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The Citizen's COVID-19 community bulletin board: Running for hunger, more
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The Citizen's COVID-19 community bulletin board: Running for hunger, more

From the Lifting spirits: Stories, photos, videos of Cayuga County-area parades, events during pandemic series
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I edit The Citizen's features section, Lake Life, and weekly entertainment guide, Go. I've also been writing for The Citizen and since 2006, covering arts and culture, business, food and drink, and more.

With schools and most businesses closed, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted life in the Cayuga County area significantly.

But in this time of social distancing, there are many stories of people in the community coming together in spirit, if not in person.

This community bulletin board is a place to collect those stories. It will be updated regularly, and new stories will be published every Tuesday in The Citizen during the pandemic. If you have a story you want to share — an act of kindness by a business, a thoughtful gesture by a neighbor — please send it to Needs for donations or volunteers, and ways people are working around social distancing, will be shared here as well.

Take care everyone — we really are all in this together.

June 1

• The Auburn Rotary Club held its second community milk giveaway Thursday at Casey Park Elementary School in Auburn. Five hundred half-gallons, from Hillcrest Dairy, were given away. Another giveaway will take place from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, June 4, at Towne Center Plaza on Genesee Street on the west side of Auburn.

• The Booker T. Washington Community Center thanks Silver Tree Forest for donating 10 family packs of vegetables to give away. Each bundle includes sweet peppers, cherry tomatoes, full-size tomatoes, kale, cabbage, beets, Brussels sprouts, lettuce and winter squash.


Thomas Diego

Scott Diego rode his motorcycle on Memorial Day in memory of his father, Thomas Diego, who passed away last year from complications suffered during his service in the Vietnam War in 1968.

• Community advocate Timothy Donovan, of Auburn, presented a wreath at Veterans Memorial Park on Memorial Day.

• Vin Gleason, of Auburn, wrapped up his month-long 100 Miles for Hunger program at the end of May. Overall, his team of 23 completed 2,076.05 miles, raising $2,196 for the Auburn Hunger Task Force. For more information, or to donate, search for "100 Mile fundraiser for Auburn Hunger Task Force Inc." on Facebook.

May 25

 Auburn Enlarged City School District Board of Education member Ian Phillips and Genesee Elementary School Librarian Anne Mlod recently started an initiative to have local children send letters, cards and art to local seniors. Art teacher Jessica Rice and Mlod are holding Zoom artwork sessions with students every Wednesday afternoon. For more information, visit

• The Auburn Rotary Club and Community Foundation will hold two more milk giveaways: from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, May 28, at Casey Park Elementary School, 101 Pulaski St., Auburn, and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, June 4, at Towne Center Plaza on Genesee Street on the west side of Auburn. Each giveaway (a case of 2% milk, or 12 12-ounce bottles) is open to the first 500 cars or walk-ups; walk-ups should practice social distancing and use masks. 

Genesee Elementary School second grade teacher Judy Garrett and librarian Anne Mlod, as Pride the mascot, recently brought socially distanced dance parties to more than 20 Genesee families. To watch a video, visit

May 18

Auburn Community Hospital thanks AmeriCU for its recent donation of personal protective equipment and cookies. 

• The Auburn Police Department thanks Rick Steele, of Park Outdoor Advertising, for recently dropping off treats from Camerons Bakery.

• The Cayuga County Sheriff's Office thanks Pavlos' Restaurant for providing lunch to the staff May 13, as well as Axon Aid for supplying masks and hand sanitizer to the staff recently.

• Community Action Programs Cayuga/Seneca thanks Auburn Alliance Church for recently donating 100 handmade face masks for employees, volunteers and clients. 

East Hill Medical Center thanks the Finger Lakes Art Council and the Auburn Downtown Business Improvement District for decorating its windows at Metcalf Plaza recently.

• A surprise 12th birthday parade was held May 16 for Marisa Gabak, of Auburn. "Marisa was overwhelmed with such love and gratitude for all those that helped brighten her day," said her mother, Alicia Gabak.

• A customer of Sam's Shoe Service donated "a generous amount of money" to help people in need of footwear, the Auburn store posted on Facebook, so it's holding a lottery to determine who to help. Those interested are asked to email with their current situation. 

