Sunday, December 10, 2023

Ronald McDonald services celebrates 40 years


Ronald McDonald House Charities in December marked 40 years in service to families with children seeking medical treatment in Buffalo hospitals. Marking the occasion are, from left, Marketing and Communications Director Darlene Wilber, Executive Director Marianne Hoover, Director of Development Krystina Burow and House Operations and Guest Services Manager Yulanda McVay. More than 500 people stay at the Ronald McDonald House, 780 W. Ferry St., every year. The organization also provides respite space and other services  for the comfort of families with children in John R. Oishei Children’s Hospitals. By George McClendon

Saturday, December 9, 2023

W.S. International Soccer continues to inspire

By Joseph Cali                

            When thinking about sports to start young children in, most times parents fear the financial dread that comes along with them.

            The West Side International Soccer Club offers programs, whether it be a travel team or through public schools, around the West Side to help families provide a safe, affordable, and memorable experience on the soccer field for their children.

            The club was founded in 2012 by former University at Buffalo soccer player, Mateo Escobar and his wife Amanda Escobar.

            According to the team website, it  “uses soccer as a vehicle to provide a safe place to play, connect with mentors, break down barriers, and empower participants to become leaders in their community and their chosen life pursuits.” 

            Graham Vosburg, the vice president of West Side International Soccer, has been involved in the  program for 10 years. He said the program has changed and formed into what it is today over the decade he has been involved.

            “We were looking at walkable locations along the West Side," Vosberg said. "Probably 90% of our players were just from foot traffic alone. When I would drive there on Saturday mornings or afternoons depending on practice time, I would usually see the players walking there. There is really a neighborhood feel and to serve that neighborhood specifically is great.”

            According to Project Play, an Aspen Institute research initiative on sports and society, the average cost to start a child in soccer last year was $1,188. That is a large amount of money for an average family just to give their child an opportunity to play the game of soccer at the youth level. As they grow and need new equipment that number only increases from there.

            FC Buffalo’s City United Initiative works with any person or group who wants to bring free or cost-minimized soccer to the Western New York region and aims to elevate top underserved talents to the top teams and programs in the area.

            Nick Mendola, a writer for NBC sports, board member of the West Side soccer club and owner of FC Buffalo, said the West Side organization has been inspiring from the start.

            “West Side has been doing the right thing ever since they have existed," Mendola said. "Matteo, Amanda, Graham, and everyone there are just the sort of people that you want to work with. Frankly, I think one of the things about groups like them, who start and very much grow into what they are as a labor of love, working with them is very inspiring. The odds are all of the things that they want to do are worth doing.”

            Though Covid-19 shut down many programs, the West Side club live on, operating withint the Buffalo Public School system.. The leaders want to be as adaptable as possible with the West Side residents' needs. The organization  tends to be one of the more popular options for students within the district to pick from. Whether it’s a weekday or weekend program, they will continue to provide as much as they can for soccer lovers on the West Side.  



Thursday, December 7, 2023

InnBuffalo hosts first-ever Christmas Market

Manager Zena Bliss readies a Christmas tree at  InnBuffalo off Elmwood, 619 Lafayette Ave., in preparation for the hotel's Christmas Market to be held from 11 a.m.- 6 p.m. on Dec. 9. Visitors will be able to shop at 15 vendors while enjoying complimentary hot chocolate and mulled wine. Tarot card readings will add to the fun. This will be the first-ever Christmas Market at InnBuffalo, the 1898 Victorian mansion named for its first owner, Herbert H. Hewitt, a Buffalo industrialist. The home was purchased in 2011 by Ellen and Joseph Lettieri and opened as a hotel four years later.  By Ariel Scarbrough


Monday, December 4, 2023

Whole Stories provides more than mental health services

Ashera De Rosa, owner of Whole Stories Therapy at 257 Lafayette St., wants to make therapy accessible for everyone. As a private pay institution, the practice does not need to tangle with insurance companies. Whole Stories Therapy works with organizations throughout the West Side to serve the community. With services such as therapy, sex education, and Narcan training, Whole Stories Therapy is more than just another practice in the area; it is a service to the community. By Andrew Forsyth

Friday, December 1, 2023

Waterkeeper in step with state to eliminate plastic litter

 By Angela Caico

     In the latest step towards cleaner waters, a lawsuit against PepsiCo Inc.  was filed by the New York Attorney General on Nov. 15 for playing a significant role in the plastic pollution of the lake bordering Buffalo.

