Newspaper Articles

Struggles of single moms — Democrat and Chronicle

Six months ago, Karen Tyson made a difficult decision: She and Chaunté, her 9-year-old daughter, walked out.

“There was domestic violence in the home, so I knew I needed to separate myself from that,” shesaid. “I had to reestablish myself all over again.”

Tyson, 44, left her husband – without her own car, job or place to live – and started her life over as a single mother, risking poverty in exchange for safety.

Now, as the sole head of her new household, she and her daughter live on the $1,700 a month she receives in disability payments. Like 78 percent of the Rochester households with children that are headed by women, they’re living below what it takes to make ends meet.


Homeless face losing refuge —Democrat and Chronicle

The dark corners of the Civic Center parking garage are the closest thing Nathan Prasad has to a home. The concrete floor is his bed.

Unemployed and battling drug addiction, Prasad, 23, is one of about a dozen homeless men and women who take shelter in the Monroe County-owned garage on cold nights. Some have come, off and on, for years or even decades.

The garage was privatized in 2003 and is owned by Civic Center Monroe County Local Development Corp., which is a nonprofit company created by county officials to take ownership of county assets.

Now, amid what operators say are growing customer complaints and declining sanitary conditions, the encampment is facing closure.


In Gates, a pricey problem : Owners, town fight flood maps — Democrat and Chronicle 

Sixty-nine-year-old Len Perno has lived in his Gates home for 30 years. He always imagined that he would one day sell his house and move with his wife to a ranch near their children.

That dream was dampened after his property and more than 100 others in town were placed into possible flood hazard zones by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in 2008.

“Now, with the devalue of the property, it sort of prohibits me from (selling my home),” he said. “I’ve never had a flood. I’ve never had anything close to flood.”

Perno is now paying more than $1,000 a year for new mandatory flood insurance and says he’s facing an up to 30 percent decrease in property value.


‘Love Art’ Remembers–Democrat and Chronicle

Charlene Riley cradled the baby blue jogging suit bearing the picture of her slain son: “A Mother’s Love Is Forever,” it said.

For Riley and more than 100 other mothers and fathers, families and friends in Rochester, it’s an expression of love. It lets her lost son, Gregory Cooper, “know that he will never be forgotten.”

Cooper, 23, was the first Rochester homicide victim of 2013. His was also the first face Bernita “Bam” Hawkins has helped memorialize this year; in a city where homicide claims the lives of too many, there will be more.

Hawkins creates what she calls “love art,” designing T−shirts and apparel to help honor the deceased. And so her customers come to her to remember.

Hawkins, who owns It’s All About You T−Shirts and Apparel, at 499 Portland Ave., has been creating memorial attire since about 13 years ago. Her customers, primarily African−American and Latino families from the city who have lost loved ones to violence, have come to know her as a friend.


Mentoring program gives kids a different view of police–Democrat and Chronicle

As Rochester police officers Frank and Ebony Archetko walked through the hallway of School 36, wary students greeted them with, “Who are you taking to jail?” or “Who’s in trouble this time?”

But the students inside Room 114 ran to embrace the officers. They didn’t see the badge, gun or handcuffs. They saw a trusted friend.

The Archetkos are among the 15 city police officers who volunteered this year in the Generation Two, or G2, nonprofit mentoring program, which assigns one volunteer to one student to spend time together weekly for the duration of the school year.

Concerned that children from high-crime neighborhoods saw police officers as adversaries, G2 program director Melanie Mroz wanted to encourage more officers to participate.

“The kids get to see these people in a fun environment,” Mroz said. “They didn’t see them as police officers.”


’12 Years’ descendants proud of family history

Born a free man in upstate New York – then later kidnapped and sold into slavery – Solomon Northup’s story,now a film, is not just entertainment for his Rochester-native descendents.

Northup’s biopic, 12 Years a Slave, named after his 1853 memoir, details his treacherous journey through slavery from 1841 to 1853 on major Louisiana cotton plantations.

“My sufferings,” Northup wrote: “I can compare to nothing else than the burning agonies of hell!”

Northup was born in Minerva, Essex County, and worked as a successful musician, cab driver and carpenter in Saratoga Springs, Saratoga County, for years before his abduction in Washington, D.C. He worked on different plantations, owned by some he praised for their humanity and others he criticized for their cruelty.

