Sunday, October 23, 2016

Annual celebration features Nepal culture

Krishna Niroula, right, dances while being accompanied by a Nepalese band during the annual Dashain festival hosted by the Bhutanese Nepali Cultural Program in the Concerned Ecumenical Ministry on 286 Lafayette Ave. The 15-day celebration from late September to early October features food, dance, music and other aspects of Nepali culture. By Tiera Daughtry and Vincent Nguyen

Buffalo Closet to open Elmwood location

Chris Wolfley of South Buffalo with his Buffalo Closet items bought online

None of the clothing hanging on racks in Buffalo Closet is new, that’s the point.
            Jerseys on walls are made by Puma and Starter, two sports brands that are reminders of the past. Well-aged hats showcase old Buffalo Bills and Sabres logos.
            Co-owners Derrek Hoffman and Vince Stano started Buffalo Closet because of their love for vintage clothing and their hometown sports teams.
            The 26-year-olds began their business on Instagram and are now in the process of opening a store at 168 Elmwood Ave. with hopes to open this month.
            “I grew up during the 90s,” Hoffman said. “I don’t really remember the Super Bowls or anything, but any time I got my hands on vintage clothes from the 90s, I held onto it. We kind of just had all of this vintage gear that we’ve been collecting over the years and we decided to post it on Instagram and see if we could sell some of it because you know, you can’t hold onto all of that, and it just kind of took off from there.”
            The store both buys items and accepts items for consignment from customers.
            The store will be open during Bills away games, so customers can watch the games while they shop, Hoffman said. By Dave Deluca and Patrick Koster

Library branch offers ESL kits to patrons

          The Niagara Branch Library has a history of service to all people by offering English as a Second Language (ESL) kits to its patrons.
          The kits include books, CDs and sheets of foreign languages-to-English pamphlets. They also provide passwords to two online learning programs that the library has purchased. All can be accessed with just a library card.
          Suzanne Colligan has worked as a librarian for 16 years, a year-and-a-half at the Niagara Branch.
          “Many people use this kit to learn English. Ultimately the goal is about earning citizenship for some people,” she said.
          Colligan added that the library has served immigrants from as far back as the Italian immigrants in the 1950s and more Hispanic people in the 60s and 70s. Today, many of the kits are for Eastern-Asian and African immigrants.
          “Many new arrivals need to learn English for a new job,” Colligan said. “Some are more confidant and excited to be given an opportunity. Some have never even seen a library in their home country.”
          The learning programs,, and translate over 50 languages. SCOLA users can view videos that teach different phrases for different situations.
          Colligan believes that as more people look for a better life in America, the ESL kit will become even more apparent in Buffalo. One of the places she expects a wave of immigration from is Puerto Rico, that she identifies as not having a good economy lately. By Tony Callens and Benjamin Joe

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Learn to spot the warning signs of a stroke

By Maris Lambie 
Bengal News West Reporter
            A few years a go when Kelly Asher’s brother drove home from work feeling sick the last thing he thought he was experiencing was a stroke. 
            It started with a severe sudden headache and was followed with nausea, which is a little different than the usual stroke symptoms.
            “He was actually able to drive himself home. When he got home he seemed to be a little bit confused, so his wife took him to the hospital and he had had a stroke.” Asher, community coalition coordinator at the Erie County Health Department, said.  