     The lawsuit is the result of extensive research done by the Attorney General in collaboration with Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper, an organization that seeks to restore and maintain Western New York’s freshwater shoreline. Each spring, Buffalo Niagara Waterkeeper works with hundreds of volunteers to conduct a shoreline sweep, and the majority of the litter they recover is composed of plastic. Last year, that plastic was predominantly traced back to PepsiCo.

    “People shouldn’t have to worry about microplastics in their water, garbage in their communities, and a lower quality of life all because of rampant trash and plastic garbage throughout the Buffalo River,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James.

     Assemblymember Jon Rivera said that he remembers coming to Canalside when he was a kid, and it’s one of his favorite places to take his children to now. He credits the work of Waterkeeper for making it one of Buffalo’s most beautiful sights to visit. He agrees that also includes the help of policy leaders and holding contributing corporations accountable. 

    “At the end of the day, people that produce things have a responsibility for the things that they produce,” Rivera said.

    The lawsuit is the most recent action taken in Waterkeeper's commitment to its vision of a litter-free water source in the city. Emily Dyett, Waterkeeper community engagement project manager, said that the two key components of accomplishing this goal are data collection and policy.

    Dyett said that the West Side is especially affected by this pollution because it is one of the most densely populated areas next to the water. The mouth of Scajaquada, just off Niagara Street on the West Side, is one of the most polluted sites due to sewer overflow and trash coming down from four municipalities including Lancaster.

    During the sweep and all year round, volunteers are encouraged to track the types of trash they recover within the Clean Swell app, a mobile app started by the Ocean Conservancy. This collection of data infinitely equips organizations like Waterkeeper with the numbers needed to fight for things such as policy changes.

    For example, in 2020 New York State banned plastic bags. Prior to this, plastic bags were one of the most collected items from the Buffalo River. Now, Dyett said, it’s one of the least.

     “The power of litter data can be used well beyond that one day that you pick it up,” Dyett said.


Thursday, November 30, 2023

Tree lighting to highlight shopping season

In preparation for the year’s busiest shopping season, Sales Associate Cassidy Kozub of Sunshine & Bluebirds 798 Elmwood Ave., arranges a festive display to get shoppers in the holiday spirit. Elmwood Village is home to many small businesses that have special sales this month. To kick off the holiday season on Dec. 5, the Elmwood Village Association and Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church will host caroling and a visit from Kris Kringle beginning at 3 p.m. followed by a holiday tree lighting ceremony at 6 p.m. at the church, 875 Elmwood Ave. By Kelly Ackerman

W. S. Community Services to benefit from podcast party

Jim Tamol and The Square podcast have selected the West Side Community Services to be the beneficiary of the podcast’s third annual Christmas party. “We’re grateful to The Square Podcast for choosing West Side Community Services as the recipient of the proceeds of their annual Christmas party,” said Mary Schaefer, director. “Their donation will go toward things like enriching after-school programs for K-6, the West Side Teens programs, and the adult program for folks 55 and up. All programs that work to make the West Side  a better healthier and more connected place to live," Schaefer said. The Square is a culture,  politics, and economic podcast covering Western New York. The Christmas party will be held from 7-10 p.m., Dec. 8 at Armory Restaurant, 311 Connecticut St. Admission is $40 for food a drink and the live show. By Michael Mueller



Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Annual Anti-Displacement Summit set for Dec. 9

