2015 Champions for Change

2015 Champions for Change


11 Projects led by our 2015 Champions for Change

Through the secondyear of the Citizen Planning School, our “Champions for Change” worked through a planning process to nurture an idea to make sustainable changes in their local community. With technical assistance from professionals and graduate students of UB’s School of Architecture and Planning, the Champions conducted research, formed partnerships, and identified necessary steps and actions to move their ideas forward.

SessionThumbnail_ideasummit2015Champions for Change featured in the 2015 Idea Summit Booklet
Read about all of the 2015 Champions for Change and the ideas they presented at the 2015 Idea Summit. The projects vary in stage of development, focus areas and scale. We look forward to seeing where they go in the future.


LaShanen Burrell || Lackawanna, NY


LaShanen is founder and President of MOC, a community hub in Lackawanna, New York.  Inspired by his own transformation and the impact that the bygone Friendship House had on his life, LaShanen’s dream of bringing transformation and new life to the youth of that same community is coming together.  LaShanen’s contacts across the spectrum of nonprofits, local businesses, community leaders and sports figures have endorsed his plans to change lives and provide opportunity where there is none. These highly experienced volunteers have already come forward to assist in the programming such as for tutoring, mentoring, sports, arts, music and camping events. Currently , LaShanen is getting ready to present his idea to the community and launch initial programming in July.  He is also busy planning fundraising events in order to get the HUB @ The Martha Chaney Bishop Community Center off the ground.

Contact information: lburrell.lashanen45@gmail.com

Read about LaShanen’s Project here.

Valerie Edwards || Buffalo, NY


Valerie Lenese Edwards was born and raised in Buffalo New York and is also a current resident. Presently employed with the Buffalo Public School District (in many capacities) for over 10 years, Valerie has gained the trust and has made a positive impact on children at the elementary level. With the ongoing support of her husband, children, parents and siblings, Valerie has managed to achieve an AA in Early Childhood Education, BA in Social Science (Magna Cum Laude) and MAED (Reading Literacy) all while balancing the role as wife, mother, and working full time.
As of May of 2014, Valerie began fulfilling her purpose by becoming the Founder/Executive Director of My Little Literacy Leaders Tutoring Service. MLLLTS’ focus is on meeting the emotional, social, and academic needs of children beginning at 5 years of age, through MLLLTS’ 3 Ps recipe for teaching Purpose, Passion, and Patience. Without purpose there is no destiny, without passion there is no security, and without patience there is no positive outcome for our children to become scholars, successful in society, and active engaging adults within their community.

Contact information: vedwards@mylittleliteracyleaders.com

Read more about Valerie’s project here.

Cynthia Frame-Endres || Amherst, NY


Cynthia is on the Waste and Recycling Committee for the Town of Amherst. Active in Scouting, she taught the “Sustainability” merit badge to Boy Scouts, and recently completed Cub Scout Leadership as Webelos Den Leader and Assistant Pack Leader. Cynthia is trained as a Preservation Librarian and Archivist,  and has established library preservation programs at Union Theological Seminary in New York City and the research library in the Museum of Modern Art. Continuing her passion for libraries, for several years Cynthia organized parent volunteers for the library program at Heim Elementary school. She recently created an”Archives: Secrets Revealed” workshop for students.

Contact information: 1positivelycharged@gmail.com

Read about Cynthia’s project here.

Ron Fraser || Colden, NY


Ron is a Southtowns resident and the Site Administrator for Small Town Civics website. The Website provides a forum to constructively identify ways to improve small town governance. Ron is also, past chair of the Town of Colden Hydrofracking Committee and past chair of the Town of Colden’s Environmental Board. Ron is also a 2015 Champion for Change.  Ron has a Master of Regional Planning degree and a PhD in Public policy.

Contact information: fraserr@erols.com

Read about Ron’s project here.

Niagara Gazette Article about Shirley’s Project (10/26/2014)

Mary Ellen Haefner || Williamsville, NY


Mary Ellen Haefner has been a member of the Education Committee of Preservation Buffalo Niagara since 2011. Recently she contributed to developing the organization’s 2014 tour schedule as well as its professional development program. Through the Champions for Change program, Mary Ellen is leveraging her knowledge of the history of Williamsville in order to establish markers in front of historical landmarks on the Village’s Main Street. The goal of the project is to create a more appealing and pedestrian-friendly Main Street in Williamsville through making the Village’s history more apparent. She is collaborating with members of Williamsville’s Picture Main Street initiative, the Village’s Community Development office, the Village’s Historic Preservation Commission, and other key stakeholders to implement this project.

