Leadership Orleans director hired

PHOTO BY VIRGINIA KROPFSkip Helfrich of Lockport has been chosen to develop Leadership Orleans, a community leadership development program. He'll begin working with the first class of 25 students in January. 

ALBION — A Lockport resident will be director of the first Leadership Orleans class being developed in Orleans County.

Skip Helfrich, who owns Human Energies, a consulting business, will lead the class scheduled to begin in January.

Leadership Niagara was the first community leadership development program in New York state, founded in 1984. Helfrich went through Leadership Niagara in 1989 and developed a real passion for the program, he said. He worked with Leadership Niagara through 2012, and in 2000 was part of the steering committee that started Leadership Genesee.

He is excited about the program being started in Orleans County.

Helfrich said former state Assembly Member Charles Nesbitt was a driving force in starting a leadership class in Orleans County, along with Kelly Kiebala of Medina. Kiebala offered him the director’s position on Halloween night, and he accepted.

Leadership Orleans' goal was 25 participants in the inaugural class. One of them is Ed Fancher, director of Community Action of Orleans and Genesee, whose agency is sponsoring LO. Fancher said he's hoping to develop his leadership skills and be a better leader for his agency.

“We’ve been talking for years about bringing a leadership program to Orleans County,” he said. “I hope to develop relationships with people in the county I wouldn’t ordinarily get to know, and I think that will be good for Community Action.”

Helfrich said the Orleans County Legislature was very supportive of LO, providing start-up funding and putting support funding in the county budget. In two to three years, the program will be able to support itself through tuition and fundraisers, he added.

LO classes will meet all over Orleans County, with the initial meetings Jan. 17 and Jan. 18 at the Village Inn for members to get to know each other.

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