Friday, October 31, 2008

Pumpkin Carving Party

More photos from the Pumpkin Carving Party are posted and can be seen here.

Over 300 pumpkins received ambush makeovers on Thursday night at the Pumpkin Carving Party.

For the first time ever, we ran out of pumpkins and had to go out and get more.
It wasn't easy finding them, and we sure didn't get the price break that we received by picking our own in Hafner's patch.

There were so many people in attendance, all the tables were constantly full.
To accommodate the crowds, we seated some people at the desks in the office area. Yet the line remained out the door for part of the evening as we checked people in and they waited for a seat. This was a first for this event, and it presents a challenge for next year.

All ages participated. Parents and volunteers helped the small children carve fun and scary faces into their pumpkins using special tools and templates. Seeds and pumpkin goo were put in bowls, but invariably ended up everywhere.

One of our volunteers made what has become our favorite chili, which was served along with other soups and stews. The student volunteers from Syracuse University provided extra manpower that was needed to help serve the crowd. They stayed to the end, helped with clean-up and promised to return again to give us a hand. We're thrilled about that. A few donors also stopped by with some items that we count on.

Don't forget, the Halloween Safety Center is at the Police Center tonight, October 31, from 5-9pm. We will check candy and serve cider, donuts and other refreshments.

Everyone is invited to stop by, whether you're out trick-or-treating or not. We always enjoy having visitors.

PumpkinCarving2008 149

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween Events

Renee gathers pumpkins (left) while Officer Clark loads them into the truck (right).

Thank you to all the folks who sent donations for our Halloween activities.

We held the Pumpkin Picking Trip. The Pumpkin Carving Party will take place tomorrow at 5:00 pm. We eliminated the Haunted Hayride.

Monday after school, we took as many children as we could transport in three vehicles to pick pumpkins. We traveled to Hafner's on Route 370 in Baldwinsville and loaded two pickup trucks full of pumpkins (a little over 200). They give us a discount every year that we greatly appreciate.

I always get a kick out of the children. I pull into the middle of the patch where we're surrounded by pumpkins. But the children always run 100 yards away to find their own. We were there until dark getting all of the pumpkins loaded.

Since then, we have been working hard to prepare for our party. The Center is decorated for Halloween, tables are set up with pumpkins on them and we have more stashed in the corner for the 200 plus attendees we're expecting.

Volunteers will help us put this event on. This year, a group of students from Syracuse University will be volunteering alongside others who have helped for years. This new volunteer connection was made through the contacts we've cultivated at SU. Also, one of our interns will be bringing some of her cohorts from a group she belongs to on campus.

It's a pretty big chore managing all the people at this party. It's become a very popular event that involves the kids in a hands on activity where they need helpers and supervision. Plus we're preparing and serving food. I will be happy for all of the extra help.

The party starts at 5:00 PM. We will be serving stews, soups, chili and fresh bread from a local bakery. Children will sit at tables and carve their own pumpkin. When they leave, they will receive a McGruff Trick or Treat bag with coloring book, crayons and candy. Bring your family down and enjoy this fun filled event.

We will be hosting a Halloween Safety Center on Friday night, where we check children's candy. Tomorrow at noon, I will be with WSTM Channel 3 doing a live news segment on Safety Centers. I prefer the prerecorded ones because they can edit my mistakes.

At this time, we're in need of more candy donations. At the Safety Center, we like to replace any candy that doesn't pass inspection. If you can help, please call us at (315)471-3257 or stop in to the Center at 255 Wolf Street.

Please check our
website for pictures of these events.

Happy Halloween.

Officer Clarke

Friday, October 17, 2008

Pheasant Release Program


Pheasants are prepared for transport to state land where they were released.
Photographed by Renee.
See more photos here.

On Monday, children had a day off from school for Columbus Day, which gave us the opportunity for a field trip to release some pheasants. 

The birds are much bigger with beautiful colors now that months have passed since we put their blinders on. Monday's task required us to form a straight line with outstretched arms, and walk slowly inside a large pen.  We corralled the pheasants into a smaller fenced area. Then we caught them, removed their blinders and placed them into crates for transporting. 

After rounding up 105 birds, we loaded the children into three vehicles and drove to an area of state land near New Woodstock. There, we made numerous stops along a seasonal dirt road where we released 15 birds at a time. 

We all had a great time.  The children enjoyed riding through the fields and on the dirt roads through the woods. 

The Reynolds Game Farm in Ithaca is threatened with closure due to the current state budget problems.  Clubs already offset the cost of raising the chicks to maturity before they are released.  Rather than close down the game farm, my suggestion is to charge the clubs $1 more per chick, which would cover most of it's operating expenses. 

Other pheasant farms have been closed over the years. Reynolds Farm is the only one left. We can’t afford to lose them.

Part of the argument for closing the pheasant farm is that more people hunt turkey. But there still are many who enjoy hunting pheasant.  Many sportsmen and women like to bring their hunting dogs afield.  Hunting pheasant is a sport where dogs play a key role.  Many folks just love to see the pheasants walking along a hedgerow or a dirt road. 

I don’t hunt any of the birds I release. I enjoy watching them walk by as I sit in one of my tree stands bow hunting. 

