Spring 2016 Feature Story: Art

A creative collaboration

Greg Lago, a sculptor with the Fibonacci 321 art gallery, patches holes in the walls while setting up  the space for the gallery’s opening. The gallery, 321 James St., Clayton, was scheduled to open May 6. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Greg Lago, a sculptor with the Fibonacci 321 art gallery, patches holes in the walls while setting up the space for the gallery’s opening. The gallery, 321 James St., Clayton, was scheduled to open May 6. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Fibonacci 321 brings 11 artists together in Clayton

By Gabrielle Hovendon, NNY Living

When Kari Zelson Robertson first came up with the idea for Clayton’s newest art gallery, she was thinking all in clay.

Ms. Robertson, a local potter and organizer of the Northern New York Art Trail, had wanted to establish a collaborative gallery with multiple artists paying the bills, staffing the exhibits and reaping the rewards of a common space. At first, she planned to include only clay artists, but she later decided that she — and the public — would be more interested in a variety of art media.

And so Fibonacci 321 was born. Opening May 6 at 321 James St. in Clayton, the gallery will feature finely crafted work in wood, metal, clay, textiles, glass, drawing and painting by 11 north country artists.

“I think this is going to be a unique offering because the variety of artists we have is really interesting,” said Ms. Robertson, who manages and is also an exhibiting artist at Fibonacci 321. “We have around two people for each medium, and they’re local artists who are very committed to their craft. These are people who have extensive experience in exhibiting their work. A few of them are or have been teachers, and they’re generally looking for a way, as I am, to stay in the north country. We like it here, we want to continue to live here, and we’re hoping it will make our work even more worthwhile.”

Greg Lago, a sculptor with the Fibonacci 321 gallery, Clayton, patches holes in  the walls while setting up space for the gallery’s opening. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Greg Lago, a sculptor with the Fibonacci 321 gallery, Clayton, patches holes in the walls while setting up space for the gallery’s opening. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Fibonacci 321 is organized democratically around the premise that the 11 participating artists will share equally in the running of the gallery. Although each artist will keep the proceeds from the sale of their own artwork, they will take turns staffing the gallery and divide up tasks like scheduling, website design and grounds upkeep.

Additionally, each artist is responsible for knowing about their fellows’ background, works and processes so that they can explain all the exhibited pieces to interested visitors. Ms. Robertson said she also envisions future collaborations between the artists, and she’s already had one of her clay “fossil” pieces mounted in a jewelry setting by one of the jewelers.

“What I was really looking for were people who were highly accomplished in their field and who were good team players and hard working,” she said about forming the gallery’s roster. “I’m glad for the chance to be able to do this and collaborate with some really interesting artists.”

One such artist, Mary Knapp, is a local quilter who incorporates mathematical patterns such as tessellations — and, fittingly, the Fibonacci series — into her precise, colorful quilts. She’s been quilting for many years, even having one of her designs grace the cover of a mathematics textbook, but she said she’s never been involved in a collaborative endeavor like Fibonacci 321.

“Part of the appeal of the gallery is that it’s a group of 11 different artists and we’re all bringing a little piece of ourselves into the gallery,” she said. “I think it’s just going to be a lot of fun. There’s nothing else like this gallery in Clayton or anyplace along the river. It’s going to be classy, it’s going to be unique, and it’s going to have items there that you can’t find anywhere else.

“I’m really looking forward to meeting the visitors to the gallery,” she continued. “I was a teacher, and I love showing people how to do things, so I will really enjoy showing them how I work and how they can do this.”

Owned by the Thousand Islands Arts Center, the gallery’s James Street site has previously been home to a resident potter, arts classes and, most recently, gift shops. Now, it will continue in that tradition of arts education, at least informally: Ms. Robertson hopes to see not only customers shopping for a special gift but also families bringing in their children to show them handmade work. (To that end, the gallery is also planning to host some demonstrations and outdoor activities.)

According to Leslie Rowland, executive director of the Thousand Islands Arts Center, Fibonacci 321 is ideally situated for visitors: it’s both in a desirable commercial space in downtown Clayton and at the entrance to the TI Arts Center campus.

What’s in a name?

Leonardo Bonacci (1170 – 1250) — known as Fibonacci, and Leonardo of Pisa, Leonardo Pisano Bigollo, Leonardo Fibonacci—was an Italian mathematician, considered to be “the most talented Western mathematician of the Middle Ages.”

fib WEBFibonacci gave his name to a sequence of numbers whose proportions echo throughout the natural world. The Fibonacci sequence, which is formed by adding the previous two numbers in the sequence together (for example, 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8), has been found in flower petals, pinecones, hurricanes, shell spirals and even galaxy patterns. The Fibonacci sequence is also the foundation for the “Golden Ratio” or “Divine Proportion,” which can be seen in ancient art and architecture.

