Thursday, June 30, 2016

Employers should offer Narcan training

Earlier this month, we offered Narcan training at the plant for our supervisors and site managers. I deemed this to be necessary not because of the people I work with, but rather because of the world we live in. Working with 200 people and having our facilities visited by and shared with dozens more on a daily basis, the odds are that sooner or later we will encounter some opiate-related situation.
That’s because the opiod epidemic has become a regular part of Western New York life; it has permeated every demographic in the region – young and old; rich and poor; black and white; urban and rural. The statistics show that every one of us knows someone who is addicted to some sort of opiod whether it’s heroin or prescription pain pills like morphine, codeine, oxycodone, methadone and Vicodin.

I firmly believe that puts every business or non-profit that employs or serves more than a few dozen people a day in the crosshairs. Factories, restaurants, retailers and schools should be prepared for the day that someone comes into their facility either strung-out or spiraling into an overdose. It’s the latter situation where Narcan training comes into play.

Narcan is the name brand of naloxone, which is an opiate antidote. The active ingredient competes with opioids to bind with the same receptors in the brain that feast on the drugs. Usually, it reverses the effects of an opioid overdose in 2 to 3 minutes, buying the poisoned person time for emergency medical help to arrive.

Without it, a person who is overdosing on an opioid can have his or her breathing slow down or stop completely, causing brain damage or death. With heroin and the like, overdosing’s effects aren’t immediate – they typically develop over a 1 to 3 hour period; meaning that someone can come to work or shop at a store in a relatively normal-appearing state then devolve into total misery.    

Narcan is easy to administer. The layman lacking even the most basic knowledge of first aid skills can use it. It is done with a misting agent that is sprayed into the affected party’s nose. No needles. No mess. And, if you were wrong about the diagnosis, there are no ill effects to that person. You can’t get any easier or safer than that.

Some county governments like Erie offer training and kits free of charge to interested individuals. Here in Niagara County, we haven’t reached that level of community-based drug triage, but I guarantee we will.

In the meantime, if you would like to prepare yourself for something that might happen anywhere and at anytime, you can do as we did. We called on the services of the Batavia-based Lake Plains Community Care. Their emergency medical services trainer Andrew Steel gave an excellent seminar and conducted hands-on training. Each of the trainees was outfitted with his own Narcan kit. All of that was fully funded by a state grant that Lake Plains uses to train the community.  

Being prepared for a heroin overdose that could happen at your doorstep might seem unnecessary. “It will never happen here,” you might say. But realize that too many mothers and fathers and husbands and wives never thought that a heroin addiction would strike and tear apart their family. It can happen to anyone, anywhere. The heroin and pain killer crises are real, and you should be prepared for the very worst. The life you save might be your customer, a coworker, a friend, or a member of your own family.  

From the 27 June 2016 Greater Niagara Newspapers

Sunday, June 26, 2016


On June 25th, 2016 I had the privilege of delivering the commencement speech to the graduating class of 113 students at my alma mater – Royalton Hartland.

It was truly an honor and a memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Here is the transcript of that speech….

The last day of school…on a hot day like this…I’m sure a lot of you really want to get out of here….like now.

So, I promise to keep this speech just like me…short and sweet.

Most commencement speakers addressing graduates across America today will talk about the future. I won’t.

Instead, I want to talk about your past and present.

I want to challenge you to always remember who you are and where you came from.

And, just where did you come from?

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately, you know that Business First came out with their annual rankings of WNY schools.

Where did we end up? 70th

Some of you might get “school envy” from that – and wish you had gone to Clarence and Williamsville where all the “cool” kids go.

Some of you might worry that you were cheated out of an education as you head out into the Real World.


I strongly believe that you can toss aside those rankings.

You are more prepared for work, family, and community than any young adult at those larger, fancier schools.

I often tell people this:

There’s a reason Clark Kent was raised on a farm.

If he was raised in Metropolis…he never would have become Superman.

I say that because only here…out in the countryside of Gasport…or in this quaint village of Middleport…can you develop the traits, the character, the life skills to become the world’s next super hero.

None of you were born on the planet Krypton but just being here, at Roy-Hart, you’ve been given super powers of your own that can’t be achieved elsewhere.