Locally, the Onondaga Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs manages the raising of pheasant chicks.  They are delivered to the Jamesville Penitentiary where prisoners care for them weekdays and volunteers care for them on weekends.  

Children from the Police Center are among the volunteers who participate. We very much enjoy the program, as do numerous other members of Sportsman’s clubs who bring young people to participate. We give our time, use our own vehicles and pay for our own fuel to transport the birds to State land.  We don’t complain about the cost or the work.

This program is part of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation's effort to manage populations and promote hunting.  Imagine the cost if taxpayers had to pay state employees to deliver these services, rather than use prisoners and volunteers.  

We're appealing to Governor Patterson to keep this program.  The state could charge the clubs $1 per bird, but not get rid of a program that serves an important purpose and saves tax dollars.  We encourage readers to contact their representatives and ask them to preserve this program.

Enjoying the outdoors,

Officer Clarke

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

October Letter to Supporters

Dear Supporter, 

It’s hard to believe fall is already here.  There are many good things going on at the Police Center

As regular readers and subscribers to our blog already know, two student interns from Syracuse University are working with us on several projects.  Shana is starting an after school homework/tutoring program for area children.  Stephen is conducting a mail survey of over 400 participants in our events. Already, sixty six completed surveys have come back. We will be sharing the results of the survey on the blog.  

By the way, please subscribe to the blog if you haven't already done so.  You can have updates come to your email automatically, or use a reader to check out our notices.  It saves us money and serves you better.  Head to and click on the links to subscribe (or follow these instructions)

So many good things are happening at the Center that it's tough to talk about what's not so good.  We find ourselves in a position where we can't commit to events until donations are received.  At this writing, we do not have funds for the Pumpkin Carving and Christmas Parties.  Things were tough enough for us with the impact of soaring gas prices.  Now with the other pressures on the economy, we're concerned that donations will remain down.

If there is ever a time that I can understand the temptation to keep rather than to give, it's now. Last Sunday, our associate pastor announced an opportunity to give $20 towards a program to provide school clothing and supplies to families in Sabine Pass who were recently impacted by Hurricane Ike.  He held up yellow construction paper cut out to look like little boys and girls, and invited anyone who wished to donate to write words of encouragement on the back of a cut out.   

As I exited the sanctuary, I saw the pastor standing off to the side of the Welcome Center, ready to receive the donations.  I walked past him and others who stopped to make a donation.  I thought to myself that I already placed a check in the donation plate.  Plus, I left my wallet in the console of the car.  Those were good enough excuses, I thought, as I sipped my coffee and waited while the pastor began a brief dedication of our newly renovated Welcome Center

While enjoying my coffee, I began to think how fortunate we were to have this nice big Welcome Center with lots of space for Sunday School rooms and offices. I also thought about how blessed I am, with ample clothing, plenty of food, electricity and a roof over my head.  The Sabine Pass children and families were without the basic things I take for granted. 

I quickly exited the building, retrieved my wallet from the car and gave a donation to someone who certainly could use it more than me. Yes, these are tough times. It’s easy for me to dwell on how much the economy has strained my budget. Plainly, I can not afford the things I could a year ago.  But my basic needs are met, while that family is going without.  That $20 will see a far greater use to the family it reaches than had it stayed with me. 

Please remember there are many families in our community with greater needs than ours. During these tough times they need our support more than ever. It doesn’t matter if it’s small local organizations like us, or others. The organizations you have supported during good economic times will have more people turning to them for help when there's a downturn.  We need your continued support during these tough times. 

Since funds are dangerously low, and donations have been down for a while, we may end up having to choose between programs to ensure we can have at least one event in the remaining months of this year.  I've been very reluctant to even consider the thought of cutting an event.  It’s not a matter of wanting to but doing what circumstances say we have to. 

The children look forward to all the events.  But we have to prioritize.  Our Christmas Party, which is usually attended by about 1,000 children and families, is coming up in about 12 weeks.  It's our biggest event by far and will be here before we know it.  The bottom line is, things aren't the same as they were in the past.  So we can't do things the same way we always have. 

Therefore, we will have the Halloween Safety Center on October 31, sponsored by Neighborhood Watch, who provides the cider and cookies.  The Police Center will be open and staffed from 4:30pm-9:00pm to inspect children’s candy. Volunteers wear costumes and provide refreshments to kids and parents. 

If we receive enough funds in response to this letter, we will decide whether we can hold these other events, according to this tentative schedule: 

  • Pumpkin Picking - Tuesday, October 28, 4:30pm:  We bring the kids to a field where they pick their own pumpkins.  200 pumpkins are needed for the pumpkin carving contest. Then we return to the Police Center to decorate for Halloween and enjoy snacks.
  • Pumpkin Carving Party- Thursday, October 30, 5:00pm:  We invite area families to the Police Center to carve pumpkins and enjoy a free harvest meal. 

Donations needed include:  Pumpkins, candy, pumpkin carving kits, candles, decorations, food, drinks, cups, paper plates, napkins or checks to help us pay for supplies. 

If you are interested in helping or have any questions, please call me at (315)471-3257.

Sincerely yours,

Officer Clarke