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Aloysius Alaiza

Aloysius Alaiza has 730 articles published.

United Way of NNY funding aids adult literacy program

in Local News 12 views

WATERTOWN — Literacy of Northern New York will receive a $12,900 grant from United Way of Northern New York for 2023.

LNNY will use the grant to provide tutoring, case management and assessment services to adults in Jefferson County so they can achieve their educational, workplace and personal goals.

With the help of United Way of Northern New York’s support, LNNY is able to provide free tutoring services to adults 16 years and older in reading, writing, math and English as a new language. LNNY also provides free classes for English as a new language in both Watertown and on Fort Drum.

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ACR Health cleans up debris at vacant Butler Pavilion as homeless residents shelter on Main Avenue

in Housing 20 views

WATERTOWN — Piles of clothing, firewood, tent poles and rotting fruit were among heaps of debris cleared from the Butler Pavilion this week.

ACR Health began digging out what residents left behind when they moved into a makeshift shelter on Main Avenue ahead of the storm that arrived Nov. 18.

The lake-effect storm dumped more than 5 feet of snow in Watertown by the end of the weekend. State and federal emergencies were declared for rescue and cleanup efforts in the region.

The majority of the homeless people staying in the Joseph M. Butler Sr. Pavilion in the J.B. Wise parking lot had been sleeping in tents. About 20 people have since been sheltering in the former DealMaker Auto Group body shop. The space has heat, cots, running water and bathrooms.

Jefferson County Legislator Scott A. Gray has helped coordinate the emergency shelter with the building’s owner, local businessman P.J. Simao, and connected various agencies and volunteers to make it happen.

With the pavilion now vacant, Roberto Gonzalez and Carolina Diaz from ACR Health spent Tuesday morning with volunteers separating trash, clothes and other discarded items.

Ms. Diaz said that any clothing that was salvageable would likely go to the Main Avenue shelter. City public works crews planned to clear out the remaining items.

Nonprofit ACR Health, with newly opened offices in the Barton & Loguidice building on Court Street, provides health education programs, insurance assistance, youth and family services and a syringe exchange program, among others.

“We get the information on where any live sharps might be or any hazardous materials, and then we regroup as a team and make sure that we have our safety components that we need to do safe pickups,” Mr. Gonzalez said. “Gloves, grabbers, pickup, any other safety materials like goggles, boots, long sleeves. We have a process on how we look for sharps and typically contain them.”

Mr. Gonzalez said that he has not done a cleanup the scale of the pavilion in Watertown before. They typically do larger cleanups in the spring and summer and sometimes the fall, but once winter arrives in the north country, everything is buried beneath snow.

“It’s kind of a unique situation because you still see stuff on the pavilion and inside the pavilion, which is a huge benefit to us,” Mr. Gonzalez said, because it allows them to pick up everything now, rather than waiting for the snow to melt.

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Looking for a Meaningful Holiday Gift? Check Out the Kindness Book That Benefits Charity–Already $100K Raised

in Charity/People 18 views

We’re always looking for books that inspire us to feel optimistic and positive about the world, and we are loving this one: HumanKind: Changing the World One Small Act At a Time.

Author Brad Aronson was inspired to write HumanKind when his family went through one of the most difficult times of their lives. His wife, Mia, was in the middle of two and a half years of treatment for leukemia when a patient advocate suggested that Mia, Brad, and their five-year-old son, Jack, create projects to provide a purpose, a distraction and a focus for the hours they were spending in the hospital every week.

For Brad’s project, he wrote about the small acts of kindness by friends and strangers that carried his family through Mia’s treatment and recovery.

But when he was done, he felt compelled to keep going. What about all the other stories out there? Other stories about seemingly small acts of kindness that had an extraordinary impact, often changing thousands of lives? He decided to seek them out—and those are the golden threads that weave a heartfelt tapestry in this book.

