From the President

The past few months have been a time of celebration and transition at United Way. In April, we proudly announced that due to the generosity of our community we had exceeded our 2011 Campaign goal of $13,500,000. It was an extraordinary achievement, and would not have happened without the incredible leadership of Campaign chair Dennis Elsenbeck, or the generosity of you and more than 50,000 others who stepped forward to make a difference. We cannot thank you enough for your support.

In May, we welcomed new Board members and recognized those Board members who concluded their service this year. Among those Board members was Bob Zak, who served as Board Chair for the past three years. We are profoundly grateful to Bob for his leadership, which has been instrumental in the advances we have made as an organization during his term.

Finally, we welcomed a new Board Chair - Steve Finch, plant manager at GM Powertrain. We are grateful to Steve for stepping up to the challenge of serving as Board Chair and look forward to his leadership over the coming three years.

The success of our Campaign and the strength of our volunteer leadership well position our organization to continue to fulfill our mission - to bring people, organizations, and resources together to improve community well being. We are working every day to bring that mission to life, through the programs and services we support and through our efforts to promote volunteerism throughout our community. Thank you for your ongoing support and commitment.


Dennis Black, vice president for university life and services at the University at Buffalo, will serve as chair of our 2012 Campaign. Michael Weiner, president and CEO, expressed gratitude for Dennis's service and optimism about the 2012 fundraising effort.

"Dennis has been a longtime supporter of United Way, both personally and at the University," he said. "We are delighted that he has agreed to serve and know that his energy and commitment will enable us to build even further on the successes we have achieved for the community over the past two years."

Steve Finch, Board Chair and GM Powertrain plant manager, noted that the Campaign is a community effort that requires strong leadership. "Each year we are so fortunate to have local leaders step forward to serve in this capacity," he said. "Dennis's passion for the community and his understanding of United Way's unique role make him a natural fit and a perfect choice to lead our fundraising effort to another successful outcome this year."

Dennis has a long history of community service, and a long relationship with United Way. He served twice as chair of the State Employees Federated Appeals (SEFA) employee fundraising campaign at the University, and served as part of the our Campaign volunteer team in the past.

When asked why he agreed to serve as chair of the Campaign this year, he noted the significance of United Way in the community. "How do you say no to an organization that says yes to so many in need? How can you say no to an organization totally dedicated to improving our community well-being?" he said, "When asked to do your part for Buffalo and Erie County; and for our United Way, you say 'yes'."

We are grateful for Dennis's energy and commitment and look forward to another successful year!


2011 Campaign Exceeds Expectations

The 2011 United Way Campaign wrapped up successfully, raising over $13.6 million in pledges - a 2% increase over the amount that was raised last year. The announcement was made at National Grid on Monday, April 2, by Campaign Chair Dennis Elsenbeck, regional executive for National Grid.

"Reaching goal this year is a momentous event," said Elsenbeck. "The last time we exceeded our stated campaign goal was 2002. This is truly a community achievement, and further cements the upward trend in resource development that we started with last year's result."

President Michael Weiner noted a number of factors that led to the success of this year's campaign, including:

  • United Way staff and volunteers held 4,400 meetings with corporate and individual stakeholders, increasing awareness and facilitating support;

  • Corporate and foundation giving increased by 4%;

  • 68 additional companies ran first-time campaigns or gave corporate gifts for the first time this year, raising $130,000;

  • The United Way Tocqueville Society (composed of donors of $10,000 or  more) increased their total dollars raised by nearly 4%;

  • Donor designations increased by 3.4%;

  • Checkout scanning campaigns raised $177,000 - a 33% increase over last year with a significant portion of that through the Wegmans scanning initiative.

Weiner added, "Thanks to Dennis [Elsenbeck] for two extraordinary years as chair. His passion has been evident since day one and has only grown over the past two years. We are beyond grateful for his leadership."

