By Jim Krencik
Medina Journal-Register — The completion of several large-scale projects across central and eastern Orleans County filled crucial community needs this year.
Albion saw a trio of health care services open in quick succession this winter, welcomed a new home for the community’s library and downtown improvements funded by a $500,000 matching grant.
Further east, the area benefited from a new supermarket in Holley and the ongoing capital improvements at Holley High School.
Those projects expanded not only the capacity for services but also the showed that the people of Orleans County have a greater capacity to care for one another than our population would suggest.
Projects like the Hospice of Orleans’ Martin-Linsin Residence, which opened as a eight-suite home for those seeking to live out their lives close to their homes and families in December, showed what determination and persistence could achieve.
“It might be said that we’re too small to have something like this,” Hospice of Orleans Executive Director Mary Anne Fisher said at a gala celebrating the residence’s opening in November. “But Orleans County deserves this ... and it’s possible because of your caring hearts.”
The same could be said of Orleans Community Health Center, which opened in November and now features physical and occupational therapy, diagnostic services and a general practice at it’s Route 31 facility. It took six years of planning and jumping through state-set hoops before construction began. And like Hospice, the project took off from there.
Albion also saw the offices of the Genesee-Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse move to the former Knights of Columbus hall on East Avenue. The new office gives the treatment and prevention agency more space for meetings and personal services.
“Our treatment program provides for group and individual counseling and this will be much more comfortable for those groups,” GCASA Development Director Pamela LaGrou said on the eve of the new site’s opening.
Another long-awaited project completed this year was the Hoag Library, whose opening was touted by library officials as a transformational event. The former Swan Library was a cherished but cramped home for generations of readers — the new library was welcomed as a more comfortable, modern and accessible place to learn, meet and be enriched.
Hundreds of library-lovers turned out in June to pass books from one library to another and then turned out in July to take in all the new library could offer. It was overwhelming for many.
“There has been awe in their faces,” said Library Trustee Lynne Philipps, who was one of the guides on the first day of business.
The feeling of an existing resource undergoing an enormous change for the better was certainly present in Holley, where the high school is still undergoing a metamorphosis that is churning out new classrooms, new campus features and a new atmosphere.
“It was overwhelming at first,” Holley Building and Grounds Superintendent Don Penna said a month before students returned to class this fall. “Actually seeing the upgrades we’ve wanted, looked ahead to for years, it’s such an improvement ... we’re creating a much better, safer atmosphere for students.”
The second phase of Holley CSD’s $30 million capital project gave students technically advanced science classrooms, a bright new cafeteria and a feeling of comfort and warmth in the completed areas.
But most importantly, that and other projects projects provided critical parts of the community. Holley’s students deserved real classrooms. Albion ought to have had a genuinely great arsenal of medical care options. Everyone should have access to a community library that offers far more than the shelves of knowledge it holds.
Sometimes, that need is spelled out bluntly. Holley was designated as a “food desert” by the federal government before February’s opening of a Save-A-Lot supermarket, ending more than five years without a place to easily purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, meats and grains, and other nutritional needs.
Holley Save-A-Lot owner Jerome Pawlak received many cheers at a Valentine’s Day celebration on the eve of the store’s opening that many used to check out the aisles of food they could buy the next day. There was a true pride in what his business and the community had accomplished.
“We’re proud to be a part of the Holley community,” Pawlak said. “This is something they can be proud of — I know I am.”