In HumanKind you’ll meet Rita Schiavone, who decided to cook an extra portion of dinner every night to feed to someone in need. Her evening ritual led to a movement that now provides more than 500,000 meals a year. You’ll also meet Larry Stewart, who was homeless when he received a $20 gift that inspired him to become a Secret Santa when he got back on his feet. He went on to give a total of $1.5 million to strangers in need and build a team of thousands who serve their own communities as Secret Santas. Then there’s 6-year-old Gabriel, whose simple request started a global kindness movement. You’ll meet many, many more heroes like these, as well.

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Vietnamese coffee shop to open in newly renovated Paddock Arcade

in Local Business 99 views

WATERTOWN — Han Le is bringing Vietnamese coffees and culture to the newly renovated Paddock Arcade.

Ms. Le, who lived in Vietnam until she was 17, is opening a coffee shop that specializes in coffees from her native land. She hopes to open Caffeineholic in early January in the Paddock Arcade storefront that formerly housed Europe Cakes.

Her shop will serve Vietnamese coffee called phin.

“It’s stronger than American coffee and has more flavor,” she said.

Vietnamese coffee is rich, flavorful and sweet, brewed from Vietnamese coffee beans using a special filter. Robusta coffee beans are used to make it, she said.

She’s a third-generation Vietnamese coffee maker. Her grandmother and parents ran coffee shops in Vietnam before the family moved to the United States.

“I make my own kind of coffee,” she said. “I love coffee. I’ve drank coffee since I was 12.”

Ms. Le, 22, came to America to study at South Seattle College. Her family lived on the West Coast until they moved to Texas during the pandemic to be closer to aunts and other family members, where she met her husband, Sgt. Michael Kellbher, who serves in the Army and was assigned to Fort Drum last March.

Besides her love of coffee, she wanted to bring her Vietnamese culture to the north country, she said.

They looked for a location for the coffee shop for a while, but finally met Jake Johnson, owner of the Paddock Arcade, the perfect spot for her business, she said.

Caffeineholic will also offer coffee mugs and other merchandise, bags of coffee and baked goods from a local bakery. The coffee shop will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends.

The Watertown Local Development Corp., also known as the Watertown Trust, is providing a $50,000 loan to the business to buy equipment and for renovations.

Caffeineholic is good news for the Paddock and downtown, said Donald W. Rutherford, CEO of the Watertown Trust.

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Can the city run a profitable Watertown Golf Club?

in Sports 91 views

WATERTOWN — Three City Council members are almost assuredly going forward with purchasing the Watertown Golf Club for $3.4 million from developer Michael E. Lundy.

But the question remains: Can the golf club in Thompson Park be profitable as a municipal golf club?

City officials are still trying to figure out how to operate the golf club if it does purchase nine holes that Mr. Lundy owns and whether it can make money.

City Manager Kenneth A. Mix and Scott D. Weller, the city parks and recreation superintendent, have to determine how to handle greens keepers, the pro shop and clubhouse facets of the business.

“I think it can break even or make a little profit,” Mr. Mix said Tuesday, although he cannot guarantee whether it will be during the first couple of years that the city would own it.

Mr. Lundy’s attorney Mike Young and city attorney Robert J. Slye still need to finalize a purchase agreement for the deal. Two weeks ago, council members Lisa A. Ruggiero, Cliff G. Olney III and Patrick J. Hickey took the first step that formalizes the pending purchase.

Mr. Mix doesn’t know when the vote on the final purchase agreement will take place.

The next vote will be at one of the two council meetings in December when council members will discuss the golf club’s budget and operations.

Until then, Mr. Mix and Mr. Weller will continue to work on how the city should operate the facility.

This week, Mr. Lundy’s attorney provided a complete list of equipment and other assets of the golf club to the city, but Mr. Lundy will not give the city his tax returns for it.