Dennis's tireless commitment over the past two years has led him to spend countless hours advocating on our behalf - with CEOs, with agencies, with groups of employees - sharing his belief that we all bear the responsibility of stepping up to make our community a better place to be - and that our community will indeed be better if we make it so.

On behalf of the United Way staff and volunteers, and on behalf of all of the people whose lives will be changed as a result of United Way funded programs and initiatives, we extend our sincere appreciation to Dennis for his leadership and his intense commitment to achieving our mission.

Plans are underway for the 2012 Campaign, which will officially kick off at the 20th Annual Day of Caring on August 15.



On May 15, over 100 United Way staff and volunteers gathered at the Hyatt Regency to mark a number of important leadership transitions for our organization at our Annual Meeting, as four Board members concluded their service; eight Board members were elected; a new Chair was elected; and we established a new Advisory Council of 15 community leaders who will elect new Board and Advisory Council members, as well as provide strategic advice and counsel on issues that are critically important to our organization and our community.

During the event, president Michael Weiner, vice chair Rich McCarthy, and treasurer Jay McWatters shared some reflections on Bob Zak's tenure as Board chair and presented him with a gift in gratitude and acknowledgement for his dedicated service over the past three years. They also acknowledged some of the significant accomplishments we have achieved under his leadership:

  • Transition to a two-year program investments cycle, providing our funded partners with a more predictable funding stream and providing us with better data on program outcomes;

  • Completion of a comprehensive, 5-year Strategic Plan and accompanying annual Business Plans that outline key strategic goals and outline the steps we will take to achieve them;

  • Increase in the amount invested in community programs through our Community Investment process;

  • Increase in the variety of volunteer engagement opportunities, including the establishment of programs like Business Meets Community, Family Volunteer Day, and, our new partnership with The Service Collaborative of WNY;

  • Elimination of our 13% administrative fee on donor designated contributions, enabling additional resources to flow to community agencies; and

  • Reversal of the decline in Campaign revenues for two years running, and exceeded our publicly stated Campaign goal in 2011 - the first such achievement in nine years.

Michael Weiner also welcomed Steve Finch, plant manager at GM Powertrain, as our new Board chair who we know will continue the tradition of excellence that Bob established.

To conclude the session, Steve Bell, partner at Eric Mower and Associates, Board member and Marketing Committee chair, facilitated a brief discussion about the most significant issues facing United Way today. Several audience members offered their thoughts, which included the need to pay increased attention to early education to help ensure children can succeed in school, as well as better coordination of services for people in need.

Our outgoing Board members - Kathy Lawley Best, Roger Cominsky, Judge Jeannette Ogden, and Bob Zak - will all continue to participate actively with United Way in their new roles as Advisory Committee members.

Our new Board and Advisory Council members are listed below. We are grateful to them for agreeing to serve and look forward to their thoughtful guidance in the years to come.

New Board Members

Gretchen Fierle, Vice President, Chief Communications Officer, HealthNow New York Inc.

Brian Gwitt, Senior Partner, Damon Morey

Roderick L. Hennings, Pastor, Zion Dominion Global Ministries

Evelyn Hidalgo, Delegate, Buffalo AFL-CIO Labor Council, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement

David McNamara, Managing Partner, Phillips Lytle

Dr. Khalid Qazi, Professor of Medicine and Program Partner, Catholic Health System

Judge Robert Russell, Acting Erie County Court Judge, Buffalo City Court

A. Scott Weber, Vice Provost and Dean of Undergraduate Education, University at Buffalo

Advisory Council Members

Kathy Lawley Best, Director of Organizational Development & Communications, Lawley Insurance

Donald K. Boswell, President & CEO, WNED

Roger Cominsky, Partner, Hiscock & Barclay

Anne Glose, Learning & Development Manager, MOOG

Richard S. Gold, Executive Vice President, Mortgage & Consumer Lending, M&T Bank

Pam Heilman, Of Counsel, Hodgson Russ, LLP

Kirsti Hunt, Vice President of Human Resources, LPCiminelli

Maureen Hurley, Executive Vice President/Chief Administrative Officer, Rich Products

