Brief Agency Overview and Accomplishments

The Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo & WNY was incorporated in 1989 as a public benefit organization.  The Institute's Mission is to create a healthy community.  The mission is addressed by advocating for and facilitating strategy fostering a regional culture that invests in, encourages and sustains individual, family, organizational and community capacity to practice positive civic, environmental, economic and health enhancing behaviors.  Strategically guided by the interdisciplinary "healthy community" movement, the Institute's work is enhanced through assessment and visioning ,  collaboration, networking, advocacy, professional development services, educational programs, communication, volunteers, innovation and leadership on health promotion , civic engagement and quality of life issues.


Citizens within our communities share in the shaping of our thriving bi-national region.  Safe and stable neighborhoods, respect for diversity, accessible cultural/recreational opportunities, a healthy population, and lifelong learning provide an exceptional quality of life.  Our dynamic business climate evolves from a competitive workforce, responsive governance, and a comprehensive transportation system. A balanced, sustainable, environment ensures the prosperity and natural resources of our region."

Selected Institute Highlights/Accomplishments 1989 to 2019 - General Overview:

Creating Social Capital/Civic Health Initiatives

  • Buffalo-Niagara All America City Committee founded (1993) BNAAAC; Completed nine National Civic League All America City Award applications with (8) earning Finalist status and (2) winning  All America City lifetime designations (1996 and 2002) 2011 application earned Buffalo NY Finalist Status. 2014 application earned Kenmore Finalist Status. Invited 2009 to present at All America City Awards program 60th Anniversary celebration. Facilitated two Buffalo Common Council Alumni Reunions, 2009 and 2010
  • Founded regional Civic Empowerment Awards Program 1996 and Louis J. Billittier Sr. Exemplary Civic Leadership Award. (1998). Since 1996 have honored 111 community organizations and 17 civic leaders.  (on going) Member Buffalo Ambassadors-program and Buffalo Citybration Program.
  • Hosted on-going Healthy Community forums featuring national and international leaders including Dr. Trevor Hancock, Dr. Mary Pittman, Christopher Gates, Dr. Robert Putnam and Dr. Richard Keelor.(ongoing)
  • Co-sponsored launch (2003) of Erie County Social Capital education Initiative, and Smart Growth is Smart Business Series (2005).Launched” Healthy Communities” monthly television show (2006)featuring stories on civic engagement, community building and smaller nonprofits serving the City of Buffalo residents - Estimated over one quarter million viewings of shows since inception (Nine shows available on Wellness Institute website).
  • Initiated (2004) community dialogue with Mayor of Buffalo on non-profit sector role in developing a multi-disciplinary Quality of Life forum and inter-sector collaboration initiative.
  • Initiated community coalitions, community wellness councils in Buffalo, Rochester and Albany (1990 - 2000) and Niagara County (1991 to present), Tobacco Free  Erie County (1992), Erie County Physical Activity Coalition (1997), New York State Physical Activity Coalition (1998)rebranded (2000) as Be Active New York State,  Erie County Worksite Health Action Team (1999), Walk Your Children to School Campaign (2000), Community Health Network (2000) and Wellness Lane (2002). Be Active New York State ( ) is an ongoing, statewide initiative. (2013) Convened WNY Higher Education Health and Wellness Consortium.
  • (On going) Provided support and facilitative leadership to community Visioning projects including; Vision for Tomorrow  (regional 1995 to 2000), and local Buffalo area  Community  Visioning initiatives with East Lovejoy, Elmwood Village, Black Rock (2009) , Riverside (2010) Grant Amherst (2011), Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (2009); 10th Legislative County District; City of Buffalo Citizen Participation Academy, Good Neighbor Planning Alliance , Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities Visioning process (2010) and FLARE neighborhood process in 2011. The Institute is a participant in One Region Forward. (2014) 14208 Healthy Neighborhood Project
  • Co-founded Buffalo Summer “Prelude” (2005 and 2007) and “Finale” (2006) Drum Corps events with community partners and Drums Along the Waterfront organization serving inner city communities. Over 3000 attended shows.
  • Numerous amount of staff time donated to United Way, Computers for Children, WNED TV, Buffalo Niagara CVB , block clubs,  Elmwood Village, 10th Legislative District Quality of Life initiative, Waterfront Coalition ,Buffalo immigrant populations and grassroots organizations.
  • Assisted in planning of Buffalo 180 initiative city civic perceptions survey and marketing/promotion of Close-up Program (civic education) to Western New York area middle and senior high schools.
  • Sunrise Rotary Membership, Phil Haberstro elected President for the 2015 service year
  • Health Promotion Staff and Intern Training
  • (2014) Planning Social Capital Measurement Initiative
  • See Robert Putnam's book at  for more information on Social Capitol.
  • Phil Haberstro was selected to receive the Community Achievement Award, October 2017.


