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What's Happening

St. John’s Episcopal & the Child Advocacy Center

As the featured writer for the Cape Vincent Chamber of Commerce Monthly Newsletter, I have the opportunity to spotlight local businesses, people, and non-profits.

The Child Advocacy Center was established in 2006, when Law Enforcement and Child Protective Services recognized the need for a safe space for victimized children, where the child would be interviewed only once by a forensic interviewer and not by multiple agencies. The Center is 97% grant -funded and is under the agency of The Victims Assistance Center.

The CAC houses interview rooms, a medical examination room, a waiting room with stuffed animals, toys, age-appropriate movies on the TV and warm, inviting colors. Most important of the rooms in the CAC is the room where all the agencies involved in the case can gather to review the interview. In that room, the walls are lined with laptops and headphones. This is the reason the Center was established. One interview. One Interviewer.

Watertown is the Main Hub for the CAC, but they also have two satellite offices, one in Lewis and another in St. Lawrence county. As well as, two 33-foot-long Winnebago’s outfitted with victim intake capabilities that travel to destinations in rural Lewis and St. Lawrence counties when travel is difficult for the victims.

Of the cases the CAC manages:

  • 95% Sexual Abuse
  • 5% Physical Abuse/Witnesses of Traumatic Event

Of the children served in 2019:

  • Jefferson: 397
  • St. Lawrence: 279
  • Lewis: 90

Ages

  • 0-6:    234
  • 7-12:  292
  • 13+:   240

St. John’s Episcopal Church of Cape Vincent has been a blessing to the children of CAC. 

In 2018, St. John’s wanted to make the rectory a Safe House but requirements such as 24-hour police accessibility were not attainable. So, they sold the house and the funds were allocated to the Child Advocacy Center. The center used $25000 of the allocation in 2018 to update their offices with contemporary equipment, furnishings and technology. The remainder of the funds were to be contracted in the amount of $5000 over the course of four years. In 2019, the CAC used the first $5000 to purchase all new furniture to outfit their site. This year, they are testing the theory of digitizing documents, and using iPads in the field, so CAC Advocates and the agencies they work with can quickly sign and release critical and time-sensitive materials.

But St. John’s support is not just financial.

An exuberant woman by the name of Charlie Fix, a retired Fort Drum Public Health Nurse and member of St. John’s, first introduced me to the CAC – St. John’s connection during a French Festival Committee meeting I attended in January. She talked about how not only did one of the CAC Winnebago’s participate as a float in the parade but also joined forces to provide a Comfort Station for festival goers. 

I was intrigued and wanted to learn more about St. John’s involvement. Charlie set up a meeting for me with Amy, the CAC Program Director, Priest Lisa of St. John’s, and Therapy Dog Emelia, at the Watertown office. 

Amy has been with the CAC since its inception. First as an Advocate (an Advocate works directly with the non-offending family members of the victim), then as Coordinator, and now in her present position. She is also the lucky soul that gets to take home the beautiful golden Emelia each night at the end of the workday.

Amy was more than happy to discuss the support St. John’s provides the children that enter the doors of the CAC. In the Waiting Room, along the mantle, are a row of stuffed bunnies. The bunnies are made by a woman in Cape Vincent. Before the bunnies are transported to Watertown, Priest Lisa blesses them. When a child is interviewed, they are given one of St. John’s blessed bunnies for comfort. When the interview is over, the child can take the bunny with them to continue to be consoled.

St. John’s regularly donates much needed blankets. Some are made (knitted, sewn), some new, others gently used – which are given to the child, like the bunnies, to hold and take with them for comfort. They also supply snacks for the Waiting Room to keep the waiting child engaged and nourished.

At the beginning of the school year, backpacks are prepared with school supplies for those children in need. And, when a child comes into the CAC with few personal items, Amy lets St. John’s know and the clothing and donations flow in abundant.

St. John’s does not just provide indispensable care and donations to the children. Recently, when the staff of the CAC had endured a couple grueling months a harrowing, sometimes unresolved cases, the emotional toll was evident. To help boost morale St. John’s hosted a luncheon to remind them that they are worthy, supported and the job that they provide is vital.

The CAC and St. John’s will work together again this summer for the 52nd Annual French Festival, entering one of their Winnebago’s in the parade, providing a Comfort Station for Festival goers, and offering the public insight into what an important program the Child Advocacy Center is for the victims of abuse.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month

Promote the prevention of child abuse by considering a donation to the Victims Assistance Center, the Child Advocacy Center, or by purchasing a Blue Pinwheel from the Cape Vincent Community Library.

