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When we published the beautifully illustrated picture book The Legend of the Gathers: Protectors of the Light we were trying to tell a story unique to Corning. 

At the time we didn’t realize it was about so much more than that story. 

Inspired by the true story of one Corning's role in making the first light bulbs for inventor Thomas Edison and the mysterious boy who blew that first glass bubble,The Legend of the Gathers is also a story about seeing magic in the world, about seeing the light in things. 

Jack and Fetch from The Legend of the Gathers
Jack and Fetch from The Legend of the Gathers Illustration by Erin Nowak

It’s about being a light, too, in the dark. And sharing your light with others. It’s about making someone’s day a little brighter somehow. 

So, throughout March and April, we’re gathering such stories about people who sharing the light. People being a light for others. 

It doesn’t have to be a huge, life-changing gesture. It could be something simple like walking a dog for your neighbor who might not be able to get out. Or sharing resources with a colleague when their shipment was delayed. Maybe it’s just being present and checking in on a friend or neighbor, letting them know you care.

We’d love to hear your Share the Light stories. And many share them, too. 

Please send them to chills@corningfingerlakes.com. Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to see what stories are shared with us, as we Share the Light. #sharethelight #bethelight

Share the Light Stories

Stepping Up When the Need Arises.

Stepping Up When the Need Arises

Out in the Canisteo Valley, community spirit has always been strong. You see it at wonderful events like Hornell’s St. Patrick’s Day and Christmas celebrations. But even when parades and wagon rides aren’t part of the moment at hand, members of the community keep coming through for each other. Whether it’s donating hats, gloves and scarves during winter, providing Thanksgiving meals to those who would otherwise go without, holiday gifts to over 800 children, or local folks stepping up when there was a shortage of chickens for 200 Christmas Dinner Baskets. 

Most of that generosity goes on behind the scenes with groups like the CanisteoValley Community Outreach Committee (CCOC) collaborating with various businesses and organizations to “provide support and resources for the betterment of residents and the community as a whole.”

The CCOC formed last October, not as a formal business or as part of a nonprofit organization or service entity, but, says Valorie Whitehill, District Manager for the Hornell Partners for Growth, “just everyone taking turns helping as the need arises.”

And they sure have been “Sharing the Light” ever since. Here’s some of what they’ve been up to:

  • Collected donations and filled over 100 bags with school supplies for students for At-Home learning (this, says Valorie, is the event that got everyone working together and forming CCOC)
  • At Christmas time, the committee partnered with the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities Steuben/Livingston-Turing Point to enhance the “Angel Tree’ and “Toys-for-Tots” programs. 
  • “I believe over 800 Kids received gifts,” says Valorie, “through both organizations and all the different donation locations and groups pushing the drives.”   
  • The CCOC also created the “Home Alone Senior Gift Drive” in collaboration with Steuben County’s (Hornell) Office for the Aging and the Hornell High School Seniors to ensure that 105 Seniors on the Home Delivery Meals Program in the Canisteo Valley received gifts for Christmas.
  • High School Students adopted a Home Alone Senior, purchased a few gifts and many volunteered for a one day donation drive (several local businesses donated things like hats, gloves, hand sanitizer, etc.)
  • Billy Schu's Food Grill held their 17th Annual free Thanksgiving Meal. Each year, they provide dinners to people who are alone or can't afford a meal. Typically, people make reservations and come to restaurant to eat, but in 2020 that wasn’t possible.
    So Billy Schu’s delivered the meals to people's homes and had them available for pick up for those who could get there. Each year, they get community volunteers, as well as family and friends to help out. Valorie says, “they also have an area for people to donate hats, gloves and scarves and if someone needs them they just have to go pick out the ones they want.”
  • Billy Schu’s Food Grill assisted Turing Point (Catholic Charities) when the chickens for 200 Christmas Dinner Baskets weren’t able to be delivered due to COVID restrictions and bad weather impacting delivery. See below for more details.
  • On Valentine’s Day, CCOC partnered with the Hornell Community Outreach Group and the Hornell Intermediate School and ProAction Classes to create over 500 Valentine’s Day cards. The groups filled goodie bags with small gifts which were delivered to the Hornell Area assisted living centers/nursing homes.  

With regards to those missing Christmas Dinner Chickens, it seems that a combination of obstacles prevented Turning Point’s scheduled delivery to be part of the donated 200 Christmas Dinner Baskets for which they had people coming. Due to COVID restrictions and bad weather their intended supplier was unable to deliver the meat and the local Food Bank was closed. 

In stepped the folks at Billy Schu’s who contacted their supplier and had the necessary number of chickens delivered. Turning Point paid for the birds which were delivered to Billy Schu's early on the morning that the meals were to be handed out. Volunteers gathered there to pack the meat into trucks to take to Turning Point. 

