The Centennials

The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo has helped ignite change in Western New York alongside our clients for 100 years. To mark this milestone, we will grant $1 million in awards to honor local change makers who have made a difference in the lives of Western New Yorkers.

Meet Our Finalists Watch Highlights from our Centennial Celebration

Meet Our Finalists

The response to our Centennial Awards call for nominations exceeded all expectations, and we were truly inspired by the hundreds of stories sharing the amazing work that is making our region a more vibrant and inclusive place for all.

Our Centennial Selection Committee, comprised of 40 members representing a diverse cross-section of our community, had a difficult decision to make. After a thorough review process, we are excited to introduce you to the 12 change makers who are our Centennial Awards finalists.

Cause Award

Honoring a change maker dedicated to addressing a pressing issue facing our region.

Cause Award

This change maker has dedicated time and passion to addressing a pressing issue facing our region. As a mover and shaker, this person unified different voices to create solutions to move the cause forward and transform our community.

James Giles

Meet James

Jill Jedlicka

Meet Jill

Karen Nicolson

Meet Karen

Champion Award

Honoring someone who has made a meaningful change for a group of people.

Champion Award

This change maker has made a meaningful change in the lives of people. This has resulted in a measurable change in their quality of life, which has led to a stronger, more successful community.

Michael Martin

Meet Michael

Marixsa Sanchez-Feliciano

Meet Marixsa

Diann Takens

Meet Diann

Community Award

Honoring a change maker who saw the hidden potential in a place.

Community Award

This change maker saw the hidden potential of a place and took a leadership role to transform it. Through their actions, they changed hearts and minds to make a greater impact in a specific place and in turn, lifted up the entire Western New York community.

Fajri Ansari

Meet Fajri

Jessica Bauer Walker

Meet Jessica

David Zapfel

Meet David

Up and Comer Award

Honoring an emerging leader currently mobilizing action around a place, an issue or people.

Up and Comer Award

This change maker is an emerging leader currently mobilizing action around a place, an issue or people.

Kelly Diane Galloway

Meet Kelly

Dawne Hoeg

Meet Dawne

Megan McNally

Meet Megan

Eight finalists will each grant $25,000 to a Western New York nonprofit organization of their choosing. Four winners (one per category) will each be honored with $200,000: $100,000 for a one-time grant to a Western New York nonprofit of their choice and an additional $100,000 to create an endowment at the Community Foundation to make grants in their name forever.

Our Esteemed Panel

We invited the following group of respected community members to serve on our Centennial Selection Committee. They collectively represent what we are committed to as an organization – excellence, experience, diversity, arts and culture, education, the environment and our geographic footprint. Each member is dedicated to and enthusiastic about making our community a more vibrant and inclusive place for all.


Michele Agosto Buffalo Public Schools

Tamara O. Alsace, Ph.D. Community Foundation Board Member

Jonathan Amoia Sandhill Investment Management

Monica Angle Artist

Melissa Baumgart Community Foundation Board Member

James Biltekoff Community Foundation Board Member

Harper Bishop Cooperation Buffalo

Donald K. Boswell Western New York Public Broadcasting Association

Ruth D. Bryant Community Volunteer

Lucy A. Candelario The Belle Center

Dr. Katherine Conway-Turner Buffalo State College

Warren Colville The Buffalo News

Jack Connors Buffalo Homecoming

Steve Finch Community Foundation Board Member

Rhonda Frederick People Inc.

Raymond Ganoe Evergreen Health

Rahwa Ghirmatzion PUSH Buffalo

Dr. Myron Glick Jericho Road Community Health Center

Christopher M. Glynn Maid of the Mist Corporation

Gretchen Gross Community Volunteer

Amy Habib Rittling, Esq. Lippes Mathias Wexler Friedman LLP

Owen Herne Herne Law PLLC

Jeffrey H. Katz, Esq. Katz & Baehre

Karen Lee Spaulding John R. Oishei Foundation

Gerard Mazurkiewicz Dopkins & Co.

Holly Mergenhagen Alesco Advisors

Margery Nobel Community Volunteer

Adam Page Paralympic Gold Medalist

Alok Pinto Community Volunteer

Rev. Kinzer Pointer Agape Fellowship Baptist Church

Daniel Robertson Say Yes Buffalo

Luis A. Rodriguez, Jr. Rodriguez Construction Group, Inc.

