Community Events

Bidleman steps up in new role as United Way president

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 15 February 2020 at 11:22 am

Photo by Ginny Kropf: Local businessman George Bidleman, who has been elected president of United Way of Orleans County, discusses his plans for the organization. He is at Orleans Ford in Medina, one of several car dealerships in which he is involved.

MEDINA - George Bidleman is all business when it comes to his new position as president of the board of United Way of Orleans County.

Bidleman has long been a supporter of the local charity, and was a member of the board about 15 years ago. He sees a bright future for the organization, which funds a dozen agencies, organizations or programs in Orleans County.

These organizations include Hospice, ARC of Genesee/Orleans' Camp Rainbow, the ARC's Meals on Wheels, 4-H, Community Action, GLOW YMCA, 2-1-1 WNY, GCASA, Senior Citizens of Western Orleans, Christ Church Community Kitchen, Boy Scouts and Genesee/Orleans Ministry of Concern.

Those funded by United Way of Orleans County represent all walks of life - from youth to senior citizens; from those in end-of-life situations to those suffering from addiction; to those needing help with literacy to those receiving other assistance.

Bidleman gave credit to United Way's Allocation Committee, which he says makes sure money donated goes to the right agencies to help the right people.

"The main reason I support United Way is because it is local," Bidleman said. "All your money donated stays in the county, unless the donor specifies otherwise."

His goal as president of the board is to create better awareness and increase local giving.

Bidleman praised United Way's new director Dean Bellack.

"He brings a lot to the table," Bidleman said.

After retiring from his company in the summer of 2019, Bellack was asked to join the board. He stepped right in and volunteered to take on the duties of executive director after Kaitlyn Delamarter announced she was leaving to take another position.

Bidleman is a successful businessman with an interest in several dealerships, including Orleans Ford in Medina, Bidleman Chevrolet in Albion and Molye Chevrolet in Honeoye Falls. He said he believes in giving back.

"I want to try and build on previous United Way campaigns," he said.

He called the United Way board a "very diligent" one. The board members support local community events and projects; they moved their office to a very reasonable space in CRFS' building; and Bellack offered to work at a minimal salary to keep costs low.

Bidleman wants the public to start looking for several thermometers which he plans to place at strategic locations around the area to keep people informed of the progress of our campaign.

He also urges local companies to consider holding a workplace campaign, if they haven't already done so.

"I just want to remind everyone, United Way of Orleans County is the only place you can put your money where it all stays local," Bidleman said.

He reminds donors it is very easy to donate by clicking on United Way's website, or by simply sending a check to United Way of Orleans County, 231 East Ave., Albion.

Benefactor pays to have World War I cannon restored at Medina park

Photos by Tom Rivers: A World War I cannon is unloaded on May 1 after being restored over 14 months at Altoona, Pa.

The World War I cannon at State Street Park was rotting away. The paint flaking off and the metal corroding.

Local veterans and community members were alarmed about the deteriorating condition. They thought it sent a disrespectful message to veterans, to have a prominent display in shabby condition.

George Bidleman

But it would be a big price tag to restore the cannon - $40,000. Local veterans in 2018 began an appeal. They expected it would take years to come up with the money.

They went to George Bidleman, owner of Orleans Ford in Medina. They hoped for a contribution. Bidleman thanked the group for their service to their country, and for their continued involvement in the community with the American Legion and VFW.

Bidleman told them he would pay the entire restoration cost. They didn't need to do a collection effort that would take years.

The cannon was hauled away in March 2018 and returned to Medina on May 1, in time to be rededicated for Memorial Day. Seed Artillery Reproduction and Restoration, in Altoona, Pa. The company completely stripped and disassembled the cannon, and needed to fabricate some new parts. The big 15,000-pound gun was reassembled and painted with historic accuracy.

"It's absolutely stunning," Bidleman said when the cannon returned on May 1. "It's beautiful."

Bidleman is notoriously low key and doesn't want publicity for his good works. He serves on the United Way board and he and his employees support that organization.

He has expanded his car business to include the Chevrolet Buick GMC dealership in Albion with Sam LaNasa.

George Bidleman, left, watches the cannon be delivered to its spot in front of State Street Park on May 1.

The B.L. 60 Pounder British field gun has been a fixture at State Street Park since 1935. There are only 10 of the cannons like this remaining, with five in Europe and five in the United States, said Jim Freas, a past commander of the Butts-Clark Post for the American Legion in Medina.