           Asher’s brother has made a full recovery since then. He is one of the hundreds of thousands who had experienced a stroke that year.
            While the risk of stroke is something people should be concerned with year round, this May for National Stroke Awareness month local organizations and medical officials are concerned with raising a greater awareness.
            Each year about 795,000 people experience a stroke.  Nationally stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. Locally, in Western New York, stroke is the third leading cause of death and is the number one cause of disability.  Experts believe the incidence is higher in urban areas.
            “The rates differ all across the Buffalo region but are more concentrated in the city and areas with a higher population of color,” Marc Natale, executive director of the Buffalo and Rochester region of the American Heart Association, said.
            Both Asher and Natale claim the rates in the area vary by neighborhood due to environmental and socioeconomic factors. In poorer urban areas there is an abundance of convenience stores with a lack of fresh produce, often leading to a greater consumption of processed foods, which can increase blood pressure and cholesterol and lead to higher obesity rates.
            Another factor can be healthcare.
            “If you don’t have good coverage you might not have access to a good physician. And if you have low income you might not have health insurance or could have trouble with transportation to get to a doctor,” Andrew Case, professor from the D'Youville College Physician Assistant program.
            While the American Heart Association reports death rates of stroke have dropped by 20 percent in the African-American population and by 17 percent in the Hispanic population, African Americans are still dying 13 years earlier and Hispanics 10 years earlier due to stroke. African Americans are also more likely to experience a stroke earlier in life.
            “Two in three African Americans have high blood pressure, which is one of the key contributing factors to strokes,” Natale said.
            Other risk factors include obesity, smoking, high cholesterol, diabetes, and poor diet with little physical activity.  A less common risk factor is untreated atrial fibrillation, which is when someone has an irregular heartbeat.  
            The rates of stroke are significantly reduced when people eat a healthy diet, exercise for at least 90 minutes a week, maintain a low blood pressure and cholesterol and refrain from smoking. 

Deborah Steck, right, with marketing coordinator Sarah McQuade
 “Learning about the symptoms of stroke is important, too.  You can save a life just by recognizing the symptoms of a stroke event and taking the appropriate actions,” Dr. Maritza Baez, family medicine physician at Lifetime Health Medical Group's Mosher Health Center, said.
            Experts all agree that time is crucial. If someone is experiencing any of these symptoms it is important to call 911 right away, even if the symptoms have stopped. Experts emphasize that stroke patients should go to the hospital within the first three hours
            “Most people when surveyed claimed if they experienced any of these symptoms they would drink water then take a nap,” Deborah Steck, stroke coordinator at Buffalo General Medical Center said. “Or people might call a doctor and then wait for a call back. In some cases some may think that was the same as calling 911. Others might just call a family member. But you need to call 911 first.”

Basketball program brings hope to city youth

By Annaliza Guard and Madison Marquardt
Bengal News West Reporters
In 2014, after 20 years of being held in Buffalo, the Gus Macker 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament was moved out of downtown and away from the city’s youth. 
Erie County Legislator Betty Jean Grant (D, Buffalo) saw the void that the “Macker” had left, and decided that she would not only replace the tournament, she would solve its problems.
Buff City Hoops games will be held on the West Side 
The “Macker” was often criticized for its high registration costs, and for bringing violence and crime into the city. 
Last year was the beginning of a now annual program called Buff City Hoops, a structured basketball tournament centered around providing children with a safe summer activity.
“We want to promote a safe summer,” Grant said.  “We’re trying to get them to look forward to safe activities during the summer.  By them playing basketball that particular day or night, it keeps them off the street corners, it gets them to an environment where they know they are loved, they are respected and their voices matter.”
Buff City Hoops is open to children from all neighborhoods, ages 8 to 18. 
 “We come into their neighborhood,” said Esther Smothers, Buff City Hoops fundraising chair. “We’re saying we care about you, we’re coming to you.”
The program runs several games and tournaments throughout Buffalo over a six-week period, including at the West Side Community Services Center. 
“When you donate to Buff City Hoops, you’re donating to your neighborhood and your community.  We’re going to be in a community center or basketball court nearest you, so you’re actually impacting and changing the environment you live in,” said Smothers.
The league culminates in a final championship tournament.  Last year’s tournament was held Aug. 28 in Masten Park.
“We had 500 youth in the park, all day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.,” Grant said. “Not one ill word, not one fight.  They were able to play together, so sportsmanship played a large part in it.”
But the program is about more than just basketball. Grant wanted to create a program that would build character among participants too.
“During the six-week league, we have motivational speakers, conflict resolution specialists and violence prevention speakers.  They meet once a week to impact and change their lives from the inside out,” Smothers said.
The program depends on the local community for support.  A fundraiser banquet was held April 21 at the Metropolitan Entertainment Complex on the West Side. 
In addition to utilizing websites like Facebook and GoFundMe to generate support, the program has partnered with local businesses like Bak USA. The Buffalo-based technology company donated tablets to last year’s winning teams.
“We sponsored it because we really wanted to give back to the community,” said Director of Administration Eva Bak. “We wanted to support young people who are using their summers to improve themselves and are competing in a team sport.”
The program needs the support of the community because participants are not charged to join, unlike the Gus Macker, which charged $130-150 per team.  The money goes towards the kids’ t-shirts as well as the permits for the parks where they play.
This year even more participants are expected due to promotion of the program.  Even with the increase in players, program leaders still want to maintain the same values and key principles that were fundamental in making the program a success in its first year.
“We expect them to be as nice as they were last year,” Grant said. “They can play together without being combative, they can play as a team, they can be disciplined and they can be respectful.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

