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Pints for Progress continues to shine spotlight on Niagara Falls

Sat, Feb 23rd 2019 07:00 am
Kenny Tompkins presents the `Staff Sergeant Michael Lammerts Project` at Pints for Progress.
Kenny Tompkins presents the "Staff Sergeant Michael Lammerts Project" at Pints for Progress.

By David Yarger, Tribune Editor

And Terry Duffy, Editor-in-Chief

When it comes to the City of Niagara Falls, locals are looking for progress. That can be found at Pints for Progress.

On Thursday night, LiveNF hosted its 26th Pints for Progress event, this time at the DoubleTree Hilton, 403 Buffalo Ave.

Pints for Progress gives residents of Niagara Falls a chance to hear presentations from other locals who have ideas they feel would bring growth to the city. Additionally, the event shows the people of Niagara Falls want to help the city develop into something bigger and better. After hearing presentations from those looking to start an initiative, the Pints for Progress audience is welcomed to vote for their favorite project.

Phil Mohr, LiveNF board of directors president, said the purpose of Pints for Progress is to “create a sense of pride through events and interactions to get more people to stay in, move back to or take a second look at the City of Niagara Falls.”

Three presentations were offered this time: Two came from familiar faces, with Willie Price of the Niagara Track & Field Club (2017 winter winner) and Laura Rotella of the Niagara Beautification Commission (2018 winter winner); Kenny Tompkins presented a new idea, his “Staff Sergeant Michael Lammerts Project.”

The Niagara Track & Field Club is a summer track and field program for Niagara County residents. The program was created to give people – particularly those with a focus on the youth – the opportunity to take part in a healthy, low-cost activity. It’s also designed to give many of the area youth a summer activity.

Thursday’s presentation for the club was to help advocate for funds this summer for transportation, meals and hotel rooms for upcoming meets.

Those interested in assisting the Niagara Track & Field Club can email [email protected] or call 716-316-7776.

Next up was Tompkins’ “Staff Sergeant Michael Lammerts Project.” His presentation invited family members of deceased service men and woman and veterans to submit portraits of loved ones, along with information about their service, to be placed on a float in the 2019 Memorial Day Parade.

Lammerts, whom the project was named after, was killed in action in Afghanistan. He was promoted to SSG and awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

“The Community Memorial Parade was started to honor our veterans; we decided to take it a little further this year,” Tompkins said.

Joined by presenters Miss Sonia and Miss Carol of Pinups for a Cause, he explained to visitors how his project came to be. Tompkins recalled he developed an association with Hands Helping Heroes, a group organized by Dr. Kristen Jacobsen of Family Chiropractic on Pine Avenue, at last year’s parade.

“She reached out to me about the Lammerts family … what we could do,” Tompkins said. “She lost her husband. He was 26 years old; he did three tours in Iraq. He was called into a tour in Afghanistan; he got killed in action.”

Tompkins said he went on to contact a number of Niagara Falls business interests, with the intention of helping out the Lammerts family and recognizing his service to the country. The Lammerts float project has since developed into a memorial tribute for the serviceman, as well as veterans from all wars.

“This is going to be the ‘Staff Sergeant Michael Lammerts Project’ forever,” Tompkins said. “This float is his float.”

Tompkins said the Lammerts float is intended to honor those whose lives were lost in conflict, as a tribute to the soldiers and to their families.

“We’re going to have roughly 450 8-by-10 pictures, of all kinds of servicemen – service people who were killed in action, missing in action, people who just passed away, from World War II, Korea, Vietnam,” he said. “We want to honor any veteran who has giving his all for this country, who has done anything for this country. We can’t give them enough.”

Tompkins said the cost of the float is about $2,500, which he has self-funded, thus far. He said he was seeking helping help to defray costs, to help it grow, but noted he would continue to fund it solely, if necessary.

“If I can help defray the cost of it a little bit, we can make it a little bit bigger, a little bit better,” Tompkins said.

Above all, Tompkins was seeking the community’s support for this project.

“I’m asking for people to support this, support the Gold Star families, support the veterans, support the people who gave it all,” he said.

Once complete, the honor float will be available for groups to use.

“I’m hoping this will be something that will be a stalwart – a really good thing here,” Tompkins said.

Those with interest in the project can contact Tompkins at [email protected] or 716-940-7092.

Rotella was the last presenter Thursday night. She said funding from a past Pints for Progress was used to buy tools for those of Intandem and Empower to help with the upkeep of the Hyde Park Rose Garden, which is across the street from the Hyde Park Ice Pavilion.

This summer, Rotella is hoping to partner with Project Greenspace and The Connection, which serves youth in the city ages 11-19.

She said renovation and upkeep of the garden is a multigenerational project, and the relationships the commission builds now will be imperative for the project moving forward.

To contact the Niagara Beautification Commission, call 716-285-5030.

Following voting by those listening in the audience, Tompkins’ Memorial Day float initiative took the ballot and $460 in prize winnings.

Commenting afterword, Tompkins said, “I’m absolutely thrilled, honored, and it’s a privilege that people see this project the same way I do.”

“We are happy that we’re able to help out our veterans,” Miss Sonia added.

Along with Mohr, two other advocates of Pints for Progress were in the audience: Assemblyman Angelo Morinello and Niagara Falls Community Development Director Seth Piccirillo.

Morinello said he’s been part of majority of the 26 events and enjoys hearing what residents have to bring to the table.

“What I see is it brings people out for an evening discussing progress; discussing where the city should go,” Morinello said. “The projects that they allow to be pitched are great ideas that are for getting youth and getting more people involved. I’m very, very in favor of this. I believe it is accomplishing its goal, and its goal is to start conversation to have vision. … It brings things to light that we have around here.”

Piccirillo added, “It’s a great chance for a community to be created. We started in a parking lot and now we have had 25 events where people like the DoubleTree, they welcome us in; they sponsor our events. So, it’s great to see new faces and to see people that have been to all (the events) get together and create this sense of community.”

Mohr said the event’s outcome has been seen in a multitude of ways, including in the participants who don’t necessarily win the vote.

“The impact has really been seen in a variety of ways. We’ve had winners that span from youth programs to different murals to different events and activities that can be seen from a variety of age groups,” he said. “The key to these events – they really are small pocket projects. It’s been great to see how they’ve popped up and inspired other people to do other small projects. … We’ve had other projects present, but not necessarily win. They find community support at this type of event, which then they find a sponsor or they find another group that works with them to complete whatever project or task they were looking to do.”

Mohr said it’s the people who show up to the event that make Pints for Progress what it is, with more and more people attending to hear what residents in their city have to offer.

Piccirillo said that sense of togetherness and interest is what makes a place like Niagara Falls special.

“That type of vibe with people wanting to be together and make a change, that’s what changes cities,” he said. “We know that one event doesn’t entirely change the entire place, but this type of energy and the projects gives people hope and encouragement to do more in the city.”

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