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News and Info from members of the North Country Chamber


James Button brings depth of experience in leadership and clinical positions

Citizen Advocates is proud to announce the addition of James Button as its new Chief Operating Officer.  Mr. Button fills the position previously held by Dean Johnston, who was elevated to Chief Executive Officer of the health and human services agency in December, 2016.

Mr. Button is a familiar face at Citizen Advocates having served in several progressive leadership roles throughout the organization.  Over the course of nearly 10 years he served as the Director of Corporate Compliance and Quality Assurance, Children's Residential Coordinator at the Adirondack Youth Lodge, and various Community Support Services roles.

He left Citizen Advocates in 2016 to accept a position as Behavioral Health Initiatives Director for the New York State Conference of Local Mental Hygiene Directors in Albany.  Mr. Button collaborated with multiple state government healthcare agencies to advance a variety of statewide behavioral health initiatives involving Medicaid Managed Care and the transition to Value Based Payments.

"James brings a unique skill set to the position of COO, and his familiarity with agency policies, programs and services will help ease his transition into this new and very challenging leadership role," said Dean Johnston, CEO.  "He has a very clear vision of how we can continue to grow and excel as an organization, and maintain exceptional, high quality services for those we support."

Mr. Button also has extensive experience in the clinical setting as a psychiatric crisis clinician, social worker, and forensic psycho-social evaluator. His educational background includes master's degrees in Clinical Social Work and Education, and a Professional Certificate in Health Care Administration from the University of Vermont Center for Leadership and Innovation.

"As COO my priorities include improving agency efficiency, strengthening our community partnerships and increasing access to services across northern New York," said Mr. Button. "I'm excited to be back at Citizen Advocates working under Dean's leadership along with our Board President Martha Dishman and the administrative team to ensure we remain ahead of the ever-shifting healthcare landscape."

Originally from Canton, Mr. Button and his wife Camelia, along with their sons Benjamin and Jacob, are excited to be back in the North Country.  In their spare time they like to give back to the community, spend time with friends, go to the lake and ski at Titus Mountain.  In the fall, his sons will attend St. Joseph's Elementary and Camelia is excited to get back to work as a colorist at Serendipity Salon and Day Spa in the Village of Malone.

Mr. Button's first day on the job as COO was July 17.

WESTELCOM Increases Network Capacity by 10X across the Adirondack North Country Region

WESTELCOM Networks Inc. announced today that the company has completed a major network enhancement expanding its core bandwidth 10 times its previous network capacity.   This expanded capability will enhance Westelcom’s ability to deliver Ultra High-Speed Broadband, Internet and Ethernet services surpassing all technological advancements in the Northern NY region.  Fully redundant and ringed, the network expands across 6 counties and internationally into Montreal with private connections to Microsoft, Amazon, and Google’s Cloud platforms. 

This increased capacity will enhance efforts to boost the Adirondack North Country Region’s economic development and will support high-tech firms moving to the area that require high bandwidth capacity.  Westelcom’s network currently supports internet and telephone services to over 3,000 businesses, multiple municipalities, 2 telemedicine networks, 9 regional hospitals, several educational facilities, and over 120 health care facilities.  

Westelcom’s President and General Manager, Paul Barton stated that “Our ability to afford this upgrade is a direct result of the recent waiver granted to Westelcom by the FCC.”  In April 2017, the FCC granted Westelcom a limited waiver to remain as a “rural carrier” which allows the company to charge higher access rates to long distance carriers and other telecommunications service providers who originate and terminate interstate calls on Westelcom’s network.

In July 2016 Westelcom was recognized by the NTCA – The Rural Broadband Association as the first NYS Certified Gig-Capable Provider, joining a national campaign to build awareness and industry recognition of community-based telecom providers that have built communications networks capable of delivering Internet speeds of 1 gigabit per second or greater, which is 100 times faster than most services currently available in much of the U.S.

Mr. Barton commented that “Westelcom is focused on more than delivering just high-speed internet. We have developed core network principles that ensure that we deliver our customers the most reliable communications solution possible.  We do what the larger companies are unwilling to do.”