 Leighton Jones, communication director for Our City Action Buffalo, is preparing for the 5th annual Anti-Displacement Summit in partnership with PUSH Buffalo.  The  Summit will be held from 10 a.m. - 3 p.m., Dec. 9 at Trinity Episcopal Church, 371 Delaware Ave. The event gives community members insight on issues taking place within the community. The event will consist of several workshops and discussions on topics such as immigration, education, and transportation. PUSH will be hosting workshops and discussions on affordable housing and climate. There also will be a panel discussion on last year’s blizzard and a memorial held for the lives that were lost during the blizzard. “This year we want to have an emergency plan. Are there going to be emergency services in place? Are we going to have emergency vehicles and things of that nature to ensure our community is safe in the future,” Jones said. Reservations requested. By George McClendon, Jr.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Community Beer's blue brew supports Special Olympics


Lindsay Pike, a bartender at Community Beer Works, 520 7th St., on drops off a cold and crisp pilsner with quite an interesting color. This special beer is Polar Plunge Pilsner, created to support the Polar Plunge on Dec. 2 at Woodlawn Beach State Park. All proceeds from the sale of the beer will benefit the Special Olympics. Chris Groves, marketing director at Community Beer Works, described the beer as a blue raspberry pilsner. "We made a special batch of beer for this event. Come down and try the beer, you have never seen a beer like this before,” Groves said. The beer is on tap at Community Beer Works and is available at any Fattey Beer Co. store. By Joseph Cali

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Folwell Apartments settling in old Children's Hospital


Folwell Senior Apartments an affordable apartment building owned and operated by People Inc. for adults 62 and older. The apartments were opened in July in the maternity building of the former Women & Children’s Hospital, 140 Hodge Ave., part of the larger Elmwood Crossing project. People Inc.'s Chief Innovation and  Program Development Officer Concetta Ferguson says seven out of the 44 units are set aside for medically frail homeless individuals. By: Ariel Scarbrough

Esports joins athletic programs at local colleges

By Andrew Forsyth

A pastime that has been held to the bedrooms and basements of teenagers now makes its way onto the college campus as an equal to football, hockey, and other regularly offered sports. With many universities adopting the new sport, students have a new avenue when applying to schools.

Esports has grown throughout the nation and has become a regular offering at many universities in the country. The National Association of College Esports boasts over 200 schools nationwide on its website.

The introduction of esports benefits students, although it also benefits the universities. The ability to entice online students with an organization they can be involved in increases recruitment and retention.

“It brings in students,” Mark Alicea, advisor and coach of D’Youville University esports, said.

Canisius is working to drive retention and recruitment efforts directly through the esports programs on campus.

“It is going to be a big play moving forward, especially as it starts to build and move forward,” said Nick Stenzel, assistant athletic director of athletic facilities at Canisius University.

            Three esports programs are operating in various phases between D’Youville, Canisius, and Buffalo State University. The biggest of the three is at D’Youville, which recently opened a new state-of-the-art eSports arena.

            The $200,000 project, funded by Spectrum Enterprises, pushes the college to the forefront of esports in Buffalo. D’Youville participates in two leagues, the East Coast Conference league against schools in the region, as well as in the NACE.

            “We also play in the NACE, a national eSports conference, against many different schools,” Alicea said.

            These schools include the likes of the University of Georgia and Florida State. He added that there are 1,300 schools in just D’Youville’s division alone.

            D’Youville offers games, including Overwatch 2, Rocket League and Valorant. As well it is adding new teams in multiple different games. It also holds internal Madden leagues for any students on campus.

            Canisius invested in esports early on. The esports program has been around since 2018 and is looking to grow.

            Canisius has built its program from the ground floor and grown the program and esports in the area over the past five years. The school took advantage of an uptick in gaming, specifically online in specific communities, and wanted to add that sense of community on Campus.

            Canisius plays in the Mid-American Conference. The gamers play side by side in the same divisions as the athletes of the traditional sports of football, hockey, and other offered sports. The organization is recognized as a club team, although there is also a travel team to attend matches in the conference area.