West Side moms-to-be have care options

By L’Oreal Adams
Bengal News West Reporter
Pampers, pacifiers and playpens are some of the many items that a new mom will need while caring for her bundle of joy. Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, oats, lean meats, and vitamins will increase her chances of delivering a healthy baby.
Having a baby requires more than choosing a name and planning a baby shower.  Resources on the West Side recognize the special needs that a new mother may have. These services make prenatal and postpartum care easier for mothers-to-be from our backyard and from all over the globe. It could be particularly challenging for a mother who speaks very little English and doesn’t know the health care system.

            The Priscilla Project of Buffalo is a program with Jericho Road Community Health Center on 184 Barton St. The project caters to low-income, pregnant refugee clients. Volunteers work one-on-one with expecting mothers and visit them weekly until the birth of the baby.
Expectant mom Mugiraneza Gakumi
Sandra Doss, senior case manager at the Priscilla Project, believes that the bond formed between moms and volunteers is more than just community work.
“They act as a support, a resource, and a friend for them,” Doss said.
There are programs that address healthy lifestyles during pregnancy. One is Project Choices, a program of the Erie County Council for the Prevention of Alcohol and Substance Abuse, which works with women of childbearing age in part to help reduce or stop the consumption of alcohol during pregnancy.
Tammy M. McGovern, a West Side resident and interventionist prevention educator with Project Choices, believes that it’s important for a woman  to be aware of what she is putting into her body if she is at childbearing age and isn’t using birth control. Often women will become pregnant and will be unaware for as long as three months. Smoking and binge drinking during the first trimester can also result in a complicated birth.
“It is not okay to consume any amount of alcohol during a pregnancy and it is very important that the mother eats the proper foods that will be beneficial for her and the baby,” McGovern said.
 Project Choices promotes proper nutrition to reduce the risk of disease and foster longevity, which is the mission of Nourish Nova, a new business literally catering to expectant mothers.
            This May, Nourish Nova will prepare and deliver meals designed to help nurture fertility, promote a healthy pregnancy, and to provide supportive nutrients for mama and baby after birth.
West Side residents James and Sarah Ernest are the creators and chefs running Nourish Nova. They were inspired to create this when Sarah had an emergency cesarean and newborn baby Stella had to go under special care for a week.
“Stella's birth and our early journey together has inspired our family to start this business so families can have delicious and revitalizing foods to eat after birth to help rebuild nutrients,” Sarah said. “My daughter and I are coming up to our one-year breastfeeding journey, and I feel that my diet and positive mindset is what has continued us through, regardless of the difficulties we faced after birth.”
Since recovery, the new parents have been able to focus on business. With just a click of a button, delicious dishes such as Blueberry Baked Oatmeal, and Pumpkin Lentil Chili could be delivered right to your door.
The company will also offer Dancing Mama Snack Boxes that can be bought, gifted and shipped nationally. It will contain samples of treats such as Mama’s Magical Macaroons and Booby Bites. It will also sell kid-friendly foods like Veggie Nuggets and Butternut Squash Mac n Cheese with carrot dogs.
Sarah and her husband chose the name Nourish Nova because nova mans new or young and, Sarah said, they “hope to nourish both mama and baby in their new lives together.”