Lynda Schneekloth University at Buffalo School of Architecture and Planning

Gail Serventi Community Volunteer

Laurie D. Torrell Just Buffalo Literary Center

Francisco M. Vasquez, Ph.D. Community Foundation Board Chair

Paul Vukelic Try-It Distributing

Mary Wilson The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation

Honoring Our Change Makers

In September, the Centennial Award winners were announced at our Centennial Celebration at Kleinhans Music Hall. We awarded a total of $1 million in honor of four winners and eight finalists. We are excited to recognize these inspiring individuals who are making an impact in Western New York by making it a stronger, more inclusive place for all.

We would also like to thank our generous sponsors who have helped make this celebration possible:

  • Harmac Medical Products, Inc.

  • Walsh Duffield Companies, Inc.


Carrying on the Kleinhans’ Legacy

The Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo selected Kleinhans Music Hall as the location for The Centennials for good reason: Edward and Mary Seaton Kleinhans chose us to serve as their philanthropic partner to carry on their legacy and build a world-class concert hall for the people of Western New York.

In 1934, the Kleinhans, of Kleinhans department store, bequeathed their estates to the Community Foundation with instructions to fulfill their dream of building a music hall for our community. Our board then chose the location and the architects, and oversaw construction of what was to become a glorious Eliel and Eero Saarinen showpiece.

Kleinhans, home of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, has been the premier location for our community to experience exceptional musical performances for more than 75 years. We are proud to support this local treasure to this day.


Learn more about the Kleinhans’ legacy

100 Years of Service

As we celebrate our centennial year, it is important that we honor the impact we have made alongside our clients – and use this inspiration to guide us in the future.


  • 1919

    • George F. Rand Sr. asks Edward H. Letchworth to go to Cleveland and learn about its community foundation with an eye toward creating one for Buffalo.

      After his trip and the sudden passing of Mr. Rand, Mr. Letchworth draws up papers and The Buffalo Foundation is established.
    • Dr. Frances Hollingshead is appointed Executive Director of the Foundation.
    • The Mr. and Mrs. George F. Rand Fund, the Foundation’s first endowment, is created by the Rands’ children in their parents’ memory to support the changing needs of the community.
    • Jacob Schoellkopf establishes the first fund designated to a specific organization, an endowment to benefit the University at Buffalo.
    • The first scholarship fund is established by graduates of Buffalo Seminary.
    • The Foundation creates the Child Guidance Clinic to study behavior of pre-school-aged children and offer support to their families.
  • 1930

    • Edward and Mary Seaton Kleinhans leave their estate to the Foundation and ask it to build a “suitable music hall for the people of Buffalo.” The Foundation leads a community process and leverages additional funding to bring this vision to life.
    • The Foundation issues a groundbreaking report to understand poverty in Buffalo during the Great Depression, providing a critical look at the state of housing for Buffalo’s poorest residents.
  • 1940

    • The first corporate endowment fund is established by the William Hengerer Company to support its grantmaking to the community.
    • Kleinhans Music Hall opens its doors, thanks in part to the Foundation’s stewardship of the Edward and Mary Seaton Kleinhans bequest.
  • 1950

    • Florence Fraley leaves her entire estate to the Foundation in memory of her son to support the changing needs of the community.
    • Through his Will, Lawrence Bell establishes the first fund to support a specific area of interest: the study, treatment and care of mental diseases.
  • 1960

    • The Bell Foundation becomes the first private foundation to transfer its assets to the Foundation.
    • The United Way of Buffalo & Erie County establishes the first organization endowment at the Foundation.
  • 1970

    • The Cameron Baird family establishes an endowment to benefit the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.
    • Beau Van Schoonhoven is appointed Executive Director of the Foundation.
  • 1980

    • The Foundation establishes a corporate format parallel to the trust format to maximize investment opportunities for donors.
    • WNY Grantmakers is established by community, corporate and foundation leaders and housed at the Foundation.
  • 1990

    • The William F. Thiel bequest directs the Foundation to support health needs of residents of Wyoming County.
    • The Community Foundation initiates a long-standing partnership with The John R. Oishei Foundation to address critical needs of the community.

      The Community Foundation creates a Legacy Society to honor those donors who provide for the future of the community through their estates.
    • Gail Johnstone is appointed President/CEO of the Foundation.

