NYSW Buffalo Niagara Chapter - Buffalo, NY - Women in Leadership

Women in Leadership

December 2016 Honoree

Lisa Booz WIL DecemberLisa Booz

Regional Director, Camp Good Days and Special Times

In 1979, Gary Mervis’ nine-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. He started a summer camp for kids with cancer as a way to show his daughter, Teddi, that she wasn’t alone. It then grew into a year-round organization with offices in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Ithaca. Teddi passed away in 1982, but CGD continues as a legacy to her.

Lisa Booz is regional director of Camp Good Days and Special Times. She says, “We have a couple of mottos here: ‘Camp Good Days: where courage has no boundaries’ and ‘giving back the childhood that cancer took away.’ We live these sayings daily – doing whatever it takes to get the kids to laugh.”

Camp Good Days and Special Times was first established as completely volunteer-run. As the organization grew, so then did the staff needs; they now have two full time and one part time employees who serve more than 500 kids. Lisa is the most proud of the Camp’s volunteers, she says “Many of our volunteers are past Campers themselves – leading the way for new pediatric patients and being a symbol of hope.” They strive to improve the quality of life for children with cancer, and their families, offering programs for young adult and adult oncology patients. In the future Lisa would like to be able to expand their women’s oncology program.

Lisa is a member of Volunteer Administrators of WNY, Agency Executives Association, American Camp Association, adn the Children’s Oncology Camping Association.

WKBW Interview 

November 2016 Honoree

Sheila BrownSheila L. Brown
CEO, Vision Multi-Media

Owner, WUFO 1080 AM radio

Sheila L. Brown is a multi-tasker supreme: she’s CEO of Vision Multi-Media and the owner of WUFO 1080 AM radio, and most recently she’s added author to her responsibilities. In 2015, Brown released her first book, “29 Years of Preparation.” The book describes the arc of her career, first as a Red Cross employee, moving on to salesperson at WUFO and then sales manager, and finally as Western New York’s first black, female owner of a radio station, WUFO 1080 AM.

Sheila hopes to inspire other women to entrepreneurship: “Dream write and pray. That’s all you have to do. If you know that you have a burning in your heart, and it keeps nagging at you, then the Lord is saying ‘This is what you have to do.’ If you’ve been praying on it and you know this is what you want to do, you have to start writing it down. You can’t just think that a dream is just going to jump out of the sky, because it’s not. There’s definitely preparation and planning that comes with it. If you really heard from the Lord, it will come to fruition. I took a leap of faith and every day I just try to increase my faith in Him.”

Brown is CEO of WUFO 1080 AM, the 52-year-old Buffalo Hall of Fame-inducted, heritage station which serves the African-American community. In 2013, WUFO from aging headquarters on 89 LaSalle to its new location in the African-American Heritage Corridor in Buffalo in company with the Colored Musicians Club, Nash House, and Michigan Street Baptist Church.

She is a lifelong member of The Pilgrim Baptist Church; Commission board member, The Michigan Street African American Heritage Corridor; and board member, BPO Diversity Council.

Family is very important to Sheila: she and her husband, Kenneth, have a 22-year-old daughter and twin 18-year-old sons. And she says, “Every day I stand before a collage of pictures of my deceased parents Charles and Frankie, and I am guided by their love and legacy still to this day.”

WKBW Interview

October 2016 Honoree

Christine HowardChristine E.B. Howard
Owner and founder of E.B. Howard Consulting

Christine E.B. Howard honored as a “Woman in Leadership” by NYS Women, Inc.

BUFFALO, NY October 21, 2016 - Christine E.B. Howard has been honored as a “Woman in Leadership” in October by the Buffalo Niagara Chapter of New York State Women, Inc. This program recognizes Western New York women who exhibit leadership, enterprise, and excellence in their business or profession while giving back to the community.

Christine is the president, owner, and founder of E.B. Howard Consulting, which provides project and program funding development, oversight, and accountability. Her clients’ have a common goal to develop, fund, and implement innovative solutions to social, cultural, or environmental issues. These social entrepreneurs are STEM-based and include educational agencies, non-profits, and for-profits entities from around the world.

She is an active volunteer and the current board of directors chair for Ten Thousand Villages of WNY, an artisan non-profit and located in Williamsville. She is also a vital member of the National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO) Buffalo Niagara, serving on the board of directors and on the membership committee.

