From the Board Chair and President

Dear Friend,

Spring is finally here - a fine reward after a tough winter. With the new life and new hope the season brings, we want to extend our thanks for your role in bringing new life to our community through your support of United Way. Whether you gave to the Campaign, volunteered throughout the year, supported Spring It On or our Community Baby Shower, your efforts truly make a difference.

As you look through this newsletter, we hope you see yourself in our work and know that we are profoundly grateful for your support - together we are improving quality of life in this precious community and we cannot do it without you!

Record Fundraising Results in 2013-14

Dennis Black, Campaign Chair, announced the extraordinary success of our 2013 Campaign at our Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast, and following this announcement United Way president Michael Weiner took the stage to make another extraordinary announcement: overall, our resource development efforts last year raised nearly $21.3 million for our work in the community.

 The major portion of this result, of course, was the success of the Campaign which raised over $14.3 Million. In addition to workplace employee contributions, more than $271,000 was raised through scanning programs at Wegmans, Save-A-Lot, the University at Buffalo and Tops Markets, which implemented this program for the first time in 2013. A partnership with the Buffalo Bills for their 50/50 raffle for the first time also brought in nearly $167,000, and the second annual Spring It On campaign, a 24 hour on-line giving event, added $125,000 that will benefit not for profit community agencies. Efforts to secure first-time workplace campaigns at 70 local businesses raised an additional $84,000.

This substantial growth in total revenue is attributed to an increased focus on planned giving and endowment gifts, as well as grant funding. This past year, we received a $2.7 million gift to our Endowment fund from the estate of longtime Tocqueville member Peggy Elfvin, and our Planned Giving and Endowment Committee is working to continue to grow this important revenue source. Our grant funding also experienced substantial growth this year of over $900,000, and we intend to maintain a focus on increasing the grants we secure to support vital community programs in the years to come.


Thank you for Rewriting Someone's Story!

Appreciating our Volunteers During National Volunteer Week

April 6-13 was National Volunteer Week, which presents an annual an opportunity to reflect on the past year and recognize incredible volunteers in WNY. This year we were delighted to welcome a large group - nearly 220 volunteers and staff - to the Hyatt Regency Buffalo on April 11th for our annual Volunteer Appreciation Breakfast, which was generously sponsored by Paul Snyder Jr.

The event featured a keynote address by Michael Poulin, PhD, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University at Buffalo. Michael's presentation focused on research regarding the health benefits of volunteering. His inspiring presentation provided research that volunteering leads to reduced stress levels and decreased mortality.

Following the keynote speaker, five Board members whose terms of service are expiring this year were recognized by Board chair Steve Finch and president Michael Weiner. Each Board member was thanked and presented with a token of our appreciation for their many years of service:

  • Tina Battistoni-Paul, who lives and breathes United Way at Rich Products. Tina is a driving force behind the success of the Rich Campaign year after year, and has served on our Board Governance Committee as well;
  • Jay McWatters of Dopkins & Company, who has served on our Board for 12 of the last 13 years, serving as Treasurer and Chair of the Finance Committee for 11 of those years. His wise counsel has helped keep our organization on a solid fiscal path;
  • Peter Spira of UBS Financial Services, who has always been a United Way champion, asking tough questions and encouraging us to think differently. Peter has been instrumental in developing our Planned Giving and Endowment Committee, and has also served as a member of our Finance Committee;
  • John Christopher of Hodgson Russ, who not only serves on our Endowment and Planned Giving committee, but who led the focus group that resulted in the creation of our Leadership Society - the group of major donors whose support is so essential to our organization; and
  • Peter Hunt of Hunt Real Estate, who has served many terms on our Board over the years, including serving as our 2004 Campaign Chair with his wife Mary Jo. Peter's leadership for the past two years as co-chair of our Tocqueville Society helped grow that distinguished group of donors by 16%.

Michael and Steve then offered heartfelt thanks to Dennis Black, vice president of University Life and Services at UB and our 2012 and 2013 Campaign chair, for his dedication to the United Way and our community. They presented Dennis with a unique piece of art - a handcrafted metal spine - in appreciation for his service as the "backbone" of the campaign. Dennis then reflected on his experience as Campaign Chair and shared his excitement for the years to come. His remarks were punctuated by music from bugler Nick Walls, who played a few traditional pieces to represent the Campaign effort - advancing toward the goal, achieving success, and retreating after a job well done.

Dennis was then joined by Michael and Steve Finch to unveil the final 2013 campaign total: $14,320,870 - a significant margin over our $14.2 million goal and another tremendous year of success for our community.  Once the Campaign result was announced, the United Way staff had a special surprise for Dennis - the Buffalo Chips, the University at Buffalo's all-male a cappella group, serenaded him in appreciation for his extraordinary service over the past two years.

