charity

Batavia business owner continues his health battles, including a rare cancer

By Billie Owens
Apr 9, 2021, 5:51pm

Jeff Houseknecht, whose 42 birthday is the 26th of this month, continues his battle with a terminal stage 4 cancer so rare fewer than 100 people on the planet are known to have it.

He lives on Garden Drive in Batavia, with his wife of almost 15 years, Carolyn, and their two children, 12-year-old Zachary and 10-year-old Lily.

Jeff has had health problems since he was 20, starting with epilepsy, but was able to soldier on because of his strong work ethic and upbeat attitude. Soon after the birth of his daughter, he was hit with multiple health problems, some of which went largely undiagnosed. These ranged from pneumonia and gastrointestinal problems to a spinal condition that caused his spine to slowly fuse together.

The physical problems steadily piled on.

He eventually was also diagnosed with Crohn's disease, which in turn brought on Parkinson's disease, according to his neurologist, and the resulting impediments to movement and speech that had to be overcome. He nearly recovered but some Parkinson's symptoms remain to be wrestled with.

To continue to be mobile and able to work, he was given twice-monthly shots of Humira, an immunosuppressant drug.

But in 2014, a softball-size lesion developed on his spine, which turned out to be MRSA -- methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus -- an infectious "super bug" that's difficult to treat and eradicate.

It found an opportunity in Jeff because of the Humira regime.

More such lesions would crop up and jeopardize his health further. A golf-ball-size lesion on his forehead appeared to respond to antibiotics at first, then one morning he woke up looking like he endured the bad end of brawl and doctors told him he might lose his right eye.

When Zachary was 6, he told his family his birthday wish was for daddy not to die. The child's heart-wrenching plea was a turning point, prompting Jeff to take time from his work to support his family and instead focus on his health so he could live and resume his responsibilities.

All the while, of course, there are bills and co-pays, plus travel and living expenses that mount as does the emotional toll.

Things were looking better last year before coronavirus struck. The Houseknechts opened Farmers Insurance Agency at 214 E. Main St. in Downtown Batavia and the ribbon cutting with the Genesee County Chamber of Commerce was Feb. 20, 2020.

The COVID-19 pandemic lockdown came almost a month later. They are open now with the expected health and safety protocols in place, but like most small business owners will tell you, it's been a tough year.

And that's without the deep water the Houseknechts have had to slog through. 

But it hasn't been all bad.

"The outpouring of help and support has been probably one of the best things to come out of all this," Carolyn said this afternoon.

Sounding a little choked up, she added, "This community has helped us with housework, helped rake the yard ... we didn't expect to need this much help so soon, but we're very, very grateful for everyone's help."

Jeff said he grew up here and that's just the way people are raised -- they help their neighbors, they give to their community.

They hold basket raffles, meat auctions, 50/50s, chicken BBQs, donate farm produce, give away clothes, boots and mittens, and stock food pantries with goods, donate blood, recycle old electronics for a good cause, pray for you, enlist small armies to craft greeting cards -- you name it.

(We know firsthand they'll pull your vehicle out of a snowbank. (If you're a newcomer with California plates, your wintertime predicament may concurrently prompt the briefest faint smile, but then that could just be your imagination...))

If you'd like to help Jeff and Carolyn Houseknecht and their family monetarily, there's a GoFundMe, established by Carolyn on April 7. To date, $24,510 has been raised toward the $50,000 goal.

Read more at the GoFundMe partner site, CaringBridge.

And/or help the family out by providing them with prepared meals via Meal Train.

File photo of the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the opening of the Houseknechts' insurance agency in Batavia a year ago February.

Saturday morning photo op with Easter Bunny in Le Roy will benefit Maple Street fire victims

Jenna Read and Ally Scofield will host a charity event with the Easter Bunny on Saturday in Le Roy.

