Gabe Oakley comes every 1-3 months with food for CHOW through the Cruisin' Buddies Car Club. I thought it would be nice to feature him on our blog since he is such a supporter of CHOW. (However, CHOW is not mentioned in the article.)
Katie Legg is also mentioned in this article. Katie formed the Friendship Tree and is involved with several of our programs. She will be one of our Lives of Commitment honorees for 2010. She also has worked closely with Karen in CHOW.
Brianna Card is the yound lady who has raised money for CHOW two years in a row now. In 2009 she raised $500 if my memory serves me right. Brian, Ralph and some others have worked with Brianna and her family and have been very impress by this young lady!
Note: Broome County Council of Churches or the CHOW Program are not mentioned in this article. Odd considering our connections with the honorees.
See Article Here
A salute to the Southern Tier's 2009 difference-makers
By George Basler
By any measure, 2009 was a tough year.
The deepest economic recession since the 1930s meant job losses and unemployment. The region experienced profound tragedy when 13 people were massacred at the American Civic Association in April. The war in Afghanistan intensified.
Hopeful moments could easily get lost in the memory shuffle.
Amid the negativity, some people made headlines for positive achievements in 2009.
Binghamton native Paul Ridley, 26, rowed 3,000 miles alone across the Atlantic Ocean to raise money for cancer research in memory of his mother, Katherine Raub Ridley.
Apalachin native Doug Hurley, a NASA astronaut, piloted the shuttle Endeavor to the space station in July.
Kirkwood native Cmdr. Curt Jones commanded the USS New York, whose bow contains 7½ tons of steel salvaged from the World Trade Center, on a trip to its namesake city.
On a local level, many people continued to make a positive difference in large and small ways. The Press & Sun-Bulletin asked readers to nominate “difference makers” for 2009.
From the nominations, the newspaper picked the following seven people to represent all those who made the community a better place in the past year.
Chet and Anita Harding:Honoring veterans
Chet and Anita Harding are on a mission: They don’t want people to forget the sacrifices made by military veterans.
Over the past six years, the Owego couple has dedicated thousands of hours to restoring 280 damaged headstones in cemeteries in Tioga County. Eighty of the graves are in the Civil War section of Owego’s historic Evergreen Cemetery.
Along with other volunteers, they undertook the extensive effort of surveying all 65 cemeteries in Tioga County, looking for the graves of veterans from the Indian Wars to Iraq. The couple then worked for more than a year, ending in October, to compile a database of all veterans buried in Tioga — just over 5,000 in all.
The Hardings don’t do it for publicity, said Jim Raftis, an official with the Glenn A. Warner Post 1371 Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Owego Veterans Memorial Committee.
“They do it from the heart. They want to honor all veterans of all wars,” Raftis said.
The couple, both 55, began their work because, as they placed flags on graves on Memorial Day, they noticed an increasing number of veterans’ graves falling into disrepair.
“We thought somebody should do something. It was a matter of conscience for us. Then it took on a life of its own,” said Chet Harding, who is a veteran himself, having served during the Vietnam War period.
This year, they made wreaths and decorated graves of one veteran from each of America’s wars as a tribute to all veterans. They also decorated graves at Christmas last year.
Sometimes, people can forget too easily, Chet Harding said.
Katie Legg: Friendship Tree expands
Katie Legg thinks working-class families “sometimes need a little help to get by.”
For the last four years, the 41-year-old Kirkwood woman and her husband, Scott, have dedicated themselves to providing some of this help.
They do it by collecting and then delivering furniture, clothes and personal care items to families, referred by social services agencies, who are trying to rebuild their lives.
They call their effort “The Friendship Tree,” which is appropriate since it has grown and taken root in the community over the last four years, friends of the couple say.
The organization had its biggest year yet in 2009, helping 204 families, Legg said. The organization also inaugurated a new program, The Shower of Hope, a two-month campaign that collected more than $46,000-worth of baby items and gift cards for young mothers.
Besides this, the Friendship Tree also filled 198 bags with back-to-school supplies and gave 140 free hair cuts to children before the start of the school year. And the organization matched 71 of its members as “birthday buddies” to youngsters in need.
“It’s very rewarding,” Legg said. “I’ve learned people in the community want to give. Sometimes they just don’t know how to do it.”