            Though esports is not quite at the level of football or other traditional sports at Canisius, in the last few years, it has seen growth in the member size and hopes to expand that number even more.

            “Last year, we had about 30 individuals on the roster. We’ve almost doubled that this year; we’re at 55,” Stenzel said. “We will take roughly 28 to 30 individuals to the MAC Championship in March.”

            Canisius offers an esports lab on campus grounds with 10 state-of-the-art PCs and gear to go along with it. Canisius has League of Legends, Valorant, and Rocket League for league play.

            Buffalo State offers an esports option, though it is still in its infancy. Buffalo State is focused on building the foundations without real space for an esports lab or facility for now.

            “There are challenges obviously of having a space dedicated to esports right now, but we are just trying to find a lot of the resources we can use here at Buffalo State to make sure this program is efficient,” Fardan Allen, assistant director of student leadership and engagement at Buffalo State, said.

            The program now offers an NBA 2K tournament, Smash Bros tournaments, and competing with other SUNY teams. The program also pays for membership to compete in the Eastern Conference Athletic Conference, which includes teams outside the SUNY conference.

            The Buffalo State organization looks to Canisius and D’Youville and other established programs outside the area as a blueprint for success. The goal remains to find a dedicated space on campus for eSports.

            The organization just needs a starting point. Fardan Allen said it doesn’t need fancy computers right now but rather a place for the students to congregate and play games without needing to reserve time and lug around equipment.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Work on Wilson Park to continue through winter

By Joseph Cali

            In the rust belt city of Buffalo, New York, terms like “State of the Art” and “World Class” are not necessarily what you would hear paired with many public amenities in the area.

            Terms like these have been constantly referenced when speaking of the new and improved LaSalle Park, now named the Ralph Wilson Jr. Centennial Park.

            Changes are now visible in the park as construction has been underway for the past

few months. The core facilities of the park are closed, but the skate park, temporary dog park on

4th Street, and football field remain open for residents to use.

            “We are looking at 2025 for the park to be open. Construction started in July of 2023 and they are working at a really fast clip to make sure that the park is completed by the end of 2025,”

Katie Campos, executive director of the Ralph Wilson Park Conservancy, said.

            A project of this magnitude comes at a cost of $110 million. That is where the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation came in, Fillmore District Councilmember Mitch Nowakowski, whose district includes the park, said.

            “While, yes, it is a heavy price tag, being partnered with the Ralph Wilson Park Conservancy helps us foot the hefty bill for the state-of-the-art park,” Nowakowski said.

            The foundation is not the only big donor helping to foot the bill. Major League Baseball has contributed and additional $1 million to help enhance the quality of the baseball fields and other sports fields throughout the park.

            Campos said the combination of funding will create a park with world-class amenities, the likes of which Buffalo has not yet experienced."

            A project like this requires a very cohesive construction plan to obtain all of these goals and provide a world class experience in such a short amount of time. Kelly Maloney, senior project manager at Gilbane Building Co., contractor on the project, said the project is in the first of three phases, which consists of work on the shoreline, underground utilities, electric and the access bridge from the West Side to the park.

            The recent mild weather has allowed Gilbane to conduct in-water work at the shoreline, which is progressing well, she said.

            "Crews are also working on the stormwater drainage system, which can be continued throughout the winter months. Crews are now installing drainage structures, such as manholes and pipes. We are planning to conduct underground utility work in the winter months along with the bridge abutment work,” Maloney said.

            The newly redesigned park is going to have resounding effects on the City of Buffalo and, specifically, the West Side.

            “We are excited to bring that world-class experience so when people come it is safe, welcoming and a lot of fun," Campos said. "Also, for people to feel invited to play and hang out with these world-class amenities that are just going to create a higher standard going forward.”


West Side warming centers prepare for winter

Asarese-Matters Community Center, 50 Reese St.