All proceeds will benefit the family that suffered catastrophic loss of all that they owned, not to mention their beloved pets, in a house fire Tuesday on Maple Street in the City of Batavia.

So if you'd like to help them out and have a moment of socially distanced springtime fun, there will be a photo op with the Bewhiskered One from 9 to 11:30 a.m. at the gazebo on Wolcott Street across from the elementary school.

All are welcome to come and take pictures and make a donation for this family of six in a time of great need.

Previously: Fundraising effort underway to assist family who lost everything in house fire

Previously: Family loses everything, including three dogs and six cats, in house fire on Maple Street

Previously: Working house fire on Maple Street in the city

Billie Owens Apr 1, 2021, 12:02pm

Pals of Jessica Newton hold drive-thru chicken BBQ fundraiser March 6 and walk-thru basket raffle

By Billie Owens
Feb 24, 2021, 4:53pm

Jessica Newton -- wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend and nurse -- needs the community's help as she struggles to regain her health and her strength.

After being diagnosed with COVID-19 and spending six days in the hospital, she returned home only to suffer a stroke a day later. She went back in the hospital and though is again back home recovering.

"One thing she isn't is a quitter. ... Jess...is staying strong so she can come home to her husband TJ and her two sons, Maverick and Emmett," according to a note sent to The Batavian by the Newton and Johnson families.

They are holding a drive-thru chicken BBQ for her from 12 p.m. until sold out on Saturday, March 6, at St. Maximilian Kolbe Roman Catholic Parish, located at 8656 Church St. in East Pembroke.

Tickets for "Racing to Recovery" are $12 each. There will also be a walk-thru basket raffle at the church that day.

Money raised will help the Newton family offset their medical expenses and help them now that Jessica, for the time being, is unable to work.

You can buy tickets, and/or drop off monetary donations or a raffle basket at:

Jess's friends and family say they appreciate the outpouring of love and support given to the frontline healthcare worker and her family.

The note continues: "This road the family is about to go down is unpredictable and may have bumps and turns, but one thing is for sure -- it will never be a road they travel alone."

Ascension Parish now accepting preorders for takeout-only pulled-pork dinner, deadline is Jan. 27

By Press Release
Jan 21, 2021, 4:55pm

From Terri King for Ascension Parish:

Ascension Parish is hosting a takeout-only pulled-pork dinner from 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 30.

Dinner are presale only/$10 each, take out only. Cut off date to preorder is Jan. 27.

Dinner is pulled pork, roll, mac & cheese, and baked beans.

Payment due prior to pickup either by (mail, collection basket or office door slot).

To order call Parish office at (585) 343-1796 and leave a message. "To order electronically see your flocknote email."

Pick up at Ascension Parish Hall parking lot, located at 19 Sumner St. in the City of Batavia.

At UMMC Tuesday: a selfless act of coworkers' charity to benefit 'a selfless soul'

By Press Release
Jan 13, 2021, 2:20pm

Submitted image and press release:

There wasn’t a dry eye in the parking lot of the hospital on Tuesday, Jan. 12, as one hardworking United Memorial Medical Center employee received a life-changing gift.

Catherine Weatherbee has worked as a secretary at the hospital for 20 years. She thought she was going out to lunch for her 60th birthday, until she was greeted by six cameras in the hospital parking lot. Next thing she knew a 2016 Subaru Legacy with a big red bow on top was pulling up beside her.

Dr. Nicholas Loffredo, Orthopedic surgeon at United Memorial, got out and yelled “Surprise!” as he walked toward her to hand her the car keys. Weatherbee’s astonished response, “No, you didn’t?!”

Ever since her car broke down two years ago, Weatherbee has been receiving rides to work by a friend or taking a cab. Her caring nature prompted Dr. Loffredo to start a GoFundMe for the United Memorial staff to donate money toward this gift. That goal was reached in mere days. 

Excitement grew as the big day approached, but there was a setback. A week before her birthday, Weatherbee got COVID-19.

