MEET OUR STAFF
WEDI is composed of ambitious, dedicated, and passionate individuals who firmly believe in the mission of the organization, in the potential of the people who utilize our services, and that WEDI's work can truly impact the community in a positive way. We invite you to learn more about the WEDI team and check out our employment opportunities.
Carolynn Welch| Executive Director
Carolynn received a B.S. in Psychology from D'Youville College. She began her career in the non-profit world immediately out of college. She has worked in a variety of areas including program management, corporate compliance, and development. She has been actively involved in education programs for over 10 years. During this time she served as a member of the Erie County Youth Board and as a consultant for Computers For Children. She has a passion for enriching the lives of children and providing them with new and enriching opportunities through after-school programs.
Jazmine Frazier| Executive Assistant
Jazmine moved to Buffalo from Alabama’s Gulf Coast in 2011. Having spent their formative years in historically impoverished and racially segregated areas in the South, their passion for helping communities achieve equity brought them into the nonprofit world. Jazmine brings to WEDI many life experiences that lend to the people-first approach that is close to their heart.
Magdalena Gil| Office Manager
Magdalena was born in Brooklyn and raised on Buffalo’s West Side. She is a working mother of five, that prides herself on always being able to pull the positive out of every situation. She comes to WEDI with an extensive background in office management and human resources. She has worked within different industries across the City of Buffalo to establish, and develop strong leadership teams, and is grateful to be a part of the WEDI team.
Community Development Team
Cristen Gregory| Community Engagement Coordinator
Cristen Gregory is originally from Toronto, Canada. She comes to WEDI from a background in the Performing Arts, has traveled the world singing opera. She has a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of Toronto and earned a Master of Business Administration from Medaille College. She has served as Director on many diverse boards throughout the region. She has been a professor at Niagara University, Canisius College, and Daemen College. She began at WEDI as a Business Counselor with the Economic Development team and is now the Community Engagement Coordinator with her focus on Business Mentors, Volunteers in other WEDI departments, and collaborative alliances between WEDI and businesses throughout Western New York
Michael Moretti| West Side Bazaar Operations Manager
Michael has been working at West Side Bazaar as Operations Manager since May 2019. With a background working in events for multi-use buildings on college campuses, he has enjoyed the busy and diverse atmosphere that comes with working at the Bazaar. Also, the food, he likes the food a lot.
Donata Uzamukunda| West Side Bazaar Assistant
Donata is originally from Rwanda and came to the United States in 2015. Back in her country, she worked as a retail food business owner for 15 years. Donata started a business when she was 17 years old. Her business was successful and expanded until she came to the United States. Donata is working at WSB as Assistant Manager and enjoys working closely with small businesses and clients every day.
Cody Clement-Sanders| Director of Operations
Cody Clement-Sanders started at WEDI as an AmeriCorps VISTA member and now holds the position of Director of Operations. He supports the organization’s growth through project-based initiatives that improve WEDI’s sustainability and impact and brings highly relevant experience. Cody graduated from SUNY at Buffalo, earning a Masters in Urban Planning with dual specializations in Neighborhood Planning & Community Development and Economic Development & International Planning. He previously interned and worked for small for-profit and nonprofit firms where he helped complete grants and develop client base expansion strategies using ArcGIS to visualize spatial data.
Erin St. John Kelly| Director of External Relations
Erin is a Canadian from New York City. She went to the United Nations International School in NYC for high school and has a political science and English degree from Concordia University in Montreal. She and her family moved from Brooklyn to Buffalo in 2010. In the process of exploring the city and looking for interesting food, she created “The Map for Adventurous Eaters” to capture the restaurants and food shops run by immigrants for the International Institute of Buffalo. A writer and editor with bylines in The New York Times and The Buffalo News, she’s spent the last seven years as communications
director at Buffalo Seminary, advocating for girls and women and strengthening the institution. She’s thrilled to join WEDI to participate in the life of the city, and to work towards equity and inclusion for all its inhabitants.
