BUFFALO, N.Y. — For City Shapers this year, we're highlighting the women who are making Western New York a great place to live. This week, 2 On Your Side's Kelly Dudzik introduces us to the leader of a non-profit that feeds thousands of Western New Yorkers each year.
Tara Ellis is the President and CEO of FeedMore WNY, and she lives in Derby, New York.
FeedMore WNY is a new organization formed by the merger of the Food Bank of WNY and Meals on Wheels.
"We don't care if the client is one year old or a hundred years old," says Ellis. "We are all about making sure that we are helping people have a hand up to rise out of whatever challenge they may be facing, whether that's a short term or a long-term challenge."
Ellis learned about those challenges early in life.
"My dad was a Bethlehem Steel employee, so he was one of the many, many men that found himself unemployed in an era when so many men were unemployed that the community just couldn't absorb all of that talent," she said. "And, we were a vulnerable family, so you know, my parents really struggled to make ends meet, and keep it together, and we were among the fortunate ones."
And, Ellis brings a wealth of experience from various fields to lead FeedMore WNY.
"I started out doing press working in government," said Ellis. "I started at the New York State Senate in Albany, moved back to Buffalo because I really missed my family, started then for a corporate sector working at M&T Bank for almost a decade, and then from M&T moved into the non-profit sector at Hauptman Woodward, and then Meals on Wheels, and then Food Bank, and now FeedMore WNY."
She has big plans for its future. Ellis hopes to add a senior mobile pantry and a community kitchen to focus on workforce development.
"That means culinary training skills as well as warehouse training skills," she said. "We really want to be able to ensure that we are not only giving a fish, but teaching our clients to fish as well."
As FeedMore WNY successfully serves hundreds of thousands of meals each year through its 317 member agencies, Ellis looks forward to seeing the day when everyone in our community is thriving.
"I'm a real Buffalo girl, I really believe in our community, I just want to see our community continue to get better and stronger, and I think that in order to do that, we can't forget about everyone, so I think that while we have some people that are really making an economic success from our amazing resurgence, we can't forget that there are still people slipping through the cracks. We as a community have to create that safety net and make sure that we don't let them fall," she says.
If you know a Western New York woman who would make a great 2019 City Shaper, nominate her by sending Kelly an email.
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