refugees welcome

The Oishei Foundation is honored to be featured in the GRANTMAKERS CONCERNED WITH IMMIGRANTS AND REFUGEES' Grantmaker's Profile. 

The Foundation views immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers as integral to the makeup of the larger Buffalo-Niagara community and to the work Oishei supports to benefit the region. Quantifying the magnitude of the support is challenging since a vast number of Oishei’s grantees across its program areas likely support refugee and asylum seeker populations indirectly or in a less targeted fashion. Food banks, health, education, workforce, and self sufficiency
programs are prime examples of this indirect or broad-based support.

Read more.

National Comedy Center Acquires Archive of Comedian Shelley Berman

shelley berman bio 450x600The archive of comedian Shelley Berman was recently donated to Jamestown's National Comedy Center by his wife Sarah Berman.

The donation was formally announced during a tribute attended by Larry David, Dr. Demento, Cheryl Hines, Laraine Newman, Howard Storm, David Steinberg, Fred Willard, and Alan Zweibel, hosted by Lewis Black and presented by the National Comedy Center on Tuesday, January 30th at the Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, California.

The Berman archive is the latest acquisition for the National Comedy Center, the first non-profit cultural institution and national-scale visitor experience dedicated to the art of comedy, which already houses a number of archival pieces including the 25,000-piece George Carlin collection, donated in 2017.

Under construction right now in Lucille Ball's hometown, the National Comedy Center fulfills Ball's vision to establish a center that celebrates comedy in all of its forms, educating and engaging visitors with the story of the art form and its artists. The National Comedy Center is slated to host its ribbon cutting August 1-4, 2018 during its annual Lucille Ball Comedy Festival.

"No longer the step child to the arts, comedy and those who make us laugh are about to have their own place in the world. When I found myself surrounded by all of Shelley's writings, I wondered what to do with all of it. Do I give it to some museum where they let it gather dust before they throw it away? Along came the National Comedy Center, driven by people who have the vision to know that this material and the material of other comedians has a value. They are dedicated to preserving all for their archives and for future generations who may want to know about those who gave us the gift of laughter. I feel confident that all of Shelley's fine work will be in good hands," said Sarah Berman, Shelley's wife of more than 70 years.

The archive was carefully collected and stored in Berman's home office for seven decades, and spans from the 1940s to the 2010s. It includes hundreds of photographs, contracts, scripts, calendars, scrapbooks, correspondences and rare footage and audio chronicling his wide-ranging career in stand-up, improv, television, film, theater, and comedy writing.

Included in the gift are Berman's consecutive Gold Records for his two landmark 1959 albums Inside Shelley Berman and Outside Shelley Berman, the first of which was the comedy album first to win a Grammy. Also included is the trademark stool on which he performed his classic routines during live engagements across the country.

Berman's unique brand of anxiety-ridden observational humor helped to redefine stand-up comedy in the late 1950s and '60s. He continued to be a favorite with audiences in his later years for his Emmy-nominated portrayal of Larry David's father, Nat, on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm.

"Berman had changed the face of stand-up comedy. What I feel helped inform me as a comic, was the precision in his language. You had someone who was this terrific actor doing comedy, and that's rare," said event host Lewis Black.

Fred Willard echoed Black's sentiment. "Shelley Berman came along with that whole new wave of comedy. It forever changed the way we look at stand-up comedy."

Kelly Carlin further added, "My father looked up to Shelley Berman. He appreciated Shelley's use of words and his gift for story-telling. And I can tell you, my dad would be thrilled to know that Shelley's papers will be sitting next to his in Jamestown."

Executive Director of the National Comedy Center, Journey Gunderson, concluded the event by saying, "Shelley Berman was there at the very beginning of what we call modern day stand-up comedy. We are so honored that Sarah has chosen the National Comedy Center as the institution to house Shelley's archive, and has trusted us to preserve and celebrate his legacy."