She is a member of Grant Professionals Association, American Evaluation Association (the primary professional associations for development professionals in the U.S.), and New York State Women, Inc. Christine is also an active member of the Amherst Chamber of Commerce and the Western NY Venture Association.

The Buffalo Niagara Chapter of New York State Women, Inc. strives to make a difference in the lives of working women by helping to build powerful women personally, professionally and politically.

WKBW Interview

September 2016 Honoree

LindaLinda Pellegrino
AM Buffalo host, WKBW-TV

Linda Pellegrino has been the host of AM Buffalo weekdays at 10:00 AM for over 20 years, conducting thousands of live interviews with personalities ranging from the biggest Hollywood stars to British royalty. In addition, Linda contributes feature stories to the program. Previously she was a popular reporter and weathercaster for Eyewitness News. For her outstanding work, Linda has been nominated twice for New York State Emmy awards. Also a busy voice-over talent, Linda is heard locally and internationally on many radio and television commercials. Prior to joining Channel 7, Linda was a popular radio host on WHAM 1180am radio in Rochester, WBEN radio 930, and on Oldies 104 fm.

Linda is a graduate of Rockland Community College, SUNY Brockport and completed some graduate studies at Mississippi State College. Western New York has been her home for over 30 years with her husband Bob. Their son, Brett is a recent graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and will attend grad school locally.

Linda continues to inspire her viewers after a diagnosis of breast cancer and thyroid cancer in 2012. Linda shared her story and her recovery which included conversations with doctors, chemotherapy treatment and hair loss. After thyroid surgery left her with a permanently paralyzed vocal cord, Linda chronicled this surgery and recovery as well.

Outside the station, Linda leads a very busy life in the community. Among her many charitable interests, Linda has served as honorary chairperson for the physically and emotionally handicapped at Buffalo’s Heritage Centers. She personally worked with the late Dave Thomas on the “Adopting Hope” campaign with Wendy’s restaurants. She served on the board of directors with the “Hunter’s Hope” foundation. She is a strong proponent of animal adoption from the Buffalo Animal Shelter. In 2013, Linda was inducted into the Buffalo Broadcasting Hall of Fame. She aspires to be a positive role model for all women, reminding them to be pro-active for their own good health.

HartAugust 2016 Honoree

Franchelle Hart
Executive Director, Open Buffalo

One of 10 children, Franchelle C. Hart was born and raised in Niagara Falls, N.Y. From a very early age, Hart credits her great-grandparents for instilling the importance of hard work, the love of God and the love of humanity in her. Hart attended Buffalo State College, where she majored in Political Science and African-American Studies. As Ronald E. McNair Scholar, Hart traveled the country presenting her research on connecting music and activism. She also presented research on mandatory minimum drug sentencing laws and community impact, and New York State Rockefeller Drug Laws, which led her to a fellowship with the Congressional Black Caucus on Capitol Hill. Hart attended the University at Albany for her graduate education, where she majored in Public Policy.

After she completed her education, Hart took her political and organizing skills to 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, where she would spend the next seven years managing the union’s communication, political and community outreach efforts. As the organization’s Western New York Communication Coordinator, Hart also traveled the country organizing for health care reform and dozens of political campaigns.

She is currently executive director of Open Buffalo, a civic initiative to make major, long-term improvements in justice and equity in the City of Buffalo. Open Buffalo collaborates with organizations such as People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH), Buffalo Peacemakers, Coalition for Economic Justice, Clean Air Coalition, among others, to bring neighborhood-based solutions to conflicts at designated “Peace Hubs” throughout the city of Buffalo; train residents as “Emerging Leaders to take on leadership roles in community, nonprofit, and government sectors; create an Innovation Lab to generate new ideas, do original research, draw more effectively on local and national best practices, share information more broadly, and draft new laws and policies; and to mobilize arts groups to aid in Mobile Democracy and Emerging Leaders projects, to contribute creativity to issue-based work, and to change the stories Buffalo tells itself and the world.

Hart has served as a board member for the Western New York Area Labor Federation, Labor Council for Latin American Advancement, and as President for the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (Buffalo Chapter). In her free time, Hart volunteers with the Buffalo Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., where she is the chair of the social action committee and numerous other efforts to create pathways to college for African-American youth across Western New York.