Creating Environmental Capital

  • Launched ongoing county-wide “Walk Your Children to School “ campaigns in 2000, which has resulted in multiple environmental changes around schools; coordinated statewide effort. Wellness Institute also manages the statewide SAFE ROUTES to SCHOOL coalition and initiative funded by the Governor’s Traffic Safety Commission.(Ongoing since 2006 serving all school districts (5000+ ) in NYS.
  • Founded Buffalo’s “Recycle A Bicycle” initiative for youth (2001) resulting in 200+ youth being trained in bicycle maintenance and safe riding practices and 250+ bicycles being recycled; launched Buffalo Blue Bikes, with 6 hubs and 26 bikes- growing to 12 hubs and 50+ bike with 700+ Annual uses. Supported launch of Buffalo Car Share auto sharing initiative (2009)now with over 650 members; fleet of 17 cars and one van (van was obtained in 2010 thru grant application with 6 Buffalo non profits working together). Buffalo Bike Share launched in 2013.
  • Launched affiliate partnership (2008) with Sustainable Earth Solutions (private sector) founded by retired science teacher (Dave Bauer) which has resulted in 80+ Buffalo area High School teams and faculty being taught Creative Problem Solving skills and applying those skills to an environmental project at their school.
  • Co-founded Tobacco Free Erie County Coalition (1991), which resulted in passage of major clean indoor air legislation in Erie County and removal of tobacco ads at Bills’ football stadium (1998).Member Erie Niagara (counties) Tobacco Free coalition
  • Introduced (2002 to present) the NYSDOH Heart Check Worksite Environment Assessment Tool to over 30 companies in Western New York State resulting in over 100 environmental changes supporting heart healthy behaviors. (ongoing)
  • Initiated NYS Be Active Environment Work Group resulting in statewide pedestrian/bicycle conference (June 2004 and April 2007).Launched GREEN OPTIONS Buffalo umbrella branding for environmental initiatives (2009) and spun off as independent non profit in 2010.(GO BIKE )
  • Held Buffalo’s first annual “Alternative Transportation Day”(2003) Co-founded Artwalk (city walking trail featuring community Art) and co-authored successful “Active Living by Design” grant, with Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. Initiated(2007) health promotion initiatives “Wellness on Wednesday" (WOW) on Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus. To date WOW Walks, health Education seminars, wellness fairs  and employer wellness committee meetings have created over 11,000 participations in wellness awareness, education and behavior activities, acheiving over 10 MILLION Steps by participants.
  • Co-authorized City of Buffalo Healthy Infrastructure grant for downtown Buffalo (2006) and facilitated creation of City of Buffalo Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Commission (2008). Submitted “Complete Streets resolution" (2008) and passed “Complete Streets” city legislation. Complete Streets resolution passed in Erie County Legislature (2008). Worked on State Wide Complete Streets policy now in bill form before NYS legislature.Hosted Summer 2017 BUILDING HEALTHY BUFFALO walking and walkability workshop-release WALKABILITY TOOLLIT and DVD. 
  • Affilliate Citizen Science Community Resources, led by Jackie James Creedon, instrumental in Tonawanda Coke fine, community forum event facilitation and visioning for proposed health study.  (Ongoing)