“Essentially, the idea is that there’s a natural order and beauty that pervades math and art,” Kari Zelson Robertson said about the gallery’s name choice. “And 321 is a reverse Fibonacci number, so it seems to fit.”

“I think there’ll be an organic pass-through of people between our galleries,” Ms. Rowland said. “We always love to collaborate with fellow artists, and we’re really delighted to have this fine group of artisans located on our campus. I think it’s going to be a win-win for us, and I think it’s going to be really good for Clayton, too.”

Ms. Robertson agreed that the location was ideal, with the back of Fibonacci 321’s seven-room gallery adjacent to the TI Arts Center’s pottery studio. Like Ms. Rowland, she anticipates a good flow of visitors between the two sites.

“One of the things that is exciting about being in Clayton is the growth of activity in the creative sector,” Ms. Robertson said. “This synergy is something that our group appreciates and wants to be a part of. …There is enough arts and lifestyle activity going on there that the village has become an attraction. A visitor can eat a fine meal, go to a concert, watch a sunset, and take home a one-of-a-kind piece of art, all in one small village.”

The gallery will participate in the Memorial Day weekend River Open Studio Tour, and it will have its grand opening from 6 to 8 p.m. May 6, with free refreshments and classical guitar music by Gary Walts. That night, the artists will be on hand to discuss their work and show visitors around the space, hoping that people will not only purchase the art on display but also learn something about it.

“I think that when people know more about the arts, they’re more interested in owning a piece of art,” Ms. Robertson said. “A lot of times, people might not know what it takes to create something, and when you learn about the process, it makes you appreciate it more. Regardless of whether there’s a sale, we want to be the kind of place where people can come in and they can learn something, enjoy themselves, and have a nice conversation.”

Fibonacci 321 / Who’s who

Meet The Artists

The 11 artist-hosts of Fibonacci 321 are:
Dave Ciechanowski — clay
Peter Curtis — fine furniture
Foster Holcombe — glass
Ginny Hovendon — painting, drawing
Mary Knapp — quilts
Greg Lago — printmaking, sculpture
Brian Lister — painting
Claudia Loomis — textiles, jewelry
Suzan McDermott — photography
Kari Zelson Robertson — clay
Gina Wells — metals, jewelry.

To Learn More

For more information, visit the gallery’s Facebook page at Facebook.com/Fibonacci321 or contact Kari Zelson Robertson at fibart321@gmail.com or 777-0612.

Gabrielle Hovendon is a former Watertown Daily Times reporter and a freelance writer studying for her Ph.D. at the University of Georgia, Athens. Contact her at ghovendon@gmail.com.

Spring 2016: North Country Notes

A woman of courage and conviction, ahead of her time

Catherine Keese went to prison in Dannemora. Several times. Voluntarily.  [Read more…]

Spring 2016: Wellness

Healthy eating now is your springboard for a life well lived

Michelle Graham

Michelle Graham

Pay attention parents, it’s about time we all wake up. The eating habits our children have developed need a little help. In some cases, they need a lot of help. Building healthy food habits today truly can last a lifetime.

Every single thing we consume really does matter. Simple daily changes can boost overall health for your family. Remember to make changes slowly and add one new health habit each and every week. Before too long, those small changes add up to big results. [Read more…]

Spring 2016: Food

Plan grad party menus wisely

Boo Wells

Boo Wells

Grab-and-go foods best for fast-moving revelers

Despite the apparent confusion at Mother Nature’s Weather Headquarters, spring has begun and summer is reputed to be right around the corner. If you have children in grade school you have been repeatedly updated on how many days there are left until summer vacation. Those people in the back seat of the Mom-mobile have their iPhones counting down the days until they can begin parental torture with loud proclamations of boredom.

If you have a high school senior you definitely know the number of days until the end of the semester and the start of the graduation festivities. The clock is ticking down on the school year, the memories have been made, friendships have been forged, term papers and finals completed, college acceptance letters received, plans made for the future. Yet, despite all the joy and celebration there will also be loss and heartache. Most of us can look back at our school years and remember hearing about a tragedy that struck another community. If you were not impacted directly, chances are you were not really affected.

Flash forward to today and social media has made the world a much smaller place as it has brought us all closer together. One community’s misfortune is no longer contained and, as a result, we are all touched and we all grieve.