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Niagara St. projects bring life back to old buildings

By Maris Lambie
Bengal News West Reporter
            For decades the gritty, urban environment of Niagara Street  has been the home of multiple old, run down, abandoned buildings with little to look at. The small businesses that are there are spread out, and the busy traffic makes pedestrian travel a bit difficult. 
            However things in the area are beginning to change as the revitalization of the street continues.
            Along with reconstruction of the street, investors hope to revitalize the area by renovating abandoned buildings into mixed-use projects featuring commercial space and high-end apartments.
            There are several buildings being renovated as mix use projects in the neighborhood including 1469 Niagara St., 1502 Niagara St and 960 Busti Ave. These three buildings are all slated for completion this year.
Construction worker Dennis McCarthy at 960 Busti Ave.

            Niagara Street has been considered a gateway to the Buffalo area for quite some time, connecting traffic coming from the Interstate 90 to downtown and acting as a gateway between the U.S. and Canadian borders.
             Major efforts to renovate the area began in 2014 when the $16.3 million Niagara Street Gateway Construction Project first began with the help of local government, the NFTA, neighborhood groups and local businesses and residents.
            “The city is embarking on a whole new reconstruction of Niagara Street. We’re going to see traffic-calming, it’s going to be more pedestrian friendly. There’s going to be green infrastructure as part of the design to help control run offs so that waste water doesn’t end up in the river,” Barbara Rowe, president of Vision Niagara said.

            Vision Niagara is an organization of stakeholders, consisting of Niagara Street residents, businesses, investors and organizations working to improve the quality of the area by creating a mixed use environment.
             “People are looking for opportunity,” said Ellicott Development CEO Bill Paladino.  There were plenty of opportunities here with the old buildings, and these opportunities are scarce in the city.”
            Paladino said historic tax credits can be a driving force toward renovating the city’s old buildings.
             The building at 960 Busti Ave. had been vacant for nearly 20 years until Ellicott Development purchased the building in 2008. Construction on the building had begun in fall 2015 and is slated for completion in June 2016. Preleasing for the apartments has started.
            While one of the original ideas considered was to renovate the building into just apartments, adding commercial space made the cost of the project a bit cheaper.
            “Mixed-use projects were a better alternative,” Paladino said.
            The first two floors of the renovated building will feature commercial space while the other floors will consist of 18 higher end apartments, priced higher than the typical market rate due to the apartment’s high quality features. Ellicott Development is hoping to fill the commercial space with restaurants.
            “These apartments are being completed at a high level of quality,” Tom Fox, development director of Ellicott Development said.”These apartments have imported quartz tile counter tops, designer plumbing fixtures, spacious storage areas, basement parking, and 24-hour security surveillance. It’s a very unique space.”
            The finished apartments will also have views of the Peace Bridge, the Niagara River and Canada, as well as a patio rooftop.
            “It’s comparable to what is being done in other areas, although our prices are a little lower than some of them,” Paladino said. “It can be affordable and we hope that entices people to come.”
            Those investing in apartments and other renovations on Niagara Street believe that the new mix use spaces will bring a positive change to the neighborhood by encouraging more businesses to open up.
            “It will definitely help drive more services.  When people live here they will be looking for places to get a bite to eat, to pick up a cup of coffee, to buy groceries. We’ll see more of that in the area. It will make it a more fun and attractive place to live,” Rowe said, “I don’t know if it will ever be like the Elmwood village, which is kind of cute, this will always be urban, but I think we’ll see a lot more foot traffic out here and less of the speedway that we have now.”