Skaneateles High School held Senior Recognition Day May 13, where the class wore face masks and practiced social distancing while voting for their class speaker, signing their class T-shirt design and signing class pictures that will be hung in the district's four schools. The class also signed Mr. Santoro's gold chair, which will be a permanent fixture in the school to recognize the class for years to come.

• The Skaneateles Rotary Club has canceled its annual Father's Day pancake breakfast, but will instead host an online fundraiser to raise money for the community. “Instead of feeding you pancakes this year, we are asking you to help us feed those who are struggling,” club member Tyler Lorey said in a news release. “Skaneateles is a strong community, and together Rotarians will use this lack of a gathering to virtually come together and help our community as a whole.” For more information, or to access the raffle, visit

Tonzi's Catering Co. in Auburn will be at Auburn High School from noon to 2 p.m. Friday, May 22, to give its award-winning mac-and-cheese fritters to every member of the senior class. "It's our small way to give something back to a class that has had so much taken from them," the caterer said on Facebook.

May 11

Auburn Community Hospital thanks Bass Pro Shops for its recent donation of medical masks.

• Auburn Community Hospital also thanks Munchies for donating 100 meals May 1 as part of its Feed the Frontline campaign. The Grant Avenue Plaza restaurant is also offering a 25% discount on takeout and delivery to all first responders, and has set up an online donation platform on Facebook ( for the public to donate meals. Munchies is continuing to donate meals to the hospital, Auburn Police Department, Auburn Ambulance Corps, Auburn Fire Department, Auburn Correctional Facility and the local New York State Trooper barracks. "We truly appreciate all you do for our community," Munchies store manager Judy Shutter said in a news release. "Your courageous acts are truly inspirational to us all. Thank you."

• The Auburn Rotary Club recently accepted donations for its community milk giveaway, taking place May 12, from the R.G. Wright Insurance Agency and the Aversa Insurance Agency.

Auburn Police Department Officer Katelyn Davis recently read "Officer Buckle and Gloria" by Peggy Rathmann on the department's Facebook page, The department also thanks Camerons Bakery for its recent donation of doughnuts and Dunkin' coffee.

• Chorus students at Cato-Meridian High School recently came together to create a virtual performance of "American Anthem" that can be seen at

Cayuga County Sheriff Brian Schenck thanks Bernie Simmons and the staff of Balloons Restaurant for recently providing the sheriff's office with lunch. 

Community Action Programs Cayuga/Seneca's Casey Park Head Start team recently dropped off activity bags for its universal prekindergarten children in a car parade. To see photos, visit

• The staff of Jordan-Elbridge High School recently visited the homes of each senior, placing a sign in their yards to recognize them. A video of the effort can be viewed at

NYSEG recently announced donations to several community relief funds in its service area, including $50,000 to the Central New York COVID-19 Community Support Fund, Cayuga County COVID-19 fund and the Madison County Rural Poverty Fund. The Cayuga County Office for the Aging will receive $2,500.

Timothy Donovan, of Auburn, organized a donation of two boxes of plastic bags (1,000 each) from the Dollar General in Weedsport to Cayuga County's Meals on Wheels program in early April. The bags will be used to pack meals for delivery. 

Unity House of Cayuga County has received donations of more than 500 handmade face masks from the community since putting out a call on social media. The agency also thanks the Union Springs Fire Department for helping a resident celebrate his 85th birthday recently, and presenting him an honorary fire hat. The agency's gratitude extends to its employees, too, for responding to changing needs with flexibility and grace, and being steadfast in their assistance to the people with disabilities the agency serves. Last, the agency thanks those who showed it financial support on Giving Tuesday. 

May 2

• The Auburn Enlarged City School District has provided laptops for home learning to fifth through 12th grade students, but many students in grades four and younger lack the technology to participate in online learning. Grace Chapel volunteers Brandon Davis and Rick Denno have been collecting used laptops and updating them for students, and retired teacher Sue Coe has been delivering them to families in need. To donate a computer, iPad or USB camera, contact Genesee Elementary Librarian Anne Mlod at

• The Auburn police and fire departments thank "the panda" for donating face masks recently, and APD thanks John and Nancy Mortimer, of Tinkers Guild, for recently providing staff with lunch.