Categories
What's Happening

Mary Madison Studios

As the featured writer for the Cape Vincent Chamber of Commerce Monthly Newsletter, I have the opportunity to spotlight local businesses, people, and non-profits.

Weddings are magical. As in, whether a large ceremony with hundreds of guests, or standing together in front of the Justice of the Peace with your closest friends and parents, you’ll be in a dreamlike state for the entire event. When the day is over, and the enchantment has worn off, the two of you will look back on the day and wonder, “did we eat?”

Enter the importance of the wedding photographer! Photos of your special day will help you recall all the beautiful memories of the occasion.

What better duo to capture those memories, than the husband and wife team of Mary Madison Studios! They understand the enchantment, the flow of the wedding, the unexpected moments, and the occasional bumps in the process. They’re married; they’ve experienced the magic, and they know exactly how to seize those moments that seem fleeting during your cherished day!

Kathleen and Dave Bonney are the artists that make-up Mary Madison Studios. The business name comes from their middle names: Kathleen Mary and Dave Madison. Both grew up in Cape Vincent, became friends over their passion for photography, and fell in love. 

Kathleen, also known as Kat, formally a Trottier, credits The Latimars, a brother and sister photography team from Boston, for teaching her the fundamentals of wedding shoots. Dave attributes his time spent in Rochester after graduating from JCC and years photographing arbitrary patrons while tending bar, for honing his skills. And, both acknowledge the discovery of their eye for photography to Cape resident, and retired TI Art Teacher, George Mingle. When each was a High School student, they took his Black & White Photography Class and realized then they had a talent with the camera.

Mary Madison Studios has been in business since 2015. In those five years, they have fulfilled 75 weddings! As well as, get married to each other – in June 2017 – buy a house, and have a baby – in July 2019. WHEW!

What sets Mary Madison apart from other wedding photographers, is the time and care Dave and Kat spend with the couple. Dave credits Kat with an important conversation that many are afraid to present. Kathleen sits down with the bride-to-be to discuss the realty versus expectation of the wedding day to dispel unrealistic goals.

On the day of the wedding, Dave and Kathleen start their day early, and are the last to leave at the end of the day. They split at first, Kathleen follows every movement of the bride and bridesmaids, Dave monitors every detail of the groom and the groomsmen. Coming together for the ceremony to work jointly to get those perfect shots. At the reception, they work the crowd to get those “spontaneous” shots as well as the traditional. Dave has been known to prove his skill for dancing too when the party floor needs a livelier participation. 

By spending that extra time with the couple, caring enough to be early and stay to the very end, they guarantee the couple more genuine memories of their special day.

I asked Dave and Kathleen if the wedding photography field was a cutthroat business. They completely dismissed any notion of competition. Just the contrary, they described it as a nurturing and generous environment. They’re friends with most of the North Country photographers. And, if Dave and Kat can’t fulfill a wedding, they happily refer the engaged couple to one of the trusted, local wedding photographers, because they know the same would be done for them.

One local wedding photographer, whom Dave and Kathleen seek advice from and consider a mentor, also lives in Cape Vincent. Kristen of Kristen Charles Photography is a portrait photographer with a studio located in Watertown. When Dave and Kathleen need business advice, or have a question about photography, they go to Kristen. It was Kristen, whom they chose, to be their photographer when they wedded in Dave’s father’s backyard in the summer of 2017.

Talking with Dave and Kathleen, it’s clear their passion for photography. They both get a twinkle in their eye and a glow about them when they talk about their craft. And, they don’t do just weddings, they also do engagement, newborn, maternity, lifestyle, and senior photos. 

Mary Madison Studios is not their only profession. Kathleen is employed at Converse Laboratories Inc in Watertown. The company that originally started as a dairy lab, and today is better known for testing drinking and non-potable water supplies. Dave works for Watertown Savings Bank. He is also a trustee on the Village Board; and, is enthusiastic to be working with current Mayor Golden and his vision for riverfront revitalization.

When they are not working their day jobs or shooting photos, they are busy caring for and raising the cutest baby. Owen entered their lives in July 2019. Always the professionals and undeterred by swollen ankles, Dave and Kathleen were shooting a wedding five days before Owen’s arrival! They also like to work on their house, as well as travel when they get the chance.