Oishei Scholar Survey

The Oishei High School Scholarship Program is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2018!

To help mark the occasion, we are developing a commemorative brochure and short video that will be played at the April 2018 scholarship luncheon.

We would like past and current scholarship recipients to fill out this online survey by January 29, 2018 :


Please contact Sally Crowley, Chief Communications Officer at 716-541-0113 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have questions or would like more information.

Thank you helping us mark this milestone!

WNED Special Features Buffalo's New Education Bargain

Buffalo Public Schools are looking towards the future with a new education reform plan. Spearheaded by Buffalo Schools’ Superintendent Dr. Kriner Cash, this initiative is known as the New Education Bargain, and it aims to deliver an equal and high-quality education, to accelerate academic performance, to strengthen families and communities and to prepare students for the future. The promise is this: if students work hard and parents commit to their child’s education, the Buffalo Schools will guarantee them a path to opportunity, achievement and success.

WNED put together a special program that features Dr. Cash and includes comments from Oishei Foundation President, Robert Gioia. View it here.

Breaking Barriers Youth Council Aims to Accelerate Positive Outcomes for Young Men of Color

youngmenofcolor“Breaking Barriers” Youth Leadership Council is a group of young men of color, 12-24 years in age, creating a unified voice that advocates for racial equity, social justice and policy change. The Council will address the practices and systems that hold back males of color.

Through civic leadership training and direct lobbying opportunities, Breaking Barriers participants will learn the importance of advocacy and will develop their personal and collective leadership skills to be able to influence positive change, strengthening and improving life outcomes for boys and young men of color.

Breaking Barriers, an initiative of the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable, is aimed at accelerating positive outcomes for boys and young men of color across the cradle-to-career continuum.

The Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable includes more than 30 community leaders from public, private, nonprofits and faith institutions convened to advance racial equity and promote the change required to accelerate a shared regional prosperity. 

In partnership with the Greater Buffalo Racial Equity Roundtable, the City of Buffalo and Buffalo Public Schools, and Say Yes Buffalo, “Breaking Barriers” will expand the capacity of boys and young men of color to improve life outcomes and empower them to become agents of change in our community. Areas of focus may include: early childhood; college access and readiness; career pathways and economic opportunity; and criminal justice and public safety.

A flyer with more details and the application for the youth council are available here.

19 IDEAS Partners with Oishei Foundation to Tell Founder’s Story

DSC02878 CopyEarly in 2017, the team at the Kaleida Foundation showed us the wall that would be dedicated to telling the story of John R. Oishei at the new Oishei Children’s Hospital. It is a great, highly visible space right inside the doors of the main lobby.

Typically, a static glass sign with small type and a photo would be used to tell a major donor’s story. In this case, we felt that, sooner rather than later, the information about our founder would become wallpaper that no one really noticed.

We wanted to tell his story in a more engaging way – one that people would pay attention to for years to come. As the Foundation’s Chief Communications Officer, my dream was to do something interactive that people could manipulate and that would offer interesting elements for adults and children alike.

I presented thDSC02888 Copye idea of producing a creative, dynamic display wall to the Foundation President, Robert Gioia, and then our Board. They were a little hesitant, and thought I might be overly optimistic with my very limited budget, but being the ultimate, trusting, wise professionals that they are, they gave me the “go ahead.”

I then reached out to a few small local agencies to inquire about their array of capabilities and their availability from July through October. One group stood out: 19 IDEAS.

After meeting with owners Dan Gigante and Katie Krawczyk, I had a good feeling that they’d be the perfect group to pull this off for us.

I gave them the assignment and they jumped in full force. Amber Rampino, Charlie Fashana and the newly hired ThereDSC02837 Copysa Donnelly joined Katie and Dan. They started with a solid base concept of the elements, and worked with us feverishly through the design, illustration, copy, coding and testing stages. Krez Freas joined in near the end to write code and handle a bunch of techy stuff. They were all patient with my copy edits and numerous questions and showed unending enthusiasm for the project. Oh, and I can’t forget Ellie, Director of Bellyrubs – the office labradoodle who eagerly provided kisses and love (what a great addition!)