July 2016 Honoree

Catherine Linder Spencer
Award Winning Buffalo-based Artist

Website: catherinelinderspencer.com

Catherine Linder Spencer is an award winning Buffalo born and Buffalo-based artist. Catherine’s work has been exhibited widely in museums and galleries throughout Western New York including the Albright Knox Art Gallery, Burchfield-Penney Art Center, and The Castellani Art Museum and in major cities throughout the U.S. Catherine’s art includes a broad scope of media including 35 mm photography, mixed media collage, sculpture, large scale site specific installations to enamel work, and fiber based sculpture. She recently completed a one-year fellowship program through the New York Foundation for the Arts. In addition to exhibiting in local museums and galleries, Catherine has participated in many public art projects including “Herd About Buffalo” and “Art on Wheels.” She is represented by Studio E Partners in Washington, D.C. and recently had an art exhibition in New York City. Her work is in private collections across the United States. She is proud to have eight large pieces of her work included in the permanent collection of the Burchfield-Penney Art Center. Several pieces from her brand new series Gathering Symbiosis were recently on exhibit in the Conventus Building, a center for collaborative medicine on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. She currently has a piece included in the exhibition “Sequel” at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center on view through September 2016.

Catherine attended the University of Strasbourg, France in 1978, Operation Crossroads Africa (Independent Study) in 1979, and received her BA from Trinity College in 1980.

Catherine has assisted countless organizations in Western New York as volunteer, advocate, fundraiser, often a behind the scenes leader. She served on Roswell Park Cancer Institute’s Art Committee for a number of years, helping to get artwork permanently installed on the walls of the hospital. She designed and ran an art program for children at Vive La Casa, using art as a tool for healing for hundreds of refugees over a period of 5 years. Catherine recently worked with UB Art Galleries on a long term project with adult artists from Aspire, Inc. In addition to making art and teaching art, Catherine has been a tireless advocate for the arts and cultural community for over 25 years. She was a longtime member of City of Buffalo Arts Commission and City of Buffalo Arts and Cultural Funding Advisory Board and is especially proud of her 25-plus year relationship with Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center as member, board member, past president of the board, and chair of the Capital campaign from 2003-2005 to help build out their spaces in The Church (Babeville).

Therese M Vita

June 2016 Honoree

Therese M. Vita CFP®, CRPC®
Investment Associate, Merrill Lynch Wealth Management
The Siwiec, Ryan, Vita & Associates Group

Therese is a partner on a six-person wealth management team in the Merrill Lynch Buffalo office. Their team within Merrill Lynch was created by the three partners in 2010 and is known as The Siwiec, Ryan, Vita & Associates Group. Merrill Lynch itself was founded in 1915 by Charlie Merrill and Edmund Lynch, and was acquired by its parent company, Bank of America, in 2008.

Therese and her partners, Dave Siwiec and Matthew Ryan, had built their businesses as solo practitioners, but recognized their growth limitations moving forward. They formed a team to be able to deliver depth and breadth of client service, and capitalize on their individual strengths. Therese says, “Our team is run like a Swiss watch and I think our clients know it. They value the work that we do and have confidence in us. They know we are hands-on, that we care about them and their families...”

Therese practiced law for 10 years in Syracuse and Rochester, after graduating from Albany Law School of Union University in 1988. In 1998 she decided the practice of law was not a good personal fit, however her background has been an added value for clients, particularly in estate planning services.

Therese has been an active member of the Rotary Club of Buffalo for seven years and serves on the club’s planned giving committee. She is a trustee of The Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, where she serves on the advancement committee and has performed in O’Connell & Company’s Diva By Diva with proceeds supporting Women & Children’s Charities. She is a member of Estate Analysts of Western New York, Western NY Planned Giving Consortium, Bishop’s Council of the Laity, and St. Joseph’s Cathedral Choir.

Therese served on The Rotary Club of Buffalo Foundation as secretary and on the investment committee and served for five years on the Road Less Traveled Productions Theater Board. She has been The Twentieth Century Club Foundation fundraising committee co-chair, American Cancer Society board member, and chair of “Party in the Park” fundraiser for the Buffalo & Erie County Naval & Military Park.