Jeremy M. Jacobs Jr., Principal, Delaware North Companies

Mike Keating, Senior Vice President, Wegmans Food Markets

Judge Jeannette Ogden, Erie County Criminal and Family Court Judge, New York State Office of Court Administration

Donald A. Ogilvie, District Superintendent, Erie 1 BOCES

Jim Tilley, Community Volunteer

John (Jack) Walsh III, Chairman & CEO, Walsh Insurance Group

Robert M. Zak, President and Chief Executive Officer, Merchants Insurance Group


Agency Executive Association Legislative Breakfast—Advocating for a Stronger Future

In early March, United Way President Michael Weiner asked state legislators in attendance at the Agency Executive Association Legislative Breakfast to consider taking action in four key areas of concern for our community. He addressed United Way's priorities in Education, Income and Health & Wellness and detailed issues that will have an impact on quality of life in our community and on the future of nonprofits.

The following is a high-level summary of Michael Weiner's key points:

  1. Support our children and families through accessible, quality childcare, early education, and early intervention and preventive services.

Educational Highlight: Move $53 million from competitive grants to Universal Pre-Kindergarten. Not only is pre-K attendance linked to improved school readiness, research suggests a potential $7 to $1 return on investment in terms of increased future productivity and decreased social spending over time.

  1. Take steps to address our community's poverty rate - notably the near 30% poverty rate in the City of Buffalo - through actions that address immediate needs and help build long-term financial stability.

Income Highlight: Expand the New York State portion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Last year's EITC resulted in approximately $967 million in wage supports to low- to moderate-income residents in New York State, giving hardworking families a significant boost and promoting economic development.

  1. Address the health and wellness of state residents by promoting access to nutritious foods.

Health & Wellness Highlight: Increase funding for the Nutrition Outreach and Education Program (NOEP). Nearly 30% of eligible residents of Buffalo and Erie County do not receive food stamps.

  1. Support important health and human service matters that have a bearing on our community's quality of life and on the health of the nonprofit sector.

Human Service Highlight: Ensure the Buffalo and Erie County residents are able to reach their places of employment and access critical health and human services by providing additional Statewide Transportation Operating Assistance (STOA) funding to the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) to address its substantial budgetary shortfall.

"During these most challenging economic times," Weiner stated, "it is imperative that we continue to pay particular attention to the needs of at-risk children, adults, older adults and families."

The State budget was enacted on-time in April, and included a number of positive actions such as $95 million in funding for child care subsidies, a $1.3 million increase in Food Stamp funding. However it did not include many initiatives important to the health and well being of citizens across the state. We will continue to engage in conversations with our legislators on the importance of increased funding for these issues, which include Universal Pre-K, hunger prevention, and the expansion of the EITC.



To maximize the impact of volunteers, the New York State Commission on National and Community Service has established a network of ten volunteer-connector agencies to serve as Regional Volunteer Centers as part of an initiative designed to place one million people in meaningful roles as volunteers in communities across the state. The Service Collaborative of WNY (TSCWNY) was chosen as one of these regional Volunteer Centers, and we are proud to partner with them to implement a new online volunteer opportunities website.

New Online Volunteer Resource is a new volunteer opportunities website serving Erie, Niagara, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Allegany Counties. The site was officially unveiled at our Volunteer Recognition breakfast on April 18th at Templeton Landing, where more than 120 volunteers learned more about New York State's efforts to enhance and promote volunteerism from Eric Czupil, program administrator for the NYS Office of National and Community Service.

VolunteerWNY makes it even easier for people to find volunteer opportunities that match their skills, interests, and time. Anyone can visit the site and search by location, time available, agency name, population served (e.g. seniors, children, etc.), and other criteria. The site will generate a list of opportunities tailored to their specific interests, and provide contact details and other information to help make the connection.

