Gifts of a lifetime

By on December 3, 2018
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Part One of a two-part series

In the season of gift-giving, I asked several of our community citizens what very meaningful or significant gift they have received in their lifetime. Thinking of “gift” not as a thing, but more broadly, it would likely be a critical incident or experience, wise words, or an intervention, that made a major life-changing impact on them. And, it might be realized as a gift only in retrospect. Below (alphabetically) are the moving messages in the first of a two-part series.  Thanks to Evelyn Dow, Editor Emerita, for prompting this feature that started in the 2015 Christmas Season.

Gifts - Marcia BartaloMarcia Bartalo 

Department Chairperson, School Counselor,

Brockport High School Counseling Offices

I am a fortunate person. I have had many gifts in my lifetime. When I think about one that has shaped who I am, I think about the Genesee Valley Rotary Camp. GVRC is a camp for children with special needs and the impact it has had on my life is profound. I have worked at GVRC for 35 years. At GVRC I have been a camp counselor, a music teacher, an arts and crafts and adventure class leader, and for the past 20 years, the camp cook. One might question how working at a summer camp is such a gift. GVRC is where I met my husband. It is where I’ve met many lifelong friends. It has allowed my sons to grow up and work in an atmosphere where putting others’ needs in front of your own is the norm. It also gave me the unique opportunity to work beside my mother and father in the camp kitchen. GVRC has shaped the person I am today and for that I am thankful.

Gifts - Gordon FoxGordon A. “Gordy” Fox

President, Western Monroe Historical Society

“Alumnus of the Year for Community Volunteerism” awarded 2017

by the College at Brockport Alumni Association

I’m very thankful for the advantage of living in the Village of Brockport for most of my life.  The people I have known are friendly, helpful, and the most dedicated. I’m thankful to the teachers in the Brockport Schools who did an excellent job making me a lifelong learner.

My pathway in life took a fortuitous turn when I became involved in the activities of the Morgan-Manning House on Main Street in Brockport.  For the last eighteen years, my wife and I have been fortunate enough to work with a group of people who take volunteerism to new level. They dedicate thousands of hours to maintaining and running this historic home. This involvement for me has been another great educational experience.

Gifts - Carl GouveiaCarl S. Gouveia

Library Director – Seymour Library, Brockport

During my childhood, the only book in our home was my father’s Portuguese-English Dictionary that he read after watching the news. In our blue-collar home, where my father’s first job in America was at a slaughterhouse, my greatest gift was my public library card.

My public library opened a wealth of opportunities for me. I spent countless hours in there, drinking deeply from that well. I played “Oregon Trail” and programmed DOS games, participated in summer reading programs, and borrowed everything I could, even Donald Duck film strips. However, the books that allowed me to escape to other worlds and other times were my favorite part of visiting the library.  My library card helped me grow as a reader, improving my literacy skills. My library card is why I am who I am today. My library card has opened numerous doors for me…it still does.

Gifts - Carol Nellis-EwellCarol J. Nellis-Ewell  

Deputy Mayor, Village of Spencerport Board, Spencerport Area

Chamber of Commerce, Owner, Afrikamba, Curios… 

Maasai proverb: “Traveling teaches men their way.”

Since 1989: 55+ trips, donations in 110+ suitcases. Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, exotic Zanzibar…

Mingling conservation and culture, we built solar ovens, tenting by giraffe and impala, yielding to lion hunting. We comforted homeless teens and AIDS patients as joyous children romped on Kiwanis Spencerport Playground. We wept at the Door of No Return.

African people welcome, sharing. They inspire.

– A woman in flip flops plods along a busy roadside, gracefully balancing firewood, all the while singing hymns

– A student feeds goats and fetches water, before walking miles to school where “lunch” is tea, all the while reciting lessons

Carol and Harry (her  husband): “Our purpose is to leave kind footprints on Earth.”

An upcoming issue will have Part Two with “Gifts of a Lifetime” stories from:Police Chief Mark Cuzzupoli, Archie Kutz, Erica Linden, and Dr. Lesli C. Myers.

Photos here are by Dianne Hickerson except for Marcia Bartalo’s and Carol Nellis-Ewell’s, which were provided.