Chamber Awards Gala: Chairman’s Award, River Region Partnership Award honorees announced

The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, above. and Rainbow Air will be honored at Friday’s Chamber of Commerce Awards Gala. (Submitted photo)

Chairman’s Award: Niagara Falls National Heritage Area

The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area has been chosen as the 2017 Chairman’s Award recipient by the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce board of directors and Chairwoman Kristen Trunzo.

This organization has accomplished many successful projects over the past few years to capture this region’s history, heritage and culture. These projects will have a lasting positive impact on the region.

In 2011, a commission was formed in Niagara Falls to create the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area, spanning from LaSalle and Niagara Falls to Lewiston and Youngstown. It is in partnership with the National Parks Services and U.S. Department of the Interior that the National Heritage areas were first designated by Congress in 2008.

These are areas that tell the important stories that celebrate the nation’s diverse heritage. The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area is one of 49 in the U.S. New York has four National Heritage areas.

Sara Capen was hired as the project director, part-time, in 2011, and became executive director in 2013. The NFNHA has two full-time employees who collaborate with other heritage area partners that seek to make the interpretive, environmental, economic and social improvements that benefit both residents and visitors.

The office of the NFNHA is located on the Niagara University campus in Timon Hall. The university serves as a great resource and partner for the organization. The Niagara Falls National Heritage Area has developed programs with local organizations and relies on its partners to help further its message. It has worked with historical associations, State Parks, art councils and other nonprofits to showcase the region. Many organizations rely on grant funding for their projects from the NFNHA.

Some of the projects created out of the NFNHA include the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Area, which will highlight the history that took place here at the Niagara Falls train station, come 2018. The National Heritage Area also has the National Parks Service Passport Program. The Junior Ranger program is modeled after the Parks Service Passport Program and was the first project implemented by the NFNHA. The booklet features information and history from the Niagara Region geared toward the fourth-grade reading level and up. More than 10,000 booklets have been distributed.

Another project spearheaded by the NFNHA is the Discover Niagara Shuttle, which will start running again in May for the start of the second year of the pilot program. The shuttle is funded by several major stakeholders and connects Niagara Falls to Youngstown. Four shuttles run seven days a week, with the midpoint at the New York Power Authority.

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Chamber Awards Gala: Paul Waterstrat named Youngstown Citizen of the Year

Paul Waterstrat 

Village of Youngstown Citizen of the Year Paul Waterstrat

Village of Youngstown Mayor Raleigh Reynolds and village trustees chose Paul Waterstrat as the 2017 Village of Youngstown Citizen of the Year.

Paul is one of those behind-the-scenes volunteers who do all of the work without question. He has been instrumental in assisting the Village of Youngstown Recreation Committee ensure its events are a success.

Paul lives in the Village of Youngstown with his wife, Pam. They have two sons, Max and Evan, who grew up participating in the Village of Youngstown recreation program and continue to help when needed.

Pam has been involved as a commissioner of the program for the past 15 years. As with many great relationships, when one family member is involved, everyone is! Paul has volunteered for the recreation programs, behind the scenes, and is always ready to help. He always seems to know what has to be done.

The Youngstown recreation program is one of the best programs in the region. Many children from the Village of Youngstown have fond memories of events and programs. Paul has enjoyed watching kids who used to be a part of the recreation program, when his sons were involved, come back and volunteer. He has noticed the level of participation over the years has stayed the same – which is a good thing, considering all of the technology options most children have today to serve as entertainment. From open gym time and the Nancy Price 5K run, to Christmas and Halloween parties for the children, there are recreation activities and programs planned all year long.

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Chamber Awards Gala: Claudia Fleckenstein & Ellie Murphy named Town of Porter Citizens of the Year

Claudia Fleckenstein and Ellie Murphy of the Care-n-Share Food Pantry.

The Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce will honor businesses and individuals at its annual Chamber Awards Gala from 6-11 p.m. Friday, April 28, at The Conference & Event Center Niagara Falls. The chamber’s series of profiles on the 2017 gala honorees continues.

Town of Porter Citizens of the Year Claudia Fleckenstein & Ellie Murphy

Claudia Fleckenstein and Ellie Murphy have been chosen by Supervisor Merton Wiepert and the Town of Porter Council as the 2017 Town of Porter Citizens of the Year. This year, two recipients were chosen, because of their unwavering support and volunteer hours given to the Care-n-Share Food pantry that serves our local community.