Auburn Police Department Senior Patrol Officer Breeze recently shared a story he wrote and illustrated, with a message of hope and inspiration, on the department's Facebook page.

• The Cayuga County Sheriff's Office thanks Girl Scout Troop 40303, of Cato, for donating cookies to the office.

Community Action Programs Cayuga/Seneca thanks Erie Materials Auburn for its sixth annual campaign supporting the agency's Domestic Violence Services Program. As a result of its pledge of $1 for every square of roofing and siding sold in March, the company donated $2,555.44 to the agency. Erie Materials' total donation over the six years of its campaign is $14,873.06.

• The Genesee Elementary School Pride Leadership Team, a group of fourth, fifth and sixth grade students, has started a Kindness Project, performing "safe" acts of kindness and posting them on The group invites the community to share acts they've done or received.  

• The Greater Syracuse Association of Realtors and the Central New York Information Service each donated $5,000 for a total of $10,000 to the Food Bank of Central New York. 

• Cathy Leogrande recently delivered pizza to the E-911 dispatch center at the Cayuga County Office Building, and Joe Leogrande arranged a delivery of food to the dispatchers at the Cayuga County Jail.

• Stryker Homes resident Star Pratt surprised all the residents of the Auburn building by sewing and hanging more than 100 homemade face masks on their door knobs last week. Many residents didn't have a mask beforehand. Stryker resident Joyce Hackett Smith-Moore thanked Pratt for her gesture: "When Star Pratt moved into Stryker Homes two years ago, she became one of the more active volunteers among a handful of seniors who donate their time to help with activities in the building. (Her craft class is a big favorite.) However, she's 'gone outside the box' with her most recent effort! ... It's really not a surprise that she would do such a time-consuming task ... after all, she'd worked over 30 years as a nurse's aid!"

• Randy N. Jackson of the TST BOCES Career and Tech Center thanks Todd Mix and Shane Warner, as well as the crew at Stonewell Bodies and Machine Inc. in Genoa, for holding a virtual tour. It gave children in the program "a bit of normalcy," Jackson said, and they enjoyed it.

Jacqueline Waligory started a Facebook group, Run Run Run Corona Virtual Fundraiser, which has raised more than $8,500 for the King Ferry Food Pantry in a couple of weeks. 

April 27

Danny and Martha Baker, owners of Old Hickory Farm in Weedsport, have started a Facebook group to organize purchases of gift certificates at community businesses, then give the certificates back to the businesses. Businesses are asked to post on their website and/or social media with the recipients of the certificates. The Bakers started with $500 in purchases, and have received more than $750 in donations. The group is titled "Weedsport Helping Weedsport - We Are All in This Together."

BB's Pizza in Auburn is giving away a large pizza to a random family five nights a week. Families can be nominated on the business's Facebook page @bbspizzaauburn, or by messaging the account.

• A new group, the Cayuga County Wine Fairies, is organizing deliveries of wine to people in the community during the pandemic. Members post calls for addresses, then drop off wine at their doorsteps. The only rule of the group is that those delivering wine have to dress up in "something ridiculous." Videos of deliveries earn rewards. More than 2,300 members have joined since the group formed. For more information, search for "Cayuga County Wine Fairies" on Facebook.

• The Cultural Italian American Organization, of Auburn, will prepare and provide free dinners to the community from 4 to 6 p.m. Saturday, May 2, at St. Francis Church, 299 Clark St., Auburn. The dinners of pasta and meatballs will be packaged and available for curbside pickup. The CIAO Cucina Crew and volunteers will be preparing the meals under the guidelines of the Cayuga County Health Department. About 300 to 400 dinners will be available. Support for the meals comes from Bartolotta Brothers Furniture, Pettigrass Funeral Home, the Auburn Rotary Club and Mario Daniele, of Rochester. Cameron's Bakery is donating 50 loaves of Italian bread as well.

Tim Donovan, of Auburn, provided lunch to employees of the Cayuga County Mental Health Center April 27 in a show of appreciation for them working under the conditions of the pandemic.