He’s also provided some financial documents that show it made $714,000 last year. He’s requiring city official and council members to sign Non Disclosure Agreements, or NDAs, prohibiting them from releasing detailed financial information to the public about the golf club.

Mayor Jeffrey M. Smith has been adamant that the city gets tax returns for the golf club and an appraisal of the facility.

“It’s something that a bank requires for any loan,” he said.

Opposing the deal, he’s also been adamant that the $3.4 million price tag is way too high.

On Monday night, Councilman Olney said he’s done research that shows golf clubs produce revenues of $300,000 to $400,000. That’s possible, Mr. Mix said.

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Crow hazing continues Monday night in Watertown

in Local News 70 views

WATERTOWN — Wildlife biologists will be back tonight and Tuesday night for a third time to try to remove flocks of crows that roost at night in the city.

City officials strongly encourage residents to report crow sightings to Loomacres Wildlife Management at www.airportwildlife.com/crows.html.

Loomacres receives real-time updates whenever its online reporting system receives a report, so sightings reported on or immediately before harassment nights are especially valuable to biologists in the field.

This information allows Loomacres to identify major roost locations and strategically target those parts of the city.

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North Country Festival of Trees lights up at Salmon Run Mall

in Event 67 views

WATERTOWN — A North Country Festival of Trees is again lighting up for the holidays this year under the theme “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Viewing dates for the festival are today through the Sunday and Dec. 1 through 4.

There are more than 80 trees in the former Bon-Ton space in the Salmon Run Mall this year, including 11 trees from local schools.

There will also be a number of school music, choral and dance groups performing during the live viewing. The Watertown YMCA has partnered with more than 80 local sponsors to hold the holiday event in person this year, including main sponsors FX Caprara Honda and Apogee Physicians.

April Young, director of resource development and marketing at the Watertown YMCA, said there have been some “incredible trees” decorated this year.

“We couldn’t do it without the volunteers that help at the Festival. There’s a lot of moving pieces that go into putting this on,” she said.

During the live viewing events at the mall, people can purchase raffle tickets to set in front of their favorite school-decorated trees. The tree with the most tickets will receive a prize. Raffle tickets can be purchased at the event and cost $5 per ticket or five tickets for $20. Admission to view the trees is free, but monetary and food donations are welcome.

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Local business owners talk importance of Small Business Saturday

in Local Business 48 views

WATERTOWN — Residents in the north country can’t go much more than a couple of blocks without seeing a locally owned small business, and no day is more important to small businesses than the day after Black Friday, Small Business Saturday.

Julie M. Lichtenauer, who is originally from the Bay Area in California, and co-owns Crosstown Julie Brown ReMarket in the Washington Street Plaza across from Watertown High School, said that in prior years Small Business Saturday has been their busiest day of the year.

“It really is the kickoff to the holiday season, and it shows all of our local community, what local has to offer,” she said.

Mrs. Lichtenauer called her store a “host” to other local sellers, as it sells goods from about 40 small businesses.

Starting in downtown Watertown, Mrs. Lichtenauer said that moving into Washington Street has worked really well, particularly for parking.

She said she was told that people would pass by and say they would stop some other time.

“Local, small businesses, you can’t pass them by. You have to stop,” she said.

She said that she and her husband decided to become small business owners when her husband retired and wanted to become his own boss.

“With the help of community support, our store was born,” she said.

Downtown, Paddock Art & Antiques calls the historic Paddock Arcade home.

Catherine A. Ellsworth, co-owner of Paddock Art & Antiques, said more people in the community will come out and look for small businesses to support this weekend on Small Business Saturday.

“As a small business, we exist because of people who support us,” she said.

The business has been open for 15 years, and has been part of other shops in the north country as well as traveling shows.

“15 years, I guess it’s doing OK,” she said.

She said some people are coming in because of the hype of Small Business Saturday, the vendors, and to see the renovations inside the Paddock Arcade, which are slated to be completed this weekend.

