Buffalo is one of only three cities in the country participating in a program designed to help get people outside and active during the coldest months of the year.
The Queen City, along with Eau Claire, Wis. and Leadville, Colorado, was chosen for the first ever Wintermission program, a two-year effort by Toronto-based nonprofit 8 80 Cities.
Buffalo was issued a Winter Vanguard Award by the organization and will receive a grant to participate in the program.
The Wintermission program was designed to address social isolation during the winter months by helping cities improve their parks and public spaces, 8 80 Cities executive director Amanda O’Rourke said.
“We know from the research that winter is a particularly isolating time for people in general, and we have higher rates of depression and anxiety in the winter,” O’Rourke said. “It’s further exacerbated among our more vulnerable residents.”
Wintermission is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Global Ideas Fund at CAF America.
Sixty-two cities in the United States applied for the program,
“Buffalo put out a fantastic application,” O’Rourke said. “We loved the focus on reaching a diverse population in the city.”
“Buffalo is a resilient city- we’re a can-do city, and we’re a full-season city,” Oswaldo Mestre, Director of Citizen Services for the City of Buffalo said. “The whole idea of Wintermission is to make sure that we’re a four-season city- we should be engaged in wintertime as well.”
Representatives from the City of Buffalo and 8 80 Cities will do a series of community events from March 10 to 14, stopping by community centers, libraries and other locations to talk to members of the community.
Ideas taken from the session will be implemented in plans for next winter.
“Our strategy is to work with the communities that sometimes we consider vulnerable- senior citizens, young people,” Mestre said. “We’re going to touch base with some of these communities that look at winter a little bit differently.”
The city is teaming up with GoBike Buffalo, The Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo , Cities of Service – Love Your Block program and The Board of Blocks of Buffalo on the program.
“Sometimes it’s as simple as going into communities and helping people shovel out, or doing winter activities in our parks,” Mestre said.
“There are times when people get the winter blues- we don’t get that in Buffalo,” Mestre added.
Anyone with ideas can contact the Department of Citizen Services at (716)851-4229 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.