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Honor Roll / Recognizing the accomplishments of Western New Yorkers

A longtime Western New York farm was recently named a "century farm" by the New York State Agricultural Society -- an honor meaning the farm has been owned and operated continuously by the same family for 100 years or more.

Mardan Farms in Java Center, Wyoming County, has a history that stretches back to the 1830s and to a first owner, Christopher McCormick. Today it is owned by Mark Allen McCormick, and the 165 original acres of the farm have been expanded to more than 700. The farm boasts a herd of 240 milk cows and 218 head of young stock.

The awards were made as part of the 179th annual Agricultural Forum of the state Agricultural Society, held earlier this month in Syracuse.

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Garden Walk Buffalo is the recipient of the "Friends of Architecture" award from the Buffalo and Western New York Chapter of the Institute of Architects. The honor is awarded annually to an organization.

"Garden Walk Buffalo has been dedicated to the promotion of the City of Buffalo and Western New York and to encouraging neighborhood beautification and promoting community pride, the nominating letter stated. "Through these efforts, the group has changed the way many people view the built environment and is therefore deserving of this award."

Jim Charlier, Garden Walk Buffalo president, said, "We could not be more proud of Garden Walk's accomplishments, including helping to reinvigorate parts of Buffalo's West Side -- providing positive, and unexpected, PR outside of Buffalo, and providing more than $26,000 in beautification grants for gardening projects. As much as the walk is about the gardens, it's a sly way for visitors to get to walk around neighborhoods of great architecture they would normally not get a chance to walk through."

Garden Walk Buffalo is held the last weekend of July each year and this year, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. July 30 and 31.

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January is National Mentoring Month, and the local winner of First Niagara Bank's student mentoring essay contest -- Janiece Padilla, a sixth-grader at Enterprise Charter School -- described her personal outlook on the importance of mentoring, including how her mentor taught her that "learning happens in other places than just the classroom."

Janiece was awarded a $500 savings bond, $5,000 for her school, and will be featured in a national advertisement that First Niagara is producing.

Some $150,000 in grants from First Niagara's fourth annual Mentoring Matters program were recently awarded to nearly a dozen Western New York organizations.

The 2010 Mentoring Matters not-for-profit grant winners include: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Erie County, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Niagara County, Boys and Girls Clubs of Buffalo, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Northtowns, Buffalo Prep, Compeer of Greater Buffalo, Health Association of Niagara County, Junior Achievement, Seneca Street Youth Mentoring, Buffalo Urban League and Burchfield Penney Art Center.

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Sarbajit Banerjee, assistant professor of chemistry at the University at Buffalo, is one of fewer than a dozen scholars in the United States who have been awarded a Cottrell Scholar Award from the Research Corporation for Science Advancement.

The awards, which provide $75,000 to recipients, recognize early-career scientists who are leaders in integrating science teaching and research at leading U.S. research universities.

Banerjee will use the award to conduct research to better understand vanadium oxides, chemical compounds used in night-vision technologies and other applications.

Banerjee also is a recipient of a National Science Foundation CAREER award, the foundation's most prestigious award for junior investigators, and an Exxon Mobil Solid-State Chemistry Award from the American Chemical Society.

Banerjee received his undergraduate education at the University of Delhi and his doctorate at the State University at Stony Brook. Before coming to teach at UB, Banerjee was a postdoctoral research scientist at Columbia University.

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The Paul Robeson Theatre at the African American Cultural Center is the recipient of a $2,000 donation.

The funds will help the organization continue its presence in the community in the wake of cuts in funding to cultural arts under the 2011 Erie County budget, according the center's executive director, Agnes Bain. The check was from Harriet Tubman 300 Inc., an organization that provides college scholarships to students from Buffalo's East Side neighborhoods.

The Paul Robeson Theatre is continuing its 2010-11 season with a production of "Crumbs from the Table of Joy" by Lynn Nottage, which opens at 8 p.m. Feb. 4. Tickets are on sale at the box office, 350 Masten Ave.

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The Erie County Kevin R. Hardwick, R-City of Tonawanda, donated $1,000 of his annual legislative salary to Kenmore-Tonawanda Meals on Wheels, where he visited with employees and volunteers earlier this week. Hardwick again has pledged to donate $7,500 of his annual $42,588 legislative salary to community groups in his district. Last year, money went to youth sports leagues and senior centers, among others.

"I strongly believe that the county's legislative salary is far too high for this part-time post," Hardwick said. "The money deserves to be in the community and that is why I pledged to give a portion of it back."

lcontinelli@buffnews.com

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