Rising Stars – Absolute Care Aurora Park

Rising Stars – Absolute Care Aurora Park

Rising Stars Reflect New Management, Leadership at

Absolut Care of Aurora Park


East Aurora, NY – Absolut Care of Aurora Park is under new management and making notable strides to improve the quality and services it offers to those in East Aurora, Buffalo and the surrounding communities. 

In October, the federal government updated its Nursing Home Compare website with the latest star ratings highlighting survey results, staffing and quality measures for every facility in the nation.

Results can be found at www.medicare.gov.

Absolut Care of Aurora Park earned a new star in the survey category, bringing its overall rating to three stars.

This improvement is significant given the fact that it had a one-star rating when RCA Healthcare Management took over administration of the bankrupt facility in March of 2020.  At that time, RCA’s takeover was highly regarded to be the only viable option for saving Aurora Park and four sister facilities from potential closure. Currently, the facilities are being operated under an administrative services agreement while a formal change of ownership takes place. 

One of the keys to a successful acquisition is having dynamic, progressive leadership to facilitate the transition. As such, RCA appointed industry leader Stacy Bastian, RN, as administrator in March of 2020. Since that time, she and the professionals at Aurora Park have been committed to improving the quality of services at every level within the facility. A modification in the culture isn’t something that matures overnight; it’s the result of deliberate changes focused on investing in staff expertise, implementing technological advancements and adhering to best practices in order to improve the quality of services provided.    

The rise in star ratings is important because it places a quantifiable value on some of the most important aspects of care, including Aurora Park’s Department of Health surveys, staffing levels and quality measures. “Our team of exceptional caregivers understands what it takes, both clinically and operationally to improve our star ratings as we strive to achieve five stars,” Bastian stated. “We are committed to seeking new and innovative ways to deliver services, mentor one another and most-importantly provide the best care possible to our residents.” 

Absolut Care of Aurora Park provides 24-hour skilled nursing care, subacute rehabilitation, secured memory care, hospice care and in-house dialysis services. Learn more at www.absolutcare.com.

Absolut Care of Aurora Park is an Annual Sustaining Sponsor of the Greater East Aurora Chamber of Commerce.


East Aurora High School to host Mike Lutzenkirchen, executive director of the Lutzie43 Foundation, for a talk about driving safe & making responsible choices

East Aurora High School to host Mike Lutzenkirchen, executive director of the Lutzie43 Foundation, for a talk about driving safe & making responsible choices

On September 20th and 21st, Mike Lutzenkirchen, executive director of the Atlanta-based Lutzie 43 Foundation, will be in East Aurora to speak to students, teachers, and staff about the effects of distracted and impaired driving. Lutzenkirchen built his foundation after the loss of his son, former Auburn University football player, Philip Lutzenkirchen and the circumstances around his death that could have been prevented.

Lutzenkirchen will address the EA community on Tuesday, September 21 at 7:30 p.m. in the EA high school auditorium. Masks are required and all are welcome.

Distracted and impaired driving is an epidemic. The number of lives lost or injured on the roads continues to rise as cell phone usage and other distractions in vehicles increase. Currently, distracted and impaired driving incidents are the leading cause of death for ages 16-19.

“Our entire district will hear and feel the power of Mike Lutzenkirchen’s message about the importance of the decisions we make, that not only affect us, but those we love as well,” Bill Roberts, East Aurora High School principal said. “Forty-three seconds is all it takes to make sure you or someone you are driving with is driving distracted free.”

Mike’s address to the community about the foundation’s safe driving initiative, 43 Key Seconds, is personal. His goal is to reach as many people as he can with The 43 Key Seconds safe driving initiative. The Lutzie 43 Foundation’s 43 Key Seconds initiative focuses on creating the first nationally recognized symbol for distracted and impaired driving. The physical 43 Key Seconds key serves as a physical reminder to drivers to have a clear head, clean hands, clear eyes and click their seatbelt before driving. Each student will receive a lanyard, key, and keycard with these messages.

Philip won over the hearts of the Auburn community before he lost his life as a passenger in a drunk driving accident. He was not wearing his seatbelt and was ultimately thrown from the car and killed on impact.