Community Bank Makes Generous Donation to Backpack Program

Community Bank, N.A. recently made a generous $2,500 donation to the Backpack Program sponsored by Citizen Advocates.  Presenting the check to Citizen Advocates CEO Dean Johnston, left, were Stacey Brunell, branch manager for the bank's West Main Street location in Malone, and Craig Stevens, Vice President of Commercial Banking.  The Backpack Program provides healthy meals on weekends to local eligible youth in grades kindergarten through six during the academic year.  Now in its sixth year of operation, program sponsors are gearing up for their major fundraising event, The Taste of Malone Dinner.  The dinner is scheduled to take place on Wednesday, Oct. 4 at the Malone Golf Club.  To learn more or support the program, contact Joe Riccio at Citizen Advocates by calling (518) 651-2760.

Symquest Awards Grants to Non-Profits at Ribbon Cutting

SymQuest Group, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Konica Minolta Business Solutions U.S.A., Inc., and regionally based IT services and office technology provider, celebrated their Plattsburgh, NY office grand opening in conjunction with a nonprofit grant campaign: One Grand of a Helping Hand for North Country Nonprofits.

“We recognize the value our nonprofit neighbors bring to the region,” says SymQuest President, Meg Fleming. “Coupling our ribbon cutting with an opportunity to support local organizations is reflective of our company culture, and we believe it is a great privilege to have the ability to give back to our community.”

Five nonprofit grants were announced at SymQuest’s July 20th ribbon cutting for its new office located at 18 Northern Ave. STE 200, Plattsburgh, NY. Nonprofit grant recipients included: The Hospice of the North CountryChild Care Coordinating CouncilNorth Country Mission of HopeETC Housing Corporation and North Country Center for IndependenceEach organization was awarded a $1,000 grant.

SymQuest’s new 6,040 Sq. Ft. location supports sales, service, and network operations personnel. The new office also houses a demonstration facility for office technology solutions including multi-function copiers and printers, production and wide format printers, and cloud infrastructure solutions. To learn more about SymQuest’s commitment to the community visit

Champlain National Bank Scholarships Awarded to Graduating Seniors

Champlain National Bank gave $3,500 in scholarship money to graduating seniors throughout Essex and Clinton Counties at graduation ceremonies in June.  Recipients of the Champlain National Bank Scholarship received $500 towards college expenses, and were treated to a special luncheon at the Bank’s headquarters in Willsboro, where they were able to meet and chat with President and CEO Steven Cacchio.

Champlain National Bank Scholarships are awarded every year at graduation to students throughout Essex and Clinton Counties who will be attending college in the fall.


·       The Willsboro Central School Winner was Kaitlin Shaw, daughter of John & Hilda Shaw of Willsboro.  She will be attending SUNY Plattsburgh in the fall and plans to study Social Work.

·       In Westport, the Champlain National Bank Scholarship was presented to Schylar Kurth, son of Medara Sherman & Warren Feulner of Westport, and Mark and Jane Kurth of Des Moines, IA.  He will be attending LeMoyne College and majoring in Business and Finance.

·       In Elizabethtown, Joel Morris, son of Matthew & Shari Morris of Elizabethtown, won the Scholarship.  He plans to attend Clinton Community College and study Renewable Energy.

·       In Crown Point the scholarship was awarded to Amber DuShane, daughter of Dwane & Renee DuShane from Crown Point.  She will be attending North Country Community College in the fall and is undecided about her major.

·       Maria Gates, daughter of Marsha Gates of Keene Valley, was the winner from Keene Central School.  She will be attending SUNY Plattsburgh in the fall and plans to study Business.

·       Northeastern Clinton Central School’s winner was Chrysa Rabideau, daughter of Andrea Rabideau of West Chazy.  Rabideau will be attending SUNY Plattsburgh where she will study Finance.

·       Lake Placid Central School’s winner was Trent White, son of Thomas & Nancy White of Lake Placid.  He will be attending SUNY Binghamton to study Engineering and Business Management.

