WILLIAMSVILLE, N.Y. — We are featuring the women who are leading Western New York's resurgence in our City Shapers reports this year. This week, 2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik shows us how the leader of a non-profit foundation started with an internship and rose to the top.

Carrie Meyer has spent almost 25 years helping Western New Yorkers live healthier lives. Meyer is the executive director of the Independent Health Foundation. She grew up in Woodlawn.

If you've been to First Night Buffalo, you've seen some of Meyer's work. She joined the Independent Health Foundation shortly after Independent Health created it.

"I started as an intern. I went to college for a business management degree, and I started as an intern here, and I absolutely loved the organization," Meyer said.

"So, you just kept working your way up," Dudzik said.

"I did, so I wore many hats," Meyer said. "I was in many different positions here in the foundation. I started as a project assistant, I was then a coordinator, I was a manager, and then I became after 10 years the executive director." 

First Night Buffalo used to be held in 22 locations, now it's one big event at the convention center, and that allows Carrie and her team of 12 to plan events year-round.

"We're out in the community over a thousand times throughout the year," she says.

One of the programs is called Good for the Neighborhood. The foundation adopts communities long-term. Meyer’s team has worked with nine neighborhoods in Buffalo for more than a decade showing people how eating right, exercising, not smoking, and seeing your doctor can help you stay well.

"We're trying to make policy changes at the corner stores, in the restaurants, at the local grocery stores so that people can choose healthy," she says.

Meyer also worked with the Taste of Buffalo, so each booth has a healthy food option, and she says she's seeing more people embrace healthy lifestyles thanks to the work her team is doing.

"What do you find rewarding about your career?" Dudzik asked.

"My father worked at Bethlehem Steel, my mother was a waitress, and we have six foster children in our household. So out of the 10, six of them were foster children, so I was always embedded with the importance of giving back to others and helping others. That's the best part of my job," Meyer said.

"I love doing it. I'm a risk-taker, and it's got to be real. You have to be real with the people that you're working with. It's genuine. They have an issue with trusting others, and the first thing that we want to do is build up that trust so that they understand that we're here for you, and that's what we need to do."

If you would like to nominate a Western New York woman to be a 2019 City Shaper, you can send Kelly an email.

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