Leadership Buffalo Collaborates with United Way of Buffalo and Erie County

Where did you grow up? What (if any) struggles did you and your family face?

Did you grow up in a low-income household? Did you work your way out of poverty? Were you fortunate enough to avoid financial instability?

I ask the question because whether or not we’ve struggled, we sometimes overlook people still living in poverty. We also tend to forget that poverty is not a choice.


This is one of the things we address at Leadership Buffalo (LB). We want to increase the knowledge of our participants and create a more empathetic society. The United Way of Buffalo and Erie County’s (UWBEC) Poverty Simulation is a tool to assist with just that.

The United Way first conducted a Poverty Simulation for our classes in 2014. Due to the positive feedback, we bring it back every year as a pivotal part of the program.

The Poverty Simulation was designed to give participants an understanding of the lives of a typical low-income family from Erie County. Participants are challenged with a simulation to live one month under impoverished conditions and sensitize them to the realities of poverty in the community. The amounts and figures used in the simulation reflect actual average amounts in Erie County.

Year after year, our participants walk away with a better understanding of the issues and a desire to be a part of the solution.

“Putting myself in the shoes of someone I could never be, helped me better understand the universal plight of our impoverished neighbors,” said Kelly Showard (LB ’17), ECMC. “I’ve personally experienced poverty however, until the simulation, I didn’t really know just how broad the issue is and how insurmountable poverty can be without the proper support system.”

The United Way has conducted poverty simulations for more than 10 years to organizations, companies, schools and community groups. As the requests grow, Leadership Buffalo was a perfect organization to partner with.

As we have been utilizing United Way’s workshops for the last four years, 500 local leaders that have participated! Many of these individuals have expressed an interest in volunteering with the workshops. This led to a collaboration between the two organizations to combine resources to educate as many people as possible and affect positive change.

Both Althea Luehrsen, LB’s CEO, and Michael Weiner, United Way’s President and CEO are thrilled about the collaboration as it will directly benefit our community and make Buffalo better!

For more information on the Poverty Simulation, visit www.uwbec.org/financial-stability

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