VolunteerWNY not only makes it easier for individuals to volunteer; it also makes it easier for agencies to manage their volunteers. The site offers a user-friendly volunteer management platform that allows each agency to manage, track and report on people, programs, trainings, and volunteer opportunities in real time.

Becoming a Volunteer

In 2010, more than 246,700 individuals spent time volunteering in Western New York.  The goal of this partnership is to increase the number of volunteers and the quality of volunteers in the Buffalo region.

Since the site was launched in April, more than 100 agencies have posted over 215 volunteer opportunities - and over 2,500 potential volunteers have registered on the site. Interested volunteers are encouraged to log on to and find your perfect volunteer opportunity today!

For more information about the collaboration or, please contact Suzette O'Brien at 887-2744 or



Closing the Gap to Expand in 2012

Closing the Gap (CTG), a collaboration of United Way of Buffalo & Erie County, Catholic Charities and the Buffalo Public Schools, supports the academic improvement of students by addressing non-academic barriers to learning. As of the end of the 2011-12 school year, CTG served 11 schools through the efforts of site facilitators who coordinate services for children and their families.

The coming school year will bring an exciting expansion of CTG, as 13 more schools will join the partnership thanks to the implementation of the Buffalo Promise Neighborhood partnership, which will bring CTG to two more schools, and a grant from the Say Yes Foundation that will expand the CTG model to yet another 11 schools. All told, this means that the CTG model will be rewriting the stories of children and their families in 24 Buffalo Public schools this year.


Rewrite Someone's Story: Eh Dah's Family Journey

Burmese refugee Eh Dah came to the United States with her husband in 2006 to find a better and safer life for their three small children. A widow and a former educator in Burma, Eh Dah turned to Jericho Road Ministries Parent-Child Home Program - a United Way funded program - for support in adjusting to life in the United States.

Through the program, Eh Dah was able to get assistance in teaching her children essential language skills so that they could learn to read and speak English. They also developed other school-readiness and cultural skills that helped set them on the path to academic success.

Home visitors from the Parent-Child Home Program came to Eh Dah's house twice every week for half an hour, and brought a new book or toy with them each week to help with the children's development. Throughout the course of a two-year period, the home visitors helped prepare her children for school and helped Eh Dah gain the skills to be an ongoing source of support for her children's education.

Double the Success

Not only did Eh Dah's children master the English language, learn to read, and enter school fully prepared to succeed - but her oldest child is also enrolled in the gifted and talented program. And the story doesn't end there. 

Throughout her experience with the Parent-Home Child Program, Eh Dah made a lasting impression on the Jericho Road Ministries organization. They were so impressed by her that they offered her a job and trained her as a home visitor. In her position, she works closely with other Burmese refugee families to help give them the tools they need to help prepare their children for a successful education.

 "We were able to hire Eh Dah as a home visitor in 2010 and she has been an invaluable resource for us. She was a teacher in Burma, so she's perfect for this position. And she speaks the languages that our families speak and can translate for us. She does a phenomenal job!"

          Corey Tarreto, Jericho Road Parent-Child Home Program

Serving 75 Families Each Year

The Parent-Child Home Program works to even the academic playing field for at-risk children, and every year it serves approximately 75 local families with children ages 18 months to four years old. Over the course of two school years, home visitors provide a wealth of fun learning resources for each low-income household, equipping parents as their child's first teacher and laying a foundation for long-term academic success.

To find out more about Jericho Road Ministries Parent-Child Home Program, please contact Ashley Dietrick at or Corey Tarreto at



CASH Coaches Help Build a Better Community

As a program of the CASH Coalition (Creating Assets, Savings & Hope), CASH Coaches provide free, confidential, one-on-one financial coaching to Erie County residents. Since 2004, they have helped more than 250 low- to moderate-income individuals and families work toward financial stability.

