FOLLANSBEE - At Monday's Follansbee Council meeting, the Follansbee Christmas in the Park Committee presented an early Christmas present to two nonprofit groups and a local girl who has been fighting a kidney disease.
Third Ward Councilwoman Kathy Santoro and Bill Secrist, who co-chair the festival's volunteer planning committee, presented $2,000 each to the Follansbee R.E.A.C.H. Program, the Anderson Children's Home and 11-year-old Brenna Weir, a fifth-grader at Wellsburg Middle School.
Each year the committee divides proceeds from the two-day event to local nonprofit groups and a local child with medical issues. Santoro called it "the best part of Christmas in the Park."
EARLY CHRISTMAS PRESENTS — The Follansbee Christmas in the Park Committee on Monday presented $2,000 each to the Follansbee R.E.A.C.H. Program, Anderson Children’s Home and Brenna Weir, a local girl with a kidney disease. Taking part were, from left, committee member Nina Meca, Sharon McCauley of Follansbee R.E.A.C.H., Mary Ruth Morris of the Anderson Children’s Home and Weir; and back, Bill Secrist, co-chairman; Paul DiGiacinto and 3rd Ward Councilwoman Kathy Santoro, co-chairman. The money was raised as part of this year’s Christmas in the Park. -- Warren Scott
And this year was no different, with proceeds again going to the Follansbee R.E.A.C.H. Program, which provides food to area families in need throughout the year; and Anderson Children's Home, which is home to several children and adults with severe mental and physical handicaps.
The checks were accepted by Sharon McCauley, a long-time volunteer with the food pantry; and Mary Ruth Morris, the children's home's director, who came to it as a youth when it was an orphanage for all types of children.
Also on hand to accept the donation and express thanks was Weir, the daughter of Brett Weir and Teresa Treherne; who was diagnosed with focal segmental glomerulosclerosis in 2010.
Treherne explained the disease affects parts of the kidney, causing it to improperly release proteins needed by the body and fluids to build up, resulting in swelling in some areas.
It also causes scar tissue to form on the kidney and can lead to kidney failure, she said.
"Brenna has fought a long, hard battle with this, spending a lot of time at a children's hospital for long periods of time," said Treherne, who added she has suffered seizures and was in the hospital's intensive care unit for some time.
Treherne said Brenna's condition has greatly improved since she began receiving a new medication in August but she is still struggling with the disease.
Santoro noted because the festival occurred just days after the natural gas explosion that destroyed the home of the Mozingo family and killed their daughter Hannah, a water bottle was set out to accept donations for the family, and more than $4,100 was raised.
In other business, council agreed unanimously to hire Steve Falbo as a full-time police officer.
The move came following the recommendation of Follansbee Police Chief John Schwertfeger and a few months of debate among city officials.
First Ward Councilman Vito "Skip" Cutrone, 2nd Ward Councilman Dave Secrist and others pushed for a vacancy in the city's police department to be filled. Other city officials said the decision not to fill the position was spurred by financial concerns reflected by cuts to the police department and others.
In recent months council also heard from residents who supported hiring another officer, and council's vote on Monday received applause from many attending.
City Manager John DeStefano noted Falbo brings 25 years' experience as a Weirton police officer to the job. Over the last year and a half, he was among officers from other law enforcement agencies who were employed on a part-time basis in an effort to fill the void.
In other business:
It was announced fees for the city's parking meters will be waived from Thanksgiving Day to Jan. 6, continuing a yearly holiday tradition.
Mayor David Velegol Jr. also announced the city's senior Christmas party will be held at 5 p.m. Dec. 5 at the Follansbee Community House. The free event is open only to Follansbee residents, and reservations should be made by calling (304) 527-1330.
Schwertfeger said thefts from unlocked vehicles continues to be a problem. He said his department is investigating the crimes, but he also encouraged residents to lock their vehicles.
(Scott can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)