The Kaleida team, coordinated by Jim Finnerty and Jessica Mabie, also did a stellar job preparing the wall, hooking up electric, hanging hardware, etc. all while juggling the construction and moving a major hospital.

The end result was better than I could have imagined. And, it doesn’t hurt that Robert and the Board approves of the result. Board Member Florence Conti was even kind enough to call me out at last week’s board meeting to say, “Sally, I questioned and doubted you a bit on the Oishei Children’s wall project, but….I was wrong. It is fantastic.”

Thank you, 19 IDEAS!

Congratulations to Community Services for the Developmentally Disabled on the Opening of its New Career Center!

DSC 0339 CopyCommunity Services for the Developmentally Disabled (CSDD) opened its new Jefferson Career Center on Monday, October 30. The center is located at 1485 Jefferson Avenue, Buffalo, the former site of the Bethel Head Start building.

The new center will offer people with developmental disabilities a place to develop work skills and help connect them to competitive employment opportunities in their fields of interest. It will offer hands-on learning suites that are industry specific, providing training opportunities to explore a variety of career paths. Each suite will be custom built to ensure accessibility for everyone.

The Oishei Foundation supported the effort with a $125,000 grant.

View more photos of the new center here.

CSDD partnered with the Basil Family of Dealerships to provide an automotive detailing suite where people will learn the skills needed for car detailing, including how to use the proper cleaning tools and products and safety precautions and the value of meticulousness.

CSDD is also working with the Hyatt Regency to offer a hospitality suite, which will include a mock hotel room for the people they support to develop and practice the skills they learn. By using this active learning model, people will build customer service skills, learn how to clean and set up a room, and keep track of an inventory list.

Working in the food industry generates much interest for the people CSDD serves. The new center's culinary suite will feature an industrial style kitchen where people interested in culinary arts will learn how to prepare and serve food, gain insight into how assembly work operates, use kitchen tools safely, and how to sanitize a work space.

Another suite at the Jefferson Career Center will be an office setting where people will have the opportunity to learn essential computer skills, how to operate copy and fax machines, effective communication via phone, and how to successfully work with customers and co-workers.

The center will also be the site of an after-school respite program for children who receive services, giving them a safe, accessible place to learn new skills, meet friends and engage in meaningful activities outside of school.

“We are thrilled to see this project come to fruition. The Jefferson Career Center will positively impact many of the people we support by helping them gain work skills and connecting them with competitive employment opportunities,” said Mindy Cervoni, president and CEO. “This center will help people achieve their goals and lead more independent lives.”

“The Jefferson Career Center is more than a building for the people we support. It is a representation of our belief that every person, given the appropriate supports and opportunity, has the ability to contribute to their community. For those we support, a job is so much more than a paycheck. It is independence, inclusion and an improved quality of life,” said Michelle Zangerle, assistant director of vocational services.

“Along with the opportunity to expand our respite program, Jefferson provides additional space for a gross motor room and outside playground with a recreational area. With the addition of these two spaces, people that utilize respite supports will have more space to develop and grow,” said Ashley McLimans, assistant director of day services.

The Jefferson Career Center will broaden CSDD's scope of services, provide new employment opportunities, and explore each person they serve’s talents and interests.

Eight WNY Nonprofit Organizations Participating in Inaugural StoryGrowing WNY Class

DSC02586 CopyStoryGrowing WNY is underway! Eight WNY non-profit organizations were selected for the Class of 2018. Based on the teachings of Andy Goodman of The Goodman Center, StoryGrowing WNY is a nine-month communications capacity-building program that trains organizations to harness the power of storytelling and nurture their organization’s growth through effective branding and communications. Working directly with a variety of local professionals, StoryGrowing WNY participants will learn how to balance emotional and rational messaging, target the right audiences and make efficient use of digital and social tools.