The City of Buffalo recently revealed its 2023-2024 Winter Snow Plan, which includes nine warming shelters, two of which are located on the West Side. Both locations, Asarese-Matters Community Center at 50 Reese St. and West Side Community Services at 161 Vermont St., are waiting to receive provisions including water, Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), and a new generator. According to the Snow Plan, critical facilities, including the warming sites, take priority on the plow schedule. They will open as instructed by the city, dependent on the weather. Asarese-Matters employee Jamel Dar says this location is scarcely utilized by community residents as a place of refuge from the frigid temperatures. Last winter, no one showed up. “We didn’t get a single person,” he said. “And during the bad storms that we had, people were unable to get around.” By Angela Caico

West Side Community Services, 161 Vermont St.


Protect pets from holiday hazards

The holidays are a wonderful time for all, but they can be dangerous for pets due to the abundance of new and toxic items in our homes during this time. JJ Johnson, a pet sitter serving the West Side,  reminds pet owners to stay up to date on their pet’s safety and care, as well as knowing where to go to find out more.  By Kelly Ackerman

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

Mr. Sizzles adding a location in Clarence

Chris and Casey Casas, owners of Mister Sizzles, are taking their unique burgers and chicken sandwiches, such as the Sizzle and the W.S. Hot Stinger” that are staples on the West Side to Clarence. Chris and Casey have nearly 50 years of experience from bartending and working in other restaurants before opening their own on 346 Connecticut St. In the short period they have been open, Mister Sizzles has experienced tremendous growth and success, to the point where they were featured on an episode of “Best in Chow” on A&E this year. Mister Sizzle’s expansion to Clarence will feature an outdoor bar, outdoor patio, and a game room for children. The project has been delayed, but it is expected to open in 2024. Their location on Connecticut Street will remain open, serving people everyday from 11 a.m.-11 p.m. By George McClendon

D'Youville promoted to Division II, adds amenities

D'Youville University is one of three universities on the West Side and it has now officially become a Division II school. D’Youville is the second university in the Buffalo area to make the Division III to Division II jump after Daemen University in 2015. Andy Rogacki, assistant athletic director for Athletic Communications, says many of the upgraded

amenities include a state-of-the-art weight room and other facilities that come with the promotion from Division III to Division II.  By Joseph Cali

Sunday, November 12, 2023

da Vinci awaits move to Buffalo State University in 2025


Buckham Hall at Buffalo State University is the future site of Leonardo da Vinci High School

By Ariel Scarbrough

    Leonardo da Vinci High School has moved out of D'Youville University and is in temporary quarters at School 8 on E. Utica Street while waiting to move to Buffalo State University in the coming years.

    Renovations have not yet begun at Buffalo State's Buckham Hall, the former Campus West School, but Buffalo Schools officials believe the move will take place in about two years.

    “Buffalo Public Schools and Buffalo State University are partnering to relocate the approximately 400 students attending Leonardo da Vinci High School to Buckham Hall after renovations are anticipated to be completed in 2025,” Buffalo Public Schools Public Relations Director Jeffrey Hammond said.

     Da Vinci had been located within D’Youville for 30 years when then university decided it would no longer accommodate the high school. The partnership ended in June.

     “Buffalo State can confirm it is working with Buffalo Public Schools on opening the Leonardo da Vinci High School on the Buffalo State University campus,” Buffalo State University Director of Communication and Content Strategy Geoffrey Nason said. 

    Da Vinci is a college preparatory school in the Buffalo Public School system. It is known for high academic achievement that included a 100% graduation rate last year. It is anticipated that this year's graduation rate will be 99%.

    As a college preparatory high school, da Vinci has been fortunate to be physically located on a college campus. 

    The decision to locate da Vinci at Buffalo State was finalized by the New York State Legislature. on Oct. 25.

Leonardo da Vinci Principal Grogry Lodinsky

    “District officials were meeting with college and university representatives from throughout the area to determine their interest and their ability to accommodate a high school on their campus.” Gregory Lodinsky, da Vinci’s principal said.

    Buffalo State has not started the process of renovating, but da Vinci will be housed within Buckham Hall and use the first floor and third floor, the auditorium, and the gym. The building is used currently for university classroom and is the site of several academic departments.