Elizabeth Lovria | Development Coordinator
Elizabeth received her BA in Public Relations and English/Textual Studies from Syracuse University. After a decade in the banking field in Western New York and North Carolina, she took a brief sabbatical to stay home and raise her 2 children. During this time, she volunteered her time as a music writer for Buffalo Spree’s website, as a youth running coach, and as the Director of First Impressions for METTS Dance in West Seneca. She joined WEDI in March of 2020 where she manages WEDI’s online presence and implements various marketing strategies to engage the public with all the various ways WEDI impacts Western New York.
Katherine Coleman| Grants Specialist
Katie went to school at SUNY Purchase College for Journalism and spent seven years as a freelance writer for newspapers and magazines. As an Americorps VISTA, she is working to expand her writing and research skills at WEDI. In her free time, she enjoys cooking, hiking, music, and gardening.
Cecilia Johnson| Development Specialist
Cecilia’s family immigrated to Buffalo from Buenos Aires, Argentina when she was two years old. She stayed in the WNY area and graduated from the University at Buffalo (UB) with a BA in International Studies before working in the banking industry for over ten years. Wanting to get away from corporate finance and find work that more directly impacts the Buffalo community, Cecilia joined WEDI in November of 2020. Cecilia is passionate about helping others succeed and loves learning about social, economic, and environmental justice movements. In her spare time, Cecilia volunteers with multiple organizations, including as a board member for Empower Camp, a local summer camp program for young women.
Economic Development Staff
Yanush Sanmugaraja| Senior Director
Yanush has always enjoyed learning about how businesses are put together to operate and finding ways to support these businesses in their growth. When Yanush was 12 he had built and managed a self-operating online radio and community for teenagers, which still operates on its own to this day. During this time, he also worked with micro web hosting companies that provided affordable hosting solutions for bloggers and small online communities. Yanush did this up until he went off to college at State University of New York at Geneseo, which he graduated from in 2016. Immediately after this, Yanush became an Economic Development Specialist at WEDI. In this position, Yanush provided business counseling services to
businesses seeking startup support or help with scaling. After serving in this position, Yanush became the Economic Development Director and now oversees the lending and technical assistance provided to entrepreneurs and business owners through the program. Yanush is dedicated to the mission of WEDI and is excited to assist blossoming businesses that are creating jobs and contributing to the region's economy.
Catherine Dolan| Economic Development Director
Catherine Dolan has her undergrad in business management, and although a busy single mom of two boys, she will be completing her master’s in psychology. She has worked and lived in many diverse places across the country: Downstate NY, Phoenix, San Diego, Maryland, Virginia, D.C., and now Buffalo. She has worked in higher education as a financial advisor for 7+ years and is the first generation in America from her family so she has a deep appreciation for teaching people how to budget and work towards their financial goals as well as the value an education can bring you no matter where you come from. Her experience working with businesses in California
helped her understand the business world from startups to large corporations and she hopes she can use that learned experience to help the small business owners here through WEDI.
Purnima Mohan| Economic Development Coordinator
Purnima Mohan is originally from India and started with WEDI in April 2019 as a Community Development Program Coordinator. Purnima is excited to be part of the WEDI team, work with clients with diverse backgrounds, and use her passion to support the businesses at the West Side Bazaar and the Broadway market. Her role includes coordinating all aspects of support provided to the entrepreneurs hosted in the West Side Bazaar and at other locations within the Community Development Department. She supervises site managers at the Bazaar, Kitchen @ the Market, and future sites to ensure consistent program implementation. Purnima’s role includes organizing and hosting workshops, field trips, and other small group training opportunities and professional
development for Bazaar business owners. She works to strengthen the Bazaar’s food system work and improve existing programming to better serve WEDI’s clients and meet program objectives. She worked for Rich Products Corporation in the Sensory Science function within Research and Development for 13 years to ensure that customers and consumers are provided with good quality tasting products that are developed from concept to commercialization through the product life cycle. Prior to that, she worked for Coca-Cola India in their Quality Systems function. She has degrees in Chemistry, Food, and Fermentation technology. She loves to volunteer and has volunteered with Friends of the Night People, Ronald McDonald House, Salvation Army, and Habitat for Humanity to name a few. She is also a facilitator at EPIC (Every Person Influences Children). She is currently the Vice President at the Williamsville School District PTSA Council. In addition, to English Purnima can speak fluently in Hindi and Tamil. Purnima has a passion for serving the community in her different roles as part of organizations like Vibha, which supports underprivileged children, CHAI (Council of Heritage and Arts of India), and Akshaya Patra.