"Port Byron: Stronger Together" T-shirts are now available for purchase, with proceeds going to the community food pantry. Shirts can be ordered through April 30, and can be delivered or picked up at the school. To order, visit

April 20

• Nina Bartolotta, of Auburn, has asked for donations to the St. Alphonsus Food Pantry for her 12th birthday on May 8. She and her father built a donation box that's set up at their home, 7072 State St. Road, Throop, and it will be accepting donations through her birthday. On Sunday, 62 items and $110 were collected.

• The Auburn Fire Department is among the first recipients of GEA4Heroes, a new program launched by GE Appliances to provide new appliances to first responders and health care workers. The Auburn department received a new refrigerator for the firehouse and is set to receive a new washer and dryer so uniforms can be sanitized there.

• Both the Auburn Police Department and the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office thank Joe Calarco and Aflac for providing each member of the departments with a personal bottle of hand sanitizer that can be easily refilled.

• The Cayuga County Health Department thanks Just Desserts for the treats it donated to the staff. 

• The Cayuga County Sheriff's Office thanks Myah, 13, and Mikah, 8, of Girl Scout Troop 40303 from Cato, for donating cookies to nurses at Upstate University Hospital. The office also thanks Troop 60808 for dropping off cookies at the office. 

• The Finger Lakes Drive-in recently donated 20,000 protective gloves to the Cayuga County Office of Emergency Services.

• The King Ferry Fire Department salutes its ladies auxiliary for making, bagging and delivering lunches for the area's elderly population on Saturday.

• NYSEG has donated $50,000, or the equivalent of 150,000 meals, to the Food Bank of Central New York to support its response to the pandemic. The donation is part of a $2 million commitment by NYSEG's parent company, AVANGRID, to national and local programs assisting people in need. The Food Bank of CNY serves 11 counties, including Cayuga. 

• Donna Chase, of Dansville, delivered handmade teddy bears and face masks to the residents and staff of Westminster Manor in Auburn recently while visiting her mother, Glenon Thomas, at the assisted living facility.

• The biological and chemical sciences faculty at Wells College pooled its resources to donate 27 boxes of gloves and 14 medical masks to the Cayuga County Emergency Management Office. The protective equipment will be distributed to first responders, hospitals and nursing homes, said the office's deputy director, Harry Sherman. "I can’t even find a word for it,” he said in a news release. “It’s very good for us, and very helpful for our efforts.”

• Diana O'Brien, owner of Window Attire on Genesee Street in Auburn, is leading a group of volunteers in making masks for local medical facilities and a Brooklyn hospital.

April 13

• The Auburn Teachers Association recently gathered 2,000 snack bags to supplement district meal packages. Everything in them was purchased locally, from paper bags from Donovan & Luska to graphics by A&M Graphics on stickers to close the packages. The association has formed a donations committee that meets weekly through video conference, and is purchasing nearly 400 gift cards from area restaurants as its first project.

• The Auburn police and fire departments thank the Sunset Restaurant for delivering Easter dinner to both crews that night. "We are truly (grateful) for the outpouring of donations the have been dropped off over the past few weeks. It shows what a great community we have here in Auburn. Please make sure to show your support to these businesses during these rough times we are all experiencing," the fire department said in a Facebook post.

• The Booker T. Washington Community Center is asking community members to post videos of dance parties at home due to the center's inability to host its annual Easter dance and fashion show. Posters can use the song "I Love BTW," which is available at

• The Cato-Meridian Central School District recently delivered care packages to every student in the district. To watch a video, visit

Cayuga County 911 thanks Farmboy Graphics for its creation of shirts for the team while its members work remotely. 

Community Action Programs Cayuga/Seneca thanks Cheryl Longyear for donating 40 handmade masks that will help keep agency staff and volunteers safe. 

• The Fleming Federated Church at the corner of Routes 34 and 34B has been collecting face masks and offering them to the public inside bins on the churches front step. If the bins are empty, checking the next day is recommended.

• The Home Depot in Fingerlakes Crossing in Sennett thanks Downtown Deli in Auburn Plaza for its donation of sandwiches.