“I read the book myself three times, and each time I had a different emotion, but overall, I’m very, very proud,” said Kevin Linzy, 51, Northup’s great-great-great-grandson. “I really want not just Rochester, but the world to know about Solomon Northup, what he did and what he stood for at that time.”


Impact of  Mandela’s death felt everywhere—Democrat and Chronicle

With the enormous impact that Nelson Mandela made on the world, news of his death Thursday touched many – from the coasts of Africa to the heart of Rochester.
World-renowned dance artist Garth Fagan can still recall the energy he felt from the former South African president when he met him in 1991.

An emotional Fagan dedicated his show at Nazareth College Arts Center on Thursday night to Mandela. “It’s undoubtedly a huge tragedy,” Fagan said.

Fagan, founder of the well-known Garth Fagan Dance company, created Madiba, a work based on the life of the anti-apartheid leader. Even though it’s been decades since Fagan met Mandela during a performance in Jamaica, he is still inspired
by the experience: “I will never forget the hug I got from him. The electricity ran through my body because I respected and appreciated and loved the man so much.”



Snowy Owls invade Northeast–Democrat and Chronicle

Snowy owls – familiar to many as Harry Potter’s pet, Hedwig – have invaded New York, captivating experts and attracting admirers.

The yellow-eyed pure white owls reside in the Arctic and have migrated in larger-than-usual numbers to the Northeast. Some have even found a temporary home in Rochester.

“The snowy owl invasion of this year is the largest influx in the northeast part of the United States in decades,” said snowy owl researcher Tom McDonald, of Snowy Watch


Geneseo cancels volleyball season due to hazing–Democrat and Chronicle

In canceling the 2012 women’s volleyball season, SUNY Geneseo officials sought to send a clear message: Hazing will not be tolerated.

As the fallout from a drunken “initiation” party continued Friday, some wondered whether the consequences were too severe. But others said they feared the ramifications of the incident, in which 11 students were arrested and another was hospitalized, might follow the student−athletes far beyond the volleyball court.

“Some of the things that happen (now) can have far−reaching impact,” said Mike Mooney, athletic director at the State University College at Geneseo. “We’re talking about volleyball, but I’m more concerned with how it impacts their life. If you’re arrested, that could be problematic in terms of when you want to get a job later.”


From the heart– Democrat and Chronicle

Heart disease is the primary cause of death for American women.

Almost every minute, a woman in the U.S. dies from heart disease or other cardiovascular conditions, according to the American Heart Association.

Wife, mother, artist and heart transplant survivor Ginger Zimmerman knows firsthand how it feels to come so close to being a fatal statistic. Zimmerman was a 32−year−old mother of three when she realized the source of her drained energy and declining health was a failing heart.

“I had been misdiagnosed for almost four years,” says Zimmerman, a Pittsford resident who will be the keynote speaker at Harbor House of Rochester’s “And the BEAT Goes On …” benefit dinner on Saturday. “When I was finally diagnosed, as devastating as it was, it was actually a relief.”


Going natural– Democrat and Chronicle

The debate over Olympic gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas’ hair shouldn’t come as a surprise. The controversy surrounding her ‘do, which some African−Americans thought was poorly−styled, speaks to how passionate the topic and imagery of black hair has historically been within the culture.

The debate over Douglas’ ponytail certainly got more ink because of the Olympics, but at the same time, social media sites were debating Oprah Winfrey’s decision to wear a natural hairstyle on the September cover of her magazine, O.

In Rochester and across the country, more African−American women  including powerhouses such as Xerox CEO Ursula Burns  have embraced “au naturale” hairstyles, abandoning more popular relaxed styles.


Crane program helps returning veterans gain new skills, find jobs–Herald-Times

Anthony Edwards thought he would always be able to rely on his physical capabilities to provide for his family. The bomb changed his perspective.“I told my son to get a skill — it’s something no one could ever take from you,” Edwards said. “It just never hit me that I, physically, would not be able to do that.”

Edwards, who joined the Illinois National Guard in 1983 and found himself serving as a sergeant first class in Iraq in 2004, can still recall every gruesome detail about the night that changed his life forever.During a mission, a roadside bomb exploded and hit the truck Edwards was driving. The blast blew the tires off his truck and rolled it over several times. One soldier was killed and two severely injured.


