BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A treasured member of the local Call 4 Action consumer watchdog group is calling it a career after four decades.

For 40 years, Maria Visco sat in the Call 4 Action office at WIVB answering your calls and messages — serving as a listening ear for anyone who needed it. For 19 of those years, she led the consumer advocacy group’s Buffalo affiliate as its director.

“You come across so many interesting people,” Visco said. “You forget about your troubles when you realize how some people out there really have terrible things that they have to face. If you can give them some guidance or direction, or help them in some way, it’s really very, very rewarding.”

In its lifetime, Call 4 Action has done so much for the Western New York community.

“In the past year, just our Call 4 Action group here, it’s been over $200,000 that we have actually helped people keep or get back,” Visco said. “We’ve had over 2,000 calls just in the past 12 months.”

Visco worked closely with News 4 legend Al Vaughters during his time with the station to stand up for our neighbors.

“It was wonderful when we had Al Vaughters as our consumer reporter because he was so supportive,” Visco said. “His personality is just so all-encompassing and he’s warm and he gives out that warmth to people and he’s just the way he seems on television.”

Those who worked with Visco say she volunteered her time tirelessly and helped countless people over the years.

“A wonderful woman. She has done so much good for people in this community,” News 4 anchor Jacquie Walker said during an on-air farewell to Visco. “You don’t hear about this quiet help that has been given for 40 years. A lot of time she’s just a listening ear on the other end of the phone if you call into Call 4 Action. But she can give you ideas that will help you, places you can go for help… We send all of our best wishes to her for a happy retirement.”

A luncheon was held at the Foundry Suites in Buffalo on Wednesday, to celebrate not only Visco’s retirement, but her dedication to our community. Vaughters was there for the celebration and talked about “the quiet help” Walker mentioned, explaining how people never really know all of the hard work Call 4 Action volunteers put in.

“Call 4 Action has been helping hundreds of thousands of consumers in Western New York over all of these years,” Vaughters said. “But I have often said that they do all the hard work and the consumer reporter [gets] all the credit. I have no doubt that they’re going to be doing a great job now that I’m retired and many good things ahead.”

As she looks back at her career, Visco says her time with Call 4 Action has been amazing.

“It’s actually gone by very quickly. It’s been very interesting, it’s been very educational, and it’s been very rewarding,” Visco said. “Rewarding to know that you can somehow help someone out there that needs help in some way — whether it’s just talking to them, whether it’s doing calls for them, whether it’s just telling them the path that they need to follow in order to get something resolved. It’s just that you’re there for them.”

When asked if any particular cases she worked on stood out to her the most, she said she couldn’t possibly choose one.

“Sometimes it’s just been people that over the years they almost really become your friends and you help them with little problems along the way and they’ll call again a couple years later and say, ‘Oh, you helped me with this,’ or ‘You helped me with that,'” Visco said. “There have been some very heartwarming ones for people, and there have been some that you just kind of feel like you brought justice to some degree for those that have been scammed or taken advantage of.”

Visco wants to thank everyone she’s ever worked with through Call 4 Action, especially those who volunteered under her watch. She wishes them all the best and says to “keep on doing the good work.”

“I have enjoyed the volunteers that I’ve come across over the years. There have been many,” Visco said. “They’re really outstanding. They dedicate themselves to helping other people, putting in a couple hours a week.”

As for what’s next, Larry Ramunno — who spent an entire career as a senior special investigator with Erie County — has officially taken over as Call 4 Action’s new executive director.

“I’m replacing Maria Visco, who just put in 40 years of her life giving back to the community,” Ramunno said. “She has been an outstanding director and she’s going to be a hard act to follow because she’s been just wonderful.”

Visco emphasized they’re always looking for volunteers, and encourages people to join the team she’s enjoyed working for these past 40 years.

“There are many, many calls that come in, many web cases that come in,” Visco said. “It gives you so much more than you even give it because you learn so much in return, and it really makes you feel good that you can help. It’s wonderful, especially in today’s world where everybody is kind of turning their backs on everyone to be able to reach out and help.”

If you are interested in volunteering for Call 4 Action, fill out and submit this form.

Jordan Norkus is an award-winning anchor who has been part of the News 4 team since 2021. See more of her work here or follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.