Originally published in the Democrat and Chronicle on March 29, 2020.
By Caurie Putnam
On Jan. 4, 2013, my first Our Towns West Extra column ran in the Democrat and Chronicle. It was about New Year’s resolutions and began by sharing those of my sons.
Brice, then 10, said his resolution was to get better at hockey and Brady, 6, said, “to paint more pictures so the world a prettier place.”
Over the past seven years, Brice has gotten better at hockey, Brady has painted many beautiful pictures and I have had the privilege of illuminating the goodness on the west side of Rochester.
It has been an absolute joy and honor to tell your stories. Counting this, my final, West Extra, I wrote 387 columns for you.
I was invited to your benefits, businesses, sporting events, animal rescues, theater productions and your kitchen tables. I laughed with you, cried with you and grew with you. It’s impossible to choose my favorite columns. However, there are a few themes I became partial to.
I loved writing about veterans on the west side, including Medal of Honor recipient Gary Beikirch of Greece in 2019; heart transplant recipient Thomas Barbera of Hamlin in 2018; and Bruce Van Apeldoorn of Rochester, a retired master sergeant from the U.S. Marine Corps who ran his first marathon at age 67 in 2016.
Writing about young people doing special things was also a favorite, like Zach Adams of Kendall, Orleans County, an inspiring young man with Down syndrome who earned his Eagle Scout award in 2016, and Courtney Langelotti of Brockport, who organized an inclusive prom from teenagers on the west side in 2019.
Then, there were the many stories of light coming from tragedy, like Wheatland-Chili High School’s Drama Club dedicating its production of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” to the memory of late teacher Jill Skivington Jackett in 2018 (an additional beautiful thing that came from this column was Miranda sharing it — and a note of encouragement to the
students — with his millions of followers on Twitter).
Writing this column also offered me the opportunity to represent the paper at many events on the west side. I emceed parades and dinners, spoke in classrooms and to your nonprofits, judged your competitions (ranging from BBQ cook-offs to dog Halloween costume contests). I will miss these fun interactions with you greatly; they were always a pleasure.
I want to thank the editors and copy editors I’ve had over the past seven years (Denise Young, Marilyn Ajavananda, Laura Nichols and Cynthia Benjamin). They are the professionals who made my work look good and pushed for the inclusion of community columns in the paper vs. budget cuts as long as they could. I am grateful to them all.
Thank you also to my East Extra “bookend” Missy Rosenberry for sharing the page with me with such professionalism and passion for many years.
Keep in touch with Caurie
I am still a freelance writer for the D& C and you will continue to see my byline on stories! Please visit me at facebook.com/BrockportBlog or email caur@hot mail.com or write to me at P.O. Box 639, Clarkson, NY 14430. As you’ve probably guessed, I am not ready to lay down my pen. I would have written this column forever! As painful as it is to say goodbye, I’d do it all over again for the chance to paint the picture “The west side is amazing,” 387 more times.
Originally published in the Democrat and Chronicle on March 22, 2020
by Caurie Putnam
Every item for sale at Afrikamba, Curios ... in Spencerport tells a story.
Among beautiful beaded jewelry and colorful clothing, there’s a metal giraffe made of repurposed Coca-Cola cans by artisans in Capetown, South Africa, and a Volkswagen Beetle carved from scrap driftwood collected in Zanzibar, a Tanzanian archipelago.
No two items in the store are the same, but they do share a common bond: They are for sale in Spencerport due to Harry Ewell and Carol Nellis-Ewell.
The Ewells, who are both Kodak retirees, opened Afrikamba, Curios ... in 1998 following several trips to Kenya. Their first trip was a photographic safari in 1989 with AAA and second, a philanthropic trip building solar ovens in a small village in 1993 with a group called Earthwatch.
During those early trips they bought some handmade bags and when Carol took them to work, the reactions of her co-workers were so positive she realized there was a market for artisanal African goods in Rochester.
Thus began Afrikamba, Curios ... and over 50 trips to 13 countries in Africa for the couple who buy each product they sell personally, paying the artisan a fair price up-front.
“The store is really about learning and sharing our love of Africa and the people,” said Nellis-Ewell, who is also the deputy mayor of the village of Spencerpor t.
Each trip they take to Africa they bring about a dozen suitcases filled with items to distribute in the communities they visit, like food, books, medical products and clothing. They also bring items made by the Spencerport Methodist Church’s Dress a Girl Around the World program.
“There is tremendous need, but extreme gratitude,” Nellis-Ewell said. “We had so many wonderful experiences in Africa, we’ve always felt drawn back and that we had to give back.”
They’ve made so many trips to certain villages that they are treated like family. In Zanzibar there is a little girl named after Carol and in western Kenya a little boy named after Harry. As animal lovers, they are also very active members of the East African Wildlife Society, serving as the United States financial representatives.
