Messages from the President & CEO

Healing Among Violence: Hillside Stands with Buffalo

On Saturday, May 14, as they shopped in a Buffalo supermarket, 10 people of color were murdered and three more injured by an alleged perpetrator whose weapon had been decorated with a racial obscenity. This terrible act of violence was inflicted on the people of a single neighborhood, but the entire community was shaken to its core – including the Hillside employees who live and work near that location, and who shared close ties with many of those who were killed.

Hillside is a part of the communities we serve, and we share the shock, pain and anger of incomprehensible crimes like this one and the May 24 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

We’re responding to this close-to-home trauma as best we can. In Buffalo, our employees have reached out within the neighborhood to volunteer support—and as the community moves forward in its healing, we’ll remain an active source of help and comfort.

Within our agency, Hillside’s Men of Color and Women of Color affinity groups have come together to support our BIPOC employees. Our Regional Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committees are holding open discussions to let participants express their reactions to this incident and the toxic racism that spawned it. Throughout Hillside, we’re engaging in dialogues to ensure we’re doing all we can in this time of need.

We all can play a part in the healing and emotional rebuilding following this act. The National Association of School Psychologists has tips for parents and teachers on how to talk to children about violence. And the Buffalo Bills organization has developed a roster of Buffalo-specific community resources that can benefit from engagement by all of us.

I know racism, hate and senseless violence can’t be overcome overnight, but it falls to each of us to make a difference. Please join us in this effort that will ensure a stronger future for everyone.

Maria CristalliThank you,

Maria Cristalli
President and CEO

Foster Parenting: A Child Needs Your Support

“Sometimes it just takes one person to change your life.” When I read the recent story of Marley, a youth who found new family stability through Hillside’s Therapeutic Foster Care (TFC) program, those words spoke to me.

Every child deserves a loving, stable family. Here at Hillside, we meet young people like Marley every day—children who long for that one person or family who will provide them with the home, care and structure that many of us probably consider commonplace.

Throughout Western and Central New York, our TFC teams work to connect those young people with caring families who are willing to open their homes and their hearts—for a night, a weekend, or longer.

Foster care is not synonymous with adoption. In fact, whenever possible, our foster placements involve a partnership between the foster family and a youth’s biological relatives. The goal, as often as possible, is to provide a temporary safe and loving environment while the youth’s biological family can work through their challenges and welcome their child back home.

Foster parenting is important work, which is why our TFC teams provide extensive training and support for families in our foster network. In a way, when you become a Hillside foster parent, you join a new family yourself—our family—while making a powerful difference in the lives of children in need.

Please consider becoming a Hillside foster parent. The need for these services is ongoing—and so is your capacity for changing lives.

Maria CristalliThank you,

Maria Cristalli
President and CEO

Your Support Makes a Difference

At Hillside, we’re committed to building Stronger Futures Together. We know the combined efforts of passionate, talented people can make a whole that’s much more powerful than the sum of their parts.

And “Together” includes you. As a member of the communities we serve, you’re an important partner in our work. Through your support of our mission, extraordinary things can happen.

Take Camp Possibilities, for example. This 240-acre property in Henrietta, NY, is the setting for an annual day camp program for youth in our care. The Camp features hiking trails and a pond, rolling fields and bountiful open space, and a huge barn that’s perfect for crafts. Each summer, carefully structured activities encourage positive behaviors, spark enthusiasm and teach teamwork.

One of our recreation directors recently told me about “Victor,” a youth who had been struggling to form relationships during his first weeks in residential treatment. After visiting Camp last summer, all that changed: through fishing, kayaking and hiking around the pond, Victor blossomed—improving his connections with staff and other youth, and allowing important therapeutic progress to be made.

The property was entrusted to Hillside years ago, and today philanthropy supports 100 percent of its upkeep and all Camp activities. Your generosity makes Camp happen—and that’s only one example of the above-and-beyond Hillside programs and services that require community support to become a reality.

Please consider a donation to Hillside today. With your help, the Possibilities are endless.

Thank you,

Maria Cristalli
President and CEO

PS: Thanks to a generous matched-gift pledge by Harris Beach, PLLC, and The Bonadio Group, LLP, donations made to Hillside by June 30 will be matched up to $20,000. Please donate today to double the impact of your gift for the youth we serve. Thank you!

Happy Birthday, Hillside!

At any age, a birthday is an occasion to celebrate—and even more so when you’ve had 185 of them!

On February 28, 1837, Hillside first opened its doors to serve vulnerable children from a single building in Rochester, NY. The scope of our work has changed dramatically since those earliest days: last year alone, Hillside served nearly 10,000 youth and families in New York and Maryland.

But our work remains driven by simple truths that haven’t changed a bit.

  • We still believe that children can best thrive in loving, stable environments.
  • We still recognize the family as the foundational element in any healthy community.
  • And we’re still motivated by these ideas to do all we can to help children, adults and families fulfill their potential—and achieve the stronger futures they deserve.

Although I’m proud of Hillside’s history and all we’ve achieved, I know we’re defined not by our past, but by the impact of our work today and every day. That impact is possible because of our dedicated employees, the families we serve, and our community partners—including you!

More details about our history, and our future, will be shared here in the months to come. For now, please consider supporting Hillside as a 185th birthday present. Your contributions make our work possible.

As always, thank you for your interest in our important work.

Why DE&I Matters – at Hillside, and Everywhere

Hillside is a part of the communities we serve. Their challenges are our challenges, and our successes impact their lives and so many others. Many families that we work with struggle with multigenerational economic mobility and racial inequities.

With this in mind, we recognize the absolute importance of fostering Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Hillside. Hillside creates an inclusive environment where we leverage our diversity to build a strong, equitable community.

It’s the right thing to do for our staff, who deserve to work in an environment that respects and includes everyone that is part of the Hillside community.

Our ongoing DE&I work includes elements such as:

  • Hosting monthly regional DE&I committee meetings among all interested staff, where open discussions broaden understandings around vital topics.
  • Supporting the groups for Hillside men and women of color, where unique perspectives can be shared.
  • Sponsoring presentations to leaders on racism, white privilege and other recognized issues, and encouraging those learnings to be shared among staff.
  • Engaging with external partners such as the United Way and the Urban League of Rochester to explore new insights that can strengthen the communities in which we live and serve.

In 2022 and beyond, you’ll hear more from Hillside about our ongoing work in DE&I, and our commitment to helping individuals and whole communities fulfill their potential.

As always, you’re an important partner in our work. Please consider joining our team and making a difference!

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