Social media has brought us closer together during times of tragedy, but it also teaches us how we can, and do, impact one another, for better or for worse. Learning the consequences of our actions may help us to be more compassionate and open minded. From the outside looking in, the youth of today seem to be a kinder and more tolerant group than when I was a child. As I eavesdrop on the conversations in the backseat I learn about kids who are different from their peers and in my heart I feel for them. But, as the back-seater’s dialogue continues, I hear more accepting comments that would not have been spoken in my school years. I cannot resist interjecting, my curiosity is too much to contain. I play the devil’s advocate, I try to bait the back seaters in hopes of comprehending their way of thinking.

Me: “That kid is (pick your adjective)?”

“Gross, why did he do that to his hair?”

“What’s up with that fashion statement?”

”I bet they are just trying to get attention”

“Do other kids tease him or her?”

The back-seaters always respond with a vengeance. They cannot believe my ignorance. How could I be so closed minded, so judgemental and so wrong.

The back-seaters: “Mom! What is wrong with you?”

“Who cares that they are (same adjective as above)!”

“So? What is the big deal?”

“Nobody cares about that! “

“Gosh, Mom!”

So I go back to being the silent chauffeur, stung by the back-seater’s reprimand and awestruck by their willingness to accept, even embrace those who are different. Their lack of tolerance for intolerance hangs heavy in the air. I am so proud of their empathy both locally and globally.

They are so much more aware of what is going on in the world around them than I was at their age, or maybe even now. They embrace diversity, they are kind to each other, they support and nurture even the most unlikely members of their community and they include everyone.

What, you wonder, does this have to do with food? As graduation draws near and the celebratory party plans come together, remember that their eyes are wide open, their arms outstretched ready to embrace and their hearts a large. They welcome everyone to the table. Be ready; the guests will be numerous, joyful and hungry.

Graduation parties will be well attended, even if the attendees are hoping from one party to another. Plan your menu wisely. I suggest focusing on foods that kids can eat while they are chatting or heading to the next shindig. Food that they can grab and go are especially helpful to “drive-by” revelers with lots of parties to attend. Fruit on skewers or grilled vegetables on kabobs, a taco station with loads of toppings or a barbecue pulled pork sandwich station with different types of cole slaw, barbecue sauces and rolls.

STEPHEN SWOFFORD n WATERTOWN DAILY TIMES Barbecue sandwich

Pulled pork & homemmade BBQ sauce

(Yield: 8 cups sauce; 12 to 15 8-ounce servings of pork)

Ingredients

1 stick unsalted butter
2 cup finely diced onion
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
2 cup cider vinegar
2 cup Worcester sauce
4 cups ketchup
4 Tablespoons dry mustard
8 Tablespoons brown sugar
4 Tablespoons paprika
4 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper (add more if you dare)
10 pound pork shoulder
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Melt the butter in a large stainless steel pot. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until translucent. Keep the heat low and avoid caramelizing the onion and garlic mixture. Stir in the vinegar, Worcester sauce, ketchup, mustard, brown sugar, paprika, Kosher salt and cayenne pepper. Bring to a boil, decrease the heat, and simmer for 30 to 45 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and cool to room temperature. If you are not going to use the sauce right away, refrigerate it until you are ready to use it. The sauce will be even better the next day when the flavors have had a chance to mellow. This recipe will make enough sauce for 45 pounds of meat. If you like to have more sauce for serving, double this recipe and you will have some leftover sauce for another time. Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Line a large roasting pan with aluminum foil. Liberally salt and pepper the pork shoulder. Place the meat in the roasting pan fat side up. Roast in a 250 degrees oven for 10 to 12 hours. The meat will be tender and falling off of the bone. Let the meat cool slightly and shred with two forks or roughly chop with a sharp chef knife. Discard the bone. Combine the meat and barbecue sauce and serve with crusty rolls and coleslaw.

Boo Wells is chef and owner of the Farm House Kitchen, a catering company and cooking school in Sackets Harbor. Contact her at sacketsfarm housekitchen@gmail.com or visit www.thefarmhousekitchen.com.

Spring 2016: Fashion

Prom fashion made simple

Caitlin Archibald, 15, an intern at A Touch of Grace, Watertown, displays an open-back prom dress. Open-back dresses are a popular style this prom season. Photo by AFM Photography.

Caitlin Archibald, 15, an intern at A Touch of Grace, Watertown, displays an open-back prom dress. Open-back dresses are a popular style this prom season. Photo by AFM Photography.

From style selection to DIY, local experts say choices shouldn’t overwhelm when searching for the perfect formal dress

By Katie Machia, NNY Living

Kathy Lettiere, owner of A Touch of Grace, 440 Coffeen St., Watertown, has worked with many mothers and daughters searching for the perfect prom dress since she opened her store 20 years ago.

