March 2017 Honoree
Chef, Big Big Table Community Cafe
Chef Mandy Bailey and her husband, Trueman Muhrer-Irwin, have been working on their nonprofit community café, Big Big Table, for four years. They plan for a welcoming place where people from all backgrounds can come together to enjoy a healthy meal, regardless of ability to pay. Mandy first heard of the concept in 2011 while she was working locally as a chef. Diners have the option to pay the suggested price for a meal, add a little extra, or pay less or nothing at all, and instead volunteer their time.
The couple has received private donations, including a 2016 fundraiser at Resurgence Brewery. They’ve also applied for grants, recently receiving a $2500 grant from the Pitch 10 competition sponsored by Next Generation United, where Mandy was among the ten not-for-profits pitching small business ideas.
All the pieces are in place: Big Big Table is now a 501(c)(3) nonprofit; they have their kitchen equipment, purchased from a local nonprofit; Trueman’s not for profit experience (Program Coordinator at Compeer of Buffalo); and Mandy’s culinary skills (she will be the executive chef, planning meals and running the kitchen staff). The only step left is to find a space, hopefully in a neighborhood with a range of income levels, possibly on the West Side, where they can make a difference by providing access to nutritious meals.
The couple has pursued their vision since 2012, with early support from Lafayette Avenue Presbyterian Church and business training from the Westminster Economic Development Initiative. There have been setbacks, though, especially after Mandy traveled to Denver, CO, to learn from the community cafés located there and attend the annual OWEE Summit, a gathering for community café entrepreneurs to share ideas.
On her return from one of these trips, Mandy was diagnosed with a somewhat rare disorder called neuromyelitis optica, which is similar to MS, probably contracted as a teenager. Physical therapy, drug infusions, and a plasma exchange (similar to dialysis) have led to marked improvement, although Mandy uses a walker. Despite these physical setbacks, Mandy remains the same: outgoing, optimistic, and committed to “Everybody eats, everybody gives, everybody matters.”
February 2017 Honoree
Karen L. King, PhD
Erie County Commission on the Status of Women, Executive Director
Karen King was appointed executive director of the Erie County Commission on the Status of Women by Erie County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz in June 2016. She had served as the Commission’s co-chair and as a board member since 2013. She has also been closely involved in Commission initiatives and educational efforts such as Pay Equity and Women’s History Month. She is currently chairing the Women’s Action Coalition.
The Commission’s mission is to seek the elimination of discrimination in any form that may exist on account of gender; to fully utilize the potential of each citizen, regardless of gender, in order to preserve our democratic way of life; and to provide equal opportunities to all citizens, regardless of gender, in employment, education, health and mental health, housing, senior and social services, and before the law.
Prior to her appointment, King held several positions at the University of Buffalo, most recently as project director managing and overseeing projects and communications on Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership (ISEP) National Science Foundation Grant. UB partnered with the Buffalo Public School district, Buffalo State College, and the Buffalo Museum of Science.
She also held the positions of program assistant, Workforce Development, Center for Educational Collaboration and educational services coordinator while at UB.
King has a PhD in Educational Leadership and Policy from UB, received her M.S. in Higher Education Administration from SUNY Buffalo State and a B.A. in Sociology from Ithaca College.
She was board vice president at the Family Justice Center, 2015/2016 and part of the presenting panel at the 2015 Equity and Social Justice Conference at SUNY Buffalo State.
January 2017 Honoree
Ann-Marie T. Orlowski, LMSW
CEO, Cradle Beach
Our January 2017 “Woman in Leadership” is Ann-Marie Orlowski, the new CEO of Cradle Beach. Ann-Marie, a Lancaster resident, has 25 years of experience working in child welfare. She worked at Gateway-Longview, Inc. for 23 years and most recently was director of foster care and community based services at GA Family Services Foster Care Program. Ann-Marie was an adjunct faculty member at UB’s Graduate School of Social Work for 10 years, as well as a guest lecturer at various local colleges. She is a member of the Leadership Buffalo Class of 2012, and is a board member of Kaely’s Kindness Foundation.
She was seven-years-old when she was placed in foster care with a family that would eventually adopt her. Orlowski’s experience as a foster child and adopted child, and her time spent as a foster parent has given her a unique perspective when dealing with children throughout her career. Ann-Marie served as vice president of community services and director of foster care at Gateway-Longview Inc. And now she will head operations at Cradle Beach, Inc., which is located on 66 acres near Lake Erie in Angola. Cradle Beach Camp provides services for disadvantaged and disabled youth and works in collaboration with the Buffalo Public schools serving 270 children in five schools.