For starters, think about your selflessness, the love of community, the love of your fellow Man and the empathy that you’ve developed here.

In the Big City and suburbs, most people consider making a donation their way of making an impact.

Not here. A small community survives and flourishes because everyone is directly involved in it.

Think about the experiences you’ve had helping people, going on mission trips, helping at fundraisers, and making the world a better place with your blood, sweat and tears.

If you were like Will Woodman, you were involved in the Boy Scout program and you undertook service projects that made Middleport better.

If you were like Kelsey Voelker, a Community All-Star, you volunteered for -- and enjoyed helping –countless organizations.

Because of that, you are now prepared to go out into the bigger world and change it – and God knows, this world needs a lot of changing.

Your super powers don’t end there.

You might have thought you were a super hero in purple and white on the diamond, field or court.

If you went to a larger school, you might not have had that chance – there are only so many roster spots available on a team.

But here, you had that chance to participate. You had that chance to excel in athletics.

You might have been like Amber Villella -- who was a Time Warner Athlete of the week, one of the premier student-athletes in Western New York.

You might have been like Cameron Swick -- who showed that our athletes can beat the best that the entire state can throw at us.

Everyone of you had that chance to be an athlete.

From that you’ve gained so many life skills:  discipline, team work, a sense of urgency, and the ability to perform under stress.

If you’ve read any of my columns you know what I think about common core – and judging by Roy-Hart’s opt-out rates for exams, I know where a lot of families stand.

Common core stifles creativity. It stifles free thought. It promotes uniformity.

Common Core is rotten to the core.

So, how do you overcome common core? With stellar, nationally-recognized arts programs at Roy-Hart that gave everyone of you the chance to think outside of the box, to make things out of nothing, to draw, to sing, to act…to learn how to speak in front of a crowd, to turn ideas into reality.  

I’m sure two-time all-State trombonist Ben Bacon can attest to what the arts meant for him….as can Des’Ree Taylor who was the outstanding art student of the year.  

Let’s not forget the trades either.

I’m a manufacturing guy, so I tell people all the time, college isn’t for everyone and nor should it be.

If you want to make good money, do what people don’t do anymore…that is get dirty and do things with your mind and your hands.

Here, we have a culture that promotes work. BOCES isn’t for second class students. It’s for first class students who are wise beyond their years and know what they want out of life.

Take Haley Moore for example. This cosmetology major and SkillsUSA competitor dominated in school and is already working in a salon to pay for her nursing degree. 
Or how about Joe DiMayo, a superstar welder who had a paid internship at a local welding shop, and will be attending the new welding program at NCCC.

And, it doesn’t end there. We are all here for one reason…a good old fashioned education.

There is no better place to get one than here.

We have stellar teachers, small classes, and an environment in which you could receive personal attention…a welcoming place to learn, even if you didn’t want to.

And, if you didn’t want to, they made sure that you did.

Where else could you find such a friendly learning culture, where you could master the sciences, math, English and history?

Look at the accomplishments of our top 2 – Ben Bacon and Avery Green – they can hang with any of the great minds graduating today across this country – and they will.

So, never leave here thinking that were cheated, that you didn’t get the best in life coming from a small town.

You were given the best in life…you were given powers and abilities that students would never even dream of getting in the big schools.

That’s an incredible foundation to build off. It doesn’t matter if you are going to trade school, college, work or starting a family.

You have been given so much….to do so much.

The key is to never forget who you are. Never forget where you came from.

You will kick the world’s butt because you have Ram Power – you have character, empathy, moxie, work ethic, creativity, and intelligence because of where you came from.

You can be the next Superman or Supergirl.

You will come to realize that as you adjust to your new life…and you will appreciate that even more 10, 20 years down the road when you are raising a family, moving up in your wokplace, or sacrificing your time and energy for others.

You are unique. Just as Roy-Hart is unique.

Before I leave, I want you to ponder those who made that possible.

It takes a village to raise a child….the contributions of your teachers, school staff, coaches, scout leaders, pastors, and neighbors are immeasurable.

In the coming weeks before you move on into adulthood, take the time to thank those who helped make you who you are.

