Community changemakers honored at annual Wavemaker Celebration  

Causewave Community Partners’ Wavemaker Celebration honored local volunteers, companies and initiatives with signature awards Thursday night, highlighting those in the community who are making a difference.  

Causewave Community PartnersMembers from the nonprofit, marketing, government and corporate sectors attended the event at the Arbor at the Port. 

The award winners are: 

  • Martha Bush, recently retired chief marketing officer at Foodlink, who received the Lantern Award in recognition for her individual volunteer effort has been given each year since 1978; 
  • The Credit Union Collective (Reliant, Pittsford and Summit Federal Credit Unions) received the Beacon Award, in recognition for their long-standing and significant financial and volunteer support to Causewave, especially for their sponsorship of the Matchstick Prize; 
  • The AMPED: Go All Electric Coalition that works with organizations to upgrade to clean, fossil-free electricity received the W. B. Potter Founder’s Award, recognizing a results-oriented collaborative initiative that both fills a community need and serves as a role model for other partnerships; 
  • Alyssa Belasco, executive director at NY Kitchen, received the Spark Award, honoring an individual age 40 or under who has used their role as a Causewave volunteer to serve as a catalyst for positive change; 
  • The Greater Rochester Health Foundation received the Chairman’s Award, which honors a business who has performed remarkable acts to support Causewave’s mission, and 
  • John Geraci, president of CRUX Research, received the Legacy Award, which was created as part of Causewave’s 50th anniversary celebration, in 2001, to recognize former Lantern Award winners who have continued to demonstrate extraordinary commitment to the organization. 

Causewave – which was founded as the Advertising Council of Rochester in 1950 – collaborates with more than 200 nonprofits each year through programs focused on building individual nonprofit capacity and community-level response to a wide range of community issues from traffic safety to child sexual abuse prevention. 

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Collaborative helps keep children on track

Children’s Institute, Causewave Community Partners and a collaborative of child-serving organizations this week announced a new community campaign to ensure families are aware of the benefits and availability of free developmental checks for young children.

Organizers noted that just 20 to 30 percent of children with health, behavioral and development problems are identified and receive appropriate interventions prior to entering school. The Get Ready to GROW collaborative, led by Children’s Institute, features screenings designed to support a child’s doctor by providing complementary information that they would not get during a typical well visit.

In addition to height, weight, vision and hearing, the development checks will look at movement, dental, speech and language, thinking and reasoning and more.

“This campaign helps parents know about Get Ready to GROW’s comprehensive, convenient and fun checks – with trusted follow-up and support. Every parent should have as many people as possible in their corner and help at their fingertips, as growth is rapid during childhood and a worry can rise quickly,” said Children’s Institute Executive Director Ann Marie White.

Regional advertising agency Mower donated time and talent totaling more than $90,000 to develop the Let Their Greatness GROW campaign. The initiative is designed to raise awareness and educate parents about the screenings. The advertising acknowledges that parents often see things in their child’s behavior they are unsure of or think will go away with time. With the help of a screening they can uncover their child’s strengths and if a need is identified take action to ensure their development is on track. Additional pro bono production support for the campaign was donated by PushMP and dPost.

“This was a complex challenge as parents have a lot on their plates, and it can be scary to think about your child needing help in order to thrive,” said Causewave President and CEO Todd Butler. “We needed the team at Mower to come up with a messaging strategy that was clear, focused, optimistic and empowers parents to take action for their child. They really delivered.”

The Get Ready to GROW comprehensive screening model is more than just a one-time check. A GROW navigator partners with the family, school, child care providers and physicians to better understand a child’s developmental path. Navigators will assist parents and work with the support network to help ensure the child is prepared for success in school.

“Get Ready to GROW screenings are more comprehensive than what I would normally be able to do in the office and provide links to services and navigation support not typically available,” said Sarah Collins-McGowan M.D., a pediatrician with Rochester Regional Health at Genesee Pediatrics and the Center for Refugee Health. “It’s so easy to work with the GROW team as a provider. They figured out what our office needed and personalized processes for maximum efficiency and value.”