Ryan Schupp| Director of Lending
Ryan earned his BA in Accounting from Mercyhurst University in 2015. A year later he received his MBA from Penn State Behrend. His first job out of school was as a Staff Accountant in the Audit department at Lumsden & McCormick. Ryan learned a great deal in his year and a half there, but his desire to use his business degree to help the community led him to pursue a different path. His first step was completing an AmeriCorps VISTA term with the City of Buffalo, Division of Citizen Services. Here, he learned a lot about Buffalo and community organizing. It was at the end of this VISTA term that Ryan joined WEDI as the Portfolio Specialist. Ryan also acts as the Director of Community and Fan Engagement for FC Buffalo, where he believes soccer can be a unifying force for good for our city.
Joshua Brenner|Assistant Director of Lending
Joshua joined WEDI as a member of the Economic Development Corps after graduating from the University at Buffalo with a degree in Economics in 2017. Joshua serves the organization on the Economic Development team with the role of leading WEDI's Economic Development team in the assessment of potential borrowers and developing WEDI's loan underwriting processes. Also, he coordinates much of the day to day operations to assist in the programmatic adjustments of WEDI’s loan program. Joshua is excited to help provide opportunities to empower the people of Buffalo and help small businesses thrive in the local economy.
Dave Chambers| Quality and Compliance Administrator
An international business lawyer for over 35 years, David joined WEDI in 2016 and currently serves as Administrator, Quality, and Compliance. In addition to serving as Senior Counsel to several global corporations, David has been intensely involved with Western New York economic development initiatives, serving on the Board of Directors of Erie County Economic Development Agency; and as the chief of Economic Development Policy for the Erie County (New York) Executive, among other positions. A graduate of the University at Buffalo and The Cornell Law School, David brings with him a continuing passion for the resurgence of Western New York and its diverse and wonderful communities.
Esperance (Hope) Rwigamba| Relationship Manager
Esperance is originally from Rwanda and came to the United States in 2005. Back in her country, she worked as a small loans consultant at a local bank and as a supervisor of Save the Children, an organization whose sole focus was to support orphans and single parents. She has a B.A. in Business Administration from Medaille College and completed her Master’s degree in Public Administration at Buffalo State College in 2015. Esperance currently serves as WEDI’s Relationship Manager and enjoys seeing local businesses that are supported by WEDI to become even more successful.
Juan Acevedo| Relationship Manager
Juan was born in WNY, but lived in Puerto Rico for about 4 years. His cooking experience began at the age of 13, and by the time he was 21 he had worked his way up to Sous Chef. During that time, he served four years in the Navy Reserves. Eventually, he decided to learn construction and real estate before finding his way into the collections industry. From there, he dabbled in debt counseling for student loans and federal defaults for the Department of Education for 8 years. Finally, tired of the corporate world, Juan sought out non-profit work and stumbled upon WEDI where he now happily serves as the relationship manager. Currently, Juan seeks to assist entrepreneurs in all phases of a business, from getting all the necessary documents
together to pitch for a loan to providing mentorship to guide them through their business adventures. In addition to his position at WEDI, Juan also bar-backs at The Quarter in Buffalo where he says he enjoys the change of pace and more active line of work. In his free time, Juan dedicates his time to various charitable organizations, including sitting on the board of Hurricane Maria Relief Fund as well as traveling to Puerto Rico to assist hands-on.
Evan Roorand|Relationship Manager
Evan is a Buffalo native and received his BA in Environmental Design from UB in 2018. This led him to pursue and graduate with a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning with a specialization in Economic Development in 2020. He worked in accounts receivables for several years helping customers with debt management and repayment until he made the decision to further his education. During his time at UB, he developed a passion for wanting to create more inclusive communities through economic development, and WEDI felt like the perfect organization for him to do this by helping to equitably develop the
entrepreneurial landscape of Buffalo. Another passion of his is music, he has been an active musician playing bass guitar for over 15 years in various local groups, and he actually came close to enrolling in the Music program at UB back in 2015. He believes music is a universal language that has the power to bring people of all different backgrounds together.
