Buffalo Business First's IDEA Award

Independent Perspective 1739 with guest Mike Benzin on WNYIL being awarded Buffalo Business First's IDEA Award

Host:  Welcome to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of Western New York Independent Living (WNYIL). Our guest today is Mike Benzin, the Chief Engagement Officer of WNYIL, and I'm your host Ernie Churchwell. Welcome to the program Mike.

Guest:  Thanks for having me, Ernie.

Host:  And you're here because you were present and can tell our listeners more about a particular honor that came to the Agency recently. They were named as one of the recipients of the IDEA Award. Could you tell us who offers that and what it means?

Guest:  Absolutely. On Wednesday, February 15 WNYIL was presented with the IDEA Award. IDEA stands for Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Awareness by Business First of Buffalo, our local Business Weekly. We were one of five organizations to be recognized and I think 19 individuals for our work in those areas.

Host:  Well if people want to know who those are, and they can probably either check with Business First or wait for those guys to get their own radio shows.

Guest:  I’m sure it’s on their website, absolutely.

Host:  All right. And, of course, Western New York Independent Living has been at the forefront of diversity just on the basis of disability alone. What does the makeup of the board of directors have to be under the terms of our funding documentation?

Guest:  As I understand it, more than half of our board needs to be comprised of people with disabilities, and that can be any kind of disability. And we certainly meet that standard. A lot of our councils, for our affiliates have people with disabilities and a lot of our staff have people with disabilities and I think that's one of the reasons why Business First recognized us that since our founding more than 40 years ago, the principles behind inclusion, diversity, equity and awareness have been embedded in our organizational culture. In recent years, we've done things like hire a director of organizational equity and launch an equity staff committee to help train and improve our relationships among and in between staff. But I think I think the big thing is just, you know, for 40 some years we've been practicing the things that a lot of other companies are only just started to do.

Host:  And plus, for many years, we are among on the forefront of hiring people of color, hiring people

Guest:  Absolutely and, it's heartening in a way to know that our work to promote an ideal that empowers all people with disabilities, to fully participate, work and engage equally in and our communities is appreciated.

Host:  And our director of equity really came to the fore during February, which was Black History Month. And she has been providing us with information about individuals of color who have made key contributions to society, to science, to other aspects of our lifestyle, many of whom are essentially unknown, without her assistance.

Guest:  Right. And I think, March is Women's History Month, if I remember correctly, so we'll be doing more of the same.

Host:  Indeed. Matter of fact that, I think at one time, I don't know if that's still the case, we had more women than men on the overall staff of the agency for a while anyway.

Guest:  I wouldn't be surprised if that weren't still true. I think that's true for many organizations in the nonprofit world.

Host:  Indeed, well maybe this will inspire people to look into the sort of services that we can provide them and know that this is certainly one place that people can look who want to be embraced no matter what their circumstance. I'm sure that some people will have questions on this. If so, how can they reach you?

Guest:  They can call me anytime at 716-836-0822 extension 450 or send me an email to mbezin@wnyil.org. And I'd be happy to tell them about some of the things that we do as an organization and maybe help them just talk about some of the things they can do.

Host:  Thanks so much for being with us Mike.

Guest:  Thank you Ernie.

Host:  You've been listening to Independent Perspective, a public affairs presentation of WNYIL. Our guest today was Mike Benzin, Chief Community Engagement Officer of WNYIL, and I've been your host Ernie Churchill.