Marsha Maroney: Dealing with tragedy
On April 3, Marsha Maroney knew something serious was happening when she heard sirens and saw police vehicles speeding down Main Street past her office at Catholic Charities of Broome County.
A short time later, she found out how serious.
Catholic Charities received a telephone call from emergency responders asking the agency to be the central meeting point to reunite families whose loved ones were in the American Civic Association during the massacre that left 14 people dead, including the shooter.
For the next three days, Maroney and others at the agency coordinated counseling, religious support, aid and comfort to families impacted by the tragedy
Maroney also, to some extent, became the face of the community as she did interviews with CNN, ABC News, Fox News, the Associated Press, Reuters and other media outlets from as far away as Brazil and Japan.
All the while, she had to deal with her own emotions.
“It was by far the worst thing I’ve ever seen,” said Maroney, 47, development officer for the agency. “It took every bit of energy I had not to cry.”
The help that Catholic Charities provided on those traumatic days was an extension of what the 72-year-old agency does quietly all year, she said. In 2009, the agency served more than 50,000 clients with mental health services, youth counseling and activities, residential housing for the physically and developmentally disabled, food pantries and other services.
“Unfortunately, the numbers are going up,” Maroney said.
Brianna Cart: Shipments of caring
None of Brianna Cart’s family has ever been in the military. And, at age 13, she’s too young to serve.
Yet a television program four years ago that talked about the hardships deployed troops were experiencing in Iraq motivated the Owego teenager to support them by collecting and sending packages filled with nonperishable food and other comfort items.
The effort didn’t stop with a handful of shipments. Brianna has kept it going through her early adolescent years, a time when even the best intentions can be derailed by other teenage concerns.
In fact, 2009 was the most active year yet for the effort, “Angels over Iraq and Afghanistan,” the Owego teenager said.
The “angels” — Brianna and a core group of 15 friends — have held collection drives every six weeks or so at local groceries; organized a garage sale that raised about $1,300; organized two concerts which raised about $2,000; and ran a car wash that raised about $1,000 more.
All told, the “angels” have shipped more than 260 boxes weighing more than 6,000 pounds and valued at $20,000 in the last four years. More than 350 servicemen and women have benefited.
“I felt they were fighting for us, and we should give them something in return,” Brianna said.
She plans to keep up the effort through high school.
John Johnson:Fighting a disease
Multiple sclerosis has weakened John Johnson’s body, but not his drive.
“I probably have more on my plate than the average Joe,” said the 44-year-old Kirkwood resident, who owns apartments and a downtown business.
Much of that drive goes into raising awareness and money to fight the autoimmune disease that affects the nervous system and can lead to a loss of balance, slurred speech and pain in the arms and legs.
Johnson was diagnosed with the disease in 2006, after he began dragging his legs while he walked.
“I’m kind of a realistic person. I knew something major was wrong. I kind of accepted the fact that this is a long-term thing,” he said.
Since being diagnosed, Johnson has joined the board of the Upstate Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society and has raised well over $10,000 in donations over the last three years for the local MS Walk. His latest fundraising technique is to hold 50-50 raffles at auctions he runs at an auction house he recently opened in Kirkwood.
While the disease has affected his life, he’s more fortunate than some because he can still support himself financially, Johnson said.
“I know what the disease is doing to me. But I can afford to deal with it,” he said. “I do it (the money raising and volunteer work) for people who don’t have the resources.”
Gabe Oakley: Cruising for charity
Oakley and his pals are part of “Cruisin’ Buddies,” a club that organized in 2001 to show off antique, classic and customized cars.
Part of the club’s mission since it first hit the road has been raising money for charity, said Oakley, 60, of Binghamton, the club’s events coordinator who drives a 1940 Dodge classic car.
The 138 club members now help support four children’s charities: the Children’s Home; Epilepsy Foundation; CFC Family Network; and the Arctic League, an organization similar to Toys for Tots that serves the Elmira area, where a number of club members live.
To date, the club has raised more than $35,000 for the organizations through 50-50 raffles at its car rallies, twice-a year-pasta dinners, Valentine’s Day dance and other fundraising efforts.
“You just get a good feeling in the end that you’ve reached out and touched other people, especially younger people,” Oakley said.