City of Good Neighbors: How the Buffalo giving spirit persevered over the past year


(WIVB) — In a year that tested the strength of Western New York, the community’s generosity persevered.

People stepped up when and where they could, sewing masks for our frontline workers and those in need. Industries shifted gears.

Uncle Jumbo American Vodka was one of several that started manufacturing hand sanitizer.

“Five days ago if you would’ve told me we were a hand sanitizer company I would’ve said that must’ve come out of left field,” President and CEO Nick Kotrides said. “The only thing that has changed for us is the formula that people are using provided by the world health organization.”

The pandemic increased the need for food across our community all year long, but especially during the holiday season.

For the 15th year, Western New Yorkers stepped up for Operation Rock Out Hunger, in November.

Dj Jickster of 97 Rock spent a week sleeping in a trailer and collecting food.

“This is a very special Rock Out Hunger because everybody knows somebody that is going to be needing FeedMore WNY unfortunately due to the pandemic circumstances,” Jickster said.

People donated more than 2,300 turkeys and $53,000 to FeedMore WNY.

It came during a year when the organization served an additional four million meals to the community.

“FeedMore and so many nonprofits have kept some stability and a little bit of hope to those struggling and being hit the hardest by COVID and all of its fall out,” President and CEO Tara Ellis said.

In order to do so, the organization had to adapt just as we all did.

“A lot of contactless drop-offs and contactless mobile distributions. Taking emergency food kits to those who can’t get out, including COVID positive families. We really have tried to be part of the public health solution,” Ellis added.

Many good neighbors across the community also held food drives for our frontline workers.

Zoladz Construction was among the many.

It donated more than 8,500 meals to several area hospitals.

President Jeff Leavell said, “seeing the faces on the doctors, the nurses and the staff when they see us come and they watch us unload and take these meals, it’s a good feeling. It’s just a great feeling and we’re happy to be doing this.”

Two local restaurants, one of the industries hit the hardest, were also given a bit of hope, when Barstool Sports decided to lend them a helping hand.

The Eagle House in Williamsville and Squires Tap Room in Tonawanda were chosen to be part of the Barstool Fund, which donates money to small businesses struggling during the pandemic.

Squires was down 50% in sales compared to the previous year when they made the call.

A week later, Squires got the call they were waiting for from Dave Portnoy himself.

Patrons across WNY helped too. Grabbing take-out when restaurant’s doors closed and heading out to eat when they reopened.

These are just a few of the many stories told during the pandemic. People showing kindness and compassion. Giving what they could, during a time we were all struggling in one way or another.

Once again proving Buffalo really is the city of good neighbors.

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