Social Capital/Civic Health Initiatives

“Social Capital” is defined as the level of trust and norms of reciprocity that exist in communities (Putnam). Through the Buffalo/Niagara All America City Committee, founded in 1993 by Virginia Hens, Alforna Evans and Phil Haberstro. This all-volunteer group has created social capital by competing in the All America City competition as a finalist (six times) by the National Civic League, twice winning a lifetime ALL-AMERICA Community and Region Designations (1996 Greater Buffalo and 2002 Buffalo Niagara Region).


Here is the 5-part series on building social capital: Creating Communities of Hope in Detroit. These are excerpts from a few different webinars over the years, and together, they are less than 40 minutes.

Part 1   (8:21)
Part 2   (6:51)
Part 3   (5:47)
Part 4   (10:09)
Part 5   (9:26)

  • Phil Haberstro, Executive Director of the Wellness Institute, was selected to receive the Community Achievement Award in October 2017.
  • Buffalo-Niagara All America City Committee 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)!
  • Founded regional Civic Empowerment Awards Program (1996) and Louis J. Billittier Sr. Exemplary Civic Leadership Award (1998) – have honored 100+ community organizations and civic leaders. 
  • Regular “Healthy Communities” and “B-WELL Buffalo” television shows since 2006 featuring local organizations doing work in our Greater Buffalo Communities and the City of Buffalo!
  • 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.
  • Co-sponsored launch of Erie County Social Capital Education Initiative (2003), Smart Growth is Smart Business Series (2005), and member of Steering Teams for local initiatives Live Well Erie County and Live Well Western New York (2019).
  • Engagement in community dialogue with Mayor of Buffalo to develop a multi-disciplinary Quality of Life forum and inter-sector collaboration initiative. Facilitate community conversations with older adults to inform Age Friendly Buffalo initiative!
  • Initiated community coalitions, community wellness councils locally and across the state. Examples: Tobacco Free Erie County (’92), Erie County Physical Activity Coalition (‘97), New York State Physical Activity Coalition (‘98) rebranded (2000) as Be Active New York State, Erie County Worksite Health Action Team (‘99), Walk Your Children to School Campaign (2000), and Community Health Network (2000).
  • Ongoing Community Visioning Projects:
    • Regional: Vision for Tomorrow & Healthy Communities Visioning Process
    • Local – Lovejoy, Elmwood Village, Black Rock, Riverside, Grant Amherst, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus; 10th Legislative County District
    • Participated in City of Buffalo Citizen Participation Academy, Good Neighbor Planning Alliance, Healthy Kids, FLARE Neighborhood Process, One Region Forward & 14208 Healthy Neighborhood Project
  • Co-founded Buffalo Summer Drum Corps events with community partners and Drums Along the Waterfront, serving 3000+ inner city community members!
  • Associations with United Way, WNED TV, Buffalo Niagara CVB, Block Clubs, Elmwood Village, 10th Legislative District Quality of Life initiative, Waterfront Coalition, Explore Buffalo, Go Bike Buffalo, Population Health Collaborative, Rotary International, The Niagara River Greenway Coalition, and many more!
  • 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.
  • Planning Social Capital Measurement Initiative (2014) – see Robert Putnam’s book at www.BowlingAlone.com for more information on Social Capital.


More Information….

 Palaces for the People: How Social Infrastructure Can Help Fight Inequality, Polarization, and the Decline of Civic Life

NY State Community Health Indicator Reports (CHIRS)


B-WELL BUFFALO- Latest episode

The latest B-WELL Television episode features Phil Haberstro – Board Chair of The Wellness Institute of Greater Buffalo

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Provides individuals with the very best data on the social and environmental health of countries all around the world

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Healthy Communities 2030!

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