Niagara Area Foundation Marks 20 Years of Strengthening the Niagara Region

Buffalo, N.Y. – 2020 marks the 20th anniversary of the Niagara Area Foundation (NAF), a division of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo. Established in 2000 by local community leaders, the NAF is committed to strengthening the Niagara region by addressing critical needs to improve lives in every corner of the county. Through the years, the NAF has supported the arts, civic needs, community development, education, the environment and health and human services with an emphasis on positive youth development.

In early 2020, the Niagara County community, as well as the rest of the world, faced an unimaginable pandemic. The NAF was one of the first foundations in Western New York to support the WNY COVID-19 Community Response Fund with instructions for those charitable dollars to benefit Niagara County. The Response Fund, a collaborative effort including more than 40 foundations, awarded more than $1.2 million for immediate needs grants to organizations serving on the frontlines in Niagara County. Additionally, NAF Council members served on a group of community advisors that helped disperse microgrants to grassroots organizations in Niagara County from the Response Fund.

“The Niagara Area Foundation’s ability to step in during a crisis and support organizations making a difference in our community is the reason we were founded 20 years ago,” said Bruce Elliott, chair of the NAF Council. “The critical needs in Niagara County were exacerbated by COVID-19 and the NAF, on behalf of its generous donors and clients, is committed to moving us forward toward solutions to address our challenges together.”

To date, the NAF has awarded more than $4 million in grants to numerous organizations that are located in – and support – the Niagara region. It has also grown its assets to more than $8 million with more than 35 funds under its umbrella.

The NAF has established programs such as the early childhood Quality Improvement Project (QIP), which is now embedded at Niagara University. Launched in 2010, the NAF invited key partners to the table, including Niagara University, the United Way of Greater Niagara, the Peter and Elizabeth C. Tower Foundation and the Grigg-Lewis Foundation to find a solution to enriching childcare in Niagara County and increase readiness programs for children entering kindergarten.

To date, more than 1,500 children have benefitted from enriched care through QIP. Nearly 800 childcare personnel have completed a 45-hour professional development certificate program, resulting in measurable quality improvements in 30 licensed childcare centers in Niagara County.

Other highlights of the NAF’s impact include awarding scholarships, and providing grants that support improvements of parks and historic landmarks, youth-focused programs and camps, and numerous other organizations that benefit the Niagara region.

Over the two decades, dozens of leaders with deep roots in Niagara County have served on its Council and guided the mission forward.

The current members are:
Daniel Aikin
Molly Anderson
Betsy Diachun
Kathy DiMillo
Bruce Elliott – Chair
Dorothy Kelley – Secretary
Jane Killewald
Frank Mergl – Treasurer
Anne Orr – Vice Chair
Michelle Vanstrom

The Niagara Area Foundation is ever growing and seeks to provide its community with more grants each year. For more information, please visit


About the Niagara Area Foundation
Founded in 2000 as a division of the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, the Niagara Area Foundation’s goal is to provide support for nonprofit organizations, and philanthropic initiatives for Niagara County residents. Currently, the Niagara Area Foundation has more than $8 million in assets.

About the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo
For more than a century, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo has enhanced and encouraged long-term philanthropy in the Western New York community. A 501 (c)(3) organization, the Community Foundation’s mission is: Connecting people, ideas and resources to improve lives in Western New York. Established in 1919, the Community Foundation has made the most of the generosity of individuals, families, foundations and organizations who entrust charitable assets to the Community Foundation’s care.