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January 5, 2012

First Niagara gives $150K to local agencies

— — A group of nonprofit organizations were the recipients of First Niagara’s fifth round of Mentoring Matters grants.

As part of National Mentoring Month, First Niagara announced Wednesday that 18 Western New York area organizations have been selected as this year’s grant recipients. The bank gave a total of $150,000 to be awarded to support organized mentoring efforts throughout the area.

Locally, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Niagara County, Girl Scouts of Western New York and Health Association of Niagara County Inc. were among the recipients.

“The funds we’ve received through Mentoring Matters have transformed the lives of more than 100 children during the past few years and we couldn’t be more grateful,” said John W. Kinner, president and CEO of HANCI.

Some of the funding is used for the HANCI Reading All-Stars program. HANCI works with at-risk second and third graders, giving them intense after-school help until they're reading at or above their grade level.

“(The program) is as high-impact as it gets,” Kinner said.

Mentoring Matters is First Niagara’s charitable giving program that provides critical financial and volunteer support for local mentoring efforts. In 2011, Mentoring Matters topped the $2.5 million total grant mark, First Niagara said, impacting more than 46,000 youth in more than 200 organized mentoring programs.

“Through our Mentoring Matters program we are able to reinforce the importance and showcase the positive impact mentoring has on the lives of young adults,” said Buford Sears, Western New York market executive for First Niagara Bank. “Mentoring is a strong factor that so often leads to positive changes in the professional, academic, social, emotional and cognitive growth of students in our Western New York community.”

First Niagara made the announcement Wednesday at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo. The company said mentoring has benefits, according to a survey of past Mentoring Matters grant recipients. Those include significant improvements in academic grades and school attendance, as well as elevating self-esteem, communication skills, learning to relate well to others, setting career goals and adopting new, positive behaviors.

Other grant winners include: Be-A-Friend Program, Inc., Boys & Girls Clubs of the Northtowns, Boys & Girls Clubs of Buffalo, Buffalo Federation of Neighborhood Centers, Inc., Buffalo Prep, Inc., Community Foundation for Greater Buffalo, Compeer West Inc., Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection, Inc., Junior Achievement of Western New York, Literacy Empowerment Action Plan of Western New York, Inc., Literacy Volunteers of Buffalo And Erie County, Inc., Seneca Street Community Development Corp., The Salvation Army, United Church Home Society, Inc. and Gateway-Longview.

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