Funders, Buffalo Central Terminal, June 2014. Source: Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo


On June 24th and 25th, the New York State Grantmakers for Community Engagement, Open Society Foundations, and the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo co-sponsored a funder learning tour in Buffalo, NY. The learning tour brought together community-based leaders, policymakers, and funders to discuss effective and replicable community engagement strategies for advancing an equitable regional agenda that engages the leadership of all community residents.

Scroll through our virtual tour or click on a destination below.

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Waterfront Development, Central Wharf



Buffalo Waterfront, June 2014. Source: Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo

Andy Reynolds, the communications organizer for the Coalition for Economic Justice, and Robert Gioia, the president of the John R. Oishei Foundation and chairman of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation presented on the revitalization of the Buffalo waterfront including the community benefits agreement that was created for the Canal Side development.


Robert Gioia, John R. Oishei Foundation


We then embarked on the Buffalo River History Tour, taking us through the Erie Canal development, the nation’s largest collection of standing grain elevators, and Buffalo’s history as the largest grain port in the world.




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Breakfast and Welcome Panel, Larkin Building



Buffalo, NY. June 2014. Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo



The first panel discussion took place at the Larkin Building offices of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. The Larkin Building is an adaptive-reuse of the former Larkin Soap Co. warehouse and is the anchor of the Larkin District, winner of a 2012 EPA National Award for Smart Growth.

The opening panel was moderated by Sam Magavern, Co-Director, Partnership for the Public Good and included Laura Quebral, Associate Director, State University of New York at Buffalo Regional Institute; Jason T. Garrett, Program Officer, Open Society Foundations Open Places Initiative; and Mary Anne Schmitt-Carey, President, Say Yes to Education, Inc. This panel provided a framework for understanding the Buffalo regional landscape as it exists today and to provide examples of community and resident engagement have an impact on the civic infrastructure.

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Buffalo Central Terminal



Funders, Buffalo Central Terminal, June 2014. Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo

The Buffalo Central Terminal opened to the public on June 22, 1929. Built by the New York Central Railroad, the art deco style station was built to accommodate up to 3,200 passengers per hour, or 200 trains per day. The complex sits on a 17 acre site 2.5 miles east of downtown Buffalo.

Buffalo Central Terminal

Marilyn Rodgers, Executive Director, Buffalo Central Terminal Restoration Corporation; Carl Skompinski, Fillmore Corridor Neighborhood Coalition; and Chris Byrd, neighborhood resident and blogger for Broadway Fillmore Alive spoke about this cultural landmark and the extraordinary efforts to restore it and the surrounding neighborhood, including resident engagement strategies.



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Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus


The learning tour bus passed through the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, a consortium of the region’s premier health care, life sciences research, and medical education institutions, all located on 120 acres in downtown Buffalo.



Buffalo Niagara Medical Center


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PUSH Buffalo Green Development Zone



Tour participants walked through the PUSH Buffalo Green Development Zone and heard from staff, members, and community residents about diverse and dynamic community building, community development, and economic revitalization through land reuse, housing and workforce development.


Rahwa Ghirmatzion, PUSH Buffalo:


Aaron Bartley, PUSH Buffalo

Crew, PUSH Green Development Zone

Massachusetts Avenue Project



Katherine Pfohl, Farm & Markets Assistant at Massachusetts Avenue Project, took the participants on a tour of their urban farm and discussed their food systems and youth training work.


Katherine Pfohl, MAP


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West Side Bazaar


The funder tour stopped at the West Side Bazaar for lunch. The Bazaar is a small business incubator supporting entrepreneurs, in particular, immigrant entrepreneurs to help them build sound community-based business models.

Benjamin Bissell, Westminster Economic Development Initiative

Louise Sano, West Side Bazaar Business Owner




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Closing Panels

Local and Statewide Community Engagement Infrastructure


Kevin Ryan, program director at the New York Foundation, moderated a panel with Maurice Mitchell, coordinator of The New York Civic Engagement Table; Erin Heaney, director at Clean Air Coalition of WNY; and Louisa Pacheco the director of Gamaliel Western New York and lead organizer at VOICE Buffalo about their local and statewide community engagement strategies.

Maurice Mitchell, NY Civic Engagement Table

Erin Heaney, Clean Air Coalition of WNY

Louisa Fletcher-Pacheco, Gamaliel Western New York & Niagara Organizing Alliance for Hope

Statewide Community Engagement Models


Jerry Maldonado, program officer at the Ford Foundation moderated a peer learning panel with Blythe Merrill, senior vice president at the John R. Oshei Foundation and Dr. Hank Rubin, vice president of community programs at the Rochester Area Community Foundation that focused on each of their institution’s strategies for supporting community and resident engagement. The panelists also shared their perspective on strengthening regional infrastructure and promoting increased philanthropic, public, and private sector collaborative in their local communities and across the state.