February 2021 Honoree
Danise C. Wilson, MPH
Erie Niagara Area Heath Education Center, Inc. (AHEC)
Danise C. Wilson, MPH is a lifelong resident of Buffalo and has committed the last 20 years to the enhancement and enrichment of her community through outreach and mentorship. As the mother of five children in the Buffalo Public and Charter School systems, she is personally invested in promoting the advancement of health outcomes and quality education in Western New York. Danise is also a passionate activist, serving as a community volunteer and helping to enhance the overall well-being of youth in her community.
Danise serves on the board of trustees of Erie County Community College (chair, 2020 – to present; vice chair, 2018 – 2020; student success and diversity co-chair, 2018 – present; presidential search committee, 2018; finance committee chair, 2016-2017). She is a board member of the Western New York Integrated Care Collaborative, Inc.; is an Open Buffalo emerging leader mentor; and serves on the University at Buffalo Clinical and Translational Science Institute community advisory board. For the Health Foundation for Western & Central New York Danise is Fellow Action Network DEI co-chair and Health Leadership Fellow Cohort 9. She is president of the Otis and Woodlawn Block Club and a member of Masten District Board of Block clubs, as well as a youth leader at the Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church.
Established in 2004, Erie Niagara Area Heath Education Center, Inc. offers programs that encourage underrepresented minority to purse health careers. We also educate community and current health professionals how to better work with communities of color. The organization has five employees and a host of interns. (As Danise says, “Small but mighty.”) “We value excellence and quality services. We believe that Black and Brown students should know that they have a place in health care field. We believe that addressing the social determinants of health is the only way to improve health disparities and we intend to continue the work to ensure communities are well informed self-advocates,” she says.
Danise is most proud knowing “that we have helped so many achieve their career goals or at least made them think differently about the possibilities that are before them. I am also very proud that we are actively increasing the health literacy and cultural competency of the current health workforce. We are doing our part in addressing health disparities.”
According to Danise, AHEC serves the community by offering programs and education opportunities. She says, “For example, we are currently working on a maternal health project in which we are trying to connect low income mothers to doulas in efforts to mitigate the maternal health crisis.”
She is a graduate of the Buffalo Public School system, Daemen College, and the University at Buffalo, Masters of Public Health degree program.
January 2021 Honoree
Kimberly Suminski, CEO
Child Care Resource Network
Kimberly Suminski joined the Child Care Resource Network in May 2019 after three years as director of the Early Childhood Direction Center at John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital. As CEO she oversees a budget of $3 million and 37 employees.
Suminski is on the Erie County Emergency Child Care Task Force and serves on the board of Early Care and Learning Council. She is a member of National Association of the Education of Young Children, Western New York Behavior Collaborative, United Way Birth to Eight Collaborative, Infant Toddler Leadership Circle, and Live Well Erie County Task Force.
She has a master’s degree in education administration from Canisius College and has 25 years experience at every level from pre-school director to high school principal. She was also an adjunct instructor for the early childhood program at Villa Maria College.
Founded in 1987, Child Care Resource Network (CCRN) is the only resource and referral agency serving Erie County. It works to promote quality, affordable, accessible care and learning for all children by supporting and empowering families, caregivers, education professionals, and employers. CCRN believes all children should have access to high-quality care and learning experiences, helping them to reach their full potential.
Its staff provide continuing education, coaching, credentialing, and quality improvement projects to help the WNY child care providers provide high quality care. CCRN is the only Erie County agency authorized by the Office of Child and Family Services (OCFS) to provide the full range of child care, before and after school care, or day camp referrals to parents. It also advocates for greater and more comprehensive legislation surrounding early child education. It works with child care providers and programs and ensure that these programs have the proper licenses to open and operate and that they are following all NYS laws and regulations. CCRN also provides funding to providers to ensure that children are receiving healthy meals and snacks while in care.
Kimberly says one of the biggest challenges CCRN faces is helping people understand the importance of child care and how it impacts the workforce as a whole. “The availability of quality child care allows parents to go to work with piece of mind that their child is safe, healthy and thriving. Child care matters. It is no longer a woman’s issue or a parent’s issue – it is truly a community issue.” She added, “Western New York has limited access to child care. Simply put, the demand for child care exceeds the supply. We know that children who receive high-quality care and early childhood learning opportunities are better prepared for Kindergarten. We need increased supports for child care programs to better meet the needs of our community.”
“Also, many won’t know this but a few years ago, Child Care Resource Network started an annual Diaper Drive. Diaper need is a real struggle that faces many families in our community and without diapers a parent cannot send their child to child care. During our annual Diaper Drive we collect diapers and money to purchase diapers. One hundred percent of the proceeds of this drive is given directly to child care providers who serve families in need. This takes the burden off of the parent to purchase diapers for their children in child care. Last year alone we were able to provide approximately 100,000 diapers!”