embrace Western New York Board of Directors
Jeffrey Platt, President, is one of the founding members of embrace Western New York and has served on the Buffalo Brunch organizing committee since 2002 (chair or co-chair since 2003). Jeff is a previous board member of AIDS Family Services and currently serves on the board of the Girl Scout Council of Western New York. Jeff is a volunteer for the Darwin D. Martin House and the WNY Network for Open and Affirming Congregations. For the past several years Jeff has served Kenilworth United Church of Christ as Financial Secretary, Trustee and currently Chair of the Trustees (not to mention ‘party planner’ and choir member). After over 30 years in higher education, Jeff has accepted a position as Executive Director for InvisionHealth Foundation. In this role he will develop programs to educate the community on the issues surrounding opioid uses and abuses.
Dale J. Bauman, Vice-President, is an attorney whose practice is limited to plaintiffs’ civil litigation in Western New York. In addition to his University at Buffalo law degree, Dale holds a Masters of Public Health from UB, with a focus on health delivery to underserved populations. Dale brings a strong interest and knowledge of not-for profit management to the embrace Western New York board, and looks forward to identifying ways that embrace can expand its reach to LGBTQ community members and their allies. Dale is a resident of Buffalo's Parkside neighborhood, and when not working with embrace, enjoys flying light aircraft and is dedicated to enjoying and supporting Buffalo's cultural organizations.
Judy Dumitru, Secretary, loves working with students and families as an Assistant Director / Financial Aid Counselor at Rochester Institute of Technology. In addition to being a founding member of embrace Western New York, Judy has served on the Buffalo Brunch Committee for many years as committee member, co-chair and chair. Judy has also worked with several other local non-profits in Western New York and currently supports The Little Theatre, the George Eastman Museum, The Landmark Society of WNY, and the Rochester Chapter of the Sierra Club.
Brian E. Mietlicki, Treasurer, is a founding member of embraceWesternNewYork, Inc. and serves on the Buffalo Brunch Committee. Brian is dedicated to equality and opportunity issues in the workplace. He is Vice President and Co-Chair of the Upstate New York Chapter of the HSBC Pride Network, the LGBT Employee Resource Group, at HSBC Bank USA, N.A. where he works. He has attended the National Out & Equal Workplace Summit, the pre-eminent national organization devoted to LGBT equality in the workplace. Brian attended school at the University of Miami, Florida and is a resident of Lewiston, NY.
Bryan Ball was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. A graduate of Buffalo State College with a Bachelor’s in English, Bryan was drawn to issue based activism and progressive political causes from a young age. After finding a passion in legislative government, Bryan worked in the Western New York Regional Senate Office of then-United States Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, until her appointment as US Secretary of State. In 2010, he was elected to his first term as President of Stonewall Democrats of Western New York (SDWNY), a position he currently holds. Since 1994, SDWNY has existed as the Democratic voice of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community of WNY, with a membership of community activists and concerned citizens, and representatives from local, state and federal government. Throughout his time with SDWNY, Bryan has worked to help grow the organization to an active, engaged group of members active across WNY—from Buffalo to Niagara Falls to Jamestown to Warsaw—and partaken in successful legislative and electoral campaigns. Notable among these campaigns are the passage of the City of Buffalo’s domestic partnership registry, the anti-bullying NYS Dignity for All Students Act and the NYS Marriage Equality Act. Bryan has worked to build bridges within our own community, and to educate and advocate for the LGBT community across all sides of the political aisle. Bryan works as an advocate for pro-equality candidates for elected office and legislation, and is currently focused on building on the progress the passage of Gov. Cuomo's executive orders and making the NYS Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and the NYS anti-reparative therapy bill, and other much needed LGBT civil rights legislation law. In 2012, he helped found the Buffalo Niagara Chapter of Pride at Work, the national organization which works to mobilize support between organized labor and the LGBT community.
Douglas P. Charles is a retired teacher / librarian with over 36 years of experience in the public school system. A member of Pilgrim St. Luke's United Church of Christ, Doug first served on the Board of Trustees, then became Church Moderator (president of the congregation), and finally Church Treasurer. He presently serves as a member of the Church and Ministry Committee of the Western Area United Churches of Christ. Doug is a founding member of embraceWesternNewYork, served as a member of its first Board of Directors, and currently serves on the Buffalo Brunch Committee. Doug is also a member of Stonewall Democrats. As a grandfather, Doug spends one day a week babysitting his grandchildren, traveling from the Elmwood Village to Silver Creek, New York to do so.