The CASH Coaches include a network of volunteers and trained staff members at partner organizations. In 2011, they reported numerous successful outcomes in their workplaces and partnerships. For example:

  • More than 700 personal household budgets have been created

  • Over 200 banking and credit union relationships have been established

  • More than 100 clients have been assisted with an asset purchase (e.g., car, house, etc.)

Who CASH Coaches Serve

Of the CASH Coaches program's 270 direct clients:

  • 86% are female

  • 77% are single mothers to 1 or more child

  • 90% are employed (full-time, part-time or seasonal)

  • 24% have identified a disability within the household

  • 3% speak English as a second language

With the help of the Buffalo Federation for Neighborhood Centers (BFNC) Hope Center, CASH Coaches will have another location for mentoring services. This location will support the program's long-term sustainability, and help people in our community with their goals of managing and saving money, securing economic supports, building assets and making more money to support themselves and their families.

"By meeting with my coach over the phone and in person, I was able to open a savings account...enroll in a computer class, create a new budget and purchase a car."

   --CASH Coaches client, Erie County, NY

For more information on CASH Coaches or to become a volunteer, please contact Katie Lyons at 887-2671 or


Another Successful Year for the Free Tax Prep Network

Each tax season, Creating Assets, Savings and Hope (CASH) and the Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers (BFNC) help prepare thousands of tax returns for low- to moderate-income individuals and families. The free service is offered throughout the income tax filing season at convenient sites throughout Buffalo and Erie County.

The program - called the Free Tax Preparation Network - is part of a national initiative designed to assist working families and individuals in accessing Earned Income and Child Tax Credits while receiving assistance with federal and state tax preparation. 

During this filing season, thanks to the assistance of 109 trained and dedicated volunteers, over 8,700 individuals and families had their tax returns prepared and filed for free, and received tax refunds and credits totaling nearly $13.6 million. Of that, nearly $5.9 million went to those families eligible for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). These tax refunds and credits will not only help those families achieve or maintain financial stability; they will help strengthen our entire community as they are spent in our local economy.


Since 2004, CASH has prepared over 70,000 state and federal tax returns and helped secure more than $85 million in tax refunds and credits for working families in Buffalo and Erie County.

For more information about the Free Tax Preparation Network in Erie County, please call 2-1-1 (dial 2-1-1 or 1-888-696-9211) or visit



Showering Our Community with Care

Each year in Erie County, thousands of babies are born into poverty. And, each week in Erie County:

  • 8 infants are born to women receiving late or no prenatal care;

  • 21 babies are born pre-term;

  • 15 are low birth weight; and

  • 1 will die before age one.

This year, United Way and the Boulevard Mall teamed up to help at-risk mothers give their newborns a fighting chance for a healthy beginning during the Community Baby Shower. From April 2 through May 8, individuals, families, and companies participated in a community-wide effort to gather new baby items, such as diapers, baby wipes, sleep sacks and digital thermometers.

These donated items were dropped off at the Boulevard Mall, where on May 8, community volunteers sorted them and packed them into gift bags. The pink and green gift bags were given to three United Way partner programs that serve new moms in need of support: Buffalo Prenatal-Perinatal Network's Community Health Worker Program, Catholic Charities' WIC Program, and Jericho Road Ministries' Priscilla Project.

Over the course of this first annual Community Baby Shower, more than 40 local companies hosted baby showers and collected items, and we were able to create over 300 gift bags for new moms and their babies. We are grateful to the Boulevard Mall and our other sponsors - WKBW, TownSquare Media, and Bank of America - this would not have been possible without their support. We look forward to even greater success for local moms and babies next year!


BUFFALO BILLS LINEBACKER Arthur Moats—Championing Our Cause

Arthur Moats has been tackling much more than the opposition in the National Football League this past season. Earlier this year he completed an internship with United Way of Buffalo & Erie County for his political science degree at James Madison University. As part of his internship, he visited area businesses to help bring awareness to United Way and its mission, in addition to thanking many companies and individuals who have generously contributed to the 2011 United Way Campaign.