Gabby Giffords, Mark Kelly inspire RIT crowd–Democrat and Chronicle

Retired Navy Capt. and U.S. astronaut Mark Kelly always thought his job ? which included 39 carrier-based combat missions in Operation Desert Storm ? was more dangerous than his wife’s.

His perspective changed after his wife, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in the head during a speaking engagement in Tuscon.

“I thought I had the risky job, ” said Kelly, who had served more than 50 days in space as an astronaut. “As it would turn out, Gabby would nearly lose her life serving our country.”


A harmony of race and faith–Democrat and Chronicle

Twenty−five years after shedding racial divisions to become one harmonious congregation, members of the Episcopal Church of St. Luke & St. Simon Cyrene held a gala Saturday night to celebrate the milestone.

In 1988, St. Luke’s Church, a historically white Episcopal church founded by Col. Nathaniel Rochester, merged with St. Simon of Cyrene, a historically black Episcopal church, to form the new church.

The church, commonly called Two Saints, is hosting a series of events in January and February to mark the anniversary. The celebration’s theme is “Siyahamba,” which is Zulu for “We are marching.”

Madeline Gamble of Chili was a member of St. Simon of Cyrene before the integration, and said even though there were challenges and opposition in the beginning, the outcome was worth it.


Fitting in– Democrat and Chronicle

Shanley Austin has been playing hockey with boys since she laced up her first pair of skates at age 4, so playing on a nearly all boys high school varsity team has not been a difficult adjustment.

“I started off a little nervous because it was a new hockey team,” said Austin, a 15−year−old sophomore at East Irondequoit Eastridge. “But after I started playing and got into it, it was a lot more fun.”

Austin said playing with guys has its challenges, but she quickly adapted to the quicker and rougher style, which she believes made her a much better athlete.

“Guys hit a lot harder than girls and it’s a lot faster than a girls’ game. I’ve had to get used to it,” she said. “Overall though, it’s a lot better, and it’s really helped me a lot.”


Tale of Redemption, Democrat and Chronicle

Gang violence, drugs and incarceration are only a few issues many Rochester teens face daily, some without much hope of escape.

Author and community activist Yusef Shakur brought encouragement to local teens Thursday night, presenting his biographical documentary, Detroit’s Native Son, at The Center for Teen Empowerment. The film details his journey from the streets and prison to success.

“I ended up getting involved in the streets at an early age. I co−found a gang at the age of 13,” Shakur said. “The whole community was infested. Even when I wasn’t trying to get involved, I was getting shaped.”

Shakur, a former gang member and drug dealer from Detroit, came to a turning point when he was serving a nine−year sentence in a maximum−security prison and met a fellow inmate: his father, who encouraged him to seek a better life.


Cop delivers baby after pulling over car–Democrat and Chronicle

Rochester police officer Willo Glynn never expected an early Saturday morning traffic stop to turn into an on−the−spot childbirth delivery.

Glynn was working a DWI stop detail around 1 a.m., near East Main and North Goodman streets, when he saw a car approaching him erratically with blinking lights and honking horn.

“The front passenger poked her head out and yelled ‘the head’s out,”” he said. ” I didn’t even know what that meant.”

The driver told the officer that his wife was in the advanced stages of childbirth. Glynn quickly alerted emergency dispatchers that a woman was giving birth on the scene, but before ambulances could arrive, he jumped into action to help the child’s father deliver the baby, whose head was already crowning.


Season of giving–Democrat and Chronicle

Pull down all the lights and decorations from Charlie and Cora Venishel’s Penfield home, knock down the tree and pull off Santa’s beard and the most important part of their Christmas spirit would remain: generosity.

The Venishels have donned their Claus apparel and converted their home into a Christmas haven for the past eight years to raise money for the Ronald McDonald House. The couple has raised more than $10,000 for the charity.

The costumes, the 15,000 lights, Old Man Winter at the door: “It’s our way to do something good,” Cora Venishel said.


Families in crisis rely on housing program–Times-Mail

Tyler Babbs vividly remembers the night his family became homeless. A tornado struck the 10-year-old’s home on May 25, scattering his family’s life to the wind.“I always been scared of storms, and that was my biggest fright,” Tyler said, trying to hold back tears. “I was scared, and I could hear my mom and sisters screaming.”

