Saturday, November 18, 2017

Hilliman at work at WS Community Services

Kate Hillman

By Jacob Fyock and Chris Prenatt
Bengal News West Reporters
     Kate Hilliman went from saving people’s lives, their belongings and pets in New York City during 9/11, to helping low income kids discover maritime history while learning how to sail along the coasts of North America.
            Now, she brings her expertise and experience to Buffalo as she takes the reins as the new executive director at West Side Community Services , 161 Vermont St.
            “This position I’m in right now is exactly what I wanted, it's exactly what I worked towards,” Hilliman, 39, said.
            Hilliman got her undergraduate degree in community and regional studies at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson. After graduating, she worked in New York City doing educational programs and initiatives for the public.
            She also performed heroic duties by helping victims during 9/11 while she was at an academy training to become a peace officer. When it took place, she was given an option if she wanted to help out and decided to take it. 
            We were not the firefighters or the police, but we were escorting residents, we were doing a lot of pet rescues,” Hilliman said.
            Hilliman then pursued her lifelong goal as a professional sailor. Travelling one from coast to the next, she noticed that organizations that owned ships would use them for  field trips and programs for children to attend.
            She mentions that these old ships were an amazing experience because she liked how they challenged kids to do something outside their comfort zone.
             “I never saw that coming, but it’s really incredible when you get students who don’t have opportunity or who have behavior problems and more conventional environments like a classroom or a home,” she said.
            She eventually found her way to Buffalo after her husband Rich convinced her to move. While he started his family business, Hilliman decided to start her own non-profit that focused on experiential education for low-income students, writing grants and making sure everything was open and available.
            Hilliman would get her masters in social work at the University at Buffalo. While getting her degree, she would work at Say Yes to Education Buffalo. The program focuses on being family support specialist, meaning that she had to collaborate with families that had a high-risk student and try to implement a system to make that child better academically in school.
            “You have one foot in the school and one foot in the community and your trying to bridge the gap between the children who are really struggling in school and whatever is going on at home,” Hilliman said.
            Hilliman said the similarities between Say Yes and West Side Community Services is that she works with the same families. In her new position, her current goal is to establish a day care center for West Side. The has been around for a while and hasn’t had a day care in decades, Hilliman wants to bring it back.
            “There was a day care here a long time ago,” Hilliman said. “Day care is a huge need. This zip code is incredibly diverse in terms of income levels and backgrounds, so there’s certainly a need for quality child care in this neighborhood.”
            She said that this will be a long-term project and will probably take about a year.
            While her time at West Side Community Services hasn’t been long, she’s done quite a lot and it has her peers talking. Elizabeth Murphy, the board president said the decision to hire Hilliman was a good one.
            “She had a good background in youth services and she was a previous E.D. at another organization,” Murphy said. “One thing I noted about Kate and I think it’s great is she is an excellent communicator. She is interested is listening to what other people have to say.”
            Joanne Butcher, the senior activity coordinator, likes what Hilliman has done so far.
            “[Kate] addresses everything that needs to be addressed right away and doesn’t put anything on the back burner,” Butcher said. “She is very efficient and easy to communicate with, she’s good for the job.”
            Even though there are a lot of positives to the West Side Community Services, Hilliman believes that it needs a facelift. A lot has changed along the West Side and Hilliman believes a facelift will be beneficial to the organization.  
            “Since this place was founded, the community has changed, the demographics changed, the income levels changed a bit,” Hilliman said. “We have to go back and say who are we to this community, what are we to this community and how do we serve them the best.”
           

Classes set for first-time home buyers


The West Side and Black Rock-Riverside Neighborhood Housing Services, 359 Connecticut St., held its monthly homebuyer education course recently.  Homeownership Counselor Lauren Jednak, right, teaches the class not only to people interested in living on the West Side but also to people looking to buy a home around Western New York. The class is for first-time homebuyers and is highly recommended, or in some cases even required, by banks to receive a mortgage loan. “We spoke about preparing for homeownership, like getting your credit score where it needs to be,” Jednak said. “Banks want to see a 620-credit score in order to get a mortgage.” The class costs $65 to attend, and residents who plan on going need to pre-register as spaces are limited for the course.  Lackawanna resident Tamra Hughes, left, and other residents of Western New York completed the class and received a certificate of completion for the course, which is valid for one year.  Jednak mentioned that the  nonprofit organization not only teaches this class but offers free homebuyer orientation courses. The orientation courses are held to answer any questions that residents have about buying homes. The education courses are held once a month, and the orientation classes are twice a month. The next orientation course will be on Nov. 22.  The last homebuyer education course of 2017 will be on Dec. 2.  Homebuyer education classes will resume once again monthly in January 2018.  By Alyssa Brannigan and Talyor Carruth


