#46: People Who Make a Difference

Photo by Maria Thomas Fisher

“There is so much to love about Rochester. With so many colleges, there are numerous opportunities to attend an art exhibit, listen to renowned speakers, or check out athletic events at little or no cost. Living within walking distance of UR gives me access to countless year-round fun and intellectually stimulating events and activities.

“What I really love about Rochester is less tangible and still so impactful in terms of how we view our city. I believe our most crucial asset is our people and our sense of community. As a first generation high school and college graduate born to teenage parents, the statistics pointing to the future for a child born in these circumstances are grim. Yet, I didn’t become another statistic. I feel it was the support of my community that made the difference in my life.

“When I had ideas about increasing community engagement, community leaders helped me make those ideas a reality. When a group looked to connect young professionals with non-profit boards, United Way President Peter Carpino went out on a limb and advocated for this idea. When a group approached the Community Foundation’s Jennifer Leonard with an initiative to help young people become philanthropists, Jennifer and the Community Foundation provided significant verbal and financial support and assisted with the creation of NextGen Rochester. Current leaders in our community feel a responsibility to support, nurture, and mentor the next generation of community leaders.

“A few months ago, I saw this community’s generous spirit in action. I found out about a family who recently moved from Chicago. Mom was an innocent victim of a shooting and brought her young son to Rochester to provide a safer life for him.  The family has very little financial means or material items. Upon hearing this story, I sent out a request asking for help.

“The response was immediate and amazing. People provided clothes, toiletries and housewares. A friend connected the family to Home Start Hope a non-profit serving women and children that helped provide the family with necessary household items. GRE sponsored the family for Thanksgiving and Christmas and provided holiday dinners and toys. A community member connected mom to disability services in our area. Another person purchased a bed and superhero bedding for the little boy who had no bed of his own. This family was completely taken aback at how generous our community was to them. We saw that these new members of our community were in need and people sprang into action.

“In South Africa, there are tribes that greet each other with ‘Sawa bona’ which literally means ‘I see you.’ The accompanying response is ‘Sikhona’ (‘I am here’). I love that Rochester is a community where each of us is visible and each of us has the opportunity to make a difference.

“My favorite place to visit in Rochester is Mount Hope Cemetery. I feel really lucky that my job is to recruit volunteers for one of the most historic and picturesque locations in the country. I live in the Upper Mount Hope neighborhood. So, when I’m not working I end up walking my Labrador through the cemetery. With almost 200 acres, 350,000 residents and fourteen miles of paved surfaces a walk through Mount Hope guarantees new discoveries every visit combined with a great workout.”

—Maria Thomas Fisher, Upper Mount Hope neighborhood

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