     “What I am looking forward to most with the move to Buffalo State is the educational opportunities," Lodinsky said.  

     Da Vinci will have the full-on real college experience by walking through the college campus, taking classes with college students, and being taught by college professors. The students of da Vinci also have the option of taking co-credit college courses taught by da Vinci teachers.

    The college courses the students will be taking will be free of charge. The objective for the students is that by the time the da Vinci students graduate they will earn enough credits to cover their first year of college.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Provisions 139 pantry now open at new location

Mary Schaefer, director of operations at West Side Community Services, stocks shelves at the new Provisions 139 location at 44 Breckenridge St. Provisions 139 is open twice a week every week on Wednesdays 12-3 p.m. and Thursdays, 5-7 p.m. The pantry is open to anyone living in zip codes 14201, 14209, 14213, and 14222. To register you will need a photo ID and a proof of address. There is also a diaper bank available for thsoe with proof of birth certificate for a child under three years old. If you register to shop you can come into the pantry twice a month, once every two weeks. The space is two times the size of the previous location, and Provisions is working with Nourish New York as well. “Because we have this money from Nourish NY, we now have a much wider group of suppliers,” Schaefer said. To donate or volunteer, contact Provisions 139 at By Andrew Forsyth


Tuesday, November 7, 2023

Free Narcan training Saturdays at Lafayette Center


Every third Saturday of the month, residents can attend free Narcan training at 257 Lafayette Center. The training is the result of a three-way partnership between the site’s tenants, Whole Stories Therapy, Queer City Therapy and Western New York Mobile Overdose Prevention Services. WNY Mobile OPS CEO Rashone Scott-Williams says although it’s important to learn how to administer Narcan, prevention is also a key factor in avoiding an overdose death. “We also give participants something so that they can test the drug before they consume it,” she said. The training is held from 1:30-3:30 p.m. at the center, 257 Lafayette Ave., Suite 103, is free to attend and does not require registration. By Angela Caico

Friday, November 3, 2023

Stitch Buffalo heads to new home in 2024


Dawne Hoeg, founder and executive director of Stitch Buffalo, is excited for the opportunities the  new Stitch Buffalo location will bring in the future. What started out as an embroidery shop for refugee women on the West Side has grown to become a diverse textile arts center. It has grown so much throughout its nine years of being in business to the point where the organization has outgrown its 1,500-square-foot store on Niagara Street.  The new location will be at 284 Plymouth Ave. Stitch Buffalo will occupy the first floor, which is 4,800 square feet.  The construction has begun and is expected to be completed in early 2024. Stitch Buffalo has launch a capital campaign to fund the new location. By George McClendon

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

New W.S. Bazaar offers business services for vendors


Yanush Sanmugaraja, senior director of Economic Development with the West Side Bazaar, says the bazaar offers its WEDI entrepreneurs business workshops and services such as accounting. The workshops and training include support for business plan development, building a social media presence, and creating monthly financial statements. The new West Side Bazaar,  1432 Niagara St., is running its long-awaited  grand opening celebration until Nov. 4. The celebration includes the opening of eight restaurants and four retail businesses. The new location has two floors with space for 24 businesses and 82 cafĂ© seats. By Brittany Whalen

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Ujima Theatre program puts kids on center stage


Three young actors are taking a break from rehearsal for the original play they wrote and will perform at Ujima Theatre, 429 Plymouth Ave., this fall. Dunbar Theatre Arts Youth Program is an after-school performing-arts program teaching kids ages 12-18 how to sing, dance and act. The company is known for its traditional African and African-American storytelling but includes aspects of Puerto Rico, Iraq and other cultures. At the end of the program, the kids get to perform in front of friends, family, and staff. "What the Dunbar project wants our students to take away is confidence. Confidence in their abilities. Confidence in themselves and what they bring into every room,” Program Director Gabriella McKinley says. By Ariel Scarbrough