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WNED-TV consistently ranks among the most-watched U.S. public television stations in prime time. Our popular line-up draws from PBS and various other sources, including the BBC and American Public Television. As a leading producer of single-topic documentaries, our national and regional broadcasts have been seen by millions of people across the continent, stimulating cultural and heritage tourism to the Buffalo/Niagara/Toronto region.
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Jennifer is a small town girl with big ideas for her rural community of Gowanda, NY. It’s where she was born, has chosen to raise her children, and remains committed to giving back by serving as a leader in her community supporting the needs of children.
“There are kids in our community, and I’m sure in every community, that may not have the guidance at home. If I can provide that, or my team can provide that - our positivity and our motivation can help guide those kids to, to want to be better for themselves and to be better for their community? That, for me, is the purpose.” It’s a true passion for Jennifer, she explains.
As the president of the Gowanda Boosters and school board member, her focus is on creating events like the Gowanda Community Spirit Parade, the Gowanda Town Golf Tournament, Crouse 5K Challenge, among other opportunities, where all sectors of the town can come together as one for the benefit of the children, and increase town pride. People from the community see Jennifer as a game changer and someone who gets things done.
She says the best towns work to preserve their traditions while embracing change – and that’s not always easy to do. Jennifer believes working together is what makes a community stronger and that’s how you can truly make a difference.
She talks about how everyone should get involved. “You don’t necessarily have to be the president of your boosters to make a difference. Everyone on our team brings something to the table, and we couldn’t do it without each and every one of them.”
Learn more about Jennifer and the impact the Gowanda Boosters have made in their community. Visit their facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/Gowanda-Boosters-Club-284386705095832/info/?tab=page_info.
Contact your local school district to find out more about local booster clubs and how you can get involved - or learn more about starting your own here: http://www.boosterclubs.org/.
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While using their skills and talents to address a need, neither Christine nor Robin would’ve taken this risk on their own. Instead, they combined their efforts and created Danceability, Inc. – a dance studio designed specifically to teach children and adults with special needs throughout Western New York. Together they wanted to create a place where dance and fitness would be open to all.
Robin and Christine spoke passionately about what drives them. “Everyone categorizes them by their disabilities. Let’s find their abilities. And you have to have that creative mind to do so,” says Robin Bishop. Christine is quick to add that thinking outside the box and keeping an open mind is key. “I would say that it’s definitely the creative piece that allows you to help them, those dancers, to express themselves, to find something that they enjoy that other people in the community enjoy as well.”
In the last eight years, they’ve served hundreds in the community by providing an opportunity for entire families to see their loved ones grow and succeed through movement and dance. Parents like Sandy Carroccia and caregivers are thankful for this added support. “It’s awesome to see her light up and say, I did something, I did something that other kids can do.” For Sandy and her daughter Elena, a traditional dance studio left them both feeling defeated. “She’s tried regular dance in, you know, a regular dance studio and it was just tough to keep up,” says Sandy. At Danceability, Robin and Christine meet Elena where she’s at – and then challenge her going forward. And Mom couldn’t be happier. “They’ve opened up a whole new world for them. They’ve given them experiences. They’ve given them courage. They’ve given them confidence.“
For both Christine and Robin, the impact they have with the special needs community has made the greatest difference in their own lives. To find out more about Robin Bishop, Christine Dwyer, and their work, visit http://www.danceabilityinc.com/
More than a decade ago, Joe DeMarco’s hobby as a pilot gave him the opportunity to help someone in need. All he knew at the time was that a family needed transportation. At the airport, he was greeted by a woman and her 2-year old son, Hans, who was battling cancer. Flying Hans for necessary medical treatment opened his eyes to the need so many families have. Suddenly, this self-proclaimed materialistic pilot, began to see the true value in helping others. Joe DeMarco now helps the sick or injured through his love of flying by providing critical transportation for FREE. He created WINGS – Flights of Hope, and flies missions almost every day. More than 20 pilots also volunteer their own services and aircraft to WINGS. The families who benefit are incredibly grateful for Joe’s contribution, yet Joe feels like he’s the one who benefits. He credits these children and families with changing HIS life and giving it purpose. We caught up with him at an annual BBQ fundraiser for WINGS.
