By Jann Wiswall
In the spirit of “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” Ellicottville residents pulled out all the stops to make dozens of truck drivers and travelers comfortable and welcome while they are visiting.
Well, “visiting” may not be the right term, since they’re all stuck in the village due to the closure of Rt. 219 toward Buffalo because of the history-making lake effect snow storm. But in Ellicottville, where the community is attuned to hosting folks, these are, indeed, visitors.
Efforts to make arrangements for these unwitting guests began in the Village Clerk’s office where Mary Klahn started making phone calls Wednesday morning. In a matter of mere hours, she had mobilized people and businesses to provide dinner at the United Church of Ellicottville, use the showers at the Fire Hall, have port-a-potties delivered to the vacant Signore lot on Jefferson Street where trucks are being parked, and more.
Ellicottville police officers Amber Graham and Larry Spry, who’d been working double shifts since the emergency began, were instrumental in their efforts to communicate available services and the latest information to drivers parked at what has been dubbed the “truck stop.”
By Wednesday evening, about two dozen travelers were dining at the church with food donated by Tops Market and prepared by food pantry co-directors Shelly Kibby and Annie Widger, along with Sis Signore, Nancy Rogan, O.J. Agromonte, Kathy Weishan and other volunteers. Transportation to the church was provided by a bus contributed by Ellicottville Central School and driven by Jeannie Brown.
Meanwhile, Holiday Valley sent its van to pick up another dozen or so travelers and take them to the resort where they could enjoy a meal.
Over at the fire hall, the Wingate hotel had delivered toiletry kits and towels for travelers’ use. The Wingate also offered rooms at deeply discounted rates for snow removal crews who were making their way to Buffalo from other states.
The fire department and the Rotary Club of Ellicottville contributed money to help pay for food and other supplies.
With even more snow in the forecast and roads unlikely to be reopened for several days, Ellicottville was ready to keep up the hospitality. Dinner at the church was already scheduled to be served again Thursday night and for as many additional nights as needed.
“This is totally amazing,” said one truck driver who was stopped in Ellicottville while driving from Atlanta to Buffalo. “You guys didn’t need to do all this,” he said, as Kibby offered him snacks to take back to his truck for the night.
“Small towns are so generous,” said another, who admitted that he had never seen anything like this anywhere else in all his many years of driving.
“This is fantastic,” said a young driver as he finished his meal. He had driven from West Virginia and was headed to Toronto.
Is this type of generosity of spirit unique to Ellicottville? One hopes not. But one thing is certain: these truck drivers and travelers whose homes are in California, Virginia, Michigan, North Carolina, Ontario and beyond will never forget this little village that opened its arms in such a selfless way. Let’s hope they’ll come back under better circumstances.