Saturday, November 11, 2017

5 Loaves wraps up abundant growing season


The Community Supported Agriculture program came to an end recently for the 5 Loaves Farm, 1172 West Ave., and Assistant Farm Manager Seth Brown could not be more pleased with the results from this season. The CSA season runs from the first week of June through the last week of October. Members of the program receive a supply of vegetables and fruits that are grown at the farm, and are able to pick up their share every Thursday from 4-7 p.m. throughout the season.  At the beginning of each season, members of the program pay $450, which averages out to be $20 a week for a large share portion, or $225, which is an average of $10 a week for a smaller portion. “Our goal was to give them 10 percent more produce than they paid,” Brown said. “The large share, they pay $20 a week, we wanted to give them at least $22.50 worth, and they ended up getting an average of $25 worth of produce each week, so we had a really good year.” Brown plans on sending a survey to the members of the program to ask them what they did like as far as their shares of vegetables/produce went, and what they did not like. After they receive the surveys back, they plan for what they want to grow for next year’s CSA season based on the feedback they were given. By Alyssa Branningan and Taylor Carruth

Rainbows on Allen spread inclusiveness



Allentown Association Board President Seth Amman shows off one of his Rainbows on Allen painting, a project meant to celebrate inclusiveness and acceptance of the LGBTQ community. “Allentown has long been seen as a LGBTQ friendly neighborhood in Buffalo and we often see that the rainbow flags are flown for about  a month, which is nice, but people say it’s kind of sad to see them come down,” Amman said. The paintings add a permanent stamp in the community, something that Amman hopes will make people feel secure . “I want people to understand, or get an immediate sense, that it’s a safe , inclusive place. That's always a question more and more with the changing environment and it’s important for everyone,” Amman said. Amman hopes to add more sidewalk paintings, but doesn’t have any set locations due to the everchanging redevelopment of the Allentown area. “It’s a start, things change and happen fast in the city, especially in an area like this where there's so much happening. I think we have to protect what's great about Allentown and I think this symbol offers up that conservation.” #RainbowsOnAllen and #BuffaloIsAwesome are two social hashtags that are etched into the paintings that people can use when they post pictures of the artwork. “The hashtag can travel globally. It talks about the type of community Allentown is, the type of community that Buffalo is and people can interact with them and share their story,” Amman said. By Kelly Khatib and Michael Read

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

PUSH plans to open School 77 in spring


The transformation of School 77 into affordable housing, which began construction in May, is at the halfway mark.
The rehabilitation of the property at 429 Plymouth Ave. is on track for an early spring opening, Marjorie McAllister, project manager, said.  
“We are 50 percent complete. We just installed the windows and floors in the building,” McAllister said.
The project is being directed by People United for Sustainable Housing Buffalo, and its housing development company, Buffalo Neighborhood Stabilization Company Inc.
The 90-year-old building will feature income-based housing for residents 55 and older, as well as become the new home for the Ujima Theatre Company. The building will include offices for community programs, including PUSH, which will be consolidating its offices and moving into the new building upon completion.
The $15 million project is the largest PUSH has taken on in its 13 years of operation.
PUSH started the project after three years of advocating and collecting community input. Local residents decided affordable housing for senior citizens is what the neighborhood needed.
In addition to the School 77 project, PUSH is working on several other affordable housing units on the West Side. By Zachary Memmott and Khlaid Terrell

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Ex-pat brings tile business to the W.S.


When Leslie McManus returned to the West Side to be with family, she planned on bringing beauty to residents’ homes. “The goal was to come back to Buffalo and open a store on the West Side,” McManus said. “It was a perfect fit for Buffalo and I wanted to bring everything I learned … to Buffalo.” McManus opened Blueprint Design Studio in September in the Horsefeathers building at 346 Connecticut St. Blueprint offers a variety of designs that create artistic and unique tiles for housing. The store also provides tiles that are organic. She sells cement tiles that are a renewable resource and environment friendly. Her mother’s inspiration led her to get involved with visual arts and motivated her to make it a career. “I grew up around a mother who was extremely creative with our house and she took my opinions to heart, even at 12 years old,” McManus said. She started off her career by attending the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts. From there, she took her craft to the University of Buffalo and received a degree in fine arts while also obtaining a graduate degree in interior design at the New England School of Art and Design. With two degrees under her belt and having family living in the Queen City, she decided to come back with her two daughters because she wanted them to be around her family more. By Jacob Fyock and Chris Prenatt

Monday, November 6, 2017

Explore Buffalo gets you inside in winter

Explore Buffalo’s new season of tours will move inside  through April 30, with a series showcasing the interiors of historical buildings and bus tours around the city.

The Gilded Age Series, which includes the Delaware Avenue Mansions tour, teaches individuals about the history of the homes occupied by some of Buffalo’s wealthiest residents.

“It’s a little bit of architecture, a little bit of history, a little bit of scandal,” said Michele
Siwinski, director,  chairperson of the financial committee and docent for Explore Buffalo.

         Explore Buffalo offers over 70 different tours throughout the year. There’s a tour available that fits everyone’s schedule.
            The next season for walking tours begins in May and will feature a new tour called, The Niagara Street Industrial Heritage Tour.

“Niagara Street was a center of industry with the Beltline Railroad and the Buffalo River,” said Chuck LaChiusa, board president and founding member of Explore Buffalo.

Explore Buffalo has 100 docents and volunteers who provide historical insight as they lead a variety of tours around the city.

Tickets are priced based on Explorer Pass holders, students and general admission. The initiative of the season was the Explorer Passes, which allow people to take unlimited walking and spotlight tours, and attended unlimited discussions. By Tatiyana Bellamy and Edwin Viera