I’m very fortunate to be part of Leadership Buffalo Class Experience for 2023. (More about Leadership Buffalo: The Leadership Buffalo Class Experience is a year-long program that runs from January through December each year. The program consists of monthly full-day sessions and two overnight retreats. The program is designed for individuals from corporations, small /entrepreneurial businesses, civic and community organizations and non-profits who are currently serving in a leadership role. Through collaborations, community awareness, and civic engagement, we are uniting leaders to take action. Participants explore the challenges, concepts, complexity and practice of leadership around important issues through a series of day sessions.)
We just completed our third day session in April, Criminal and Social Justice Day, and the resources shared really hit me and I’m compelled to share in hopes this may help someone ❤
Family Justice Center – We first heard a speaker who works at the family justice center, and was a victim of domestic violence herself. The Family Justice Center of Erie County provides services and support to individuals in unhealthy relationships, and the education our community needs to break larger cycles of relationship abuse. Our comprehensive and collaborative service model tears down barriers to service, enabling our clients to heal and cultivate hope. The theme of her discussion with us was “knowledge is the real power.” She shared that folks don’t know that they can come to the family justice center and get help with obtaining an order of protection. From there, the center helps with legal services and preparing for court processings. Please visit the website to learn more about their services. She described their cozy, safe, welcoming living room including snacks and a toy room for kids. One of my favorite things she pointed out is that their brochures are all encompassing, including guides for the LGBTQ+ community, animal abuse and more. This way when folks want to pick up a brochure, they aren’t embarrassed or worried about people seeing WHICH brochure they are picking up. I love how this small change helps people feel safer about picking up the information they need.
Peaceprints of WNY – One of our stops during the day was a tour of the Erie County Holding Center which was very interesting. I had never seen anything like it. One thing I saw inside of the holding center was the Project Blue housing pod. We heard from a staff member of Peaceprints later in the day who shared more about Project Blue and its pre-release and post-release programs. She shared stories of how broken the re-entry process to society is for those who have been incarcerated. There is very limited support for when they finish their jail time, and Peaceprints helps them get reacclimatized to society. Some of the pre-release services include cooking classes, parenting classes, employment workshops and more. Some of the post-release services include housing coordination, benefits assistance, and connection to treatment and medical providers.
In the afternoon, we heard from a panel who shared more about the following organizations they were apart of:
GLYS Western New York, Inc: Growing LGBTQ+ Youth Support – GLYS provides a safe and positive environment for LGBTQ+ youth to learn more about themselves through peer interaction and educational experiences. The organization creates opportunities for emotional growth and community awareness. Through GLYS outreach, other agencies learn about and increase their sensitivity to the needs of gender and sexual minority youth. GLYS provides LGBTQ+ youth with positive role models and a safe space, while promoting positive self-esteem and the integration of these youth into the larger community. GLYS can also assist youth and their families by providing resources and referrals. Members range in age from 5-21 and represent many racial, ethnic, religious and class backgrounds.
Project Monas House – Project Mona’s House is a program of Ramp Global Missions, a Christian Humanitarian organization that helps those experiencing homelessness, orphaned, and those exploited through Human Trafficking. Project Mona’s House exists to shed light on the terrible crime of Human Trafficking, restore those who have been victimized, and prevent it from ever happening again through education, legislation, and amplifying our voice until freedom rings for all people… FOREVER! Mona’s House is designed to help women 18 and older who have been victims of any type of human trafficking. WE ARE MORE THAN A SHELTER! Women entering our residence are committed to becoming contributing and functioning members of society, rebuilding their lives, and possibly assisting other women who may choose freedom one day too. Our 12-24 month program is designed to bring healing to the whole woman– mind, body, and soul. We’ve specifically designed our holistic restoration program for women who have been victimized by human trafficking.
B.A.C.A: Bikers Against Child Abuse – Bikers Against Child Abuse, Inc. (B.A.C.A.) exists with the intent to create a safer environment for abused children. We exist as a body of Bikers to empower children to not feel afraid of the world in which they live. We stand ready to lend support to our wounded friends by involving them with an established, united organization. We work in conjunction with local and state officials who are already in place to protect children. We desire to send a clear message to all involved with the abused child that this child is part of our organization, and that we are prepared to lend our physical and emotional support to them by affiliation, and our physical presence. We stand at the ready to shield these children from further abuse. We do not condone the use of violence or physical force in any manner, however, if circumstances arise such that we are the only obstacle preventing a child from further abuse, we stand ready to be that obstacle. I especially liked what the speaker mentioned in terms of appearing in court with children fighting abuse cases. He said one of the children he was working with wanted her offender to feel even more scared in court than he made her feel during the abuse: The sole purpose for our physical presence is to assist the child in being less intimidated and frightened, and subsequently give an accurate testimony regarding their abuse.
I’m looking forward to learning more throughout the year about organizations who support our community members.