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Women Who Move the City Wednesday-Congrats Zandra Cunningham!

April 18, 2018

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Erie County is honored to celebrate Zandra Cunningham as this week’s Women Who Move the City Wednesday (WWMTC) Honoree! Zandra is a 17-year old entrepreneur who started her creative journey at the age of 9 mixing up lip balm in her home kitchen. She joined the Kids Biz Small Business Development Center at Buffalo State College and the rest is history. Today her Buffalo based company, Zandra Beauty, works out of a compliant production and distribution facility and sells her impressive line of products online and in retail locations. Her brand is committed to sustainable practices with a priority on products that are gentle and sensitive to teen skin. Zandra, who believes all girls should be confident in their own skin and learn what beauty is from the inside out, has built a brand that gives back by donating 10% of her net profits to support girls education. Zandra founded Day of the Girl Buffalo, an all expense paid day for girls with the goal of connecting girls to their community, providing educational options and ideas while empowering them to discuer their potential and find their best path to personal and professional success. Recently, she launched Young Mogul Prep School which provides coaching to young people launching a business and The Zandra “TLC” Foundation that provides entrepreneurial education, mentoring and networking opportunities to enhance the lives of young people so they can become change makers in their families and communities

Additionally, Zandra shares her time and expertise as a TEDx speaker and facilitating workshops for organizations including Girl Scouts USA, Buffalo Public Schools and Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority to name a few. She has supported Big Brothers Big Sisters as a Vendor Sponsor since the inception of Women Who Move the City and has also donated time to speak with groups of girls in the program.

Zandra is the youngest graduate of the University at Buffalo Minority and Women Entrepreneurial Program and Lucky Break University. As a trained maker and proud member of the Indie Business Network and Handcrafted Soap & Cosmetic Guild, she facilitates workshops on natural product creation and formulation. She is a member of the National Association of Women Business Owners. She was named the 2017 Small Business Administration Young Entrepreneur of the Year and and also the youngest to ever win an Etsy Open Call Golden Purchase Order.

To celebrate with Zandra and our four other outstanding Women Who Move the City Honorees on Wednesday, May 2nd at the Hotel Lafayette, click here to learn more & purchase your tickets today!


Women Who Move the City Wednesday- Congrats Jody Galvin!

April 11, 2018

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Erie County is honored to celebrate Jody Galvin as this week’s Women Who Move the City Wednesday (WWMTC) Honoree!  Jody’s community efforts focus on providing opportunity to underrepresented people in education and law.  She is on the board of Buffalo Prep which expands access to college preparatory education.  She volunteers with University at Buffalo Law School on its Discover Law program which promotes entry into the legal profession for talented people of color and first generation college students.  She is a Discover Law mentor and has coordinated the mentoring matches between students and practicing attorneys.  Jody also assists unrepresented people with civil legal matters in United States District Court and recruits volunteer attorneys for its Pro Se Assistance Program.  Jody has been honored by United States District Court, the Volunteer Lawyers Project and UB Law’s Students of Color.              

In addition to her volunteer work in education and law, Jody volunteers weekly with kindergarteners at St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy and supports the Boys & Girls Club of East Aurora.  Over the past seven years, Jody and her sons have donated over 1000 Halloween costumes to the Response to Love Center. This unique project was featured in the New York Times!

Jody is a business disputes attorney at Hodgson Russ LLP and chairs the firm’s Committee on Attorney Recruiting, Diversity and Development.  She lives in East Aurora with her three sons, Seamus, Kieran and Evan, and her husband Bob. 

To celebrate with Jody and our four other outstanding Women Who Move the City Honorees on Wednesday, May 2nd at the Hotel Lafayette, click here to purchase your tickets today!


Women Who Move the City Wednesday- Congrats Raziya Hill!