"We have one of them," Freas said. "It's priceless."

Glenn Whitmore, commander of the American Legion Post in Medina, said Bidleman's donation was a big relief to the veterans' organizations.

"When George stepped forward we couldn't believe it," Whitmore said. "His heart is bigger than he is."

Orleans Hub will have an awards celebration in early 2020 for the Outstanding Citizens.

Bidleman backs workplace campaign for United Way

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 7 July 2019 at 3:27 pm

Photo by Ginny Kropf: United Way of Orleans County's executive director Dean Bellack posed with George Bidleman from Orleans Ford during a workplace campaign to support United Way.

MEDINA - George Bidleman knows the importance of supporting United Way.

That's why he agreed to host a workplace campaign at each of the Orleans County dealerships in which he has ownership. This is the first time the dealership has held such a campaign.

"When Dean called and asked if I'd be willing to do it, I asked, 'Where have you been,'" Bidleman said.

Most recently, the majority of his 70 employees at Orleans Ford in Medina attended the workplace campaign, headed by United Way director Dean Bellack.

Bidleman said he has always been community minded, and United Way has always been an important charity to him. In fact, about 15 years ago he served on the board of United Way of Western Orleans, which then merged with the United Way of Eastern Orleans.

"The community supports us, and we need to stay on our game and give back," Bidleman said. "I know the need and I know what the agencies supported by United Way do."

Bidleman plans to host workplace campaigns in each of the dealerships in his group.

"If someone can't give $1 or $2 a week, something is wrong," he said.

Restored WWI cannon gets warm welcome from veterans, Medina community

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 1 May 2019 at 2:42 pm

Photos by Tom Rivers

MEDINA - A World War I cannon is hoisted from a trailer this morning at State Street Park. The cannon returned to Medina following more than a year of restoration work by Seed Artillery Reproduction and Restoration, in Altoona, Pa.

The B.L. 60 Pounder British field gun was a fixture at State Street Park since 1935. It was hauled away on March 12, 2018 for its restoration work.

These veterans capture the moment of the cannon being lifted from the trailer. They include from left Ken Schaal, Larry Szatkowski and Dave Higgins.

Local veterans gather around the cannon after it was put back at State Street Park this morning.

The cannon was falling apart. Dave Seedenberg of Seed Artillery Reproduction and Restoration was in Medina this morning to watch the cannon be put back in pace at the local park.

Seedenberg completely stripped and disassembled the cannon, and needed to fabricate some new parts. The big 15,000-pound gun was reassembled and painted with historic accuracy.

"It's absolutely stunning," said George Bidleman, owner of Orleans Ford who paid the $40,000 restoration cost. "It's beautiful."

Local veterans including Earl Schmidt (left), the County's Veterans Service Agency director, push the cannon in place.

There are only 10 of the cannons like this remaining, with five in Europe and five in the United States, said Jim Freas, a past commander of the Butts-Clark Post for the American Legion in Medina.

"We have one of them," Freas said. "It's priceless."

The cannon needed a little push to be centered on the concrete pad.

The Orleans Renaissance Group pushed to have the cannon restored. Chris Busch, chairman of the ORG, thought it might take a few years to raise the money. But Bidleman offered to cover the entire cost of the cannon restoration.

The ORG also raised $12,000 for three new flag poles, a new granite slant for a plaque about the cannon, and other site improvements. Orleans Ready Mix also donated the concrete where the cannon is displayed.

The new flag poles will carry flags for the United States, Great Britain and France. The cannon was manufactured in 1916 by Elswick Ordnance Company, Newcastle upon Tyne, England. It was used in battle in France and fired 2,871 rounds during its first tour. It was returned to England in 1917 for repairs and reissued to battery in France, September 1918, firing an additional 1,471 rounds.

George Bidleman, left, is presented a photo of the cannon with local veterans by Glenn Whitmore, commander of the American Legion Post in Medina.

"When George stepped forward we couldn't believe it," Whitmore said. "His heart is bigger than he is."

Bidleman shook hands with each veteran at the park today, thanking them for their service. He said he was happy to help with the restoration of a prominent local landmark.

Whitmore said the cannon will be rededicated during the Memorial Day celebration on May 27. He said it will be a big event, and he welcomed veterans of all eras for the observance, and then an additional celebration at the American Legion, which is marking its 100th anniversary this year.