We sat down with Arthur recently and this is what he had to say about his United Way experience:

UW:   Why did you choose United Way for your internship?

AM:    The United Way and the Buffalo Bills have a great relationship, so I knew about the kind of work United Way does in the community. I thought that working with United Way would give me the best opportunity to get really involved in the community - both the business side, going out and meeting with some of the businesses that support UW - and the service side, being able to visit some of the agencies and schools and really understand the great things that are happening every day.

UW:   What have you learned about United Way that you didn't know before?

AM:    I knew that United Way did a lot, but I didn't realize how big an impact you have on the community. I think when you just read or hear about United Way, you don't really understand how lives are changed because of the programs they support. Being able to visit different organizations United Way supports, I was able to see how lives are really being changed.

UW:   What do you want people to know about United Way?

AM:    That it's more than just a commercial. It really brings people from all backgrounds together to better the community. I have met so many people, all different - but they all are involved with United Way because it gives you a chance to make a difference no matter who you are or what you have to offer.

UW:   What have you enjoyed most about your time with United Way?

AM:    I have enjoyed it all, but I think I have most enjoyed building relationships with my United Way colleagues, and seeing how happy people were when we came to thank them for their amazing contributions. People who give to United Way don't do it to be thanked, but it was great seeing how happy a simple "thank you" could make someone!


Not For Profit Resource Center—Working Together for a Stronger Community

United Way of Buffalo & Erie County's Not For Profit Resource Center assists nonprofit agencies in our community with a broad range of training and services, helping them achieve their goals of making our community stronger.

Our experienced team members have a full breadth of knowledge and expertise in the nonprofit arena, as well as a significant network of contacts and support throughout the health and human services community. Throughout the year, they offer training programs—such as Six Sigma and Project Management—to give nonprofits the additional expertise they need to maximize their organization's impact in community.

Improve Agency Operations with Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a free training program offered t area nonprofits by United Way's Not For Profit Resource Center. The training focuses on improving measurement, methodology and strategy in order to eliminate variations and defects from processes. For nonprofits, this can lead to faster service to consumers, serving more people, and serving them more consistently.

Forty-eight nonprofits have completed 65 projects through our Six Sigma program, streamlining their processes and improving organizational impact. The current session of Six Sigma training began on April 17; an informational session for the next session will be held on August 7. For more information, visit

How to Get More from Less

The Project Management Institute, Buffalo Chapter, has over 500 members who are professional practitioners across various industries in Western New York. Over the past two years, the chapter trained and provided mentors for 30 nonprofits. In 2011, the national Project Management Institute recognized the Buffalo Chapter by awarding it the 2011 Community Advancement through Project Management Award.

We are proud to offer this successful initiative again in 2012. The training, offered free to 501c3 nonprofits, will help agencies better utilize limited resources, focus efforts on achieving greater impact, improve organizational communication, plan and execute more consistently, and more. An informational session will be held on June 19 and the program begins in September.

For more information on the upcoming Six Sigma training, Project Management training or other training opportunities, please contact Gail Calisto at 887.2776 or



You can make a difference in so many ways. Please join us for the following community events and training opportunities:

August 15   20th Annual Day of Caring

Community-wide day of volunteering - Western New York's largest single-day volunteer effort, sponsored by HSBC, Wegmans, and National Grid.

                   Contact Joyce Brown at 887-2799 or

Aug. 7                   Six Sigma Introductory Session

                             9:00 - 11:00 a.m., United Way

                             Get a first-hand look at the benefits of Six Sigma, and hear from several nonprofits already using Six Sigma. Learn how your nonprofit can sign up for free Six Sigma training, focused on improving a significant process in your organization.

Contact Gail Calisto at 887-2776 or

September 29        3rd Annual Family Volunteer Day

                             Families of all ages and sizes will roll up their sleeves at projects throughout Erie County. This event will once again be sponsored by Rich Products.

                             Contact Suzette O'Brien at 887-2744 or


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