      The Buffalo Foundation changes its name to the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, reflecting its work throughout the Western New York region.
    • In partnership with the United Way, the Community Foundation establishes the Education Fund for Greater Buffalo to improve teaching and learning in Erie County schools.
    • The Burt P. Flickinger Jr. Leadership Fund is established by his friends and family to honor his lifelong commitment to volunteer service.
    • The WNY Women’s Fund is established in partnership with the United Way to support innovative programs for women and girls.
    • The Norman Goldfarb Memorial Fund is established in memory of one of Western New York’s greatest civil rights advocates to reward and encourage endeavors in human relations and human rights.
  • 2000

    • The Niagara Area Foundation is established as a regional affiliate of the Community Foundation.
    • The 21st Century Fund is established as a giving circle to support high-impact projects in WNY as voted and determined by its members.
    • The Community Foundation begins a multi-year partnership with the Buffalo Niagara Freedom Station Coalition to protect and promote the history of the Michigan Street Baptist Church in Buffalo, an anchor institution of the Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor.
    • The Community Foundation, with the United Way of Buffalo and Erie County, publishes the first Report Card on Charitable Giving, documenting charitable giving in the region and comparing it to giving trends across the United States.
    • In 2005, seven private foundations and the Community Foundation form a funders cooperative to support the arts and cultural sector, Fund for the Arts.
    • The Community Foundation initiates a regular cycle of a regional needs assessment to guide the allocation of funds for the changing needs of the community over time.
    • The Community Foundation ranks among the top 10% of endowments and foundations nationwide for investment performance.
    • Clotilde Perez-Bode Dedecker is appointed President/CEO of the Community Foundation.
    • The Community Foundation receives a $4.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education for its Read to Succeed Buffalo program supported by a funders collaborative including The John R. Oishei Foundation, the Community Foundation and the Margaret L. Wendt Foundation.
    • The Wyoming Foundation, a regional community foundation established in 1974 by Dr. James MacCallum, transfers its assets to the Community Foundation and becomes a regional affiliate of the Foundation.
    • Communities of Giving Legacy Initiative is established by civic leaders from multi-ethnic, multiracial backgrounds to support programs that address shared challenges faced by communities of color.
    • The Community Foundation convenes the Western New York Environmental Alliance, with input from the public and 150 environmental organizations in the region, and facilitates the creation of a Shared Agenda for Action on the Environment in 2009 to focus environmental work in the region.
    • The Community Foundation launches the Wipe Out Lead campaign in partnership with the City of Buffalo, Erie County, local businesses and nonprofit organizations.
  • 2010

    • The Community Foundation’s leadership in convening public-private partners to reduce lead poisoning, asthma triggers and energy costs leads to Buffalo’s designation as a Green & Healthy Homes Initiative city and recognition by the U.S. Department for Housing and Urban Development.
    • After an unprecedented cross sector, collaborative effort on the part of Western New York leaders, Say Yes to Education selects Buffalo in 2011 as its second “Say Yes” city with a goal of increasing post-secondary graduation rates for urban youth.
    • With support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Community Foundation launches GrowWNY, a virtual town square to serve as a forum to connect environmental organizations with the broader community.
    • Established in 2013, the Gordon R. Gross, Esq. Award recognizes a professional advisor who embodies the Foundation’s mission to drive positive change in our community, like its namesake, Gordon R. Gross. Gordon, founder of the Gross Shuman P.C. law firm, is admired for his many philanthropic endeavors in Western New York and has served the Community Foundation in many ways, including as Board Chair from 1997-1998.
    • The Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Foundation announces a partnership with the Community Foundation in 2015 by establishing multiple endowments that will support causes important to Mr. Wilson for generations to come.
    • The Community Foundation convened more than 30 local leaders from public, private, nonprofit and faith institutions to form the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable in 2016. By partnering with 210 local organizations to advance racial equity, the Roundtable is creating opportunities for all to reach their full potential.
    • In 2016, the Community Foundation joined nearly a dozen local partners to launch charitySTRONG in Western New York. charitySTRONG strengthens nonprofit organizations by offering them free online recruitment and training tools to build diverse and effective boards of directors.
    • Recognizing a need in our community, the Community Foundation brought together 11 initial investors in 2017 to create the for-profit Western New York Impact Investment Fund. This group of corporate, private and philanthropic leaders is investing in organizations and businesses to generate financial and social returns.
    • In 2018, the Community Foundation joined the City of Buffalo, Erie County and other dedicated partners to commission and share a first-of-its-kind lead action plan. The plan details a clear path to eliminate lead poisoning in our community, positioning children for success.

Our History

Explore our first 100 years and see the impact we have helped make throughout Western New York alongside our clients.

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The Awards

Watch as we awarded $1 million in honor of 12 local change makers! 

Celebration Highlights

About Us

Since 1919, the Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo has been committed to helping individuals, families and organizations make their charitable goals a reality.

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