"It's something that's not being taken away because we're losing so much of our history every day," Whitmore said about the cannon. "Memorial Day is going to be a big day for this village and county."

WJW Associates in Syracuse delivered the cannon to Medina this morning. The trucking company picked up the cannon in Altoona on Tuesday and brought it to Salamanca last night, before leaving this morning for Medina.

Jeff Karol of WJW said he got a lot of friendly honks and waves bringing the cannon up on Route 219 to Buffalo and then the Thruway this morning.

George Bidleman, left, watches the cannon be delivered to its spot in front of State Street Park.

Ron Ettinger, left, of Lyons Collision in Medina helps steer the cannon in place while a group of people, including Medina Mayor Mike Sidari (center), help push the cannon back on the concrete pad.

Seed Artillery Reproduction and Restoration put a small plaque on the cannon noting the restoration efforts were completed this year. The cannon was rusty with rot in spots and was missing chucks that Seed recreated.

Jeff Lyons, left, of Lyons Collision works with John Beauman of Beauman's Garage in Lockport to remove straps from the cannon. Beaumont's Garage brought a crane with a rotator to remove the cannon from the trailer.

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World War One cannon arrives at State Street Park in Medina

Staff Reports Posted 1 May 2019 at 10:21 am

After 14 months of restoration work, the 6-ton British field gun that has been a fixture in Medina since 1935 arrives on a flat bed truck. The cannon will be placed on a new concrete pad today with new flagpoles and lighting.

 

The 6-ton cannon was completely stripped, reassembled and painted. George Bidleman paid the $40,000 restoration cost, with help from the Orleans Renaissance Group and Orleans Ready Mix. The cannon will be ready for this year's Memorial Day observance on May 27.

Restored WWI cannon coming back to Medina on May 1

Staff Reports Posted 24 April 2019 at 4:09 pm

Provided photos: Parts on the cannon from World War I looks like new after more than a year of restoration work.

MEDINA - A World War I cannon will be going back to Medina on May 1 following 14 months of restoration work.

Seed Artillery Reproduction and Restoration stripped and disassembled the field gun, and created new parts. The gun was then reassembled and painted with historic accuracy.

The B.L. 60 Pounder British field gun was a fixture at State Street Park since 1935. It was hauled away on March 12, 2018 for its restoration work.

The cannon was falling apart. George Bidleman, owner of Orleans Ford, paid the $40,000 cost to have the cannon restored by Dave Seedenberg of Seed Artillery Reproduction and Restoration in Altoona, Pa.

The field gun was completely stripped and disassembled, new parts were fabricated, and the gun was reassembled and painted with historic accuracy.

The cannon is expected to arrive back in Medina at State Street Park at 10 a.m. on May 1. The cannon will be placed on a new concrete pad with new flagpoles, lighting, and a new granite slate for the original plaque. Those were paid for with donations through the Orleans Renaissance Group with the concrete donated by Orleans Ready Mix.

The cannon, manufactured in 1916, was fired during World War I. There are few of these cannons left in the world.

Every Memorial Day for about 80 years, the Medina community has gathered by the cannon for the solemn ceremony. The cannon wasn't there for Memorial Day last year. It will be back for the observance this Memorial Day, May 27.

The cannon is a British Heavy Field Gun known as a B.L. 60 Pounder, manufactured in 1916 by Elswick Ordnance Company, Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

It weighs 6 tons, is a 5 inch/127mm caliber, 21 feet in length and 6 feet in width. The gun was originally issued to battery in France, April 1917, and fired 2,871 rounds during its first tour. It was returned to England in 1917 for repairs and reissued to battery in France, September 1918, firing an additional 1,471 rounds.

Photo by Tom Rivers: Veterans watch a World War I cannon be loaded up on a trailer on march 12, 2018. The cannon was taken to Altoona, Pa., the location of Seed Artillery Reproduction and Restoration. George Bidleman, Orleans Ford owner, is second from right.


Thanks to the generosity of Orleans Ford's owner

Medina's WWI cannon at State Street Park heading to Pa. for restoration

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 23 February 2018 at 9:45 pm

Provided photos: A cannon that was used in World War I about a century ago will be removed from State Street Park in Medina on March 12 and taken for restoration work in Altoona, Pa.

MEDINA - A cannon used in World War I that has been a prominent memorial at State Street Park will get much-needed restoration work beginning next month.