Jake Johnson Properties, which owns the Paddock Arcade, posted on its Facebook page that there will be a “Grand Re-opening of the Paddock Arcade” from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Saturday.

Ms. Ellsworth said she anticipates that when the renovations are complete, it will be “fabulous.”

“We are getting more retail people on the first level,” she said. “That’s what we’ve always wanted because the more retail people you have, the more people come in and discover you.”

She said all of the empty first-floor spaces are being rented out, but are not yet occupied.

There are three owners, the only three people who work at the Art & Antiques shop, and normally, one person works per day. That is not the case on Small Business Saturday, when all three will work because of how busy it typically gets.

“I wish it were more frequently like that, but we appreciate when it is,” she said.

All three co-owners have items for sale inside the shop.

Ms. Ellsworth said that originally the three owners liked to collect antiques, but began selling pieces and going to antique shows during the summer.

“It just evolved into that. We enjoy doing it,” she said.

She said that some of the antiques end up being part of their personal collection, while others are purchased to be resold.

Art is also available from Ms. Ellsworth, who does pottery; her daughter Claire Ames, who does charcoal drawings; and her husband Lee Ellsworth, who does photography.

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Temporary homeless shelter may not be so temporary; over 20 people staying at former Dealmaker auto garage

in Housing/Local News 72 views

WATERTOWN — Jefferson County’s first emergency shelter has proven popular, growing to host over 20 displaced and homeless people within the first five days of its opening.

The impromptu shelter on Main Avenue, in the building that once housed Dealmaker Auto Group’s body shop, has heat, cots, running water and functioning bathrooms, more than what its current residents would have access to otherwise. Officials and those involved in running the informal shelter said it is far from perfect, but there’s really no other option at this moment.

“We are at what I would call near crisis levels,” said Scott A. Gray, Jefferson County legislator and Assemblyman-elect. “There are no near-term alternatives; this is the only option we have.”

Mr. Gray has taken point in coordinating the emergency shelter, connecting with various agencies and individuals to make it come together last week and continuing to step in to help administer the shelter when possible.

The shelter opened Friday, as a historic snowstorm pummeled the city of Watertown. A group of about 15 displaced and homeless people were sheltering at the Butler Pavilion in the J.B. Wise parking lot, just off of the Black River Parkway in downtown Watertown. A group of local residents had donated food, heating fuel and tarps to protect the people there from the worst of the storm, but conditions were still unlivable.

Local businessowner P.J. Simao, who owns a number of buildings around the city, said he saw how bad conditions were getting Thursday night into Friday, and got in touch with Mr. Gray to offer his building on Main Avenue, just across the river from the pavilion.

“It’s not the Taj Mahal by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s got four walls, a roof, it has lights and plumbing,” Mr. Simao said.

But the facility’s current residents, who came to the building from a variety of places, said they’re grateful for what the community has given them, and are happy to be off the streets. They’ve come from all walks of life, some only recently without permanent housing and others who’ve spent years in and out of housing insecurity. Many have substance abuse disorder, addictions, mental or physical illnesses, but others said they found themselves slipping out of housing security purely because of economic concerns, high rents and low wages.

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Santa coming to Salmon Run Mall

in Entertainment/Event 66 views

WATERTOWN — Santa Claus is coming to town — and the Salmon Run Mall — for the holiday season beginning Dec. 1.

Santa and his elves will be located near the Hobby Lobby end of the mall through Christmas Eve during the following hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays. On Christmas Eve, Santa’s hours will be 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Visits with Santa are always free. Photo packages will be available for purchase.

In conjunction with Cherry Hill Programs and Autism Speaks, the mall will host a circumferential Santa event from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Dec. 4.

Individuals with special needs and their families can experience the time-honored tradition of a visit with Santa during this event created just for them.

This sensory-friendly event allows families with children of special needs to experience the tradition of a Santa visit in a comforting environment prior to public hours.

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