WNYIL Chief Community Engagement Officer

Host: Welcome to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of Western New York Independent Living (WNYIL). Our guest today is Tracy LeBlanc, chief community engagement officer of WNYIL. And I'm your host, Ernie Churchwell. Welcome to the program Tracy. 

Guest: Hi, Ernie. Thank you for having me. 

Host: It's our pleasure. Tracy has been with us a relatively brief time but she brings to her position a wealth of experience. Just to give people an idea, could you mention some of your previous positions? 

Guest: Sure. I started out my career as a partner in an advertising agency with my father for 18 years. And then I ran an event called the Friendship Festival, which was a celebration of Canada Day in Fort Erie and July 4th in Buffalo, NY, and I ran that for 10 years. And then I worked at a community college and at another behavioral health organization. And then I came to WNYIL. 

Host: Oh well, it sounds like you've got a wealth of experience, alright.  And I'm willing to bet that there are probably some people listening that are not that familiar with what community engagement does. They might ask themselves, WNYIL and its family of agencies are always starting new programs, getting involved with other activities in the broader community and whatnot. And someone must be telling the people that these things are happening so they'll know they can engage in them. What is the role in community engagement in making this happen? 

Guest: Well, community engagement plays a number of roles. Number one, we try to educate people on what the agency does, both new and existing programs. We do that through a variety of ways of going out and speaking to people in the Community, speaking to groups, also sending out press releases and alerting the media when we have new programs. 

And our other role is to  support events that the agency does. For instance, we have our Disability Pride Festival, which is in July, celebrates the signing of the American Disabilities Act. So, we get our fingers in a lot of different things. 

Host: And there are some things that people might only know about because of where they live. For instance, our Chief Executive Officer, Doug Usiak has a monthly column in the Lockport Union Sun and Journal, an opinion piece as it were, and which is sometimes picked up by the Niagara Gazette. And so often its topics tend to be focused on things to the north, but also, since it's an op-ed piece, it gives us a chance to really give our opinions and not just be totally objective about things which can be fun at times. What are some other ways that we reach people that you can think of? 

Guest: Well, one of the big roles that WNYIL plays is as advocates for those who are disabled. And so our department helps our advocates, for instance, right now we have a petition drive in Niagara Falls to urge the city of Niagara Falls to repair the curb cuts and other things that make it easy for disabled people to get around. And our job is to promote those initiatives as well. 

Host: And this is an example of citizen action coming to the fore because it was a friend of the agency who escorts her great grandson to elementary school, who discovered all of these hazards to her traveling in her power wheelchair. And she marshalled the forces there on the agency to put out the word and press the community leaders to take action and it looks like something is moving forward on that.  People there can tell you a bit more, but I'm sure somebody will probably have questions about just what it is you do and the remaining seconds. If you could tell us how people can reach you. 

Guest: Yes, you can call me in my office at 716-836-0822, ext. 166. That's the best way to reach me. Or you can email me at tleblanc@wnyil.org 

Host: Thanks so much for being with us, Tracy. 

Guest: Well, thank you for having me, Ernie. 

Host: You've been listening to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of WNYIL. Our guest today was Tracy LeBlanc, chief community engagement officer of WNYIL. And I've been your host, Ernie Churchwell.