“Then came the next hurdle,” adds Valorie. “The parking lot where the meals were going to be handed out was covered in about a foot of snow. Myself and a few of their volunteers were shoveling the parking lot when a gentleman showed up with a plow and cleared the entire lot. He would not give his name. Just knew they needed help, so he came by to help.”

Currently, about two dozen local businesses and organizations have joined the CanisteoValley Community Outreach Committee. Local folks coming to the aid of others when needed. Folks who “Share the Light” simply because it’s the right thing to do. 

 

Local Business Sharing the Love! And the light!

Nickel's Pit BBQ

Here’s a shout out for Nickel’s Pit BBQ from local resident and small business owner, Sean Lukasik.

It’s quite encouraging to witness small businesses teaming up or collaborating whether to create new products or, in some cases, to provide customers with a unique and more complete local Finger Lakes experience.

While a CSA is usually a chance for a farm or business to share a variety of its produce or products with participants, providing them with an assortment of items throughout the year, in one case it also became a chance to showcase the wonderful products of other local businesses. 

“I'd love to call out Nickel's Pit BBQ,” said Corning resident Sean Lukasik, “for the way they delivered their CSA this year. 

I bought into it back in November thinking it would be great to receive a monthly delivery of meats, cornbread, eggs, sauces, etc. - and it was so much more! They partnered with several businesses (Card Carrying Books & Gifts, Laurabelle’s Bakery, Soul Full Cup, Lucky Hare Brewing, to name a few) and highlighted products from each of them. 

The last CSA delivery even included a book called Love, Loss, and What We Ate, purchased through Card Carrying. 

What started off as a way to stock up on great food and support one local business - turned into a whole tour of regional partnerships and support for a variety of small businesses.”

 

Little Messages of Good Will 

Weiss Vineyards - Little Messages of Good Will

Last December, when they set out to begin construction on their new tasting room, Peter and Ashlee Weis were finally putting a dream into action. They certainly didn’t expect that dream would turn into a potential nightmare the very first day. 

Here’s a story about the positive impact of little messages of good will from Ashlee Weis at Weis Vineyards.  

“The first thing that really comes to mind is how many people reached out to Peter and I after his accident this winter. On our first day of construction for the new tasting room, Peter fell from a ladder and was airlifted to Strong Memorial. We were so unbelievably blessed that he was ok and ‘only’ had two small fractures in his neck and a hairline fracture in his skull.  

When we returned home, it was so heartwarming how many of our friends went out of their way to drop off treats and little messages of good will to us.  

Our wonderful neighbors dropped off a beautiful drawing from their two little girls saying they love us. The drawing is currently hanging on our fridge and will forever be a favorite piece of art at our home.  

It was very eye-opening how many people took the time to send us sweet messages and well wishes. We are so grateful that Peter is healthy. We will always remember how much it meant to us when everyone reached out.”  

In Appreciation, Going Above and Beyond

Blushing Rose Bed & Breakfast

While we sometimes hear about business owners or managers who go above and beyond for their customers, sometimes it’s the customer who goes the extra mile for a business owner. The “Share the Light” story below comes from Tami and Scott Reinhart, Innkeepers at the Blushing Rose Bed & Breakfast in Hammondsport.

“While we have been helping out our elderly neighbors with shopping, mail runs, and cooking during the pandemic, they also reciprocated by helping us while we were on quarantine. 

Probably one of my favorite stories though was when everyone was cancelling their reservations, and we did not want to penalize anyone with cancellation fees. We were absorbing the credit card processing fees so the money was coming out of our pocket, not our guest’s. 

We were very stressed and worried as we were at the end of the of season for us and we usually just squeak by paying off our bills until the new season begins. 

We received a beautiful and thoughtful card from a guest who had stayed with us in December. The note stated how much they enjoyed their stay and conversation with us at the B&B and how much they appreciated and wanted to help the small businesses during the pandemic. 

Enclosed was a check and on the Memo line were the words ‘In Appreciation’ . . .  

We were so appreciative to the guests for thinking of us and how difficult the times are for everyone, especially a small business.”

-Tami and Scott Reinhart, Innkeepers

An Extra Scoop of Kindness

Card Carrying Books

An attempt at supporting local business turns into an act of kindness and a reminder that some people go above and beyond. The following story comes from local resident Laurie A. Garner. 

“Partway through the pandemic last year, I ordered some books from Card Carrying Books and Gifts on Market Street in Corning. We generally don’t buy a lot of books, preferring to get most of them at the library, as we read so quickly, but the library had been closed for a while, and supporting a local business was really important to us.  

I had said that I would pick up my books, but when one of the books came in, I couldn’t go. My daughter, who is 3, had been exposed to a classmate who tested positive for COVID, and she had developed symptoms. My son, who is seven, had developed symptoms as well. Our whole family had to be tested and my daughter was under quarantine for two weeks. We were advised to stay as close to home as possible as well.  