“We were going to give this to her as soon as she got back and we’re just happy she’s back with us," Dr. Loffredo said. "She’s such a selfless soul and gives to everyone around her, you can’t help but love her."

Weatherbee said “I’m numb. I have no words to describe this. This is my family. I don’t have a family out in the public, but I have a family here."

She may have arrived to work in a taxicab Tuesday morning, but she went home in style.

DSS Director of Services moved by 'amazing generosity' of local businesses & employees at a 'very difficult' time

By Press Release
Dec 23, 2020, 2:05pm

Photos and information from Ben Dennis, director of Services, GC Department of Social Services:

There's an amazing generosity in the people and businesses that exist in this community. Each year, I am contacted by local businesses who want to be able to help their fellow citizens by sponsoring a family for the Holidays.

These businesses are really amazing -- how they come through with gifts for the kids and the parents who ordinarily could not afford to have a nice Christmas.

This year, the employees at O-AT-KA Milk Products Cooperative, Inc., and Tonawanda Valley Federal Credit Union (TVFCU) and Tompkins Bank of Castile (408 E. Main St.), each separately reached out to me and sponsored a separate family.

The employees themselves did all the shopping and wrapping of the gifts for each member of the family they sponsored.

Last week, the DSS caseworkers delivered the gifts to the families and they are overjoyed and incredibly grateful for the donations.

Times are very difficult right now for many families trying to make ends meet.

We have hard-working people that have had to quit their job in order to stay home and help their children with their remote school work, or we had folks who were laid off due to business closures or downsizing.

"I have to say that the way that this community comes together in a time of need is really heartwarming to me personally," Dennis said. "This community is really amazing."

Main St. Pizza Co. once again steps up to help GC CASA for Children, despite hit from COVID-19

By Press Release
Dec 18, 2020, 1:17pm

Submitted photo and press release:

When so many small businesses are taking a hit this year due to COVID-19, it hasn’t stopped Main St. Pizza owner Vic Marchese from continuing to give to others in need.

He has generously helped Genesee County CASA for Children by once again donating “Main St. For a Year” to their organization.

CASA stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates and is a nonprofit that advocates for abused and neglected children involved in the family court/child welfare system. CASA typically uses this donation as a grand prize for their annual CASAblanca Casino night at Terry Hills.

However, like so many other programs, CASA was unable to have any in person fundraisers this year. In order to continue raising funds, they decided to put Marchese’s generosity to good use by holding a raffle for the grand prize.

A total of 275 tickets were purchased for $5 each. This first time raffle was such a huge success that tickets sold out in only a week!

A live drawing was held on CASA’s Facebook page, and Patricia Wormley, of Batavia, was drawn as the lucky winner of 26 large pizzas and 26 spaghetti dinners for two.

CASA for Children would, once again, like to thank Vic Marchese for his kindness and unwavering support. 

Photo, owner of Main St. Pizza Vic Marchese, and prize winner, Patricia Wormley, of Batavia.

McCarthy foundation and Gilmartin team up to provide 300 meals from D&R Depot to UMMC staff

By Press Release
Dec 16, 2020, 11:58am

Submitted photo and press release:

The Batavia-based David M. McCarthy Memorial Foundation, in conjunction with Gilmartin Funeral Home & Cremation Company Inc. and food provided by D&R Depot, provided 300 meals to the employees at the United Memorial Medical Center this morning.

This year has been so difficult for so many, especially the doctors, nurses, first responders, aftercare workers, kitchen staff, office staff, maintenance staff and administrators.

We thought what better way to show our appreciation for their hard work and dedication than by providing a nice meal for all who are trying to keep this community healthy and safe and get back to some type of normalcy.

Our foundation, which formed in 2007, after David passed away has committed to helping all types of youth athletics in the Genesee County area. Through our annual golf tournament at Batavia Country Club and Bowling Tournament at T.F. Brown's, the foundation has donated more than $65,000 in total to youth athletics.

