top priority.”
The candidates, coming from all different walks of life, entertained questions from more than 100 members of the audience.
When asked about a universal health care system in the United States, the majority of the candidates were in favor of national health care. They differed on how health care for all Americans would be implemented.
Hawkins and Alison Duncan, a fellow Green Party member and candidate for lieutenant governor, are in favor of a single-payer system. Hawkins said the single-payer system is one public agency paying for the health care of the entire nation.
Arcuri and Raymond Meier, a state senator and Acuri’s competitor for the 24th District, were both concerned with the single-payer system.
“People should be in charge of their own health care,” Meier said. “Medicaid needs to be substantially reformed.”
Arcuri said 40 million Americans are without health care. He was troubled with the idea that all Iraqis would have “quality affordable care.”
Arcuri said there are “two industrial nations without health care (the United States being one.) We need to do a better job.”
The audience asked a range of questions, from the candidates’ position on same sex marriages to their take on legal immigration.
Treichler said she agrees with those who have filed suit against New York contending same sex marriages are already legal in New York state, that there is nothing in the law that prohibits it.
“I thought it was fantastic,” said Betty Brevett, an audience member. “It was very educational.”