Community receives NCCF grants

Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation is like the pebble thrown in the lake, which creates a ripple throughout the community and brings people hope.

This hope stems from funding offered to various organizations, which in turn is used to better benefit everyone as a whole.

Great Lakes Experience Festival Executive Director Beth Smeader teamed up with U.S Fish and Wildlife Service Complex Manager Dr. Kofi Fynn-Aikins to create 2014 Dunkirk Great Lakes Experience Festival.

In its second year, the festival showcases work from environmentalists all over western New York. The event takes place June 21, 11 to 5 p.m. at Memorial Park.

“This foundation is so wonderful to work with. They are great in guiding you through the process,” Smeader said. “I fell in love with the idea (festival) and hope the community comes out to support us.”

Fynn-Aikins described his love for what he does.

“It’s not just a job for the government. We all have to work together; this is something we all can do,” he said. “It’s important to share this story with the community and to continue to help protect wildlife for the American people.”

NCCF Grants Committee member JoAnn Kaufman explained how the organization that has helped so many people works.

“We are assigned a couple of places to investigate. We never do the same ones twice. We don’t have to run around the county looking for people, just ask good questions,” she said. “Sometimes we have to go and see what needs to be done. We get letters of interest and the committee meets to go through the process.”

“We learn so much of what is going on in the community,” Kaufman continued. “We have to see what grants impact the most people. Sometimes it is really tough, but we come at this in a 360-degree angle. You get a three- year term on the committee and then you have to give someone else a chance before being re-elected.”

Dunkirk Historical Lighthouse Treasurer Dave Briska is helping to bring music to the upcoming Civil War Reenactment. The Canal Street String Band will perform Civil War Era music.

“The Historical Society and Lighthouse are doing this together,” he said. “People like to talk to lighthouse keepers all over the world, so we combined that with the Civil War Reenactment and made it one big weekend.”

Briska has been busy getting things ready for the big event.

“I try to do things with the city to encourage shared services. It makes it better for the community when we bring tourists here,” he said. “Everything is even better now at the lighthouse since we did some renovation over the winter. We repainted three bedrooms, installed a claw fit tub, and we now have an old-fashioned water machine.”

Dunkirk Historical Society member Michael Civiletto thinks it is great to get the whole community involved in their history.

“We are going to try and get local Civil War veterans names and stories for the event,” he said.

Civiletto explained how Dunkirk got its name.

“We got our name from Dunkerque, France before WWI, but our original name was Chadwick Bay, named for the man who owned most of the bay,” he said. “Dunkerque, France remains our sister city to this day.”

Child Advocacy Program Executive Director Jana McDermott deals with child abuse victims, who at some point from the age of 5 to 18 have experienced some kind of sexual abuse. She explained this type of abuse has been linked to mental health problems, crime, and drug use, tracing back to the traumatic event in their lives. “Our goal is to end child abuse in Chautauqua County. Research has shown sexual abuse affects the development of the child’s brain. Kids not able to be heard, understood, or believed now have the ability to be heard through our organization,” she said. “Adults’ job is to protect children, and we offer services to help inform and empower help for children. Kids that have been traumatized going through this alone no longer have to be alone; they now have five people behind them. The best chance at healing the children in the community is to bring them to the Child Advocacy Program.”

Girl Scouts of Western New York Senior Vice President Morgan Williams-Bryant wants to expand the opportunities of the organization to reach as many girls as they can.

“Girl Scout Leadership Experience is a program which helps with bullying and creates the leaders of the future,” she said. “We increase awareness of science, technology, engineering and math for high school girls to help them be interested in these types of careers. All the activities are led by the girls. We want girls to lead themselves, and when we see them in different careers we will know we touched their lives.”

Community grants for Spring 2014 totaled $47,874 and were disbursed as follows: Centaur Stride – $2,460; Child Advocacy Program – $2,400; Dunkirk Historical Lighthouse/Historical Society – $500; Dunkirk Historical Society – $2,945; Northlake Family Recreation Center – $3,000; Ahira Hall Memorial Library – $4,319; Chautauqua County Historical Society – $5,000; Chautauqua Striders – $4,550; Chautauqua Adult Day Care Center – $4,000; Buffalo Gay Men’s Chorus – $2,200; Boys and Girls Club – $1,500; The Great Lakes Experience – $5,000; Kids In Distressed Situations – $5,000; Girl Scouts of Western NY – $2,000 and Westfield Memorial Hospital Foundation – $3,000.

Comments on this story may be sent to jwillis@observertoday.com