Initial funding came from Rochester’s Child, Rochester Area Community Foundation, Greater Rochester Health Foundation, United Way of Greater Rochester Inc., the city of Rochester, New York State Education Department and Rochester City School District to launch the development of the screening model and has been vital in getting the initiative to where it is today, officials said. Value-based payment in healthcare also is a source of funding, recognizing the value of early intervention and reimbursing screening costs.

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Groups collaborate to fund remote learning internet issues

The County of Monroe is teaming with ESL Federal Credit Union, Greater Rochester Health Foundation and Rochester Area Community Foundation on a solution to improve internet connectivity to help more students actively participate in their lessons throughout the school day.

Officials noted that the pandemic uncovered gaps in technology for students in the city of Rochester. Local and national foundations and other organizations responded quickly to ensure city students had laptop computers, tablets and devices to provide internet connections into the homes of students who needed them.

But the continuation of remote learning this fall has brought about another issue: Hotspot devices have not provided enough speed or consistent connection required for effective online learning.

“I am extremely grateful for the generosity and innovative spirit of our partners who are helping to ensure that our students receive the best education possible during a global pandemic,” said RCSD Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small in a statement. “For many of us, having reliable internet access is a given. For many of our students, getting this access will not only help with their education, it also brings them to a more equitable playing field.”

T-Mobile’s Project 10Million will donate 2,900 mobile hotspots to be distributed to RCSD students in kindergarten through high school who do not have reliable internet connections.

Monroe County has committed to using up to $175,000 of the federal CARES Act money to cover the $43,000 monthly connectivity costs for those devices through Dec. 31. The organizations will work together to coordinate among other area philanthropies to support the purchase of additional mobile hotspots for up to 2,000 more students. The county also will cover the $32,000 monthly unlimited data charges for the devices for November and December.

Local funders have committed to contributing and raising additional resources to continue to pay the $83,000 monthly unlimited data charges for all of the new hotspots through summer school.

“The collaborative work being done in our community across public, private and nonprofit sectors to address the critical needs of families during this pandemic is the exact kind of regional collaboration we need to solve Greater Rochester’s challenges,” said ESL Vice President/Director, Community Impact Ajamu Kitwana. “The collaboration between Monroe County and the city school district has motivated us to match the county’s funding as a show of deep support for that partnership.”

With ESL paying for two months of internet connectivity and GRHF and RACF committing to each pay for a month, that leaves four monthly bills not covered. ESL will help close that gap by matching additional contributions up to $350,000. United Way of Greater Rochester Inc. has offered $25,000 toward that effort.

“As we continue to navigate this unprecedented pandemic, we need to work together to ensure our students have the resources they need to learn and succeed. This is no small task,” said County Executive Adam Bello. “Thanks to the support of our community partners we’re able to ensure that RCSD students will have reliable WiFi for the rest of the school year.”

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Rochester to compete in civics award

Rochester has been nominated for the National Civic League’s All-America City Award. The city is one of 20 nominees.

The award shines a light on the work taking place in communities nationwide. Nominated communities have demonstrated a commitment to leveraging civic engagement, collaboration, inclusivity and innovation to successfully address local issues.

This year’s theme is enhancing health and wellbeing through civic engagement. The Rochester delegation is led by the city of Rochester, which submitted three projects to win the nomination:
• The High Blood Pressure Collaborative, led by Common Ground Health
• Project HOPE and El Camino Neighborhood Revitalization, led by the Ibero-American Action League and supported by Greater Rochester Health Foundation
• The Community Task Force on School Climate, led by Rochester Area Community Foundation with Teen Empowerment, the Alliance for Quality Education, Metro Justice/Citizen Action of New York and others.

Since 1949, the National Civic League has recognized the best in American civic innovation with the All-America City Award. The annual award celebrates the work of 10 communities that have used inclusive civic engagement to address critical issues and create stronger connections among residents, businesses and nonprofit and government leaders.

