Monday, 05 January 2015 20:13

Making A Difference - John Mika

Listen to John Mika's radio story from WBFO

John Mika, a retired auto worker at GM for 30 years, went back to school and received his teaching degree. His hope was to begin a hybrid retirement as a substitute teacher. Upon entering classrooms throughout Western New York, and particularly in the city of Buffalo, John realized students and teachers were lacking basic supplies. He felt moved to find an answer to this problem.

Through active volunteer work with Kingdom Bound ministries over the years, John was aware he had a gift. No one could say no to him. He had run programs for them, secured donations, and knew how to manage volunteers. That work paid off as he created The Teacher’s Desk. The Hein Company donated the building and John secured donations of school supplies from local and national companies. With only $800 out of pocket and the hard work of 200 volunteers, the Teacher’s Desk became a reality – and is now more than John ever imagined. This past school year, they supplied teachers with more than $2.6 million dollars in free school supplies.

“It was only a week or two after we opened the store that I realized that the vision was really much bigger than that when I had teachers walking the aisles crying. And normal school supplies, teachers spend between $500, $700, some up to $1,000 annually on their children, out of their own pockets. Uh, it’s not supplied to them. They spend it themselves because teachers care. They’re a passionate lot.”

John runs the Teacher’s Desk with a dedicated group of volunteers. That has become his secondary mission – to provide an opportunity for people to give back to their community.

“There’s always work to do at The Desk. We’re always looking for volunteers. And, the neat thing about it is, it’s not just busywork. There’s a purpose for you here. We’re always looking for help.”

To find out how you can help John, visit:





Learn how you can make a diference here.


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Published in Outreach & Education
Monday, 05 January 2015 20:04

Making A Difference - Janet DiPasquale

Listen to Janet DiPasquale's radio story from WBFO

Sister Janet DiPasquale finds joy and fulfillment in helping young homeless teenage girls by running a program called TRY, or Teaching and Restoring Youth.

Standing all of 5 feet tall, this tiny woman exudes a no-nonsense attitude combined with enormous spirit. She’s a woman whose purpose is to help those in need, and in her words, considers it a calling.

“My life has always been directed as working with the poor and marginalized and less fortunate, and so I saw this program as a really, uh, important piece for women helping women, and I wanted to be a part of it."

During her 15 years at TRY, Janet has offered 16-23 year old girls the “Mother” they are desperate for. These are girls who have been abused physically or sexually, and have nowhere to go. Often they have been involved in human trafficking and sometimes arrive with only the clothes on their backs, but a lot of emotional baggage. Hundreds of girls have called this former convent on the East side “home” and can stay up to 2 years, spending their time getting the support and love they need in a safe environment that provides them educational opportunities and a sense of community.

“The other thing is to teach them independent living skills, to teach them how to take care of themselves, to teach them how to deal with conflict, with anger, issues around self-esteem. So, it’s a program that embraces all those things.”

Janet doesn’t live with the girls – its run by staff and volunteers, but is there full time to oversee the administrative side of this non-profit organization, while serving as a role model for these young women. She believes we all have a responsibility to understand that this kind of homelessness exists in our community and we can do something about it.

How can you make an impact and help these girls? Visit


Learn how you can make a diference here.



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Monday, 05 January 2015 19:34

Making A Difference - Aaron Bartley

Listen to Aaron Bartley's radio story from WBFO

Aaron Bartley, Co-Founder of PUSH Buffalo (People United for Sustainable Housing) has long been a supporter of Buffalo.

“You know, I think Buffalo is a city that you can really, um, romanticize and fall in love with.” He says. Even though he spent some years exploring other areas of the country, the Queen city – and a specific area kept calling him back. Why? The people needed his help.

While in Boston practicing law, he researched programs designed to improve communities based on educating and empowering the citizens of those neighborhoods. Aaron brought that knowledge back to Buffalo and with Co-Founder Eric Walker, they began PUSH. Since 2005, this neighborhood centered non-profit organization has worked to improve the lives of residents in a 20 square block section of the west side of Buffalo, New York. They work to acquire properties, renovate, restore, and in some cases completely rebuild. Then they turn that into affordable housing for people in the neighborhood. We caught up with Aaron last summer at one of 25 active construction sites.

“Well, there’s one at the end of the corner right here. Um, there’s one at the end of that block. And then there’s this one. So, so we have, you know, on this part of the west side, pretty much every block has at least one of those projects, and these are buildings, we’re not cherry picking, you know, the best homes. These are the homes that have been vacant for the w-, the longest period of time. I’ve seen some of the, you know, the greatest devastation. For us, they still have huge historic character. They also are huge in the sense that they can become worksites. We’re employing people from this neighborhood to fix them up, uh, make them assets for the community again.”