Two decades after opening Afrikamba, Curios … in Spencer’s Landing in the village, they are still passionate about sharing their love of Africa with others. “We felt there was a great opportunity along the canal here in Spencerport,” Nellis-Ewell said. “In the summertime people get off their boats, discover the store and ask, ‘Why are you here?’ We say, ‘Everybody has got to be somewhere.’ We wanted to anchor here.”
Dancers’ group celebrates 50 years
Happy birthday to the Cloverleaf Squares, a
modern western square dancing and round dancing singles club founded in 1970. The group, which meets in Chili from September to April and Henrietta in the warmer months, celebrated their 50 th birthday with a reunion dance on Sunday, March 15, at the Diplomat Banquet Center.
In attendance were the group’s first president Bob Sponable and a member of the first dance class, Ann Crowley-Hash.
The group is currently led by Henry Capron and features Mike Callahan as their caller. They have about 100 members, including Sharon Meyer of Farmington, Ontario County, who met her husband of 17 years in the group.
“It’s all about dancing, meeting people and getting some exercise,” Meyer said. “A lot of us have met our spouses there. People keep coming back year after year because they like the dancing and comradery.”
Contact Caurie at email@example.com with news from west-side towns. She’s on Twitter at @CauriePutnam and on Facebook at facebook.com/ BrockportBlog.
Originally published in the Democrat and Chronicle on March 8, 2020
by Caurie Putnam
A colorful trail of paper daisies looped through the Seymour Library in Brockport after-hours on Feb. 28, guiding participants through a living timeline of the evolution of Girl Scouts from their founding in 1912 to the present.
“This is a really awesome event,” said Lena Budd, volunteer experience manager with the Girl Scouts of Western New York, as she followed the timeline through decade-themed stops operated by members of the Lake Ridge Service Unit’s 13 troops. “It was created and run by the girls to learn to take leadership on a large scale event and is a nice piece of Girl Scout nostalgia.”
The Lake Ridge Service Unit’s troops come from Brockport, Hamlin, Holley and Kendall, Orleans County. Members range in school-age from kindergartners and first-graders (Daisies) to junior and seniors in high school (Ambassadors). All the girls and troops worked together to make the living timeline event a success.
“The collaboration of all the ages represented makes this really special,” said Kari Pardun, service unit manager and leader of Troop 60360, as she handed out faux passports for over 100 guests to get stamped as they visited each decade. “It’s been a good learning experience for all of them to see that what brings us all together, despite our ages, is Girl Scouts.”
World Thinking Day 2020 — an annual occasion that celebrates the diversity, equity and inclusion of Girl Scouts and Girl Guides — was the impetus behind the service unit’s Girl Scouting: A Journey through Time event.
Janessa Falkowski’s troop staffed the 1980s stop. The eighth- and ninth-grade girls wore clothing appropriate to the decade, created a large display of Girl Scout memorabilia from the time period and educated visitors about scouting at that time.
“It’s interesting because today there are a lot of STEM based patches, whereas in the eighties, I realized there were more hobbies and games represented on the patches,” Falkowski explained as I perused the display looking at memorabilia from my days in scouting.
The final stop on the timeline was the library’s local history room, where members of Troop 60471 showed guests display cases they curated with scouting memorabilia ranging from books to a Girl Scouts Cookie Oven.
These cases are part of the troop’s community service efforts towards earning their Silver Award - the highest honor a Cadette Girl Scout can achieve. The cases will remain on display for the public to visit during regular library hours throughout the month of March, which is Women’s History Month.
RMSC STEM Awards Breakfast
The 2020 Rochester Museum and Science Center STEM Award Breakfast was held on Feb. 28 at the Strathallan in Rochester.
I had the opportunity to attend and learn about inspiring educators and organizations making a difference in the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) in our region.
From the largest pool of nominees yet, Hillary Olson, RMSC president, presented awards to winners in six categories.
The winners in the STEM education categories (presented at elementary, secondary and university levels) were: Blaine Broughton, enrichment teacher at the Fred W. Hill Elementary School in Brockport; the
Wayne-Finger Lakes Pathways Technology Early College High School in Clifton Springs, Ontario County; and the Women in Computing organization at the Rochester Institute of Technology.
In the catalyst awards categories for individuals and organizations using STEM to make a lasting impact on the region, the winners were: Impact Earth, a Rochester-based sustainability business that helps create zero waste communities, classrooms and events; Tom Battley with the not-for-profit Rochester Regional Photonics Cluster; and Aldon Corp., an Avon, Livingston County-based business that, among other things, manufactures their own line of STEM educational kits.
To nominate an educator for a 2021 RMSC STEM Award, visit rmsc.org/component/k2/item/404leadership-in-stem-education-award-nomination.
Contact Caurie at firstname.lastname@example.org with news from west-side towns. She’s on Twitter at @CauriePutnam and on Facebook at facebook.com/BrockportBlog.