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Local Afghans who aided US troops plea for their families to be evacuated

Mon, 06/14/2021 - 5:30am
The United States is preparing to withdraw from Afghanistan by September 20 years after invading the country in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks. Meanwhile, the Taliban is laying siege in more areas of the country. Local Afghans who assisted the U.S. troops, like Abdul Majid Habibi, are pleading for the U.S. to evacuate their families. Abdul served in the Afghan army for more than 35 years when he pivoted and started working with the U.S armed forces. “I was a cultural advisor and translator, interpreter and translated very, very complicated letters,” Abdul said. After working with U.S. troops for about 16 years, Abdul came here with his son, Walid Omid, under a Special Immigrant Visa (SIV). The program provides a green card to Afghans who worked with U.S. armed forces in Afghanistan. “These visas go out to those whose lives are at risk because of their service to the U.S.,” said Ellen Smith, executive director at Keeping Our Promise, a program that resettles wartime allies.

Can Biden's infrastructure plan bury the Inner Loop for good? City Hall hopes so.

Wed, 06/09/2021 - 11:36pm
Norman Jones is old enough to remember the Inner Loop being built more than half a century ago. “I have a clear memory of that machinery,” Jones said. “When you’re 4, 5, 6 years old, and you see big trucks and the excavators, you go, ‘Wow.’ When you see it all moved around, you just thought it was the coolest thing, and probably everyone else thought it was the coolest thing.” The 63-year-old commissioner of the city Department of Environmental Services keeps two outsized frames hanging on the wall of the agency’s conference room at City Hall that act as his guides when he considers the future of the sunken expressway.

United Way program helps nonprofits upgrade their spaces

Wed, 06/09/2021 - 6:03pm
Eleven non-profits will get help with necessary maintenance and renovations this summer with volunteers and resources from Built United, a program that is a partnership between the United Way of Greater Rochester and LeChase Construction. Unity Way President and CEO Jamie Saunders said the goal is to bring support to agencies that provide critical services to the community. “Our network of human service providers saw their demands for services triple throughout our region as families and individuals sought more and more help and our neighbors in need, Saunders said. The idea, according to Saunders, came from LeChase President and CEO Bill Goodrich, who is the 2021 United Way campaign chair. Goodrich said the program is similar to United Way’s annual Day of Caring, except volunteer subcontractors provide services to various agencies over two months. He said the improvements will benefit the community. “Ultimately if these organizations are doing better and they have the ability to serve

Haudenosaunee boarding school survivors seek justice

Tue, 06/08/2021 - 5:30am
“Physical beatings were a matter of course. Food deprivation occurred almost all the time. People ask me, ‘What was your overall feeling of this place?’ And I say, ‘Well, it was hunger,' ” said Doug George, whose Akwesasne Mohawk name is Kanentiio. Kanentiio, whose name means “handsome pine,” describes life at an Indian boarding school, also known as a residential school, in the 1960s. The first such facility, Carlisle Indian Industrial School, was founded in the 1870s by military Capt. Richard Pratt. It was a way to assimilate Native American children into “white” society and, in Pratt's words, “kill the Indian to save the man.” “The intent was to extinguish us as Aboriginal people and destroy whatever sense of self-worth we had, and I can say that they succeeded to a large degree,” Kanentiio said. “They killed our spirit. They killed us.” Many students sent to these schools went missing. Last month, 215 children’s remains were discovered in British Columbia at one of nearly 500

A year after his hospital release, Ted O'Brien is changed by his battle against COVID-19

Fri, 05/28/2021 - 12:56pm
These days, Ted O’Brien is running several miles at a time and getting in some strength training in the gym. Remarkable, when you consider where he was a year ago. On May 27, 2020, the former New York state senator was discharged from a 68- day stay at Rochester General Hospital, after surviving a harrowing battle against COVID-19. O’Brien, who heads the Rochester office of the state Attorney General, was extremely weak when he emerged from intensive care, where he spent nearly a month in a coma. “I was literally skin hanging from bones,” he said of his 6-foot-2 frame, which carried only 150 pounds at the time. O’Brien credits his wife, Sue, a physical therapist, for helping him regain his strength. His close brush with death changed his appreciation for things he said he wouldn’t have thought much about before -- helping his high school-aged daughters with their homework or getting a haircut. "I was just so overjoyed at being able to continue life's journey,” he said. As soon as they

Heritage Christian Services opens its first residential home in eight years.

Wed, 05/26/2021 - 6:06pm
Six people, surrounded by their families, celebrated the completion of their new home on Jackson Road in Penfield Wednesday. The six-bedroom home, built to be fully accessible and customized to the people living there, will be staffed 24 hours a day by Heritage Christian Services, an organization that has built residential homes for people with disabilities for over three decades. The last home the organization built was in 2013. Drew Bielemeier, Heritage's senior vice president of operations, said the project took 10 years to complete. He said changes in state funding, plus the pandemic, delayed the project several times for families waiting to move in. “So you can imagine a lot of tears, a lot of frustration,” Beilemier said. “We worked with our partners at the DDSO, and OPWDD (New York State agencies responsible for coordinating services for people with disabilities) and they were able to pivot.” Sandra Fantauzzo is one of the six people moving in. Her father, Dennis, said the home