I let Dusty Hewitt, whose spouse, Randi, owns Card Carrying, know about the situation, asking if it would be OK for me to pick up my order once we were out of quarantine. Dusty graciously offered to bring the book to our house, even though we live all the way in Elmira. He asked if there was anything else we needed, and I jokingly said that we wished we could have something from Dippity Do Dahs, which is my daughter’s favorite. I was totally joking.  

Imagine my surprise when he let me know he had dropped the book off, and I found not only a beautifully wrapped book on our porch with a hand written note from Bethany, one of the other people who works at the store, but a cooler full of 4 pints of Dippity Do Dah ice cream. It was such an incredibly gracious and kind gift. It cheered up our little one when she wasn’t even allowed to go on a walk around the block and was really sad. Dusty, Bethany, and Randi shared so much light with us that day. My heart was especially brightened by knowing we have such kind people in our community. Thankfully, we all tested negative, and I was able to return the favor by bringing them some pumpkin roll when I returned the cooler and picked up more books in person.” 

Working Beyond One's Job Description

Janelle at the Rockwell Museum
The Rockwell Museum

We’ve all probably heard someone make a statement about how some tasks don’t fall within their job descriptions. And usually they’re people trying to get out of work. But one Rockwell Museum employee was hired for a job that, thanks to the pandemic, got completely re-defined after she began. What did she do? Anything she could to help the rest of the team and help the organization’s mission thrive, even when the Museum was closed. 

“Janelle is awesome!” That’s how fellow Rockwell staff member, Willa Vogel describes her colleague. According to Willa, Janelle moved to the area from Seattle with no job lined up. But, serendipitously, when the Museum needed someone to take over as Events Manager, they learned that Janelle was the right person for the job. Hired in January of 2020, Janelle was in the position for less than two months when the world upended. Events, at least live in-person events like those The Rockwell is known for having (like summer fave Music and Margaritas) weren’t happening. That didn’t stop Janelle from contributing to the Museum (and the region) in a big way. 

With the Museum short staffed during much of 2020, Janelle helped out in different departments doing an assortment of jobs that were well outside of her job description including keeping up critical communications with Museum Members, processing donations, and supporting Curatorial data projects so Museums fans could continue to access the collection online while not able to visit in person. She never complained, adjusting to juggling these new roles with infectious grace and a positive outlook.

At a time when the Museum needed to augment its exceptional in-person experiences which were suddenly not viable during the beginning of the pandemic, Janelle was there to help take the museum’s virtual programing to the next level. She focused on digital initiatives and, along with a colleague, received an IMLS Cares Act grant “designed to help museums impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic share their collections and reach audiences who cannot physically visit their museums.” Janelle took on an entirely new skillset and executed over 20 virtual programs for the Museum and the community in 2020.

Janelle’s efforts to help others don’t stop at the Museum. In her spare time, she is an avid sewer and she made over 350 masks which were donated to the Schuyler Hospital. She also designed and created the giant mask for the museum’s iconic mascot, Artemus, which you can see bursting from the museum’s façade.

Meet Otis

Otis - Point of the Bluff Vineyards
Otis the French Bulldog courtesy Point of the Bluff Vineyards

Gratitude For The Kindness of Friends and Community

Here's a heartwarming story from Katrina at Point of the Bluff Vineyards:

"Just a couple of days into the new year my French Bulldog, Otis, had an accident and severely injured his back. After taking him to the emergency clinic, I learned that he needed surgery within the next 48 hours or he would likely become paralyzed or worse. The surgery was incredibly expensive and I was not going to be able to afford it.

We returned home feeling extremely hopeless. 

That night, a close friend of mine started a GoFundMe page. By the following night, we had raised enough money to get Otis his surgery which was successful.  

Now walking on his own, Otis is on the road to recovery.

The love and support from my friends, family, and community saved Otis’ life and showed me the light. I'm so thankful to be a part of such a caring and giving community!

A Partnership In Hope

Meaghan Frank
Meaghan Frank courtesy Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery

Here's a story about collaboration and community from Meaghan Frank at Dr. Konstantin Frank Winery:

“A shining light for us this past year was our active community involvement and our partnership with Pro Action's Hope Center Keuka Food Pantry.

Throughout the year in our tasting room, we created a special tasting location to highlight the Women of the Generations at our winery and we exclusively poured our Helm Series wines. During the presentation, we talked about our partnership with Proaction and the donations to help food insecurity in our local community. Since starting our partnership in March of 2020, we have donated $19,751 to the Keuka Food Pantry! 

The pandemic has allowed us to understand even more than we had that the Finger Lakes is a community of one. We all have to do our best to keep everyone in our community healthy, fed, and safe.”

" . . . the Finger Lakes is a community of one." - Meaghan Frank, Dr. Frank's Winery