For Aaron, it’s all about empowering the residents and helping them develop their own leadership skills. In addition to creating safe, affordable housing, PUSH opened the Grant Street Neighborhood Center and hosts functions designed to bring the community together. To find out more about Aaron Bartley and the efforts of his organization, visit


Learn how you can make a diference here.



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Learn how to reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.


Although people with diabetes can prevent or delay complications by keeping blood glucose (also called blood sugar) levels close to normal, preventing or delaying the development of type 2 diabetes in the first place is even better. The results of a major federally funded study, the Diabetes Prevention Program, prove that we can prevent or delay the disease. This study of 3,234 people at high risk for diabetes showed that moderate diet and exercise, resulting in a 5- to 7-percent weight loss, can delay and possibly prevent type 2 diabetes.

The study tested three approaches to preventing diabetes: making lifestyle changes, taking a diabetes pill, or following the standard diabetes education approach. People in the lifestyle change group exercised about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week, usually by walking, and they lowered their intake of fat and calories. Those who took the diabetes pill metformin received standard information on exercise and diet. These approaches were compared with the third group who only received the standard information on exercise and diet and took a placebo—a pill without medicine in it.

The results showed that people in the lifestyle change group reduced their risk of getting type 2 diabetes by 58 percent. Average weight loss in the first year of the study was 15 pounds. Lifestyle change was even more effective in those 60 years and older. They reduced their risk by 71 percent. People who took metformin and received standard information on exercise and diet reduced their risk by 31 percent.

Even though controlling your weight with lifestyle changes is challenging, it produces long-term health rewards by lowering your risk for type 2 diabetes, lowering your blood glucose levels, and reducing other risk factors for heart disease.

The American Diabetes Association has information on how you can lower your risk for type 2 diabetes by58% by:

Don't worry if you can't get to your ideal body weight. Losing even 10 to 15 pounds can make a huge difference.


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Published in Outreach & Education
Thursday, 18 December 2014 14:44

Target Prevention - Diet and Physical Activity


Learn more about creating a healthy diet and increasing physical activity.

Improving what you eat and being active will improve your health and help to reduce your risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, some cancers and obesity.

Creating a Healthy Diet

Foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products and lean proteins contain the nutrients your body needs without too many calories.

Try some of these tips for creating a healthier diet:

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
  • Try to eat red, orange and dark-green vegetables, such as tomatoes, sweet potatoes and broccoli, in main and side dishes.
  • Turn to nature’s original fast foods—fruits and vegetables when you snack.
  • Switch to skim or 1% milk. They have the same amount of calcium and other essential nutrients as whole milk, but less fat and calories.
  • Try calcium-fortified soy products as an alternative to dairy foods.
  • Make at least half of your plate whole grains. Choose 100% whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice and pasta.
  • Vary your lean protein. Two-three times a week, make seafood the protein on your plate.
  • Eat beans, which are a natural source of fiber and protein.
  • Keep meat and poultry portions small and lean.
  • Choose foods and drinks with little or no added sugars. Water is always great choice. There are about 10 packets of sugar in a 12-ounce can of soda.
  • Look out for salt (sodium) in foods—it all adds up. Too much sodium can increase your blood pressure.
  • Make major sources of saturated fats—such as cakes, cookies, ice cream, pizza, cheese, sausages, and hot dogs—occasional choices, not every day foods.
  • Try to avoid processed foods.
  • Learn to understand and use nutrition facts labels. Use food labels to help you make better choices. Check for calories. Be sure to look at the serving size and how many servings you are actually consuming. If you double the servings you eat, you double the calories. Choose foods with lower calories, saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. Check for added sugars using the ingredients list. When a sugar is close to first on the ingredients list, the food is high in added sugars. Some names for added sugars include sucrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, maple syrup, and fructose.
  • Get your personal daily calorie target at and keep that number in mind when deciding what to eat.
  • Cook more often at home where you are in control of what’s in your food.
  • When eating out look for healthy options. You can also try to make your selection even healthier by asking for sauces and dressings on the side, requesting substitutions like a side of steamed vegetables instead of fries or by saving part your portion for another meal.
  • Keep a food diary to help you keep track of what you eat.
  • Avoid oversized portions.
  • Consider using a smaller plate, bowl or glass.

Be Physically Active

Physical activity is anything that gets your body moving. Adults need at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity (i.e., brisk walking) every week and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days of the week. 150 minutes a week may sound like a lot of time, but it’s about the same amount of time (2 hours and 30 minutes) you might spend watching a movie. Pick activities that you like and start by doing what you can, at least 10 minutes at a time. Every little bit adds up, and the health benefits increase as you spend more time being active. More time equals more health benefits. If you go beyond 300 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity, or 150 minutes a week of vigorous-intensity activity, you’ll gain even more health benefits.

Learn more about eating healthy and physical activity from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


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