NEWFANE — Many graduates talk about getting out on their own, feeling their wings and taking off to somewhere they’ve never been. But for five student officers of the Newfane class of 2021, it’s doing something from the heart for a place that feels like home.

President Andrew Martin, Vice President Jason Dumais, Secretary Hunter Jurek, Historian Philip Stevenson and Treasurer Derek Dunn talked about how they came up with the “Shop Newfane” weekend coming up Friday through Sunday.

“It was the beginning of the year when we couldn’t really follow through with any of our traditional tasks as class officers,” Jurek said. “We all expanded on the idea of how we could do something for the community. There were small businesses struggling through the coronavirus, and we came to this idea with the help of Mr. Najuch, our class advisor.”

The idea was to start a raffle for local shoppers – buy three items from one or more different small businesses – and be entered in a raffle to win prizes including gift cards from the same local businesses.

Sue Neidlinger, a member of the Newfane Business Association and also a council member for the Town of Newfane, said she did minimal work for the event and it was really the students that made it happen.

“The only thing I did to help them was to give them a list of the businesses that are in the business association and I sent out any correspondences that they wanted all the businesses to have,” Neidlinger said. “But they took it upon themselves to organize it. To go door to door. Hand-deliver letters and hard mail letters. It was all them.”

The group wasn’t bashful in explaining how to get an event like this started.

“We designed programs and went around asking people, talking to different businesses and communicating online with them and in person,” Dumais said. “We started just by thinking of ideas, just brainstorming what we could do for the community.”

“The original idea was we were just going to donate the money to small businesses,” Martin said. “That kind of fell through, but we had a better idea of how great it’d be to get the whole community shopping here.”

Dunn said he enjoyed himself walking from store to store and discovering some places he never knew of while he pitched the idea to store owners.

“It was nice looking in at all the businesses,” Dunn said. “Some of them I didn’t even know and I’ve lived here my whole life.”

While things aren’t ideal, Martin said that while he realizes they won’t be seeing a prom this side of COVID-19, that Newfane is still special and deserves special treatment. Stevenson said that after he goes to school, he’d like to live in Newfane permanently.

“After I go to college and everything, I’ll hopefully get a house out here,” Stevenson said. “It’s just the family aspect. Everybody knows everybody. We just want to give back to the community we’ve lived in for 18 years.”

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