Eboni Hayes|Portfolio Manager
Eboni Hayes has a BA in Journalism/Marketing Communications from St. Bonaventure University. After taking some time off to see the World, she went back and earned an MA in Integrated Marketing Communications from St. Bonaventure University, a true Bonnie! She is a licensed real estate professional with Faith Real Estate Services, Inc. and has been in real estate, as well as in nonprofit management for over 15 years and was recognized as a Buffalo Business First 40 under 40 awardee in 2008. Eboni served as an Americorp VISTA, is a health and fitness enthusiast and loves trying new activities and food.
Stephanie Wong-You|Economic Development Associate
Stephanie’s work and volunteer experience has been in placemaking and advocating entrepreneurship, as a case manager, community organizer, and cultural worker. She believes in WEDI’s efforts in supporting self-determination and belonging, with a focus on communities that have been marginalized. She has worked with small business operators, inclusive of immigrant and minority-owned, seniors, low-income communities, and individuals with disabilities through her nine years in nonprofits, and with a commercial corridor based in Brooklyn where she is from. Her educational experience has been in Urban
Studies and she is enrolled in a Master’s program for Urban Planning. A child of immigrants from Thailand and Guyana, she is keen to learn how new generations may work with older generations to co-create an equitable, diverse, and thriving community.
Danial Khan|UB Master of Social Work Student Intern
Danial Khan, a student at the University at Buffalo (UB), will be earning his Master of Business Administration and Master of Social Work degrees (MBA/MSW) in 2021. For his final year, Danial chose WEDI for his advanced year field placement through the UB School of Social Work. His passion for economic development and entrepreneurship, as well as his certification as a Financial Social Worker, contributed to his desire to learn more about WEDI and work with them. Danial’s experience over the course of his academic program includes working as a Social Impact Fellow at Habitat for Humanity Buffalo, spending his foundation year field placement at the Homeless Alliance of WNY, and becoming a WNY Prosperity Fellow. Danial is
an avid skateboarder and rock climber. He is enthusiastic about teaching, having taught business statistics and Excel at UB during grad school.
Courtney Yonce| Education Director
Courtney's passion for teaching English to speakers of other languages began during her year abroad through Rotary International in Nakhon Pathom, Thailand. Before graduating from SUNY Geneseo, she took a year off to serve as an Americorps ABLE member at Buffalo Public School 80. The following year, she served a second term, but transferred to WEDI's middle school program, FLY. During this time, she finished her undergrad, receiving her BA in English and Anthropology.
Donna Glasgow| Elementary School Programs Coordinator
Donna Glasgow was born and raised on the west side of Buffalo, where her passion for working with children first began. Working as a teacher assistant for the Buffalo Public Schools for thirty years, Ms. Glasgow has worked with many grade levels from first grade through high school. Currently, she is working at Hutchinson Technical High School. During her years with BPS, Ms. Glasgow went to Medaille College where she received her Bachelor of Science in Early Childhood Education. Ms. Glasgow worked for People Inc. as the after-school program staff for children with disabilities 5 - 21 years old. The afterschool program with People Inc. was housed at the
Belle Center on the lower west side of Buffalo, which brought Ms. Glasgow to her new job opportunity. While there, Ms. Glasgow resigned as Program Manager for People Inc. after three years to become the Program Director for an afterschool program at the Belle Center. Ms. Glasgow managed the after-school program which served 175 children in grades K-8th. She also organized the summer camp at the Belle Center through Say Yes Buffalo.
Susu Tway| Elementary Program Assistant
Susu worked as a teacher’s assistant in Thailand and Myanmar before she came to the United States in 2014. She has a passion for learning and helping her community, so she received her Associate’s degree in Arts in 2018 and is currently continuing her education at Buffalo State College with the plan of receiving her Bachelor of Arts in Social work. She volunteers at the West Side Community center and enjoys working with people from different countries, especially children. She joined the WEDI’s FLY program in May 2019 and currently holds a work-study at Buffalo State Academic center, interns at BestSelf Behavioral Health, and speaks fluent Karenni and Burmese.