Partnering with Gilmartin, which has seen firsthand the toll this coronavirus pandemic has taken on the local community, we hope this small gesture will bring a morale boost to everyone at the hospital.

Photo, from left: Pete Stevens, Mike McCarthy, Brian McCarthy, TJ Woodward and Matt Meyer.

North Bergen Food Pantry and Rose Garden Bowl partner to help bring Christmas to more than 100 area youths

By Press Release
Dec 15, 2020, 12:39pm

Press release:

The North Bergen Community Food Pantry and the Bergen business, Rose Garden Bowl, have worked together to assure that more than 100 area children experience some of the magic of the holidays in the form of Christmas stockings this year.

This is the second year that the two organizations have collaborated on their Christmas Angel Stocking Program, soliciting donations of stockings filled with toys and personal items.

Donations are being made by bowling league members and patrons of Rose Garden Bowl, members of the North Bergen Presbyterian Church and the First Presbyterian Church of Byron congregations, and local families.  

The number of stockings donated has more than doubled — from 45 in 2019 to 109 stockings in 2020. In all more than 60 generous donors have gathered items for the stockings that will be distributed to 47 families. Recipients of the stockings are largely families that are clients of the North Bergen Food Pantry.   

 “We’ve seen a 100-percent increase in patrons visiting the pantry since March,” said Dave Fish, pastor at the North Bergen Presbyterian Church that organizes the Pantry services. “There has always been, and will always be, need in our community but the impact that COVID is having on families in our region is devastating.

"It’s the pantry's mission to lessen that impact by feeding both body and spirit. Assuring that children experience some of the magic of Christmas is an important ingredient of that mission.”  

“We believe in giving back to our community and was encouraged by the response of our Rose Garden Bowl family of patrons to our request for stocking sponsors this year” said Christina Sardou, co-owner at Rose Garden Bowl. “Initially I was concerned that the number of people who could participate might be affected by the pandemic, but the opposite was true. Peoples’ eagerness to assist has been both humbling and inspiring.”

The program started in 2019 when Sardou suggested the idea of partnering on the program.

“Dave and I had had a few conversations about the Food Pantry and we had stored some surplus frozen foods for the pantry at times when their space was limited,” Sardou said. “During these conversations, I asked if he had considered doing something for local children at Christmas, and described how the Church and the Rose Garden Bowl family and friends might collaborate to create a Christmas stocking drive. The rest is history.” 

The North Bergen Community Food Pantry — North Bergen Presbyterian Church, 7068 N. Bergen Road, Bergen. Pantry hours: the third and fourth Wednesday of each month from 6 to 8 p.m. and the third and fourth Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon. For more information visit the Pantry’s Facebook page.

Rose Garden Bowl and Viking Valhalla Restaurant — 21 Buffalo Road, Bergen. (585) 494-9900). Family-owned and operated since 1954. For more information about banquets, bowling and volleyball, visit rosegardenbowl.com or on Facebook.

Chiropractor and City Church team up to help 25 local families with your donations

Photo, Ryan Macdonald, left, a pastor at City Church, and Batavia chiropractor Tom Mazurkiewicz.

Submitted photo and information.

Batavia chiropractor Tom Mazurkiewicz continues with the tradition of Don Carroll's Toy Drive for the 28th year, accepting unwrapped Christmas toys at his office for distribution to local children ages 2 to 15.

If you'd like to donate something, his office -- Mazurkiewicz Family Chiropratic -- is located 184 Washington Ave. Donations can be made during regular business hours through Dec. 18.

"Dr. Tom" is offering a complementary office visit to those who donate.

He is partnering with City Church once again. They have selected 25 families based on need and will distribute the toys individually to the families' homes.

Mazurkiewicz and City Church thank everyone once again for their support of local families in need this year.

Press Release Dec 13, 2020, 12:27pm

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