BUFFALO, N.Y. – Improving life in Buffalo’s Fruit Belt is the goal of 24 residents, business owners, parishioners and property owners in the neighborhood who are graduating from a leadership training program provided by the University at Buffalo, the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc., Roswell Park Cancer Institute and Kaleida Health.
A ceremony for the graduates will be held Wednesday, March 27, from 6-8 p.m., in the Roswell Park Cancer Institute Gaylord Cary Conference Room. Family members and representatives from UB, the BNMC institutions, and city and state government also will attend.
Through the training, participants developed skills and knowledge needed to implement solutions to improve the quality of life in the Fruit Belt and improve collaboration among residents, community groups, local governments and organizations.
“The goal of this program is to help these community leaders develop effective leadership traits, from something as simple as how to run an effective meeting to budgeting to how to engage major institutions like Roswell, Kaleida and UB,” said Linwood Roberts, neighborhood outreach coordinator in UB’s Office of Government and Community Relations.
“We’re building leaders and partners that we can collaborate with moving forward.”
The desire for unification within the Fruit Belt was an outcome of the BNMC Four Neighborhoods, One Community planning process, said Ekua Mends-Aidoo, project associate, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus Inc., “so it is wonderful to see so many neighborhood stakeholders come together like this.
“We are very excited that these community leaders have dedicated numerous hours after work and weekends to form a collaborative group of residents, block clubs, civic associations and faith-based organizations within the Fruit Belt Community who all share a vested interest, and we look forward to our continued relationship.”
As an outcome of the training, the graduates formed a community advocacy group, known as the Orchard Community Initiative, to address neighborhood issues and challenges.
Orchard Community Initiative will receive a $7,500 grant from the BNMC Inc. to implement a community program and marketing initiatives the graduates proposed and developed during the training. Several members of the group will also be eligible to receive a partial scholarship to join the next Leadership Buffalo Class of 2014.
The Orchard Community Initiative’s mission, according to member Alex Wright, is “to create a better quality of life for all Fruit Belt residents by providing a collective community environment to be established for and by the residents and those with a vested interest in the Fruit Belt Community.”
The group will use the funding to organize a community event in the Fruit Belt intended to bring residents together to socialize and discuss common interests. Neighboring institutions, companies and organizations also will be invited to participate as a way to strengthen relationships and encourage additional collaborations.
“Within the Fruit Belt you may have one group of people working by themselves and then there’s another group and they’re working by themselves,” said Wright, executive director of Urban Christian Ministries on Jefferson Ave. in the Fruit Belt. “If we all work together we can do more and really help all of the people in the Fruit Belt. This leadership program is showing us that.”