In 2016 Therese was invited by Business First to serve as a mentor for its Bizwomen Mentoring Monday for one-on-one seven-minute coaching sessions and conversations with professional women.

WKBW Interview - http://www.wkbw.com/am-buffalo/nys-women-in-leadership

May 2016 Honoree

Jayme Smith
Studio J, Owner

Web Site: www.studiojbuffalo.com 

Studio J was founded by Jayme Smith who was born into dance by her mother, Barbara Glover, owner of Miss Barbara’s School of Dance, the longest running African American dance school in Buffalo. Jayme wanted to open a business that would encompass many of her creative talents including dance, fitness and event planning. A place that was fun, affordable and more than just dance! Studio J offers a nurturing environment for youth to build character and self-esteem. Jayme enjoys inspiring adults become healthy and fit by teaching and offering various fitness classes. 

Community service is another important part of Studio J. Students have performed at Niagara Hospice, HighPointe on Michigan and the Jefferson Arts Festival. Each year the studio offers free summer classes and tuition-free scholarships. At the very core of Studio J is family. The “blue house” that the business is located in makes everyone feel right at home. Each December the students and staff put on a holiday dinner show – bringing all of the studio families together. In April 2016, the studio hosted its first father-daughter dance that will become an annual event.

Jayme has been the chairperson for the WNY Black Film Festival for 13 years (since its inception). Organized in 2002, the film festival addresses vital issues and supports independent filmmakers. Various community organizations partner with Delta to support the event.


April 2016 Honoree

Nicola Bryant-Ballard
Rudeboyz Artworks, Owner

Nicola co-owns Rudeboyz Artworks with her husband Qean. They originally gave the concept a trial run over the 2015 holiday shopping season as one of the temporary shops in Queen City Pop-Up downtown.

The 400-square-foot space will have a similar offering: handmade and original clothing, accessories, purses artwork and dolls. There will be screen printed T-shirts as well as hand-painted clothing featuring artwork by Qean Ballard.

Nicola is also president and founder of Consult Medley, LLC with creates digital projects, including video and website products for 

artists and small businesses and literary projects for visual artists, musicians, poets and performers.

Rudeboyz Artworks joins a bakery and a garden center in the Five Points neighborhood on Buffalo's west side. She has big plans: free art classes for community children and an August art festival. Nicola is also working with her neighboring shop owners to create a business association for Five Points.

Buffalo, NY (WKBW) Interview - http://www.wkbw.com/am-buffalo/april-honoree

Cindi McEachon

March 2016 Honoree

Cindi McEachon
Peaceprints of WNY, Executive Director

WKBW Interview

Cindi McEachon holds a special place in Western New York: she is the executive director of Peaceprints of WNY. Peaceprints of WNY has a haunted history – it was founded by the late Sister Karen Klimczak, SSJ in 1985 with the opening of HOPE House (a Home Of Positive Experience) on Sycamore Street in Buffalo. In 1987, after the murder of Father Joe Bissonette, Sister Karen moved Hope House to 335 Grider Street, the rectory of St. Bartholomew church, and renamed the facility Bissonette House, to pay homage to the slain father. At that time the house served nine men. Tragically, on April 14, 2006 Sister Karen was murdered. In the wake of her death the “I Leave Peaceprints” dove movement was launched. Over the last decade the organization has grown to include two facilities, servicing 35 residents at one time. As well, the in-reach programming reaches more than 1,000 unique individuals each year.

Peaceprints of WNY provides comprehensive reentry services to men and women involved in the criminal justice system in Erie and Monroe Counties. Specific services include: nin in-prison support groups; two community support groups; Phase three reentry workshops; as well as transitional and supportive housing options. provides reentry services to Erie and Monroe Counties.

The organization started with no paid employees, Sister Karen and her team of volunteers were the breath of the organization. Today they have four full-time and seven part-time staff as well as 30 committed volunteers. 

Cindi says, “I truly feel like we, as an organization, overcome challenges every day. The men we serve in our transitional housing are not considered a priority to our community. In fact, most often additional barriers are encountered by our folks preventing them from accessing safe, affordable and much needed services (employment, housing, education) that are most certainly needed in order to have success. Each time we connect an individual with a needed service, acquire a new volunteer, donor or community supporter I count that as an overwhelming win.”