As residents of the Town of Porter, Ellie and Claudia realized poverty extends outside of city locations and there was a growing need in the rural areas close to home.

The Care-n-Share Food Pantry in Ransomville started in 2010 at the Ransomville Free Methodist Church, in cooperation with the Food Bank of WNY. The pantry was located at the church for a few years before it required a larger space to help the increasing number of families in need of services. It moved to the current location at 3628 Ransomville Road in 2015.

Ellie has been a mainstay of the organization from the beginning and leads the operations of the pantry. She remembers every face and name and likes getting to know those who utilize the services the pantry provides. Ellie devotes countless hours behind the scenes at the pantry during the week, taking care of the many details.

Claudia signed up to volunteer through a program at Niagara University, originally dedicating one to two Saturdays per month. It wasn’t long before she was recruited to serve on the board of directors.

For the past five years, Claudia has spearheaded the Ransomville Festival of Wreaths, including the celebration of the event’s 25th anniversary.

Claudia and Ellie are members of the board of Inter-Community Services Inc., the 501 (c)(3) organization that oversees Care-n-Share Food Pantry. The board, which they emphasized is a “working” board, is filled with civic-minded individuals who all volunteer with the pantry and take the lead for other services provided, such as the annual school supply giveaway and holiday baskets.

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Chamber Awards Gala: Thomas Deal named Town of Lewiston Citizen of the Year

Tom Deal of Deal Realty.
By Jennifer Pauly


Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce

The Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce will honor businesses and individuals at its Chamber Awards Gala, from 6-11 p.m. Friday, April 28, at The Conference & Event Center Niagara Falls.

Thomas Deal has been chosen by Town of Lewiston supervisor and council as the 2017 Town of Lewiston Citizen of the Year. Deal has given his time and valuable resources to help improve the quality of life for residents of our community. Many local projects have been able to achieve their goals, because of his selfless dedication.

Deal and his wife, Cheryl, have been residents of Lewiston for the past 24 years, and they own and operate Deal Realty on Center Street. Having raised daughters Hannah, Taylor and Brooke in Lewiston, Deal understands why people choose to live in this region.

Family is the most important aspect of his life, and he works hard to ensure other families are able to enjoy activities in our community. As the chairman of the Town of Lewiston Parks & Recreation Advisory Committee, Deal knows the importance of projects that impact the youth in the community. He also sponsors both Lewiston youth baseball and softball, which provide local kids an opportunity to play sports throughout the summer.

As the recent winter season approached, funds were not available for the Lewiston Family Ice Rink. The rink, a highlight activity during the holiday season and winter months, was in danger of not opening for the 2016-17 season. Deal led a grassroots effort to gain financial support from the community. He worked with Parks and Recreation Director Mike Dashineau to contact local businesses to sponsor the rink, while also working through the operational aspects of the rink to see if it could be saved.

Phone calls, emails, social media posts and coverage by the local media all made a difference in leveraging enough support to keep the rink open. The rink had a successful season, and even celebrated an engagement on center ice!

As a member of the Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce, Deal heard the news a few years ago that the chamber was in need of a Santa Claus for the annual Lewiston Christmas Walk. One of his Realtors from Deal Realty, Vince Canosa, agreed to step in as Santa, and a new partnership was formed.

For more information click here!

Chamber Awards Gala: Claudia Marasco, Arlene Sliz named Village of Lewiston Citizens of the Year

Pictured, from left: Arlene Sliz and Claudia Marasco.

By Jennifer Pauly


Niagara River Region Chamber of Commerce

Claudia Marasco and Arlene Sliz were chosen by Village of Lewiston Mayor Terry Collesano and the Board of Trustees as the 2017 Village of Lewiston Citizens of the Year. Together, their volunteer work for the “Invest in a Vest” program has ensured extra protection for our local police force.

Claudia and Arlene are both longtime residents of the Village of Lewiston. Claudia has lived in the village since 1982, and Arlene for the past 45 years.

Daily walks around the village are common for both, and it was on one of those morning walks that Arlene ran into Claudia. A series of unfortunate events had just happened nationally and also in our community regarding safety, and this struck a chord with Arlene. She asked Claudia if she happened to know if our local police force was prepared to handle active shooter situations.