Since Philip’s death in June 2014, Mike has traveled to schools and organizations across the country to deliver hard-hitting truths about Philip’s accident in hopes to prevent drivers from making similar mistakes that might cost them their lives.

“Philip’s story and the 43 Key Seconds initiative is in place to protect the East Aurora community,” said Lutzenkirchen. “For the younger students, my message is how to be a great friend versus a good friend and how to focus on smart decisions.”

The East Aurora Schools Lecture Series Committee (EALSC) is coordinating Lutzenkirchen’s visit to the district with the hopes to reach all community members on the importance of distracted and impaired driving. In March 2022, the EALSC will welcome Dr. Delaney Ruston for a student and community conversation about screen time and technology for kids.


The Lutzie 43 Foundation aims to encourage and empower all drivers to be positive ambassadors for safe driving through character development, mentorship and real-world application. The Lutzie 43 Foundation was established in loving memory of former Auburn football player Philip Lutzenkirchen, shortly after he lost his life in a car accident in 2014. In his memory, the foundation’s 43 Key Seconds safe driving initiative aims to create the first nationally-recognized symbol for distracted and impaired driving awareness and prevention. The foundation’s motto for youth is to “Live like Lutz, Love like Lutz, and Learn from Lutz,” reflecting its desire to help others live out the many positive character attributes that Philip displayed while learning from the circumstances that led to his death. For more information, visit lutzie43.org.

All are welcome to the Tuesday, September 21 talk in the East Aurora High School Auditorium. Masks are required.

Marilla Country Store Celebrates 170 Years in Business!

Marilla Country Store Celebrates 170 Years in Business!

Marilla Country Store, the longest continually-operating store in New York State, celebrates its historic 170th year this September.

The store bears the proud distinction of having never closed its doors since its opening in 1851. Even during the Coronavirus pandemic, when many businesses were forced under, Marilla Country Store held firm to its core mission: to serve the needs of all who visit; from the earliest settlers, to modern Western New York families, to travelers from all over the world.

“To say the store has seen a lot in 170 years would be an understatement,” says owner Sandy Grunzweig. “We have been through 33 U.S Presidents. 8 global pandemics, 6 major blizzards, and more than 100 wars.”

“But no wars, blizzards, or even global pandemics have been able to keep us from fulfilling our promise to meet the needs of the people of Marilla, and all who pass through.”

The anniversary will be recognized on Saturday, September 18th as part of “Ag Day,” the Town of Marilla’s annual celebration of its deep agricultural culture.  On that day, the store will offer a free basket raffle and free Mayer Brothers cider and donuts while supplies last.

“Marilla Country Store was established when agriculture was emerging in this region,” says Grunzweig. “Since our heritage is so steeped in Marilla’s agricultural community, the store’s anniversary is truly something for the entire town to celebrate.”

Grunzweig’s family, the Gingerich’s, are the third to have ownership of Marilla Country Store since it was established in 1851. In fact, the store is older than the town of Marilla itself. Marilla wasn’t incorporated until two years later, in 1853.

The site was acquired in a trade between a local shopkeeper and a logger named Harrison T. Foster. Foster found himself on the brink of losing his business after his oxen got loose in a nearby cornfield and ate themselves to death.

Fortunately, the shopkeeper was willing to trade his business for Foster’s land. The new store that Foster and his partner, Charles Walker, built in place of the old one is the original site of what would eventually be known as Marilla Country Store.

The store has remained family-owned over its entire 170 year history. In 1916, Louis Monchow, the son of Harrison T. Foster’s partner Gustav Monchow, took over the business from his father. It remained in the Monchow family until 1979 when the Gingerich’s bought the store, following Mildred Monchow, Louis’ wife’s, retirement.

It was the Gingerich’s who gave Marilla Country Store its name.

“Especially given the past year and a half, my family is eternally grateful to still be here, going strong,” Grunzweig says. “We couldn’t do it without our incredible staff, who has worked so hard to keep us going, even during a global pandemic. And, of course, to the Marilla community who has supported us for 170 years, and continues to this day. We are excited to share this historic milestone with all of you!”

Since 1851, Marilla Country Store has been a destination for Western New York families and travelers passing through the area. The store features three floors, teeming with unique gifts, stunning home decor, bulk foods and candy, and so much more. Join us for the day, and leave with something you will treasure for a lifetime.