The eight Western New York nonprofit organizations participating in the program are:

  • Cazenovia Recovery Systems, which provides a comprehensive continuum of chemical dependency and mental health residential services for men and women in recovery.
  • Child & Family Services, one of Western New York's oldest human service agencies, Child and Family Services fosters safe and healthy environments for children and families in local homes, schools, workplaces and communities.
  • ECBA Volunteer Lawyers Project, which provides free civil legal services to low income individuals and small not-for-profit groups in Erie County.
  • Neighborhood Health Center, an FQHC that provides primary healthcare and wellness to all, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay.
  • New York State Caregiving and Respite Coalition which is a partnership of dedicated organizations and individuals committed to supporting the millions of informal caregivers throughout the state.DSC02730 Copy
  • Roycroft Campus, which offers educational programming, artisan classes, lectures, interactive events and social gatherings to further promote and preserve the historic Roycroft Campus and the ideals of the Arts & Crafts movement.
  • The Foundry (Net+Positive, Inc.) which strives to foster ecologically, economically and socially viable neighborhood systems in the City of Buffalo by promoting community arts; providing mentoring and training opportunities for low-income, unemployed or underemployed individuals, and encouraging environmentally sensitive community development.
  • Westminster Economic Development Initiative which empowers economically disadvantaged people in Buffalo, with a primary focus on the West Side community. WEDI reduces barriers to success and opportunity through economic development, community building, and education.

The selected organizations participate in the program at no cost to them. Funding is provided by the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York and The John R. Oishei Foundation.

The program will feature a variety of learning techniques—including lectures, workshops, private coaching, guided development, and presentation opportunities— designed to help participants determine compelling key messages forDSC02570 Copy the organizations; use stories in advocacy, development, recruiting, and other primary communications; and identify and apply types of stories and their relevance to organizations’ target audiences. Best practices in writing, photography, videography, disseminating stories through community outreach, and effectively telling stories will be shared.

“StoryGrowing WNY” is presented by the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York and The John R. Oishei Foundation as part of a collaborative capacity-building effort. The Health Foundation for Western and Central New York is an independent private foundation that advocates for continuous improvement in health and health care by investing in the people and organizations that serve young children and older adults. The John R. Oishei Foundation, a private charitable foundation, enhances the economic vitality and quality of life for the Buffalo Niagara region through grantmaking, leadership and network building.

Tape Art Event is Indescribable Experience for All

Tape ArtOn June 17th, 2017, the Lipsey Buffalo Architecture Center came alive with the buzz of collaborative problem solving. Students from the Cornell High Road Fellows program, Oishei Leaders from local non-profit organizations, Oishei staff and Board members and representatives from the Architecture Center worked together to create four Tape Art murals, stretching their leadership muscles and exploring the challenges that face those working to make a difference in our communities.

The theme of the day was “Navigating Narratives”. Like every city, Buffalo is defined by the stories that are told about it. It is too often the case that narratives about cities are dominated by a focus on problems and struggles. These problems become ingrained in the identity of urban communities in a way that makes them even harder to overcome. Even when progress is being made, negative narratives can make it seem like there is no hope for meaningful change.

For this project, participants were tasked with retelling these stories. They entered a space with four drawings representing the most pressing challenges that Buffalo faces today. These drawings transformed the issues of economic inequality, segregation, disenfranchisement, and urban sprawl into monsters worthy of myth. In teams, participants worked together to draw the counter narratives to these social monsters directly over the original drawings. The new narratives featured solutions to each social issue through the lens of social justice warriors.

The day ended with a discussion of the power of collaboration in solving problems and the power of using narratives in the work of social justice.

View photos from the day, read more in this booklet put together by the Tape Art team and view a short video from the day.

Tape Art 2017 Overview