He remembers the chaos and panic that ensued as the tornado lifted the mobile home off the ground. His mother, Marie Carter, said their home was then dropped five feet while her husband, two daughters, youngest son and two family friends were inside.“Our walls were blown in and half of our roof was ripped off,” she said. “It wasn’t livable at that point.”

According to Carter, the family went back to their home on Ind. 45 on May 31 and attempted to salvage anything that remained. They found it hadbeen bulldozed by their landlord without notification.


Funds to help homeless could be running short– Times-Mail, July 17, 2011

A program aimed at reducing homelessness in Monroe and neighboring counties is in danger of losing funding and being put out of business.Scott Stowers, the man responsible for running the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program in Region 10, said the program has been a great benefit to the local area and has made an impact in reducing and preventing homelessness.

The federally funded program, administered through the state, started as part of the stimulus package with a three-year timeline, scheduled to end in September 2012. Originally, Indiana was awarded between $17 million and $19 million for the program, but due to budget cuts, the allotment now totals $1.2 million for the entire state. Whether any of that money will come to Region 10, which covers Monroe, Morgan, Owen, Greene, Lawrence and Martin counties, is unknown.


Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity celebrates century of achievement with event at IU– Herald-Times

In honor of the 100th anniversary of the first African-American fraternity founded at Indiana University, Mayor Mark Kruzan deemed Thursday Kappa Alpha Psi Day in Bloomington. And during the opening ceremony of the fraternity’s Centennial Pilgrimage at Dunn Meadow, Kruzan presented the organization with a commemorative plaque and commended the fraternity on its dedication to achievement and community service.

Thousands of members of the organization from across the country, along with their families, returned to IU to celebrate the organization’s 80th Grand Chapter conclave and the centennial of the founding. The fraternity, begun Jan. 5, 1911, by 10 African-American college students, now has more than 150,000 members with 721 undergraduate and alumni chapters in every state of the United States, as well as chapters internationally


Day camp at Crestmont Boys and Girls Club keep young minds active– Herald-Times

By the end of fifth grade, children of low-income households on average are nearly three years behind their more affluent peers, primarily due to summer learning loss, according to a 2007 study published by the American Sociological Review.

The Crestmont Boys and Girls Club is attempting to close that achievement gap locally by offering free summer camp to low-income children. This is the first year the club, part of the Boys and Girls Club of Bloomington, has offered a discounted $5 fee for families receiving assistance from the Bloomington Housing Authority, and free waivers for those who are not able to pay it, Crestmont club unit director Shawna Meyer-Niederman said.

The cost per child for the all-day day camp is on average $560 per session, but through community support and donations, the Crestmont club is able to accommodate dozens of children on a daily basis.


Law  enforcement strive for recovery following job-related crises, LSU Crisis Communications Assignment, Spring 2011

Car accidents, house fires and natural disasters are the types of events some people are lucky
enough to experience sparingly in their lives. Police officers, on the other hand, by the very nature of their jobs, are exposed to traumatic events and crisis on an everyday basis. How well they perform during a crisis situation can be the difference between life and death, but another factor that is just as important is what happens to police officers after the crisis is over.

According to Audrey Honig, chief psychologist for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, suicide rates for police are at least 18 per 100,000 officers, which is a higher
rate than the general population. One of the suspected causes for this pattern
among law enforcement is post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD.  The National Institute for Mental Health defines PTSD as an anxiety disorder that some people develop after seeing or living through a dangerous event. Because of the seriousness of PTSD as a result of job-related trauma, local law enforcement agencies have put practices in place to aid officers in recovery following an incident.


Vietnam veteran shares post war battles, LSU Crisis Communications Class Assignment, Spring 2011

More than 40 years after serving in military war zones, former Army Sgt. Charles Bovia can still smell the scent of gun powder and hear the deafening explosions of incoming enemy assaults, every time he reminisces on the torturous days and nights spent fighting in the Vietnam War.

“Vietnam never leaves. It stays with you,” he said. “It is always there on my mind, at one time or another.”

Bovia had always wanted to join the military and shorty after finishing high school in the spring of 1965, he joined the United States Army. Less than a year after basic training, at only 19 years old, he found himself stationed as a gunner and cook in the midst of a war.



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