Jose Luis Garcia II
Originally from San Diego, California, Jose started his first non-profit organization (L.O.C.O.S.) to help unite the Latino gay and straight communities while attending San Diego State University. After college he began his career as the Promotions Coordinator at the Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs, CA. Jose moved to Las Vegas, NV in 2003 to further his career at Caesars Entertainment. While in Las Vegas he served as co-chair of EQUAL (an LGBT business resource for Caesars Entertainment); he also volunteered and was an active member of HRC Las Vegas and the Center. Jose served as chair of “Ya Es Hora” Las Vegas helping to bring together Latino and LGBTQ organizations to help community members fill out the necessary paperwork to get their citizenships. After ten years in Las Vegas Jose moved back to California to be closer to family and pulled double duty, serving as Director of Marketing for both Agua Caliente Casino & Resort and Spa Resort Casino. He was recruited by Delaware North in early 2015 to work in Marketing at Hamburg Gaming, and was quickly snatched up by Seneca Gaming Corporation as the Director of Marketing for Seneca Buffalo Creek Casino. Jose loves to travel as much as he can. He is also a pet-parent of two dogs (Indy and Cedilla) and a cat (Selena Gomez), and lives on the West side of Buffalo with his partner Jake.
Heather Gasiecki has been a member of the Board of Directors for embraceWNY and served on the Buffalo Brunch committee for the past four years. As a certified teacher with 20 years in the profession, Heather has touched the lives of many schoolchildren with her compassion, kindness and enthusiasm. Education and advocacy for LGBTQ rights and equality are her passion. She is a mother of four and an ally to all.
Steve Jagord is program manager for the Pride Center of Western New York where he oversees development and implementation of many of the center’s programs and services. He previously served the Pride Center as an LGBTQ field educator, delivering more than 200 cultural competency trainings to businesses, schools and other organizations in the area. Before joining the Pride Center, Steve spent four years as editor of local community newspaper The Clarence Bee. He holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Buffalo State College, a master’s degree in integrated marketing communications from St. Bonaventure University, and is a 2017 graduate of Leadership Buffalo. Prior to joining the embraceWNY Board of Directors, Steve served three years on the Buffalo Brunch Committee. He lives in Amherst with his husband, Patrick, and their Labrador retriever, Dexter.
Shari Kiesow is a partner with Meliora Consulting Group where she is responsible for the firm’s training platform, designing and delivering customized programs for companies looking to systematically enhance their skill set through process improvement and leadership development. She also maintains Kiesow Consulting, a private firm focused on leading companies through critical steps necessary to departmentally and universally advance their business. Shari has worked with dozens of companies across three continents providing facilitation, leadership development training, and project mentoring. She has co-authored a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt curriculum and is a certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt as well as a Certified Facilitator with Development Dimensions International. While her work has provided a unique opportunity to travel extensively, Shari’s hometown of Buffalo remains her favorite place to live, work and play. When she is not on the road, you can find her having an NPR driveway moment at her South Buffalo home or with her family taking advantage of the waterfront, bike and hiking trails in the area. Shari joined the embraceWesternNewYork board in 2013 and is committed to the continued success of the organization and its mission.
Molly Ranahan is an urban planner and has been conducting community-based research in Western New York for the past 10 years. As an evaluator at CCNY, Molly leads collaborative evaluation and quality improvement efforts in partnership with community-based organizations, health care providers, school districts, and government agencies to improve the lives of people in the communities they serve. She has collaborated with the Silver Pride Project since 2014 to raise awareness about aging experiences in the LGBTQ community and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Pride Center of Western New York and the Buffalo Brunch Committee. Molly is also an Adjunct Professor at UB and Buffalo State and greatly values the opportunity to work with and learn from her students.
Michael Rizzo has worked as a freelance journalist documenting queer experiences for various media outlets in New York and California since 2006. He was the founding owner and executive editor of LOOP, Buffalo's in-print and online periodical for the LGBT community and its allies, for more than five years, until early 2017. Michael's energies are focused on social justice for the queer community and greater collaboration among local LGBT community groups and organizations. He studied journalism at Buffalo State College and covered Niagara County public education in the Buffalo News for two years.