Champlain National Bank was founded in 1909 in Essex County and is still locally owned and managed today.  It has branches located in Willsboro, Westport, Elizabethtown, Crown Point, Keene, Plattsburgh, Champlain, and Lake Placid, and has a full offering of mortgages, commercial loans, and personal and business banking products.

CITEC Business Solutions Offers Continuous Improvement Training

CITEC Business Solutions is offering several continuous improvement training series in Plattsburgh for small and medium enterprises this fall including Lean Foundations, Lean Leadership, and Lean Green Belt. Information about CITEC, the benefits of lean training, details about these sessions, and potential funding assistance is available at

Lean training, based on the Toyota Production System, is a way of working that minimizes waste and maximizes value for entire organizations. Companies that undertake lean transformation commit to long term optimization of their businesses.

Lean Foundations, which begins in August or September in Plattsburgh, is both an introduction to lean for management or supervisors who are unfamiliar with lean concepts, and also a training tool for committed companies to give their floor staff the tools they need to actively participate in continuous improvement projects.

Lean Green Belt begins September 6. This training builds lean leaders who not only complete their own project, but become trainers and leads to ensure continuous improvement throughout the organization.

Lean Leadership begins October 31. This certification for senior and mid-level management ensures that Lean investments on the production floor are understood and supported by the C-Suite so they can continue to bring ROI.

CITEC Business Solutions has offered consulting and training services throughout the North Country for 30 years. They focus on continuous improvement, efficiency, safety, business development, human resources, leadership development, marketing, and executive services. Their qualified consultants have decades of experience and documented millions of dollars in return on investment. CITEC is a member of the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), a program of the U.S. Department of Commerce National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The MEP is a network of centers throughout the U.S. that addresses the needs of America's small and mid-sized companies to improve their competitive position in the marketplace.


CITIZEN ADVOCATES RECEIVES $10,000 GRANT FOR BACKPACK PROGRAM Joy in Childhood Foundation award helps feed eligible youth during school year

Citizen Advocates, Inc. is proud to announce the award of a $10,000 grant from the Joy in Childhood Foundation, which is committed to providing moments of joy to sick and hungry kids. The grant from the Joy in Childhood Foundation will support the Citizen Advocates' Backpack Program, and its mission to provide eligible children in kindergarten through sixth grade with nutritious food for the weekend during the academic year.

Roughly 3.9 million children in the nation live in “food-insecure” households where there is a limited or uncertain amount of nutritionally adequate or safe food. Children are at dramatically higher risk for food insecurity if they live in households where income levels are near or below federal poverty levels or are headed by single parents. In the Malone area, the percentage of individuals and families living in poverty is 31.1 percent, with the largest demographic being females age 35-44, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Both Citizen Advocates and the Joy in Childhood Foundation have a passion for helping people, and the Backpack Program is one of the most direct ways we can make a positive impact in the lives of hungry kids," said Dean Johnston, CEO of Citizen Advocates. "This generous gift from the Foundation puts us on strong footing for the coming year, and closer to our goal of reaching a maximum number of youth during the 2017-18 academic year." 

“The Joy in Childhood Foundation is proud to support local organizations such as Citizen Advocates that share our commitment to bringing joy to hungry kids and to helping them live healthier lives so that they can reach their full potential,” said Karen Raskopf, Co-Chair of the Joy in Childhood Foundation.

The Backpack Program operates on an annual budget of roughly $70,000 with all of the funds applied directly to feeding children in grades kindergarten through six. No state or federal money is received for this program, which is administered and operated entirely by volunteers.  During the 2016-17 school year, nearly 525 young students were served through the Backpack Program with a total of 33,600 meals served thanks to the efforts of about 44 volunteers working a combined 2,112 hours.

The annual Taste of Malone Dinner, a significant fundraiser for the Backpack Program, is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, Oct. 4 at the Malone Golf Club.  Additional details are forthcoming, so be sure to save the date. To learn more, or to support the Backpack Program or the Adopt-A-Kid Campaign contact Joe Riccio at Citizen Advocates at (518) 651-2760 or e-mail 


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