April 4, 2018

Big Brothers Big Sisters of Erie County is honored to celebrate Raziya Hill as this week’s Women Who Move the City Wednesday (WWMTC) Honoree!  A native of Buffalo, Raziya is passionate about alleviating financial hardships experienced by families when needing to provide diaper and wipes on a consistent basis. To address this need, she is the Founder and Executive Director of Every Bottom Covered (EBC), a diaper bank that operates out of the Delavan Grider Community Center.  EBC provides diapers and wipes on a monthly basis at no cost to low-income families in the Western New York area. Since partnering with the Delavan Grider Community Center in May 2017, EBC has enrolled over 800 children, with new clients signing up daily!

Additionally, Raziya has worked closely with the National Diaper Bank Network to lobby for support for the Hygiene Assistance for Families of Infants and Toddlers Act of 2017 (H.R. 1143) that will support the work of diaper banks and raise awareness nationally. She recently was lobbying in Albany to create awareness!

Having attended and volunteered with Buffalo Prep as a teen, Raziya has a deep understanding of the importance of nonprofits that address unmet needs in the community.  EBC has partnered with HOPE Buffalo working to increase teen volunteerism, and Buffalo Public Schools Office of Parent and Family Engagement to provide supplies to participants of their parent workshops.

When Raziya is not working on behalf of EBC, she works as Customer Due Diligence Analyst at HSBC Bank.  A graduate of Nardin Academy, Raziya resides in Buffalo with her son, Ahmir.

To celebrate with Raziya and our four other outstanding Women Who Move the City Honorees on Wednesday, May 2nd at the Hotel Lafayette, click here to learn more & purchase your tickets today!


Women Who Move the City Wednesday- Congrats Emily Felmet!

March 28, 2018

Big Brothers Big Sisters is honored to celebrate Emily Felmet as this week’s Women Who Move the City Wednesday (WWMTC) Honoree!  A Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters since July 2010, Emily has created an amazing friendship with her Little Sister Quinnshona. Emily and her Little Sister have enjoyed a wide range of activities and firsts over their years together. Emily has been a consistent influence providing support and general guidance on life for her Little Sister as she has grown from a child to high school student! In addition to her time as a Big Sister, Emily is also passionate about forwarding the agency’s mission. She has been a member of the agency’s Big Mirror and Women Who Move the City committees and currently is the 2018 co-chair of Big Engagement Team (BET).   Through BET, Emily has shared what it is like to be a Big Sister at new volunteer orientations, helped organize mixers for Bigs to network and participated in agency call nights. She has raised funds yearly through the Big Give fundraising campaign. In 2016, Emily and her Little Sister Quinnshona won the First Niagara Mentoring Matters contest for a video featuring their friendship and the agency was awarded $10,500!

Passionate about making a difference throughout WNY, Emily also volunteers her time for the International Institute of Buffalo as an English tutor for refugees. Emily has previously volunteered with B-Team Buffalo, as a co-founder and board member, and the Buffalo Junior Chamber of Commerce. She also participated in the Susan G. Komen 3-Day, 60-mile walk in San Francisco.

Emily currently serves as social media strategist for BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York.   She participated in the 2018 United Way of Buffalo & Erie County’s Leadership Executive Program and helps run her company’s United Way campaign.  Prior to joining BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York in April 2015, she worked at WIVB-TV as digital content producer. Emily earned her M.S. in communication and leadership from Canisius College, and her B.A. in journalism and mass communication from St. Bonaventure University.

Emily resides in the Town of Tonawanda with her husband, Aaron, and their dog Omar.   Emily enjoys visiting local museums and theaters, spending time at Canalside and Delaware Park, and cheering for the Bills and Sabres.

To celebrate with Emily and our four other outstanding Women Who Move the City Honorees on Wednesday, May 2nd at the Hotel Lafayette, click here to learn more & purchase your tickets today!


Women Who Move the City Wednesday-Congrats Alexa Zappia!