Creating Healthy Human Capital

  • Founded Erie County Physical Activity Coalition (1997) #1 rated coalition in New York State by NYSDOH ( Fall 2003) participant and facilitated strategic planning for Erie County Healthy Living task force (2008). Member since 2012 Buffalo Public Schools Health Council (Currently 2012 participating in review , revision and implementation of Buffalo Public School District-wide Wellness Policy).
  • Facilitated establishment of Wellness Councils – Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Rochester, Albany and New York City; Community Health Network co-founder (1990 – 2002). National participation in health promotion advocacy as Board member of Health Promotion Advocates .
  • Founding agency New York State Physical Activity Coalition (1997) rebranded “Be Active New York State Initiative” and  launched NY State focused website, (2001). Launched 2014 WALKING TO WELLNESS community campagin-inititive named community best practice by NYDOH launch HEALTHIEST DISTRICT inIritive for 142 Assembly District (fall 2017/ongoin0  
  • Established behavioral programs: First Choice, Youth Advantage (Youth Advantage program since 2008 has served over 4800 hundred youth with Physical, Mental Social and Spiritual development ), W.H.A.T. (Worksite Health Action Team) Forums (4 held), Move for Life, Artwalk, Passport to Wellness Walks for older adults (1992), PACE training,  Adventures in Change training, WNED Partnerships for community health (on going). Creative youth leadership program (2004-2009), City Of Buffalo Falls prevention partnership partnered with Mayor/& City Fire Department (2009/ongoing) Member of community partnership with Business First newspaper, YMCA , Wegmans Food Stores and Independent Health Insurer to award Western New York’s Healthiest Employers Awards (May 2011to 2015 ) membner regional Healthy Communities Coalition Steering Committee and STEPS campagn initititive
  • Erie County Tobacco Free Coalition (1992 – 1999) (Leadership), ongoing member and advocate ; Member P 2 Collaborative WNY health promotion Steering Committee and Buffalo Healthy Kids Healthy Community initiative.
  • Founded Award winning B-Well, City of Buffalo Employee Wellness Program  - serving 3500 diverse public sector employees  (1989 – 2005). Host city of Buffalo “Healthy Communities” TV show. (ongoing) Advisor to Living Prime Time and Buffalo Healthy Living magazines. Consultant (Current 2012/13) to Catholic Health System employee wellness plan development , implementation and evaluation.
  • Wellness Lane: over 24,000 persons served (2002-2014) at Buffalo Niagara Auto Show.
  • Hosted two national conferences (1992 and 2006) and 7 regional conferences on health promotion. Managed National Assoc for Health & Fitness
  • Community Health Initiative at the Response to Love Center, launched in 2013 and remains ongoing.  A Wellness Challenge and Community Garden were at the forefront of projects executed to educate and empower participants in healthy living.
  • CDC Work@Health Certification for Phil Haberstro and staffer Wendy VanEvery (2014)
  • Since 2008 have enrolled over 22,000 employees and family members from 100+ employer sites in the Eat Well Live Well Challenge, for workforce and community health promotion. Launched Eat Well Live Well Passport to Family Wellness year round program in Spring 2011 in partnership with private sector and public sector partners.  
  • Facilitated (2010 to present) city-wide “Falls Prevention” initiative and Buffalo Fire Department staff training (45 fire fighters trained and 15,000+ CDC falls prevention  pamphlets distributed at Buffalo city events..Including Fall 2011 ,Spring 2012 GOLDEN YEARS WELLNESS TOUR visits to 17 Buffalo Senior centers with presentations on falls prevention, physical activity and nutrition.  Recruited multiple community partners for ongoing falls prevention in the Fillmore District and beyond.
  • Facilitated partnership(2009) to open satellite office in Town of Tonawanda on Cardinal O’Hara High School campus offering health promotion activities /resources to faculty /staff, students ,families, alumni and community. Provided opportunity  for ( 100+) college student internships and service learning in school, worksite and community health promotion.
  • Since 1989 participated in the training of health promotion Interns year-round from across the United States.
  • Consulted to provide workplace and community health promotion to the Health Sciences Charter School in the City of Buffalo (2013 to present)


Creating Economic Capital and Jobs

  • Generated (since founding) in excess of $6.25 million in grants/sponsorships, (ongoing)
  • Generated positive national publicity for Buffalo Niagara region in 1992, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2001, 2002 , 2006 , 2009, 2011 and 2014  through hosting national conferences , earning eight All America City FINALIST status ,( ) and winning two All America City awards from the National Civic League ( ). Earned additional positive public relations value for Buffalo through national leadership positions held, national public speaking appearances and honors earned by the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo.
  • Pioneering and advocacy action in workforce health promotion to impact productivity and health care costs. (ongoing, 1989 to the present). Helped to save the City of Buffalo millions of dollars in health insurance spending by paving way to healthier workforce through 16 year employee wellnes program management which helped city attract lower cost health insurance provider.
  • Job creation – twelve employees, 200+ interns trained, (ongoing.)
  • First in Buffalo, NY region to publicly champion “Health Promotion” as a growth industry for Buffalo Niagara region (1997). Presented concept paper to Buffalo Niagara Partnership (1998). Helped incubate Massachusetts Avenue Project (1998), BWI Health Promotions (2004), Green Options Buffalo (2009), Buffalo Car Share (2010), Net Positive (2012), Explore Buffalo (2013) and Citizen science Community resources resulting in 15 additional fulltime jobs created in community-(ongoing ).
  • Participated in creation of City of Buffalo Creativity and Civic Solutions Commission (2004) – first in country.
  • Advocated to relocate Bicycle History Center and Childrens Museum as "cultural tourism” attractions to downtown Buffalo water front location at Canalside, (ongoing).
  • Partnered with Arden Farm in East Aurora, NY to strengthen their efforts in agri-tourism, health education and small scale organic farming (2014-ongoing)
  • Established partnership with private sector (BWI Health Promotion) to open National Worksite Health Promotion Training Institute in the Innovation Center on the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus (2010). Certified 10 Worksite health Promotion trainees Spring 2011.(ongoing training)
  • Brought  statewide BE ACTIVE NEW YORK STATE ( )(2002) and  National Association for Health and Fitness ( )(2008)presence to Western New York through management services contracts with the Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo.
  • Wellness Institute Executive Director Serves As Board Member of Health Promotion Advocates ( and National Walking (Advocacy) Summit in 2013 and 2015.