You can access the Mary Madison Studios portfolio through their website: http://marymadisonstudios.com/  You can also follow them on Facebook and Instagram

“Mary Madison Studios” was published in the March 11th edition of the Thousand Islands Sun newspaper, as well as the Chamber newsletter.

Categories
Ramblings

“You’re No Spring Chickens”: An Essay of Infertility and Indecision

My husband and I struggled with infertility. We were happy when blessed with the perfect daughter from a successful IVF (In Vitro Fertilization) in March of 2007. A happy little family. Like an athlete who made it to the Olympics after years of hard work, we felt heroic after the hurdles and obstacles we had to overcome to achieve parenthood.  The journey was over.

In 2006, the treatment path that my fertility doctor had set me on was more than successful — the shots, the pills, the weekly trips to Syracuse for a vaginal ultrasound and bloodwork — produced many eggs for harvesting. When the miracle-workers in the lab introduced my husband’s sperm to my eggs, 8 embryos were created – EIGHT viable embryos! 

When the embryos were three days old, the remarkable Dr. Rob of the CNY Fertility Center in Syracuse, took three of the viable embryos and inserted them into my uterus. 

The remaining 5 embryos were frozen. 

Over the next couple years, my husband and I casually considered what we would do with the five frozen embryos. We considered giving them to a family member struggling with fertility. We thought about selling them. We contemplated donating them to research.

By January of 2010, the money we had been granted for fertility treatments no longer covered the cost of storage. My husband and I had fallen on hard times financially and a quarterly fee for storage made our conversations of the embryos no longer a casual chat. We had to make a decision. We paid the fee for the first quarter but promised we would make a decision before the next payment was due.

Forced with making a final decision, the angst of what to do was tremendous, the potential lives of five babies hung over us like a gray cloud on a sunny day. Many conversations later, multiple scenarios discussed, we came to the simple, yet harsh conclusion that we would donate the embryos to science.

Around the same time we made our decision, I was scheduled for my annual gynecological exam. I was quite fond of my OB/GYN. She was an unsympathetic, brass woman who talked like she was raised in Hell’s Kitchen. She told it like it was – and I adored her for it. 

Sure, when I first started seeing my OB/GYN in the early 2000s, I thought I had made a mistake. Was this the right fit for me? But, by my second visit, I was able to make a connection with my wit and humor – and she, in turn, always gave me the most spot-on advice – I knew this was the doc for me. When I told her in 2005 that family planning was not going as expected, and we may need some help, she didn’t mess around with different pill concoctions and tracking my cycles. She knew from my history that she needed to send me to the best person for the job, Dr. Rob and his team of miracle-workers at the CNY Fertility Center. She even gushed like a schoolgirl talking about a crush when she mentioned Dr. Rob – one not to exude warm fuzzies, I could tell from her demeanor that she was sending me to the mightiest wizard in infertility treatments. 

So, when I told her during my annual exam on that day in 2010, that my husband and I decided to donate our frozen embryos to science, she flatly disagreed.

She told me, “one of the saddest aspects of my job is the woman who has no family. Her parents were older when she was born and did not have any other children. Now her parents are gone and her parents’ families are gone and she is alone. When she goes to the hospital for a procedure, she does not have family to sit by her and hold her hand. When she goes to her chemo and radiation appointments for her cancer, she has no one to check in on her when she returns home. When she dies, she will have no family left behind to mourn for her. You and your husband are no spring chickens. You will be in your sixties and seventies when your daughter graduates college. You may even be dead by the time she considers starting her own family. Don’t do this to your daughter. Don’t let your daughter be an only child. She needs family, she needs a sibling.”

And, that was that.

By early summer, after a failed FET (frozen embryo transfer) attempt and only two embryos remaining, I implored that Dr. Rob do the FET. He did. And, the miracle happened.

It was not an easy pregnancy. I cramped and bled at four weeks which resulted in strict bed rest for two weeks. My husband, attempting to make a better life for our growing family, took a job in Boston, MA, five hours away, when I was six months pregnant. I stayed behind with our house, daughter, and dog. I was sick. Very sick. I ended up in the hospital four or five times for dehydration — always dragging my three year old daughter with me because we had no family in the area. I lost twenty pounds.

In March, 2011, two days after my 41st birthday, our second daughter was born.

Today, we have two daughters that absolutely adore one another. Sure, they are still young — I anticipate they will be hating one another during their teen years — but they won’t be alone.

Originally published in April 2015