eXtraordinary Person of the Month

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With all that’s happening in the world, WXHC and Guthrie are recognizing those who continue to be eXtraordinary.

One local person will be highlighted each month by nomination from members of the community.

Click here to fill out the nomination form.


August

Jesse Abbott. More information and an interview is coming soon.

July

Linda and Brian Foote

Local residents

Steve and Linda excel in volunteerism. They also own their own businesses, selling crop seed and hay.

On top of that, Steve works full time for Dryden ambulance. He is the person people call for medical advice 24/7/365.

He and Linda have been known to go the hospital to sit with the person in need.

They both donate countless hours to the McLean community groups, McLean Community Church, McLean Fire Department, and countless other groups.

Additionally, they recently started medical equipment borrowing program; walkers, wheel chairs, shower chairs, needs, and more can be borrowed (and they deliver).


June

Ann Homer

Cortland County legislator

Ann Homer expends so much time & effort (largely unrecognized) to make our community better.

She is a County Legislator & serves on several committees. But aside from that she is active with the Girl Scouts, SNAP, & is a trustee of the Cortland County Historical Society.

With all of these endeavors she is doing more than going through the motions; she throws herself into the work and devotes enormous amounts of time & energy.

Aside from community involvement, she helps individuals one on one- going out of her way to solve problems and “be there” for people.

During the pandemic, she has made frequent contact with isolated individuals asking what they need & how they are doing and showing up with things to make their life better.

In the words of her nominator: “She is the definition of an extraordinary person. I hope she can be recognized.”


May 

James Hopkins

Financial Advisor

Jim Hopkins is a longtime board member of the Center for the Arts of Homer.

Over the years, he has dedicated countless volunteering hours and played a crucial role in organizing various community events.

One of the more prominent events he helps manage is the annual Ride for Rotary.

Hopkins has previously served as president of the Cortland Breakfast Rotary Club, vice president of the DeRuyter Ruritan, an officer in the local Toastmasters Club and president of the Homer Business Association.

“If there is one thing I have taken away from those experiences, it is that there is no single approach or universal philosophy that ensures success for any organization,” Hopkins said. “You have to take into account the mission, temperament and capacity of each group to help it the best way possible.”

More information on Hopkins in his financial advisor role at Edward Jones can be found here.


April

Mahlon Irish Jr.

Retired Homer fire chief

Chief Mahlon Irish Jr. has devoted his life to the fire service, primarily training firefighters to do their job safely.

He recently retired as village of Homer fire chief. Over the years, he has worked with numerous departments within the county as a Deputy Fire Coordinator.

Those who nominated him say he is always available to help where needed, especially when it comes to his vast knowledge of fire trucks.

Irish Jr, still drives engines for the village — and even owns a couple antiques himself, which he is currently restoring.

His latest endeavor has been educating people on firefighter cancer with his Believe 31 Program.

As a cancer survivor himself, Mahlon tours the country teaching firefighters a new way to be safe against an enemy that hides in their gear, trucks, and station.


March

Tom Whitney

President of the Cortland Shrine Club

Tom had it pretty tough growing up, spending much of his childhood taking care of his grandfather and disabled parents.

Still, he always found a way to maintain several jobs while fulfilling a plethora of other commitments in the community.

An active Rotary Club member, Tom has cooked in local soup kitchens including over the holidays.

He brought back the Cortland Shrine Club after it was idle for over a decade. Tom serves as club president and also sits on the Board of Governors for The Shriners Hospital for Children in Massachusetts.

Mr. Whitney now finds himself recovering from a crazy incident that led to partial amputation of his leg, while continuing to help area children in need through a variety of programs and initiatives.

In March, he published a book — entitled Handicap This — relating his own life experiences to the common struggles we all endure as humankind.


February

Bob Messenger

Driver coordinator for the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) in Cortland/Tompkins Counties.

Bob’s responsibilities include monitoring the requests from disabled veterans for rides to and from doctors’ appointments at the VA clinic in Freeville and the VA hospital in Syracuse.

After confirming appointments each week, he requests drivers in both Cortland and Tompkins Counties who volunteer to escort the Vets.

Bob provides each driver with necessary information for contacting the veteran and arranging pick up times.

He also works to ensure the two government vans used for transportation are kept in working order — cleaned, sanitized to provide a safe working environment.

Working with the Syracuse coordinator, Bob keeps the local drivers up to date on program changes and requirements, making sure his drivers have all the necessary required documentation, physicals, and training.


