Congratulations, Tana Miller!

Manuela Michailescu

I had the privilege to announce the recipient of the 2014 “Mary Lee Friend of Youth Award” at Rochester’s Holiday Senior Brunch/Youth Awards presentation on December 13, 2014. I would like to share that moment – and my appreciation – with the readers of Blue Stone Press:

The “Mary Lee Friend of Youth Award” recognizes an adult dedicated to the positive development and well-being of the youth in the Town of Rochester. I’m happy that this year the recipient is Tana Miller.

Back when I was Councilwoman and Town Board Liaison to the Youth Commission, I’ve often heard Youth Department Director Carol Dennin reporting about the free “Lunch with Tana” – an event taking place every single Monday during the summer programs.

It sounded interesting, but I couldn’t fully grasp what Tana was doing before I actually participated to her lunches, and admired her work with the kids…

From shopping and preparing the food for over 50 children and counselors – while teaching kids how to cook! – each “Lunch with Tana” required time, energy and enthusiasm, all on top of financial and physical effort.

But, most of all, the lunches showcased Tana’s love for kids. I was fascinated watching her interact with the children: always smiling, she met and talked to each and every child participating in the summer programs; always smiling, while fine-tuning kids’ good manners, and… last but not least… teaching them how to cook and appreciate good food, healthy, tasty and even colorful!

Personally, I thank Tana for always being welcoming, and for making me understand that we cannot appreciate all aspects of an activity before we participate in it, before getting involved.

On behalf of our town’s Youth Department and Youth Commission I thank Tana Miller for her many years of working with our children during the summer programs, for being such a wonderful, true “Friend of Youth.” We wish her the very best!

Once again, congratulations for receiving the well-deserved “Mary Lee Friend of Youth Award!” And, of course, we hope to see you next summer, Tana!

Manuela Michailescu
Town of Rochester Youth Commission member
Kerhonkson

Manuela Michailescu

Published in Blue Stone Press, December 19, 2014

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Does anything matter in Rochester?

Manuela Michailescu

As published in Blue Stone Press, October 3, 2014

Does anything matter in Rochester?

After serving four years as Councilwoman – and being recognized for my dedicated service – you’d think I was the best qualified applicant for a 4-month appointment to the Rochester Town Board. And so begins the latest episode in the “how to get rid of Manuela” saga – which started with the infamous porno rumor in 2007 and continued with a residency non-issue in 2009.

The filling of this Town Board vacancy required two steps: (1) a Town Board appointment for the rest of the year, based on applications and interviews and (2) the nomination at the parties’ caucuses of candidates for the November Special election.

As Melissa Orozco-McDonough reported in the September 5, 2014 issue, I was among the three candidates interviewed for the Rochester Councilperson position left vacant by the resignation of Councilman Tavi Cilenti. Feeling that a dirty deal was in the making, I even mentioned during my interview that I “would like to see more trust in our leaders and local government.”

To understand why people consider the Town Board’s appointment decision “outrageous” and “beyond logic” you must compare my 9-page application – including the reasons why I am the best qualified, my resume, quotes from newspapers expressing praise regarding my work as Councilwoman, most from Supervisor Carl Chipman himself, proofs of my accomplishments and of my success in building a positive image for our town – to the one submitted by Cindy Fornino, the chosen applicant: three meager lines showing interest in the position, not one word regarding her education, her experience or her record. But… she is the wife of the Conservative Party chair in town!

I find it disturbing that Supervisor Carl Chipman and Councilman Brian Drabkin bought their spot on the Conservative line in next year’s elections by appointing the wife of Gerry Fornino, the chairman of the Rochester Conservative Party. If cultivating connections didn’t play a role, then the reasons for rejecting me – the best qualified applicant – are painfully obvious: I always speak my mind, and I do it with a foreign accent.

The 2014 Rochester Republican Caucus was the most staged event I participated to in my entire life, and I’ve spent thirty years in Europe’s worst Communist dictatorship! The new Republican Committee Chairman Danny Aversano didn’t utter the word Republican. The freshly minted Councilwoman bragged about being appointed a few days prior. Nobody indicated that she is a registered Conservative and the wife of the Rochester Conservative Party chair! My fellow Republican Committee members used all the tricks in the book to sabotage my nomination, and they succeeded. But while these were expected Republican Committee shenanigans, no matter who the chair is, our town leadership’s decision is most troubling.

Readers of BSP (Sept. 5, 2014) learned that Fornino wants “the town to be a place that her daughter would be proud to live and raise her own children.” Proud? Really? Is anybody proud of the way she got appointed by the Town Board and nominated by the Republican Caucus?

