The beauty of a poverty simulation, is just that, it is a simulation. Afterward you get to go back to your regular life. So often we forget to consistently consider the other side. Or not even the other side just other people.

Our first day session for the 2017 class was focused on Hunger and Poverty. We visit non-profits throughout the community (ex. Food Bank, City Mission, Matt Urban Hope Center, St. Vincent De Paul, Meals on Wheels, Gerard Place, etc.) and end the day with a poverty simulation through the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County. It is always my favorite day because it sets the tone for the rest of the year.

This year was special for me as I participated in the Rural Outreach Center’s #ROCResolutions challenge just a month prior. My task was three outfits for one week and one pair of shoes. Initially, I thought it would be simple – clothes are just things. However, I quickly realized that “things” to someone without many things are far more important and sentimental. While I thought I was very in tune with myself, I realized I take too many things for granted.

I grew up privileged. I am white, educated and was raised in Williamsville. I was able to see the world in different ways; I attended a university of my choosing, moved to Florida on a whim, and when returned, found a job that would act as a stepping-stone for my career. Sure, I have had my fair share of issues along the way, but I also had (and still do have) a support system that is strong.

How many times do we stop and think about our privileges? I’m sure it is not enough.

Working at Leadership Buffalo has opened my eyes 10 times over to the injustice and the poverty of my community, and I am grateful for that knowledge and the ability to give back. The ROCResolutions challenge showed me another community, something outside my comfort zone.

Let me lay down some basics for you:

  • For the first time since 1954, there is more poverty outside of cities.
  • In Erie County, 62% of people living in poverty live outside the City of Buffalo.
  • The rural poor have fewer resources, less transportation options and services more spread out.
  • 41% of rural communities do not have access to public transportation.
  • 224 billion free or reduced lunches have been served since 1946.

So now we have all this information, what do we do with it? My only hope for this blog is that one of you reading this will take action. We all share the world and it is up to us, not just those in power, to make a change.

Volunteer at a local organization, create challenges for yourself to generate empathy, participate in a poverty simulation, sit down and talk to someone that is the opposite of you, OPEN YOUR MIND.

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Thank You Buffalo

What are you thankful for? We are thankful for YOU; our alumni, our community, our neighbors.

In the midst of the occasional societal chaos, we often forget to be grateful for the things that are good and for what keeps us going every day.

At Leadership Buffalo, we are exposed to the good, the bad and the ugly; and instead of dwelling on the ladder, we look for ways to take action and make Buffalo better. None of this could be possible without our outstanding alumni.

This year for our 4th Annual LB Project, we had 70 graduates and current class members from 16 different classes, assist in our clean up at the Commodore Perry Housing Authority. On September 30, 2016 the group successfully painted a laundry room, two community rooms and four common areas. Others gardened five areas and planted eight mums, another group surveyed over 160 trash and recycling totes.

We are thankful for our class project initiative and for the teams keeping their plans in motion.

The 2014 Class is moving along stronger than ever; they recently finished turning a basement storage room at Matt Urban Hope Center into a warming center for those cold months around the corner. The Class of 2014 was honored at Matt Urban’s annual event for their dedication to the cause.

The Class of 2015 is consistent with their work at the Food Bank of WNY, Gateway Longview, The Kevin Guest House and Journey’s End.

The 2016 class wrapped up their retreat with multiple projects in place; Boys and Girls Clubs, Kids Escaping Drugs, The Teacher’s Desk, Buffalo & Erie County Library and Erie County’s Summer Employment Program. We will keep you posted on their progress.

If your class is working together to make Buffalo better, please send us a note so we can share the impact!

From all of us at Leadership Buffalo, we are sending thanks and gratitude to all of you, not just during this holiday season, but all year. Your devotion to this community keeps us motivated and gives hope for an even better Buffalo.

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FEED Buffalo

We are always asking ourselves at Leadership Buffalo (LB), how can we make Buffalo better? In 2012, we implemented class projects to follow the program year. At the last day session and closing retreat, the group is charged with developing a project or projects utilizing all the information they learned throughout their LB year.

Many classes have “adopted” an agency or organization and continue to work with them based on their needs. The 2013 class is still working with the Food Bank’s BackPack Program at Hamlin Park School and the 2014 class continues to make differences at Matt Urban Hope Center.

One of the projects to come out of the 2015 class is FEED Buffalo. This project offers the opportunity to give and assist different charities throughout the year through collections made during social gatherings.

Cyndie Huynh (RL ’15) of Roswell Park, one of the projects team leaders, says, “While volunteering is a great way to help, the idea of FEED is to utilize parties, dinners, and events in which we are already participating as another avenue to assist organizations.” The event supports a different agency each time; the class has supported Toys for Tots, The Food Bank of WNY, The BISON Children’s Scholarship Fund and Boys and Girls Clubs.

“It is a great way for LB alumni to stay connected while increasing our impact by appealing to a larger audience,” said Huynh.

This Thursday, at Leadership Buffalo’s 5th Annual Recruitment Open House, the class be supporting the Boys and Girls Club of Buffalo and their Backpack Program. They are asking for packages of lined paper, pens, pencils, pocket folders, backpacks or monetary donations.

To read more about our class project initiative, click here and see how you can help!

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Making Buffalo Thankful

The holiday season is upon us! To most, that means time with family, the exchanging of gifts and an abundance of turkey and pies. To those less fortunate, it means seeking shelter, finding warm clothes and figuring out the next meal.

This is a critical time in Buffalo to remember what you are thankful for and to show that thanks through giving back. As many of us know, Buffalo is the third poorest city in the country, the poverty rate is more than twice the national rate, and more than 50% of our children are living in poverty.

Spending time with loved ones is a wonderful way to spend the holidays, but why not think about how that time is spent.

Here are just a few ways to give back.

Buffalo City Mission
Meals are a big deal at the Buffalo City Mission. For just $19.80 you can sponsor a table of 10 meals for those who are hungry, hurting and waiting to take that first step.

Food Bank of WNY
Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness. You can donate your time or goods and change the lives of those benefiting from the Food Bank. Every $1 donation helps provide approximately six meals for hungry families in need.

Journey’s End Refugee Services
We all know how cold it can get this time of year. Refugees arriving in Buffalo come nothing but with the shirt on their backs. Coats, gloves and scarves will make the transition healthy and happy.

Matt Urban Hope Center
Things as small as socks and toiletries are needed at the Hope Center. Hosting a drive at your company or school is a small way to make a big difference.

Salvation Army
It’s never been easier to donate goods. When you donate goods to The Salvation Army, those items are then sold at the Family Stores. And the proceeds are used to fund the Adult Rehabilitation Centers, where those in the grip of addiction find help, hope, and a second chance at life.

The Service Collaborative of WNY (TSC)
TSC creates opportunities for all individuals to serve their communities, challenging them to turn their ideals into action and their passion into positive change. Their new website,, is constantly updated with opportunities to help.

Next time you are out shopping for the holidays, perhaps add an extra little something in your cart for a person in need.

We’re Making Buffalo Thankful and invite you to as well! Share your thankful stories with us by using the hashtag #MakingBuffaloThankful. Together, we can Make Buffalo Better.

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