Erie County Bicentennial Continues with Celebration of African American Heritage in WNY

Roycroft Campus to feature free program with music and speakers on August 25 on its Great Lawn

The Roycroft Campus to host the third event in the EC200 Heritage Commemoration Series on Wednesday, Aug. 25. The free event will be a celebration of African American Heritage in WNY featuring a musical performance by the George Scott Big Band along with speakers discussing African-American heritage in WNY with a focus on the Michigan Street Corridor.

The event will take place on the Roycroft Campus’ Great Lawn from 6 – 8 PM at 31 South Grove St. in East Aurora. Gates open at 5:30 PM.

“The third installment of the EC200 Heritage Commemoration Series will provide a great evening of music and education centered on African American heritage in WNY and the Michigan Street corridor’s prominent role in it. This is a wonderful program and one that will be enjoyed by all in attendance,” said Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz.  “I commend the EC200 planning committee for the work they put in to present these summer commemoration series events and I thank the Roycroft Campus for being such gracious and accommodating hosts for the series as well.”

“We are thrilled with the continued success of Erie County’s Bicentennial programs on the Campus this summer,” stated Curt Maranto, Executive Director of the Roycroft Campus.  “The Roycroft was founded on the ideals of individuality, inclusivity and community; it is an honor to celebrate our rich and diverse culture in Western New York, while also providing opportunities for new audiences to experience the Roycroft’s history and legacy.”

“On behalf of the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission, I would like to thank our County Executive and the organizers of the Erie County 200 for including our founding cultural anchors, the Michigan Street Baptist Church, the Nash House, the Colored Musicians Club and Museum, and the WUFO Black Radio History Collective, in celebrating our great county,” added Terry Alford, Executive Director of the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission. “The Commission serves as the connector of the past, present and future of those historic neighborhoods within and beyond our Corridor.  The Commission, along with the anchors to be featured at the Roycroft Campus on August 25th, endeavors to integrate the cultural significance and historic impact made by African Americans in not just the City of Buffalo, but throughout the Buffalo-Niagara Region. This outstanding event will allow us to share a bit of the history interwoven into the fabric of the Corridor as well as the vision for its future.”

In addition to a musical performance by the George Scott Big Band, the evening will include a brief introduction by Terry Alford, Executive Director of the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor Commission; remarks from Lillie Wiley-Upshaw & Rachel Henderson, Chair & Board Member of the Buffalo Niagara Freedom Station Coalition, who will be speaking on the history of the Michigan Street Baptist Church; Sharon Holley, President of the Michigan Street Preservation Corporation, who will speak on the Nash House Museum, and Sheila Brown, Owner of WUFO Radio and founder of the WUFO Black Radio History Collective, will wrap up the presentation.

Flying Bison Brewing Company will be onsite offering beer tastings, and the Roycroft Inn will be open for additional food/beverage.

Attendees should bring their own blankets/chairs and may also bring their own refreshments; please observe a carry-in/carry-out policy for food/trash. This event is presented by the office of Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and is hosted by the Roycroft Campus.

Three local Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalitions join forces

Three local Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalitions join forces

Three local Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalitions join forces to encourage communities to “Celebrate” WNY

This first of its kind collaboration promotes healthy communities this summer

Three local Drug-Free Community (DFC) Coalitions; Alden Substance Abuse Prevention CoalitionFOCUS; For Our Community Unity & Support (Lancaster/Depew), and ITAC- It Takes A Community Drug and Alcohol Prevention Coalition (Elma, Marilla, and Wales) have joined forces to create a strong underage drinking messaging campaign.

This joint campaign message is one of a celebration of our communities and sends a positive message- ‘thank you for not serving minors during June, July, and August, a season typically of many celebrations.

This is the first time that 3 Coalitions in 6 local neighboring towns and 2 counties have partnered together and included businesses, and parents in an underage drinking messaging campaign. Pizzerias and grocery stores in our targeted areas will receive 4×6 stickers to adhere to pizza boxes and take out containers, 20 families in each community- (60 total) were recruited to display lawn signs- and a total of 6 billboards in the Towns of Alden, Lancaster and Elma will post the same message throughout the summer months. All messaging materials display the same image and message. 