Mrs. Lettiere offers some helpful advice to avoid potential conflicts.

“The girl needs to express her own individual style,” she said “She really has to love the dress.”

While mothers can give their daughters some guidance, they should be careful “not to press them to choose the style and color that they personally like” if their daughter does not have the same opinion, Mrs. Lettiere said.

“You don’t want your daughter to buy a prom dress and think back in years to come that she liked the dress, but did not really love it,” she said.

Sometimes money may be an issue. If the dress cost more than the parent’s budget, “you could offer to pay half, and have your daughter pay half,” she said.

It’s not unusual for a girl to first come into the store, looking at dresses with her friends and after finding the “right one,” returning with her mother to get her approval, Mrs. Lettiere said.

Staff at A Touch of Grace keep a registry of the prom dresses sold, and they will not sell the same dress to two girls who are planning to attend the same prom. Not only will they not sell the same style, but they won’t sell the same style even if it’s in a different color, said Mrs. Lettiere.

A Touch of Grace offers dresses in sizes zero to 30 and carries designers such as Alfred Angelo, DaVinci, Jovani, LaFemme, Sidney’s Closet and many others. In 2011, the store added a dress showroom to expand its inventory and the number of dressing rooms.

Some of the most requested styles at A Touch of Grace have included two-piece dresses, beaded dresses, and those with open backs, Mrs. Lettiere said.

According to major fashion publications, other prom dress trends this spring include:

  • Cutouts — Cutouts are one of the most popular trends this season. From a subtle cutout on the back to cutouts on the sides of a gown, these will surely be a popular look at your prom. There are so many different variations to the size and shapes of these cutouts, you’re guaranteed to find one that suits you best.
    n One-color dresses — In recent years, it’s been all about sparkly, glittery, shiny gowns. There is more of a movement toward one-color, more simple pieces. If you’re going for a simple gown, make sure there is more emphasis on the shape of the dress. Red, black, white and dark blue are some of the most popular colors for this trend.
  • Two-piece dresses — You can thank Taylor Swift for the popularization of this trend. Since her appearance at the Grammy Awards this year in a colorful two-piece look, this has been predicted to be one of the most popular prom dress styles. Celebrities including Emma Stone, Sarah Hyland and even Rihanna have been seen wearing this style. This is the perfect way to show off some skin while still keeping things classy. You can wear this with a long sleeve or strappy top and a short skirt or long skirt for the bottom.
  • Floral prints — Floral prints are having a moment this year. The ultra-feminine style can be on the bodice, skirt or even the entire pattern of the gown. The bolder the print, the better, it seems this season. This print has always been popular, but seems to be a hit now more than ever.
  • Sheer — The sheer material trend has grown in recent years. This style is a perfect way to get those ball gown aspects in your look without wearing a full skirt. Generally, this style is seen on the bottom of the dress, usually with an intricate floral lace pattern meshing in with it. It can also be used as a top layer over the original pattern of the dress. Finally, it can be used for paneling on a dress, for the appearance of cutouts without the actual cutting out of the material.
  • Off-the-shoulder — This trend is not only big in everyday wear, but also in the evening wear segment. This style can be seen on a one-piece or a two-piece dress. The material can be a beaded, printed, or have a lace design. This is a perfect way to ensure you have a unique cut to the top of your dress.
  • High slits — This style was made famous by Angelina Jolie at the Oscars in 2012. Since then, designers and celebrities have been including this style in their looks for almost every red carpet event. The rule of thumb for a high slit is to make sure there is coverage everywhere else, and this style is bound to make a statement.
  • High-low split skirt styles — Another trend made famous by Taylor Swift is the high-low split skirt style. This style is perfect for dancing. Your legs aren’t restricted by a tight dress, but you have the long material in the back to keep the dress fancy looking.

 


A style all their own

Kyra Philbrick, 17, an 11th-grade student at Watertown High School, sews the lining of her prom dress. “I’ve been planning this since I started sewing,” she said of the dress she plans to wear next year. Photo by AMF Photography.

Kyra Philbrick, 17, an 11th-grade student at Watertown High School, sews the lining of her prom dress. “I’ve been planning this since I started sewing,” she said of the dress she plans to wear next year. Photo by AMF Photography.

Students craft prom, homecoming dresses

Some high school students choose to create their own prom or homecoming dresses, rather than buying them.

Susan Lauraine, Watertown High School family and consumer science teacher, has been teaching for more than 27 years. She has allowed students to make their own dresses as part of a graded project.