Contact information: meme35315@gmail.com

Read about Mary Ellen’s project here.

Pamella Lomax || Buffalo, NY


Pamella Lomax, a native of Buffalo, New York is a graduate of the American University in Washington, DC. Upon completion of an undergraduate degree from the School of Public Affairs, she enhanced her knowledge base by working directly for industry experts and leaders in academia, finance and health care. In 2012, having celebrated ownership of a 53-year-old, familial enterprise, located on East Utica Street in Buffalo, NY, Pamella founded and launched the Utica Heights Block Club. Since its inception, the organization has consistently engaged the community by reaching out and providing resourcefulness.

Contact information: uhbc@mail.com

Read about Pamella’s project here.

Memorial Park Block Club || City of Niagara Falls, NY


The Memorial Park Block Club brings together new and long term homeowners in the neighborhood to create community awareness on the impact of blight and quality of life issues in the Core Neighborhood and the city of Niagara Falls. Neighborhood residents were instrumental in the emergence of Block Clubs in the late 1980’s and today, we continue to be the driving force behind the struggle to maintain the integrity of what is left in the Core Neighborhoods. We believe that the Memorial Park Neighborhood represents what is best about the City of Niagara Falls.  As one of Niagara Falls oldest neighborhoods, the Memorial Park Neighborhood has the potential to be a beautiful, historic urban backdrop to tourism and economic development for both visitors, and residents alike.

Contact information: memorialparkblockclub@yahoo.com

Read about the Memorial Park Block Club’s project here.

Della Miller & Gail Wells || City of Buffalo, NY


Della Miller’s extensive career began in high school as a foodservice worker. She later went on to found two community food and garden co-ops thru Vista/Peace Corps, developed and directed a 1 year pilot nutrition education campaign on the west side of Buffalo and received funding for five more years extending the program to New York State region I & II. She also managed and monitored 20+ licensed food service facilities in Erie County.
Growing up in Harlem during the 1950’s and 60’s, Gail was exposed to many legendary civil rights leaders who taught her about the use of non-violence to inspire social change. Since then, Gail has organized countless cultural and educational activities that have caused social change both in New York City and Buffalo. Her accomplishments include co-founding the University at Buffalo’s Black Student Union, serving on the first Juneteenth Committee, and co-editing Buffalo’s first Black owned magazine, Buffalo After Dark. Gail was also co-owner of Watu Sokoni (also known as “The People’s Market”), and co-founder of the Center for Positive thought (also known as the “Black Dance Workshop”).

Contact information: Foodlink716@gmail.com | wellsgv7@gmail.com

Read about Della and Gail’s project here.

Beverly Newkirk || Buffalo, NY


Beverly is founder and executive director of “It Takes a Village,” a community action organization aimed towards promoting the mental, physical, and spiritual well-being of inner city residents of all ages, and thus empowering them to become productive citizens. In addition, Beverly is involved with community organizations such as the Coalition for Economic Justice and the Partnership for the Public Good.

Contact information: beverlynewkirk58@yahoo.com

Read about Beverly’s project here.

Paul Pérez || Buffalo, NY


Paul is a young minority male who is interested in transforming politics, government, and not-for-profit management to be more equitable as well as efficient. He is a leader who provides individuals as well as communities with the tools and fundamentals they need to realize their potential. Paul is involved with the Buffalo Urban League of Young Professionals, as well as the City of Buffalo’s Citizen Participation Academy, through which he learns how to navigate city hall and the responsibilities of each department.

Contact information: perepc26@gmail.com

Read about Paul’s project here.

Sue Tannehill || Clarence Center, NY


Sue Tannehill is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Buffalo. She is married and has two children now 20 and 16. Sue enjoys having roots in her neighborhood after  her early nomadic existence. She has a home now in Northern Clarence and it is the 22nd place she has lived in her life. She has lived there for 24 years.  This country neighborhood has gone from widely scattered older homes, along two mile long country roads to the development of dozens of new, larger homes being placed on these same roads.

Contact information: sue.tannehill@gmail.com

Read about Sue’s project here.