Showing up for the City of Good Neighbors

UB School of Social Work celebrates 90 years with a day of service

Celebrating the school's anniversary through service was a perfect fit with the profession's values. Photos: Meredith Forrest Kulwicki.

By Matthew Biddle

Published May 6, 2024

“There’s something really powerful about being here in the community as a school community. We owe a lot to the City of Buffalo, and it matters that we show up. ”
Katie McClain-Meeder, MSW ’12
Clinical Associate Professor and MSW Program Director

Even rainy weather couldn’t keep the University at Buffalo School of Social Work from coming together for a day of service.

“You can always count on social workers to find the silver lining in less-than-desirable conditions,” says Kathleen Riley, a foundation-year MSW student. “The rain and cold did not stop the camaraderie or the clean-up.”

Riley was one of about 50 volunteers who participated in the service day, which was hosted in partnership with the City of Buffalo’s Operation Clean Sweep initiative for the school’s 90th anniversary. School of Social Work students, faculty, staff, alumni and field education partners came together on April 24 to serve the neighborhood around Masten Park in Buffalo.

For Riley, the day was particularly special as an opportunity to give back to the East Side community where she grew up and lives today.

“It was important to me to participate as my small contribution to both the School of Social Work — which has supported and welcomed me this year — and the City of Buffalo,” she says. “I felt a clear connection to the school’s 90-year legacy among those of us gathered there. And my father, Robert J. Riley, a 1968 graduate of the UB School of Social Work, would be proud knowing the good work continues!”

Service is a core value for the school and the wider profession, listed first among the guiding principles on the National Association of Social Workers’ Code of Ethics. Therefore, it was only fitting that the school kick off its yearlong anniversary celebration by volunteering in the community.

“As social workers, we strive to uplift the dignity and worth of humankind,” says Keith A. Alford, dean of the School of Social Work. “Social work practice is about building on the strengths of those we work with and engage. It's also about how we can make our community better, together — one step at a time.”

Katie McClain-Meeder, MSW ’12, clinical associate professor and MSW program director, agrees: “There’s something really powerful about being here in the community as a school community. We owe a lot to the City of Buffalo, and it matters that we show up.”

In addition to marking its 90th anniversary, the school dedicated its efforts to the lives lost during the Tops massacre in May 2022. Volunteers assembled at Johnnie B. Wiley Amateur Athletic Sports Pavilion on Jefferson Avenue and eventually went past the supermarket on their route up the block.

“We’re approaching the second anniversary of the racially fueled May 14 massacre. It was an atrocity, and we must remember that and continue to embrace this community,” Alford says.

Sweeping the neighborhood

The School of Social Work’s day of service marked the beginning of the Operation Clean Sweep season for 2024.

Operation Clean Sweep works to improve the quality of life in Buffalo by eliminating blight, reducing crime and providing needed social services. The city’s Division of Citizen Services takes a data-driven approach to choose neighborhoods for each Clean Sweep, and then works with city, state and federal partners and local organizations — including the UB School of Dental Medicine’s Smile Team — to address community needs.

Volunteers assisted with trash clean-up and helped to deliver resources to residents, including dental supplies, children’s books, cooling towels, seed packets and more.

Jess Williams, a UB undergraduate in the School of Social Work’s community organizing and development minor, filled up two bags of trash before switching to the engagement team, which went door to door meeting residents.

“I was honored to work alongside such passionate changemakers,” she says. “Being surrounded by a group of people who care so deeply about our community was encouraging and deepened my plans for a future in social work and nonprofit work.”

For the alumni volunteers, the day was a chance to reconnect with the school. As Robert Chapman, BS ’91, MSW ’03, put it — “it wasn’t just about cleaning up but catching up.”

“This is a community that’s close to my heart; I only live about two miles away,” says Chapman, executive director of the Stutzman Addiction Treatment Center. “It was great to see us all in our blue as a school — a diverse group of people coming together and reuniting.”

Rosemary Glover, MSW ’98, enjoyed meeting current students, faculty and staff from her alma mater, as well as staff from local service agencies that participated, too.

“I’ve been very fortunate to have the opportunities I’ve had because people in my community were there for me, plus my professors encouraged me, so I wanted to give back to my community and my school,” she says.

Media Contact Information

Matthew Biddle
Director of Communications and Marketing
School of Social Work
Tel: 716-645-1226