Perform 4 Purpose has been informed it can no longer continue holding Saturday morning porch concerts, but donations to the Moravia Hope Pantry are still encouraged. They can be made at P.O. Box 462, Moravia, NY 13118. Donations can also be made online through the Facebook page of Perform 4 Purpose organizer Jim Van Arsdale at

Tim Donovan, a volunteer with the Cayuga County Homeless Task force, is helping to provide meals to those in need during the pandemic. Meals include bread, canned soup and water, and bars of soap will be provided along with information about limiting exposure to the coronavirus. Those who want to arrange delivery can contact Donovan at (315) 283-0426 or, and provide the name and location of the homeless individual.

• The United Way of Cayuga County thanks those who contributed $1,500 to its COVID-19 Response Fund, which is providing mini-grants of $500 to $5,000 to local nonprofits. For more information on the fund, visit

April 6

Community Action Programs Cayuga/Seneca thanks Carolyn Monell Freligh for making and donating protective face masks to the agency's Domestic Violence Services Program staff, and the Cayuga Community College Preschool for donating 56 half-gallons of milk to the agency's food pantry. The agency is also seeking masks for staff and volunteers working in the food pantry and other departments. To arrange a donation, call (315) 255-1703.

• K9 Aron of the Cayuga County Sheriff's Office thanks the anonymous donor who purchased treats for him at the Dollar General in Cato before Sgt. Matt Sloan had the opportunity to pay for them.

• The Cayuga-Onondaga BOCES Instructional Support Services department has partnered with CiTi Boces to use 3-D printers to create protective face shields. The printers were originally going to be used in each school in Auburn, but were unable to be delivered due to the pandemic. Tony Abbatiello, director of ISS, and Tracy Fleming, retired educator and volunteer with the ARISE Adaptive Design Program, are using the printers to create the masks for Cayuga and Oswego counties' emergency management departments. So far, they have created about 250 masks.

Dunkin's Joy in Childhood Foundation is awarding $85,000 in emergency response funding to health and hunger relief organizations in upstate New York to assist in their response to the coronavirus pandemic. That includes $20,000 to the Food Bank of Central New York, which serves the Cayuga County area, to create and distribute emergency food boxes. For more information, visit

• The King Ferry Corner Store is arranging donations of masks, and thanks Nicole Delaney and the Clark family for sewing and donating some that have been sent to Unity House of Cayuga County. Others were sent with the daughter of owners John and Becky Binns, as she is a pediatric nurse. For more information, visit

• The King Ferry Fire Department thanks the Owego Street Makery (Tim Robideau, Andi Senno and Paula Robideau Senno) for donating 10 full face shields they manufactured. 

• Courtney and Mike Feehan of Cayuga Restaurant Group, owners of McDonald's at 357 Genesee St. and 198 Grant Ave. in Auburn, are offering a free coffee or soft drink to local health care workers, EMTs, police officers and firefighters all day on Mondays in April. The officer is redeemable by individuals in uniform or carrying an ID badge; limit one offer per person, with no other purchase necessary.

Octane Social House in Auburn, owned by Rob and Joni Otterstatter, delivered a smoked chicken dinner to the Auburn Police Department April 1 in gratitude for the department's service during the pandemic.

• The Onondaga County Sheriff's Office thanks health care and other frontline workers for their service during the pandemic. Members of the office have written messages of support on two patrol cars that will be parked outside Syracuse-area hospitals throughout the week. 

• The Port Byron Teachers' Association handed out Easter baskets for children in the district Thursday during a drive-thru in conjunction with meal pickup. The Easter Bunny delivered the baskets to the vehicles while maintaining social distancing.

The Rev Theatre Co. in Auburn has begun making face masks for medical professionals. The theater company has three staff members and 10 volunteers making the masks. They've made about 500 to date and have donated more than 400, including 323 to Auburn Community Hospital. The company is continuing to donate to the local hospital and is taking requests for Upstate and others. Additional volunteers can join the effort at this link or by visiting

T&K Lumber at 170 Route 5 in Elbridge is collecting face masks, and encourages anyone who works with wood and has N95 masks in storage to contribute. For more information, call (315) 689-3005.