“The city of Rochester is proud to be a caring community that works together with our partner organizations to improve the quality of life for all of our residents,” Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren said in a statement. “We are extremely pleased that the National Civic League has recognized our city as a finalist for the 2020 All-America City Award. We hope our presentation will reflect our values as a community and, in turn, solidify Rochester as one of the recipients of this year’s award.”

Typically an in-person event, this year nominated communities will present their stories in the form of a virtual presentation or performance during the National Civic League’s annual conference held in August. The Rochester delegation is scheduled to present on Aug. 17.

“As a community, we can all be proud of the path that our region has taken to improving health,” said Common Ground Health CEO Wade Norwood. “Advancing in this national competition is a recognition of how we’ve knocked down the walls that separated the doctor’s office from the community. I look forward to sharing how business, government, schools, clinicians and families have and continue to come together to move towards health equity.”

In applying and throughout the process, communities reflect on their strengths, weaknesses, challenges and the progress they have made. During the conference, teams of residents, nonprofit organizations, businesses and young leaders from communities nationwide will come together virtually to collaborate and share insights.

“Rochester has a rich history of justice and social change,” said Jasmine Gripper, executive director of the Alliance for Quality Education. “Parents, students and community members have come together to create community schools, rewrite the code of conduct and now have police-free schools. Rochester is shining a light on the possibilities of community collaboration.”

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Rochester community bands together during pandemic

The Rochester community is known for giving back and this week there is more proof of that.

As of Tuesday, when the United Way of Greater Rochester Inc. and the Rochester Area Community Foundation began coordinating support for those in need through a Community Crisis Fund, nearly $2 million had been raised, including $1 million from the ESL Charitable Foundation.

“In this time of great uncertainty and great need, our community is doing what it does best—coming together and working together to ensure the needs of families across our community are being met,” said Monroe County Executive Adam Bello at a news conference yesterday. “I am proud to lead a community with this much compassion and willingness to help and with incredible organizations and foundations that are stepping up in the face of this challenge.”

Last week, local foundations came together to pool and disburse an initial $260,000 to help Foodlink Inc. address the immediate food insecurity that resulted from school closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The distribution comprises funding from Rochester Area Community Foundation, the United Way, Wegmans Food Markets Inc., ESL Charitable Foundation, the Greater Rochester Health Foundation and the Farash Foundation.

“The giving nature of Greater Rochester’s people truly shines in moments such as these,” said ESL Federal Credit Union President and CEO Faheem Masood. “At ESL, we were exploring ways in which we could help the community during these unfamiliar times, and the creation of the Community Crisis Fund became the ideal opportunity to ensure our donation would best be distributed among those who need it most.”

In the last several days, additional support from MVP Health and the United Way has been committed to the fund. The grants enable regular fund distributions on a rolling basis and help make it possible to move resources quickly and adapt to evolving needs, officials said.

Separately, other businesses and organizations are pitching in to help. TES Staffing beginning March 20 will provide free lunches to community members in need. The organization will have roughly 100 meals in to-go containers being cooked on the spot and available for pick up at its University Avenue offices.

Each meal will consist of a hot dog on a bun and a bag of chips or a cookie. TES Staffing plans to provide the lunches each Friday for a month, but also is looking for businesses and individuals to donate or help in the endeavor, with the goal of turning it into a daily event.

“The closure of businesses and the abrupt decline in the local economy has slowed down our business activities tremendously and has shaken this community and its workers, with no notice,” said TES Staffing President Brian Harding. “As a local staffing agency that relies on this community’s businesses, but also our community members, we feel it is our responsibility to use this time to support the community and its members in need.”

DiBella’s Subs also is planning to help the community through an initiative that will cut prices in half for first responders, health care workers and active military; donate 50 percent of all regular sales including catering orders to community food banks; and waive delivery fees for all orders of $15 or more placed through

“Our primary goals are to do all that we can right now for our communities, for our employees, and those who need us the most who are working hard to keep us all safe,” said DiBella’s President Peter Fox in a statement. “We have to band together and take care of each other. We may not have profitable sales with these initiatives, but it will help us to continue to do as much as we can to employ our team so they can come to work every day and also have the satisfaction of helping others.”

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