The Coalitions targeted underage drinking since alcohol is the drug of choice for most young people. Statistics point to the fact that alcohol is used by more young people than tobacco or illicit drugs. 

Hartloff Benefits – Empowering people to make good Healthcare and Medicare choices

Hartloff Benefits – Empowering people to make good Healthcare and Medicare choices

Hartloff Benefits – Empowering people to make good Healthcare and Medicare choices

By Hartloff Benefits

It starts with the premise that “You are handling a Senior’s Health Insurance – you need to get it right!” The focus is always on doing the right thing for the client. As brokers we represent the client, not the insurance companies. It is crucial that we get the right plan for each client.  With over 40 Medicare Advantage plan and half a dozen Medigap plans available, there are a lot of choices!

A big part of our process is getting to know our clients.  Taking the time to learn – not just about medical needs but lifestyle and travel plans. We also need to inquire about medical history, including prescriptions, and potential future medical procedures. I have had many folks say to me – “You ask a lot of questions”. How a client answers these questions will help develop a strategy for healthcare and finding the best plan for their needs. And then when the process is completed, they say “Now I understand why you asked so many questions, this plan fits me!”

Encouraging clients to ask questions is a key part of the process. Learning is a two-way street.  We want our clients to learn about the Agency and learn about the myriad of options they have. Many times, spouses will not only have different plans but may use different insurance companies. Often, we must explain that the plan your friend or neighbor said is the “best plan out there”, just is not right for them. We do not believe that there is a “one size fits all”.

April Hartloff, owner of Hartloff Benefit Solutions LLC constantly says, “We must empower our clients to make good Healthcare and Medicare choices”. It is important that we educate clients not just on the plans, but how the plans work. During our process, we ensure that people know the differences between the Advantage plans, Medigap plan, and Part D Drug Plans.   We believe that if the client does not understand their plan, they are not able to take full advantage of the benefits.

For us, we start the process six months prior to Medicare eligibility. This can be as simple as discussing whether they even need to enroll in Medicare, or if it would be more beneficial to stay in their health insurance through work. We “pencil it out”, meaning that we look for the best coverage that is most cost-effective. People need to know what their options are, what is most cost-effective, and understand the differences between Health Insurance through the workplace and Medicare. This is empowering clients in their decision making.

At Hartloff Benefit Solutions, we believe that as Employee Benefits brokers, we have a distinctive edge in that we know and understand workplace Health Insurance.  By knowing the type of coverage, the employee has at work, we can ease the transition to Medicare. By keeping our focus on Employee Benefits and Medicare, we are not “product pushing”. Unlike some Agencies that try to sell everything, including the kitchen sink, we stay focused on Benefits and Medicare. We certainly have strategic partners for other insurances and financial products that we refer our clients to.

In addition, we do not “sell” Medicare plans. Our job is to follow our back to basics process: Listen, question, learn, help design, and ultimately enroll a client in the correct plan. By utilizing a consultative process, there simply is no selling.

Our clients know that the process does not end right after enrolling in plans. It is important to clients that we are available all year.  We are not a transaction-oriented business, we want our clients to be friends of the Agency. By having constant contact with people, they know that they can reach out to us at any time, and they appreciate our reminders to utilize benefits. One of April’s rules is that Reps have cell numbers on their business cards.  She says: “People don’t just have issues 9-5, People have problems after 5 pm and on weekends.  It is very gratifying to know you helped someone on a Saturday morning or Sunday afternoon!”

Over the past seven months, we made sure to regularly reach out to clients via emails, postcards, and even regular mail. With the COVID-19 shutdown, many folks were feeling isolated, and it was important that we let them know we are here!

We believe that our process is ever-evolving and retooling to be the best possible Medicare Reps that we can be.  We encourage feedback from our clients so that we add things to the process so that Hartloff Benefit Solutions LLC becomes even better., making the process easier for those currently in Medicare and those soon to enroll in Medicare.

Hartloff Benefits Solutions LLC is located at 7000 Seneca St, Elma, NY. They can be reached at 716-655-5901. For more information, please visit www.hartloffbenefits.com.