March 31

• The Booker T. Washington Community Center is offering dinners for pickup from 4 to 6 p.m. weekdays at the center, 23 Chapman Ave., Auburn. Dinners are free to all children in the Auburn Enlarged City School District. For more information, call (315) 253-3207 or visit

Bright Window Cleaning, of Auburn, is offering free gift cards to any police, fire and medical staff during the pandemic at the downtown location of Dunkin', 2 E. Genesee St., Auburn. For more information, call (315) 282-7965 or visit

• Kim Dungey, volunteer driver coordinator for the Cayuga County Office for the Aging's Senior Nutrition Program, applauds the community members who have offered to fill in delivering meals to vulnerable and isolated seniors in the community. Some of the program's older drivers had to step down from driving due to concern about the virus, Dungey said. The program is trying to schedule the same drivers for the same routes each day to minimize exposure for the drivers and the meal recipients, and additional safety precautions are being taken as well.

Cayuga County Sheriff Brian Schenck thanks the Union Springs Central School District, including nurse Jane Bacon and Steve and Bettie Fedrizzi, for answering his call in need of thermometers last week. 

Last Shot Distillery in Skaneateles is manufacturing hand sanitizer during the pandemic. It distributed free bottles from the first batch to Gateway Senior Apartments, Skaneateles village offices for the police, M&T Bank, the Marcellus Fire Department and Camillus Ridge Terrace Senior Housing. Bottles are 200 milliliters and $5 to cover cost, with a two bottle limit per person. The distillery is also open for bottle sales. For more information, call (315) 554-8241 or visit

• Linda Johnson, of Auburn, thanks her neighbor Jessica Gasparro for gifting people in the community with red bows recently. Cards attached to the bows say they honor and support health care workers in the community. Gasparro has also tied bows around some trees on Genesee Street downtown, and near Auburn Community Hospital. 

MacKenzie-Childs in Aurora has begun making reusable masks for local first responders and health care workers, including Auburn Community Hospital, Cayuga Correctional Facility and local New York State Police barracks. The retailer is also in talks with local nursing homes. The team previously responsible for creating and sewing bags and other small home decor items is working on the masks, and hopes to send out 500 a week for the foreseeable future.

• The family of Marilyn Kirk Zeyak is asking the community to wish her a happy 80th birthday by sending cards to her at 2329 Dodd Drive, Virginia Beach, Virginia, 23454. Marilyn was born and raised in Auburn, and her family was planning a surprise party for March 28 at the Hilton Garden Inn before they were forced to cancel it due to the coronavirus. 

• The Moravia Hope Pantry is serving triple the usual number of families at this time, and so the pantry is seeking donations of money and nonperishable food. Money can be sent to P.O. Box 462, 66 Aurora St., Moravia, and food can be placed in the tubs outside the entrance at that same address.

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Pat Messina started making masks from her dining room table for her daughter who works at a medical facility that ran out of masks in Rochester. Messina is continuing to sew masks for organizations or people who need them.

Pat Messina, of Auburn, has been making protective masks from her dining room table. She started making them for her daughter, who works at a medical facility in Rochester that ran out of masks. Messina now continues to sew masks for any people or organizations that need them.

Smitty's Fish House West in Auburn is offering hot lunches for children from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays. The meals are supported by donations from the community. The restaurant is located at 343 Genesee St. For more information, call (315) 253-3403.

• Auburn quilter Stephanie McCall's effort to create protective face masks for local first responders and health care providers is underway. She said she has had several people donate supplies, and that Finger Lakes Laser owner Matt Jones is cutting mask pieces with his machines to speed up the process. People can contact McCall at or to obtain mask patterns. Masks should be placed in a Ziploc bag, with the creator's name and address on the outside. Bags should then be dropped in the plastic tote on the porch of 342 Clark St., Auburn, and the SCAT Van will pick them up for delivery to medical facilities.

Vin Gleason, of Auburn, has started a daily motivation and fitness group, and is offering free graphic design services to promote Auburn businesses. For more information, find Gleason on Facebook.

Vineyard Church in Sennett is hosting weekly drive-through prayer from 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesdays at the church, 360 Grant Ave., Auburn. All are welcome.

Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.

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I edit The Citizen's features section, Lake Life, and weekly entertainment guide, Go. I've also been writing for The Citizen and since 2006, covering arts and culture, business, food and drink, and more.

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