What is the message we convey to our residents, to women, to our youth? That nothing matters except being married to the “right” man? That education doesn’t matter, experience doesn’t matter, a stellar record doesn’t matter, involvement in town’s life doesn’t matter, doing an excellent job, accomplishments and volunteering do not matter?

I am struggling hard to believe that Rochester is still a place where – in John Adams’ words – “to be good, and to do good, is all we have to do.”

Manuela Michailescu
Kerhonkson

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Rochester’s Summer Program extraordinaire

Manuela Michailescu

One can run out of superlatives trying to write about Rochester’s summer program. I said in the past that it was “wonderful” and “superb.” This year, the program was considered a “huge success” from the very beginning (cover story, Blue Stone Press, July 18, 2014).

The total number of children registered reached a record number of 81, double what the Youth Department was striving to get a few years back. It shows a real need in the community and the increasing appreciation of the program. Each of the 7-week program had a different theme, including trips and activities. More than 40 kids participated weekly, with many on the stand-by list.

These record-high numbers challenged those in charge of the program, and they raised to the occasion. With skills making her the ideal director of such program, MaryAnne Gates, together with her formidable assistant Elaine Samuels, proved again to be impeccable. In Youth Department Director Carol Dennin’s words, MaryAnne Gates is simply the best!

The program was very well structured but flexible enough to accommodate the weather; it was extremely diverse in terms of activities, and it improved kids’ quality of life.

Manuela Michailescu

From the weekly “Lunches with Tana (Miller)” to the bus trips, it was all fun mixed with education. There were major trips (Great Escape/Lake George, Howe Caverns, UC Fair, Albany Museum), outings to parks and beaches (Lake Taghkanic, Belleayre, Bowdoin Park, Ulster Landing), the weekly visits to the Ellenville Library and the Kerhonkson pool, the skate rinks and the pizza parlors. Parents would be hard-pressed to offer such a rich vacation.

Out of the 35 camp days, I’ve participated as volunteer counselor to almost half of them, proudly wearing our program’s beautiful orange T-shirt. What impressed me the most this year was the many ways we help the kids by having such a program.

I’ve seen children’s transformation from shy to confident; I admired their loyal friendships – how two adorable little girls, Chloe and Candace, stopped to hug each other when crossing paths at the UC Fair, then continued to go their ways, was priceless… I saw “dramas” unfold when a “best friend” no longer wanted to play in the water; I saw some tears and lots of joy; I saw older kids learning to become counselors in training, then counselors…

I’ve been “interviewed” by girls intrigued by my accent, we’ve bonded, I got a bit involved in their worlds or personal problems, I’ve showed them how to best spend their money in a gift shop… From Howe Caverns to the Chocolate Factory I witnessed many authentic moments, and I’ve captured them in photos then posted on the Town of Rochester Youth & Community Center Facebook page. What is hard to capture in words or pictures is being overwhelmed by children’s love – I’ve probably never been hugged so much in my entire life!

Manuela Michailescu

If we offer love, smiles, understanding and care, we get back love, smiles and hugs. Sue Matson (former Chair and long time member of the Youth Commission) graciously said: “It is really a plus to have you participate so much Manuela, for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is having another caring, fun, interesting adult in the lives of the children on a consistent basis. That is so important for any child. I appreciate all the time and effort you have given. Yes, it is a gift on your part even tho’ you enjoy it too.”

These kids challenged my energy levels and offered me their love: Adia, Adriana, Angela, Annie, Brendan, Candace, Carson, Celeste, Chloe, Chloe C., Elsa, Emily C., Grace, Naomi, Sarah Rosa, Savannah.

Congratulations and a big thank you to all – organizers, directors, counselors and helpers, participating kids and parents – for offering such an affordable, diverse, fantastic summer program. It’s a jewel of a program and offered me a most enriching experience.

Manuela Michailescu
Youth Commission member/secretary
Kerhonkson

Blue Stone Press – September 5, 2014 (p. 14)

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Solemn Veterans Park ceremony on Memorial Day honored local hero Sgt. Shawn M. Farrell II

My letter to the Editor, published in Blue Stone Press – June 20, 2014

Rochester Veterans Park

    While attending Rochester’s Town Board meeting on May 1, I got tears in my eyes learning that the entire ceremony at the Veterans Park on Memorial Day would be dedicated to our fallen hero Sgt. Shawn Farrell II, killed in action in Afghanistan on April 28, 2014.

    It sank in that finalizing the Veterans Park after many delays and obstacles was well worth it; it sank in that Veterans Park can have a profound impact on people’s lives – now more than ever before, as this Memorial Day was the saddest in memory for our town.

