Author: Mark Lazzara

Mark Lazzara

I have a passion for helping my fellow Western New Yorkers and advance the great things that are going on in this region. Buffalo Rising is a great booster and it’s a blast writing and contributing to BR about positive happenings in our neck of the woods. I appreciate the help I’ve received over the years from organizations and people who share my passion and supported me in efforts that put thousands of people to work and resulted in a community give back of more than $115M to Buffalo’s neediest during my days at the helm of AmeriCorps. I’m especially grateful for the opportunities that enabled me to help cities devastated by Hurricane Katrina and rebuild more than 700 family homes that were destroyed. Back at home, I was able to enjoy a once in a lifetime experience as a coordinator for ABC’s Extreme Makeover Home Edition where we were able to repair, beautify and upgrade homes for an entire neighborhood on Buffalo’s Westside. Other projects close to my heart include a collaboration with Sail Buffalo to build the Cazenovia Boating Center at Buffalo’s Outer Harbor, and my annual Christmas season time is spent at Buffalo’s treasure, the Broadway Market, playing Santa Clause. In my other life, I am a workforce development, business, marketing, public relations and fundraising professional. Earned a M.S. Human Service Management from Buffalo State, and enjoy my family life that includes four amazing grandchildren!

Friday January 21, 2022 marked the Martin Luther King Day of Service initiated by a small team of AmeriCorps members, to provide groceries for over one 120 needy families from the Buffalo Dream Center.     “The Martin Luther King Observances in 2022 did not seem like the others in the past in Buffalo. Maybe the snowstorm, maybe apathy, or maybe it is the changing times,” said Aaron Iannello, Operations Director for Mission Ignite and its AmeriCorps program. ”AmeriCorps members approached me to do something to honor Dr King. We decided the best way to honor Dr King was to support…

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Thanksgiving week, for almost a quarter of a century, finds Rev. Eric Johns, pastor of the Buffalo Dream Center living and/or working among the homeless. Along with his team, Johns can be found staying on the streets, sleeping under bridges, in parks, in shelters, and outside in freezing temperatures. They will eat in soup kitchens and spend their days with the poor. Every year the Western NY community rallies around Johns’ homeless trek, by funding the Dream Center’s “Boxes of Love.” This year’s goal will be serving over 5,000 children for Christmas, bringing the entire total of the over two-decade…

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Mission: Ignite’s Operations Manager, Aaron Iannello, and a team from Mission: Ignite recently received a generous donation of laptops, desktops, monitors, desk printers, cables, and additional equipment from Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield of WNY. Mission: Ignite strives to end the digital divide in WNY, and surrounding areas, by collecting and refurbishing technology to provide STEM training to children in the community, while also reducing hazardous e-waste often created by discarded technology. Additionally, Highmark’s donations of technology assets were given to South Buffalo Community Association, Family Promise of Western New York, Gerard Place, and EdTech Western New York. In total, almost 300 laptops, and upwards of 75 desktops, 228 monitors, and…

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The year 2020 and COVID-19 will never be forgotten. From the devastation of those who have lost someone, to the frustration and loneliness of being confined. I had the good fortune, during COVID-19, not only to serve at the Buffalo Dream Center, but also to closely observe the nephews and sons of Pastor Johns, who I have written about before. To me, this family continues to inspire, especially during these unprecedented times. It is my hope, that these stories help to inspire others to rise up, to help others in need. This holiday season, my story about the Buffalo Dream…

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COVID -19 is taking its toll on Western New Yorkers; families’ want for food has increased beyond comprehension.  Addressing the situation, the Buffalo Dream Center Mobile Food Pantry has now pulled up to more than 50 neighborhoods to distribute groceries and hope to families in need.  The Dream Center, a FeedMore WNY site, is a mobile food pantry that has reached a milestone of serving 5,000 households since the beginning of the pandemic. This 1000% increase in just 2 months is staggering, considering that there was no warning, which meant that there was no time (or formula in place) to…

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The Buffalo Dream Center, under the leadership of Pastor Eric Johns and his wife Michelle, continue their role as compassionate leaders of an invaluable community resource. They have now stepped up again, and are helping individuals and families who are being negatively impacted by the economic effects of COVID-19 – just this past week The Dream Center pantry quadrupled its typical weekly supply of provisions given to people in need prior to the pandemic. Feeding families in need has been a cornerstone in Pastor Eric and Michelle Johns’ ministry for over two decades as they deliver groceries to families in…

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The following post was co-authored by Celeste Lawson: The US, nations around the world, including our own home state of New York, are facing an unprecedented health and humanitarian crisis. The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting life on just about every level. In recent years, the world has witnessed the havoc wreaked by more and more natural disasters, requiring humanitarian and service organizations such as AmeriCorps to aid the communities devastated by floods, hurricanes, fires, etc. As the world braces itself for the continuing tragic consequences of the coronavirus, we have all been advised of how critical it is to follow…

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The Queen City on the Lake has many architectural masterpieces; Tiffany stained glass windows on Delaware Avenue are a hidden treasure and must see for Western New Yorkers and tourist.  Trinity Episcopal Church may be one of Buffalo’s oldest and most active faith communities, but many who have visited the 1886 National Historic Site know it mostly for its stunning stained-glass windows. Trinity’s windows, which are known for their extraordinary depth of color, were designed in the late 1800s by master glass artists Louis Comfort Tiffany and John LaFarge. But Trinity is now aiming to become known for more than…

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Mission:Ignite, Powered by Computers for Children, has parlayed its 20-year relationship with AmeriCorps into a full-fledged STEM Corps, the first of its kind in this region. “Mission Ignite has led the way in connecting young people from a broad range of backgrounds to technology, both for their use and as potential career paths,” said Paul Hogan, Executive Vice President of The John R. Oishei Foundation. “With this grant, the agency will be able to expand their reach and provide even more opportunities for STEM and tech careers that will benefit more young people and help to create a skilled workforce…

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A boys haunting dream; two bullets, two guns, two desperate people and the age-old battle between good and evil; life and death. White Demise is the new independent film that fuels this premise and sparks the narrative on both sides of the gun issue. White Demise is a dramatic story about a desperate search for a lifesaving bullet verses a bullet destined to kill its mark. This dilemma embodies the controversy over gun control woven into a riveting 90-minute fantasy-thriller. Twenty-four-year-old, Daeil Kim is the creator, co-author of the screenplay, the film’s director and editor. His US journey started on…

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