BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — There was a holiday gathering in East Buffalo on Thursday night stemming from the dark tragedy on Jefferson Avenue last May, organized by a family member of one of the 10 victims from the Tops Mass Shooting.

It’s been a difficult year for Mark Talley, but this holiday season he is still trying to make a difference. He’s hosted free events for families on the East Side since May and he doesn’t plan to stop any time soon.

“We can’t leave. We’re here, so we have to do whatever we can to pick ourselves up because nobody’s going to pick us up,” Talley said.

Talley has turned tragedy into a purpose, serving communities in Buffalo in memory of his mother, Geraldine Talley, who was killed on May 14.

“I think she would definitely love everything that I’m doing in the community and trying to do future on here,” Talley added. “You gotta aim for the stars. Worst comes to worst you’ll fall on the moon.”

His organization, Agents for Advocacy, partnered with Buffalo-based Fostering Greatness to host a holiday giveaway. Families in attendance received food, clothing and other services.

“We’ve had so much loss during this year in the city of Buffalo, so we just wanted people to come out and just think about all the things that they are grateful for all of the things that they have available,” Leah Angel Daniel, executive director of Fostering Greatness, said.

Both organizations hope these events uplift those in need in the wake of hardship.

“These issues are not going to go away. They’re just going to get worse if we don’t address them. I think the community is rallying together saying we want change. We are changing the narrative,” Daniel continued.

Talley says a year ago this wouldn’t have been possible. Now, he’s looking toward next year when he wants to help even more residents on the East Side in memory of his mother, Geraldine.

“Mark a year ago, he had a whole different plan working in the behavioral health wing at ECMC, thinking he would maybe eventually be a security guard there. Mark now is trying to hopefully build one of the largest social advocacy and justice non-profits in the city, if not the state,” Talley concluded.

Agents for Advocacy, Talley’s non-profit, was founded in 2022. The organization is hosting another donation drive in collaboration with Slow Roll Buffalo. The annual “Snow Roll” event is taking place January 7. Donations will benefit a mobile pantry of essential items, which Talley hopes to create soon.

Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.