2011 in Review – Working To Feed Others One Penny At A Time

OSWEGO, NY – Here’s a glimpse of the some of the news from the past 12 months.

For many, a penny is just a penny, a one-cent piece that can buy little or nothing. They are tossed in a jar, left in a car’s change drawer or placed in a change cup at a store checkout without hesitation.

However, for one local high school student, a penny is something that will put food on the table for a hungry family.

Christie Hoefer, a senior at Oswego High School, has seen firsthand the large number of families in Oswego County who depend on food pantries for their meals. Having volunteered at Catholic Charities of Oswego County’s fresh food distributions and helping her mother, Helen Hoefer, director of Emergency Services at Catholic Charities, in the food pantry, she noticed that the amount of families using the pantry was increasing each month and decided that she had to do something to help.

That’s when she thought, why not put all those unwanted pennies to good use.

“When my mom told me that she can purchase a pound of food from the Food Bank of Central New York for only 14 cents I thought, that’s only a few pennies. Imagine how much food she could purchase for the food pantry if I could collect one million pennies,” said Christie.

In September, Christie began her quest by announcing to her family that she wanted to collect one million pennies and donate the funds to Catholic Charities’ food pantry.

Christie’s grandfather helped her start by donating more than 10,000 pennies and her parents donated another 2,350.

Christie is looking to reach her goal by July of 2012.

Oswego Schools Return To Life for 2011-12 Year

It was a bit rainy and cold on Sept. 7, prompting one teen to exclaim, “What happened to summer!?”

Opening day of the 2011 – 12 school year quickly warmed up as returning students exchanged hugs and high-fives at all the schools in the district as friends were reunited after the hot and humid summer.

Mary Beth Fierro was helping solve some small problems for parents and students even before she got into the school.

“There is a lot of excitement this morning and a few concerns as well, especially for some of the seventh graders,” the new OMS principal told Oswego County Today.

“We’ve had a wonderful opening day,” said Fitzhugh Park Elementary Principal Donna Simmons. “In fact, we have registered some more students yesterday and even today.”

“We had a large entourage of people come out and meet the kindergarteners as they got off the buss and took them right to their classrooms,” she said.

At Oswego High School, Principal Brian Hartwell sets high standards.

“Things are going great,” he said of opening day. “We have high expectation here, starting with myself, for the staff and students. “Everyone has risen to the occasion.”

“We expect everyone to be on time. It’s been shown that those who tend to be on time enjoy a higher level of success than those who are late. It’s really quite simple. If you take care of the little things, the big things are much easier to manage,” he said.

Another one of the little things he encourages everyone, adults and students, to follow is treat everyone with respect.

OFD Honors Heroes Of 911

As members of the Oswego Fire Department marched to the fire station on Sept. 11 to honor those who died 10 years ago that day, a child called out to his father. “Hi daddy,” he said. Immediately everyone’s thoughts turned to the hundreds of children who forever lost the chance to say that to their fathers on Sept. 11, 2001.

That innocent greeting brought a lump to the throat and tear to the eye of more than one firefighter and police officer taking part in the memorial.

“When I heard that, all I could think of was the hundreds of children who can’t say that to their fathers today because they lost them in the attacks 10 years ago,” Oswego Police Chief Tory DeCaire said solemnly.

Around four dozen Oswego firefighters were joined by friends, family and members of the community for the remembrance.

“It is important that we gather here today, just as we have the past 10 years, to remember not only the 343 FDNY firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice but the other members of the uniformed service, police officers, EMS as well as many innocent civilians who lost their lives that day,” Chief Jeff McCrobie told the crowd gathered in front of the eastside fire station.

Oswego Fire Department Chaplain Sebastian Foti called the attacks “the most defining event of our lifetimes.”

Lawmakers, International Journalists Gather In Oswego

Journalists from around the world converged on SUNY Oswego in September.

There wasn’t any international news event. Instead, it was a group of reporters and editors gathering to share their views as part of a panel on Accountability in Government.

The U.S. Department of State, International Center of Syracuse and SUNY Oswego facilitated the program.

The initial discussion was held in Rich Hall. Following the panel discussion, participants were able to have one-on-one discussion with SUNY Oswego Students as well as take a group tour of the college.

That was followed by a tour of Fort Ontario with Paul Lear and then a tour of the Safe Haven Museum with Judy Coe Rappaport.

Assemblyman Will Barclay helped organize the panel. He and Assemblyman Bob Oaks also took an active role in the discussion with international community leaders from countries such as Lebanon, Russia, Venezuela and the People’s Republic of China.

“Today’s discussion was educational, to say the least. Listening to leaders throughout the world talk about their desire and need for government accountability helps us appreciate our freedoms and democracy here,” Assemblyman Barclay told Oswego County Today.

Martina Kubaniova, reporter and journalist from the Slovak Republic, said she enjoyed her time at the college and learned a great deal at the panel.

The trip to Fort Ontario was also very interesting, she said.

It was good to see and learn about the history of the area as well as the government, added May Hasan Nour Eddine, program coordinator, Lebanese Transparency Association, Lebanon.

“We had a very enjoyable time here in Oswego,” said Aleksandr Yevgenyevich Konkov, section chief, Analytic Center, Government of the Russian Federation, Russia. “Thank you for showing us around. We learned a lot at the panel and enjoyed seeing the fort.”

Law Enforcement Goes High-Tech To Locate Potential Radiological Threats

Several state and federal law enforcement agencies were set to take part in a drill on Lake Ontario.

The day before, Sept. 19, New York State Police officials announced the continuation of an upstate program to enhance state and local law enforcement’s capabilities to detect and interdict radiological material before it can be used in a weapon by would-be terrorists. The training exercise has been dubbed “Operation Steelhead.”

Members of NYSP and DEC Police made the announcement at the Oswego Coast Guard Station. A tour of their vessels and display of the high-tech equipment followed. They were joined by representatives of the Coast Guard, Border Patrol and FBI.

An important component of New York State’s Homeland Security Strategy is to provide first responders – the men and women who are our front line of defense – with the equipment and training they need to protect the citizens of this state against weapons of mass destruction. Federal grant funding to the state, managed by the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, has allowed equipment acquisition, training, and exercises to be conducted by the state law enforcement community to bolster their capabilities to combat radiological threats across the Empire State, according to the commander of Troop D.

Some of the equipment purchased with the grant funds are personal radiation detectors, radio-isotope identi-finders, survey meters and backpacks containing sensitive detectors.

State Police have received extensive training in the use of this equipment; the exercise would help police to continue familiarizing themselves with the use of the equipment.

“The detection and interdiction of illicit radiological material is now a necessary component of modern policing. These radiological detection technologies are integral tools in thwarting potential terrorist activities,” the commander said. “The New York State Police and their partners now have the ability to actively seek out and detect radiation source material in the community, which is the first step in preventing a terrorist attack.”