Cindi was a 2015 Women Who Move the City honoree, ATHENA Young Professional finalist in March 2016 and is a Leadership Buffalo Class of 2016 member. She is a committee member of Women on the Rise; Junior League of Buffalo member; Community Council, director of Community Impact, director of Research & Development, and serves on the Small Grants Committee. She serves on the United Way Agency Executive Association Marketing Committee and is a director on the Homespace Corp. Board of Director. she is also a director on the board of For Our Daughters, Inc. and acts as a Girls on the Run coach for P.S. 43, Westminster Community Charter.

A truly well-deserved recognition!!

MarciaFebruary 2016 Honoree

Marcia BroganMarcia C. Brogan, Owner
Marcia C. Brogan Agency, LLC

Marcia started as an Allstate Agent at a local Sears store in 1981, then left to start her own agency in 1984 when she became affiliated with Niagara National Insurance.

The Marcia C. Brogan Agency, LLC is a Certified Women Owned Enterprise (WBE) insurance agency that was incorporated in 2014. Marcia educates, empowers, and consults with businesses and personal clients in regards to all lines of personal and commercial insurance, life, and health. She also partners with colleagues to provide employee benefits coverage. She is affiliated with Niagara National Insurance Group, and utilizes their staff of 34 licensed professional as her support team.

In the early years in business she had to do what most women do, balance raising her family while growing her business. It was a delicate balancing act so she needed to use her time wisely. She decided to focus on child care centers as her niche since she understood both sides – as a parent and as a business owner. Marcia helps educate and empower child care providers to think of themselves as business owners. 

She now insures more than 80 child care sites and she serves on the State Council for Early Care and Learning. 

A Kenmore native, Marica’s passion for children and her local community shows in her affiliations. She currently serves as president, Kenmore Merchants Association; president-elect, National Association of Women Business Owners (NAWBO Buffalo Niagara); and is also a board member of State Early Care and Learning Council (ECLC); Village of Kenmore Planning Board; and The Blue Rose Society. Marcia is past board member and VP of Child Care Resource Network (CCRN); past president, Independent Insurance Agents of WNY-IIAAWNY; and past president, WNY Insurance Association.

In 2013 Marcia received the Excellence in Leadership Award from the State Early Care and Learning Council, the first time an honoree was from upstate NY since the inception of the award.

Shannon CodyJanuary 2016 Honoree

Shannon Cody
Owner of Michael’s Floral Design
2910 Delaware Avenue, Kenmore NY 14217
716-322-6810, Fax 716-322-776


WKBW Interview

Twenty-seven-year-old Shannon Cody’s renewal of a former Delaware Avenue florist’s shop has transformed Michael’s Floral Design into a charming boutique that has become a great addition to the small-town atmosphere in Kenmore.

Since opening in June 2015, Kenmore native Shannon has created a welcoming floral shop right in the heart of the Village of Kenmore. It’s all hometown for Michael’s Floral Design, from corsages for proms and arrangements for high school graduations to bouquets for the recitals at a dance studio just down the street. In addition to fresh-cut flowers and floral arrangements, she carries unique Buffalo gifts created by local artists and artisans. “People just want to show their support of everything Buffalo,” says Shannon. “And I think it’s really important to support local businesses, artisans, and designers.”

Shannon began working for Kenmore florist, Michael Murray, as a 16-year-old high school student and continued working at the store while attending Medaille College. She had always been an animal advocate and originally planned to work as a vet tech after graduating with a B.S. in veterinary technology and biology. Once she learned of Michael’s plans to retire, however, she decided to pursue her love of all things floral and reopened the shop as Michael’s Floral Design.

Father, Tim, and mom, Diane, are making this a family affair, too. Tim Cody works full time as a deliveryman and Diane stops by the shop to help out (and for her weekly “flower allowance” which graces the family dining room table).

Shannon is a member of the Kenmore Merchants Association and donates, at-cost, flowers, carnations, and floral arrangements for the fundraising efforts of the local Lions Club, Zonta, and the Kenmore Volunteer Fire Department. As a teenager, she volunteered at the SPCA and Shannon still follows through with her devotion to animals, selling candy bars at her shop for the Educate-A-Bull dog rescue organization.