“This is a two-semester elective class, and the first semester is clothing core,” she said. “We cover the history and the cycles of fashion, how fibers are made, and how the sewing machine works.”

The second semester is clothing production, and that’s when students have the opportunity to make a dress for a special occasion, such as a prom or homecoming dance.

“There are not a lot, maybe one or two a year, and it’s not every year,” Mrs. Lauraine said. “It’s a lot of work and can be costly.”

But for those who choose the option, it can be a very rewarding way to express their creativity and originality, along with showing off their fashion design and sewing skills, she said.

While the choice of fabrics and designs has changed over the years, “students have always like shiny and glittery,” she said.

“I always say concentrate on what looks good,” Mrs. Lauraine said. “Aim for simple designs with awesome fabrics.”
She recalled some dresses made by former Watertown High School students.

“Donna Sanders made a dress out of netting with hula hooping, there was just a bodysuit underneath,” she said.

“Alex Smith also created a dress three years ago. She had phenomenal skills. The dress was a classic design, fit perfect, and wasn’t outlandish.”

Kyra Philbrick, 17, is a junior at Watertown High School and just recently started working on her prom dress for next year.

“I’ve been planning this since I started sewing,” she said. “I want to have my own original dress.”

Her dress will be a strapless, gold-colored “high-low split skirt” with a russet brown lining.

Although she is not making a prom dress, Chynna Tucker, 15, is working on a dress to wear for the next homecoming dance. She just started it a few days ago.

“I think it’s going to be a fun, yet challenging task,” she said.
Her homecoming dress will be a long style with a chiffon glittery yoke, a bunched midriff and a bunched skirt.

There are 12 students in Mrs. Lauraine’s class, three boys and nine girls. The boys have been making bow ties and pocket scarves, and the girls have been working on evening bags.

Some of her past students have continued on with careers in fashion and costume design, with several attending colleges in New York City following their WHS graduation.

Mrs. Lauraine’s family and consumer science class recently made approximately 50 costumes for the school’s production of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” last month.

An upcoming project will focus on sewing dresses for underprivileged girls in Africa, as a way to help promote self-esteem, Mrs. Lauraine said.

Katie Machia, 18, is a Watertown native and freshman at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. She writes about fashion on her blog, theaisleofstyle.com, and is a regular contributor to NNY Living. She also models for print and runway shows. Contact her at theaisleofstyle@gmail.com.

Spring 2016 Cover Story: Star Students

Service Above Self

IHC student Makenzie Kramer was a member of the Northern New York Community Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Council last school year. The council awarded a grant to Children’s Miracle Network at Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, to purchase new activity books for children at the hospital. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNy Living.

IHC student Makenzie Kramer was a member of the Northern New York Community Foundation’s Youth Philanthropy Council last school year. The council awarded a grant to Children’s Miracle Network at Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown, to purchase new activity books for children at the hospital. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

North country students are making a big impact in their schools and communities for the good of others

By Norah Machia, NNY Living

An increasing number of young people nationwide are choosing to volunteer their time and energy to help people in their own communities. Although the statistics may vary, many publications have reported that teenage volunteerism continues to be on the rise.

It’s no secret to parents and teachers that volunteer work can help students develop important character traits, including respect and compassion for others. And students themselves appear to be drawing the same conclusion. According to the AmeriCorps program, teenagers are twice as likely to volunteer now compared with the past few decades.

The north country is no exception. Every school district in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties has examples of students who have a strong passion for helping others. Here are just a few:

Makenzie L. Kramer, 17
Immaculate Heart Central School

After joining the Youth Philanthropy Council of the Northern New York Community Foundation last year, Makenzie L. Kramer gained a real appreciation for the financial struggles of nonprofit agencies.

“It was an eye-opener, I didn’t know what went on behind the scenes as far as funding,” said Makenzie, the daughter of Dr. Lawrence and Anne Kramer.

Makenzie was one of several students who served on the foundation’s council and, along with other members, she heard presentations from agencies seeking funding for a variety of causes.

“It was a great opportunity to try and help as many people as possible,” Makenzie said. “Many of these agencies are trying to serve the people who have the greatest needs.”

Last year, the NNY Community Foundation organized four youth philanthropy councils at Immaculate Heart Central, Watertown High School, Potsdam Central School and Ogdensburg Free Academy. Each was responsible for awarding $10,000 in grant funding, totaling $40,000 in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties.

The council at IHC had awarded a variety of grants, including to local food banks (for purchase of personal care items), the Flower Memorial Library (for children and teen programming) and the Watertown Urban Mission (to set up a donation shed in the Carthage area).

