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LOCAL NEWS BRIEFS

>Salvation Army needs more volunteers

With less than a week until Christmas, the Salvation Army has issued a call for volunteers to help in its annual kettle drive in smaller communities in Western New York.

"Some of our service unit areas are in very small communities where bell-ringing has been limited, or there is no location large enough to raise the funds necessary to help those in crisis," says field representative Rod Ballengee.

Ballengee suggested jways to help:

* Volunteer to ring bells by calling (877) 764-7259 or register online at www.redkettles.org. Final bell-ringing day is Saturday.

* Host a cyberkettle online and invite friends and associates to make tax-deductible donations. Visit www.onlineredkettle.org. Final cyberkettle day is Dec. 31.

* Send a gift directly to the Salvation Army, Empire State Division, Box 148, Syracuse, NY 13206. Gifts will be credited to the corps or service unit area closest to your ZIP code.

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>Residence Inn to offer Christmas eve rooms

The Cheektowaga Residence Inn will offer free hotel rooms to out-of-town guests visiting their loved ones at area hospitals, nursing homes and treatment centers on Christmas eve.

Brenda Hilton, sales manager for the Cheektowaga Residence Inn, at 107 Anderson Road, said Tharaldson Lodging Co. of Fargo, N.D., which operates the inn, has been donating free rooms to those in need on Christmas eve since 1988.

The arrangements for free lodging are usually made through local hospitals, nursing homes and treatment centers. The operators or staffs of these entities are encouraged to call the Cheektowaga Residence Inn in advance at 892-5410.

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>Big-box development on board's agenda

The first public meeting between developer Frank Russo and the Alden Town Board will take place the day after Christmas on the issue of big-box development in the town.

During the board's next work session at 7 p.m. next Tuesday, Russo will be present to discuss the development and rezoning of a property on Broadway and Four Rod Road in the town.

"This is at our request," said Town Supervisor Ron Smith. "[He] is coming so we can identify the information that we are lacking to continue the [State Environmental Quality Review Act] determination process."

While Russo will be present to hear the board's request, Smith said the meeting is not a public hearing and Russo will be under no obligation to share information about the proposed development.

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>Free Christmas travel offered on 3 bridges

LEWISTON -- The Niagara Falls Bridge Commission will offer free travel on the Rainbow, Whirlpool-Rapids and Lewiston-Queenston bridges from 11:30 p.m. Dec. 24 to 11:30 p.m. Dec. 25.

Commission chairman Robert Lewis said waiving the $2.50 toll for 24 hours "is a gesture of gratitude to the community."

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