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Buffalo LISC Celebrates Local Changemakers

The Buffalo office of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) celebrated another year of progress and partnership in revitalizing local communities with its third annual Buffalo LISC Community Development Awards event, held at BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York.

The event honored local leaders and community organizations whose tireless efforts have created tangible, sustainable change in Buffalo’s neighborhoods. Award recipients were nominated by their colleagues for their contributions to comprehensive community development in the Buffalo Metro area.

“Each year our awards program has drawn new nominees and award winners, and importantly a more diverse mix of attendees,” said Michael Clarke, executive director of Buffalo LISC. “It is gratifying to see the growing commitment of people and organizations to the work of rebuilding Buffalo neighborhoods.”

LISC CEO and President, Maurice Jones, presented the keynote address at the event.

“We’re proud of the work our partners are doing here in Buffalo,” said Jones. “We are so grateful to our funders, community partners and residents, who come together to forge partnerships and opportunity across all of Buffalo, from the West Side to the University District.”

The event recognized winners in three categories: Neighborhood Development Project of the Year, Buffalo Community Builder Award, and Building Sustainable Communities Award.

Ekua Mends-Aidoo and Kim LaVare of Evergreen Health accept the award for Neighborhood Development Project of the Year.
Ekua Mends-Aidoo and Kim LaVare of Evergreen Health accept the award for Neighborhood Development Project of the Year.

Evergreen Health received the 2017 Neighborhood Development Project of the Year award for their Elmwood Avenue Expansion project – a 35,000 square foot, five-story expansion at 206 South Elmwood Avenue in downtown Buffalo. A multiple discipline healthcare organization whose mission is to serve clients who are typically underserved in the broader healthcare system, Evergreen’s expansion project tripled the agency’s space, leading to a reduction in wait times and expanded service options. It also allowed Evergreen to hire behavior health educators to conduct community outreach and education.

“Evergreen Health was bursting at the seams due to our growing number of programs and services and, in turn, the growing number of patients we serve,” said Justin Azzarella, Vice President for Community Development. “The expansion has tripled our patient space allowing us to serve a greater number of those underserved by the healthcare system and members of the LGBTQ community.”

Joanne Haefner, executive director of Neighborhood Health Center, received the Buffalo Community Builder award.
Joanne Haefner, executive director of Neighborhood Health Center, received the Buffalo Community Builder award.

Joanne Haefner, Chief Executive Officer of Neighborhood Health Center, was the recipient of the 2017 Buffalo Community Builder award. Throughout her career and her leadership at Neighborhood Health Center, Haefner has been a tireless advocate for improving access to comprehensive, affordable healthcare in communities of need. Haefner has overseen a significant expansion of her agency’s footprint, including the Mattina Center on the City’s West Side and a new location in Blasdell, as well as major renovations at two existing facilities and the expansion of community health education initiatives.

“I am truly humbled and honored to be recognized as a community builder in Western New York,” said Haefner. “As a Family Nurse Practitioner by trade, I feel a sense of connection to the people that Neighborhood Health Center serves which continues to drive my view and passion for health equity in the region. I am honored to be the leader of one of the region’s largest healthcare providers where we truly live and practice our mission to provide compassionate care to all in the community, regardless of an individual’s situation or circumstance.”

Mickey Vertino, Darren Cotton, and Roseann Scibilia accept the Building Sustainable Communities Award on behalf of University District Community Development Association and University Heights Collaborative.
Mickey Vertino, Darren Cotton, and Roseann Scibilia accept the Building Sustainable Communities Award on behalf of University District Community Development Association and University Heights Collaborative.

The University District Community Development Association (UDCDA) and the University Heights Collaborative (UHC) received the Building Sustainable Communities award for their collaborative efforts to improve quality of life for residents of the University District. UDCDA has been an anchor organization in the district, providing youth and senior service programs, homeowner repair programs, funding for small businesses renovations, and support for major commercial revitalization projects like The Varsity Theatre and the Parkside Candy Company.

The University Heights Collaborative – an umbrella organization comprised of residents, block clubs, businesses, educational institutions, and members of local government and law enforcement - has supplemented UDCDA’s work with several community-led initiatives. UHC is the organizing force behind the University Heights Tool Library, University Heights Community Laboratory, community gardens, volunteer clean-ups, the Bailey Fights Blight arts initiative, and the North Buffalo Rails-to-Trails project.

“In the University District we take a holistic approach to creating a sustainable community,” said Roseann Scibilia, executive director of UDCDA.  “Our success is due to the collaborative actions of all stakeholders and a common belief that all concerns are valued equally and all goals are accomplished through shared efforts. Thank you to our friends at LISC for recognizing our uniqueness with this award.”