“I was in construction, wanted to build everything, wanted to buy everything, was real materialistic. And when you go every day and see people that want just the simple things in life you take for granted, to be able to breathe and, like we’re doing tonight, we’re eating, we’re swallowing, all the simple things, walking, and it really makes you look at life a lot differently,” says Joe. “I’ve done, oh, I think it’s getting close to 2,000 missions. It’s just so rewarding to be able to do something you love to do and take your passion for something and make a difference in someone’s life. I consider myself blessed to be able to do that.“
During production, we were able to see first-hand how Joe makes a difference in this community. We were also able to accompany Joe on a flight to pick up a family from Sloan-Kettering Memorial Hospital where young 2 year-old Jonah receives cancer treatments for neuroblastoma. And at his annual BBQ, several families were eager to speak with us including Tim Day, who received a heart transplant, and young 14 year old-Luke, who received a double lung transplant. The Gabel family also made quite an impression as they talked about their daughter Piper, who suffers a rare bone disease only 300 people in the world have. Even with all of our wonderful medical facilities here, treatment for her doesn’t exist in Western New York. Joe and WINGS take care of getting her where she needs to go and have taken a huge financial burden off the family’s shoulders.
Joe’s main goal is to increase the awareness about the service he can provide to families and he counts on support from the entire community to do this work. Find out how you can help. Visit http://www.wingsflight.org/
Diann has two loves – the health and welfare of children, and her passion to serve the Lord. She lives by the notion that if she works to see a need, she’ll also find a way to fill it. Just a few years ago, the Center for Disease Control published a study that looked at rates of initiation and duration of breastfeeding mothers across races in America. The results showed an alarmingly low percentage of African American women were breastfeeding their children – almost half when compared to the numbers of Caucasian women. So, the CDC began awarding grants in local communities to create educational programs to support young African-American mothers and teach them about the benefits of breastfeeding their babies. Diann felt called to do this very important work and open the Durham Central City Baby Café. Since opening in 2013, more than 180 babies (and moms) have benefitted from the café.
It’s often said that knowledge is power. Diann is seeing that power realized first-hand. “And the other thing that I’m finding out is that, we do better when we know better, so if we give them research-based information, a light bulb goes off in their head, and this is something that they desire to do for their babies,” Diann says of the women who visit the café.
Every week at the Baby Café, families – not just mothers and children, receive support, instruction, a nutritious meal, and fellowship with each other. This is an opportunity to change the lives of these families, one mother and child at a time.
Since we filmed Diann’s story, she’s retired from a long career as a social worker for the New York State Office of Children and Family Services. This gives her more time to spend working on the Baby Café, and spreading the message about this amazing service offered to the mothers and families of Buffalo. And it’s perfect timing. The start-up grant has long been spent and the goal of the Baby Café has switched to one of sustainability. They are always looking for people who’d like to help. Be sure to find more information about Durham's Central City Baby Café and the Garden of Stewardship/Central City Café on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/GardenofStewardship
On a mission trip to Europe in the mid 1990’s, Amy had a life-changing experience - what she describes as a call from God to serve those in need. Always a person who works to give back, this trip was a pivotal and defining moment for her future purpose here in Western New York. Amy sold all her worldly possessions, and with her friend Norm Paolini, bought a church in one of the most crime rid and poor sections of Buffalo on the east side. St. Luke’s Mission of Mercy is the result of that calling, and daily addresses the needs of the community by providing the seven corporal works of mercy – to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to clothe the naked, give shelter to the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, and bury the dead. Every day these works are carried out by Amy, Norm, 15 missionaries, and hundreds of St. Luke’s volunteers.
On our tour of St. Luke’s, Amy spent a lot of time talking about the need that’s out there, and focused on a growing segment of the population – the working poor. These are families who still struggle to provide basic necessities for their families. St. Luke’s serves them with compassion and dignity.
Amy says, “Our goal is to make people feel good about coming here, not feeling that it is a handout or that they’re second-class citizens, but that this is a gift and it’s a means for them to better themselves and survive.”
St. Luke’s has continued this work for more than twenty years. The future of the mission remains focused on improving the neighborhood in the form of housing. Most recently, this means building Gospa Village – twelve homes for women and children, plus a community center for everyone to enjoy. Three homes are built so far, and St. Luke’s is working hard to see that the entire project stays on track. Amy welcomes all the help she can get and is quick to remind us that you can simply join the effort in whatever way you are able. That makes all the difference. Find out more at http://www.stlukesmissionofmercy.org/
Funding for If Our Water Could Talk is provided by HSBC and Honeywell. With additional funding from The Joy Family Foundation, Lawley Insurance and The Baird Foundation.
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