A grant was also given to the Children’s Miracle Network at Samaritan Medical Center to purchase new activity books for children in the pediatric unit. The books have disposable pens that can be used to scratch off colors in the pictures.

This was a better option than traditional coloring books and crayons, because children can’t share crayons due to the risk of spreading germs, Makenzie said.

The IHC junior has also volunteered to spend time with elderly residents at Samaritan’s Summit Village, helping with outdoor visits, games, and even making ice cream floats.

“It really makes the residents so happy to have someone to visit them,” she said.

Makenzie has volunteered through the Faith-Based Community Service program at IHC, raking leaves for the elderly and holding bingo games for residents of nursing homes.

She is involved with the school’s Respect Life Initiative, which is presently raising money to help construct an all-girls school in Tanzania.

“We’re trying to raise money to help them build dorms,” she said. “We are also planning on corresponding with those students in the future.”

Makenzie and two friends, Macee Fay and Katey Kellogg, have also started a “She’s the First” chapter at their school to raise money to support girls in third world countries who want to be the first in their family to get a college education.

In addition to all her volunteer efforts, she was also a member of the IHC tennis team last fall and the lacrosse team this spring.

Makenzie, who is hoping to follow in her father’s footsteps one day and become a pulmonologist, also has a brother, Nicholas, 18, a pre-med student at St. John Fisher College in Rochester.

“I’m really interested in becoming a doctor because I want to help people,” said Makenzie, who has been following efforts of nonprofit organizations such as “Doctors without Borders” to help those who need medical care in third-world countries.

Romi LaClair, 12
South Jefferson Central Schools

South Jefferson Central School District student Romi LaClair, Watertown, created the “Cleats for Feet” organization to collect and distribute cleats to other north country children who cannot afford them. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Living.

South Jefferson Central School District student Romi LaClair, Watertown, created the “Cleats for Feet” organization to collect and distribute cleats to other north country children who cannot afford them. Photo by Amanda Morrison, NNY Living.

During a league soccer practice in the fall of 2014, Romi LaClair noticed a few other players were slipping and falling on the field because they didn’t have the proper footwear — a pair of cleats.

She came home from practice that day, and still upset about the situation, she started rummaging through her family’s garage, looking for any pairs of cleats that were no longer being used by her or her two siblings. She wanted to donate them to the other players in the league.

That’s how Romi’s “Cleats for Feet” was launched, a project that has resulted in the donation of hundreds of gently worn cleats for students participating in soccer, football, baseball and softball leagues, and school sports teams.

To date, more than 100 pairs of cleats have been provided to students in the South Jefferson, Belleville/Henderson, Sackets Harbor, and Indian River Central School Districts, and the Watertown City School District.

Romi’s parents, Dr. Scott LaClair and K.I. LaClair, along with her siblings, Hunter, 15, and Ruby, 10, have given their support for the project. She has also received help from many others in the community.

Romi started collecting and distributing cleats through sign-up sessions held by Eastern Shore Soccer, Pop Warner Football and Little League teams.

“All the coaches have been very helpful with this project,” she said.

“Cleats for Feet” is not only for students whose parents may not be able to afford cleats, but it’s also for students whose parents would rather swap out cleats then buy new ones each year as their children’s feet grow. That effort is also helping keep excess textile waste out of the landfills.

The donated cleats must be in “gently used” condition, and they’re cleaned up before being redistributed.

The Watertown Fairgrounds YMCA staff have assisted with the “Cleats for Feet” effort, as they have many students who pass through their doors at the Fairgrounds YMCA for sports leagues, Romi said. The staff have helped to both collect and distribute cleats.

Steve Rowell, YMCA Health and Wellness director, and Schreene Babcock, YMCA volunteer coordinator, have been very supportive of her efforts, Romi said.

Recently, a donation of new football cleats was also made at the end of the season by Dick’s Sporting Goods, she added.

“It makes me feel really good to be able to help people this way,” Romi said.

Romi has also volunteered her time for the Rohde Community Center in Adams, and serves as the manager for the South Jefferson Central School varsity girls lacrosse team.

Her “Cleats for Feet” project was even given a boost by former Watertown City Manager Mary M. Corriveau. During her acceptance speech earlier this year for the Israel A. Shapiro Citizenship Award, Mrs. Corriveau refereed to Romi’s project as an example of future community volunteerism, and distributed business cards with contact information at the award dinner.