The cannon, manufactured in 1916, was fired during World War I. Every Memorial Day for about 80 years, the Medina community has gathered by the cannon for the solemn ceremony.

The cannon, however, has become badly deteriorated and will be restored for $40,000. George Bidleman of Orleans Ford is raising the funds for the project.

The Orleans Renaissance Group first pushed for saving the cannon about two years ago. The VFW and American Legion both supported the effort.

"She is in dire need of being restored - not just the paint but the whole body," said David Kusmiersczak, a member of the Legion.

The cannon has become badly deteriorated. It will be refurbished and should last another century.

The cannon will be moved on March 12 and taken to Altoona, Pa. That is the location of Seed Artillery Reproduction and Restoration.

The cannon will be stripped down. The parts will be repaired and re-manufactured if necessary. The gun will be primed and painted with epoxy primer and finished to match the original WWI paint scheme.

Seed Artillery will try to have the project done in time to be back in Medina for Veterans Day in November, said Steve Johnson, American Legion commander in Medina.

The cannon will return to a concrete base and landscape improvements. The Orleans Renaissance Group also is working to add new flagpoles and an interpretive sign at the site.

The cannon is a British Heavy Field Gun known as a B.L. 60 Pounder, manufactured in 1916 by Elswick Ordnance Company, Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

It weighs 6 tons, is a 5 inch/127mm caliber, 21 feet in length and 6 feet in width. The gun was originally issued to battery in France, April 1917 and fired 2,871 rounds during its first tour. It was returned to England in 1917 for repairs and reissued to battery in France, September 1918, firing an additional 1,471 rounds.

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World War I cannon heads to Pennsylvania for restoration

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 12 March 2018 at 11:54 am

Photos by Tom Rivers

MEDINA - A cannon from World War I that has been a fixture at State Street Park for about 80 years is leaving Medina for several months. A group of local veterans gathered at the park this morning to watch it be loaded on a flatbed owned by Automotive Solutions.

The cannon, manufactured in 1916, was fired during World War I. The cannon was moved from the front of State Street Park on Friday by the Medina DPW to back of the park so it could more easily be loaded up for a five-hour trip to Altoona, Pa. That is the location of Seed Artillery Reproduction and Restoration.

"It's a piece of history," said Jim Freas, commander of the VFW in Medina.

Steve Johnson is commander of the American Legion in Medina. His grandfather also served in World War I a century ago.

"This cannon is part of our heritage," Johnson said. "We have to preserve our history."

George Bidleman, owner of Orleans Ford, is paying $40,000 to have the cannon restored. Bidleman started at Orleans Ford as general manager in 1987. In 2002, he became the owner. He said the cannon is a prominent memorial, a reminder of the sacrifices of veterans.

"They all risked their lives," he said about veterans.

Bidleman, center, is pictured with local veterans and Eileen Banker, chief of staff for State Assemblyman Steve Hawley.

The cannon was manufactured in 1916 and was fired during World War I. Every Memorial Day for about 80 years, the Medina community has gathered by the cannon for the solemn ceremony.

The cannon, however, has become badly deteriorated and will be restored for $40,000. George Bidleman of Orleans Ford is raising the funds for the project.

The cannon will be stripped down. The parts will be repaired and re-manufactured if necessary. The gun will be primed and painted with epoxy primer and finished to match the original WWI paint scheme.

The Orleans Renaissance Group first pushed for saving the cannon about two years ago. The VFW and American Legion both supported the effort. The ORG raised $12,000 that will be used for site improvements for when the cannon comes back, which could be in time for Veterans' Day in November.

Local veterans including David Kusmiersczak and Glenn Whitmore watched the cannon be pulled to the road in the park, so it could be put on the truck.

The cannon is a British Heavy Field Gun known as a B.L. 60 Pounder, manufactured in 1916 by Elswick Ordnance Company, Newcastle upon Tyne, England.

It weighs 6 tons, is a 5 inch/127mm caliber, 21 feet in length and 6 feet in width. The gun was originally issued to battery in France, April 1917 and fired 2,871 rounds during its first tour. It was returned to England in 1917 for repairs and reissued to battery in France, September 1918, firing an additional 1,471 rounds.

Chris Seefeldt, left, of Automotive Solutions works with owner Shawn Callard, right, to secure the cannon on the truck for the trip to Pennsylvania.

The cannon is strapped down for the trip.

Automotive Solutions heads down State Street with the cannon.


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