Community Impact: Investment Volunteer Spotlight

On April 11, we formally released the Request for Proposals (RFP) for our 2015-2017 Community Investments Process. This document outlines our focus on Education, Income, and Health & Wellness and invites nonprofit education, health and human service agencies to submit applications for program funding. To download a copy of the RFP or learn more about our investments process, visit

Our ability to invest millions of dollars in life-changing programs each year depends on two key resources: the funds raised through our annual Campaign, and the volunteers who carefully review and evaluate applications for program funding. We asked two of our volunteers to share some thoughts about the process and their role in it, to help readers understand some of the challenges and rewards of this important role.

Mike Henry, a lifelong Buffalonian, is     the former Chief of Mental Health Treatment Services at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center. He has  more than 30 years of volunteer service with a number of local organizations, including with United Way Investments, the Homeless Alliance of WNY, Everywoman Opportunity Center, Parent Network Center of WNY, Community Missions of the Niagara Frontier, Erie County Commission on Homelessness, Adult Residential Care Advocates, and the Western New York Federal Credit Union. His wife is  a retired Buffalo reading teacher who volunteers leading a literacy program for immigrants who have relocated to Buffalo, and they have two children - both graduates of Buffalo Public Schools.

Leilani Black is a resident of Buffalo, living in Allentown. She spent 25 years as an early elementary teacher with a concentration in literacy. Since retiring almost 3 years ago, she has been volunteering with Jericho Road as an English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor, and is currently working with a group of women who are refugees from Burma. In addition to her service as an Investments volunteer in our Education area, she is also  a founding member of the Advisory Board of the United Way Women's Leadership Council. She is also married to Dennis Black, our 2012 and 2013 Campaign Chair.

We thank Leilani and Mike for sharing their thoughts on the questions below. If you would like more information on becoming a United Way Investments volunteer, contact Nicole Juzdowski at 887-2606.

 1.   Why did you decide to become a United Way Investments volunteer?

 Mike Henry: In the course of working over three decades at the Buffalo Psychiatric Center, I worked frequently with many not-for-profit community organizations working to make Buffalo a better place to live. Growing up in Buffalo, I remembered my father being a volunteer for what is now the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County.  I have had the opportunity to serve as a member of the Board of Directors for several human service organizations in the Western New York area, and have seen first-hand the network of organizations that have been involved with the United Way during  that time . Volunteering at the United Way seemed like a way I could give back to a community that, while having serious struggles for much of my adult life, has given me and my family many opportunities.

Leilani Black: I recently retired from 25 years as an elementary teacher, and I was looking for a way to give something back to the community. I explored a few different options, and when my husband Dennis became the campaign chairperson for the United Way, I was offered this opportunity. It sounded perfect for me, so I didn't hesitate to say "yes"!

2.       What is the most challenging part of being an Investments volunteer?

 Mike Henry:  Working as an Investments volunteer requires a commitment to new learning and an openness to honestly assessing community needs and the abilities of various agencies to meet those needs. While volunteering sometimes grows out of personal interest in a particular agency or cause, it also requires an appreciation for teamwork and sometimes accepting the reality that there are significant needs in our community for which resources are not always available. It is important to realize that we can all strive to do more.

Leilani Black:  Having never done something of this nature, and not being very familiar with how the United Way organizes and disperses its donations, I was fairly intimidated. I also realized that I had an important part to play in whether or not an organization received funding. That's a pretty weighty role to play, and I took this privilege very seriously. Actually, I read over every one of my scores many times before I was brave enough to submit them to the United Way.

3.       What is the most rewarding part of being an Investments volunteer?

Mike Henry: Volunteering has been a powerful means by which we can be part of a community focused on working together. In today's world we often find much focus on individual growth, achievement and success, while not always appreciating the importance of community for our collective well-being. Recognizing the importance of community, and actually being part of that community has been important to me.|

Leilani Black:
  I love the challenge, and I am fascinated and so completely overwhelmed by the number and strength of wonderful organizations in the Buffalo area who are doing so much to assist people, and in so many creative, sincere and most importantly, effective ways. I wanted to call almost every organization I explored and say, "I'm in!"

What advice would you give someone who is interested in this volunteer role?

Mike Henry: There are so many roles that volunteers can play in this community. Sometimes people want to help but they don't know where to start. The United Way works with organizations over a wide spectrum of service missions. No "experience" is required. If someone thinks they would like to be part of a growing community, they should just do it. There is nothing to lose by trying.

