OLEAN — A common thread among the awardees at Wednesday’s Inclusion Recognition Ceremony was that they all strive to make Cattaraugus County a better place to live for people of all abilities.
During the ceremony, sponsored by the Healthy Livable Cattaraugus Consortium, people who included mayors and leaders of programs to individuals with Special Olympics and those with special needs were honored for their good work.
“This is about how we are making our society where we live more accessible by implementing policies or systems to make environmental changes,” Sandi Brundage, community coach from Salamanca, said before the ceremony, held at the Jamestown Community College MTI building. “This will be the story of how these (awardees) have impacted most people living with disabilities.”
Deb Nichols of the Cattaraugus County Health Department said the fourth-annual event drew in a large number of participants, despite record cold temperatures outside.
“This is the biggest group we’ve ever had … this is by far the largest,” Nichols said. “We even had to bring in extra chairs.”
Nichols said the individuals honored not only have strived to make the county compliant with the American with Disabilities Act standards, but have reached beyond this.
“It’s not just getting into a restroom OK, it’s going above that so nobody is denied anything the rest of us would have,” Nichols explained. “Our disabled population should not be discriminated against.”
Later, Nichols told those at the event that the county has received several national grants over the past few years.
“It makes us so proud that little Cattaraugus County is getting recognized for all the good work we are doing,” she added. “You all represent all the good that is happening in Cattaraugus County — and you all give me goosebumps.”
Karma E. Harris of the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors in Atlanta, Ga., told the gathering that Cattaraugus County has done quite well in a four-year pilot program implemented by the CDC. She said the county was chosen for the study among 10 communities in five states.
“I want you to walk out of here not just with your award, but knowing that what you’re doing is actually influencing the health of the nation for the future,” she said. “Out of four years and 10 communities, they produced 524 new outcomes, which is amazing. I’m really happy to say that out of the 10 communities, Cattaraugus had the most at 178 out of the 524. … You guys are rock stars and doing amazing work.”
Awards were presented by Wendy Brand of Assemblyman Joseph Giglio’s office in Olean.
Highlights of the award ceremony included presentations to a BOCES group of young men who made a 3-D prosthetic hand for a 5-year-old girl and a man in the community.
The Pink Pumpkin Project and Intandem residents also brought smiles to audience members when the special needs individuals spoke of how they helped clean and paint hundreds of pumpkins for Pink Pumpkin, which helps area breast cancer survivors.
Dustyn Green, a senior at Allegany-Limestone High School, was also honored for an awareness program and documentary he presented to his campus on the challenges for people with disabilities titled “Wheel a Mile in My Shoes.”
For his part, Green told the gathering, “When I came here a couple of years ago, I said ‘I’m not done.’” Green continued by noting he hopes to take his message of inclusion to schools in the area within six to eight months.
Others who were honored were the city of Olean, represented by Mayor Bill Aiello, for the Farmers Market program and installation of electric wheelchair charging stations; and the city of Salamanca, represented by Mayor Mike Smith, for its upgrades of the Main Street area and the community to make it more accessible and inclusive for people with disabilities.
Also awarded were the following individuals and organizations:
n Seneca Nation of Indians, represented by Ben Anderson.
n Veggie Wheels, represented by Athena Godet-Calogeras, Heidi Reese and volunteers.
n Boundless Connections
n County Health Department, honoring retired nurses, Becky Malone, Mary Anne Power and Janet Cotillion.
n Olean Family YMCA, Barb Sweitzer
n Olean Medical Loan Closet, Pastor John Lounsbury and volunteers
n Genesis House, Linore Lounsbury
n Warming House, Paul Nana Afful
n Special Olympics, assisted by Devine Leacock and Larry Ordway
n Applebees restaurant
n Olean Kennel Club, Dan Deprins
n Randolph Academy and UFSD
n Patty Cheek
n DB Busan and Walter Schultz, Olean Food Pantry
(Contact reporter Kate Day Sager at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter, @OTHKate)