New RPD mandatory training underway, former AG Eric Holder gives keynote

Thu, 05/13/2021 - 4:41pm
Former Attorney General Eric Holder addressed Rochester police officers on Thursday in a keynote address at a new two-day mandatory training program, called the Robert E. Craig Institute for Ethical Leadership. Holder, who was A.G. under the Obama administration, spoke to about 75 officers in attendance. All other officers are required to view a recording of the training, which is meant to move the department towards police reform. “Lead with honor,” Holder said over Zoom. “This includes any time you might see another officer about to do something that just crosses a line. In that moment it becomes your job, your duty, to intervene. And not just because the new RPD’s policy makes this official.” A schedule of events shows those selected to be part of a community panel include city councilmember Willie Lightfoot, Reverend James Simmons, and Ibero-American Action League president and CEO Angelica Perez-Delgado. “Growing up in neighborhoods where you’re seeing people get killed, people

“Confinements” play by former inmates and Cornell students premieres Sunday

Wed, 05/12/2021 - 5:34pm
Cornell University’s prison educational programs have been on hold during the pandemic, but a theater professor has found a way to keep connected with incarcerated people. For decades, performing arts professor Bruce Levitt has used theater as a way to engage with people who are incarcerated. “To see people discover themselves in front of you is very exciting,” said Levitt, who is also a facilitator for the Phoenix Players Theatre Group at Auburn Maximum Security Prison. “To help them on that journey, particularly people who have been reduced to a number and a crime find and rediscover their wholeness as human beings is a pretty exciting process.” This year, he taught a theater class online to both undergraduates and former inmates enrolled in Cornell’s Prison Education Program (CPEP). Students worked together on an hourlong performance called “Confinements.” It’s about the ways people are cut off from fully participating in society and includes a theme of transitions. Levitt said

Highland Park’s Remember Garden blossoms, commemorating those discovered in unmarked mass grave

Mon, 05/10/2021 - 7:18am
With spring in bloom at Highland Park, volunteers are beautifying one garden bed that serves as a living memorial to hundreds of people whose remains were discovered in an unmarked mass grave. Among them is Gillian Conde, vice president of DePaul, a nonprofit organization that provides support services and housing for people with special needs, including mental illness. She plants a tiny periwinkle vinca vine next to a wooden bench. “It does a couple of things," Conde says. "It holds back the erosion, and it also just makes a beautiful ground cover.” Conde and about 15 other volunteers are weeding, mulching, raking, and planting along this circular batch of garden as part of an early session of United Way’s Day of Caring, which is officially on May 13. Facing south are three benches with canopies. In the middle is a stone with a plaque dedicated to those whose remains were discovered in 1984 in a mass gravesite here . They were believed to be residents of Monroe County’s former

'Mission Accomplished': Conkey Cruisers founder sees the end of the road

Thu, 05/06/2021 - 2:11pm
Theresa Bowick is not one to cower in the face of a challenge. The founder of Conkey Cruisers has kept the neighborhood cycling program going through difficulties with drug trafficking and homelessness along the El Camino Trail where young and old learn to ride. When the organization's entire fleet of bikes was stolen in 2015, Bowick rallied the community to replace them with an even bigger collection. The registered nurse has even persevered despite her own chronic illness -- a rare disorder that causes painful, golf ball-sized tumors to form on the soles of her feet. But this next challenge may be insurmountable, even for Bowick.

Online groups form in support of embattled Gov. Andrew Cuomo

Mon, 05/03/2021 - 3:42pm
Many people from across the political spectrum have called for Gov. Andrew Cuomo's resignation in light of a series of scandals, including numerous allegations of sexual harassment. But various groups of Cuomo supporters are organizing and getting more vocal on social media. An East Rochester woman moderates two online groups supporting the embattled governor. Sandy Behan's Facebook group "Women for Governor Cuomo" has about 1,200 members. They're calling on those who have asked the governor to resign in light of sexual harassment allegations to step back and let investigators do their job. "We're not condemning the victims," Behan said. "We're not in any way saying it didn't happen. We're just saying, let the process play out." According to Behan, some members have been removed from the group for launching a Twitter attack against Lindsey Boylan, the first woman who accused Cuomo of sexual misconduct. One tweet accused Boylan of dressing in a certain way to attract the attention of

Rochester police announce 2-day mandatory training program for officers

Wed, 04/28/2021 - 4:37pm
The Rochester Police Department announced a new training program for officers on Wednesday. The mandatory two-day program will take place in May. It’s called the Robert E. Craig Institute for Ethical Leadership, named after the former RPD deputy chief who was at the announcement. “We know how to do policing, but we need to look at a couple of things, and one of the first would be ‘What’s our mission? What’s the business we’re in? Who are the customers we’re trying to serve?’” said Craig. “Most important is to never forget and to always ask, ‘what does it feel like to be a consumer of our services?’” Interim Police Chief Cynthia Herriott-Sullivan said the training will address compassion fatigue, de-escalation, race relations, and mental health, among other topics. “The conviction of Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd reinforced last week that accountability in policing and policing reform has to be a top priority,” said Herriot-Sullivan. Former Attorney General Eric Holder is

Bronson backs Evans in race for Rochester mayor

Fri, 04/23/2021 - 5:32pm
During a news conference Friday, Rochester mayoral challenger Malik Evans said he intends to run in the general election, no matter the result of the primary election. He’s challenging Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren in the June 22 Democratic primary. Evans will be on the Working Family Party line in the general election.