    A 2008 graduate of RVSD, Shawn Farrell II was a colleague of Supervisor Carl Chipman’s daughter and Youth Commission Chair Jessica Knapp’s son. It is not a coincidence that these two people were at the heart of an emotional, solemn ceremony at the Veterans Park on Memorial Day. They deserve congratulations for the way the event was conceived, for the soul they put into everything. Christian Greenhouse (members of recently deceased veteran Harry Christian’s family) deserves thanks for donating the superb flowers and wreath.

Rochester Veterans Park

    Carl Chipman was the MC of the event, which included the participation of Kerhonkson Boy Scouts Troop 22 as honor guard, our district’s UC Legislator Lynn Archer and Rondout Valley Schools District Superintendent Rosario Agostaro as speakers, then the “Fallen Comrades Table” moment created by Jessica Knapp, and ended with the young bugler from RVSD Steven Snyder playing the Taps.

Rochester Veterans Park

    Jessica Knapp, feeling that our Youth Commission’s presence has to be truly special this year, came up with the idea of having the “Fallen Comrades Table” moment.

    In the middle of the Veterans Park was a table set for one and an empty chair, symbolizing the absence of soldiers that are prisoners of war, missing in action, or killed in action. “They are called fallen comrades,” Jessica Knapp read; she continued to present the significance of each object on the table, a single rose and a single white candle, white gloves, a sword, an inverted wine glass and a plate with a slice of lemon and salt.

    “This small table, set for one, represents the frailty of life for each of us. The table cloth is black and white. The white represents the purity of their intentions to serve and the black represents our mourning for our fallen comrades.”

    “The single rose and single candle reminds us of the families and loved ones of our comrades in arms who keep the faith, awaiting their return.”

    “An inverted wine glass represents the toast our fallen comrades cannot make with us today. Our hope today is that they will hear us as we toast their ultimate sacrifice.”

Rochester Veterans Park

    A sign created by children for a Memorial Day float read “All gave some, some gave all, Hero Sgt. Shawn Farrell, Thank you.” By having this ceremony we just “gave some,” while Shawn gave it all. We will always remember and thank Sgt. Shawn Farrell II – and his family – for his supreme sacrifice while serving.

    Manuela Michailescu
    Town of Rochester Youth Commission member
    Kerhonkson

Manuela Michailescu and Jessica Knapp

Manuela Michailescu with Jessica Knapp, Chair of the Youth Commission, after the ceremony. For more photos of Town of Rochester’s Memorial Day observance please visit Blue Stone Press’ website.

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Missing Doris Lamon…

Doris Lamon

It just happened that in my last post the top photo features Ed and Doris Lamon looking at a Memorial Day display at our town’s Veterans Park. The headline of that January 18 post reads “To be good, and to do good, is all we have to do.” You couldn’t find a better match between the headline and the photo!

On May 6 this year Doris passed away, few weeks before her 84th birthday on May 29… Below are some thoughts about Doris Lamon – partially published in Blue Stone Press‘ tribute to her (May 16, 2014 issue):

    I met Doris Lamon back in 2003, during one of the special events marking the 300th anniversary of the Town of Rochester. That’s when I also met Valerie Weaver, at that time Executive Director of the Kerhonkson-Accord Chamber of Commerce; as I needed a lift home, Valerie offered to drive me and that was something Doris mentioned many times in her humorous way: “So, the Executive Director gave you a ride home, hmmm…” A strong, tough lady, she also had a wonderful warm and funny, bubbly and playful side. She – and Ed, of course – were never bothered by my camera and became my most favorite “models.” I treasure their smiles in photos where you could clearly see their goodness. I loved how they always dressed for the occasion, be it St. Patrick’s or Veterans Day. Of course, Ed and Doris were famous for being Ulster County’s Santa and Mrs. Claus. They did that for the last time in December 2012:

Doris Lamon

    This wonderful couple, married for the duration of my entire life (and I’m 64 in few days!), was a model in many other ways. As stressed during Doris’ memorial service last Friday, May 9, she exemplified the definition of dedication, volunteerism, and care for her community. And she was such a successful fundraiser: genuine, warm, and pleasant!

    Always reliable and keeping her word, always ready to help, doing everything from the heart, Doris was also one of the very few who have the guts to speak their mind.

    As Councilwoman, in 2009 I had the honor of representing the Rochester Town Board at a special awards ceremony in Albany. As described in the Blue Stone Press (May 1, 2009): “Ed and Doris Lamon have been nominated and selected as recipients of the ‘2009 Outstanding Contribution by a Senior Citizen’ award conveyed by the Ulster County Office of the Aging for their many contributions to the well being of the community.

