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.”

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Youth impress at Side-by-Side Concert

By Annaliza Guard and Madison Marquardt
Bengal News West Reporters   

         The softness of the violin strings, meet the smoothness of the clarinet as the deep hollow strumming of the cello strings join in.  The music hall fills with the rising sounds of a full orchestra, not a note out of place. 
            On Wednesday April 6, some of Buffalo’s most talented musicians harmonized in the great acoustics of Kleinhans Music Hall, performing classical pieces, as well as some modern ones.  More than half of these decorated musicians are still in high school.
            The concert was part of the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra’s Side-by-Side program, which allows students to work with members of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
            “The philharmonic assigns a coach for each section,” said GBYO Executive Director Janice Jones.  She has been involved in the GBYO since 2005.
“There is a first violin coach, second violin coach, viola coach, there’s a woodwind coach for that section and a brass coach for that section.”
GBYO students receive one session with their coach, but then participate in 6 rehearsals to prepare for the final performance. 
“The students really enjoy the opportunity to work with their private teachers leading up to it,” said Jones.
“But now they get to sit with someone who does this for a living.  Just sitting on that stage with all that great sound around you, it just motivates you to play harder and better.”
This year the joint orchestra’s performance including demanding classical pieces, but the real showstopper came when the group performed pieces from Star Wars.
            The Side-by-Side program provides students with several unique opportunities.  Not only do students get to work with a professional musician, they get to perform on a stage typically reserved for industry professionals as well.
            “Everyone wants to participate in the Side-by-Side because of the opportunity to perform with the philharmonic onstage at Kleinhans Music Hall,” said Jones.
            The Side-by-Side program is just one part of the GBYO.  The GBYO is made up of students from local middle and high schools.
“We have students from Fredonia to Lewiston,” said Jones.  The GBYO even extends across borders.
“We have students who drive from Fort Erie every Monday night from September to May.”
            Each spring the GBYO holds an audition process, where students from 8th to 12th grade compete for a coveted spot in the youth orchestra.  To be eligible for auditions, students must participate in their school’s music program as well as study privately.
            Students who are accepted into the GBYO must be actively preparing a New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) level five or six solo.  NYSSMA is the state music grading system, which sets the standard for competitive student musicians.
            Over 7,000 students audition for the 8 All-State performing groups; fewer than 900 are selected to participate annually.  A six is the highest score for a NYSSMA solo.
            One student who made it through the rigorous audition process, and was accepted into the GBYO was City Honors junior Karly Masters.  The viola player auditioned last spring.
            “It was really nerve-wracking,” said Miss Masters.
            “I auditioned three years prior to this as well.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it this year, but I finally did.”
            Her mother Kendra’s advice to her daughter was to “relax and do her best.”
            “I knew she would make it,” said Mrs. Masters.
            A stint with the GBYO is a prestigious achievement for any young musician.  Those who wish to continue their music career, like Karly, receive a respected resume, all before graduating high school.
            “I’m working on my college audition piece right now,” said Miss Masters.
            “I’m a junior, so next year I’ll be auditioning for colleges.  I’m thinking about Oberlin, Ithaca, probably Eastman.  I’m narrowing the list down.”