Locate Finger Lakes Business Journal

Jeff and Wendy Gifford to receive Keuka College’s Stork Award

When Jeff and Wendy Gifford talk about receiving the Donald and Corinne Stork Award for Community Service, they are hesitant to tout their own accomplishments.

Wendy and Jeff Gifford

Instead, the Penn Yan couple prefers to discuss the award’s namesakes.

“Don and Corry Stork were unbelievable people,” said Jeff Gifford, president of The Birkett Mills. “The reason I’ve done well at Birkett goes back to Don Stork. He was on our board and was a great person to work with, and a mentor.”

“When Corry spoke, everybody listened,” added Wendy, who served on the Finger Lakes Health Foundation board of directors with Corry Stork. “To be associated with the Storks is an honor. They were great people.”

After a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the Stork Award will be presented by Keuka College during a Dec. 16 ceremony. Event details will be finalized as the day approaches.

Keuka established the award in 1991 to recognize local residents who exemplify the college’s commitment to valuing individual initiative for the common good. The Storks were the first winners of the award, which was named for them.

The Storks presented the award personally for many years. Don Stork, who was known as “Mr. Penn Yan,” passed away in 2012. His wife died last year.

“Don was a very influential part of my life. He was the kind of guy that when he said hello to you he made you feel important, no matter who you were or what you did,” Jeff said. “He was ‘Mr. Penn Yan,’ absolutely. He was one of a kind.”

Keuka College officials said the Giffords were nominated for inspiring youth in local communities and efforts to make their “corner of the world a better place.”

Jeff Gifford, a basketball star at Prattsburgh High School, coached the sport at his alma mater for nearly 30 years. During much of that time he was on the Section V basketball committee, including roles as assistant chairman and a leadership role in the Southern Tier for Section V.

“I’ve had a chance to work with a lot of students, and The Birkett Mills is still a big sponsor of Section V athletics,” he said. “Wendy and I are both big proponents of kids and giving them opportunities they may not have otherwise.”

Jeff said he and his wife, also a Prattsburgh grad, often organized student trips to New York City.

“These were for kids that may never have that sort of opportunity, and to give them a look at what is out there,” he said. “Our roots are rather humble. I grew up on a dairy farm, and we saw these trips as a way to give kids a little incentive. We told them, ‘If you work hard and keep your nose to the grindstone, you will be rewarded.’”

“We got to know a lot of kids over the years,” Jeff added. “There is still one kid, from 30 or 40 years ago, that still calls Wendy every Mother’s Day. We have built relationships, and these kids have become part of the family.”

Wendy Gifford is a 1978 Keuka College graduate. She was nurse/manager at Geneva General Hospital’s Family Birth Center, a nurse for Yates County Public Health, and later a nurse at Prattsburgh Central School, where the Giffords’ children attended school.

Now retired, she volunteers at Keuka Comfort Care Home near Penn Yan (the 2007 winner of the Stork Award) and has volunteered at numerous COVID-19 vaccination clinics. She is on the Keuka Comfort Care Home board of directors as well.

“It’s very rewarding work. It’s a great place to keep someone comfortable at the end of their life,” Wendy said of the hospice facility. “We have a great group of volunteers there.”

Wendy continues to serve on the Finger Lakes Health Foundation board.

“To have our names attached to the Stork Award is very meaningful to us. We admired them so much,” Jeff said. “Wendy and I are also honored to be recognized together, because everything we’ve done has always been together.”

This article originally appeared in the Finger Lakes Times on August 14, 2021.

Locate Finger Lakes featured The Birkett Mills in a recent post here

The Stork Award presentation is the second Keuka College event that returns this year after a hiatus due to the pandemic. Another longtime tradition, Celebrate Service Celebrate Yates, will be Oct. 24. The county-wide day of service, a collaboration with the college and Yates County Chamber of Commerce, supports non-profits in the county and is meant to foster stronger relationships with members of the college community and their neighbors. More information will be on the college’s website,, as the events draw closer.

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