    They will be honored in Albany by the NYS Office of the Aging on Wed., May 6 and also by the UC Office of the Aging in June in conjunction with the Annual Senior Games luncheon.

    The Town of Rochester congratulates the Lamons on their award and thanks them for their gracious service to the community.”

    As our town mourned the fallen hero Sgt. Shawn Farrell II during the procession and memorial ceremony on May 7 and 8, I missed Doris so much… She was always involved in welcoming veterans coming home; she was the one bringing flags and patriotic caps (I still wear the one she gave me in 2007). Doris was the one raising money for post cards to be sent to veterans… Doris was the first one to help: the children, the youth, the veterans, the First Aid Squad…

    On May 26, at 11 am, please come to Rochester’s Veterans Park for the Memorial Day ceremony dedicated to Sgt. Shawn Farrell. I’m sure we would all feel also the absence of one of the strongest supporters of our veterans, the irreplaceable Doris, the wife of veteran Ed Lamon… As we’re going to miss her from each and every meeting, ceremony or town event, our respect for what she did all her life for our community will only grow deeper.

Manuela Michailescu

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To be good, and to do good, is all we have to do.

Letter to Editor / Blue Stone Press – January 17, 2014

Volunteering for a town board or commission gives one opportunities to meet people, make new friends, exchange ideas, get involved in town’s life, enjoy town events, and – yes! – help others.

As Supervisor Carl Chipman stressed at the recent Town Board’s organizational meeting, Rochester’s Youth Commission has “many, many vacancies,” but there is hope that people would show interest in joining it. This commission is the helping hand of the Youth and Recreation Department led by director Carol Dennin. As our population is getting older, “recreation” actually covers activities for all ages.

Volunteering is rewarding in many ways, but I’d like to focus on what I call “emotional rewarding,” offering as example a story about three generations of the Christian family (Harry, Bob and Grayson).

Some readers may remember the Youth Commission’s idea to have families send photos of their veteran relatives for a Memorial Day display and a “meeting of generations.” Responding to the appeal, the veteran Harry Christian offered to bring his beloved model warships too; on Memorial Day he talked in front of the people gathered at the Veterans Park.

For years, Harry’s son – Bob Christian of Christian’s Greenhouse – donated wonderful wreaths for Memorial and Veterans Day celebrations. Inspired by the “meeting of generations” event, Harry’s grandson Grayson asked the Town Board for permission to make improvements at the Veterans Park (after completing the project he was awarded the “Pride of Rochester” certificate.)

Plans were made to record Harry Christian sharing his war stories; I was lucky to speak to him a few days prior to Veterans Day. Despite not feeling well, he voiced his wish to attend the Veterans Day ceremony. Sadly, he passed away later that month. When the next Town Board meeting was adjourned in his memory, Harry was looking at us from the display created for the Memorial Day.

Words can’t express the emotional reward members of the Youth Commission enjoyed after seeing how their idea for a “meeting of generations” led to having Harry Christian speak on Memorial Day and to the improvement of the Veterans Park by his grandson.

To volunteer is to understand and care, to be fair and non-partisan. In the words of John Adams, “to be good, and to do good, is all we have to do.”

Please consider becoming a member of the Youth Commission. To apply, call the supervisor’s office at 626-3043.

Manuela Michailescu
Town of Rochester Youth Commission Secretary

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Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy, Prosperous New Year!

Manuela Michailescu

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Santa and Mrs. Claus came to town…

Our Town of Rochester’s events and activities are diverse, exciting, fun, colorful, educational, wonderful, intriguing, full of joy… If a photo is worth a thousand words, allow me to save a few thousands words by posting from the photos I took at each event.

Blue Stone Press is graciously hosting more photos on their website. Please visit and enjoy.

Manuela Michailescu

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Seniors’ Holiday Brunch

Our Town of Rochester’s events and activities are diverse, exciting, fun, colorful, educational, wonderful, intriguing, full of joy… If a photo is worth a thousand words, allow me to save a few thousands words by posting from the photos I took at each event.

Blue Stone Press is graciously hosting more photos on their website. Please visit and enjoy.

Manuela Michailescu

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Thanksgiving at the Recreation/Youth Department Center

Our Town of Rochester’s events and activities are diverse, exciting, fun, colorful, educational, wonderful, intriguing, full of joy… If a photo is worth a thousand words, allow me to save a few thousands words by posting from the photos I took at each event.

Blue Stone Press is graciously hosting more photos on their website. Please visit and enjoy.

Manuela Michailescu

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