And, tonight, please thank your parents.

They knew that Gasport and Middleport were the places to raise a family….this small school, the fields, the forests, the Canal, the solitude, the quality of life.

Many of them sacrificed a lot to give you that life.

Many of your parents had to make hour long commutes to Buffalo or Rochester to ensure that you had a good home in a good community. 

Many others did not pursue the bigger jobs that they could have in bigger cities, knowing full well that the cities and the suburbs weren’t places to raise a child.

And, it was never easy.

You guys are kids of the Great Recession. When you were 9 or 10, your parents struggled with lost jobs, lost retirements, and maybe even lost homes.

They shed a lot of tears.

You probably did too.

But they made it all work. It wasn’t easy.

So, tonight, give mom and dad a hug…and not just because I said so.

Good luck….to all of you. You’ve all made Roy-Hart proud…and you will continue to do so for the rest of your lives. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

EXPLORING THE NIAGARA FRONTIER: Golden Hill State Park – more than a campground

When people think of Golden Hill State Park, the first things that come to mind are its famed lighthouse and its impressive campground.

But, it’s much more than that. For the nature lover, the Park offers a nice excursion. And best of all, it’s free.

While you might have to pay $6 per car to enter the primary section of the Park, or $15 to camp there, if you drive just a little past the campground entrance on Lower Lake Road to the sign that announces the boat launch, you will have free access to parking, hiking, picnicking and fishing.
The free section of Golden Hill State Park is one of my favorite places to visit in all of Niagara County. If any part of the county could be considered remote, it’s the town of Somerset where the Park is located.

It’s off the beaten path, a decent drive from Lockport and you’d better make a day’s adventure out of it if you plan on visiting from the Falls.

There are plenty of natural wonders to see if you choose to do that.

A great view of the lake

Unlike other views of Lake Ontario, the view at Golden Hill is pristine. You don’t look across the lake and see Toronto. You don’t look to your left and right and see collections of cottages. You see an open expanse of water, with little to no boat activity, and few humans onshore -- it looks just as it did before Man set foot here.

Such an environment lends itself to impressive collections of gulls and other sea birds. Old squaws – a type of northern duck -- regularly winter in these waters and I was a little shocked to see a female old squaw near the mouth of Golden Hill Creek last weekend. It’s awful late in the year for her to be here.

Quite the sight!

Heading east from the underutilized boat launch (there were no boats in the water on a perfect Saturday), there is a trail that stays on the rim of the high embankment, affording you views of young, new-growth forests to the south and the lake to the north. This calming path, which is complimented by the crashing waves, will lead you all the way to County Line Road.

Great hiking and bird watching

If you walk west from the boat launch, you will encounter an entrance into the forest that leads to agreat network of trails, some that stay to the south of Golden Hill Creek through stands of forest, brushand open space, and others that cross a very nice bridge over the creek that will lead you through an oak grove, to the lake shore, and through forests all the way to the campgrounds and lighthouse.

These trails are all easy to navigate. The park employees keep them well identified, maintained and regularly mowed. They are quite wide, too, so if you are one of those folks who fears ticks…don’t. These trails are custom-made for you.

You can spend a good portion of the day walking these trails and if you do so in the spring or summer, bring binoculars…the bird life is pretty outstanding. On a hike with an adventurous and noisy 4 year old last weekend I saw flycatchers, kingfishers, waxwings, orioles, vireos, warblers and catbirds to name just a few.

Great picnicking

Overall, this section of the park is not used too much. I’ve never seen all of the picnic tables used near the boat launch area, so it’s a good “go to” option for families looking for a nice place to take a packed lunch (or you could grab takeout at Pizza, Wings and Things in nearby Barker).
There are also some picnic tables out of the way near the bridge over Golden Hill Creek and across that bridge. Those tables on the peninsula remain mostly unused and from there you can marvel at a lot of wildlife.

Just be sure to bring out what you bring in! There are no garbage cans in this section of the park.

Great kayaking and fishing

If you put your trailed boat in at the launch, you will have to pay a $6 fee – tickets are distributed by a meter there. But, if you put in a car-top kayak, you could do it for free. Golden Hill Creek is shallow, but still deep enough for kayaking and a family could take their fleet about a third to a half mile into the woods (depending on how wet the summer is). Beavers live in this stretch, so keep your eyes peeled for these cute, giant rodents.