January

Deacon Joseph During

Chaplain, Veteran, Community servant

“Deacon Joe” — as he became commonly recognized — passed away suddenly on Friday (January 22) at the age of 73. He was known for much more than his vocation with the Catholic church.

During served two years in the Army (1967-69) and spent the entire time as Chaplain Assistant at his South Carolina base. He was later honorably discharged with a National Defense medal and expert rifleman recognition.

In 1968, while still in the service, he married his high school sweetheart, Joyce Hull.

Upon leaving the Army, he returned to work for Dermody, Burke & Brown Certified Public Accountants in Syracuse. The firm had gotten him a brief start to an Accounting career before he was drafted into the Army.

His time with DB&B helped During achieve a Bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University. Later on, he moved his family to Cortland in 1984 to open a branch of the company and finally managed his own accounting practice in 2001.

Over the years, Joe volunteered his time and extensive accounting knowledge with various local charities and non-profit organizations. He was an active member of the Mattydale Fire Department from 1971 to 1981 and became an Honorary Member in May of 1981.

In 1989, During joined the Cortlandville Fire District where he served as District Treasurer for 7 years, then became a District Commissioner for 6 years. He also served as Department Chaplin for both departments up until his death.

In 2006, he completed his seven-year journey to become an ordained Deacon in the Catholic Church for the Diocese of Syracuse.


December

Nancy Estep

“Mission for Holiday smiles”

Nancy took it upon herself to brighten up the holidays for every last resident in Cortland County nursing homes.

Her idea: Personalized cards from the community — she would need about 500 in order to reach everyone.

With that in mind, Estep decided to set up drop boxes at several local businesses.

The response she got was overwhelming.

“We accomplished the goal in just a few weeks. That motivated me to keep going and eventually we had enough cards to give two per-resident instead of just one.”

Estep coordinated safe deliveries with each care facility, all of which expressed interest in returning the initiative next year.


November

Debbie Brown

Spafford Food Pantry

Debbie and the volunteers work many hours each month to make sure area families have food and clothes.

They also gave school supplies to each child of the families they serve, holiday gifts for children and fresh meals on Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving.

The Spafford Food Pantry is located in the Scott Methodist Church on Route 41.

Additionally, Brown runs the Redbird mission that gives gift box to those in need as part of the Methodist Church mission.


October

Christella Yonta

President, United Way for Cortland County

As soon as COVID-19 broke out in March, Christella led the charge in providing assistance to those in most need.

It started with partnership between the United Way and the Cortland Community Foundation that raised over $75k in a matter of weeks.

Every penny went right back out to support social programs in the area — in total, 17 local nonprofits received help funding through 10 coordinated rounds of grants.

Yonta also worked to manage daily residential food deliveries by Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army, on top of free food & milk drives alongside the CNY Food Bank and American Dairy Association Northeast.

Her dedication to the community recently earned her the 2020 Kathy Cotterill Community Service Award, chosen by her peers and announced at the Cortland Chamber’s Annual Awards last month.

WXHC listeners may recognize Yonta’s voice from the weekly on-air gas & grocery giveaways that run during United Way’s annual fundraising campaign.


September

Stacy Goldyn-Moller

Owner, Magpie Custom Creations

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Stacy Goldyn-Moller has donated a steady stream of fabric to those making face masks for community members in need.

She also works on costumes for productions at Cortland and Homer High Schools, the Homer Center for the Arts and Cortland Repertory Theatre.

Additionally, Goldyn-Moller does alterations for the annual Prom Dress giveaway held each year by the Cortland Youth Bureau.

Located in the historic Cortland Corset building at 75 East Court Street, Magpie Custom Creations features locally handcrafted fiber items and unique accessories.

The shop also offers sewing and crafting classes for all ages, along with handmade items of all kinds for purchase.

Custom sewing, tailoring and alterations, and embroidery services are also available.


August

(Classic House Photos)

Darris Mcdowell

Owner, The Squeeze Juice Bar.

Originally from the NYC-area, Mcdowell moved to Cortland and started his business in 2017.

He hosted Cortland’s first ever “Black-owned Business Appreciation Day” on August 8, using the proceeds to buy backpacks and other school supplies for a free give away at The Squeeze on September 1.

Mcdowell also provided a free smoothie event for the community earlier this summer – that event was helped along by donations from several friends who traveled hundreds of miles to attend in support.

During the interview, Darris thanked all who have helped him succeed, like other business owners, city officials and the local Chamber of Commerce.

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