Anyone interested in donating or receiving cleats through the “Cleats for Feet” program can text or call Mrs. LaClair at 778-6533. Or check out the Facebook page: Facebook.com/cleatsforfeetNY

Tyler D. Eddy, 17
Harrisville Central School

Harrisville Central School District senior Tyler Eddy, 17, is involved with his school’s Environmental Club, and the Adopt-a-Highway Program in Lewis County. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Harrisville Central School District senior Tyler Eddy, 17, is involved with his school’s Environmental Club, and the Adopt-a-Highway Program in Lewis County. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Volunteering to help other people is “actually a way of helping out myself,” said Tyler D. Eddy, a senior at Harrisville Central School.

“My happiness is other people’s happiness,” Tyler said. “I’m always cheerful, and trying to make other people smile. That’s probably why I was voted class clown.”

In 10th grade, Tyler was asked to join the Lewis County Youth Advisory Council, which was established in 1997. The council includes government, non-government, and student representatives from across Lewis County. Members meet regularly to make recommendations to the Lewis County Board of Legislators, along with county departments, regarding services for youth.

“We have so much money per year, and we have to vote on the different programs that will get funded,” Tyler said.

Tyler, who plans to pursue a career in electrical engineering, is the son of Mark and Joanne Eddy of Harrisville. Mr. Eddy is a retired corrections officer and Mrs. Eddy is a bank teller at Community Bank. He also has an older brother, Jacob, 22, Harrisville.

The youth advisory board has approved funding for a variety of programs, including summer recreation and after-school programs at Harrisville Central. The programs offer numerous options for elementary age children, such as activities in the gym, reading, or computer lab, Tyler said.

Tyler has also volunteered for programs sponsored by the youth bureau, including the Homeless Christmas Tree Initiative and National Night Out.

He is also a member of the National Honor Society, the Adopt-a-Highway Program and the Environmental Club, whose members are planning to pick-up trash along Route 3 in the Town of Diana.

“We’re hoping to go from one border of the town across to the other border,” he said.

Tyler has also been active in school sports, having played both soccer and basketball. Last year, he served as score keeper for the basketball games, and this past season, he has volunteered to help set up and take down the gym between games. He also enjoys running, reading, video games, hunting and fishing.

Rachel E. Leach, 17
South Lewis Central School

Rachel Leach, 17, plays alto saxophone in her school band and volunteers to play with the Lowville Village Band. She the senior class Technical Honor Award winner this year at South Lewis Central School, Turin. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Rachel Leach, 17, plays alto saxophone in her school band and volunteers to play with the Lowville Village Band. She the senior class Technical Honor Award winner this year at South Lewis Central School, Turin. Photo by Stephen Swofford, NNY Living.

Rachel Leach has a love of music, and shares that passion with others in her community.

The high school senior plays the alto saxophone in her school band, and has performed as a member of the Bi-County Band for Jefferson and Lewis counties. She recently started to play the tenor saxophone as well.

A few years ago, Rachel decided to join the Lowville Village Band, giving her the opportunity to gain more experience. But even more important, it has given her the chance to share her love of music with the community.

Village band members volunteer their time to perform at numerous events throughout Lewis County, including the annual Cream Cheese Festival held each summer in Lowville.
Rachel’s future plans include studying music in college.

“I’m planning to earn a doctorate degree and become a music professor,” she said.

In addition to her musical interests, Rachel has spent much of her time volunteering for environmental causes in her community. In the process, she has developed a strong interest in recycling and organic gardening.

Rachel is president of her school’s environmental club, “Students Against a Vanishing Environment.” Some of their work starts within their own school building.

“We regularly collect paper, bags, cans and bottles in the classrooms,” she said. “We have a truck that comes to the school to pick up all the recyclables.”

Rachel is the senior class Technical Honor Award winner this year at South Lewis Central School, Turin. She is enrolled in the culinary arts program through Jefferson-Lewis BOCES and is the daughter of Lisa Baxter, Port Leyden. She has an older sister, Rebecca Roberts, 20, Boonville.

As secretary of the National Honor Society, she has also volunteered her time for the Lyons Falls Alive River Clean-up. As part of a government class, Rachel has participated in service projects at the Humane Society and the WPBS Public Television Station, Watertown.

Rachel also has a strong interest in organic farming, and spent the past two summers volunteering at the Maris Farm community garden in Constableville, where she and several others have grown vegetables for the local food pantries.

“I’m very interested in promoting fresh produce that is not sprayed with harsh chemicals,” she said. “If you grow it yourself, you know it hasn’t been sprayed.”

Jack P. Kelly, 17
Ogdensburg Free Academy

Ogdensburg Free Academy students Abigail Marshall, left, and Jack Kelly hold pajamas outside Abigail’s house. Jack has been a big supporter of the “PJs 4 Xmas” program started by Abigail and her sister. Photo by Jason Hunter, NNY Living.