If you have some confidence and a PFD on you, you could also venture out into the lake. When the predominant southwest wind is coming in, the vast area to the west of the creek’s mouth is dead calm because 30 Mile Point (where the lighthouse is set) acts as a powerful buffer. Many days of the year it is safe for kayaking and canoeing – just respect Mother Nature; the weather and conditions can change.

While you are on or by the water, bring a fishing pole. The inlet and creek hold bass, pike and panfish in the summer while colder waters bring in the trout and salmon at other times of the year. It’s a neat place to get a young kid started in fishing.

For more information…

The 500-plus acre Park is a wonderful place to visit for the day. If you’d like an extended trip, stay the night at the campground. Details about this public asset – and reservation information -- can be found online at

Bob Confer is a Gasport resident. His column, Exploring the Niagara Frontier, is published every Thursday on All WNY News.

From the 16 June 206 All WNY News

Monday, June 13, 2016

Reflecting on Belva Lockwood – the first woman to run for President

Last week, Hillary Clinton secured the Democratic presidential nomination, becoming the first woman, in the eyes of many, to officially run for that office. Not to belittle her accomplishments, but she is not the first. To properly identify what Clinton has accomplished, one must say she is the first woman to run for president via a major political party. In terms of being the first woman on a presidential ticket from any party (large or small), she was bested by someone who was born and raised right here in Niagara County: Belva Lockwood.

Lockwood ran for the office of the president in 1884 and 1888, both times under the National Equal Rights Party. In 1884 she received 4,100 votes, a fraction of those received by winner Grover Cleveland — ironically, another candidate with a solid Western New York background — who garnered 4.87 million votes.

Limited numbers notwithstanding, Lockwood’s performance far rivals what Clinton has done. Since Lockwood’s passing, women have had a long history of holding federal office dating back to 1917 in the House (when Jeanette Rankin was elected) and 1932 in the Senate (when Hattie Caraway was elected).

But back when Lockwood ran, women were looked at as second-class citizens; they couldn’t even vote. Back then the common sentiment was that they belonged in the home and shouldn’t participate in more manly pursuits like governance and law. The majority of the “gentlemanly” press painted her as a joke when she campaigned, just as they did any other woman who counted herself as a suffragist fighting for women’s voting rights.

Lockwood was incredibly instrumental in changing those disgusting ways in which we viewed and treated women in the public arena. She overcame the negative coverage and showed that she was up to the task of debating and developing a platform, a 15-position masterpiece that was arguably more substantial than that of Cleveland or his Republican foe, James Blaine. Had women possessed the right to vote, she would have been a formidable opponent and definitely a game changer (The 1884 election was close: Cleveland had 48.5 percent of the vote while Blaine had 48.02 percent).

Outside of politics, she was just as impressive. As a teacher, she developed new curriculum in her schools and expanded the knowledge base afforded young women, exposing them to studies that only men once took. She also became one of the first female lawyers to practice in the U.S. and ultimately the first one allowed to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

She was a successful lawyer at that; she fought the case of the Eastern Cherokee Indians against the government, winning them a settlement of $5 million (which in today’s dollars is $97 million). Somehow, she managed all this while running a boarding house and tirelessly fighting for women’s rights.

She was an entirely self-made woman; her achievements were not the result of privilege. Lockwood empowered herself and gave women the hope that they could do the same. In her time she ranked with Susan B. Anthony (who was immortalized on a dollar coin) as one of the most powerful and well-known women in the country.

Despite all of that, America has forgotten who she was and what she did, as made evident by the accolades thrown upon Clinton with nary any praise for Lockwood having paved the way. Sadly, Lockwood has not even become a footnote. And, her name never came up in discussions regarding who should succeed Andrew Jackson on the twenty-dollar bill.

It’s high time Belva Lockwood got her due – she was the first woman to appear on a presidential ticket and, as made evident by everything she accomplished, she truly was presidential material.  

From the 13 June 2016 Greater Niagara Newspapers