Saw Meh| FLY Program Assistant
Ms. Meh has her Bachelor’s in social work and served as a volunteer for resettlement programs at Catholic Charities of Buffalo and the International Institute of Buffalo. Ms. Meh currently works as Karenni interpreter as well as a teaching assistant at Lafayette International Community School.
Steven Pantoja| High School Programs Coordinator
Mr. Pantoja graduated with a B.A. in Economics from St. Lawrence University and an M.B.A. from Clarkson University. He has several years of experience in the Finance industry, including as Assistant Treasurer and Branch Manager at JP Morgan Chase, Business Relationship Manager and Assistant Vice President at HSBC Bank, and Branch Manager and Bank Officer at Evans Bank. Mr. Pantoja is currently a Property Manager for the Melendez Enterprise Corporation, a business education teacher at Lafayette International Community High School as well as the High School Programs Coordinator at WEDI.
Susan Lorigo| ENERGY Program Assistant
Susan holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Speech/Language Pathology with a minor in music from SUNY at Fredonia. She is a native of the Western New York area and has always loved working with children. She joined WEDI in June 2019 as a volunteer and by October, she was hired as a staff member with the ENERGY program where she teaches art, making all kinds of crafts, and has now added music to the students' curriculum. Susan also assists with the literacy program WEDI offers its students. She continues to tirelessly volunteer with a variety of organizations throughout the area. Susan is delighted to be part of WEDI's Education Department.
Maryn Chmielewski| FLY Program Assistant
Maryn Chmielewski has her Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and French from SUNY Geneseo. She is currently a PR and Marketing volunteer for GLYS WNY and also works at Target.
Fatouma Hamza Garba| ENERGY Program Assistant
Fatouma Hamza was born and raised in Niger, West Africa. She moved to the United States at the age of 10 with her family. Having been an English Language Learner herself, she was inspired to major in TESOL education. She teaches ENL in the West Buffalo community. She enjoys the rich diversity West Buffalo has to offer. She is elated to Join WEDI and to help make a significant difference in the community.
Aye Thant| Launch Program Assistant
Aye graduated from SUNY Buffalo State College, where she majored in Art and Letters. She works at Albright Knox Art Gallery as a studio art teacher, in addition to being an active member of her community. Aye was also one of Dr. Podolefsky's Fellowship Students at the Community Academic Center and was involved in the Alternative Break Team at Buffalo State. Aye started out in the AmeriCorps ABLE program were she worked with Cradle Beach Project S.O.A.R; improving emotional intelligence, and expanding the overall development of children through meaningful experiences. She joined WEDI as an AmeriCorps VISTA and began working with the Community Development Team as a Community
Development Assistant in March 2018. She assisted with coordinating business mentors and the West Side Bazaar expansion. In May 2019, she transitioned into the role of High School Coordinator where she is leading efforts to coordinate the high school afterschool programs. These programs are Launch, Latina Girls Group, and Shark-Tank at Lafayette International Community School.
Morgan Vacanti| Finance Director
Morgan Vacanti received her Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Accounting Information System’s from Canisius College. Throughout her 12 year tenure in the non-profit sector, she has built a reputation for improving processes, procedures, and efficiencies in the financial arena. Morgan oversees all aspects of the finances, including the development and management of budgets, preparation of financial statements, and reporting. While at WEDI, Morgan has helped define strategic direction, prepare new business plans, streamline financial and procedural policies, and create monitoring and accountability systems. Morgan is passionate about WEDI’s mission and excited about the rapidly growing economic development opportunities it provides for small
businesses in the WNY region. She is currently overseeing the financial management of various donors for WEDI’s first-ever capital campaign, which will benefit the West Side Bazaar Expansion. The project is estimated to cost approximately $6 million upon completion. She is ardent and exultant about the opportunities it will provide for the community.
Daniel Conneely| Finance Coordinator
Daniel Conneely graduated from The University at Buffalo with a bachelor’s degree in Finance in 2016. Following graduation, Daniel worked for a private accounting firm for several years. In this time, Daniel developed the skills to organize, develop and improve upon an organization's business functions. Daniel joined WEDI in late 2020 with the intention to apply these skills to further WEDI’s capabilities as a Non-Profit. Currently, Daniel manages various business functions at WEDI and is excited to be contributing to WEDI’s mission.