Leilani Black:
 I think anyone who is interested in discovering how well the United Way invests the money it receives, and who wants a better understanding of what makes for an effective organization, would enjoy this opportunity. I would certainly suggest that they pace the project appropriately. It was both more enjoyable and more effective, I think, to take the full amount of time that was provided to do the research and scoring.

Spring It On 2014: Another Great Success

March 20 was the first day of Spring, and while the weather may have been gray and cloudy, the day was a little brighter for nearly 250 nonprofit organizations during the second annual Spring It On: Buffalo Niagara's Day of Giving. Agencies in Erie, Niagara, Allegany, Chautauqua and Orleans Counties used social media, e-newsletters and other channels to tell their stories and inspire supporters to visit to make their gift.

On Twitter and Facebook, the hashtag #springiton2014 was filled with posts from agencies and supporters alike in the days leading up to the event; our outstanding media partner, WKBW Channel 7, ran a number of stories and PSAs encouraging support; and we welcomed Lamar Buffalo as a new promotional partner - they generously donated space on digital billboards throughout the area to keep the event on people's minds.

All these efforts did the trick - more than 1,800 people stepped up and generously donated more than $125,000 - a 65% increase over last year's result. Thank you to the agencies who participated, and each and every donor - your support truly makes a difference. We look forward to an even more successful Spring It On in 2015!


 Fund For Alliances Supports New Affiliation

On March 31, the United Way building was the setting for a news conference at which two of our community's premier not-for-profit behavioral health providers made a significant announcement. Child and Adolescent Treatment Services (CATS), which provides professional mental health treatment for children and families, and Lake Shore Behavioral Health, a comprehensive treatment and rehabilitation service provider for adult individuals with mental health and addictive disorders, announced the creation of a formal  affiliation. This formal affiliation will allow each organization to remain true to its individual  mission while increasing efficiency, improving access and offering better integrated care to  individuals and families. The goal is to make better use of limited  financial resources, provide high quality services and be prepared for opportunities that may  arise in the future healthcare environment.  

 Through our United Way Fund For Alliances, we were proud to award $50,000  to help defray transactional expenses  including legal and accounting services in support of the affiliation. Michael Weiner, United Way president, said, "We are  proud to offer this support to these two valued organizations, which are setting a community  example of large, thriving nonprofits changing the future for the benefit of their clients by taking  this significant step to reduce costs while increasing services."

Community Baby Shower

The United Way Community Baby Shower concluded on April 8th at United Way. Our third annual community-wide effort to collect essential baby items began on March 3rd. Throughout the month, brand-new baby necessities were collected that will help at-risk mothers give their newborns a stronger start, giving them the supplies and support needed for a healthy beginning. A total of 645 "Baby Bundles" - made up of diapers, wipes, a digital thermometer, a sleep sack, and other necessities - were assembled during the Pack-a-Thon and were distributed to three outstanding United Way partners: Catholic Charities WIC Program, Jericho Road Community Health Center Priscilla Project, and Buffalo Prenatal-Perinatal Network for distribution to the neediest mothers in Erie County. This year, volunteers from Bank of America and Ingram Micro spent several hours assembling bags during the Pack-a-Thon and we were delighted to have the support of two UPS drivers again this year to assist in transporting the Baby Bundles to agencies.

 The support of local companies and organizations has been incredible this year. More than 40 organizations throughout Western New York graciously organized baby showers with co-workers to  make this year's Community Baby Shower the biggest yet. Many local supporters donated handmade  items and monetary donations to support the effort. In addition, the United Way Women's Leadership Council led by retired bank executive, Paulette Crooke, coordinated a baby shower  as the first major event for the newest affinity group. The evening event generated an incredible amount of support for the overall effort.

   Special thanks to our sponsor, ECMC, and media partners WKBW-TV and TownSquare Media. For more information on the Community Baby Shower, please visit 


Save the Date: Upcoming Events

United Way Annual Meeting:  May 13 at United Way. For more information, contact Emily Zimmermann at 887-2667.

Day of Caring - Wednesday, August 20: Agency and company registration now open. For more information, contact Joyce Brown at 887-2799.


Upcoming Leadership Society Events* (contact Joyce Brown at 887-2799 for more information)

Family Volunteer Day - Saturday, June 7 

Women's Leadership Council** Summer Social - Thursday, July 10 


*These events are open exclusively to Leadership Society members, who make an annual commitment of $500 or more to our Campaign. Visit for more information on our Leadership Society.

**Women's Leadership Council membership is open to women who donate $500 or more annually, with at least $250 directly supporting United Way. Visit for more information.


 Events and Training for Nonprofits (call Joe Roccisano at 887-2757 for more information)

Business Planning for Nonprofits: Informational sessions scheduled April 16 and May 7.

Investments RFP Informational Session: April 28 at UB Center for Tomorrow.


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