Ogdensburg Free Academy students Abigail Marshall, left, and Jack Kelly hold pajamas outside Abigail’s house. Jack has been a big supporter of the “PJs 4 Xmas” program started by Abigail and her sister. Photo by Jason Hunter, NNY Living.

One of the biggest challenges that Jack P. Kelly faced when he served on the Youth Philanthropy Council of the Northern New York Community Foundation was deciding which nonprofit agencies would receive funding, he said.

“There were more agencies requesting money than we could select,” Jack said. “It was a tough choice, everyone had a strong message to share.”

After listening to presentations and reading through paperwork, the students decided that funding should be directed to “the projects we felt were most important in the community,” he said.

Jack advocated for one of those projects. “PJs 4 Xmas,” to receive grant money through the OFA chapter of the Youth Philanthropy Council. His classmate, Abigail Marshall, and her sister, Camille Marshall, had started the project in 2009 as a way to ensure that needy children in St. Lawrence County would wake up with new pajamas on Christmas morning.

In 2012, the Ogdensburg sisters were able to turn their organization into a certified nonprofit, delivering more than 1,760 pairs of pajamas to children across the county that year.

The sisters were even able to use a converted FedEx truck they purchased for $1,000 to deliver the pajamas to several community organizations in Heuvelton, Canton and Ogdensburg.

“I really felt their message of helping less fortunate kids at Christmas,” said Jack, a high school junior.

He was also impressed that the sisters, one of whom was his age, were so successful in “making a difference in their community.”

Jack, who is interested in becoming a general practitioner, is the son of Jeff Kelly, information technology director at Canton Central School, and Andrea Kelly, real estate broker with Bruyere Chadwick Realty LLC. He has two younger siblings, Connor, 14, and Caitlin, 11.

He is also a member of Key Club, and through that organization he and other students have been volunteering to preserve and maintain the Kids Kingdom playground, a large wooden playground in Morissette Park.

Jack has also volunteered to maintain the Maple City Trail, a local walking and jogging trail, and has helped with the annual “Lights on the River” fundraiser held during the holidays.

At OFA, Jack is a member of the football, hockey and lacrosse teams.

Marc Tessier, 16
Massena Central School

Marc Tessier has been volunteering at the Massena Neighborhood Center for the past seven years. Photo by Jason Hunter, NNY Living.

Marc Tessier has been volunteering at the Massena Neighborhood Center for the past seven years. Photo by Jason Hunter, NNY Living.

One day when Marc Tessier was volunteering at the food pantry operated out the Massena Neighborhood Center, he paused to take a look at all the canned fruit being distributed to needy individuals and families.

“I thought to myself, we could give them something better,” said Marc, a junior at Massena Central School.

Marc had already been involved in a vegetable growing project for the food pantry, helping to plant tomatoes, cabbage and cauliflower. But he wanted to take it one step further and try planting fruit trees.

He planted 10 apple trees and 10 pear trees on land next to the neighborhood center, which is one of several operated with assistance from the St. Lawrence County Community Development Program.

The CDP is a private, nonprofit agency that offers assistance throughout St. Lawrence County, including neighborhood centers, Head Start preschool programs, and weatherization services.

It was incorporated in 1965 to help low-income families work toward self-sufficiency. The agency encourages community participation in many of its programs.

It was two years ago that Marc planted those fruit trees, and he has returned each season to maintain them. This is the first spring that the apple trees are starting to yield fruit, Marc said.

“I really thought it would be better to offer people fresh fruit rather than canned,” he said.

Marc is the son of Michael and Elaine Tessier, Massena. He is planning to enter the automotive field after high school graduation.

In addition to helping stock shelves and distribute food at the neighborhood center, he has also volunteered to deliver boxes of food during the holiday season to residents who are not able to drive to the center.

“I really enjoy volunteering,” said Marc. “I know what I’m doing will really help someone out. That’s a good feeling.”

Marc is also a member of his school’s robotics team and the rifle team.

Norah Machia is a freelance writer who lives in Watertown. She is a 20-year veteran journalist and former Watertown Daily Times reporter. Contact her at norahmachia@gmail.com

Spring 2016: Today’s Gardner

Start a family garden and watch kids’ excitement grow

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Brian Hallett

There is an affinity and almost magnetic attraction between children and the earth, whether it’s making mud or discovering the emergence of a germinating seed. Children and nature seem to go hand in hand. They just love getting their hands into dirt, digging and planting. Whether you are an accomplished gardener or a novice, gardening is a chance to partner with nature to make magic. [Read more…]