March 21, 2018

Big Brothers Big Sisters is honored to celebrate Alexa Zappia as our first Women Who Move the City Wednesday (WWMTC) Honoree!  Alexa, a native of  Williamsville, is currently a senior at St. John Fisher College in Rochester. In 2009, Alexa faced tragedy when her life mentor, Susan Wehle, suddenly passed away in the Flight 3407 plane crash. Alexa wanted to do something that would make her proud by continuing to touch peoples’ lives as Susan touched hers. How does a 12-year-old grieve such a tragedy? To Alexa, she found her life’s purpose: to volunteer at struggling organizations within the Buffalo community. Since the plane crash, Alexa has accumulated over 3,000 volunteer hours. Alexa has received the President’s Volunteer Service Award for three consecutive years during Barack Obama’s term, St. John Fisher College’s Service Scholarship, The Network of Religious Communities Religious Service Award, and many other accolades for her community service work throughout the years.

In the past year, Alexa created an organization originating in Buffalo known as Rocks of Unity. Rocks of Unity™ uses dialogue and art to teach, empower, and advocate inclusivity. Alexa has grown Rocks of Unity from one school here in Buffalo to over 18 different countries and over 25 different states. Through Rocks of Unity™, individuals will gain a heightened awareness of the importance of ending the prominent issue of hate by spreading kindness, acceptance, unity, and strength in diversity. Participants in the workshops learn how to better understand each other, ultimately building stronger communities.  Alexa has grown Rocks of Unity™ on social media as well where she writes Daily Doses of Kindness to promote positivity to global audiences.  

Alexa has been on the Dean’s List every semester since her freshman year. As a prestigious St. John Fisher College Service Scholar, she also completes 200 hours of community service yearly in the Rochester community at high-needs agencies. Alexa, who shared that family is the most important aspect of her life, also regularly practices yoga and enjoys musical theater and Broadway.

To celebrate with Alexa and our four other outstanding Women Who Move the City Honorees on Wednesday, May 2nd at the Hotel Lafayette, click here to learn more & purchase your tickets today!


BIG News: Name Change & Move for Big Brothers Big Sisters

March 7, 2018

For Immediate Release

Buffalo, N.Y. – The local mentoring agency known as Be-A-Friend Program, Inc. Big Brothers Big Sisters of Erie County for the last 45+ years is growing and has changed its name to reflect the new service area approved by Big Brothers Big Sisters of America (BBBSA). The agency will now be known as Big Brothers Big Sisters of Erie, Niagara and the Southern Tier. BBBSA has designated the Southern Tier service area to include Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties. In recent years, the agency had expanded it services through partnerships with the Lewiston Porter School District and Seneca Nation.

“We are excited to have the support of our National office as we expand to bring the nationally recognized mentoring programs of Big Brothers Big Sisters to more children in the Western New York region,” shared Thomas Guagliardo, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Erie, Niagara and the Southern Tier. “We are committed to continuing the high quality mentoring services we currently provide in Erie County as we expand in these new areas.”

In addition to the organization’s name change, the agency has recently moved their office located at 85 River Rock Drive in Buffalo across the street to 100 River Rock Drive between Fowler’s Chocolates and the new Crisis Services office. Over the next several weeks, the agency will begin to officially transfer its signage, social media and other external materials to reflect the new name, office location and logo.

Big Brothers Big Sisters currently offers Community Based, Sited Based, High School Bigs and Group Mentoring programs to children between the ages of 6 – 18 years old. Recently, the agency has seen a growth in interest in the High School Bigs Program which pairs elementary/middle school students with high school students who serve as their mentors. This program, which currently operates in the Lewiston Porter, Cleveland Hill, Maryvale and Lackawanna districts, demonstrates positive impact in youth outcomes for both the child being mentored and the high school student volunteering as the mentor. Additionally, the need for Group Mentoring, which typically provides mentoring to older youth and is provided by an agency staff member with the training to provide a more extensive and focused mentoring opportunity based on the youth’s needs as identified by other service providers has grown.

“We see the High School Bigs and Group Mentoring programs as effective and successful resources to bring into new service communities in need” shared Guagliardo. “We have been meeting with stakeholders in these communities to pursue partnerships and funding opportunities to launch these programs and expand our presence in Western New York.”


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