This question spurred other questions, incorporating Lewiston Police Chief Frank Previte and the Village of Lewiston to take a look at how our police force was protected. It was at a Village Board meeting where Claudia asked if all of the police staff had the type of vests that could sustain bullets. The answer was that not all of them had them, and it was shortly after that meeting that the program “Invest in a Vest” started to take shape.

At first, the two thought having a chicken barbecue event or basket auction would be a good start to raise funds. They were under the impression to start small, but quickly learned this grassroots process would take on a life of its own – and an entire community would get involved.

Claudia and Arlene met with a local bank to start the process of creating an account, but had some bumps along the way in getting one opened. They also met with Village of Lewiston Clerk/Treasurer Amy Salada, Deputy Treasurer Ed Walker and Deputy Clerk Stephanie Meyers. It was realized that the funds could come through the village, with a stipulation that they only be used for the “Invest in a Vest” program.

Arlene quickly made posters and brochures, printed from her home computer, that were distributed to local businesses and residents. The first week the volunteers started, they collected $3,000. Word of mouth spread from there.

Shortly after the program started in July, Claudia and Arlene gained the interest of the local media. The Lewiston-Porter Sentinel had a cover feature. The Niagara Gazette and then local TV news stations followed.

Word quickly grew, and the community soon embraced the campaign. Businesses began to donate and get involved. An anonymous donor provided funds for Stuart Sports to produce T-shirts, which were given to donors at the $100 or more level. More than 65 T-shirts were given out. Donations were made in amounts from $5 up to $2,000. The goal was $20,000 to cover 20 full- and part-time Lewiston officers with quality-grade vests that would offer the best protection.

Claudia and Arlene are now just $250 away from raising $26,000. They raised enough to purchase custom-fitted vests for 20 officers, as well as LPD K-9 Taser. As people were donating, they asked if Taser was equipped with a vest. Taser’s veterinarian also put the word out of the program, and funds came in to cover the dog’s equipment.

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Join in the anniversary celebration!

An anniversary is a milestone for a business or an organization to celebrate. The team at Niagara Frontier Publications would like to celebrate that milestone with you. If you haven’t heard already this year, the Lewiston-Porter Sentinel turned 30 years old. The Sentinel has been loyal to the River Region, covering topics on all the local businesses, highlighting events, and people. The team at NFP would love to promote your anniversary along with theirs this year.

Consider joining NFP’s, in a celebration of organizations and businesses that have supported and promoted the community. For more information on how to contact Niagara Frontier Publications, visit it’s website,

Which restaurant has the best fish fry?

Tell us, and win one of your own!

Just in time for Lent, Niagara Frontier Publications’ returning web contest seeks an answer to one of life’s great questions: Which restaurant has the best fish fry?

From Feb. 28 through March 28, 2017, vote HERE for the Western New York restaurants that serve delicious fish dishes. The eatery with the most votes will be featured in the Niagara-Wheatfield-NT Tribune, Island Dispatch, Lewiston-Porter Sentinel and on this website.

(CONTEST NOW EXTENDED until 11 a.m. Monday, April 3, 2017)

When you cast a vote, you’ll be entered to win a fish fry for two or a general food gift certificate courtesy of an area restaurant. One winner will be selected each Monday by random draw and notified by phone call or email.

Your voice matters! Tell us which restaurant serves the freshest catches and tastiest batters while providing the best bang for your buck.

OFFICIAL RULES (MODIFIED AT 2:30 P.M. FEBRUARY 28, 2017; 12:20 p.m. MARCH 27, 2017)

TO ENTER: Fill out the form by clicking the highlighted link above, or the link below, to redirect to the entry webpage. Once there, answer the questions and submit the information.

Entries also can be found in Niagara Frontier Publication’s (NFP) newspapers. Those entries can be submitted in hard copy form to 1859 Whitehaven Road, Grand Island, NY 14072.

GRAND PRIZE: The one (1) restaurant with the most “Best Fish Fry” votes at the end of the contest will receive a special recognition and a full write-up in NFP’s three main newspapers — the Lewiston-Porter Sentinel, the Niagara-Wheatfield-NT Tribune and the Island Dispatch — and on this website.

THOSE NOMINATING AN EATERY will enter to win a prize. One participant will be selected by random draw each Monday and receive a fish fry for two or a general food gift certificate courtesy of a participating restaurant. (Not necessarily the restaurant entrant voted for in contest.) Prizes not claimed within thirty (30) days of winner’s notification will return back to NFP.